Sunday, April 5, 2020

Catching Up

March turned out to be a very strange month. We had just finished up with Drumbeat (my last post) and I was doing my preparations for Enfilade 2020. Then the COVID-19 stuff popped up and turned things upside down.
The world upside down image lifted from another website (hey, don't judge me)
My work started out by asking everyone to work from home, if they could, for a couple weeks. That shifted to a mandatory order the following week and we've been told to just keep working from home for the foreseeable future. The Washington state Governor has extended the Stay at Home order until May 4. I'm expecting that to get extended into June. So, it will be quite a while before I expect things to start to return to normal. Working from home isn't too bad, more of an inconvenience and something I have to adjust to. I do feel lucky that I am able to work from home and keep my job (and paycheck), when so many others have been furloughed or laid off.

What else have I been up to for the last month? It took me a little while to set up a home office, get into a working routine, and adjust to being home all the time. These changes also disrupted hobby time for me and, for whatever reason, it has taken me a while to get back to my projects.

So what am I working on? I started work on the 1/700 scale sailing ships from Warlord Games Black Seas starter set. The starter includes 3 frigates and 6 brigs. The plastic kits were easy to put together and the frigates have some variant pieces so they don't all have the same figurehead and stern. I expect I will get some more of these ships, so I decided to do 2 frigates as Royal Navy and other as French. For the brigs, I'm making 2 each of Royal Navy, American, and French.
In progress shipyard work
The Royal Navy is getting a yellow ochre strip, the Americans get white, and I went with a brick color for the French. I'm not sure I'm happy with the brick color, but the French used reds and yellows, and I wanted something a little different from the standard yellow and blue colors.

I'll give the rigging layout from the rule book a try, at least once, to see how that goes.

I'm also looking at another diversionary project. At the beginning of March I picked up some paint sets from a sale at Miniature Market and I also saw a box of Robotech Valkyries in the listings and decided to pick up a box for fun (they were only $5.50).
On sale goodies
I was only a semi-fan of the Robotech series, but I always liked the transforming Valkyries. The game these figures were associated with, Robotech Tactics, seems to have had a lot of issues. But since I wasn't getting them for that game, I wasn't too concerned about that. The one issue most people had with the kits was the number of small pieces needed to assemble each Valkyrie. I will say the reviews were right about that, the manufacturer made these much harder to put together than they should have.
Sprues with lots of pieces for 6 figures
Putting them together will occupy for a while, but if I get frustrated I can always just put it aside.

On the gaming side, I've been looking to online alternatives for playing. There are some good games out there. But, just like in-person gaming, the there are issues scheduling time to play. Right now I'm sticking more with play by email games using VASSAL. I have a game of Wing Leader going right now. 
American B-24s raiding Wewak airfield
I'm also getting pulled into a baseball game using Baseball Mogul. So far it is a slow go on this, since none of have run an online league before.
The league is mainly aimed at being the general manager for a team and making deals throughout the season. I normally prefer to play games as the field manager, but it is still fun and a good diversion since all the real games have been postponed.

Hopefully it won't be another month before I get up another post. Until then, I hope you're keeping busy with your own projects and staying sane. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Drumbeat 2020

Saturday was the annual NHMGS Drumbeat game day. The morning session had nine games and another five in the afternoon. Additionally, there was a small "Bring and Buy" session.

I played in a Pike and Shot game using The Pikeman's Lament rules in the morning and then a Rebels and Patriots game in the afternoon. Both periods were well attended and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Here are a few photos from the day.
Battle of Lake Erie using the Black Seas rules
Scottish Jacobites ambush an English relief column
Battle of Shiloh using the Alter of Freedom rules
Battle of the Pelennor Fields using the Heroes of Erehwon rules
100 Years War battle using Lion Rampant
The Last of the Mohicans - Retreat from Fort William Henry using Musket and Tomahawk rules
My command unit for Pikeman's Lament
The pike and shot game had the English holding a hill in the center of the table with the Irish attacking to take the hill. English relief forces had to cross a river to reach the hill.
The English defenders (left) with the Irish getting ready to move up hill
The Irish setup
My setup with the river crossing
Unfortunately, my die rolling was not up to snuff and I had trouble getting my troops across the river and into action. I did drive off a couple Irish units, but it was too late for the troops on the hill by then.
The Irish taking the hill
In the afternoon session I played in the Race to the Dan scenario using the Rebels and Patriots rules. The scenario represented a rear-guard action where the Americans needed to delay the British and get their troops across the Dan River. My command was the British regulars with a small cannon.
My regulars at the rear with the British light troops in the lead
Americans on a wooded hill with the river to their rear
The Americans occupied a wooded hill in the center of the play area with regular troops and skirmishers.

The British cavalry was deployed on the left. They planned to move around the American flank and try to cut off the retreat while the British foot troops occupied the Americans. Unfortunately, the cavalry ran into some American sharpshooters. Then the cavalry decided to shift their advance to the center of the map.
British cavalry passing in front of the regulars
My regulars kept up the pressure and did some damage to the Americans, as did the cavalry. The Americans were in a good position to win, with many units getting across the river. But the British light troops eked out the victory for the British by pushing American losses over the threshold.
British light troops pressing the Americans
There was another Black Seas game in the afternoon, a WWII Russian front game, and an ancients battle. There was also a Battletech game going on throughout the day, but none of my photos of that turned out.
Operation Bagration using the Battlegroup rules
Book-ending this blog post with another Black Seas photo

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Enfilade Project Updates and more

I haven't been keeping up the blog lately, but I have been working on a few things. Mostly getting together stuff for my Enfilade games.

Last weekend Kevin and I set up the Ploesti terrain and did a quick walk-through of the game. Since the last version of the game was done on a hex mat, we needed to see how the layout would work without one.
Refinery layout looking toward the American entry side
A view from the oblique
We think we came up with a good way to put out the refinery components. But we decided that having the building directly on the grass looked a little off. So I'm getting some gray felt as a concrete base for the buildings. I'll also see about making a few roads.

We were also trying to decide if we need anymore flak batteries. Right now we have 11 bases with a mix of heavy (88mm guns) and light flak (37mm and 20mm). Kevin was a little worried that there wasn't enough. But after laying it out on the table, it seemed like plenty.
The big battery of heavy flak
Kevin has some planes to finish up, while I finish the terrain and rules. Overall this seems very much on track.

For my Shores of Tripoli game, I need to repair a few ships and put together the paperwork (quick reference cards, ship cards, etc.) for the game. So this project is also on track.
Going through my box of sailors to make sure no one has jumped ship
Drumbeat, the NHMGS mid-winter game day, is next Saturday (February 22). I'll be there to get in some gaming and help out with running an event. You can see a list of the Drumbeat events at this link.

On Saturday, I took a trip over to the Museum of Flight to look at the Northwest Scale Modelers show. I always enjoy seeing what they are putting together. While there are a lot of aircraft in the show (it is at the Museum of Flight), there was still room for land and sea vehicles too. Here are some photos from the event.

While I really enjoy the modeling aspect of the miniatures gaming hobby, I also like to play with my models. I still do some non-gaming models from time to time, but I don't really have good places to display them. So my main focus is on stuff I can use in games.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

2020 Plans

Now that 2020 is here, it is time for the to take a quick look at upcoming plans for the year. Normally I would also look back at my plans 2019; but since I didn't really have many goals from last year, the look back isn't really needed.

Before I talk about my 2020 plans, I again want to thank those of you that regularly (or not so regularly) read my blog. I’m not very good about making regular posts, but I really appreciate your views and comments about what I'm doing. So, thanks for reading.

As with last year, I'm expecting  work to be pretty busy and take up some of my "free time" at least for the first-half of the year. With that in mind, I'm only looking at plans for the first-half of 2020 and then will re-evaluate plans in the middle of the year.

My main focus for the start of this year will be making sure I have everything together for the two games I'm running for Enfilade 2020. First up, Kevin and I are planning on running a game based on Operation Tidal Wave; the bombing raid on Ploesti by B-24s. I helped run a similar scenario back in 2005, but this time we will use David Manley’s unpublished Air War 1940 rules. So the scenario will need a lot of playtesting to make sure everything works.
Close up of a B-24 from the 2005 game
A wider view of the bomb run from 2005
My second game is called "The Shores of Tripoli" and will cover the Battle of the Gunboats on August 3, 1804 during the First Barbary War. I'll be using the 15mm boats and crews from DANG 2015. This game will only have gunboats and the Tripoli fort, so it will be much more streamlined and limited than the DANG game.
1804 gunboats
I've also been asked to help out with playtesting some other games. Enfilade is set for Memorial Day weekend (May 22 -24) and I expect this work to keep me fairly busy through May.

For other items, I want to get some posts on my blog about David Manley's recent Narrow Seas rules and Black Seas from Warlord Games. I also want to try to finish up some half-finished projects, of which I have way too many.

I think all of this will fill most of the first-half of 2020. But, I'm hoping to get in some extra face-to-face gaming, other than the playtesting. I’m also sure there will be some other new, bright, and shiny game/object that will get my attention.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

DANG 2019 - The King's Ships Were at Sea

The 2019 version of DANG (Dave’s Annual Naval Game) was The King’s Ships Were at Sea – World War I in the North Sea (the game title is based on James Goldrick's book title). The mini-campaign covered naval operations in the North Sea from November 1914 through January 1915. Historically this timeframe included several German raids on the British coast and up through the Battle of Dogger Bank.
German Torpedo Boats at Jutland - by Claus Bergan
The players began arriving at my place around 9:30 AM and we spent the next hour catching up on things and talking about the projects we are all working on and planning.
The game area set up with my new naval gaming mats
After that we split up into two sides with Scott, George, Mark, and Charlie taking the Germans while Arthur, Dale, Dave C, Kevin, Bill, and David S as the British. I then went of the general situation and talked through the operational rules. The operational rules were my own homebrew. Each operational game turn represented two weeks and, as with most of DANG games, each side had missions they could assign to their forces and would earn victory points for completing the missions and sinking enemy ships. For the tactical (battle) rules, I went with the Battleship Captain rules from Minden Games.

The game would start in the second half of November 1914. Historically, things appeared to be going well for the Germans; von Spee’s squadron had won the Battle of Cornell and they had recently completed a bombardment and minelaying operation near Yarmouth.

The German’s primary goal was to draw the British capital ships into advantages battles and sink or damage them to reduce the odds against their fleet, with a secondary mission of attacking Britain’s east coast with bombardment attacks and minelaying operations. The British were trying to maintain the long-distance blockade and defend against the German raids, but they also would have opportunities for offensive action.
The North Sea operational map for the campaign
Each side planned their missions for the first turn. The Germans were required to conduct a bombardment or minelaying mission, with the option to do both. So, they decided to repeat the bombardment and minelaying raid in the Yarmouth/Lowestoft area. This mission would use the battlecruiser squadron for bombardment and the associated light cruiser squadron to lay mines. Additionally, the German battleship squadron would back-up the mission by patrolling the region southeast of Dogger Bank (zone C3 on the operational map). This would put them into a good position to catch any British forces that were pursuing the raiders as they returned to port.

The British were only required to conduct a defensive patrol. But decided to follow the best traditions of the Royal Navy and go on the attack. They planned their own minelaying mission off the German coast (zone C4 on the operational map). The mission would be supported by the seven battleships of the 1st Battle Squadron and the armored cruisers of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron. The battlecruiser squadron was let behind to try to intercept any German raids.

With the missions planned, it was time for the referee (me) to check for submarines, radio intercepts, and spotting by airships.

Royal Navy Intelligence in Room 40 intercepted and decoded many radio transmissions that indicated the Germans had a major fleet operation underway with many ships moving toward Yarmouth. The Royal Navy decided to continue with their planned operations, believing they could lay their mines and then the battleships would be able to cut-off the German raiders as they tried to return to port. They were feeling confident about their chances of inflicting some serious losses on the Germans.

Meanwhile, one of the Zeppelins scouting around Scapa Flow spotted the British battleships leaving port and reported that the ships were heading southeast. The Germans also decided to continue with their planned missions, but they also sent a few more ships to join the battleships in zone C3.

With the stage set, the action kicked off when Harwich Force (4 light cruisers and 2 destroyer squadrons) sighted the German battlecruisers near Yarmouth. The Royal Navy staff discussed their options and ordered Harwich Force to fall back while Beatty’s battlecruisers were dispatched to catch the German raiders. The Germans were happy to let the British light cruisers and destroyers go away while they laid their mines and shot up the town.

Next the British lights cruisers scouting ahead of the minelaying/battleship force sighted smoke and then German battleships. The British minelaying cruisers dumped then mines as the whole force cleared for action.
Each side setting up for the battle
German battleships near the top, cruisers near the bottom, and torpedo boats outside the photo
British battleships near the bottom and cruisers near the top
The battleships for each side were set up on opposite map corners, with their lighter forces directly facing the enemy battleships. The Germans kept their battleships in separate groups, while their armored cruisers. light cruisers, and destroyers looked to close with the British. The British got their battleships into a line ahead formation, leaving four armored cruisers and four light cruisers, operating in two line-ahead formations, to cover the rear of the formation. This left two light cruisers (HMS Blanche and HMS Boadicea) as a screen in front of the formation.
British battleships form up in line ahead formation
As the ships closed the shooting began. Each side took some damage, but nothing serious. Then the German battleships connected on the armored cruisers leading the rear formations. HMS Devonshire was wrecked by a German broadside, while HMS Antrim caught fire and would later sink.
Devonshire hit and sinking
Antrim on fire
At the front of the British formation, HMS Blanche and HMS Boadicea found themselves facing four German light cruisers and four torpedo boat flotillas. The light cruisers did their best, but there were too many Germans around and they were taking heavy damage. The commander of the torpedo boat flotillas saw and opportunity here and made a charge around the British cruisers to close with the battleships. It was about this time that a sailor on a Grand Fleet battleship was heard to say “Does anyone know why we don’t have any destroyers with us?”
German torpedo boats bracket the battleships
Having closed to optimal torpedo range, the German torpedo boats unleashed their fish with deadly results. The two leading battleships, HMS King George V and HMS Ajax, each took multiple hits and began to sink.
HMS Ajax hit by torpedoes
HMS King George V and HMS Ajax sinking after torpedo hits
Flashing back to Royal Navy planning for the turn, a decision had been made to leave the assigned destroyer squadrons behind to conduct a defensive patrol. The question of why the destroyers were left behind would be asked several more times, with the response being “I guess that is what the Board of Inquiry will be tasked with finding out.”

The British did strike back, starting a fire aboard the armored cruiser Prinz Heinrich and then sinking it with a torpedo shot.
Prinz Heinrich hit and on fire
Prinz Heinrich takes a torpedo hit (which will help put out the fire)
With two of their seven battleships sinking, the British ordered a withdrawal. When the casualties were all counted up, the Royal Navy had lost 2 battleships, 2 armored cruisers, and two light cruisers. The Germans lost an armored cruiser and a torpedo boat flotilla. Each side had other ships with damage, but only one of those (another British armored cruiser) was very serious.

The British also recalled their battlecruisers, since it was felt that they would probably be facing both the German battlecruiser and battleship formations.

With the situation looking grim, the British checked the current Victory Point totals. Seeing how far behind they were, they decided to concede the game. This ended the campaign a little earlier than expected, but gave us time to convene the Board of Inquiry to talk through the good and bad things each side had done (the general verdict for the Royal Navy was "mistakes were made."). It also gave me a chance to reveal some of the other interesting missions that were required for later months, such as supporting the Cuxhaven Raid and a mission that could have set up a repeat of the Battle of Dogger Bank.
DANG 2019 participants
Overall, the game turned out well and everyone seemed to have a good time (although I’m sure the food and beer helped with that). I really liked how the new game mats looked and I think the Battleship Captain rules worked pretty well for the mid-size action. They were sort of a throw-back to the old Avalon Hill Jutland rules, with some nice additional chrome. With that, DANG XVIII (18) is in the books.