Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gaming and the Real World

It doesn't often happen where real world events and a game I'm planning on running bump into each other. However, the recent events in Korea around the Cheonan Incident has sort of done that.

I originally planned this scenario late last year, well before the current situation. But I did base it on the other minor gun battles that have happened along the sea border.

I have to admit that I always feel a little strange about playing games about current events. I haven't really analyzed why I feel that playing a game about a current event is any different than playing one about a historical event. It isn't like I really know anyone in the Korean Navy (or Korea), so there isn't a personal connection. But for whatever reason, it does feel a little odd to me. I'm not really sure how other people feel about this, maybe that will be something I explore in another blog posting.

That said, I still plan on running the game and I thought I would share the description for my game:

Title: Take it to the (Northern) Limit
Even in the best of times patrolling the Northern Limit Line, the disputed maritime border between North and South Korea, is complicated. Whether it is stopping fishing boats that are working the wrong side of the line, watching for infiltration by spies, or just dealing with military ships that have strayed over the line, the prospect for an encounter to turn into an incident or out-right combat is always present. Sometimes these events are accidents, but sometimes they are intentional. What will today’s patrol bring?

The game is scheduled for the afternoon game period on Saturday. I'm planning on taking some pictures (although my pictures haven't been turning out that well) and I'll post a report on how things turn out next week.


Monday, May 24, 2010

North Korean Ships

For the North Koreans, I searched through various sources to figure out what would be the most interesting boats that are available in scale, for the scenario. I wanted this to be more of gun battle than a missile fight, so I decided to go with a bunch of variants of the Soviet/Russian P-6 torpedo boat as the primary force for the North Koreans.

The Soviets sold P-6 torpedo boats all around the world. The North Koreans (along with the Chinese and several other nations) took this hull design, modified the armament, and built a bunch of patrol boats.

I ordered four types of P-6 hulls from The PT Dockyard; the basic Soviet P-6 torpedo boat, the Chinese Shantou gunboat, the North Korean built Chaho (with a 122mm multiple rocket launcher), and the North Korean built Chong Jin gunboat (with a T-34/85 turret).

The Soviet P-6 torpedo boat will represent North Korean Sinpo class, which is really just a steel-hull version of the P-6, and is armed with two twin 23mm gun mounts and two 21" torpedo tubes (I will probably limit these to unguided torpedoes, but I may allow the North Korean to upgrade to guided torpedoes for the scenario). It doesn't have the gun armament to stand up to the South Korean ships, but the torpedoes can certainly take out any South Korean ship.

The Shantou class replaces the normal P-6 armament with two twin 37mm turrets and a twin 76mm recoilless rifle mount. It has a slightly different look than the other boats, since it uses a Chinese radar fit. This boat is closer in armament to the South Korean Sea Dolphin, but the smaller hull won't stand up to as much damage.

The Chaho class is an interesting boat with the 122mm multiple rocket launcher. The rocket launcher is mounted directly above the bridge, which forces the radar mast to be moved to the starboard side of the bridge. The boats also have a twin 23mm mount forward and twin heavy machine gun aft, but the rockets are the primary weapons for this boat. The rockets are a one-shot weapon, but could cause some trouble for the South Koreans and should be fun to play with in the game.

The Chong Jin class is another interesting variant built by the North Koreans. It has a T-34 turret, with an 85mm gun, mounted forward and two twin heavy machine gun mounts aft. The 85mm gun out-guns the South Korean ships and can pack a punch, but it is still mounted on the P-6 hull, which won't take a lot of damage. From the reports I've read Chong Jin class boats have been involved in several encounters at the Northern Limit Line.

All of the models were assembled without any modification to the PT Dockyard kits. These kits took a little more work than the South Korean boats (for whatever reason they needed little more filling and sanding than the other ships). They are also smaller than the South Koreans, so they required a little more dexterity to get everything in place.

I searched around for color pictures of the North Korean ships, but I couldn't find any good ones. So, I decided to just make up my own color scheme. I originally planned to use ocean gray for the hull color and flight deck gray for the deck. But there really wasn't enough contrast between these two colors and my test boat just looked like a gray blob. I changed the deck color to a brown (a lighter color than normal Soviet/Russian deck brown) and it gave me a better effect.

Here are a couple photos of the completed boats, from left to right (port to starboard) the boats are: P-6 torpedo boat, Shantou gunboat, Chaho rocket/gunboat, and Chong Jin gunboat. You can see the different Chinese radar fit and how the Chaho has the radar mast shifted to the side.

Because of the size differences, the North Korean boats would have a tough time in an equal battle with the South Koreans I selected. The photo below shows (from bottom to top) a Chong Jin, P-6, Sea Dolphin, and Pae Ku.

However, in the scenario the North Koreans will outnumber the South and have the option of getting some missile boats (a couple Komars doing double-duty as Chinese Sohung missile boats) that I already had in my collection. I might also allow them a special secret weapon...

(for those of you that can't figure out what these are, they are homemade periscope markers.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

South Korean Ships

I'm finishing up the ships for my Enfilade Bulldogs Away! game and instead of doing one long post, I decided to break it down into one for the South Korean ships and one for the North Korean ships. That way I can provide a little more detail on what I did with each group.

Starting with the South Koreans, I picked up four Sea Dolphin (also know as the Chamsuri) class gunboats and a pair of Pae Ku (also called the Paek Ku or PSSM 5) class missile boats. All the ships are from the PT Dockyard and I'll use the names listed on the website in my descriptions.

Sea Dolphin/Chamsuri Class
This class is a general patrol/gunboat and has been involved in actions against North Korean ships along the Northern Limit Line. There are several versions of this class that primarily differ in armament. Early versions (ships with hull numbers in the 200s) typically carried a twin 30mm Emerlec mount on the bow and one or two 20mm Sea Vulcan guns aft. The later version (ships with hull numbers in the 300s) upgraded the bow gun to an enclosed 40mm. These ships are getting old and are expected to be retired as the new Gumdoksuri class comes into service. Some of the early versions have been sold to the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Kazakhstan, giving more uses for the miniatures.

For my models, I decided to go with the later version with the 40mm gun. The PT Dockyard kit includes parts for both types, but I had other plans for the Emerlec mounts. Here is a nice profile view of some of these ships.

Putting the kits together was pretty straight-forward, with only four pieces (two 20mm turrets, the 40mm turret, and the mast) to glue to the hull. It is a little more challenging if you use the 30mm turret, since you have to glue on the gun barrels, but still shouldn't be too bad for anyone that has assembled resin kits before. You might need to fill in some holes in the resin, which can be hard to see until you prime the ship, but still not too bad. One issue I had was trying to figure out how to paint up the 40mm and 20mm turrets. I had to do a lot of searching on the Internet to find some good pictures that showed the turrets from different angles. I finally figured out that the 40mm gun is only glassed in on the port (that's left for you land-lubbers) side, while the 20mm guns were glassed on both sides. I used a metallic blue color for the glassed-in sections and lined it with a scale black to separate it from the rest of the turret (a trick I learned while painting cockpits on airplanes). Here are some views of what I finally ended up with.

Pae Ku/Paek Ku/PSSM 5
This class is based on the old US Ashville gunboat design. The last of these were retired around 2005, but I needed some heavy hitters for the scenario I'm running and since no one makes any of the other South Korean ships, I decided these would have to do.

The Ashville class and variants were/are used by quite a few navies around the world. For Korea, there were a couple variations to this class. There were early American-built ships and the Korean-built variants, both with Standard missile box launchers aft, and then the upgraded Korean-built versions that removed the box launchers and added a twin 30mm Emerlec mount and two Harpoon missile launchers (each with two missiles). The PT Dockyard version is the Korean-built version with the Standard missile box launchers, but I wanted to make the upgraded version with the Harpoon missiles, so it was time to do a little kit-bashing.

I dug through my 'box o'parts' with extra parts for ships and pulled out a box of Skywave Equipment for Modern Ships-5, which has guns and missiles for US and Japanese modern ships.

I cut down the quad Harpoon launcher so that it was only two tubes. Next I put together the twin 30mm mount, which I scavenged from the Sea Dolphin kits. These needed a little work to put together, since you have to glue the barrels onto the mount and my fat fingers had a little trouble with that. But I think they turned out good. Finally I changed the mast from the same one used on the Sea Dolphins to a square lattice-type mast (basically I took a square piece of Evergreen Scale Model styrene and cut it to the size I wanted and painted it up with the lattice look). I almost swapped the forward 76mm gun with one from the Skywave box, but decided that the one included withe the kit looked better on the model.

Putting the Pae Ku together was a little harder than the Sea Dolphin. The superstructure is separate from the hull, along with the exhaust stack, fire control radar, and weapons. Overall, not too tough, but as I mentioned, my fat fingers sometimes have trouble with little parts.

I went with standard navy gray for the main ship color and flight deck gray for the deck. I outlined some of the doors on the superstructure and painted an orange life presever on each side for a little detail.

Overall I'm pretty happy with how the ships turned out.

Coming next, the North Koreans.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Preparing for Enfilade 2010

The local historical miniatures gaming convention, Enfilade, is just a couple weeks away and I'm getting into final rush mode for my game preparations.

This year I'll be running, or helping to run, 3 events. Two are hydroplane racing games that Kevin Smyth and I will run using the locally grown Thunderboats rules. The Enfilade Cup will run on Friday evening and on Sunday will will run a historical game based on the 1965 Gold Cup. We've added some additional rules to make this historical and a little different than the normal races. You can read a little about the playtest on Kevin's blog.

The third game, slated for Saturday afternoon, will be a modern missile/gun boat game off Korea using David Manley's Bulldogs Away rules. I'm still finishing the work on most the boats for this game. All, except for a couple optional Osa missile boats, come from The PT Dockyard's 1/700 scale modern line. The North Korean ships include the Chong Jin class (a P-6 hull with a T-34 85mm turret), the Chaho class (a P-6 hull with a 122mm rocket launcher), the Chinese-built Shantou class (a P-6 hull will twin 37mm guns) and some Soviet/Russian-built P-6 torpedo boats (do you see a pattern in the mix?).

The South Koreans will have some Sea Dolphin (Chamsuri) class gunboats and some Pae Ku (PSSM-5) missile boats. For the Sea Dolphins I chose to go with the newer version with the 40mm gun on the bow and for the Pae Ku I modified the standard model, getting rid of the Standard missile boxes and adding some Harpoon missile canisters.

I'll provide some better pictures as I finish up the boats.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

And so it begins...

I decided to start up this hobby blog to share some of what I'm doing with my various hobbies (primarily wargaming stuff, but I expect other things will occasionally sneak into the blog posts).

I wasn't really sure if I wanted to do this, since it would probably turn out to be just so much more noise on the Internet. However, I recently started running the blog for the submarine veterans group I belong to (you can see it in the blog list to the right) and this just seemed like a natural extension of that. I hope that there will be a few people interested my posts, but I suspect that it will turn out more like this ...

My wargaming stuff covers both miniatures and boardgames, but most of the pictures for the blog will be of my miniatures, which by a funny coincidence are primarily ships (although I am a big fan of airplanes too). Here is a little sample of some of my stuff.

This picture shows some of my 1/700 scale modern naval ships (although the sailing dhow in the upper left could pretty much be from any era). I try to include some interesting pictures in my posts, but we'll just have to see how that goes.