Tuesday, December 27, 2016

DANG 2016 - The Big Stick

This year’s DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game) was The Big Stick – The 1903 Venezuela Crisis. The game covered a hypothetical war between the United States and Germany over the Venezuela debt crisis in 1903.
A nice colorized photo of pre-dreadnought American ships
In the game the Germans have refused to accept arbitration to resolve the issue. They are continuing their blockade of major Venezuelan ports and have attacked Venezuelan forts at Puerto Cabello. President Roosevelt, adding his own corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, has dispatched most of the American Atlantic fleet to the Caribbean to remove the blockade and prevent the Germans from occupying any Venezuelan ports.

Everyone began arriving at my place around 9:00 AM and we spent the next hour catching up on things, talking about the projects we are all working on and planning, and munching on some breakfast snacks.

After a short review of all the rules (I came up with some basic operational rules for moving fleets and we used David Manley's Fire When Ready rules for the tactical game), we split up sides for the game, with Scott, Dale, and Charlie playing the Germans, while David S., Arthur, and Dave C. played the Americans. Each side then took some time to review their options, ships, and plan their strategy. The Germans were using the British Port of Spain on Trinidad as their main base, but they could start the game with some cruisers already in place at the Venezuelan ports (La Guaira, Puerto Cabello, and Maracaibo). The German fleet consisted of ten ships; three armored cruisers (Fürst Bismarck, Prinz Heinrich, and Vineta), four newer light cruisers (Gazelle Niobe, Nymphe, and Thetis), two old cruisers (Falke and Cormoran), and one colonial gunboat (Panther). A Seebattalion (marine infantry) unit was also available. The primary mission for the Germans was to blockade the Venezuelan ports, with a secondary mission of securing control one or more of those ports as an operating base for German expansion into the region. The American had their main base at Culebra Island and were ordered to disrupt the blockade and prevent the Germans from establishing control of a Caribbean port. The American fleet was made up of twelve ships; the cruisers Olympia, Chicago, Atlanta, Albany, Newark, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Marblehead, along with the gunboats Yorktown, Concord, and Bennington, and a converged Marine unit.

 At the start of the game, no shots had been exchanged between the Americans and Germans and both sides were informed that they should make the other side fire the first shot.

With the background set, each side was ready to select their options for the game (each of which cost victory points). The options for the Germans were adding two battleships to their fleet (but they would not arrive until day 6), put diplomatic pressure on the British to keep Port of Spain Trinidad open to German ships, put diplomatic pressure on the Italians to re-join the blockade effort, and ask the French to open up the port at Guadeloupe to German ships. The Germans chose to pressure the British and Italians. They decided not to take the battleships because it would take too long for them to arrive (and they cost a lot of victory points). The options for the Americans were similar to the Germans; adding battleships to their fleet (but these were available right away), put diplomatic pressure on the British to close Port of Spain Trinidad to German ships, put diplomatic pressure on the Italians to accept arbitration. The Americans chose to take the battleships and to pressure the Italians.

The game began with each side plotting movement for the squadrons. The Germans were concerned that the British would side with the Americans and close Port of Spain to them. They planned to rush all their ships, along with the Seebattalion, to Puerto Cabello and seize the port. From there they could spread out to blockade the other ports as needed, while knowing they had a secure operational base. The Americans knew the Germans had some ships already at Puerto Cabello, so they rushed a cruiser force with the Marines to the port, while sending the battleships to La Guaira to establish and anchorage and forward operating base.
The Operational Level map for the game
The two sides arrived at Puerto Cabello at close to the same time. The Americans announced they planned to enter the port, but the Germans said they controlled the port and put their ships between the Americans and the port entrance. The Americans decided to stay outside the port, but sent a dispatch ship to La Guaira to let the battleships squadron know what was happening. Meanwhile, the ships carrying the German Seebattalion entered Puerto Cabello, landed the troops, and seized part of the dock area at the port. On the diplomatic front, the British said they would consider whether to allow the Germans to continue to use Trinidad, but it might be a few days before the final decision was made. The Italians were convinced the Germans had the right idea and decided to re-join the blockade (The Germans made a great diplomatic roll). Two Italian cruisers (Giovanni Bausan and Elba) were ordered to join the Germans at Puerto Cabello.

The next day the American battleships arrived off Puerto Cabello and the Americans learned that the Germans had landed troops. The Americans announced they planned to send Marines to the port to protect American interests. The Germans agreed to allow one American ship to enter port, but that it would be watched by German ships. The Americans sent the old cruiser Atlanta, with the Marines, into the port, while the Germans sent the cruiser Falke and gunboat Panther. The Marines landed, established a defensive perimeter, and waited for further orders. During the evening, local Venezuelan troops contacted the Marines. The Marines reported back to the fleet that the Venezuelans sounded eager to do something about the Germans, but the Marines were unconvinced that the Venezuelans would really attack.

Day three began with both sides ordering their troops to bolster their defenses, while reports were coming in of Venezuelan troops massing outside the city. The Americans decided they wanted to send the gunboat Yorktown into the port, but the Germans said they would not allow this. As Yorktown approached the port, the German cruiser Cormoran blocked the way and aggressively maneuvered to prevent the American ship from reaching the port. Yorktown retreated to the main American fleet, but as she rejoined formation the Italian squadron appeared on the horizon.

The Americans sent the battleships and some cruisers to intercept the Italians. As the Italians closed, the Germans sent their light cruisers to meet the Italians. The Americans signaled the Italians not to come any closer to the port. The Italians ignored the signals and the Americans fired warning shots at them. Not expecting this type of a reception, the Italian ships began to circle until the German cruiser Nymphe joined them.
The German cruiser leading the Italians
The Germans told the Italians to follow them into port, while the Americans signaled they would not allow the Italians to pass. Inside the port, the American cruiser Atlanta was facing off against the old German cruiser Falke and gunboat Panther, but we decided to resolve the main fleet action outside the port first. With the stage set for action, we set up the forces for the Battle of Puerto Cabello and took a quick break to grab some food.
Getting the ships all in place
Surveying the scene
The Germans had three formations; one with the cruiser Nymphe leading the Italians, one with the other three light cruisers (Gazelle Niobe, and Thetis) that was near the Italians, and the final group with the three armored cruisers. The American also had three formations; a battleship – cruiser group that was intercepting the Italians, a gunboat formation, and a cruiser formation that was watching the German armored cruisers. The battle started with the Americans saying they had warned the Italians as the battleship – cruiser group opened fire, but only on the Italians. The Italians took some damage in the initial attack, but no major damage.
Italians under fire
While the Americans had tried to keep this from turning into an all out battle by only firing at the Italians, at this point it was clear that there was no stopping it and both sides opened fire.
Early moves by the Germans and Italians
The American battleships shifted their fire to the German light cruiser formation and the next salvo destroyed one cruiser with a magazine hit and put the second out of action.
American battleships watch their handiwork as the German cruisers go up in smoke
The American cruisers continued to fire at the Italians, adding more damage. German and Italian attacks on this side were not very effective.

On the other end of the table, the American cruiser formation, with Olympia, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Albany, engaged the German armored cruisers Fürst Bismarck, Prinz Heinrich, and Vineta.
German armored cruisers moving to attack the Americans
Both sides opened fire, inflicting minor damage on the other. The Americans did get some special hits on Fürst Bismarck, forcing the ship to slow down and fall out of line.
American cruisers under fire
German armored cruisers under attack
Back on the first end of the table, the Americans split their formation, sending the battleships after the German armored cruisers, as the American cruisers Newark, San Francisco, Detroit, and Marblehead finished off the two German/Italian formations.
American cruisers finish off the Italians as the battleships head for the other end of the table

One German light cruiser, Thetis, had only taken a few hits and used the smoke from her burning and sinking compatriots to escape and survive the battle.

Seeing that things were not going well, the German armored cruisers also decided discretion was the better part of valor and moved to disengage. Fürst Bismarck turned to block the American pursuit of the other cruisers. But the German captain failed a morale roll and decided to strike his colors instead of fighting to the bitter end.

With the situation settled outside the port, we did some quick die rolling to resolve the action in port. As the battle outside the port started, the Germans announced they were opening fire on the American cruiser. German gunfire was relatively ineffective and their torpedoes also missed, while American return fire damaged Falke. After a few more rounds of light gunfire damage, we checked to see if the Germans could see what was happening outside the port. A couple bad die rolls for the Germans led to their crews seeing Gazelle’s magazine explosion and the destruction of other ships. With the American battleships in view, the German ships and troops ashore decided to ask for terms of surrender.

Surveying the aftermath of the battle, it was a clear American victory. While the victory was not bloodless, the Americans had not lost any ships during the fight. Meanwhile the Germans only had three ships left and all had some damage. 
The victorious (but fuzzy) American battleline
After the battle, we talked through each side’s plans and options, along with possible repercussions of the war. There was some debate about which side really fired the first shot, with the Germans being quite literal in that the American fired first, while the Americans mentioned that the German occupation of Puerto Cabello was really the first hostile act. We all agreed that the Germans were blocked from any further adventures in the Caribbean. Beyond that we thought there were two basic paths Germany could follow. One was that the humiliation would cause them to redouble their naval efforts, so that maybe they would have a stronger, better navy during World War I. The other idea was that the Germans would abandon becoming a naval power, so the naval arms race with Britain wouldn’t happen and maybe World War I would be delayed or prevented.

With that, we ended the fifteenth version of DANG. Everyone seemed to enjoy the game, although the Americans probably had a better time with it. I always think pre-dreadnought actions are fun, but they can turn out a little lopsided too.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

DANG 2016 - Ships

I got a little busy with work and other diversions while trying to finish up my ships for the DANG 2016 game. Now I'm back on track and ready to show off some of the ships for the game.

This year's game will be a hypothetical war between the United States and Germany during the 1902-3 Venezuelan debt crisis. I tracked down some information on speculative orders of battle, thanks to an old presentation on the Admiralty Trilogy website on the subject. But there was still the bigger issue of finding all the ships I needed. No one company had all the ships in the same scale, so after checking around, I decided to go with the 1/2400 scale ships from Panzerschiffe and modify the ships they did not have.

For the Americans, there were few modifications needed.
The American Navy for DANG 2016
Most of the ships were straight off the order sheet. The exception being the cruiser Chicago, which I represented with a Newark cruiser. Since this is a "come as you are" mini-campaign, I decided to paint up the Americans in the peacetime white and buff paint scheme.
US battleships
US newer cruisers
Overall, I think the colors turned out pretty well and are evocative of the period.

For the Germans I had to find a lot more replacements and do more modifications. For the German paint scheme I went with a white hull and light gray upper works. Except for the battleships, which are overall light gray. The images I've seen of German ships from the era have a very light hull color, which could be white or light gray, but I decided to go with white for the overseas ships since I thought the Germans would tend to follow the trend of the Royal Navy.
German fleet for DANG 2016
I wanted to have a Victoria Louise class armored cruiser and some other early German armored cruisers, but Panzerschiffe doesn't make those. So, I ordered the later Prinz Adalbert and Roon classes for modifications. The Prinz Adalberts became the Vineta and Prinz Heinrich, while the Roon became the Fürst Bismarck.
German armored cruisers
The modifications primarily consisted of changes the funnels and removing extra guns. The Vineta is still too long, but overall the modifications seem to have turned out well.

The Gazelle class cruisers and Brandenburg class battleships did not require many changes (I did add the walkway over the center turret on the battleships).
German Brandenburg class battleships
German Gazelle class cruisers
For the older German cruisers Falke and Comoran, I modified some American Marblehead class cruisers and for the gunboat Panther I used a Spanish gunboat. I think the conversions turned out well, but I really doubt anyone would have said anything if I hadn't made the changes.
German gunboat and older cruisers
I also got a pair of Japanese ships to represent the Italian ships that took part in the blockade of Venezuela. These also had some minor modifications.
Italian colonial cruisers
I think all the ships turned out nicely and will make good, sturdy game pieces for the mini-campaign.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Slight Diversion

I took a slight detour in my preparations for DANG 2016 to finish up a semi-stalled project. For a couple years, I’ve been collecting 1/700 scale submarine models with two projects in mind. 1 – I want to create a set of modern submarine rules, and 2 – I want to have a set of US submarine display models to take to some of my submarine veteran events.
Part of my US sub collection

Last week was the holiday lunch for my local submarine veterans group, so I took the opportunity to put together and organize all the kits I’ve been collecting. My assembly of US subs was a hit at the luncheon. Most of the people attending didn’t even know that companies made so many submarine models.
My display at the submarine veteran's lunch
Most of the kits were straight out of the box from DML/Dragon, Takara, Hobby Boss, and OKB Grigorov. I did do one conversion to make the 1950s GUPPY II. I started with a Hobby Boss Balao class sub, modified the hull (mostly reshaping the bow and adding the sonar) and then added the Cubera sail from the Kokoda Trail Models store on Shapeways. The frosted ultra detail sail fit right in with the plastic kit and I was really happy with the final result. Here is a photo of the conversion and some of the other subs
My Balao to GUPPY II conversion
A late-war Gato class sub
USS Nautilus kit from OKB Grigorov
Hobby Boss Los Angeles class (flight I)
George Washington class SSBN from OKB Grigorov
DML/Dragon Benjamin Franklin class SSBN
DML/Dragon Ohio class SSBN

Some of the subs will (probably) show up when I complete my sub rule, but for now they are serving at least one of their planned purposes.

With that out of the way, I'll get back to working on the ships for DANG.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

DANG 2016 - Planning

With November half over, I’m finally getting around to preparing for my yearly naval game: DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game). We had our DANG voting earlier this year and for this year's game the voters selected The Big Stick – The 1903 Venezuela Crisis.
Roosevelt's Big Stick in the Caribbean
The game will cover a hypothetical war between the United States and Germany over the Venezuela debt crisis in 1903. In the game the Germans have refused to accept arbitration to resolve the issue. They are continuing their blockade of major Venezuelan ports and have attacked several Venezuelan forts. President Roosevelt, adding his own corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, has dispatched a naval force to remove the blockade and prevent the Germans from occupying any Venezuelan ports. While the primary forces are cruisers, there will be an opportunity for both sides to get some battleships into the game. The Italians might make an appearance too.
While this was a cartoon from an earlier crisis, it seems appropriate here
I’m going to use 1/2400 ships from Panzerschiffe for the game, with a few substitutions for the German and Italian ships. Most of the ships will be close enough to the real thing, but some will require some minor alterations.

We will either use David Manley’s Fire When Ready rules or the recently released Admiralty Trilogy Dawn of the Battleship rules. I have played Fire When Ready, so I have a good idea of how things run there and I would like to try out Down of the Battleship before making a decision.
This is DANG’s fifteenth year (yes it is DANG XV, I think it is time to start numbering them like Super Bowls). Here are links to recaps of DANG from before 2010, the 2010 Lepanto game, the 2011 American Civil War river game , the 2012 War of 1812 Lake Ontario game, the Operation Landcrab game from 2013, the 2014 Cogs of War game, and last year’s The Shores of Tripoli game.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

2016 NHMGS Game Day at the Museum of Flight

NHMGS held our annual game day at the Museum of Flight on November 6. We were back in the museum’s main gallery under the Blackbird (not a standard SR-71, but the last surviving M-21 version) with our information table and four gaming tables.
An overview of the gaming area
The information table
As usual, we had two gaming sessions. The morning session had a Wings of Glory World War 1 game, a Cuban Missile Crisis game with the AirWar: C21 rules, a Star War Armada, and an All Quiet on the Martian Front game. In the afternoon there was a Korean War scenario using Check You 6 Jets rules, a Galactic Knights game, an Aztecs vs. Conquistadors game using the Quetzalcoatl Rampant rules (a variation of Lion Rampant), and an Old School Naval Action game.
The museum had a nice placard talking about us
And we got to game near a recently restored P-26 Peashooter
This year I was helping run the AirWar: C21 game and played in the Quetzalcoatl Rampant game, so I didn’t get as many photos as usual. But here are a few to give you an idea of how things went.
Wings of Glory WWI bomber
All Quiet on the Martian Front getting ready to go
Star Wars Armada
AirWar: C21 MiG-19s flying defending a SAM site
The American strike approaches the target
A MiG-19 lines up a shot on a Navy Demon
SAMs targeting the Skyhawk bombers
MiGs, Missiles, and Skyhawks
Old School naval getting set up
Quetzalcoatl Rampant Conquistadors moving to contact
The Spanish native allies move to attack the Aztecs
Gamer turnout was good, but I think the sunny weather (after a week of mostly gloomy rain) limited museum attendance. We did get a chance to talk with several people about our hobby and even the ones that didn’t stop to talk seemed interested in the painted figures.

The game day is always a good opportunity to show off the hobby to the general public and the museum is a really great forum for it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Japanese for Bolt Action

One of my summer projects was to start (and finish) the Japanese Bolt Action figures I purchased as opponents for my Australian troops from Brigade Games (you can see photos of them here).
Fresh off the boat and ready for action
In this case, I just went with a box of plastic Imperial Japanese infantry from Warlord Games, along with a metal medium machine gun and 81mm mortar. The infantry box didn't come with any bases, so I ordered some from Warlord and some Summer Tufts of grass to make them look good. I think the final results turned out pretty well, as you can see in the photos below.
Group shot of my completed Japanese
The infantry box has five sprues, each with six bodies and numerous heads, arms, and weapons to make 30 figures.
sample Japanese Infantry sprue (from Warlord Games website)
While there are only six body types (one prone, one kneeling, one crouching, and three running/walking fast) all the different head, arm, and weapon configurations can give you a pretty wide range of poses. For the most part, the castings were clean and the figures went together easily. Although I did seem to end up with a lot of my troops looking down toward the ground.
Examples of the different poses
The above photo shows a completed figure for each of the body types. Note that the middle figure is carrying a Type 99 light machine gun with a bayonet. I had to create a figure like that because, to me, nothing says Imperial Japanese Army louder than a guy with a machine gun charging because there is a bayonet on the machine gun (in most other WWII armies, the guy would be happy to just stand back and shoot you, but not the Japanese). There are also options for making grenadiers (see the figure on the right) by adding a Type 89 light mortar.

The medium machine gun and 81mm mortar support weapons are metal castings, but the figures did not seem a crisp and clean as the plastic figures. I don't have any other metal figures from Warlord, but I was a little disappointed with these. The figures did include multiple heads, so you can vary the figures a little.
MMG and 81mm mortar support weapons, along with a plastic figure with an anti-tank lunge mine
After putting all the troops together (which did take a little while), I got down to painting them up. Since I was planning on using the "dip method" (really brush-on the way I do it) on these guys, I kept the primer and most other colors fairly light. I used Vallejo Japanese Uniform (70.923) for the main uniform color, even though a couple of the painting guides I looked at said it did not match any Japanese uniforms. I also used a leather paint for boots and belts, light brown for webbing and bags, and olive drab for helmets and canteens. After that it was off to the dip for the Emperor's boys, then applying some grass and tufts to the bases. The tufts are interesting to work with. I never got a handle on using static grass (mine often just laid down), so the pre-made tufts were good for me.

Overall, I think the figures turned out pretty well and I ended up with good gaming figures. They seem to fit nicely with my Australians.
The boys playing "nice" together
I like the idea of some small battles on New Guinea and I think I've got enough troops to do those. But I might add some more weapons and troops to both sides in the future.
With the Japanese Imperial Army done, it is time to get back to some naval projects.