Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Happy New Year!

I hope 2021 is going to be better than this one now heading out the door with the collective boot-prints of humanity on its backside!

It was a less than stellar year for my corner of the hobby. I did get some games in, but far fewer than I hoped. I made a few models, which is all to the good. I even got into a new period - the First Barons War of 1215-17 - for which I'll use Lion Rampant rules. A recent buy of Medieval Warfare Vol VIII 2 on the war, and WSS 13 on the Crusades will help research. 

Plans for next year... Develop the Lion Rampant retinues, and get some games in. Revisit the Dux Britanniarum campaign, and develop the Pre-Dreadnought set-up for a solo campaign. Nothing too ambitious, and within my current resources. So, as the final hours of this dreadful year tick away, I wish you all a much better, peaceful and prosperous 2021.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Shake shake shake that... bottle.

I hope you all had a pleasant Christmas? My wife and I spent it at home since the weather turned too nasty to venture out. I did make some progress on the First Barons War Lion Rampant collection. Here's the mounted men-at-arms of the Earl of Norfolk's retinue under way. A huddle of archers stand behind them, and foot men-at-arms stand to the right.

There's not a great deal to do on these now. The Lion Rampant rules are geared to units of six or twelve figures, with four or five units to a retinue. I find dealing with small batches of smaller scale figures is about all I can cope with lately. Such feelings seem to be common in our hobby these Covid-ridden days. 

One issue I did solve quite handily and that's the problem of settled paints. I rigged up a contraption to adapt my electric saw for the job. The components are three screws, a washer, a section of plywood, a dowel, a large pill bottle with child-proof cap, and the handyman's secret weapon - duct tape! Legal caveat - Don't try this at home!

The paint pot is slipped inside the pill bottle and the cap secured. A ten second burst of this device mixes the most settled of paints. I need a lot of yellow and red for the Earl's retinue colours, and they're always the most difficult pigments to keep mixed well. Even yellow had to give way to this. It'll do away with having to pitch paint pots because they're solidified.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

A Merry Christmas!


I'm taking a break over the next day or so to enjoy the holiday with my loved ones. I'll probably slip in a painting session on my 15mm medieval figures now and then. Next post should be the unveiling of my useful, effective (and possibly dangerous) method of mixing model paints. So, to all my readers and followers, have a Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 20, 2020

Christmas Shiny Metal

My box of shiny medieval heavy metal arrived from Noble Knight Games yesterday. The company mailed it within 24 hours of ordering. It then took nineteen days from the order being mailed to its delivery. I do NOT blame the USPS one bit for the delay. It has to deal with staff going sick and even dying of Covid-19, political shenanigans, and a marked increase in holiday mailing as people reach out to family and friends on a more personal level in these troubling times. The PO does well to get mail through. Kudos to them.

Anyway, now I have my camera back, here are a couple of photos. First shows Essex Miniatures crossbowmen on the left, Blue Moon (Old Glory) mounted serjeants on the right.

And unpacked.

The mounted figures come in three pieces - horse and bottom part of rider, top half of rider, and kite shield. The hand is open to take a weapon, which I'm pleased about because it'll allow me to fit wire lances. The crossbowmen have separate weapons.

Size-wise they're a little larger than Minifigs so really not compatible, but the serjeants will be in two distinct and separate units of six so it won't be a factor. As for the crossbowmen, at this stage of the game I've had enough trouble with this project so I choose to mix 'em up and ignore the difference. 

Next up will be to clean what little flash and mold lines there are then plunge them into a detergent wash for a day or so. 

One small nuisance is the fact my paints have settled out over time due to little use. I'm working on a gadget to shake the bottles up without incurring repetitive strain injury, so watch this space - providing it works.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Gettin' into the painting groove

A dull and snowy day here. The galleys for my next book are about done. The cover artist is busily at work, so I decided to take time off to slap some pigment on the 15mm medieval figures so recently stripped of their old paint. What a chore! The Simple Green worked in the end, but I found the figures have to still be wet from their immersion for the old paint to come away under the scrubbing of an old toothbrush. If they dry up even a little the softening effect of the chemical wears off. I really don't think I shall bother doing anything of the kind again. No photos I'm afraid, as I don't have anything to take them with at the moment.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Once more unto the bleach...

Thanks for all the comments on the attempt to strip paint off the old figures, and suggestions for alternatives. I appreciate them. 

A closer examination of the figures once they'd dried off revealed the Simple Green had some effect on the old paint. It took most of the shine off the awful gloss the previous owner had used, and in some places the bare metal showed through. So, after a bit of thought I decided to pitch the lot back into another batch of the green stuff for another 48-72 hours to see what would happen. Watch this space...

Monday, December 7, 2020

A disappointing result

The experiment of using Simple Green as a paint stripper failed. Although the container has a healthy number of warning labels to the effect that it's corrosive, etc. etc, it hasn't done a thing to remove the ancient enamel paint on the figures after 72 hours soaking. Even a more recent attempt at painting over the figures with modern acrylics was left untouched.

Not a pretty sight.

At this stage of the proceedings I'm inclined to give up the whole paint removal idea as a bad job and simply move on to painting over the existing paint. The figures are back in water to remove the last traces of Simple Green. Once that's done they'll get dried off and onto the painting block.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Acting on an Anonymous tip-off...

It makes me sound like the late Shaw 'Keep 'em peeled' Taylor of Police 5 fame, but no. My previous post on stripping old paint off figures drew an excellent suggestion that I use Simple Green instead of isopropyl alcohol for the purpose as it's much more effective, so I toddled forth yesterday to buy some. 

The 15mm First Barons War figures are now in a pot full of Simple Green to soak for 24 hours. In the meantime according to the tracking number my order for crossbowmen and mounted serjeants was mailed by Noble Knight Games in excellent time, but has languished at a sorting office in Madison, WI for the past four days. Presumably this has something to do with Covid handling practices. It's a bit frustrating, but I'll use the waiting time to get on with the stuff I already have.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Ramping up for Rampant.

So, I got hold of the rules for Lion Rampant - good start. Now I can see what's required, and the answer is = not much beyond what I already have - also good. I placed an order for some crossbowmen and mounted serjeants (correct spelling) to round out the retinues and give a more flexible choice of troop types. My Dux Brit forces can double up where necessary, particularly the civilian figures, and there's not that much difference between a a Romano-British hovel and a later medieval one, so my Dux Brit scenery will be useful too.

At the moment I'm waiting until we have enough items to get from the shops before buying a bottle of isopropyl alcohol to strip the old paint from most of the figures. In these mad, bad Covid times it pays not to expose yourself unduly to infection.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

First, strip your figures...

Hauling the figures off the lead pile the other day made me look again at the collection of Minifigs 15mm medieval stuff I was given years ago. I now think they're far more appropriate for the First Barons War of 1215-1217, when King John refused to abide by the terms of Magna Carta, sparking a revolt in the Kingdom. This is a good thing because it means more actions were fought than occurred during the later war, and the abortive French involvement gives scope for another faction. 

The only issues I have with these is they will need broken spears and lances replaced (an unfortunate fact of life with Minifigs), and the existing paint has to be stripped off. The replacement is going to be a bugger, involving trimming off the broken parts and drilling out the hands to accept wire spears and lances. A look online turned up many different methods for stripping old paint off figures, but soaking them in isopropyl alcohol for a couple of days seems to be the easiest and cheapest for me to use.

Rules-wise, I read good things of Lion Rampant. The collection I have now is adequate for a couple of core retinues, and I'll only need some mounted sergeants and a few more crossbowmen to have a diverse force to choose from.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Doctors Who and Friends

I've not really been in the mood for gaming lately, so I thought I'd see what my lead pile had to offer by way of a diversion. I found a set of Black Tree Designs 28mm Doctor Who figures and a batch of Minifig 15mm archers from the 13th century Barons' War which have lurked in the pile for way too long. 

I wondered if the archers could double as Saxon bowmen, since they have the same overall look, but these chaps have hoses and pointed shoes, and their ammunition is thrust through their belts, which I don't think was a Saxon custom. I have a pile of other figures from this period, so I may paint them up over time. Since we're under a COVID curfew which may well turn into another lockdown order, I suspect I'll have time enough...       

Monday, November 16, 2020

Post naval game thoughts

It's been a few years since I played a game using Paul Hague's rules, but I picked them up again quickly. They're a good fairly basic set, which can be built upon if you want more complication in your naval gaming. 

I added a further two Critical Hit incidents in the shape of Fire and Severe Fire, since these seem to have occurred quite often during battles of the pre-Dreadnought period, the fate of HMS Black Prince at Jutland being one example. In her last moments the armoured cruiser was seen blazing from stem to stern as she sailed into the night after stumbling into the entire German battlefleet at close range. In a recent dive on her wreck a survey showed Black Prince went down fighting, as her torpedo launch cradles were extended.

Revised Critical Hits table.

  1. Magazine hit

  2. Rudder hit

  3. Director/Gunnery control position destroyed

  4. Bridge and Conning tower destroyed

  5. Fire breaks out. Inflicts normal projectile damage, plus one extra box. Burns at one box per round until extinguished on a d6 roll of 4-6 or until vessel sinks.

  6. Severe fire breaks out. Inflicts normal projectile damage, plus two extra boxes. Burns at two boxes per round until extinguished on a d6 roll of 5-6 or until vessel sinks.

  7. Turret.

  8. Turret.

    Fire. The impact inflicts normal projectile damage, plus one extra box on the record sheet. Burns at one box per round until extinguished on a d6 roll of 4-6 or ship sinks.

    Severe fire. The impact inflicts normal projectile damage, plus two extra boxes. Burns at two boxes per round until extinguished on a d6 roll of 5-6 or ship sinks.

In my recent game the battleship SMS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse suffered three critical hits to her rudder in the same turn - something really out of the ordinary. In this case as per the rules I rolled a die to determine whether the rudder had jammed to port, starboard or ahead (In this case it was starboard). I then created a house rule that states three shells smashing into the stern totally wrecks the steering beyond the ship's company's capacity to effect repairs at sea, and will also inflict regular shell hit damage, meaning the stricken ship loses power through damage to the propellers. 

At the moment I'm still working out the mechanisms for running a solo naval campaign. Something along the lines of episodic encounters may be the way to go. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Taking some down time

Sadly my Mother passed away on Monday morning after a long illness. Thankfully my family is there to support my Father in this trying time. Regrettably my wife and I are unable to travel to the UK to be with them and attend the funeral due to the impossible situation caused by COVID-19. I'll be taking a few days off for mourning. My thoughts on the recent naval game will appear here in a week or so.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Battle of the Humber ~ Part 2, conclusion

 A week later than intended, here's the final part of the naval engagement off England's East Coast.

Following the torpedo hit on SMS Kaiser Barbarossa, the battleship's commander reported severe damage and flooding, leading to reduced speed. The German admiral commanding saw little point continuing the mission. The strict injunction to preserve the fleet sat at the back of his mind, steering everything he did. He ordered the Barbarossa to turn out of line and make best speed back to the Jade Bay. His light cruiser screen moved astern of the battle squadron, ready to deploy to the west or south on the guerre du course mission should opportunity arise. Ahead, the armoured cruisers SMS Roon and Yorck engaged in their own private battle with their opposite numbers in the Royal Navy. 

Some twelve thousand yards to the northwest the admiral could see the oncoming British Majestic class battleships. Their four 12 inch guns outweighed his own fleet's 11 inch. Reluctantly he gave the order for the battleships and armoured cruisers to make the gefechtskertwendung maneuver in five minutes' time.

Moments later the two battleship squadrons opened fire on each other. The air filled with the rumble of huge shells passing overhead, followed by the shattering impact as a few found their mark. SMS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, leading the German squadron shuddered as a 12 inch shell penetrated her forward turret. The superior German ammunition handling process ensured the blast was confined to the turret and munitions trunk, but the damage was severe. Across the waters HMS Majestic suffered an identical blow as her forward turret shattered under the impact of an 11 inch shell.

Disaster struck minutes later. As the gefechtskertwendung order took effect the British battleships concentrated their fire upon the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. The battleship shuddered under multiple 12 inch impacts which destroyed her bridge and steering. What was left of the rudders jammed hard to starboard. Unable to respond to helm or orders the vessel lurched out of line and into the path of the oncoming British.

The end wasn't long coming. Although Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse managed to destroy the after turret of HMS Magnificent she soon succumbed to the concentrated fire of the British fleet. With her captain and first officer killed, a junior lieutenant attempted to strike the colours to save what few lives remained, but he was too late. Roon and Yorck sped by the shattered and sinking hulk a few hundred yards away, eager to make distance between themselves and the enemy before they shared their comrade's fate.

To the south the retreating battle squadron reformed with the damaged and listing Kaiser Barbarossa then shaped a course due east toward Jade Bay. The light cruiser squadron was given orders to harry British shipping along the East Coast as far as they dared before returning home.

The British admiral commanding was wrong-footed by the German's sudden retreat. He was also concerned by the apparent detachment of the enemy's light cruisers and was anxious to drive them off before they inflicted harm on British ports and shipping. The Apollo class light cruisers passing north of the British battle line should have been in position to respond to his orders to pursue either their enemy counterparts or the battleships. Instead they seemed keen to protect their badly damaged consort HMS Intrepid. It was all of a piece with the cruiser commander's performance during the battle, where his ships were badly exposed to superior enemy forces and kept getting in the way of his own maneuvers. A few well chosen and pithy words in the admiral's final report would see the man transferred to command a fishing protection squadron based on Newfoundland if he had any say in the matter.

So endeth the battle try-out of Paul Hague's rules. I've had a number of technical issues in getting this post done and on the blog, so I'll write some thoughts of the game and the rules another time.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Battle of the Humber ~ Part 1

Action was joined between the defending Royal Navy and the German composite squadrons off the Humber estuary this afternoon. Due to severely annoying technical difficulties I'll post the AAR in two installments. 

The German light cruiser squadron commodore aboard SMS Endine peered through the binoculars at the oncoming British and assessed his options. The temptation to turn to starboard to meet them was strong, but he saw it wouldn't be wise. For one, it would separate him from his battleship charges. For another a starboard turn by his British counterparts would enable them to cross his T. Instead he continued on course and summoned the other two ships of his squadron, Gazelle and Frauenlob, from their station to the south, directing them to thread through the battleship divisions and join him.

The light cruisers opened fire at 12,000 yards range, with HMS Intrepid and Naiad concentrating their fire upon SMS Endine, and HMS Apollo and Andromache focusing on SMS Nymphe. Endine returned fire at Intrepid, and Nymphe at Andromache. The 6-inch guns of the aging British protected cruisers soon made their mark on the leading German cruiser. 

The armoured cruisers HMS Sutlej and Bacchante headed by four destroyers maneuvered to the west of the British cruiser screen, aiming to head off the advancing German armoured cruisers before they could reach the estuary. To the south of the German formation the battleships had to make a slight course correction to allow the cruisers to pass through. Ahead of them the armoured cruisers Roon and Yorck accelerated to maximum speed in an attempt to pass the oncoming British and reach the Humber. 

The light cruiser action grew heated as the British squadron turned on a parallel course to their German counterparts, closing the range to 8,000 yards. Both SMS Endine and HMS Intrepid heading their respective columns began to suffer under the onslaught.

The Roon saw an opening and opened fire on HMS Intrepid. Three 8.2 inch shells slammed into her, causing immense damage and forcing her out of the line. The ship's company of Roon could spare little time to celebrate as they saw the dark shark-like shapes of British destroyers slipping ahead of their big sisters to line up for torpedo shots. The German torpedo boats advanced to engage their counterparts.

As the range closed further the action became general. HMS Intrepid staggered out of the line and steered away from the conflict. Her ship's company were cheered to see the oncoming might of the battleship squadron. Across the water SMS Endine also fell out of line, the 6 inch shells having severely battered her hull. SMS Nymphe took the lead and became the focus of the British cruisers' fire. 

Fierce defensive fire from both sides virtually obliterated the destroyer and torpedo boat flotillas. Two British destroyers succeeded in launching their torpedoes at the German armoured cruisers before succumbing, but both shots missed. Two other destroyers survived the bloodbath only to find themselves between a rock and a hard place. The British cruiser squadron also found themselves where cruisers had no right to be - between the armoured behemoths of the rival fleets. Their situation became starkly clear as the armoured cruisers HMS Sutlej and Bacchante began to fire upon Roon and Yorck and the air filled with the express train-like rumble of passing 9.2 inch shells.

Seeing the British battleship squadron looming up ahead the German light cruiser commodore ordered a gefechtskertwendung (battle turn-away). The squadron flagship SMS Endine, unable to comply due to severe battle damage, made her own way, turning eastwards away from the British battleships.

To the southeast, Yorck's captain couldn't resist the easy target that came under his guns. HMS Naiad paid the price for boldness as three 8.2 inch shells shredded her hull, sending her to the bottom within seconds.

The end of Naiad.

However, German triumph proved short-lived. HMS Spiteful, one of the two surviving destroyers, managed to slip through the smoke and fumes of combat unseen to close with the German battleship squadron and fire her torpedo at SMS Kaiser Barbarossa. The battleship responded with a full barrage from her 5.9 inch secondary guns, obliterating Spiteful in an instant, but it was too late. With less than 4,000 yards to go the torpedo ran fast and true, finding its mark on the Barbarossa's starboard quarter. It detonated with a tremendous roar, sending a spreading plume of dirty black water soaring hundreds of feet in the air. The massive ship shuddered and lurched sideways as the blast wiped out her forward secondary guns. Her speed dropped immediately to twelve knots. Only the excellent German watertight partitioning system saved Barbarossa from worse flooding.

Kaiser Barbarossa takes a solid torpedo hit even as her tormentor is destroyed.

The cruiser squadron disposed of Spiteful's sister ship, HMS Syren, before she could fire her torpedo. Even this minor victory soured as the roar of six inch guns to the north announced the British battleships were coming into action. HMS Magnificent's secondary battery had come to bear on the badly damaged SMS Endine. The aim was true and the wounded flagship disappeared in a hail of shellfire, taking the commodore with her. 

The German Admiral Commanding aboard the flagship SMS Weissenburg remained outwardly stoic in the face of developments, but inwardly he cringed. It now seemed obvious that British naval intelligence had given the Home Fleet sufficient warning to scupper his plans. The aim of getting at least the armoured cruisers into the Humber estuary to wreak havoc on shipping and - time permitting - shore facilities no longer looked possible. A swift revision of his assets brought up a new idea. 

If his armoured cruisers and battleships could damage or destroy the surviving British cruisers the Home Fleet would no longer have vessels to hand fast enough to keep up with his light cruisers. He could order them to conduct a fast raid on the Humber and its shipping, or perhaps a swift guerre de course along England's East Coast. He himself could order a gefechtskertwendung, so directing the squadron home, hopefully fending off the British Home Fleet's attacks as he progressed...

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Game's Afoot

 ...or in this case, afloat. 

Real life is so getting in the way lately, but I managed to clear my gaming table after adding some much-needed storage space beneath it. I have the opportunity to play test Paul Hague's naval rules as it's been years since the last game I played to them. I've set up a simple encounter action, with numerically equal forces of British and Germans. 

German squadron to the southeast, British to the Northwest. Game on!

The premise is that the Moroccan Crisis turned hot in late April, 1905. A German squadron of four battleships supported by two armoured and four light cruisers plus a quartet of torpedo boats assembled in the Jade Bay then surged across the North Sea, intent on destroying shipping in the Humber estuary. If time and circumstances permit it will also bombard the port of Hull. 

Fortunately for the British, the Admiralty signals intelligence bureau intercepted the German naval transmissions, decrypted them and provided three hours' warning to the fleet. A near-equal squadron of four battleships, two armoured cruisers, four light cruisers and four destroyers headed south from the Firth of Forth, intent upon intercepting the German force before it could reach its target. 

A mere forty miles from Hull the German lookouts spy heavy funnel smoke to the Northwest through the showery North Sea weather. At first the German admiral thinks it's a cruiser force conducting a patrol, but more smoke beyond these turns out to be armoured cruisers then battleships. The Royal Navy is on an intercept course, but the German admiral believes he can fend off the enemy long enough to do at least some damage to merchant shipping before heading for home.

I still have work to do putting the garden to bed for the year then I have the last bit of a windbreak to erect. Once all that's out the way I'll get on with the game. Watch this space...

Sunday, October 4, 2020


I haven't posted for a while since I was busy these past few weeks. The Man Cave walls are freshly painted a cheerful shade of yellow, getting rid of the awful beige walls once and for all. Coco Chanel may have championed the use of the putrid shade for interior decorating purposes but it does nothing for me. Edits for my next book are done, with only the cover art to be finalised. The bookends are done and delivered.With all that complete, I knocked out a quick piece of scenery for the naval gaming set up, in the shape of a massive explosion marker.

Paul Hague's rules allow for critical hit magazine explosions which utterly destroy capital ships, so I thought it time I made a marker for the occasion. 

Bang in progress

Bang done. The unfortunate SMS Weissemburg gets to model this fetching design.

I modelled it in much the same way as the torpedo hit markers I made earlier this year. Strips and irregular chunks of foam rubber were glued together. The process differed when I gave the assembled piece a good dose of spray adhesive, then shook dry, baked coffee grounds all over it. Once dried and stuck fast, I gave it the final touch, a go-over with Krylon black spray. The photo shows it as more brown that it looks in real life. I don't anticipate needing it more than once in any game move, but knowing my dice luck it might well turn out that I'll need two or three more.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Thoughts on Destroyers and similar beasts

Paul Hague's naval rules are focused on the Dreadnought era, which also work well for pre-Dreadnought fleets except when it comes to early destroyers. Light cruisers have record cards showing one box per hundred displacement tons, and since the class at this time displaced around a thousand tons this works out at ten or so boxes per ship record card. However, at this stage of the destroyer's development the type typically displaced two to four hundred tons - scarcely bigger than their torpedo boat prey - which equates to two or four speed damage boxes on the record card. 

A destroyer of this era would carry a couple of torpedo tubes and have a QF 12 pdr main armament if British, or a 50mm up to 88mm if German. Their speed averaged around 30 knots. 

The record card below shows the stats I worked up for the Royal Navy's '30 Knotter' class. I rounded up the displacement to give four boxes for speed, and ignored the 6 pdr secondary guns. 

In 1913 the nine surviving '30 knotters' were reclassified as the D-class in an attempt to get a more consistent naming convention for destroyers. Up until then the method was haphazard at best.

When it comes to inflicting damage I have to refine things a little more. The smallest weapon in Hague's rules is the 4 inch gun, the typical armament of destroyers in the First World War. I lump all the typical pre-Dreadnought destroyer's armament together and say the weapons inflict a total 1/2 point damage on a light ship target (Under the rules only guns of 7.5 inch and greater can inflict damage on capital ships). When it comes to recording this half point damage I'll shade the relevant box in grey or red. Another half point will turn it black and the vessel's fighting capability is reduced accordingly.

I'll probably get a trial game in sometime towards the end of the month. The weather has passed the hellishly hot and humid summer heat and settled in for a prolonged mild spell. It means I can now open the doors and windows and paint my man cave walls without getting fumigated or inviting a swamp into our home.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

North Sea chart ~ v. 1.1

A bit of thought over this chart showed a slight modification was in order. I added the main Royal Navy base at Portsmouth and the openings to the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal (now the Kiel Canal) as these would be logical targets for attack or blockade.

Many years ago I read an account of the Hughes and Suffren naval campaigns of 1782-1783 waged off the Coromandel coast of India. It's a nice self-contained project requiring relatively few ship models and a definite time limit for those who'd care to look into it. Feeling a bit nostalgic I searched online for any accounts of these actions, and I happily found David Manley's rules for the Hughes-Suffren campaigns in pdf form. There's a number of mechanisms for campaign movement which I think can be adapted to fit pre-Dreadnought warfare, so I'm going to work on these and see what I can do. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

A Dangerous Quality ~ Book 1 of the Veronica Nash murder-mysteries

A cross-post now from my day job.

Murder comes to stay at the Chesterton Hotel...

Cover art by Martine Jardin

Norwich, England, Autumn 1922.

When Great War hero Captain Sylvester Brooke dies at the hotel where she works, Veronica Nash is certain someone murdered him. She investigates—and plunges into a dangerous case of deception, blackmail, and an unspeakable crime.

A Dangerous Quality ~ Out Now at Devine Destiny Books.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

On bookends and such

I'm taking a slight hiatus from gaming related stuff to make a set of these 'fantasy inn' bookends for a customer. 

I'm open to commissions, so if anyone would like a set of these or bookends on any other theme, drop me a line.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Brandenburg-class battleships ~ record cards

And so on to the Brandenburg class, Germany's first sea-going battleships. Comprising SMS Brandenburg, Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm, Weissenburg, and Wörth, the class came into service in 1893, and had an unusual arrangement of three main gun turrets that foreshadowed the armament layout of the Dreadnoughts. The centre pair of guns were of shorter calibre than the others in order to avoid fouling the deck houses. With a respectable broadside of six 11 inch guns, 15 inch average thickness of armour belt and 16.5 knots speed, they could about hold their own against a Royal Navy battleship of the same period. 

Against the wishes of Admiral Tirpitz in 1900 the class was sent in its entirety to reinforce the German East Asia Squadron during the Chinese Boxer Rebellion. Commanded by Konteradmiral Richard von Geißler, they arrived too late to do more than contribute to mopping up operations. They served with the fleet until the increasing numbers of Dreadnought class battleships made them obsolete. 

Ottoman Odyessey

When Kaiser Wilhelm II began to make diplomatic overtures to the Ottoman Empire, Weissenburg and Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm were sold to the Turks in September-October 1910. Renamed Torgud Reis and Barbaros Hayreddin, respectively, after famous Ottoman admirals, they saw service against the Italians (then nominal German allies) and again in the series of Balkan Wars, providing artillery support to Ottoman ground forces in Thrace and engaging Greek ships during the ineffective naval skirmishes at Battle of Elli and Lemnos. A lack of suitably trained crew led to a steady degrading of the ships' sailing and fighting capacity, and they suffered badly in two encounters with the Greek navy armored cruiser Georgios Averof, leaving them in poor shape just two years after delivery.

Even so, both Torgud Reis and Barbaros Hayreddin managed to give a good account of themselves in the Dardanelles Campaign, shelling ANZAC troops along Gallipoli. Barbaros Hayreddin/Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm was dispatched by a single torpedo from Royal Navy HMS E11, which had penetrated the Sea of Marmara, in August 1915, sinking with half her crew.

After the war the two ships were in poor shape. Torgud Reis was repaired and remained on active duty until at least 1933 and endured as an accommodations hulk for another two decades, only being broken in the late 1950s. With that, I believe she was one of the final 19th Century pre-Dreadnoughts left. Two turrets were removed from her in 1925 and repurposed into coastal artillery to cover the Dardanelles, where they remain to this day


Sunday, August 23, 2020

Apollo Second class Protected Cruisers

A little more progress with the record cards for pre-Dreadnought games. These are for the Royal Navy's Apollo-class. Under the rules the number of secondary armament guns and any torpedo tubes is halved to represent weapons bearing on each broadside being knocked out.

Technically the class was obsolete by 1903, most of them being laid-up. In 1908 Apollo and six others of her class were converted to mine-layers. I'm giving them a little longer lease of life.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Old School Naval Rules

Wonder of wonders I finally managed to lay hold of my copy of Paul Hague's Sea Battles in Miniature naval rules.

My interest here is the WW1 rules, which covers pre-Dreadnoughts quite handily. They are old school, which suits me fine since I'm not looking for complexity. The scale is for 1/4800, but can be adapted for the larger 1/2400 without trouble.

Hague divides warships into Capital and light ships. Each type has its own style of record card. I made out a set for the German Kaiser Frederich III class, shown below. 

Once I have a few sets of records made up for both sides I'll play a game to refamiliarise myself with the flow of play.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

London calling

HMS London, that is, along with Bulwark, Venerable, Queen and Prince of Wales.

A powerful squadron of London class battleships and Cressy class armoured cruisers patrol off Cape Trafalgar of blessed memory.

Three London class ships were laid down in 1898. Comprising London, Bulwark, and Venerable they completed in 1902. HMS Queen and Prince of Wales followed, being laid down in 1901 and completed in 1904. The latter were more properly a sub-class of the London, being identical externally but with a different arrangement of armour plating. The class served in Home waters and the Mediterranean.

All but Bulwark survived the First World War. Bulwark became a casualty at 7.50am on November 26th, 1914 when an explosion ripped her apart as she lay at anchor in the River Medway. The explosion cost the lives of over seven hundred men and was heard as far away as London. At first sabotage was suspected, but as she had taken on ammunition the day before it was later thought that a defective lyddite shell was the culprit.

At the moment I'm trying to track down my copy of Sea Battles in Miniature by Paul Hague. The book was published in 1981, and has a number of rules sets for periods all the way from ancient galley warfare to the First World War. I remember the latter rules give a great, quick game and think they'd be preferable to the overly-complex sets I have now.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Cressy class joins the fleet.

"Being in all respects ready for sea..."

A warm weekend saw the completion of the six armoured cruisers for the pre-Dreadnought Royal Naval force. The models are simple in design and execution, but I think they look the part.

Front division - Cressy, Sutlej, Aboukir. Rear division - Hogue, Euryalus, Bacchante.

In the First World War the class had the unhappy distinction of losing half its number in a single encounter with the enemy.

Early morning, September 22nd 1914: HMS Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue as part of 7th Cruiser squadron were patrolling between the German minefields in the southern North Sea and the edge of Dutch territorial waters. The ships steamed at around 10 knots and were not zig-zagging against submarine attack. Hours before, the squadron's destroyer screen had been forced to return to port due to bad weather. A few days earlier First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill had ordered that such cruisers were not to operate without a destroyer screen, yet for some reason his order had not passed down the chain of command. The cruiser squadron's movements were repetitive, and the German naval staff were well aware of its position.

At 6.30am the squadron was about 30 miles west of Ymuiden when an explosion shattered the side of Aboukir, which began to sink. Orders had not then been given for vessels not to approach a sinking comrade. Assuming Aboukir had struck a mine, the Hogue immediately sailed to the rescue - only to be hit by two torpedoes, sinking ten minutes later. Aboukir went down after twenty five minutes. Cressy then approached and remained stopped to pick up survivors. As she began to move away two more torpedoes found their mark on her hull. She capsized and quickly sank.

The culprit was German submarine U9 commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Weddigen, a 500-ton boat armed with four torpedo tubes and six torpedoes. Weddigen reported that the cruisers were easy targets, and the highly-successful action stimulated German development of submarine warfare.

Sixty-two officers and one thousand three hundred and ninety-seven men were lost. The disaster was not reported in the British press as its effects on national morale would've been severe. It demonstrated that such elderly ships were vulnerable to torpedo attack, and led to other old ships being fitted with waterline bulges for protection against torpedo and mine attack.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

A Clutch of Cressy-class Cruisers

Try saying that six times quickly.

I haven't posted for a while because my wife and I are dealing with the aftermath of a car accident. Nobody got hurt, but our car got a right ding which rendered it inoperable for the time being. Negotiating with the insurance agencies is a long, time-consuming bloody nightmare, even though we were totally blameless for the collision.


In the little downtime I had I got to work on the much-needed Royal Navy armoured cruisers. These are the six-hull Cressy-class, ordered in 1898 and at the time the first major cruiser class built for the Royal Navy in fifteen years. Progenitors of subsequent vessels of their type, the first of the class was completed in 1902.

Like the other models I've built they're fairly basic. Here's the six undercoated and ready for the final paintwork, which I hope to do sometime in the next few days.

After these are doing I'll probably build the five London-class battleships which were assigned to the Mediterranean fleet.

Monday, July 13, 2020

North Atlantic chart

The North Atlantic chart is now finished; the final touch was the list of key Royal Naval bases around the circumference of the ocean. It serves as a basic map on which to plot the movements of ship, squadrons and fleets. These I can add as differently coloured lines much like a WW2 British Admiralty plot. As each map is saved it'll add a record to the campaign diary.

I didn't bother to grid those areas of land away from the coast. No ship will sail there! Likewise since the North Sea is covered by the previous map i didn't bother to add grid lines to that area.

Should the German navy succeed in breaking out into the North Atlantic I'm going to borrow a page from the Traveller SF RPG rules and have an encounter table for shipping met during a guerre de course campaign. At the moment I'm going to assume the British Admiralty will follow their historical policy and not initiate a convoy system for merchant shipping unless or until the German navy has inflicted a certain amount of shipping tonnage loss.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Charts for the Pre-Dreadnought campaign

Now the Neolithic terrain pieces are out of the way, my gamer's butterfly brain has flown back to another subject - my pre-Dreadnought solo campaign based on a Moroccan Crisis-turned-hot premise. I found an excellent resource online in the shape of . They have a whole range of free downloadable blank maps of locations around the world which can be filled in with details as required. Availing myself of the North Sea and North Atlantic maps, I got to work customising them to my own needs.

And the North Atlantic - currently a work in progress.

I added a grid to both charts. The North Sea grid is (roughly) 96 miles square, that of the North Atlantic 600 miles square subdivided into nine squares of 200 miles. My reasoning behind these choices is that I'm taking the average cruising speed of a warship of this time as being around 12 knots, and the grid will give me a rough at-a-glance idea of transit speeds. In eight hours a vessel would cover 96 miles, in sixteen and a half hours it'd cover 200 miles, and fifty hours 600 miles.

The North Sea map shows the main British ports and bases which the German Navy can reasonably strike at, along with the German bases at Wilhelmshaven and Heligoland. I've yet to add the locations of various ports and naval bases to the North Atlantic chart. At the moment I'm trying to resist the 'mission creep' factor and not make this a global war. My intention - if I can stick to it - is to game German naval attempts to strike at targets in the British Isles and conduct a guerre de course campaign against British shipping in the North Atlantic.

My next modelling session in this project will be to make four Cressy-class armoured cruisers for the Royal Navy. The trouble is, due to the aforementioned mission creep, I'm now contemplating making four London-class battleships too. The class were part of the Mediterranean Fleet for most of their active careers, so it would be reasonable to have a squadron based in Gibraltar to guard the Med.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Dolmen Done

Work on the dolmen progressed this week, actually helped by the sweltering heat plaguing NW Ohio for the past two weeks. Paint dried quickly, glue set in record time, flock stuck first go. Marvelous!

First off, after the black undercoat had dried I painted the stones successively lighter shades of grey then applied a layer of vinyl adhesive followed up with flock.

Once the flock was stuck firmly I dripped green ink onto it using an eye-dropper, following up by wet brushing it in successively lighter shades of green. The stones also got some green ink treatment in areas which, in real life would be shaded by the rocks to represent moss.

So here it is, the Dolmen is complete and ready to take its place on the wargames table.

Romano-British war leader Gaius Menusius and his entourage contemplate the ancient stones.

Perhaps appealing the ancestors would help rid the land of the Saxon invaders?

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Down Among the Dolmen

Dolmen are found all across Northwestern Europe. Composed of a flat slab of stone set tabletop-fashion on two or more upright stones or megaliths, they're what's left of late Mezolithic/Early Neolithic burials. Once, earth covered the stones to a considerable height to form tumuli, or burial mounds. Time, erosion and ploughing wore down the earth until the stones were exposed once more. They stand as spooky reminders of our prehistoric past.

Like the stone circle/henge I made earlier, I thought a dolmen would liven up the wargaming landscape and be suitable for any period.

First step - the base. One metal cap from an orange juice carton, glued to a roughly-cut card circle. The basic shape of the dolmen rests alongside. The capstone is a flat oval-shaped wood chip glued to three other round pieces cut to length. Top left is an isolated megalith made of another piece of wood chip glued to a fender washer.

Some flocking, again of the trusty dried tea leaves. The dolmen shows another side.

More flocking, this time after the dolmen was glued to the centre of the base using vinyl tile adhesive. I began to apply flocking to the megalith base.

The next step once the adhesive's dry will be a black undercoat.


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