Saturday, March 28, 2020

North Sea clash (Quickfire test game) Part 2 - the end

So, the two weeks since I began this game have been crazy, but I finally managed to conclude this trial run of the pre-Dreadnought rules. I aimed to keep the scenario realistic rather than an all-out slugfest, since I think it'll give a better view of how they'll work in a campaign situation.

The premise is that a squadron of German armoured cruisers are heading from NW to SE, bound for a rendezvous with the fleet off Heligoland. They must escape anywhere off the southern edge of the table. The Royal Navy squadron must stop, hinder or at least damage them whilst avoiding any serious losses of its own.

Yorck takes a pounding from the combined fire of the Apollos. Fire breaks out...
...and spreads. The German squadron concentrates on the Naiad to no effect.
As the range opens all ships redirect their fire. Prinz Heinrich comes under a fresh salvo, but escapes serious damage. The same can't be said for Iphigenia. Battered to a hulk by the heavy German guns, she begins to sink.

The last of the Iphigenia.
The German squadron redirects its fire to the next ship in the British line - Andromache. Explosions rock her hull and fire breaks out. The ship's company of the flagship Apollo, running alongside, can only stare aghast as their sister ship is torn apart.
The end of Andromache.
As the hulk of Andromache wallows in the wake of the squadron, the light cruisers' combined fire smashes into the Prinz Heinrich.

The German squadron's return fire seeks out Apollo and a major fire breaks out.

Yorck's damage control parties manage to effect repairs and she regains some speed. As she heads off southward the so-far untouched Roon swings north-east to send a parting salvo to cover the retreat.
Having done her best, Roon maneuvers to rejoin her sister ship, leaving Prinz Heinrich to fight to the last in an attempt to cover the newer ships' escape.

The End. A coup de grace torpedo shot isn't necessary as the combined fire from Naiad and Intrepid send Prinz Heinrich to the bottom.
So, honours even? Could the sinking of an aging armoured cruiser in exchange for two aging light cruisers be considered a fair trade?

The Quickfire rules live up to their name. They are fast. When I was able to find some time to play I could do several turns in a matter of half an hour. I'll try them out again with battleships and destroyers to get a feel for how they handle. At the moment I think I could add some mechanics borrowed from the more complex Battlefleet 1900 rules without doing any harm to the speed of play.

I hope everyone's keeping well in these difficult times. Somehow I suspect more than one lead pile is being reduced!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Life down the rabbit hole.

So, now we're under a two-week 'Shelter in place' order from Ohio's governor. We're confined to barracks and not allowed out with some exceptions. It's a strange time all round, to be sure. My wife's birthday is today, and since we can't go anywhere we're celebrating at home. I hope everyone's hunkering down to weather it all out. It's pretty much the story here. As an author I work from home anyway, and I'm also a solo gamer. I had the sneaking thought it'd be business as usual for me - or even more so. Instead it's been a bit bonkers, quite frankly, with all the preparations to do. Ho hum, I'll complete the naval rules trial then get another game or five in, I'm sure.

In the meantime, you might like to know Osprey Books are making a sterling and much appreciated effort to alleviate the boredom of 'self quarantining' by making a free offer on certain titles. Check out their webpage for details.

Stay well!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

North Sea clash (Quickfire test game) Part 1

It's been a peculiar week, full of disruptions, highs and lows thanks to the Corvid-19 outbreak. Fortunately I had some excellent news on the professional front, which I will share in a few days when things are signed and sealed, so that made things better. My wife and I are still in self-quarantine, and in between doing all the things which must be done in these strange days - I got some gaming in!

This is a trial run of the Quickfire pre-Dreadnought rules from War Times Journal. I began it last Friday and played it on and off, a few moves at a time over these past few days. I'm so glad I have a permanent gaming table!

This is a half-time report, as I really need to get the record down before I forget. The premise is that war has been declared between Britain and Germany over the Morocco Crisis. A German armoured cruiser squadron comprising SMSs Prinz Heinrich, Yorck and Roon sailing somewhere off southern Norway is heading for Heligoland for a rendezvous with other elements of the fleet. Radio intercepts by the British Admiralty has given the Royal Navy intelligence on this isolated squadron's location and heading. A squadron of five Apollo class light cruisers is dispatched to attempt an intercept.

The game begins with the German squadron heading E-S-E at full steam. The RN squadron is heading due North. Luckily it finds itself in a position to 'cross the T.'

British squadron: Apollo leads, followed by Naiad, Intrepid, Iphigenia, Andromache.
Opening salvoes. The German squadron is headed by Prinz Heinrich, followed by Yorck and Roon.
Iphigenia takes a pounding, and fire breaks out.

The Royal Navy ships concentrate their fire on Prinz Heinrich. Battered by 6" shells she suffers a burst boiler and slows rapidly.
With a fire raging aboard and her speed slowing, Iphigenia turns out of line to allow her sisters to keep station while she effects repairs.

Prinz Heinrich turns out of line, allowing Yorck and Roon to turn southwards.
As the German ships turn 'Windy Corner,' both sides concentrate their fire on the lead ships, to little effect.

The Apollos find the range. Yorck staggers under a concentrated pounding of 6" shells and fire breaks out. Apollo suffers hits below the waterline which reduces her speed drastically. Iphigenia succeeds in extinguishing the fire and her damage control parties improves her speed. She accelerates to resume her position in the line.
* * * *

I'll play out the rest of the game as-and-when. So far the rules give a quick game, without too much head scratching over interpretations. More to follow...

Friday, March 13, 2020

Strange days...

Today I had hoped to post an AAR on a trial run through of the Quickfire pre-Dreadnought rules. I even got as far as putting models on my gaming table, ready for action. Real life got in the way with a vengeance, mainly due to disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Governor of Ohio declared a state of emergency two days ago, followed by the Federal government's announcement today. In Ohio assemblies over 100 people are banned, with certain exceptions. Schools are closing for a few weeks. Churches are postponing services. Today our local library service announced all branches are closing for the duration. One of our favourite SF/Fantasy conventions has cancelled for this year with only two weeks notice. Locally, supplies of face masks, toilet paper and hand sanitiser are flying off the shelves. There's talk of food supplies slowing up to the point the National Guard will deploy to ensure the city has food. Local food banks and kitchens are also struggling to find a way to supply the poor and homeless during this crisis.

My wife and I are hunkering down to wait it out. Self quarantining and 'social distancing' are the watchwords. I still hope to get the game in - in fact I will do so, since there are no reasons to go out for a while. I post this as a sobering reflection on the world at large beyond our hobby.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Going down...

As a natural follow up from the torpedo and fire markers I made earlier, I created the probable consequences - these sinking ship markers, which I made more like vignettes. Top: Battleship. Middle: Light Cruiser. Bottom: Armoured Cruiser. I didn't bother making a Destroyer marker, since I assume they'll sink quickly, plus pre-Dreadnought destroyers are barely-there in 1/2400 scale anyway.

Blimey! What a carve-up! (© Sid James, Carry On Cleo).
The basis for these was a batch of resin miscasts from silicone molds taken from scratch-built ships, which I made to speed up production. The resin was old and reacted oddly with the catalyst, sometimes foaming up and making the castings honeycombed and brittle. Rather than throw them out with cries of disgust, I cut off those parts of the castings which were sound enough, like the bows and sterns, and filed them at an angle so they looked like they were rearing up before taking that final plunge to the sea bed. 

I opted to give the markers a generic look rather than paint them up as any one navy. A spray over with dark grey enamel paint undercoat was followed by a coat of battleship grey, red paint for the below waterline portion of the hull to represent the anti-barnacle coating, and lighter grey upper works. Masts were painted a basic white.

Cutting out discs of clear plastic, I glued the castings to them in a roughly off-centre position. Allowing the glue to dry, I smeared on a creamy mush made of tissue paper, spackle, and white craft paint to represent water foaming up as bubbles of air and steam escape the sinking hull. Once the mush dried, I gave the sea area a thin wash of blue acrylic ink and Future polish, before applying a thinner wash of blue over some of the white areas. A couple of streaks of cotton wool to represent escaping steam or sprays of water completed the vignettes. I decided not to add any debris or boats, since these would be virtually invisible at this scale.

Hopefully I'll get to try out the Quickfire rules over the weekend. In the meantime, since this blog has attracted the attention of a particularly annoying and prolific spammer, I'm afraid I'll have to moderate all comments from now on.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Torpedoes away!

Boom! Why does my torp go boom?

Because I finished the fire and torpedo markers today. They came together as I intended them to, so yay me.

To get the spray effect of water blasting up from a torpedo hit I glued scraps of black-dyed foam rubber to a clear plastic easel-like affair, applying them in increasing size from the top down. Once the glue had set overnight, I gave the foam a wet-brush once over with antique white followed by a heavier going over with plain white. The photo below shows the process at about the halfway stage.

Once all was dry, I tried them out on some model ships to see how they all looked in action.

Somewhere in the North Sea HMS Jupiter and SMSs Brandenberg and Gazelle come together in violent action. After a flurry of salvoes Brandenberg is dealing with a raging fire amidships, but Jupiter has her own troubles. Whilst she was concentrating on the German battleship, she didn't notice Gazelle sneaking up on her until it was too late. 


Monday, March 2, 2020

Pre-Dreadnought - The Rules of the Game

After a thorough read-through of the Battlefleet 1900 rules I decided they're a mite too complicated for what I want. They also seem to have an issue with missing sections, particularly those governing gunfire: not ideal. WTJ do produce a basic set of pre-Dreadnought rules called Quickfire, which look more my speed as a solo gamer. The record sheets are easier to produce, too. I'm going to use the rules as-is then add more complicated factors like signalling as I grow familiar with them.

At the moment I'm planning a quick play-through of the rules in a scenario involving a handful of light cruisers and armour cruisers then work up to battleships from there. I already have enough shell splashes for a game, but what I need are some fire and torpedo hit markers.

Bring on the foam.

I cut up a chunk of foam rubber, making a lot of small pieces and three vaguely wedge-shaped bits of increasing size to represent fires of increasing ferocity. A splash or two of yellow and red acrylic ink mixed with spackle plus a dollop of black craft paint later, and I got something usable. The small black pieces are going to be glued in a suitably messy fashion to the two plastic 'easels' on the right. These I made from leftover bits of clear plastic, suitably glued and embellished by a few passes of the hot glue gun. The theory is they'll go hard up against the side of a model so they look like the massive black sprays of dirty seawater and Torpex soot that are the signature result of a torpedo hit. I've only made two such markers, as I figure the odds of getting more than two torpedo hits in the same game move are pretty remote. Watch me get proved wrong in the first game...

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Gazelle class light cruisers

Out to launch... Fresh off the slipways, four Gazelle class light cruisers for the Kaiserliche Marine. Front front to rear, Gazelle, Endine, Nymphe, Frauenlob.

Four little maids from Keil are we...

These light cruisers were the end result of years of experimentation by the German navy, which sought a maid-of-all-work design that would suit fleet deployment, colonial policing, and commerce protection. With ten 4.1 inch guns and a speed of around 21 knots, they remained potent vessels for their size well into the First World War. The Royal Navy was considering moving its light cruiser development toward scout cruisers, but the advent of the Gazelle class forced them to reconsider.

...enacting naval pol-i-cy.
I found these more time consuming to make than the three armoured cruisers. As with any model in this scale, it's not a case of what to fit into the space, but what to leave out and still make the model look like the prototype.

Next upon the slipways will be the four Drake class armoured cruisers for the Royal Navy, and the five Kaiser Freidrich III class battleships for the Kaiserliche Marine.


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