Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Couple More Books

As I've mentioned elsewhere, the main focus for my gaming is the smaller battles of the War of 1812 and the battles against the Barbary Pirates. It seems that I talked Mark Waddington into scratch-building the opposing War of 1812 fleets from Lake Ontario (who knew I could be so persuasive!) in 1/600 scale. Now that he has finished up the ships (I hope to share some pictures of his ships soon), we've been talking about the rules for playing out the battles. But since I've been busy with other stuff, I'm trying to re-focus on the project by going back through some of the books on the battles on the Great Lakes. I thought I share my thoughts on a couple of books I've been going through to get back up to speed. Both books were written by Robert Malcomson.

Warships of the Great Lakes 1754-1834: This book is a lighter history of the warships and battles on the Great Lakes, including Lake Champlain and Lake George. Even though it is s relatively short book, only 160 pages, it still does a good job covering of the different ships. There are lots of tables giving information about the ships and some nice illustrations. There are more detailed books out there about specific battles, but I can't think of any others that cover all of the battle on all the lakes during the three wars of this period (French and Indian War, American Revolution, and War of 1812). It is a nice book to have if you are interested in the lake battles and is a good supplement to some of the other books on the lake battles.

Lords of the Lake: The Naval War on Lake Ontario, 1812-1814: This is probably the best book I've read about Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. The book does a get job of setting the stage for the action on the lake, talking about the major characters involved, and then following through with not just how things happened, but why. The book does a good job of describing the hardships each commander faced with building a fleet in what was essentially a wilderness. It also covers the interaction between naval and land forces around Lake Ontario and in other theaters. This makes it a lot easier to understand the different strategies employed by each side during the different stages of the war. The appendices have a breakdown of the ships available throughout the conflict and those that were present at the different battles.

Lords of the Lake is a pretty easy read (even at over 400 pages), has some good maps and illustrations, and extensive endnotes. Malcomson even includes a glossary, so you can make sure you understand the various nautical terms used in the book (such as the differences between a schooner, sloop and snow). I highly recommend this book if you have any interest in the naval battles on the Great Lakes during the War of 1812.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Few More Items from Enfilade and More Reading Material

Work is currently keeping me pretty busy, but I wanted to follow up on my Enfilade posts with some a couple notes about items I purchased at Enfilade and provide some links to some more reading material for my regular readers.

First off, some of the stuff I bought at Enfilade. Friday afternoon/evening I wandered around the vendor tables to see what new stuff was available. One of the places I spent some time at was Monday Knight Production's tables. Will Thompson and his gang really support the Enfilade convention by buying up a good number of vendor tables and by putting on games most of the weekend. I hope he makes money at Enfilade and always stop off to see if he has anything that I might be interested in. This year I found a couple things that I liked. First off was some resin boats. While these are really intended to be row boats for 28mm figures, as I looked them over, I thought there were about the right size to convert into small sailing ships for my 15mm projects. So, I picked up three of them. 
28mm rowboat ready to become a 15mm sailing ship.
I will need to put an insert into the center section to raise it up and probably cut off the oar locks, but I think they will make some nice gunboats for my fleet. The boats are about six inches long and seem to fit right in with the size I was looking for, as you can see in this comparison photo with the Thoroughbred Sea Eagles cutter.  
Comparison between the Cutter (top) and new boat.
Monday Knight also does the Science Fiction Galactic Knights rules and miniatures. For those of you that are familiar with these, they are the old Superior Models Starfleet Wars line of figures. When I was a kid I used to drool over these figures and rules in the various magazines I used to buy or read. Every year at Enfilade I think about picking up some of the figures that I could never afford as a kid, but I typically resist and spend my money on something else. But not this year! This year Will brought along his newly resin cast versions of the Super Galactic Dreadnoughts for the game, he was running a convention special, and I couldn't resist.
My very own super galactic dreadnoughts
Will did a great job of casting the resin versions, the detail is really nice and they are substantially cheaper (and lighter) than the metal versions. I got a chance to compare a painted resin and metal version and was really hard to tell them apart (until you picked them up). I picked out the two ships that I always really liked, the Terran and Entolmolian versions, and happily handed over my money. 
Terran SGDN

 Entolmolian SGDN
I don't know if I will ever get a chance to play with these ships in a game, but even if I don't, it was money well spent. It isn't too often that I find stuff that takes me back to my early teens that I still want. I showed off my new toys to Kevin on Sunday and after relating his own story about the Superior Miniatures, he decided pick up a copy of the Galactic Knights rules (which he promptly blamed me for on his blog). So, I will probably get a chance to run them around sometime in the future.

Finally I want to suggest that those of you interested in naval stuff check out the Naval War College Review website for some interesting reading material. Currently they have issues of the Review going back to the Spring 2001 and there are some really interesting articles in them. While a lot of the stuff is too much along academic/political lines, there are articles that most wargamers would find interesting too. Here are links to a few that you might find interesting:

That is just a sample of some of the greate articles and analysis offered, along with book reviews of books that you don't often hear about, and all available online for free. I hope you'll take look through some of the reviews and the Naval War College Press publications and that you find something you like.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Enfilade Recap Part 2: My Games

For Enfilade 2011, I ran my games on Saturday morning and afternoon. The morning game was Operation Morvarid, covering a missile boat action during the Iran – Iraq War, and the afternoon game was South Pacific Nights, covering a hypothetical World War II engagement between American and Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands.

Operation Morvarid was a little different for me in that the order of battle and mission was set for each side. I usually like to mix things up by having players select their forces and/or missions for a game, but this time I just went with some limitations for each side.

The scenario was that the Iranians had just completed a raid on some Iraqi oil terminals, the Iranians are trying to withdraw from the area while the Iraqis are trying to intercept them. The Iranians started out with the LST, a patrol boat, two Kaman class missile boats, and an AB-212 helicopter. The problem for the Iranians was the missile boats each only had two Harpoon missiles and they were pretty sure there would be more than four Iraqi boats. The Iraqis had four missile boats (two Osa Is and two Osa IIs) and two P-6 torpedo boats. While they had plenty of missiles (16 total), I added a special rule that said because of their poor training, any missile shot outside of visual range would be treated as a snapshot (this incurs a hefty negative modifier for shooting).

The Iranian LST and patrol boat had to start about in the middle of the board, while the missile boats could set up anywhere and all the ships were trying to exit off the south end of the board. The Iraqis entered on the north board edge, but could delay entry and come on the east side (moving one foot south for each turn of delay). Each side also had a fishing trawler that could act as dummies, adding to the ‘Fog of War’. The only terrain on the board was a small rain squall that blocked visual line of sight. The Iranians placed all of their ships near each other in the center of the board and the Iraqis had one pair of missile boats enter on turn one, while the other boats raced down the east side of the board.

As soon as they saw the blips on the north, the Iranians sent their helicopter (armed with a couple rocket pods and a machine gun) to investigate. The helicopter spotted the two Osa I missile boats and fired off a rocket pod at the nearest one damaging it. The Iraqis returned fire with some shoulder launched SAMs. Unfortunately for the Iraqis, both missiles missed.
SAMs fired at the helicopter.
The helicopter fired off its other rocket pod, sinking the damaged Osa and headed off to investigate some other radar blips. The Iranian missile boats turned north to engage the remaining Osa, each firing a Harpoon missile. The Osa captain saw the incoming missiles and decided it would be better to fire blind than to (probably) sink with missiles still onboard and launched his missiles at different targets. Two went toward the Iranian Kamans (whcih had revealed themselves) and the other two went at the blips he thought were most likely the LST and patrol boat.
A bad day for this Osa.
The Osa captain guessed correctly and his boat was plastered by the Harpoons, but he had hope to do some damage to the enemy. Two of his rolls were misses, but then his dice got hot and he hit one of the Kaman missile boats causing heavy damage and caused light damage to the patrol boat. The patrol boat also suffered a "confusion at the helm" critical hit, forcing it to make a starboard turn and almost collide with the LST.
The near collision between the Iranian patrol boat and LST.
Meanwhile, on the eastern board edge, the torpedo boats and remaining Osas were entering. The helicopter spotted the two P-6 torpedo boats and decided to strafe them. His shot did light damage to one torpedo boat, but the 23mm guns on the boats took out the helicopters engine, sending it into the drink.

At this point the game became a real chase with the Iraqi boats trying to chase down the LST and the remaining Iranian missile boat trying to stop them. The Kaman fired off its last missile at an Osa, which returned the favor by firing missiles back. The Harpoon missed its mark, but the Styx didn't, damaging the Kaman. The Osa captain then decided to finish off both damaged Kamans with its remaining missiles. With time running out (the LST was poised to exit the board), the remaining Osa launched all four missiles at the Large Slow Target.
LST under attack.
Unfortunately for the Iraqi player, all his missiles missed. The torpedo boat commander also attacked, but couldn't get any torpedo hits either. In the end, the Iranians escaped with their LST intact and a damaged patrol boat, giving them a minor victory.

Everybody seemed to have a good time and I distributed prize packs of missile markers from Fight's On to the players (thanks to Rob at Fight's On for sending me the prizes). I really like how the missile markers look with games (as you can see from the photos) and the players were happy to get their own.

Unlike the morning game, the South Pacific scenario had lots of choices for both sides. The Japanese were on a resupply mission that had to exit off the southeast board edge and could choose their forces from a group of large ships or smaller ships and barges. The Japanese selected a destroyer (instead of two sub chasers), a minesweeper loaded with supplies (instead of a group of barges), and a group of four barges with air cover from a Pete floatplane (instead of an LST). The American mission was to pick up a Marine recon team that had been observing the Japanese forces on the island in preparation for an invasion and they could choose from groups of sub chasers (with working radar), PT boats, and LCM gunboats. They chose to go with the PT boats (foregoing the radar-equipped sub chasers) and the LCM gunboats (instead of lightly armed, but fast converted PT boats). Interestingly, the LCM gunboats had the heaviest guns on the American side, each with a 3-inch gun and a pair of 37mm cannon. In addition to the island at terrain, the small rain squall made an appearance in this game too.

The game started with the Americans entering on the east board edge and the Japanese on the west. Like the Operation Morvarid game, I used the blip markers to help hide which ships were going where and included a couple dummy markers for each side.

The Japanese destroyer and minesweeper initially stayed in the middle of the board to help cover the barges and so they didn’t have to worry about running aground. The barges hugged the shoreline, while the Pete scouted ahead. The American PT boats also stuck to the middle of the board, while the LCMs moved close to shore.

The PT boats sighted the destroyer at about the same time that the Pete picked out their wakes. The PT boats made a dash for the rain squall to hide and set up an attack on the destroyer, discovering the minesweeper as they moved into the squall. Searchlights turned on and gunfire erupted as the two sides closed with each other. One PT boat was hit pretty hard as the others lined up for torpedo shots on the Japanese ships. The LCM gunboats spotted the Japanese minesweeper and started attacking with their 3-inch guns, which surprised the Japanese players. The 3-inch guns started a fire on the minesweeper as it was trying to avoid a torpedo spread, but the torpedoes caught the stern of the ship, sending to to the bottom.
Minesweeper in trouble.
As the LCM gunboats continued on their mission to get the Marines, they spotted the Japanese barges. The gunboats, which had originally been heavily-armed to combat Japanese barges, opened fire on the Japanese. They showed how effective the up-gunning was by quickly sinking one barge and setting two more on fire. Eventually they would sink all the barges.
Japanese barges burning.
The LCM gunboats then turned to their primary mission, driving up to the shore and picking up the Marines.
LCM gunboats pick up the Marines.
Meanwhile the Japanese destroyer was blasting away at the PT boats. It even took a couple (ineffective) shots at the LCM gunboats, but it took a couple hits from the PT boats and gunboats that started fires on the destroyer. Unfortunately for the destroyer, it couldn’t quite turn fast enough to avoid checking for grounding and it found itself going from full speed to all stop as it hit a sand bar near the island. The destroyer captain was able to get the ship off the bar on the next turn, but this allowed the only PT boat with torpedoes remaining to line up and launch a torpedo spread.
Japanese destroyer trying to avoid torpedoes.
The destroyer was able to turn into the spread and the American player rolled poorly as the torpedoes sped by the destroyer. At this point we decided to call the game, but continued to roll to see what would happen to the fires on the destroyer. The fires were eventually extinguished, but between them and the grounding, the destroyer had lost half its hull points.

The Japanese lost their minesweeper and all the barges, while the destroyer escaped with heavy damage. The Americans lost two PT boats and had another heavily damaged, but they were able to pick up the Marines and stop the Japanese, so they were awarded the victory.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Enfilade Recap Part 1: Other People's Games

I've divided my Enfilade recap into two posts; this post will cover the general convention and the games I played in, while the next post will cover the games that I ran.

After putting in some extra hours at work, I was ready for a little time off and some gaming. I arrived at the hotel early on Friday and checked to see if any of the Enfilade staff needed help with things. No real help was needed (I did help move a few things around), so I was off to check into my room, say hi to some of the people I hadn't seen since last year, and get an early look at some of the vendors.

The first game period started at 2:00 and I decided to try out Michael Koznarsky's gladiator game. He was using a set of Rules called Arena Games, which are hex based, but simple enough to have six players going at it in a grand melee. We played out four rounds, each round being fought with a different gladiator. I got into a little trouble during the first round (as can be seen in the photo below), but I was able to extricate my gladiator and went on to finish in second place for the whole game. It was a fun little game.
Looks like I'm in a little trouble here!
I also made my way around the room to grab a few photos of the other games. Dean Motoyama (of the WAB Corner blog in my links section) ran his Battle of Ichi no Tani game, with some nice terrain, including a dragon boat. You can read more about the game on Dean's blog.
Chris Bauermeister ran his Battle of the Yalu 1894 game with 1/700 scale ships. The game was one of two that used David Manley's "Fire When Ready, Gridley" rules.
A fuzzy shot of the Chinese Yalu Fleet
The game ended with a Japanese win, although the Japanese did take some heavy damage, including on battleship that was trying to stop flooding from a torpedo hit when the game ended.
Yalu fleets close in on each other.
Friday night I helped Kevin with his Battle of Sluys medieval cog game for most of the battle.
The English try to make their way around the chained French fleet.
The game pretty much went along historical lines with the English eventually getting the better of the French. Kevin covered the full action on his blog. It was a fun game and I'm looking forward to trying these rules out in some more battles with Kevin's cogs. Everyone else must have liked the game too, since it won the "Best of Period" game for Friday evening.

I did look at the other evening games, but didn't get any pictures of those. The other naval games during Friday evening were both hypothetical World War I actions; one covering what if von Spee's squadron had gone west instead of east using the "Fleet Action Imminent" rules and the other pitted an escorted American troop convoy against a German force off Veracruz, Mexico in 1914. The Royal Navy also put in an appearance in this game that used the "Supremacy at Sea" rules. I believe the game ended in a German victory.

I was running my games on Saturday morning and afternoon, but I did manage to get a few pictures of some other games. There were a couple galley games, one using the "Man Your Oars" rules and the other using Eric Hotz's (who was there to run the game) "Roman Seas" rules.
Roman Seas galleys engaging.
Will Thompson, from Monday Knight Productions, ran a 1/2400 Tsushima game using the "Fire When Ready, Gridley" rules. I didn't catch all the action in this game, but it ended up in a Japanese win.
The Japanese Battleline preparing to engage.
There was an attack on a pirate town in 28mm with some nice looking ships. This game was run in two periods and looked like fun, but I was busy running my own games and couldn't get into this one.
Setting up the Port Royal game.
In addition to the naval games, the 'Best of Show' game covering Teutoberg Wald was run on Saturday morning. This was a very nice looking game, but very big taking up a 16' x 6' space.
The Roman Legion trailing off into the distance.
There was also a big game covering the second day at Gettysburg using the "Regimental Fire and Fury" rules.
2nd Day of Gettysburg with Regimental Fire and Fury.
On Saturday night my camera batteries died, so I didn't get any pictures. There was another "Supremacy at Sea" game covering a World War II 'What If' battle between an American troop convoy bound for Iceland, a Royal Navy long-range escort, and a German surface force with the Bismarck. While the convoy got roughed up, the Germans took very heavy losses.

Sunday morning, I got some replacement batteries for the camera and joined in Kevin's Closing Wilmington American Civil War Ironclads game. This was a fictitious battle with land forces, shore batteries, minefields and a Martello Tower. I ended up on the Confederate side commanding a shore battery and the Martello Tower battery. The Union side had a lot of ships, but only one monitor, while the Rebels only had two ships (one ironclad and one wooden ship), but lots of shore guns and two minefields. The Union players had to pick what mission(s) they wanted, while the Confederates just had to defend the area.
The Union fleet approaches.
The game started out with the Union fleet heading up the river as the Confederate shore batteries tried to slow them down. After a couple turns we were getting our range and started a couple fires on the Union flagship, which was headed straight for the island with my Martello Tower at full speed!
The Union Flagship burns as it approaches the Martello Tower
I continued to pound the flagship, inflicting a lot of hull and crew hits, but it was able to maintain enough momentum to make it to my island and run aground. At this point a bunch of Federal troops jumped off the ship and headed for my tower.

Meanwhile the Confederate ironclad had entered upriver and made its way to the scene. The ironclad commander had picked out the Union monitor as his target and sped toward it. The monitor commander seemed up to the challenge, heading for the Rebel ironclad. At the last minute the monitor tired to avoid the Rebel, but was rammed on the starboard bow taking some heavy flotation damage. Then the Rebels blew up their spar torpedo, sinking the monitor. The only problem was the ram had fouled the two ships. The Union players were hoping that the ships would stay fouled and the sinking monitor could drag down the ironclad, but with only a couple turns to go before being pulled under, the ironclad was able to free itself.
Union monitor in trouble.
Over at my tower, the Union soldiers had formed up around my tower and launched an assault.
Union troops attack my tower (I hope I remembered to lock the door).
Luckily for me, the Union player rolled poorly for his attack and his attack failed.

The other Union ships had been taking damage from the shore batteries, including a couple rudder jams that put them perilously close to the minefields, while only doing a little damage in return. With the unsuccessful tower attack and their monitor sunk, the Union forces decided it was time to retreat ending the game.

Overall, it was a fun weekend, although I was pretty beat by the time I got home Sunday evening.