Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Ersatz Enfilade - Ironclads Game

In normal years the Enfilade gaming convention would have happened over the U.S. Memorial Day weekend. But we still aren't in normal times and the 2021 Enfilade was moved to U.S. Labor Day weekend (September 3 - 5).  But with the first really good weather weekend coming up, I decided to have an Ersatz Enfilade game on my lawn.


Ersatz (ˈerˌzäts,ˈerˌsäts) Not real or genuine.

 

The lawn games from last year worked so well that I thought I would put up the pop-up canopy again for this game.

 

After talking with the group about what they wanted to play, we decided to do an American Civil War (ACW) naval action using the Ironclads rules. Kevin generously volunteered to run a hypothetical Confederate attack on Fort Pickens, which is the fort that was defending Pensacola Florida.

Target for Today - Fort Pickens

In addition to the fort, the Union would have a couple earthworks batteries and two Passaic class monitors. The fort and one battery defended the main ship channel, while the other battery covered a smaller channel. The monitors started on the land side of the fort near the main ship channel. The two ship channels were separated by a shallow bar, so the best entry points were through the channels. 

Union Monitors to help the defense

The Confederates had the Mobile squadron with the ironclads Nashville, Tennessee and Tuscaloosa and the wooden ships Gaines, Selma, and Morgan. 

 

Additionally, the Confederate force included the really hypothetical CSS North Carolina and CSS Stonewall ironclad cruisers. Historically, CSS North Carolina was seized by the British in October 1863, then purchased for the Royal Navy. CSS Stonewall was sold by the French to the Danes in 1863 and then to the Confederates in 1865, but it did not reach the Confederates before the end of the war; where it was taken over by the United States and later sold to Japan.

All the Confederates


CSS North Carolina and CSS Stonewall

The Confederates were split into two groups, the Mobile squadron and the hypothetical squadron. The Mobile squadron was set up in two parallel line-ahead formations, mainly due to the speed differences between all the ships. The slower ironclads (Tennessee and Tuscaloosa) were in a line closer to Fort Pickens and the faster ships (led by Nashville with the wooden ships following) in a line further away from the fort. The general idea was the faster ships could speed ahead to the main ship channel and keep firing on the fort, while the slower ironclads would take their shots and try to draw Union fire. This also allowed the ships to get on the map and engage with the fort fairly quickly. 

 

The hypothetical squadron planned to pass through the smaller ship channel and then make their way over to attack Fort Pickens. 

 

But, as with most plans, they weren't well explained and did not survive contact with the enemy. The mortars firing from Fort Pickens caused Nashville to turn out of line to avoid the shells. This in turn forced the following wooden ships to take evasive action to avoid collision. The outer line was never able to get reformed and the wooden ships were targets more than expected. The wooden ships turned away before they could get close to the main ship channel, while Nashville drove into the channel alone.

Confederate line in disorder
Trying to get the line back in order

The Union monitors moved slowly toward the main channel and decided to go after the closer Nashville, rather than the more distant hypothetical squadron. 

Union defenders head for the channel

The hypothetical squadron engaged the earthworks battery and silenced it. Then they turned toward Fort Pickens and began to engage the Union monitors at long range. 

Confederate heavies take on an earthworks battery

The guns on the monitors didn't quite have the range to damage the hypothetical squadron, so they held their fire for Nashville. But the Confederates were in range and caused a fire and magazine hit on one of the monitors.

Heavy action in the channel

With things very crowded in the main channel, the monitors went to ram Nashville, while Nashville tried to return the favor with a bow on bow ram.

Ramming and fires!

Damage was done to both sides, but everyone was still afloat. At this point we took a break to evaluate what had happened and decide if we wanted to continue.

Confederate decision point

Looking over the current situation; the main ship channel was blocked, two of the three Confederate wooden ships had taken heavy damage and Nashville was not in great shape. But the other Confederate ironclads only had minor damage and could still fight. On the Union side, one monitor was sinking, one fort face had taken heavy damage, and the other monitor had light damage.

 

After talking through the situation, things still seemed undecided. But we agreed the Confederates had an edge at this point with the heavy guns of the hypothetical squadron now able to be turned on the fort. Although it would be a near run thing for either side. 

 

With that, we wrapped up the game and spent the remaining time visiting and talking about current and future projects. Overall it was a fun game and day. It was good to see and game with people in person after a long winter.

 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Crucible Crush Viet Cong

Back in April I posted about the Vietnam U.S. Army figures I got from Crucible Crush. Because I normally like to have forces for both sides of a battle, I ordered the four Viet Cong packs from the same Black Sun range.

 

There was no assembly needed for any of these figure. Although they needed a little more clean-up than the Americans. The figures are stout fellows with good detail, so even I could pick out the details when painting.

 

Like the Americans, most of the figures have packs and other gear. They have a mix of AK-47s, SKS carbines, SMGs, rifles, a RPD light machine gun, and a couple RPGs. I painted most up with the black uniform. The officer figure was done up in Khaki and I gave one other figure Khaki pants.

A group shot of the troops

While painting I had a little trouble getting some shadowing on the black uniforms and some of the faces didn't turn out as well as I hoped. They won't win in painting competitions, but on the game table they will look just fine. Here are some closer look photos.







 

As you can see from the photos, there are several figures that use the same pose but have different hats. That isn't really obvious when looking at the figures on the Crucible Crush website, but was more noticeable when I was painting them up.

 

Now I just need to pick up some jungle type terrain, which I can also use with my WWII Japanese and Australians.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

German Marinefährprahm

The Marinefährprahm (MFP) or naval ferry barge, was the largest landing craft operated by Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II. These vessels were originally developed for the planned invasion of England. But once the invasion was cancelled, they found uses in other areas. MFPs served as transports, minelayers, escorts, and gunboats in the Mediterranean, Baltic and Black Seas as well as the English Channel and Norwegian coastal waters.

German Marinefährprahm (MFP) barges

There were four basic types, A, B, C, and D, with sub-variants for each of those. The size and cargo capacity increased with each type. Around 700 these vessels were completed by the war's end.
Most of the vessels were armed with 20mm and 37mm anti-aircraft guns, and some had a 75mm or 88mm gun. Those that were converted for escort and gunboat duty were more heavily armed with multiple 88mm or 105mm guns and heavier anti-aircraft guns. The Germans referred to these as Artilleriefährprahm (AFP), while Allied sources sometimes refer to this class of vessel as a "Flak Lighter" or "F-lighter." In addition to escort duties, these heavily armed versions were also used for shore bombardments, especially in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea.

MFP and AFP from a different angle

For the next installment in my Black Sea/Baltic Sea project, I put together some German MFPs and an AFP. Like my previous KFK project, these are not very sexy vessels, but they are useful and served everywhere. The MFPs are 3D printed (thanks to David Manley for pointing out the STL files). I decided to go with an unarmed print and then add guns from Warlords Games Cruel Seas Germans. My MFPs are lightly armed with only a twin 20mm on the gun platform. Looking back on it, I probably should have added a couple more weapons here and there. But these are mainly meant to be transports, so they will need an escort.

The lightly armed MFPs

The AFP started out as an Italian F-Lighter that I found cheap online. Since I already had the German weapons pack, I just substituted German guns for the Italian ones (I’m not positive, but I think the hulls for the German and Italian versions are exactly the same). My AFP is armed with 2 88mm guns, 2 quad-20mm guns, a twin 20mm, and a single 20mm. All of which should provide some nice firepower in the games.

The heavier AFP

I painted up all the barges in mid-gray, did some pin-washing to bring out a few details, and added some rust stains for weathering. The MFPs each got a little different color on the aft boat to make them easier to ID during games. 

MFP and AFP size comparison with the KFK (front left) and S-boat (front right)

Convoy run
Overall, I think these turned out fine and will look good on the tabletop. While they are slow (max speed of 10 knots), their shallow draft should make them tough targets for Soviets MTBs and the AFP has the firepower to help protect the group.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

German Kriegsfischkutters

Kriegsfischkutters (KFK) were small armed fishing boats used as auxiliary warships by the German navy during World War 2.

My newly completed Kriegsfischkutters
Similar to the British, before World War 2 the Germans created some standardized designs for their fishing fleet could be used by private operators. In return, the ships could be requisitioned by the navy during the war. One of the designs was the small Reichsfischkutter, which would then become the KFK during wartime. KFKs were used as escorts, submarine hunters, minesweepers, and general security duty.
Wartime photo of a KFK (from http://history-classics.de)

Over 600 of these vessels were completed before and during the war. They were typically armed with one 37mm gun, one 20mm gun, and depth charges. But they often mounted extra guns and I’ve seen photos where the forward 37mm was swapped for a quad 20mm. Because they served everywhere the Germans had ships, these little craft are really useful for European-based coastal forces games.

 

As part of my Black Sea/Baltic Sea project, I picked up a couple Warlord Games Cruel Seas KFKs to help escorts merchants.

 

The basic kit is nice and includes two KFKs. The hull and superstructure are resin and didn't need much clean-up work. Everything went together easily and fit well. The worst part of the kit was the weapons, some of which required a lot of cleaning and filing to look good. For all the Warlord kits I've gotten I've had to spend a lot of time cleaning up the weapons. For me, they have been the most troublesome part of the kit. That said, the end results generally look pretty good. So, I guess I shouldn't complain too much. 

The other side of the KFKs

For my models, I decided to use the standard layout and weapons fit. Warlord sells a weapons pack, so you could switch up the armament some and, for the really ambitious, you cut off the minesweeping paravanes and add another gun. 

Size comparison with an S-boat

I painted up my ships in mid-gray with a light brown for the decks (the ship colors on the Warlord Games site look sort of blue-gray to me, which seems off). I then attempted to do some weathering on the ship. The decks and superstructure turned out okay (you can see the different planks on each). But I wonder if I was a little heavy with the colors on the side of the ship and for the water run-off holes. I touched this part up several times, but I'm still not sure it looks right. While I generally don't like my vehicles to be factory-fresh looking, I also don't care for heavy weathering. They will probably look fine on the gaming table. 

Overhead view showing the deck layout

Overall, I like the KFK kit. I would recommend them for anyone looking for a simple German ship to add to the 1/350 scale fleet. 

KFKs escorting a merchant

Sunday, April 11, 2021

A Diverson to Southeast Asia

Earlier this year several people in my local gaming group became enamored with the new line of Vietnam figures from Gringos 40. You can see some of the figures on Kevin's and David's blogs, along with their first battle report. With all the email's and blog posts, I found myself pulled into this diversion. Since this would be a skirmish game, I didn't want to just redo the same figures everyone else was doing. During the back and forth emails, we talked about other manufacturers that could be used with the Gringo 40s figures. I liked the look of the figures from Crucible Crush's Black Sun range. The rules and some of the figures in the range are definitely "Weird Vietnam War" stuff, but the U.S. Army and VC figures looked like they would fit in with the Gringo 40 figures. So, I took the plunge and ordered 3 packs of U.S. Army soldiers. 

 

Once the figures arrived, there was little in the way of clean-up or assembly needed (only 1 figure needed to have an arm glued on and there was little flask or mold lines). I did get  two duplicate figures instead of five different figures in the U.S. Army Rifles set, but I'm okay with that. Here is how the figures painted up. 

Radio operator (with added antenna), command type figure, and kneeling grenadier

The running men. The middle figure is the one that needed the arm glued on and he I added a pack of Marlboro cigarettes to his helmet

Advancing (one of my duplicates), M60 gunner, and firing soldiers

Advancing (the other duplicate), command (this is my favorite figure of the bunch), and a Grunt
Shotgun, high-carry advancing, and standing grenadier

All the figures, except for the shotgun soldier, have rucksacks. So they are out patrolling instead of sitting in a firebase. 

Group shot (although the front guys are a little out of focus)

I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. I'm planning on ordering the four VC packs, so I'll have both sides. But I don't expect to get any other figures. But who knows, since I wasn't planning on getting these guys. 

 

I think it will be back to some naval stuff after this. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Regia Marina

I've been a little slow in working on my projects, due to various reasons, but now I can report some progress on one project. 


Back in January, I had posted that I was working on the World War 2 Italian Fleet in 1/6000 scale. The Figurehead pack come with 77 ships, including all the major Italian warships and 40+ destroyers. 

A Littorio class battleship with an escort

I did a basic paint job on the ships in February, but it took a while to do some detailing and get the recognition stripes done. Part of the detailing involved putting camouflage on the ships, but with the ships being so small, it is pretty hard to see. I looked at several ways to do air recognition stripes (those are the red and white "barber pole" stripes normally on the bow of the ship). It was especially challenging to think about doing the destroyers, most of which were only a millimeter wide. After failing to consistently paint stripes, I finally settled on using a marker to do the stripes. I think they turned out pretty well, even if it felt a little like cheating. 

 

Here are some photos of the completed ships. My camera did have some trouble focusing on small ships with my lighting conditions, but hopefully it gives you a good idea of the final look. The mat in the photos has 2 inch squares, so you can get an idea of the ship size. 

Littorio class battleships

Conte di Cavour and Andrea Doria class battleships

Italian heavy cruisers
A representative group of Italian light cruisers

A few destroyers

The whole fleet

While the photos aren't that great, I think the ships turned out pretty well. I'm planning on mounting the ships on some clear plastic stands. That will give players something to grab when moving the ships and a place for me to put ship names.

 

I'm hoping to get the ships out for some action this summer.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

More Gaming Mats

After I got the naval gaming mats from TABLEWAR, I kept looking at their other mats to see which others I would want to add to my collection. I really like the mouse pad material mats and TABLEWAR has a 10% discount for returning customers, in addition to discounts for other occasional sales, making it a little easier to keep going back. Last year I picked up a couple Grassy Plain mats that we used in the Philippines game and over the past few months I've rounded out my collection with a couple Desert Planet mats and a Space mat. 

I tried to take some overview photos of the desert mats, but they didn't turn out very well due to lighting, so check the link above for a larger view. But I did get a few close up photos with some World War II North Africa tanks.

A couple early war 15mm British tanks

A work in progress 15mm Panzer III

The mat color is a more rocky desert color than sandy desert (a little more orange than sand), but they should look fine for any game. I've been thinking about doing some What a Tanker North Africa games and these mats will be perfect for that. 

I like the look of the space mat too. I only got one of these, since I don't really expect to be doing large space battles. The overview photo for this mat turned out okay, but the nebula colors are more vivid in person. My Galactic Knights ships look good against the background.

Full space mat

A few ships traveling past the nebula

When I ordered the space mat I also picked up a GEO mat with a 1.5 inch hex grid. I went the the white grid line since I expect I will primarily use it with the space mat, but it does work with the other mats too. The GEO mat is a transparent mat with the hexes printed on it. Here is how it looks with the space mat.

Medium size view of the hex grid

A closer view with a couple ships

The GEO mat is plastic, so it does cause a little glare. But nothing too bad. Here is how it looks with the desert mat. 

Desert hexes
And with the ocean mat.
You can see the glare a little more in this photo

Another shot with some 1/6000 scale ships

The GEM mat provides a little more flexibility for gaming, allowing me to play rules that have hexes without too much extra effort. 

One drawback is that the GEO mat didn't flatten out as much as the other mats, which causes a few 'waves' on the surface. So I may need to get some clamps to hold it flat. I also rolled it up with the space mat to see if that would help flatten it. 

Overall, I'm pretty happy with my mat collection. I can do sea, land (desert and green), air (using any of the ocean or land mats), and space games.