Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Jutland Part 3: Setting the record straight

 
 
The famous Otranto barrage designed to keep the Austrians honest and scene of a number of tactically interesting actions involving smaller vessels.


Despite a train cancellation on the journey home last night I was able to spend some quality time reordering the files and notes around the Jutland rules project. It was a strangely therapeutic experience and more importantly has served to focus my thought process. The following post is very much a 'retrospective clarification' of exactly what it is I am trying to achieve and more importantly, why I am trying to achieve it. Some of this may well fall into the category of 'stating the obvious' but it is relevant.

Jutland was the epitome of the big fleet battle - I am quite sure we all agree on that score. The Avalon Hill game of Jutland reflects this and is designed to enable the gamer to recreate the action in a manageable fashion. The rules are concerned with capital ships and the smaller ships, the light cruisers and destroyers, whilst important are very much supporting players. The game mechanics reflect this to the extent that light cruisers and destroyers are represented by formation counters, each containing any number of ships. In short, they are abstracted out. This is fine as for Jutland as we are concerned about the battleships and battlecruisers. For this level of operation the game works extremely well.

What about smaller actions then? Destroyer sweeps, 'hunt the raider' actions, shore bombardments and a myriad other non-fleet sized activities.

The Jutland tactical rules are not really suited to use for single ship games and in my opinion struggle with even small squadron sized actions - why would they need to be concerned with such engagements as they are designed for use with whole fleets.  As they designed for fleet actions, specifically THE fleet action, the smaller scale stuff is of less importance.

Therein has lain my problem and although I had reached this conclusion some years ago I had to relearn it....

It is not a new phenomena. As wargamers we read about a battle and then raise a force that represents a small part of it. We then try and use that small force to fight the larger battle we have read about - or (in this case) vice versa. The problem is that we invariably have a set of rules that are not suited to what we are trying to game. I am not saying that everyone suffers from that but I have seen and experienced it first hand.


The small but very useful looking Austrian Navy. The Otranto barrage kept the Austrian surface fleet honest but was a lot less successful keeping the submarines penned in.


The majority of naval actions I have fought have tended to be quite small in terms of the number of models - usually around a dozen or so a side. With this in mind I want a set of rules that will enable me to fight an action to a conclusion in a couple of hours gaming time and with around a dozen or so models a side. A typical force (and this is VERY general) may be division of battleships (say 2 or 3), a couple of cruisers and half a dozen destroyers. For something of this size every ship is important and has a role to play. Clearly then, using Jutland would not be suitable, focussing on as it does the challenges of fleet level command.

It is not all doom and gloom though as the core systems of Jutland (which are very soundly thought out) can be used at a lower level of operations and still give a satisfying game. By 'telescoping' the rules down a notch so that all ships from destroyers upwards have some form of damage record card it will ensure that the lower level flavour is not lost in higher level processes.

On the face of it then the approach will be similar to that employed by Paul Hague in the original version of Sea Battles in Miniature. Essentially ships smaller than an armoured cruiser used a different calculation for their vital statistics (damage points etc) than the bigger ships. This is quite easy to factor in really as various prohibitions were employed around what types of ship could fire at what. For example battleships could not fire their main guns at a destroyer nor vice versa. Jutland also had provision for this but not for scoping out smaller ships.

In a nutshell then, I am devising a set of rules that will work at the lower end of the tactical scale - primarily by treating smaller ships as individuals similar to the larger types - using most of the mechanics from Jutland but with some subtle changes. By setting a series of baselines for ship types based on any of the following - guns, armour, tonnage etc I will be able to model their characteristics more readily but still maintain the Jutland 'big ship' flavour. These rules will include big ships as a matter of course - think as what I am doing as adding the 7/8th of the iceberg to the 1/8th that is above sea level.

That is the plan then.

1/600th Portable Wargame Ideas

 
A quite superb book
 
I have mentioned a number of times of my fondness for Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame system and this has been recently reinforced (as if it needed any such assistance!) by his recent sequence of games set in the Shin Valley on the NW Frontier. My plan is to use these rules and my collection of Heroscape tiles in conjunction with the 1/600th Tumbling Dice models I have been acquiring. I have flirted with a number of ideas for campaigns to represent using this method with contenders being the Arab Revolt - including the Sanusi and the Iraq version in 1920, the NW Frontier - including Waziristan, WW1 in the Caucasus, WW2 Western desert or something in the Aegean or possibly even something 'imagi-nation-ish'. Luckily the size of figures means that several armies can be represented using one basic paint job.
 
For any of the above conflicts a desert type paint job on the Heroscape tiles would suffice. As long at the result is suitably arid and barren it would be fine.
 
The interesting thing about the Sanusi affair is that much of the terrain fought over would see troops of a very different kind contesting the same area in WW2.

 
The following passage taken from Amazon gives you a good idea of what this particular conflict was all about.
 
"This is the exciting story of a forgotten war, fought out on the fringe of the great First World War campaigns. At its centre stands Sayyid Ahmad al-Sharif, the Grand Sanusi, a charismatic Arab leader caught between the rival war aims of the Turco-German alliance and the British Empire. In November 1915 HMS Tara, a requisitioned ferryboat, is torpedoed by a German U-boat off Sollum on the north-west coast of Egypt. The 92 survivors, nearly all Welshmen, are handed over to Turkish and Sanusi soldiers across the border and sent as prisoners of war deep into the Libyan Desert. The Turco-Sanusi Army then overruns Sollum and pushes into Egypt. The British, occupying that country, are caught off guard and forced to launch a military campaign to expel the invaders. Over the next few months, four battles are fought before Sollum is retaken and the threat contained. Finally, the Duke of Westminster leads a large column of Rolls Royce armoured cars and Model T Fords into Libya to rescue the Welshmen. Based on original source material, The Sanusi's Little War tells for the first time the full story of the Turco-Sanusi invasion and the subsequent military campaign. The author describes secret German missions and Turkish efforts to win over the Grand Sanusi. He reveals the fascinating role played in the campaign by British officers, particularly Leo Royle. Most unexpected of all is his discovery that T. E. Lawrence played a role in these events".
 
 
So you have Turkish trained Sanusi regulars and irregulars against Imperial troops with armoured cars and aircraft. this has the makings of something rather interesting and more importantly, slightly more conventional than the more usual Arab Revolt.
 
 
One for the project pile to be filed under 'Contender'.
 
 


Monday, 20 November 2017

Jutland Part 2: 2 steps forward and 3 back...

 
One wonders how history would have played out had a certain Commander Jellicoe not escaped from the sinking H.M.S. Victoria

You know that feeling you get when you think you have something virtually sewn up and then something crawls out of the woodwork and proceeds to unstitch pretty much everything you have done so far?  Well that is what has happened. 
I was typing a few notes up on the Mac last night when I happened to browse an old folder of files called Wargame Rules. This is the folder that includes a vast number of downloaded rules for land battles for various periods. At least that is what I thought was in it. As I idly scanned down the list of files (with some real corkers there that will need revisiting at some point) imagine then my surprise when I came across some old files relating to Jutland. These files are at least seven years old, probably longer, and represent a fairly comprehensive revision to the Jutland rules incorporating all the various updates from the AH General and Boardgamer magazines and some additional items from yours truly.
 
In short, pretty much everything I have been wittering on about recently….
I thought I had moved all of my Jutland related files into the Jutland folder but somehow had not done so with these. In my defence I have also changed computers twice since these were created so that is possibly how they have fallen through the gaps.
As well as the revision to the rules I had even gone as far as drawing up fairly comprehensive ship damage charts for both the Royal Navy and the High Seas Fleet.
In truth I had completely forgotten about these revisions and am more than a little embarrassed at myself for having overlooked them. Had I not done so it would have saved me a lot of time.
 
A cursory glance has shown that I was on the right track with my recent thinking so I will make a point of harmonising the files into something approaching a system so I can get a definitive draft prepared. I will make this available in due course but for now I need to tidy things up and make a mental note to be a little more careful where and how I store things....


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Jutland Part 1: The Blooding of the Guns



The damage record sheets from Avalon Hill’s Jutland

I  mentioned in my last post that I have moved on from trying to adapt the tactical rules from Jutland into something more ‘wargamey’ to instead making use of some of the ideas and mechanics contained therein  in a self designed set of rules. Surprisingly enough I had made a fair amount of progress with this for my ill-fated Jutland project so the work of making sense and adding some coherency to the whole thing in theory should not be too difficult.

The first thing I want to outline (or rather, think out loud) is the firing mechanism. As it stands I am using many elements from the Jutland system but with a few of my own twists. I shall outline how the Jutland system works and will then describe my ‘take’ on it.

Jutland the board game uses a system of gunnery factors for the ship in question which is cross-referenced on the appropriate column of the gunnery table and a single d6 is rolled to determine the number of hit points scored. Gunnery factors are also key to the damage system as they are the hits first scored against a target ship (more of which later) reduce the target ship’s own gunnery factor. The number of hits scored is modified by the range at which the firing ship engages the enemy. This means that long range fire typically reduces the number of hits scored whilst the closer you get the more damage is caused. Gun types have maximum ranges and are defined by typical ship types rather than calibre. For example, anything from 11” upwards is rated as either PB or BB. There are also sizes for CA, CL and DD. There are also restrictions on which gun types can Fore at what category of target, for example DD rated guns may not fire at ships classed as PB or BB. There is also a critical hit option so if a ships rolls a 6 to hit then there is a further roll to see what the critical hit is. I should also point out that a single game turn represents 10 minutes. Capital ships do not have any secondary weapons although the optional rules appearing in the AH General magazine allow for this.

Straightaway there are a number of issues arising. Try as I might I have been unable to work out how the ships gunnery factors were calculated - even to the point that I had an email exchange with the game’s designer, James Dunnigan, a few years back. Sadly he could not remember how he worked it out but given it was around 1966 he designed the game it is perhaps understandable! Most of the capital ships have 1 gunnery factor per barrel and the factors are grouped into turrets on the ship damage record. there are some crucial differences though. Take the Queen Elizabeth class armed with 8 x 15” guns. They have a gunnery factor of 12. I took this as being the base of 1 factor per barrel times 1.5 which works out fine. Hurrah you might think (at least I did), bu Jove he’s got it! Sadly not as if you look closely the numbers do not quite add up.

The factors for the Royal Navy ships follow a largely consistent approach in that the 15” gunned QE and R class all come out at 12 factors for their 8 x 15” with 4 x 3 factor turrets on the damage sheet. The 10 x 13.5” also come out at 12 factors meaning, for arguments sake, the number of barrels has been multiplied by 1.2. If you take the 8 x 13.5” gunned ‘splendid cats’ - Lion and Tiger etc, this comes out at 9.6 or 10 factors when rounded up. You can see what I mean by looking at the picture above.

Then comes the High Seas Fleet.

For reasons lost in the mists of time the only ships in the High Seas Fleet that seem to follow the RN lead of 1 factor per barrel for 12” or 11” armed ships are the Westfalen class battleships and the pre-dreadnoughts. Given that all the Germans capital ships at the battle were armed with 12 or 11” weapons it would be logical to assume that for the most part the gunnery factors would match the number of guns carried. Why then is there the discrepancy?

There are lots of theories as to why this may be. Is it allowing for the advantage that the Germans had when ranging in? Is it because some of the later ships had a superior version of the 12” gun to the bulk of the 12” armed RN battleships? This could be the case but does not allow for the 11” armed battlecruisers. I have no objection to adjusting the capabilities of a ship to reflect a specific combat situation where it is a known quantity but when the rationale for doing so is absent we have a problem.

The solution I have decided upon for this is quite simple. For the rules I am devising I will be using the standard of one factor per gun barrel and any differences due to the calibre of the weapon being employed will be factored in as modifiers to the damage effect. Taking the ships mentioned as an example I would give the 15” ships a +2 to their damage rolls whilst the 13.5 (and 14”) types would get a +1. Those battleships with a main gun of 9.4 or 10” would get a minus 1. The pluses and minuses will be explained further so don’t worry about the specifics for the time being.

I intend using the existing Jutland firing table to determine if a hit or hits are scored (based on the number of guns firing) and then to roll a d6 per hit to see what the effect is. I will also be using the Jutland based range effects on the number of hits scored - the to hit roll is made as normal but depending on the range can be tripled, doubled or halved. I prefer to roll a number of dice rather than just the one as I think it adds to the fun. The ‘roll to hit and then roll for effect’ adds a degree of uncertainty to the proceedings as it may be quite possible to score a number of potential hits that translate into no damage. Looking at the damage suffered by a number of the ships at Jutland it appears that damage effects could be variable depending on where was hit and what calibre was doing the hitting. 

The rolls for effect are very simple to implement. Essentially for each potential hit a d6 is rolled. 1, 2 or 3 means no effect, a 4 or 5 is one hit and a 6 is two hits. Aside from the modifiers to the damage inflicted due to the calibre of shell hitting the target there will also be a modifier adjusting for the armour type of the target. This is intended to ensure that armoured cruisers have their historic vulnerability to battleship calibre artillery. 

As an example (and I appreciate that you will have to take a lot of this on trust) take a look at the following to see what I mean.

H.M.S. Warspite, a Queen Elizabeth class dreadnought armed with 8 x 15” guns opens fire at the German battle cruiser S.M.S. Seydlitz at a range of 12,000 yards. There are no modifiers for range so the player commanding the Warspite looks at the column on the headed 8 to 9 and rolls a d6. The player scores 1, the best result (I may change these around as I prefer a 6 to be the best score and 1 the worst), meaning that Warspite has scored 2 potential hits. The player then rolls a further two d6 scoring a 1 and a 4. Sadly the 1 is a no effect (although the imaginary mast-high column of water would have given the bridge crew of the Seydlitz a deep sense of foreboding....) but the 4, plus the modifier of +2 for the 15” guns makes 6 which gives 2 damage points. 

How this damage is applied will be detailed later but for the time being these damage points would be taken from the main guns of the Seydlitz meaning that she has, in effect, lost two guns from the 10, or a turret has been knocked out.

The action continues.

S.M.S Seydlitz, down to 8 guns but at a range of 9,000 yards after some canny manoeuvring, opens fire on H.M.S. Warspite (no doubt circling furiously with her steering stuck....). At this range potential hits are doubled so with some good fortune things could potentially get very uncomfortable for the hapless Warspite. Rolling on the same column as the Warspite the Seydlitz again rolls a 1! This means 2 hits doubled to 4! The resulting rolls for effect come up as 2, 4, 6 and 4 meaning a total of 4 points of damage - 1 for each 4 and 2 for the 6. That would be a turret lost for sure and other damage as well. 

As I am writing this I am aware of a couple of things that will need to be nailed down - particularly as far as where damage is taken and that will form the follow up to this rather lengthy post.




















Friday, 17 November 2017

Naval Relativity

 
A rather atmospheric painting of the Battle of Jutland


The 1/2400th scale collection is moving along nicely so barring any unforeseen dramas is on schedule for completion at the end of the year. The other side of the project is of course the old chestnut of what rules to use. I have a vast number of sets for wargames in the period which of course will be a safe fall back option but I have a hankering to do something myself. It is with this in mind I have written this post as I wanted to share my rationale behind the thought processes involved. I hope it is of some interest and of course, comments would be greatly appreciated.

My fondness of the game Jutland is well known - as is my oft mentioned comment about the tactical rules being rather simple, brutally so if truth be told. Taking into consideration all of the various advanced and optional rules that have appeared over the years you get a tactical system that is better within the spirit of the game but does still not really cut it as a pure standalone tactical naval set.

One of the biggest problems I have experienced in trying to 'wargameify' the rules has been the difficulty in reverse engineering the ship specifications - namely the gunnery and protection values. I looked back over all my noted on the subject and whilst they have a number of valid observations are still very much in the 'hit it and hope' category. With the advantage of some time away from the project and with the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes I can see that in some cases the ships were probably factored based on their historical performance in the battle rather than by the pure translation of their technical specifications.

 
Photo-shopped I know but what a picture!


The 'pure translation of their technical specifications' is a very common part of the naval wargame and in my opinion every set of naval wargame rules should show how the ships were factored - especially when wanting to add a ship not featured. Naval wargamers usually set great store by their knowledge of the ships of their chosen navy - I know I do!


A well known picture with a coloured twist. S.M.S. Seydlitz after the battle - and very lucky to be there!


The Jutland approach then, of modelling ship characteristics to suit a specific scenario, whilst working well within the confines of the game being represented itself, loses out when they are used outside of this, either hypothetically or for other historical refights. Essentially then, what is needed is a baseline of characteristics for all ships - a common standard if you like - upon which the rules can be built. Using Jutland as is, even with all the add-ons, is, in my opinion not going to cut it.

For me personally this is scary stuff. Much as I love the game it is not going to fulfil my immediate needs for a set of naval rules covering 1905 to 1920.

With this sobering yet strangely liberating thought in mind it puts a lot of what I was trying to do previously into a far better context. Instead of trying to adapt an existing set of rules my efforts will be concentrated on drafting a set of rules based on the Jutland system rather than attempting to take it into a direction it was not really intended for.

I genuinely believe that the core mechanics of the Jutland game system could be used as the basis of a very good tactical game of naval combat but that any such undertaking needs to have some clearly defined parameters around what does what, when and how.

Naval Wargame Rules based on Avalon Hill's Jutland

Taking all the above into consideration I shall now set out my stall in respect of the core principles I will be working with in the formulation of the rules - a kind of mission statement I suppose. I will expand on each area in later posts but for the moment the key areas are as follows. The points marked with a J are taken directly from the game rules.

Guns

1. 1 gunnery box per actual barrel - regardless of size.
2. Guns are rated by ship type i.e. - BB, PB, CA, CL and DD (to be defined) - J
3. Two stage firing i.e. - fire to hit and then fire for effect
4. Gun types will have variable effects against target types based on calibre of weapon and armour of target.
5. Range effects as per rangefinder from the game. - J

Damage

1. Guns destroy ship systems whilst torpedoes sink ships. - J
2. Critical hits - as they add flavour! - J
3. Protection/Flotation value calculated by a clear formula
4. Use of fore/aft and port/starboard hit locations and gun based Protection/Flotation hits.

Torpedoes

1. Hard to hit with but effective when they do
2. 'Comb the tracks' option to negate an attack. - J
3. Limitations on types using these weapons and the numbers available. - J

Movement

1. Use of turning devices and national restrictions. - J
2. Use of long/short move (see Barry Carter's book) if grid based.

General

1. Use of damage record sheets - J
2. Working to a 6ft by 4ft playing area with maximum daylight gun range around 3ft and maximum ship movement of around 1ft.

So there you have it, a brief outline of what I want to do - all I have to do now is to do it!




Thursday, 16 November 2017

Squire Haggard of Haggard Hall R.I.P.


 
Squire Haggard (on the right) in action - no doubt concocting another money making scheme whilst consuming industrial quantities of anything alcoholic....
 

Not exactly the good squire but the actor Keith Barron who died yesterday and who portrayed him in the TV series back in the 90s. Keith Barron had a long career on screen and stage and was best known for his part in the comedy series Duty Free (very Brian Rix-ish in the farcical sense) during the 80s and also for his role as the Squire. He appeared in many TV programmes and also in a couple of films - the link gives the full details. For those of you who have never come across the good Squire his Journal was penned by Michael Green (famous for the 'Art of Coarse....' series) as a parody of a late 18th century gentleman's diary - think Boswell crossed with Blackadder.

The journal of the good squire


The journal is unbelievably funny and for most part consists of the Squire, his son Roderick and manservant Grunge 'carousing with prostitutes and servant girls, imbibing copious amounts of Madeira Wine, evicting the poor, expectorating on and firing his pistols at poachers, dissenters and foreigners.' The good squire was always heavily in debt and at one point undertook the Grand Tour in order to avoid both his debtors and a potential duel.

It is very funny and whilst not politically correct in any sense of the word actually reads as one would expect a diary of the period to be written.

 
My old friend Geordie will appreciate this one....


The cute pair of critters above are of course Groundhogs and whilst it is not the actual Groundhog Day (February 2nd next year is the official date I believe) a chance comment on my last post gave me pause for thought. I will post my thinking in more detail later but the reference to the above animals was of course to my current 1/2400th naval/Jutland rules revisited - as I have been there before.

I suppose it was inevitable and certainly the project concerning adapting the rules into something more 'naval wargame friendly' is very much unfinished business. However, I have come up with something that should address this and enable me to finish it off.

That will be the next post then.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Revisiting Avalon Hill's Jutland

 
A piece of gaming history


You may recall that I am a huge fan of the Avalon Hill 'board-game without a board' of Jutland. I had planned to use a variant of this for my ill-fated refight of the battle to coincide with the centenary last year but unfortunately I left it too late to organise properly. The ships raised for that particular undertaking have long since departed - my scale of choice was 1/2400th rather than 1/3000th although with hindsight this was a mistake - and I have no immediate plans to revisit the action using models anytime soon.

Anyway, the reason for this post is simply because as part of my ongoing naval activities with the 1/2400th 'overseas' set up circa 1910 -1914 I had occasion to drag out all the material I have amassed for Jutland. There is rather a lot of it!

The most surprising thing about this game is that I do not actually own a complete copy of it! I have the counters, rules, plot maps, task forces boards, time record sheets, range finders and measuring sticks but no box to put it all in! To be honest the collection is probably too big to fit in the old style box anyway....

 
The compilation of all the articles from the Avalon Hill General


The game featured in a number of editions of the old Avalon Hill General as well as the Boardgamer magazine and so I have copies of everything ever published by way of variants, additional rules or changes to the core system. There are also additional ship stats available including the remaining ships that saw service in the North Sea, the fleets for Russia (Baltic and Black Sea), France, Italy, Austria and Turkey). There is even a variant that exists covering the battle of Tsushima. With the Mediterranean set up there are some very useful plot maps available which is really handy as I am a huge fan of the map search system employed in the game.


 
One of the plot maps. In the base game there are two pads -one for the Germans and one for the British. the maps are identical but the flip side has the ship damage record for each side.


Replacement counters for the base game as well as for all of the various other fleets and additional ships are available from a number of sources - I own those for the rest of the North Sea (those that did not feature in the original game) as well as for the nations mentioned above which means that there is a lot of potential away from the traditional theatre of operations.

The rule system for this game is designed to be quick and to fit within the context of the strategic map movement. In this is does the job admirably however, as a standalone set of naval rules they are a little on the 'light' side. If you add all of the rules additions in from the magazines the game plays in a more satisfying way but I think there is still room for some TLC in a couple of areas. Bearing in the mind the rules are designed for fleet actions between dreadnoughts the ships at the smaller end of the scale (light cruisers and destroyers - lumped into a generic 'light ships' category) are poorly served. To use the rules as they are then for the kind of action I envisage fighting (roughly around 6 to 12 ships a side) would be a little on the light side so some more detail would need to factored in. One has to be careful adjusting a set of rules so as not to unbalance  them or lose the author's intended flavour but I am confident that with the help of all the additional written material available - including the designer's (Jim Dunnigan) original notes this can be tackled sympathetically.

That is what I am going to do - essentially to pick up what I was trying to do 18 months ago but did not finish.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Updating my Naval

 
S.M.S. Scharnhorst sporting her tropical paint scheme


It has been a pretty good weekend all said and done. Aside from the inevitable Autumnal leaf clearing exercise from the lawn (oddly therapeutic I must say!) I have managed to get some work done on  the 1/2400 collection.

I was able to get all of the destroyers for both sides based and undercoated and I have also settled on the names (or numbers in the case the German destroyers) for all of the models. I shall get these typed up and the label sheet printed in due course - this does not take long. Mention of the destroyers has given me the usual headache in terms of how they are painted. As the collection will be seeing service in WW1 based games it would make senses to paint them in the appropriate plumage for the later period. This means grey for the Royal Navy and also for the Germans although they converted from black later in the war. From an identification perspective I am going with black for the Germans and grey for the Royal Navy although I am unsure when they moved over from the black scheme. Certainly having two colours will help with identification on the table top.

 
H.M.S. Arab - a 'B' class torpedo boat destroyer


The models I am using are very nice indeed although I think the funnels on the Royal Navy destroyers are a little on the tall side - for the record they are the re designated 'B' class types sporting four funnels - with a single funnel fore and aft and two adjacent amidships. Of the type H.M.S. Sparrowhawk was wrecked whilst serving on the China Station.

For the names of the ships I am modelling I have where possible chosen those that served on the China Station or geographically near by.

I am pleased with progress so far - I had a couple of self-inflicted issues using the MDF bases which I shall not do again - and plan to continue this over the next few weeks with the aim of having the entire collection complete for the end of the year. Naturally pictures will follow in due course.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Visually Motivating the Wargamer

 
Tom Hanks in 'What's that coming over the hill - is it a monster?' mode from Saving Private Ryan.


The reasons that one embarks upon the wargamer's path are many and varied. My own 'baptism of fire' so to speak was probably a road trodden by many gamers 'of a certain age' in that I am firmly of what has been called the Airfix Generation. I have no issues with being labelled as such; quite the opposite in fact, I am proud to be part of that unofficial band of brothers - it means that I have a common ground with many of my gaming friends and so am able to share 'war stories' with them.

What sustains this though? More specifically, what sustains a gamers interest in a given period? I have often thought about this and in my case the answer is relatively straightforward. For the most part my gaming interests are many and varied but they generally have two things in common. Firstly, there exists a reasonable amount of reference material in the shape of the written word. This can take many forms including campaign histories, uniform and equipment guides, biographies of the commanders, unit histories and even works of fiction set against the period. That is simple enough and for my own part is a significant factor in the choice of period I wish to fight. I have always been an avid reader so for me this is hardly a chore - more like a pleasure to be savoured.

The second factor (and indeed this is why I wrote this post on the first place) is for me the visual appeal. This does not mean the look of the figures - this is important for some people, less so for me - rather it means how the events of history have been given life by the silver screen. I am of course talking about films and TV.

 
Severe delays at junction 30 of the M25 or even a bridge too far from A Bridge Too Far


It is no coincidence that the periods of history I am interested in have also been translated into either film or TV. As wargamers we all have our favourites but it has only recently struck me how important this is to my enjoyment of the games I fight. Of course one has to take into account the fact that what we are seeing may contain inaccuracies (and I am sure we quote chapter and verse on many of the usual suspects in this case!) but for me it is all about capturing the flavour of the events depicted in a visual fashion. The usual film caveat of being 'based upon' what actually happened or of adding fiction against a historical backdrop is well known and as wargamers armed with our books of the period we are usually able to separate the wheat from the chaff. I do not rely on films for the hard facts but purely for the look of the thing.

 
Ali and Lawrence about to attack a Turkish column from Lawrence of Arabia


There are periods of history that keep coming back to as my interest waxes and wanes over time - invariably there is film that anchors it into my consciousness.


 
"The earth seemed proud to bear to many brave men" the review before the battle from Waterloo


Waterloo, Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, Spartacus, The Kingdon of Heaven, The Battle of Britain, Zulu, Lawrence of Arabia, The Sand Pebbles, A Bridge Too Far and others too numerous to mention are all a key part of my enjoyment of our hobby for the entertainment and visual motivation they provide.

 
Assaulting the walls of Jerusalem from The Kingdom of Heaven
 
Although a film about the period in question is a nice addition to inspiration pool for a project it is my no means obligatory. There are periods of history I am interested in that try as I might I have not been able to find any viewing material, at least not in English. This would not stop me from trying it out but having a visual medium to watch should certainly serve to aid the inspiration, at least it does for me.
 



Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Blocked in Crusaders

 


For the record this is not an 'ooh shiny' purchase - rather it is a substantial part of my long term Crusades project. I should add at this point that it is very firmly on the back burner - I reckon I have at least four other things to tackle beforehand - but the acquisition of the above game means that once I get around to it I will have everything I need to start. Actually that is probably not strictly true as there is always room for  the odd extra book at the very least. The written word is invariably my downfall and if there is one area that always suffers from 'project creep' it is with books.

Books are my weakness - my wargames Achilles heel so to speak.

Anyway, back to the business in hand. The above game is a strategic level depiction of the 3rd Crusade featuring Richard the Lionheart and of course Saladin. It is a fine game on a standalone basis but for me the extra value will be use it as a campaign canvas for a Portable Wargame based set up using the previously mentioned Risk figures or perhaps something else.

I am a great fan of Columbia games block based wargames as they are straightforward to play, are simple but not simplistic and have very good production values. One mechanic the games use is the 'fog of war'. Usually unit blocks are deployed on an edge with the strength side facing the owning player. This means that the opposition does not know the strength of a unit facing him or her until they attack it. Very simple and very effective.

In the meantime though, the ships take priority.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Terminators, Von Spee and Scenery

 
The same version I acquired except the box was slightly battered. Besides at £1.50 for 30 x 28mm plastic figures it was too good to turn down....


It has been a busy weekend - both on the domestic front and the gaming side. On the former I spent rather a lot of time on the phone organising the new buildings and contents insurance, the new energy provider, the travel insurance for our holiday next year and also the final part of the Christmas shopping for our grandson. I also (actually to be accurate is was very much a family affair) took a saw and some shears to the tree in our garden. It now looks rather forlorn but was hanging over next doors greenhouse, our shed and the washing line - so it really needed some TLC.

SWMBO assures me it will grow back although the two wheelie bins full of chopped up branch and leaves would suggest otherwise....

On the gaming front I managed to get some time in on the 1/2400th ships. Essentially the German destroyers have been cleaned up and the bases readied. I have used bases from Warbases and spent some time sealing them with some Rustins MDF Sealer. this is really good stuff as it has the effect of drying with a slightly rough finish which will take paint far more readily than the smooth and slightly shiny version straight out of the packet. the destroyers cleaned up very easily and had little in the way of flash. This evening I shall fix them to the bases and then make a start on their Royal Navy opposite numbers. This is a variation on how I usually do these things - normally I start with the battleships and work down - but I wanted to tackle these first as they are easier to do. they are the only models that do not require any assembly to start with, not to mention the fact that painting them will be a doddle.

 
Small in scale and therefore eminently gameable


With thoughts of the China Station and the East Asia Squadron I suppose it was inevitable that my thoughts gravitated towards the Coronel and the Falklands in 1914. With this thought in mind I was delighted to pick up a copy of the above. Edwin P. Hoyt was a prolific author and wrote many books on the fringe naval side of the Great War. I have three other titles of his in my collection and there are several more I would like to add in time. His works may not be the most technically detailed available but they are easy to read and give the all important flavour to the subject. It is no secret that I am huge fan of the old naval wargame standard of 'hunt the raider' so this is a welcome addition to the library.

I also managed to spend some time finishing off some scenery for my square gridded Portable Wargame style table. This is 3ft by 2ft and is divided into 3" squares (meaning 8 x 12). I had made half a dozen hills using spare Jenga blocks and some offcuts of model railway grass mat some time ago and these are now virtually finished. All I need to do is to trim the edges which will take place this evening and they are then good to go.

Finally, I picked up a copy of the board/miniatures game you se in the photo at the top of this post. As a Terminator fan I was pleased when this first came out but baulked at the price being asked. Several of my gaming friends have tried the rules and they were distinctly underwhelmed by the experience. No matter because even the rules are not quite what I would like the models would be usable with any set of Sci Fi rules. One thing that crossed my mind would be a Space Hulk style game - for which I will speak to the redoubtable Mr Fox for his thoughts....In any event, £1.50 for the game was pretty darned good.

I shall be posting later in the week as I hope to have some pictures of the ships under way. It only remains to leave the last word to Arnie himself...

 
Cheesy? Corney? Cliched?....Moi?


Thursday, 2 November 2017

More Risky Business

 
The front of the box....


I suppose this could be described as an 'Ooh Shiny' moment but then that would not be the first time (nor the last if truth be told) for me! I am rather fond of Risk although to be honest it is more to do with the components than the game itself.  Recent years have seen a myriad variants of this game produced ranging from Star Wars to the Walking Dead via Tolkien and even the Game of Thrones. For the most part they all tended to follow the original game with genre specific differences or flavour added. I noticed the above variant a couple of years ago and was mightily intrigued at the time - but not enough to splash the then £40 being asked for it. Anyway, to cut a long story short I came across a couple of sets at a price I could not refuse and so am now the proud owner of the same.

 
 
....and the rear.


What on earth for?

Well, the figures are very nice to start with and rather unusually for a Risk game there are four quite different figures mixes. A quick glance at the pictures will show that they have produced for each army very generic looking types for Frankish, Scandinavian, Eastern Europe and Euro-Asiatic types at around the 22mm scale in a softish plastic. Each army consists of 12 cavalry, 12 archers and 35 foot soldiers plus 4 siege engines.

 
The all important figures and raison d'etre for buying it the first place...


The game itself is card driven and is a lot more subtle than the 'classic' version of Risk as well as having a combat system that uses an order of precedence to determine outcomes - which probably explains why there are so many basic foot soldiers or ballista/trebuchet fodder....

I acquired two sets of this game (for rather less than half the price I originally saw it for sale although I believe it has come down in price) so am now placed in terms of medieval figures for use at some point. Essentially I could field a number of DBA/HOTTs armies or could even use then for Dragon/Lion Rampant. I will try to get some close up pictures of the figures so you can see what hey are like.

I do not consider myself to be medievalist to any great extent although I am interested in the crusades. I have also been wary of painting figures for the period but reckon these would be a likely candidate for my modest efforts at some point. Certainly from a cost perspective this has been a coup and if I am honest is probably the only way I would have tackled this period.

I am already thinking Portable Wargame, Portable Wargame....(but the ships I am working on come first!).

I also noticed that last month the number of blog posts I wrote actually got into double figures for the first time since August 2014....

Monday, 30 October 2017

Aircraft of the Aces by Del Prado

 
Now that is something you don't see everyday!


Well I certainly did not see this one coming! For the most part by this time of year the outdoor boot sales have closed up for the winter. However, in the village there is an indoor version that is held on the last Sunday of each month at the Rayleigh Mill Centre. To be honest it is not great and takes around a half an hour to view the entire thing. I have purchased a couple of things from there over the  years but to be honest usually score ‘nil point’ so to speak.

That changed in fairly dramatic fashion today though.

We were almost finished and about to leave when I noticed a box on the floor by a stall near the exit. It was a picture of an upside down biplane - later identified as a Sopwith Camel - which caught my eye. A closer inspection revealed it to be number 60 of the Aircraft of the Aces part work that was released as a ‘Del Prado/Osprey mash up’ magazine with a 1/100th scale die cast model with each issue and was around 1999 to 2001 (according to the internet of things).

 
You should be able to make out the titles of the volumes in the set - I did not fancy typing all 60 out!


I then realised what I was looking at - a complete set of the Aircraft of the Aces part work, sans the models. That is it. All 60 Osprey sized volumes covering aerial combat for WW1 to the Gulf War.

These volumes can still be picked up individually and they tend to go for around £5 a go on Ebay. the whole lot cost me £10....

£10 or roughly 16.66p each. It doesn't matter which part of the universe you come from - that is a bargain!

Each volume is 64 pages and they follow the general Osprey style format so there are lots of colour plates and ideas for paint jobs. If I was being ultra picky I would say there are some notable omissions from the line up - particularly heavy bombers - but this is offset by some titles covering less well known aspects of the air war (Finnish aces anybody?). The main bulk covers WW2 but WW1 has a tidy selection as does more modern air combat starting with Korea.

I am very fond of aerial war games and have played many board games over the years on the subject. Starting with Ricthofen's War, Wings and Aces High followed by Air Force, Dauntless (and the expansion kit) and Air War. More recently I have played Axis and Allies: Angels 20 and am also looking at 1/600th for both WW1 and WW2, for which I have a modest amount of kit.

All in all the above is a really nice addition to the collection and it will serve to give me much enjoyment when undertaking my aerial adventures.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Greek or Mediterranean Style Buildings

 
A small selection from my collection of buildings. Note the flat roof types that are equally at home representing Middle Eastern dwellings.


My recent return to the Mediterranean and matters Greek related (see my last post for why) have certainly given me some inspiration to get a block game together in some fashion. I was thinking about running a rear guard type of action - initially that covering the retreat to Waterloo - but reckon there is sufficient mileage in the Greek campaign to warrant a good look. It was with this thought in mind that whilst trawling back over some old blog posts (you would be surprised at what I found whilst doing so!) I came across the above picture of my collection of Greek style buildings.

I have around a couple of dozen of these of various shapes and sizes and they are usually sold a souvenirs. they are ceramic and glazed but look well enough on the table top. They have served me very well and have featured in many of my games. The great thing about them is that for the most part they have quite a small table footprint. Some of the buildings have also served for any Middle Eastern actions I have fought.

Mine have originated from three sources - boot sales, actual souvenirs (I purchased a small number when I was last in Corfu - and will probably do so again when we return there next summer) and as a present (with thanks to Bob Cordery for the latter).

They will be very useful for the British and Commonwealth forces to defend against the invading Germans....

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Britain and Greece in WW2

The above started life as a thesis but was then expanded into a book


I was browsing through Ebay over the weekend when I came across the above title going for a song - so I purchased it! I have long been interested in WW2 in the Mediterranean - more specifically the Greek theatre - and have a number of books about the fighting in the Aegean and of course the airborne invasion of Crete. The above title covers the Crete operation at the end of a sequence of political and diplomatic events that saw British and Commonwealth forces deployed in Greece to fight the Germans.

Whilst I am familiar with the Crete and Aegean theatres the early stages of the Greek affair on the mainland are something of a mystery to me so I hope this book will serve to round out my knowledge.

From a gaming perspective I consider the whole theatre to be of interest although how I would tackle it I am uncertain of. There is a lot of potential though and so this will be something to look at in the future.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

'Imagi-Naval' or a Chinese Takeaway

 
H.M.S. Eurylas of the ill-fated Cressy class of armoured cruisers. She avoided the torpedoing of Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy by having to return to port to recoal.


The present time is a very good example of the how the pattern of my wargames have gone since as far back as I can remember. Due to the recent arrival of the 1/2400th scale British and German ships - based on the China Station and East Asia Squadron - my naval wargame thoughts have been placed firmly in the South China Sea. this has been 'helped' by the recent publication of White Bear, Red Sun - a Russo Japanese campaign and tactical rule set by David Manley - and reading Edwin P. Hoyt's book The Fall of Tsingtao.

Aside from the above I have also accessed my own memories of the famous WW1 South East Asia naval campaign organised by Eric Knowles after the conclusion of Madasahatta in the late 1970s. this was set in the same area and became a much fought over part of the world - using 1/1200th scale models and a table based variant of the Fletcher Pratt naval rules.

 
An interesting read about the vital part played by the ships of the Red Sea Patrol in supporting the Arab Revolt.


This is all fine and dandy but I have, as usual, managed to deviate from what I was originally planning - and I was reminded of this by a quick glance at the bookshelf yesterday evening! The book in question that served to bring me back to what I should be looking at rather than what I am looking at is of course T. E. Lawrence and the Red Sea Patrol by John Johnson Allen. Now this is not a bad book although their are a couple of errors contained therein. What it does do though is to add the naval dimension to the Arab Revolt - ships of the desert meeting ships of the sea so to speak.

The ships of Red Sea Patrol consisted of some old Royal Navy cruisers and vessels from the Royal Indian Marine. My original plan - before getting sidetracked into the South China Sea that is - was to raise some expanded forces for the allies and allow for a larger German presence in East Africa. This ties together two of my favourite campaigns of the Great War - that of Lawrence and of Von Lettow Vorbeck. I have assumed that the main fleet units for both the Royal Navy and the Germans are safely back in home waters glaring at each other across the North Sea so the colonies have to make do with what they can from a naval perspective. This will typically out of date or second line vessels.

That is more or less the plan. It means that I can use a great variety of older types and also that the actions will typically be far more manageable in respect of numbers than driving great lines of dreadnoughts about.

Firstly though, the models need to be readied.


Monday, 23 October 2017

The 1/2400th Scale Tumbling Dice Collection

 
H.M.S. Monmouth - lost in action with Von Spee's East Asia Squadron at Coronel, 1914


I have made a number of assumptions with the models I have acquired for my next bout of naval gaming with the main one being that Great Britain did not sign any form of treaty with Japan and was therefore required to keep ships in the East. For the most part they have a numerical superiority over the Germans but the ships themselves are largely second line

The models I shall be using for my planned 1906 to 1910 'imagi-naval' set up have been sourced from Tumbling Dice and are based on the discount starter packs as follows.

The Royal Navy

2 x China Station Packs (MSP9) each consisting of :

1 x Centurion 1903 (ABB1a)
1 x Canopus (ABB5)
1 x Monmouth (ABB12)
1 x Drake (ABB15)
1 x Arrogant (ABB20)
1 x Pelorus (ABB22)

The additional models I added to this are as follows:

2 x Swiftsure (ABB9)
2 x Cressy (ABB14)
2 x Apollo (ABB26)
6 x Brazen (x 3 per pack) (ABB28)

This will give me 6 battleships, 6 armoured and 6 protected cruisers and 18 destroyers. All of the above (at least larger than destroyers in size) saw service overseas on a colonial basis. I intend deploying them anywhere from South China to the Red Sea.

 
S.M.S. Emden in China livery


The German Navy

1 x East Asia Squadron (1914) (MSP11) consisting of:

2 x Scharnhorst (ABG12)
2 x Bremen (ABG14)
2 x Emden (ABG16)
1 x Tramp Steamer (ABM2)

The additional models I added to this are as follows:

4 x Brandenberg (ABG2)
2 x Hertha (ABG7)
1 x Furst Bismarck (ABG10)
2 x Fraunlob (ABG15)
4 x S108 (x3 per pack) (ABG18)

The Germans then will have 4 battleships, 5 armoured cruisers, 6 light/protected cruisers and 12 destroyers. Their fleet has some very old and slow ships alongside the newer cruisers and although the Royal Navy outnumber the Germans in the  1914 East Asia Squadron they possess a modern and powerful force. It was for this reason I allowed the Swiftsure and Triumph to head East as a foil for the two German Scharnhorst class cruisers.

I may add some later armoured cruisers to the Royal Navy and perhaps a brace of modern light cruisers.

The bases for these models are currently on order as are the flags. Whilst I am waiting for them to arrive I can give some thought to the livery of the ships in question - do I go for China Station/Tropical White or should I go for the more practical overall grey?

At this stage I am leaning towards the overall grey simply because I will be using the ships for actions set during the Great War as well. In any event I have a few days to decide.

New Kit on the Blocks

 
The blocks revisited. For the key units of infantry, cavalry and artillery I have added a black and a white band. Black is intended for use with elite or 'heavy' types whilst the white is for 'light' types. the white band on the artillery block will also be used for horse artillery where there is a distinction between foot and horse.


In my previous post I mentioned that I had been revisiting the block armies with a view to using them in action once again. I also acknowledge the problem of following the action using them unless the narrative (and photos as well) is more closely aligned to what was happening on the table top. I had forgotten o mention though that after I had last used them I actually went and produced some additional types - with the intention of making identification a little less problematic when in action.

I am planning on producing some national flag blocks to work with the command block (the one at the top of the picture above) which will also give a better sense of nationality.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the sole reason I have gone to this trouble is merely to produce better, more viewer-friendly after action reports for the blog. This is partly true but it is also to address a need from a personal perspective. Having some variation within the same notional troop types makes the units more obvious.

Rather than just throwing an action together I want to spend more time in developing the back story and adding weight to the after action report so having units blocks that are more easily identifiable makes a lot of sense.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Figuring out the Blocks or Blocking out the Figures

 
A long time ago in a loft far, far away...The original full sized blocks (I still have most of these) in use on the Axis and Allies maps. The action is a Napoleonic 1815 inspired engagement in Belgium.


It seems quite incredible that the action pictured above took place nearly six years ago! I am of course referring to the very first game I undertook using my block armies. This was quite unique as it was one of the very few games that I fought using uncut Jenga blocks - these are now half sized - and my laminated Axis and Allies maps. As I recall I fought the action twice as the first time it was a little underwhelming as a game although the purple prose flowed rather nicely....

The game is in the Games folder but you can find it here should you want to read it.

One of the early decisions I took in respect of the block armies was that they would be used a test bed for various periods so I could fight actions prior to investing monies and time with painting etc. Since I have had the blocks the only painting I have tackled to any great degree has usually involved ships, other than the odd experiment with figures. I have a number of figure based projects to undertake ranging from 1/600th or 3mm up to the 54mm Sons of the Desert set up. However, first of all I need to get some ships painted which fortunately I am able to do fairly quickly using the famous 'Gow' technique. Of the figures themselves the 1/600th kit will feature first, mainly as I can get them painted and ready fairly quickly as well.

 
The blocks in their current iteration in use with the Portable Wargame (actually an earlier pre-publication version) rules.


So what does all this mean in the short term? Well, I shall be dragging the block armies out again and plan on using them in two similar ways. I will be making use of my Heroscape terrain with single blocks representing units and counters for hits suffered and I shall be using my Axis and Allies double sided and laminated maps with more usual Command and Colours/Portable Wargame sized units (the famous 4 infantry, 3 cavalry and 2 artillery standard).

One of the issues I have faced when using the block armies in the past is that the games can be quite hard to follow after all, one block looks very much like another. I have certainly been guilty of not giving sufficient back story to support the unfolding action in the past and having read some of my older posts can only agree with observation! When used as a '3D military map' it is important that the narrative supporting the pictures is relevant and provides the reader with the information they need to follow the action. When reading about a battle in a book for example, it can be frustrating if the text does not support the map at a given point or even vice versa. As a game should be a dynamic event it means that even more care needs to be taken to ensure that the action can be easily followed and, more importantly, impart a real sense of flavour  for the period.

With this in mind I shall be embarking on some new games (not before time as well!) but with a much tighter narrative to support the action. Some of my previously recorded games followed this approach quite closely and so made for a much more entertaining read - I am not talking about the 'purple prose' here - but the overall quality was very uneven. Oddly enough some of the least interesting games to play actually read quite well.

I enjoy writing but like everything else I do I am notoriously 'short-winded' and have an attention span that can best be described as variable. I need to ensure then that when I fight a battle I need to spend time properly preparing it and making sure that the action is clear and easy to understand and above all, entertaining.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Naval Evolutions or a Tale of Four Battleships

 
S.M.S. Worth under the flag of Imperial Germany


Back in the 1970s following the conclusion of the legendary Madasahatta campaign organised by Eric Knowles I was fortunate enough to have been asked to take part his next project. This was a naval campaign set in South East Asia starting at the outbreak of the Great War using 1/1200th scale ships and with a modified version of Fletcher Pratt being the rules of choice. I say modified because the actions were fought on an 8ft by 5ft dining table with movement distance being in the order or roughly 30 kts equalling 12" or thereabouts.

Time has dimmed the memory of how the campaign ran on a blow by blow basis but a few of the highlights have stayed with me.

The navies of Great Britain, Germany, USA, Russia, Japan, Austria, Italy and Turkey featured and yours truly was given command of the Turks - a decision which has led to my lifelong interest in the martial history of the Sublime Porte through the ages. As a young and experienced naval wargamer I took my new command very seriously and immediately besieged a local reference library for any copies of Jane's Fighting Ships. I was able to photocopy the complete 1914 Jane's entry for the Turks and set about producing the requisite models. I scratchbuilt the battle cruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau as well as the two protected cruisers Hamedieh and Mejidieh whilst the rest of the fleet came from a variety of sources. The old ironclad Messudieh was represented by a Mercator model (or it may have been Navis) of HMS Nile and the two old German pre dreadnought battleships Brandenburg and Worth were converted from a Minifigs Iron Duke type dreadnought with a couple of turrets removed (bear in mind The Minifigs ships are 1/1800th or thereabouts so are smaller than the preferred 1/1200th).

Mention of the these two venerable old German warships is the main raison d'etre for this post for reasons which will become clear in due course. Suffice it to say that during the aforementioned campaign they were surprisingly effective as both were generously armoured and had a useful main battery of 6 x 11". At the time we fought the campaign no allowance was made for the types of armour used nor of such consideration as length of guns barrels being used - two of the Brandenburg's 11" weapons were short barrelled so had a lesser range (think of the 75mm gun used on the Panzer 4D as opposed to the F2 version for a similar comparison).

Looking back the campaign was a lot of fun but if I am honest the rules really did not work on the tactical side but as we were all under the same handicap it did not matter. If I were to do the same again though I would happily use Fletcher Pratt rules on a table top but with smaller models instead.

Many years after the end of the campaign I raised the Turkish Navy again - this time in 1/3000th - along with the Greeks, Bulgarians and the Black Sea Russians. I fought a number of actions with these models (they posts are in the games folder) but something was not right about the scale. I think for me that 1/3000th as a scale is better for actions where the models are larger which means dreadnoughts etc. As ships tended to be larger in WW2 I think this is where it comes into its own. 1/3000th scale pre dreadnoughts now seem too small for my taste - perhaps it is an age thing.

1/2400th is a different kettle of fish though as the extra size makes for models that have greater presence on the table top. I have flirted with this scale for the Jutland project and it was a revelation for me as to how much better the models look when deployed. The problem though is that there are very few UK manufacturers in this scale meaning using imports from the US - GHQ and C in C being a good examples or even Panzerschiffe. An honourable mention could also be made of Shapeways or the War Times Journal. Anything from the US invariably means high postage and possible customs charges - all of which add to the cost.

Now lets be honest, GHQ and C in C models are beautiful. They are highly detailed and to my mind are more models than gaming pieces. Panzerschiffe are at the other end of the scale and are more gaming pieces than models - each have their advocates. For my taste the GHQ models are too good to be used for gaming - there are far too many small parts that will either fall off or break under the stress of heavy handling during a game. Again, just my opinion. They are also pretty expensive when you are looking at raising large forces. As an aside a chap in the blogosphere raised the forces for Jutland using GHQ models - they looked superb.

Luckily help is at hand. Tumbling Dice: Age of Battleships is a range of models for the pre dreadnought era that cover at present the Russian, Japanese, Spanish, American, British and German navies with the Austrians and Italians to follow later this year and the French in 2018. There is also a very useful selection of assorted merchantmen (aka targets....) for the period. With the recent release of the Germans for the period I took the plunge and acquired some RN and German types - notionally for overseas use rather than the Home Fleet. Paul at Tumbling Dice has produced some discounted starter sets which I took advantage of. Essentially I have two of the China Station RN packs and some extras (including Triumph and Swiftsure) in the shape of cruisers and destroyers and for the Germans I have the East Asia Squadron (the 1914 version) plus the earlier Boxer Rebellion East Asia force. Guess what? All four of the Brandenburg class took part in this so the Germans now have a quite healthy force - especially as I have also added some destroyers.

I will post some pictures of the models in due course as they are very nice indeed. I would describe them as being detailed but not to the GHQ standard which means they are far 'safer' to use for gaming. This is not in anyway a criticism though! They are quite reasonably priced and the number of parts that require assembly is limited mainly to funnels and military masts. Take a look at the Tumbling Dice website and you will see some pictures.

Of the Brandenburg models themselves they are really quite delightful and I shall enjoy using them in due course - with the armour and main guns properly accounted for naturally!