Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Distracted and Delayed

When I started this blog my goal was to post something at least once per week. While it seems I've failed to meet that, I have been working on some naval related stuff, just not miniatures stuff.

Besides real-life work (the kind that allows me to buy miniatures) and the normal around-the-house chores, I've been doing some work on a couple boardgame projects involving U-boats. One involved playtesting while the other involved doing some design work. I'll post more information about these when (if)they get closer to being completed.

As for my summer projects, the 15mm Age of Sail stuff has been temporarily side-tracked by the other projects, but I hope to return to it in the next week or two. I have done some more research on the St. Nazaire raid project that Kevin and I have been talking about. One of the biggest things I needed to figure out was how much space the game would take up. So I found some maps of the area of the raid, figured out how much I would like to see covered in the game, and then convert that into game scale. I've been using the map below as my basic guideline for the raid (I have other maps and books, but it is easier to show this one on the blog). The area marked in the red box on the map pretty much covers the main areas of action during the raid (although I might shift the box to the right a little) and works out to be about 1,600 yards by 600 yards.

Since we are planning on using 1/600 scale miniatures for the game, that seemed like a good place to start. In this scale 1,600 yards by 600 yards works out to about a 8 foot by 3 foot space which fits right in with most tables for a convention (a general table size is 8 foot by 6 foot) and the extra space in the width would give a little more room into the river and maybe an out of the way place to put figures and ships. I also measured out that area using the scale given in Action Stations (2 yards = 1 mm) and that gives an even smaller space, but right now I think we will stick with 1/600 scale since that is the size of the ships and we can get some terrain in that scale.

The next step for this project will probably be sitting down and figuring out what terrain items can be bought and what needs to be made. I'll have to set up a time to meet with Kevin where we can talk about this and maybe walk through a session of the Avalon Hill game on the the raid.

Hopefully I'll be able to get back on track with the 15mm Age of Sail stuff too. On a side note, I added the Naval History Blog to my blog list on the right. While it is primarily US Navy history, it does have some interesting information and may provide a little inspiration or project ideas.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Age of Sail Project

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a couple different projects in mind for summer/fall. While I will probably work on them in parallel, I thought I would talk a little about the 15mm Age of Sail project.

The main focus of the project is going to be the War of 1812 actions and the US Navy actions against the Barbary Pirates, but I expect there may be some drift here and there to other related topics.

The Ships and Crew
My current fleet started out with some lucky purchases from eBay. I was able to get the a 2-gun galley, 12-gun cutter, and some naval crew from Thoroughbred's Sea Eagle line. Both the ships and the crew figures are pretty nice. I also got a 4-gun ship from Laden Swallow Miniatures (who are apparently out of business now). All these ships and crews seemed like a pretty good start, even though the ships may not fit in with all the actions I'm looking at.

After talking about this project with some friends, a couple of them passed along some old 14-gun brig kits from the old Limies and Slimeys line (Thanks Dave and Arthur).

Looking at the ships, there was just something about them that bugged me. The castellated look of the ship's sides just seemed medieval and not right for the period I was working on. I wasn't sure exactly what to do about it, but grabbed some strip styrene and started playing around. I ended up putting some styrene across the tops of the sides to give it a more finished look. This is still preliminary work, but I think it looks better.

While I had the Thoroughbred gun galley, I wanted to add some smaller gunboats and pirate craft to my fleet. I began looking for manufacturers that made ships for the Barbary actions but didn't really find what I was looking for. So I decided to try to come up with some on my own. I consulted The History of the American Sailing Navy: The Ships and Their Development by Howard Chapelle to see if I could find out some information about the small US and pirate ships involved in the actions around Tripoli in July and August 1804. The book had some information on the US ships, the information on the Barbary ships was limited. But I decided to press ahead with making a couple conjectural models based on what I could glean from Chapelle's book and a couple others.

I came up with a plan, cut some basswood hulls and then use some styrene to dress them up.

In addition to building the ships, I need to figure out a good way to handle the masts. I would like them to be removable (for showing damage and for storage), but I want them to be sturdy when in-place on the ship.

Now that I've got a start on the ships and crew, I'll be looking for some rules for the actions.

The Rules
I haven't really settled on what rules I want to use for my games. My ideal set of rules would be able to handle single ships or groups of ships from gunboats and armed ship's boats up to about frigate size ship. I would like the rules to be able to cover gunnery and boarding actions without over-simplifying either. I would also sort of like the gunnery rules to show that a 24-pound long gun is different than a 9-pound long gun and both are different from a carronade.

I've been looking at the Limies and Slimeys rules, along with getting information about Thoroughbred's Prevailing Winds rules, and Sailpower. But right now I'm leaning toward modifying free set of rules called Away Boarders which was designed for the battles on Lake Champlain in 1776.

If anyone has any suggestions for rules or ships or comments about how they managed their own ships, I'd appreciate hearing them.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Setting My Next Course

Now that Enfilade is done, it is time to start thinking about my next project. While I'll probably be taking a little time away from miniatures projects to work on some other items, there are a few things that I'm looking at working on. Note: I'm still planning on posting updates to the blog, so there will be new stuff here.

Possible Project 1
The first project I'm thinking about is some 15mm Age of Sail stuff. In general I'm more of a steam-age kind of naval player, but I have always had a soft spot for frigate and smaller ship actions. So the project I'm thinking about now covers the US Navy action against the Barbary Pirates and the War of 1812 lake battles (including actions in Chesapeake Bay). I have always found the actions against the Barbary Pirate interesting, especially the attack on Tripoli on August 3, 1804, And over the few years I've become more interested in the War of 1812 stuff.

The good things about these actions is that they are relatively small and they are different than the usual Age of Sail fleet actions.

The bad things about this project is that there aren't a lot of miniatures (mainly ship types that represent the historical ships in the actions) in 15mm available for the battles and I haven't found a set of rules that I want to try (suggestions and recommendations are welcome, just leave a note in the comments section). The main miniature providers I know of are Old Glory Shipyard (ships), Thoroughbred miniatures (ships and crew), Sailpower (ships), and GFI/Minifig (crew and a couple old Limies and Slimeys ships). There are several rule sets out there, but I just don't know enough about any of them to feel comfortable ordering them without a little more information.

Possible Project 2
Kevin (my Thunderboats hydroplane racing game co-conspirator) and I have worked together on several WWII coastal forces actions for various conventions and game. One of the projects we have talked about doing as an Enfilade project is Operation Chariot, the raid on St. Nazaire. This is a pretty interesting operation and could certainly capture the interest of a lot of people. We are looking at it primarily from the naval aspect, but our plans do include the land component.

The good thing about this project is that the ships in the action are available and most can be used in other games. Also, we (mostly me) think we can pull it off using David Manley's Action Stations rules, with maybe a few modifications for the land actions. For the land troops, we will probably use 1/600 scale infantry (and maybe some vehicles) from Pico Armor.

The bad thing about this is that to really make it fun (in my opinion) we need to make the town look right for the action, which means a lot of work to get things right. Skytrex makes a lot of dockyard accessories that look like they are from St Nazaire, which will be helpful, and I've picked up a couple boxes of the SkyWave European Buildings kits for the city. We also need to make sure the game is interesting for all the players, so we will probably borrow some ideas from the old Avalon Hill game "Raid on St Nazaire" and make the game one in which all the players are on the British side.

Kevin and I still need to determine how much of the city we want to show for the game and if we want to put this together for Enfilade 2011.

Diversionary Project

Another friend, Paul, approached me about a possible diversionary project for the summer. Paul plays a lot of DBA and came across a set of DBA naval rules called De Bellis Navilibus. While I don't really want to spend a lot of time or money on this project right now, it might be a fun summer diversion (assuming I can find some cheap miniatures to use).

What will I do?
I will probably do a little work on all of these projects during the summer, assuming something else doesn't pique my interest. But if I really want to finish one of these projects, I'll have to decide where to focus my efforts.

Dave S.

A Brief Interlude

This is going to be one of the off-topic posts I said would happen from time to time. Before moving on to other naval gaming stuff, I just wanted to post a quick note about the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr. from the Seattle Mariners. Most of you probably aren't interested in baseball, so please feel free to skip over this post.

I was sort of a late-comer to being a real baseball fan. Yes I played as a kid, watched games on TV, and had my favorite players and teams, but sort of lost interest during my late teens and early twenties. It wasn't really until I was in my mid-twenties that I got back into the game and really began to understand all of the nuances and strategies of the game. In some ways I suppose that my interest in war and strategy games matched up with my re-found interest in baseball.

My personal return to baseball was going on just as Ken Griffey Jr. was starting his Major League career with the Mariners and I was lucky enough to be near Seattle to see it. While Griffey wasn't my favorite Mariner, he certainly made it exciting to go to games. I always appreciated how much fun he seemed to be having and his enjoyment of the game. It was also a lot of fun to watch him play the game with his dad. Even when the team was bad (and there were a lot of bad years for the Mariners while Griffey was there), he made it fun to go to games because you would (almost) always see him do something spectacular.

It was a sad day when he left Seattle for Cincinnati, but was great to have him back for the last couple years (even though his baseball abilities were certainly on the decline).
Now that his career is done, I just wanted to tip my cap and say "Jr., thanks for all the memories."

Now back to your regularly scheduled naval wargaming blog.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Enfilade After-Action-Report

I'm finally getting a chance to write about the NHMGS Enfilade convention that was held over the weekend and, as usual, it was a good time. It was nice to see a lot of the people that I only see once a year and see what they have been up to.

The two Thunderboats games Kevin and I ran went off without any major issues. The Friday night Enfilade Cup race saw some amazing die rolling by David Sullivan to pull out the win. Sunday's historical 1965 Gold Cup race was a lot of fun (although I'll admit that I was fading a bit by the time it finished). I think (hope) Kevin got some good pictures of the races and you should be able to see those at his blog soon.

My North Korea vs. South Korea naval game was played out on Saturday afternoon. Before the game, I picked up some Fights On missile markers for the game. I had a full slate of six players for the game, none of whom has ever played the Bulldogs Away! rules. So my first challenge was to explain the rules and concepts to everyone and then to divide them up into North and South and let them look at their missions.

The North Korean players had the chance to select their mission for the game. The choices for the mission were: 1) to help a small spy ship get out of South Korean waters and off the north end of the map, OR 2) to destroy all the South Korean ships on the map.

Being wargamers at a convention, they went with option 2, which gave them two Sinpo (P-6) torpedoes boats, two Chong Jin gunboats, two Cha Ho rocket gunboats, two Sohung (Chinese Komar) missile boats, and a hidden small submarine (the players didn't get to move the sub, but told me where they wanted it).

The South Korean had their four Chamsuri gunboats and two Pae Ku missile boats. They were also told that there may be submarines operating in the area and, since their ships didn't carry any anti-submarine weapons, that there was a SH-70 helicopter available to go after any subs they spotted. In addition to their normal patrol orders, the South Koreans also had the option of going on a special 'revenge mission' where they were given permission to attack without warning to destroy all the North Korean ships in the area. However, they were told that if any North Koreans escaped the map to report what had happened that government would deny that the orders to attack had been given and the captains would likely be prosecuted. The South Koreans chose to stick with a standard patrol.

Both sides set up near the sea border and were in radar contact at the start of the game. After the first move, the two Sinpo torpedo boats were in normal visibility range of a pair of Chamsuri gunboats. Even though he hadn't crossed the border yet, the North Korean player decided to fire torpedoes at the gunboats. So, battle was joined right away as the South Koreans returned fire and set one of the torpedo boats on fire (I expected the North Koreans would try to get closer before attacking, but I guess they wanted to get into action right away).

After avoiding the torpedoes, the Chamsuri gunboats turned back to try to finish off the burning boat and catch the other torpedo boat.

On the other edge of the map, the two Chong Jin gunboats started shooting at the other pair of Chamsuri gunboats. Each side wrecked one of the opposite side's boats.

The North Koreans sent the Cha Ho rocket gunboats to support the Chong Jin gunboats. One of the Cha Ho boats fired its Salvo Rocket Launcher (SRL) at the wrecked Chamsuri, sinking the damaged boat (this was the first casualty of the game).

Meanwhile, the Pae Ku missile boats were trying to track down a couple of fishing boats. The North Koreans got to move the fishing boats (although they were limited in the actions they could take) and the South Koreans were concerned that they may be armed or be some part of the North Korean mission. The lookouts on Pae Ku boats also reported seeing periscopes near the fishing boats (these were actually false sightings, but the submarine was waiting for the Pae Ku boats to get closer). The South Koreans called for their helicopter support, but sent it to the wrong area.

The Sinpo torpedo boat that was on fire was finally able to put out the fire, but not before his partner was torn apart by 40mm and Sea Vulcans on the South Korean boats. The remaining torpedo boat headed for the center of the map to join up with the other North Koreans.

The two Sohung missile boats moved into the area and decided to try and target the Pae Ku missile boats. Once the Styx missiles were in the air, the South Koreans decided it was time to retaliate with their own Harpoon missiles.

The North Korean missiles missed through a combination of poor maintenance (there was a special roll to see if the missiles would actually work), decoys, and bad luck. Unfortunately for the Sohung boats, the Harpoons didn't share the same bad luck.

The North Korean ships were able to damage two more Chamsuri gunboats and one of the Pae Ku boats, but all the North Korean ships had taken damage and things were turning against them. Just as the South Koreans were closing in for the kill, the North Korean sub popped up its periscope and launched a couple guided torpedoes. One torpedo missed (the North Koreans had some bad luck) while the other hit a Chamsuri, but only ended up wrecking the boat.

The North Koreans were pretty much out options at this point, since the main guns on all their remaining ships were knocked out. One boat decided to try to escape, while two others decided they would try to ram the damaged South Korean boats. But they found that it was hard to ram when the other guys were still maneuvering.

In the end the North Koreans lost seven of their eight boats, while the South Korean lost one, but two others were in bad shape and another had heavy damage.

All of the players said they enjoyed the game and asked where I got the ships and rules (I'm hoping they will buy some ships to encourage Dave G. at PT Dockyard to work on some more modern boats). Overall it was a fun game to put on.