Monday, 12 March 2018

Paul Hague: The Circle is now Complete....

The first edition of Paul Hague's series on naval wargames - and one of my favourite wargames books.

I would not call this a sequel - more like a themed collection of ideas that expand elements of the first edition.
I have owned the first edition of Paul Hague's Sea Battles in Miniature for some time now and indeed, have fought some cracking actions using the WW1 set back in the early 1980s. I had seen the follow up volume around but for one reason or another had never gotten around to adding it to my collection.
All that changed as a result of a phone call with Mr Fox a couple of weeks ago as he had a copy that was no longer required and would I care to take it off him? The deal was speedily concluded and so I am now the proud owner of a copy of Naval Wargaming.
There are some nice ideas contained in its pages - I like the dreadnought based damage section although it is wholly unsuitable for what I am currently developing as it is better suited to small scale actions. There is a submarine warfare section that looks interesting as well as a large scale ancient galley hex based set of rules and something for the large battles of the 17th century.
All in all then it was a pleasure to add this to the collection for completeness sake; my thanks to Mr Fox for thinking of me!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Thoughts on Battleships

As mentioned in my previous post I am now the proud owner of rather a large number of HMS Hood models and also Kongo class battle cruisers. The former is actually a rather nice model although to my eye it looks a little heavy in the upper works. This is not a problem though as I am sure she will paint up nicely. It is a shame though that whilst the QE and R class battleships are available there is no KGV. Luckily there is one obtainable from Historical Boardgaming so I suspect my forthcoming order will include a few!

A Kongo class battle cruiser in the van closely followed by HMS Hood.

The Japanese navy in the Axis and Allies world is represented by the above (of which there were four) and the mighty Yamato. Based on an email exchange with Bob Cordery (and it is something I will check with my copy of Conway’s) I may be able to convert a Hood into a Nagato by replacing the bridge with the Pagoda from one of the Kongo. It is certainly something to think about and as long as the overall profile looks OK it will suffice.

I have plenty of Hoods to experiment with after all....

Friday, 9 March 2018

Axis and Allies: 1941

I took delivery yesterday of two copies of the Axis and Allies: 1941 WW2 strategic level board game as part of my WW2 project. These two are in addition to the original 2004 edition and the revised 1942 version. As usual I was only interested in the miniatures as I have planned many uses for these.

The 1941 edition of the Axis and Allies game is a hugely popular, almost introductory version of the game. It has been designed to an inexpensive version of the ‘fuller’ editions and so a number of cost cutting measures are in place. To begin with cardboard counters are used for the strength chips and the miniatures count is down at 160 rather than the 370 for the 1942 version. The choice of miniatures is also quite limited although they are all new sculpts (except for the infantry figures) not seen in other versions.

For the Allies (which are for the purposes of the game are the UK, USSR and the USA) their heavy bomber is the Lancaster, the fighter is the P40, the battleship is HMS Hood, the carrier is the Soviet unfinished ship with an unpronounceable name, the destroyer is the USS Sumner and the merchantman is a UK Fort class. For the armour they have a JS 2. For the Axis (being the German and Japanese) the heavy bomber is a Heinkel 111 and the fighter is the FW190. The battleship is a Kongo class and the carrier is the Akagi. The destroyer is an Akitzuki class and the merchantman is a generic ‘Maru’ type. Finally, the tank is a Tiger 1.

The selection of models. I have used the UK and Japanese colours as they tend to show up better in the photographs. Of course I forgot the carriers....The infantry figures are the same as for the other games in the series.

I have now acquired copies of the original 2004 edition, the 1942 set and the two 1941 copies. The extra bits I need I can get from Historical Boardgaming - this will be the Italians and the other ships and aircraft (from the two 1940 sets) and the all important transport models for the land forces. The models are OK and will for in nicely with the existing collection and the forces are coming together nicely.

The P40 is very useful as I can use it for the RAF in the desert and also for the Russians. The FW190 could, bu dint of some careful filing and painting could be used for some radial engined fighters from Russia and Japan. Some of the other fighters could also be converted in a similar way. The merchantmen are particularly useful and so AMCs and commerce raiders will feature in due course. Some of the other ships also lend themselves to conversions with the advantage that as they are fairly basic detail-wise any chopping about will not be so problematic.

So all in all then the project is taking shape nicely and I have a good selection of ships to be going along with. It would not be a problem adding some missing types from some commercial ranges - Navwar for one or perhaps C in C for 1/4800th scale models.

Best I get busy then....

Monday, 5 March 2018

WW2 At Sea in the Mediterranean

Helping to flesh out the naval section of my Mediterranean library. My 'new' copy was cheap but is ex library. I don't mind that but if I am honest I would not have bought it had it been described as such as I prefer normal copies rather than former library types. Picky I know but hey ho!

It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to fall into the old wargaming trap of project creep. You know the thing - first a new set of rules and a modest shopping list, then something related pops up and before you know it the whole thing has grown way beyond what was originally intended.

I like to think I am a leading authority on this curious phenomena as I am constantly suffering from it! Take my recent acquisitions at Cavalier. One cannot think about combat in the desert in WW2 without considering the naval dimension. No problem there as I had already factored this in with the Axis and Allies ships available from Historical Boardgaming (they produce some of the additional RN types - I am thinking HMS Warspite - as well as the Italians) but I wanted some more information on the war at sea. To be accurate I wanted to refresh my memory as I used to game the theatre using the Axis and Allies: War at Sea collectable miniatures with Mr Fox, whom it must be said is partial to the odd Italian.

I can only assume that my copy is hiding in the same place as the two Conways that have vanished into the ether because I could not lay hands on it anywhere. Luckily EBay came to the rescue for the princely sum of £3.50 so I now have it back in the collection although I will look to get a tidier version in due course.

The Italians in Axis and Allies only feature as a separate power in the 1940 Europe edition (and the special Global version I believe) and the models available are as follows:

Littorio (BB)
Aquila (CV)
Zara (CA)
Soldati (DD)
Marconi (SS)

P108 (Bomber)
SM79 (Bomber/Torpedo Bomber)
C202 (Fighter)

75/32 (Field Gun)
M15/42 (Tank)

Again, the list is by no means definitive but it covers the basics and so will suffice to begin with.

Friday, 2 March 2018

The Rational Grid

For a fuller description of the types of grid that can used for wargames you could no better than to read Bob Cordery's book.

Work on the WW2 naval rules continues apace and I am close to being able to run a play test. I have a grid I shall use but it is not a square grid as such – rather it is an offset square grid as supplied with the Axis and Allies collectable miniatures game. As supplied the grid was too small to use with the models from the game (which are scaled at 1:1800th) and so back in the day I drew an offset square grid on a large sheet with 9” squares. It was ideal for use at the club and we fought many exciting actions on it with the larger models. Obviously this cloth would be too large for home use – at least for my home anyway - and so now it belongs to SEEMS. The maps that came with the original game I had laminated and still own. The squares are around 3 1/2” across and are perfect for use with the Axis and Allies ships I am currently working on.

Axis and Allies: War at Sea - the collectable miniatures game. The maps included are double sided but you get the idea of what I mean about the size of the map squares and the ships.


The usual 'brick wall' offset grid. From a perception thing it would appear to be well suited to the 'linear' age of warfare - primarily the horse and musket era.

Rotate the brick wall ninety degrees and the orientation of the grid changes. To me seems to more useful for the defence in depth approach of modern warfare.


 The offset square grid is an interesting beast for sure. There have been a number of blog posts about the advantages and disadvantages of various grids – Bob Cordery also covers their use in his Portable Wargame series of books – but I personally think the offset square grid has traditionally been the poor relation of the hexed and conventional square versions. I know that they have featured with some ancient naval rules and I seem to recall a set based on the Russian Civil War using the offset grid but that is about it (and I stand to be corrected). I believe that depending on you orientate the grid (horizontally or vertically) you can better represent the battlefield of your chosen period. I think that using such a grid horizontally (like a brick wall) suits the ‘linear’ or traditional horse and musket period very nicely whilst if you use the same thing vertically you appear to have a greater sense of depth and so would be better suited to the mechanised period. Another advantage of the offset square grid is the ease of making terrain based on the edges of the squares – it is easier to cut right angles than the sixty degree versions of the hexes! 

This is certainly something I will experiment with in due course but for now the WW2 naval must take priority.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Alternatives to Hexon and Heroscape

Apologies for the poor quality picture as it was downloaded from the net. I have a pack of the 3" transfers acquired around 30 years ago.... 
Back in the 1980s I recall being strangely attracted to the possibilities of using a grid based gaming set up for my wargames. I seem to remember a set of Napoleonic rules I was flirting with that used a figure scale of 125:1 so battalions came in at around 5 or 6 figures that were designed with hexes in mind. The rules have long gone and I cannot remember what they were called but I remember buying them from the old Games Centre in London's West End (Hanway Street IIRC). They were an American rule set of that I am certain.

Anyway, to cut a long story short I purchased a couple of packs of the above (again, from the Games Centre - back in the days when Dave Ryan, Jon Sutherland and the late Joe Dever worked there) with the plan to 'hex' a couple of felt cloths. the version I purchased was the 3" size and the 25mm figures I wanted to use for the rules mentioned fitted perfectly. I had not thought about terrain at all but I did get a cloth - a 7 x 5 ft green felt one - done. The trick with the iron on transfer was all in the preparation in that you needed to pin the sheets together VERY carefully before ironing them. You also had to make sure the hexes lined up properly so there were no gaps present. After the success of the green cloth I tried a blue version but that went horribly wrong and so I scrapped it.

The green cloth has long gone but I kept the remaining pack and a half of the transfers for posterity. Fast forward to today and, assuming that that the print has not perished, I am going to reuse it.

Back in the day the transfers were pretty successful and the one thing I was worried about was the print itself  'cracking' when the cloth was folded. Luckily it never did but I am mindful of the fact that as they are the age they are this might be an issue. At the time I used a 7 x 5ft cloth so that I could place hills underneath it so that the hexes forming the hills were obvious - it worked pretty well with the advantage that the cloth could also be used on its non hexed side.

The plan now is to use a smaller playing area - no bigger than 4 x 3ft - so I shall take a look at my cloth supplies to see what works best. At this stage I am looking at covering three small cloths - green, sand and blue - so there should be plenty left over to cover them with. I need to experiment first of all given the age of the transfers although they are still available (at least the 1" hex version is) from Noble Knight games in the US of A.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Cavalier - The Gift that keeps on giving....

Not a spur of the moment thing - at least the rules were not - and the two books complete complete a trilogy with a similar title that covers naval operations in the Mediterranean. There is a good deal of information to be gleaned from official reports from the commanders in the field so to speak which helps to gain a greater insight into what took place and why.

It is the last weekend in February which can only mean one thing - the Cavalier show in Tonbridge, Kent. I always enjoy this show for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is the first show of the season for me (well the first that I would go to!), secondly, it is not too huge so you have a reasonable chance of seeing everything and finally, it is actually not a bad hour or so drive to get there. It is also a chance to catch up with old friends and to ‘splash the cash’ if required.

I spent the early part of the show helping Dave Lanchester of Dave Lanchester Military Books and his wife Lynne setting up their stall - which seemed to be doing a roaring trade by mid morning. I parted with some cash whilst here in support of a cunning plan I am working - more of which later. I was able to meet up with a number of the ‘Blogeratti’ so to speak - mainly Postie’s Rejects in the shape of Postie, Big Lee and Ray, all of whom were on top form. I also caught up with Henry Hyde in order to thank him for something that will feature in his forthcoming 18th century ‘not quite India’ campaign. You will have to wait and see what it is in due course.

The games were many and varied and the one that really caught my eye was the 54mm Portable Wargame - it looked very stylised but was quite superb and it has certainly given me something else to think about. SEEMS put on a Tanks! Game with some very nice looking models. The redoubtable Mr Fox was busy keeping this in order. There was a nice WW2 aerial game with a table mat of the Grand Harbour in Malta using the Check Your 6! Rules - these are a set I would like to try at some point although I really enjoy Axis and Allies: Angels 20. Another game that caught my eye was a representation of the Zeebrugge Raid with a very nice model of HMS Vindictive around four feet long!

The Bring and Buy was very busy with the crowds three or four deep. There were some interesting bits and pieces up for grabs but nothing that I wanted to fight through the crowds for. 

The Battlegroup rules and series of campaign specific supplements are well known and very popular. They are designed for both 15 and 20mm models but could readily be adapted for other scales. I have always had a soft spot for the war in Africa and given the fact that I am also looking at WW1 in the desert as well there are some practical advantages in respect of terrain acquisition and such like. Besides, I am not entirely divorced from the idea of making some kits for the period. It would be fairly low level, perhaps a troop a side with a modest amount of support - even I could tackle that. It would certainly make a nice alternative to the larger and more operational scale of games I am planning.

The two books are a two part set covering the official reports and dispatches from the various commanders in the Mediterranean theatre. The reports cover everything from the war against the Italians through to the arrival of the Africa Korps  and the great battles of Rommel. They also cover Crete, Tunisia and Operation Torch. There is a lot of information contained in these books and they are a valuable resource to get a fuller understanding of what happened and why. Being official reports they are somewhat dry so next I will look to get something a little more narrative in nature.

I must apologise for the lack of show photos  - I took some on my phone but they did not come out very well so I did not bother uploading them. I expect that a good few will surface on various blogs in due course.