Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Gaming Year in Review

It is the end of another year and time to look back and forward to gaming projects. Looking back at my plans for 2015, I laid out four ideas.

1) Run the St Nazaire Raid (Operation Chariot) game at Enfilade 2015.

This was a successful project that won an award at Enfilade. A pretty good start to the year.

2) Paint up some Japanese opponents for my 28mm Bolt Action Aussies.

I picked up a box of Warlord Games Imperial Japanese infantry and some support weapons, but have not started work on these figures. So, this only gets a 25% completion. which is probably a little generous, but it is the time of year to be generous.

3) Work on rules and miniatures for modern submarine game.

I painted up the Chinese (PLAN) Type 092 Xia class ballistic missile submarine (photos coming soon) that I ordered from Shapeways earlier this year and I’ve written out some ideas for rules, but I haven’t actually played any games with them. Since I already have a good number of submarine models ready, I’m going to score this a 50% completion.

4) Get back to my 15mm Age of Sail project.

With the completion of the DANG 2015, I’m going to mark this as 100% successful. I do have a few other ships to complete, but I finished up the everything I wanted to get done.

Odds and Ends: I talked about putting together some armies for the Lion Rampant rules, but that never really got started. However, I did get through my Summer Solo Project, which was probably time better spent.

Overall, I’ll give 2015 a 2.5 - 3 out of 4 for gaming projects. Which means it was a pretty good year.

Book Reviews

Besides gaming projects, there were a couple new books that I read but didn’t review this year.

To Crown the Waves: The Great Navies of the First World War 
This is the World War I version of On Seas Contested (reviewed here). This book provides a comparison of the major navies of World War I, including the Royal Navy, the German Navy, the French Navy, the United States Navy, the Italian Navy, the Austro-Hungarian Navy, and the Imperial Russian Navy. It also has some short overviews of the Japanese and Ottoman navies. Like On Seas Contested, the book covers information about the organization and doctrine used by each navy, along with a section on wartime experience that gives an outline of a navy’s operations and development during the war. It is a good book to get deeper into how the navies operated, but it isn’t for everyone.

British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WWII: Volume II: Battleships & Aircraft Carriers 
Full Disclosure: I helped with the editing of this book, so my opinion might be somewhat biased. 
I enjoyed the first volume in this series, but in many ways I prefer this volume. This book covers camouflage for battleships and aircraft carriers. Since there were fewer of these ships than the destroyers and escorts of the first volume, the book provides a much better view of the evolution of camouflage schemes during World War II. Additionally, it provides information on the weapons and radar changes for the ships. This is a great book for anyone with an interest in ship camouflage and will be of particular interest to modelers and other hobbyist because of the wide variety of camouflage patterns.

Looking to 2016

I haven’t really thought too far ahead. DANG usually takes up the last quarter of the year and since I let the gamers vote on the project, it is hard to know what it will be. However, I do have a few items on my plate:

1) Channel Dash project for Enfilade 2016. My friend Kevin talked me into doing this project for Enfilade. We are planning on two games, one involving the air attacks (it will be similar to the Tirpitz game from 2013) and one involving the MTB attack. I’m tasked with providing the ships for the game. I’ve got most of the MTBs and German escorts for this project, but the big work will be completing models of the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen in 1/700 scale. It should be a fun little project

2) Finish the modern submarine rules. I’ve been toying around with these and it is time to do some serious work.

3) Work on the Japanese opponents for my 28mm Bolt Action Aussies. Another holdover from 2015. But since I’ve got the troops, it should be easy enough to get this going.

Odds and Ends: I’d still like to do up some Crusades era armies for Lion Rampant and I have some Galactic Knights ships to finish up (and play with), but I expect that some other bright shiny game project will draw my attention. So I’m keeping my other options open for now.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

DANG 2015 - The Shores of Tripoli

This year’s DANG (Dave’s Annual Naval Game) was The Shores of Tripoli: U.S. Navy vs. Barbary Pirates. The game will cover the attacks by the U.S. Navy on Tripoli harbor in early August 1804. Historically the U.S. Navy made a series of attacks using (borrowed) gunboats and mortar boats on Tripoli. The attacks were mostly indecisive, but these actions and the subsequent Battle of Derna set the stage for the signing of a treaty between Tripoli and the United States. This action also provided experience for the young American naval officers that would prove invaluable during the War of 1812.
Bombardment of Tripoli (oil painting by Michael Felice Corn)
With the short history lesson out of the way, on to the game. Everyone began arriving at my place around 9:00 AM and we spent the next hour catching up on things, looking at the 15mm ships, talking about the projects we are all working on and planning, and munching on some breakfast snacks. Then we split up for the battle with Kevin, Mark, and Arthur taking the Tripoli side and Dale, Scott, Dave, and George taking the Americans. We did a quick review of the campaign rules, had a brief overview of the tactical rules, and each side went off to plan the first action.
Pre-game Briefing
During planning each side had some initial options to select from to beef up their forces before starting the battles. Each side also had to deploy their forces for the first game day. The Tripolitans had a felucca, a sloop, fifteen gunboats, and a couple forts to defend the area. There were three possible approaches to the city the Americans could take and the Tripolitans had to plan how cover these. They could also keep some ships in reserve, but it would take time for these reinforcements to reach any of the areas. The Tripolitans decided to keep most of their forces in reserve, but to place the felucca and five gunboats in the Jerba and Western passages into Tripoli Harbor (Zone B on the map), where there was also a fort to help with defense.
Campaign game map of Tripoli
The Americans had a carronade armed schooner, six gunboats (which were larger than the Tripoli gunboats), and two mortar boats. They also count on gunfire support from their larger (off-map) ships in the zones near open water (Zones A and B on the map). Their goal was to demoralize the Bashaw of Tripoli by sinking his ships and bombing his palace. They had the initiative and could choose where they were coming from, but there were no obvious good choices. After getting some information on the Tripoli deployment, the Americans decided to launch their whole force at Zone B (which was where the historical first battle occurred). So we set up the battle.

The Tripolitans set up just south of the entrances, with the felucca and most of the gunboats just drifting. The Americans entered from the north edge as one big group. I had told them they could enter in groups, since the close grouping would make maneuvering difficult, but they said they wanted to come on all at once.
Initial set up
View of the American ships from the fort
View of the Tripolitan ships from the fort
The Americans slowly closed and some long range cannon shots were traded. The Americans decided to use the long-range off-map support and some gunboats to attack the felucca, while the others fired on the smaller Tripoli gunboats. The Tripolitan ships all had smaller guns (18 or 12 pounders compared to the 24 pounders on the American gunboats) and had a little trouble getting hits, but the fort (with five 24 pounder guns) quickly found the range.
The American line moves forward
One Tripolitan gunboats decided to close range with the Americans, making him the target of many shots, but not a lot of hits (at least initially). The felucca was feeling some pain from the long-range guns and since it’s loss would hurt the Bashaw’s morale, the captain decided to head back to the docks. But a critical hit starting a fire on the ship as it was pulling away. All of the crew that wasn’t sailing the ship were tasked with firefighting and they were able to put out the fire without much damage. Then the felucca was able to make its way out of the fight.
A single Tripoli gunboat closes with the Americans
The Americans slowly move in
After taking a few hits and returning fire, the felucca decides it is time to head for the docks
But a critical hit starts a fire
The Bashaw won't be happy about this
But the crew douses the flames and the ship is able to retreat
USS Vixen makes a close pass on a Tripoli gunboat
Meanwhile, the fort guns were getting hits on the gunboats and a heated shot from the fort started a fire on one gunboat. As one of their options, the Tripolitans had chosen an expert gunner for the fort, which proved to be a good move as the fort would eventually sink three American gunboats (the last with a magazine critical hit as the gunboat disengaging).
The fort blasts away at the gunboats
Gunboat mast down and on fire
Lifeboats move to pick up the crew from a sinking gunboat
With the exit of the felucca, the Americans began concentrating on the remaining Tripolitan gunboats. The crews on two gunboats were wiped out from a mix of canister and musketry. The Americans captured one without a fight, but the other was holed at the waterline and sank before anyone could get to it. Two other gunboats sank after being hammered to splinters, while the final one had an explosion from a critical hit and burned to the waterline.
Good shooting knocks out the gunboat's crew
A hit causes an explosion on the Tripolitan gunboat
The Americans move in to finish off the remaining gunboats
Gunboats fighting it out
The last Tripoli gunboat sinks leaving the crew to swim
Tripoli sailors swim to shore
With all the Tripoli gunboats gone and reinforcements still off in the distance, the Americans withdrew.
Remaining American ships withdraw
Tripolitan heroes
For the Tripolitans the felucca was heavily damaged, the fort lost a gun and some crew, and all five gunboats were sunk. The Americans lost three gunboats and took light damage on the others. As night fell, the Americans rolled for changes in the Bashaw’s morale. The Bashaw was not happy about the damage to his favorite ship or the gunboat losses, but the American losses (and a poor die roll) were more than enough to offset the bad news. The Bashaw’s morale improved and he was demanding more in ransom and tribute from the Americans.

The loss of half the American force and the improving Bashaw’s morale meant that it would be tough for the Americans to win the game. With only a couple more hours of game time available, we decided to call the game for Tripoli. Each side talked about what they should have done during the set up and battle. Overall, I think everyone enjoyed the game and the 15mm miniatures were much more impressive to play with than the usual ships we have. Compared to history, both sides took more casualties (which is to be expected with gamers) and the result was fairly inconclusive.
2015 DANG crew
From the referee point of view, I was hoping to see some boarding actions (no one even tried to grapple) and I would have liked to get in another battle. If I do the mini-campaign again I’ll have to think about ways to make things move a little quicker (which it true for almost all my mini-campaigns). I’m going to think about running the historical gunboat battle for Enfilade, but it might not happen for the next one.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

DANG 2015 - Fleets Assembled

With just a couple more days until DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game) 2015, I thought I'd give one last update. In my last two posts I showed off some of the 15mm figures for the game and in this post I thought I'd show the final pre-game photos of the ships.

Starting off with the Tripoli forces, the fleet has seventeen ships and a fort available.

There are fifteen gunboats each armed with a single cannon on the bow. Five gunboats are from Sea Dog Studios (maker of the Sailpower rules). These are actually older models that aren't sold through the store any more, but I was able to get my hands on them by going directly to the owner. Next are the eight gunboats I scratchbuilt. They are a little smaller and sit lower than the Sailpower boats. I got the dimensions and other inforamtion for the boats from a short paragraph in Chapelle's The American Sailing Navy and I think they turned out pretty well (although I should probably add a deck hatch or grating). The last two gunboats are Old Glory's Gunboat #5 models. For 15mm scale, these should be about the same size as the other gunboats, but, as you can see in the photo, they are much smaller.

Here are the gunboats (Old Glory on the left, scratchbuilt in the center, and Sailpower on the right). The sails are printed on paper and are held on with wire. The sail pattern comes from the Thoroughbred Felucca, which is shown a little further down.
Tripoli Gunboats
Next is a sloop. This is the Bermuda Sloop from Sea Dog Studios that I got as part of their Kickstarter a couple years ago. It is armed with six guns and is a nice kit (although it did need a little work to smooth out everything). It is a nice addition to the group and does have a pirate look.
Tripoli Sloop
Next up is fleet flagship, a nice Felucca from Thoroughbred Figures Sea Eagles line. This is a good kit that went together pretty easily and painted up nicely. The ship has eight guns and came with several swivel guns that I did not mount. There are a lot of extra details (anchors and such) that come with the kit to dress it up a little more, but I chose to go with a simple gaming layout. Just having the sails on is about as fiddley as I wanted to get.
Tripoli Felucca, a little larger than my backdrop
Finally, the fort. This is from JR Miniatures 15mm Middle East line (but doesn't seem to be listed on the website anymore). It is a really nice model and I've mounted five Thoroughbred 24 pdr guns on top.
The front side of the fort
and the back view
Here is a group shot of all the Tripoli forces. I don't expect them to all be on the table at the same time, but it could happen.
Tripoli fleet assembled
Now for the Americans. The American's will have nine ships available to them.

There are six large gunboats armed with a single 24 pdr bow cannon. Historically, these gunboats were borrowed from Naples to provide the Americans with some shallow-water craft to attack around Tripoli. All of these were scratcbuilt by George Kettler. They are really nice pieces (much better than my little gunboats).
George's American Gunboat
These gunboats are much larger than the Tripoli gunboats, as you can see below.
Tripoli gunboats on the left and the American on the right
Next are the mortar boats, which were also borrowed from Naples. These were also scratchbuilt by George (he was a busy guy), but he was still working on these so I only have a photo from him.
George's mortar boats
Finally, there is a Thoroughbred Figures sixteen gun schooner. I'm using this to represent the schooner USS Vixen. The paint scheme is not really accurate for the 1804 battle (the white stripe would have been natural wood and the interior would not have been green), but fits with the paint schemes for the War of 1812, which will probably be where I will use it again. The colors do fit with most gamer's idea of American ship colors though, so I doubt too many people will call me out on this.
American schooner
Here is a group shot of all the American forces I have (so the mortar boats are not included). Unlike the Tripoli ships, I do expect them to all be on the table at the same time.
American squadron ready to go
Now all I have to do is finish up all the paperwork for the game and set up the tables. I expect it will be very different from other DANG games, but still a lot of fun.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Old Ironsides

While looking around the internet for more information and pictures for the upcoming DANG Shores of Tripoli game, I came across a lot of interesting stuff.

One fun item I found was a post on the Naval History blog about a 1926 movie on the USS Constitution called Old Ironsides.

The post had a link to the final battle scene between the Americans, on the Constitution, and the Tripoli pirates. While there are a lot of non-historical items in the film, there are some interesting historical references, including a nod to the legend of Reuben James and the use of the captured Intrepid to try to blow up some Barbary gunboats.

If you have about 20 minutes, it is a fun watch. Here is the scene:

Monday, December 14, 2015

DANG 2015 - Manning the Ships (Part 2)

In my last post I added photos of some of the crew I had painted up for the Shores of Tripoli game and I mentioned that the Capitan Miniatures figures were not quite done. Well now they are (except for quick dull coat). So I wanted to put up a few photos and comparison shots. I am also testing out ways to attach sails to my ships and wanted to post a photo of that effort too (plus this photo will look better than the figures on other people's blog list).
A scratchbuilt gunboat with a lateen sail
The sail is just paper printed out and stiffened with a wire (I copied the pattern from the Thoroughbred Felucca sails). The wire is then looped over the end of the spar (the spar is temporarily mounted to the main mast). I think this looks pretty good and was easy to put together.

Now on to the figures. The Capitan Miniatures figures are listed as both as 15mm and 18mm in size (depending on where you look). While they are bigger than both the Thoroughbred and Minifigs miniatures, they don't seem out of proportion with those figures. The Capitan Miniatures figures look good, with nice round bases (that fit well in the square bases sold separately, but included in a gunboat crew package), and have a good amount of detail (maybe too much for my painting skills). The only negative is that the metal they are cast with seems to be very hard and brittle. So, it was harder to clean off the mold lines and a few of the figures I received were bent at the bases and when I tried to straighten them some of the figure's legs cracked or broke.

The Capitan Miniatures Barbary Corsairs line has 3 poses for sailors and 3 leader poses (one of my leaders broke at the base, so he doesn't show up in any photos).
Capitan Miniatures Barbary Corsairs
Here is a comparison with some Thoroughbred figures. You can see that the Capitan Miniatures are a little bigger.
From the left, the first, third, fifth, and seventh figures are Capitan and the others are Thoroughbred
 Capitan Miniatures has generic sailors and specific leaders and Marines for several nations, including the U.S., Great Britain, France, and Spain.
Capitan U.S. Marines, leaders, and a couple sailors
The leaders and sailors all fit in well with the Thoroughbred and Minifig figures. 
From the left, the first, third, and fifth figure are Capitan and the others are Thoroughbred
The Caiptan line has two Marine poses, along with a Sergeant and officer (the pack I got did not have the Sergeant), so it is very similar to what you would get from Thoroughbred.
From the left, the first, third, and fifth figure are Capitan and the others are Thoroughbred
The officer is nice, but overall I think I prefer the Thoroughbred Marines. 

I painted up around 200 figures for the game, which is a lot more than I've painted in a long time. That finishes up the figures and now it is on to finishing the ships and guns.
Barbary crew (almost) ready for action