Saturday, June 26, 2021

German Räumboote and Italian MAS boats

The next additions for my Black Sea/Baltic Sea project are a pair of German Räumboote and four Italian MAS torpedo boats. First up, we'll look at the Räumboote.

Fresh from the yard, before I added some weathering

The German Räumboote, or R-boats, were motor minesweepers that were also used for convoy escort, coastal patrol, minelaying, and air-sea rescue.The Germans built over 300 of these vessels in several series during World War II. There weren't any major differences between the series,just some size and minor armament variations. Due to their general utility, they served in every theater including the Baltic, Mediterranean and the Black Sea. This makes them useful additions to a fleet for anyone wanting versatile ships that could be used in multiple areas. 

I picked up a pair of  Warlord Games Cruel Seas R-23 R-boats for my ships. These are early versions of the R-boat and later versions had a little more armament. The out-of-the-box model came with a forward firing 20mm gun and an aft 37mm. I considered adding another 20mm gun amidships, but there isn't really enough room on the model without some major work. 

Port side view with a little weathering
The hulls are one-piece resin and required some clean up. The weapons were straight out of box, as were the extra crew I added on one boat.
Starboard view
There are a number of camouflage patterns that can be used with these ships (just do a quick internet search to see what I mean). I decided to go with a splotch pattern camouflage, since it seemed easiest and seems pretty common. Overall, they turned out good and should be useful in games.

Next up are the Italian MAS, Motoscafo Armato Silurante (torpedo-armed motorboat), boats. These boats are similar to the British Vosper motor torpedo boats and smaller than the German S-boats. During World War II, the Italians sent a flotilla of these boats to the Black Sea and to fight on Lake Ladoga near Leningrad (today's St Petersburg). 

MAS lined up for inspection
These boats were fast (max speed 45 knots), but lightly armed with two 450mm torpedoes and an aft facing 20mm gun.
Arranged to show off all sides

These little boats only had modest success against the Russians. The boats in the Black Sea were eventually transferred to the Romanians. 

A close up view of the MAS

Like the R-boats, these are from Warlord Games. Unlike the R-boat, these boats are all metal and only have a few basic parts (hull, mast, and 20mm gun). So it is pretty easy to put together, but there was some clean up needed on all the parts. I think my paint job turned out as well as the ones on the Warlord website. Although I used a gray-blue color for the crew overalls, rather than the white used by Warlord. Thinking back on my old Navy days, I know that white is not a great color for a working uniform.

Overall, both sets of boats went together well and painted up nicely. They are good additions to the project. 

A before weathering photo on the ocean mat

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Ersatz Enfilade - Ironclads Game

In normal years the Enfilade gaming convention would have happened over the U.S. Memorial Day weekend. But we still aren't in normal times and the 2021 Enfilade was moved to U.S. Labor Day weekend (September 3 - 5).  But with the first really good weather weekend coming up, I decided to have an Ersatz Enfilade game on my lawn.

Ersatz (ˈerˌzäts,ˈerˌsäts) Not real or genuine.


The lawn games from last year worked so well that I thought I would put up the pop-up canopy again for this game.


After talking with the group about what they wanted to play, we decided to do an American Civil War (ACW) naval action using the Ironclads rules. Kevin generously volunteered to run a hypothetical Confederate attack on Fort Pickens, which is the fort that was defending Pensacola Florida.

Target for Today - Fort Pickens

In addition to the fort, the Union would have a couple earthworks batteries and two Passaic class monitors. The fort and one battery defended the main ship channel, while the other battery covered a smaller channel. The monitors started on the land side of the fort near the main ship channel. The two ship channels were separated by a shallow bar, so the best entry points were through the channels. 

Union Monitors to help the defense

The Confederates had the Mobile squadron with the ironclads Nashville, Tennessee and Tuscaloosa and the wooden ships Gaines, Selma, and Morgan. 


Additionally, the Confederate force included the really hypothetical CSS North Carolina and CSS Stonewall ironclad cruisers. Historically, CSS North Carolina was seized by the British in October 1863, then purchased for the Royal Navy. CSS Stonewall was sold by the French to the Danes in 1863 and then to the Confederates in 1865, but it did not reach the Confederates before the end of the war; where it was taken over by the United States and later sold to Japan.

All the Confederates

CSS North Carolina and CSS Stonewall

The Confederates were split into two groups, the Mobile squadron and the hypothetical squadron. The Mobile squadron was set up in two parallel line-ahead formations, mainly due to the speed differences between all the ships. The slower ironclads (Tennessee and Tuscaloosa) were in a line closer to Fort Pickens and the faster ships (led by Nashville with the wooden ships following) in a line further away from the fort. The general idea was the faster ships could speed ahead to the main ship channel and keep firing on the fort, while the slower ironclads would take their shots and try to draw Union fire. This also allowed the ships to get on the map and engage with the fort fairly quickly. 


The hypothetical squadron planned to pass through the smaller ship channel and then make their way over to attack Fort Pickens. 


But, as with most plans, they weren't well explained and did not survive contact with the enemy. The mortars firing from Fort Pickens caused Nashville to turn out of line to avoid the shells. This in turn forced the following wooden ships to take evasive action to avoid collision. The outer line was never able to get reformed and the wooden ships were targets more than expected. The wooden ships turned away before they could get close to the main ship channel, while Nashville drove into the channel alone.

Confederate line in disorder
Trying to get the line back in order

The Union monitors moved slowly toward the main channel and decided to go after the closer Nashville, rather than the more distant hypothetical squadron. 

Union defenders head for the channel

The hypothetical squadron engaged the earthworks battery and silenced it. Then they turned toward Fort Pickens and began to engage the Union monitors at long range. 

Confederate heavies take on an earthworks battery

The guns on the monitors didn't quite have the range to damage the hypothetical squadron, so they held their fire for Nashville. But the Confederates were in range and caused a fire and magazine hit on one of the monitors.

Heavy action in the channel

With things very crowded in the main channel, the monitors went to ram Nashville, while Nashville tried to return the favor with a bow on bow ram.

Ramming and fires!

Damage was done to both sides, but everyone was still afloat. At this point we took a break to evaluate what had happened and decide if we wanted to continue.

Confederate decision point

Looking over the current situation; the main ship channel was blocked, two of the three Confederate wooden ships had taken heavy damage and Nashville was not in great shape. But the other Confederate ironclads only had minor damage and could still fight. On the Union side, one monitor was sinking, one fort face had taken heavy damage, and the other monitor had light damage.


After talking through the situation, things still seemed undecided. But we agreed the Confederates had an edge at this point with the heavy guns of the hypothetical squadron now able to be turned on the fort. Although it would be a near run thing for either side. 


With that, we wrapped up the game and spent the remaining time visiting and talking about current and future projects. Overall it was a fun game and day. It was good to see and game with people in person after a long winter.