Saturday, December 31, 2011

Civil War Naval Book Reviews and Year End Post

As part of my research for the Up the River mini-campaign, I read through a couple short histories on American Civil War naval actions and I thought I'd share my thoughts on these books, along with my thoughts for 2012.

The Civil War at Sea, by Craig Symonds

Craig Symonds has several good books on Civil War naval topics and this book provides a good overview of all the aspects of the naval war. The book starts out with a discussion of the ships, guns, and other technologies for each side of the conflict. Symonds does a good job of explaining the strengths and limitations of each side and the impact of new technologies. The book then goes into chapters that cover the Union's blockade strategy and Confederate blockade runners, the Confederate war on commerce, naval forces on the western rivers, and operations against the major Southern port cities. The book does a really nice job of explaining the difficulties the Union had in coordinating ground and naval forces to implement the overall strategy, but it doesn't skimp on the view from the Confederate side.

The Civil War at Sea is a short book, only around 200 pages, but pack a lot of information into those pages. This is one of the best one-volume books on the naval portion of the Civil War that I have seen and I would recommend it. It is a good book for people just starting to read about the subject or for those that want a single reference book. For gamers, it provides enough information to create your own scenarios, historical and hypothetical. Overall, lots of good stuff is in the book.

Mr. Lincoln's Brown Water Navy: The Mississippi Squadron, by Gary Joiner

This book provides a good general history of the Union naval efforts on the western rivers. It provides information about the organization, ships, and men of the Union riverine navy. There is some good discussion about evolution of the Mississippi Squadron from a few ships under Army command to a full squadron under command of a Navy flag officer. The book covers the major and minor actions for the squadron, there is a whole chapter devoted to the Red River campaign, along with the action of the Navy's blue-water squadron that captured New Orleans and came up the Mississippi.

Mr. Lincoln's Brown Water Navy is a short book, around 225 pages, and is an interesting read. While the book doesn't go into great detail about the different ships in the squadron, it does have lots of information about the different battles and minor actions that can be fodder for gaming ideas. This is a good book, but I would only recommend it if you have an interest in the riverine battles. However, I do think it is a good complement for Symonds The Civil War at Sea.

Plans for 2012
While it seems obligatory for gaming bloggers to write something about plans for 2012, I have to admit that I really haven't made any. There are things that I want to work on (it is really an unending list), but I'm sure there will be stuff the pops up at the last minute that will draw my interest. With that in mind, here is a short list of the stuff I'm thinking about for 2012.

15mm Age of Sail ships and figures: This is an on-going project that I really need to get back to. I've got several ships and lots of figures ready to paint, but for some reason I just haven't been able to motivate myself to go back to them. It would probably help if I could find a set of rules I really like. The new 18mm line from Capitan Miniatures look interesting and I'm sort of hoping they find and American distributor. But I really need to finish up the stuff I have before buying more.

1/600 and 1/700 scale ships: I'll continue to expand my line of WWII and post-WWII ships for small scale actions (using Action Stations and Bulldogs Away). I really like this scale and the battles I've come up with are usually a lot of fun. I will probably add a few ships for Enfilade games and to round out my collection. I would like to see more modern Chinese ships in the scale (Are you listening P.T. Dockyard?) and some others for doing hypothetical battles in the South China Sea and Spratly Islands. Additionally, I should get back to the Raid on St. Nazaire project that Kevin and I have talked about.

Grab Bag: I need to go through my miniatures box to see what is there. I keep thinking I would like to get back to doing some air battles, but don't have anything specific in mind right now. Kevin and I are also tinkering around with the idea of playing some small space battles using the Galactic Knights rules (yes, I know I bought a Super Galactic Dreadnought at Enfilade 2011, but I'm not sure how deep I want to get into this). There are also a few other things kicking around, but I doubt I will get to them in 2012.

Wishful Thinking: One project I have always wanted to do is a modern submarine game. I've collected a lot of the 1/700 scale plastic model kits (which only provided a limited number of submarine types) and over the past few years I've been watching the growing line of 1/700 scale resin kits from OKB Grigorov. They have actually come out with a pretty extensive range of Cold War and Post-Cold War submarines (U.S., Soviet/Russian, British, and German). 1/700 scale might be a little too large to actually game with, but it could be fun. That is, assuming that I could find a set of rules that worked for that scale. So, until I find some extra time and money, this will just remain on the "Wishful Thinking" list.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

DANG 2011 - Up The River

DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game) for 2011 was an American Civil War river mini-campaign titled Up the River. The game is based on David Manley’s Red River Blues solo campaign system for his Iron and Fire rules, with a few of my own modifications. The basic premise of the game is that Union has heard a rumor that the Confederates are building and ironclad on a nearby tributary of the Mississippi River. The Union players must organize a force to move up river and destroy the ironclad. The Confederate players will have to organize their defenses as best they can with the spread-out forces that are on hand. We decided to use the new Steam and Sail Navies rules from Bay Area Yards to resolve the battles.
A view of the battle to come.
I pre-generated the river course and terrain, including locations for Confederate batteries, and created a map for the players.
The Carnot River, the site for this year's game
Everyone began arriving at my place just after 9:00 AM and we spent the next hour saying hi, catching up on things, talking about the projects we are all working on and planning, along with various movie and book reviews (which also continued throughout the day).

We split up sides for the game and reviewed of all the rules. Scott, Dale, Kevin, David S and George chose to be the Union Mississippi River Squadron, while Mark, Arthur, and Dave C. played the Confederate River Defense Squadron. Each side then took some time to review the situation and select the ships in their squadron. I had provided each side with a list of ships and points available to buy the ships.

The Union selected the casemate ironclads Tuscumbia and Essex, supported by the timberclad Tyler, Ellet ram Monarch, and tinclad gunboats Naumkeag and Rattler. The Union also had a pair of side-wheel transports and three barges carrying supplies and troops.

The Confederates selected the casemate ironclad Missouri for their ironclad, which would be supported by the side-wheel rams General Beauregard and General Bragg, along with the spar torpedo boats Hornet, Scorpion, and Squib. The Confederates also has an unarmed tug and a number of two or three-gun shore batteries.

With everything organized, we started the game with the Union Squadron moving from the Mississippi into the Carnot River.
The operational map at the start of the game.
Commodore Smyth moves the Union Squadron.
The first encounter was at Sullivan's Ferry, where a Confederate battery of three 32 pounders waited to engage the Union ships. Since there were no Rebel ships in the area the Union engaged the battery while landing troops to chase off the Rebel gunners and destroy the guns. This would be the standard tactic for how the Union squadron dealt with shore batteries for the whole expedition. The rest of the day was uneventful and when night fell the squadron anchored for the night. During the night, the Confederates decided to launch a cavalry raid on the Union ships, hoping to damage or delay the Union force. Unfortunately, the cavalry weren't informed that the Union had brought troops with the ships; the raid was decimated and several members were captured. The captured cavalrymen provided information about the shore batteries along the river, which would allow the Union squadron to make plans to deal the shore guns.

The next day the Union squadron continued up the river to the town of Hannahville. The Union commander decided to search the town and confiscate Confederate stores under the naval "Prize Laws." But the locals had hidden most of the stores before the squadron arrived. The search delayed the Union squadron's movement and the commander decided to anchor at the town for the night.

Meanwhile, the Confederate River Defense Squadron was not idle. The engineers working on the ironclad Missouri informed the Confederate commander that the ship should be ready to get underway in 3 days, assuming there were no setbacks. The other ships in the squadron moved to positions to delay the Union advance. The three spar torpedo boats joined together into one unit and moved to launch a night attack on the Union Squadron at Hannahville, leading to our first real battle of the game.

The Union forces were anchored in the river, with the two tinclads up the river, the transports near the Hannahville dock, and the remainder of the squadron slightly down river. All the ships had steam available, but couldn't start moving until a warning went out.
Union ships waiting for the Rebs.
Union transports at Hannahville.
Essex, Tyler, and Tuscumbia at anchor.
Overall Union setup.
As the three Rebel torpedo boats moved into visual range, the tinclads launched warning rockets, cut their anchor lines, and started their engines. Two of the torpedo boats (Hornet and Squib) headed for the tinclads, while the third (Scorpion) made its way toward the other Union ships.
Everyone ready for the battle.
Dave C. getting Squib into action.
Arthur moves Scorpion past the tinclads.
The tinclads maneuvered as best they could against the current, but each was attacked by a torpedo boat. Luckily for the Union side, these first two attacks were duds. But unfortunately, each torpedo boat had two spar torpedoes and the Union luck wouldn't hold for long.
George maneuvers his tinclads.
The Union players discuss tactics, or maybe movies.
Scorpion bypassed the transports and continued to hunt for the Union ironclads. However the first ship it found was the timberclad Tyler. Tyler fired a broadside at the little boat, but couldn't do enough damage to stop it. Scorpion lowered its torpedo and ran up to Tyler, triggered the spar torpedo, and blew up the timberclad's port paddlewheel. The explosion also blew a hole in Scorpion's hull and she began to sink.
Scorpion approaches Tyler.
Tyler loses a paddlewheel.

Scorpion's ship card, as it sinks.
The other torpedo boats continued to chase the tinclads, while the tinclads fired at them. The tinclads were hitting the torpedo boats, but not doing enough damage to stop them. Squib was finally able to get close enough to the tinclad Naumkeag and trigger its second torpedo. The explosion was enough to sink Naumkeag, while Squib escaped without any more damage.

Squib attacks Naumkeag.
At this point the Confederates, with only one torpedo remaining, decided to withdraw from the area. With one ship sunk and another heavily damaged, the Union side decide to torch Hannahville to teach any Rebel sympathizers a lesson.
Union transports with the burning Hannahville.
The Confederates discuss strategy after the battle.
The next day the Union continued up the river, defeating the guns of Battery Mickel, just before the bend in the river, and then on to Dave's Mill. The locals at Dave's Mill were a little more cooperative than those at Hannahville, allowing the Union forces to confiscate any stores in exchange for not destroying the town.

On day four, Union forces ran into and defeated another set of shore guns at Smyth's Ferry. Additionally, they captured the ferry boat pressing it into service to help tow the damaged Tyler.
Essex and Tyler capture Smyth's Ferry.
At the same time, the Union got word that the Confederate ironclad was on the move. Knowing that there were two more Confederate shore batteries (one at Kettler's Crossing and the Battery Murphy just north of Kettler's Crossing), the Union Squadron moved forward to make sure they destroyed those batteries before the ironclad could reach them and use the additional guns to beat off any Union attack.
Confederate ironclad on the move.
The Union plan seemed to be going well as they captured and destroyed the guns at Kettler's crossing without too much trouble, but Battery Murphy put up a little more of a fight. Before succumbing to the Union attack, one of the battery's 10 inch Colombiads caused a critical hit on Essex, knocking out her engines. The damaged Essex drifted down river and the rest of the Union Squadron chased after her and attached tow lines to keep her from running aground. Realizing that they probably wouldn't be able to take on the Confederate ironclad without Essex, the Union Squadron decided to move down river and find a spot where they could hopefully repair Essex's engines.

On the Confederate side things were not much better. While the ironclad Missouri was on the move, it was plagued with engine troubles. Just as the ship would get up to speed and head down river, something would happen and the engines would need to be shut down. Luckily, the tug Mosher was with Missouri all the way to prevent her from running aground. But knowing the troubles the Union was having, the Confederates decided to keep towing Missouri down the river, hoping to fix her engine problems before a battle could occur.

During the night the Confederates launched another cavalry raid, hoping to catch the Union ships off-guard. But after a hard fought battle, the cavalry was driven off. Essex's engineer was able to get the engine operating again and the Union Squadron was ready to meet the Confederates.

The next day the Union Squadron set off again to find the ironclad, while the Confederates decided to push back up river to delay the battle. But the ironclad Missouri's engines continued to cause problems for Confederate planning. As night was falling, the Union squadron hunkered down for the night and the Confederates considered their options.
The Confederates consider their options.
The Confederates decided that since the previous night battle had worked out pretty well, they should do another one, this time with all their remaining ships. Not wanting to leave any ship out of the action, the Confederates decided to tow Missouri, which could only make 1 knot on her engines, into battle. It was a risky idea, but they thought it was worth the try.
Confederate River Defense Squadron prepares for action.
The Confederate Squadron consisted of the rams General Bragg and General Beauregard, the spar torpedo boat Hornet, and the ironclad Missouri (towed by the tug Mosher).
Side-wheel ram General Bragg
Side-wheel ram General Beauregard
Spar torpedo boat Hornet
Ironclad Missouri under tow
The Union Squadron was at anchor, consisting of the Ellet ram Monarch, the ironclads Essex and Tuscumbia, and the damaged timberclad Tyler, with the tinclad Rattler acting as picket.The transports had been left behind.
Tinclad Rattler
Ellet ram Monarch
Ironclad Essex
Ironclad Tuscumbia
Timberclad Tyler
Both sides set up for the final battle.
Initial setup for the battle from the Union side.
The setup from the Confederate view.
As the Rebel ships came into view, Rattler fired off a warning rocket and started reversed engines to get away from the oncoming Rebels. The Rebel rams and torpedo boat sped up to close with the Union ships, while the towed Missouri lagged behind.
Here come the Rebels!
Cannon fire was exchanged as both sides tried to figure out their best course of action.
The two sides close in.
General Beauregard was able to catch and ram Rattler, sinking the tinclad. After pulling away from the sinking Rattler, General Beauregard looked to be in a position to try and ram Tuscumbia, but couldn't get up enough speed or turn tight enough to catch the ironclad.
General Beauregard rams Rattler.
Beauregard pulls back from Rattler.
The battle raged around the Union center as Essex moved up to support Tuscumbia.
Tuscumbia appears at the center of the action.
Hornet tried to move into position to use her last spar torpedo, but was turned into matchsticks when Essex ran her over.
Essex shows the other Union ships how to deal with a torpedo boat.
General Bragg moved through the Union Squadron, turned back up river and was exchanging fire with Tyler, when it rammed into and sank Smyth's Ferry.
General Bragg rams the ferry.
Missouri was bringing up the rear and attracting the attention of several Union ships.
Monarch and Tuscumbia approach Missouri.
Unable to maneuver effectively while under tow, Missouri found herself the target of the Ellet ram Monarch and broadside to Tuscumbia. Monarch was at full speed when she plowed into Missouri, doing enough damage to start the Rebel ironclad sinking.
Monarch rams Missouri.
Unfortunately, Monarch found that she was stuck hard in the ironclad's side and was having trouble getting free. Just as the water was starting to flood over her deck, something popped and Monarch was freed.

Being out numbered, out gunned, and with their ironclad sunk, General Bragg and General Beauregard decided to withdraw from battle.
Final positions as the battle ends.
With their mission completed, the Union Squadron decided to return to the Mississippi River and we added up the Victory Points. Even with some setbacks (losing the two tinclads and having Tyler damaged early on), the Union force completed its mission in workman-like fashion (nothing flashy, just a solid effort). The Confederates had some bright spots (like the attack by the spar torpedo boats), but in the end it wasn't enough to overcome their losses (two torpedo boats, all the river shore batteries, and the ironclad) and prevent a Union victory.

The final result from the campaign rules stated "A Stirring Union Victory - gets a good write up in ACW history books, the campaign warrants a larger book and is regularly refought by ACW wargamers of the future."

Overall it was a fun game and a good day of battle. Thanks to everyone that participated.
DANG 2011 participants: (L to R) Arthur, Kevin, Dave C. George, Mark, Scott, David S., Dale, and me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DANG Terrain - Buildings

The game for this year’s DANG is an American Civil War river game and since I’ll be able to borrow the ships for the game, I decided to invest in a little terrain. In this post, I’ll cover the different buildings I picked up for the game.

I searched around for some 1/600 scale terrain that would work for an ACW game and hopefully work for other eras. I found a couple places that had what I was looking for, Bay Area yards, in their Riverside Structures section, and PicoArmor, in their PicoTerrain line.

From Bay, I ordered four houses (two each of their “Two-story house with porch” and “Two-story house with extension”) and a small warehouse. I also got a four-piece dock set, the raft/barge set, and a centerline paddlewheel ferryboat, but I’ll talk about those in another post. The houses, made from resin, all look pretty nice and there was only a little excess resin that needed to be cut/filed off. The house sides are smooth (except for the extension, which has etched lines for the wood panels) and the windows all have open shutters. The only possible issue I saw is that they seem to be a little big for 1/600 scale houses. But since they are only eye candy for the game, it shouldn’t really matter.
Bay Area Yards Two-Story Houses
The small warehouse is also looks good. Like the houses, it has smooth sides and window shutters, but the roof has some etching.
Bay Area Yards Small Warehouse

From PicoArmor I got a package of four “ACW House with annex” and a package of four “ACW house.”
PicoArmor ACW houses

These are a little rougher and smaller than the Bay houses. They are also resin and needed a little more clean-up than the Bay houses, but still nothing major. That said, the PicoArmor houses look like they should be two-stories, but they are only about ¾ the height of the Bay houses. However, they all seem to mix together. The PicoTerrain houses look like they have plank siding and stone chimneys. The way the siding is done makes it easy to do use dry-brushing to bring out the details.

Here are a few pictures of the houses and warehouse laid out as a disorganized town.
You can see some of the size difference between the different manufacturers.
But all the houses seem to go together pretty well and I doubt anyone will question the differences.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the building and I think there are enough differences to make an interesting town.