Thursday, August 26, 2021

A wise decision

 * * * *

Hopefully sometime this weekend I'll play out another Moroccan Crisis naval scenario, where the German fleet attempts to slip an armoured cruiser or two through the Denmark Strait on an Atlantic commerce raiding mission. Guerre de course was banned under maritime law, but in wartime laws were quite often ignored for the sake of expediency...

Monday, August 23, 2021

Heligoland in miniature.

Or thereabouts. The torrid summer heat here in the Midwest rather restricts what I can or can't do modelling-wise, but I did finish the almost-Heligoland Island for the Morocco Crisis-turned-Hot campaign. 

The urban area is an approximation of the real settlement circa 1906. It's not really important to the plot so I made it abstract, but the kasern (barracks) is represented by the small building on the left since this is a legitimate target for naval bombardment. The two grey squares represent the approximate sites of the two twin 21 cm guns. The defences also had eight 28 cm howitzers, but I've yet to determine where they were sited.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Gibraltar, 1904

A panoramic view of the harbour and anchorage at Gibraltar in 1904 showing seventeen battleships, armoured cruisers and numerous other craft. This was only a small portion of the Royal Navy's strength at this time. Makes you think...

The Heligoland building work is about done, with two strips of houses, the kasern and St. Nikolas church all done. A little more work on the harbour mole and it'll be ready.

Monday, August 16, 2021

British Empire exhibition 1924-25

It's always fascinating what a little research brings to light. Here are a couple of photos from this rather lame-duck event which was held almost a hundred years ago. 

The first is a monorail system built to get visitors around the 220 acre site. I don't know about you, but the corkscrew locomotion system looks like an accident about to happen.

The next shot is the interior of the Palace of Engineering. My eye was immediately drawn to the 15-inch gun in the foreground.

I'm still working on the Heligoland project. The rows of houses are done, and I've moved onto the island's church and the kasern (barracks) for the island garrison-which will present a juicy target for naval bombardment.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Island Project ~ Basic bit done

A slow and leisurely spot of progress later...

This is the basic form, after a bit of paintwork. It looked like a very generous slice of red velvet cake before I wet-brushed the cliff sides. For the next step I'm going to make sections with rows of houses that'll sit on the island and the wide beach piece to make it more like Heligoland. Take the sections off and it turns into a generic island.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Sicily '43 by James Holland


I borrowed this from our local library, and it's a fascinating account of the Sicily Campaign of 1943 - the Allies' first assault on Europe - told from original records from both Allies and Axis. Holland doesn't spare any details: Some of the accounts are horrifying. 

I'm about halfway through, and it's a real page-turner. There are a number of accounts of engagements which would work well with Chain of Command. It's almost tempting me to begin a new period...

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Island formation

A little more progress on the island project...

More pizza box card cut to size and shape filled in the sides. From what I can see, at one time the upper level of Heligoland Island was reached by just one hairpin road running up the eastern cliff. I added an approximation to this. I glued dried tea leaves to the surface to give a rough key for the spackle to adhere to.

A mix of spackle/filler and tissue paper came next. It gives a rough surface to represent the cliff faces. Once this is complete I'll do the top.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Problem with reading list?

Is anyone else having an issue with seeing the Blogger reading list? I've tried several times yesterday and today but it's not showing up.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Island project ~ Beginning

I've noodled with the idea of creating a scaled version of Heligoland Island for a while, for use in my 1906 Moroccan Crisis-turned-hot naval campaign. The recent happy find of a couple of bit of polystyrene foam in almost the right shape spurred me to make a start on the project.

I sandwiched the foam between two pieces of pizza box cut to shape. Next step will be to lay down the groundwork, probably using paper and spackle/filler. 

The island itself has changed shape dramatically since the immediate aftermath of WW2. First the British Army stuffed all the surplus explosives left from the war into the extensive cave system the Germans built throughout the island - and touched it all off at once. 

There goes the neighbourhood...

The eastern side of the island slumped down several dozen feet. It remains the biggest non-nuclear explosion to date.

Since then the German government has greatly expanded the harbour, and extended the island northeastwards with the aim of eventually connecting it to the smaller island of Düne.

I'm aiming more for how the island appeared just before WW1...

I'm not sure if I want to make the town a permanent part of the model, as it would limit the usefulness. It might be possible to make the buildings removable, perhaps by constructing them on separate sections. We'll see.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Four Siegfried class coastal defence ships

After a longer than expected spell on the slips, the four Siegfried class ships are launched, fitted out and under way. 

From l-r, Heimdall, Beowulf, Frithjof, Siegfried.

Built between 1888 and 1894, these were an earlier type than the two Odin class that superseded them, but they shared the same unconventional configuration of two paired turrets forward and one aft. Their top speed was a leisurely 15 knots, but from all accounts they were very stable gun platforms - something I'll take into consideration in the rules.

Next project will be a kinda/sorta Heligoland Island...

Monday, July 12, 2021

Royal Sovereigns, ready for sea.

The four Royal Sovereigns are complete and ready in all respects for action. 

I followed the usual form, basing them on clear plastic then adding spray and wake effects using a concoction of filler, PVA and white paint, finishing with a coat of gloss varnish with a tiny drop of blue ink. 

These were not good sea boats. During a storm in 1893, Resolution had to turn to windward in order to ride out the foul weather, whilst a destroyer sailed on regardless. It gave the class their unfortunate nickname of the Rolling Ressies. They did have 13.5 inch guns, so they should be pretty potent in a game.

So far I've decided to play out some linked scenarios rather than going for a full-on naval campaign. I've planned the following.

Guerre de course. A German attempt to slip one or two armoured cruisers or a few light cruisers past the Shetland and Orkney Islands to act as commerce raiders in the North Atlantic. The Royal Navy has to stop them.

Raid on the East Coast. In the previous scenario a number of German cruisers succeeded in slipping away to destroy merchant shipping along Britain's East Coast between the Humber and Great Yarmouth. Needless to say this upset the British, and the German government is keen to repeat the measure.

The Raid on Heligoland. A bombardment and occupation of the island to deny its use to the German fleet and set it up to support Royal Naval operations in the Jade Bay. This might be where the Royal Sovereigns come into play.

Attack on the Kiel Canal. An attempt to shut down the vital link between the North and Baltic Seas by sinking blockships in the entrance. 

Strike on the Jade Bay. A full-on attempt to locate and destroy the German navy in its home waters.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Four Royal Sovereigns...

...almost ready for a spree. 

A nice black undercoat

Main battleship grey paint job

Deck, masts and funnels painted

I began making these four Royal Sovereign class battleships at the same time as the four German Odin class coastal defence ships, but lacked any clear images of the latter to work with for a while. I finally managed to track down some photos, which show the distinctive sponsons on which the two forward 9.4 inch gun turrets are mounted. My first experiment with this feature is visible on the model immediately behind the strip of battleships. I've yet to work out how to make the turrets...

The Royal Sovereigns are ready for a dark wash then basing. As far as I know the class was the last major British warship type to mount their main armament in barbettes. The sole exception was the last built, HMS Hood, which had turrets. The class got the nickname 'Rolling Ressies' after HMS Resolution rolled excessively during a storm in 1893. They had good watertight compartmentalisation, but proved to be unstable firing platforms in anything above a moderate sea.

Monday, June 28, 2021

A little progress...

A start has been made on the pre-Dreadnought ships. I intended to build four German coastal defence ships, then decided to add four British Royal Sovereign class battleships - as you do. I'll post some photos when I've made more progress. In the meantime, I think we all know this phenomenon...

Tuesday, June 22, 2021


...Coastal armoured ship in English. In other words, a coastal defence battleship.

These vessels were Imperial Germany's primary naval coastal defence force, and comprised S.M.S. Siegfried, Hildebrand, Beowulf, Hagen, Frithjof, Heimdall, Ägir, and Odin. Displacing 4,150 tons and capable of 15 1/2 knots, they had three 24cm/9.4 inch guns mounted in three turrets, the two forward turrets being side by side. Ten 8.8cm secondary guns completed the armament. 

They are such a delightful oddity I'm going to scratch-build a couple for my pre-Dreadnaught naval forces in my on again/off again series of linked games.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Lion Rampant ~ Bloodbath

And so battle is joined between the forces of the French Pretender Prince Louis, and King John's Loyalists. 

The Franco-Scottish Knight Sir Jeckyl A' Pliance and the English Knight Sir Kit Breaker have been at odds all year. With Autumn coming on, they decide to meet and settle matters once and for all. The showdown is at the ford crossing a stream in the unremarkable village of Little Snogging. For the game, Sir Kit is 'insipid,' and Sir Jeckyl is 'blessed.'

The French approach from the west

The English approach from the east

The field of battle

A hesitant French advance. Mounted serjeants swing north towards the open ground

A more robust English advance

Mounted English men at arms head for the gap 'twixt hill and river

The French converge on the village

English foot serjeants hesitate whilst Sir Kit heads confidently right for the ford

To the north French mounted serjeants clash with English men at arms...

...and are thrown back, battered

Sir Kit squares off against Sir Jeckyl. French crossbowmen skirt the village heading for the river

Crossbowmen and archers exchange fire to the left. French men at arms recoil in centre. French serjeants and men at arms clash again on the right

Crossbowmen close up to the river, men at arms clash again in the village, but the foot men at arms have cut off Sir Kit's escape. On the right the English men at arms take a beating

A devastating volley of quarrels almost annihilates the longbowmen. The foot serjeants are repulsed from the ford. The English men at arms are taking a beating, too...

The End. A last ditch attempt to break through the ford is repulsed once again with loss. In the village, alone and surrounded, Sir Kit goes down fighting.

So endeth the first game. 

What do I think of the Lion Rampant rules? On the whole, they're pretty good. They're easy to grasp and give a quick game. One rule I did change almost immediately was the Activation roll. Under the rules if one unit fails to activate, all subsequent units (if any) on that side automatically fail and the initiative passes to the other side. After FIVE failed activation rolls where nobody moved, I decided it was too much 'friction of war.' I'm here to game, not look at a static display...

Straight away I decided to limit the fail to the unit rolling. All subsequent units got their chance to move. This sped things up nicely, and I'll keep this house rule in future.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Where the River Bends...

Four new river sections are ready for use, and I upgraded the existing straight sections. I've yet to upgrade the pond, but I'll do this and some marshy pieces later.

Awaiting paint...
...and done.

With luck and a following wind I'll get these on the tabletop tomorrow in a first ever game of Lion Rampant. It's almost Midsummer and I haven't played a game of any kind this year. Time to break that duck...

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Onwards and upwards.

I'm still around, just busy with work and gardening. In between times I'm noodling away at some new curved river sections for the table.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

New ground cloth

I dropped by a local ReStore charity shop a couple of weeks ago and picked up a nice offcut of green baize-like material. Experimenting on a small corner showed it takes acrylic paints well, which is good to know. I laid it out to see what it looks like with some terrain on it so I could get an idea of how to colour it, but before I put any trees out I saw there's an issue with the river.

Too much of the base green shows through. Although rivers usually tend not to be blue but an indeterminate muddy brown in reality, I don't want this to look like a road. Since I have some offcuts of blue poster card handy, I slid a length under the river (shown at the bottom of the photo) to see what that did for the look. I think daubing the card with a little brown and green paint in places then sticking it to the underside of the river sections will give a more realistic look. What do you all think? Ideas and suggestions welcome.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

A Note of Caution

For some reason I got two emails from Blogger in the past 24 hours, that read thus:-


     As you may know, our Community Guidelines (link deleted)
describe the boundaries for what we  allow-- and don't allow-- on Blogger. Your post titled "Second batch of  crossbowmen" was flagged to us for review. We have determined that it 
violates our guidelines and deleted the post, previously at  (link deleted)

     Why was your blog post deleted?
     Your content has violated our Malware and Viruses policy. Please visit 
our Community Guidelines page linked in this email to learn more.

     We encourage you to review the full content of your blog posts to make 
sure they are in line with our standards as additional violations could 
result in termination of your blog.

     For more information, please review the following resources:

     Terms of Service: (link deleted)
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     The Blogger Team

These were followed by two more emails telling me the posts had been reinstated. Alan (Tradgardmaster) and others report the same thing. 

I've no idea why Blogger has its corporate panties in a bunch-it could be automated stuff that went haywire-but just in case there is trouble afoot please ensure your malware/virus protection is up to date.

On a lighter note I hope to get some figures on the table tomorrow to engage in the first Lion Rampant game.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Another book ~ Wings over the Desert

This arrived today...

It's the story of the author's father, Eric Seward, a RFC pilot in Palestine during the Great War. I looked for this for some time after seeing it mentioned on Michael Scott's blog where he writes about his own interest in the theatre. Michael was collecting Pendraken Miniatures 10mm for WW1 Middle East, but it seems he's let the project lapse? My own interest is kind of on again/off again, although I'll almost certainly go ahead with a Pendraken order when funds permit.

The book turned up on Alibris, which is an excellent source for reference books on all kinds of subjects. Their service is good, hampered only by the USPS's tardiness in delivering.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Last Hope Island

I picked this up at a local Dollar Tree for, yes, $1. 

Last Hope Island's a fascinating read about Britain and Europe during WW2, with several snippets I wasn't aware of. The author is rightly caustic about the sheer amount of amateurism, incompetence and infighting that afflicted organisations like SOE and MI6 in the early years. There's a chapter on the infamous Englanderspeil saga where the incompetence really cost the lives of dozens of brave agents. Thankfully, as we all know, it came good in the end.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Six Knights of England ~ almost...

Progress (finally) on some of the remaining mounted men-at-arms from my original (30 years+ old) collection. 

They've had their dip in dark varnish. One figure fell off the peg and into the dip, leading to several minutes of hilarity... not, as I tried to retrieve the slippery little bugger. That's him on the right.

All that remains is to base them up. I have another six mounted figures like these, but they need more work to get them ready since they have broken parts which need replacing. The same applies to a batch of foot figures, both serjeants and yeomen. One crowd that shouldn't take too long is a group of six falchion men. Under the Lion Rampant rules they ought to be twelve strong, so I'll just mix them in with other foot figures and count them as upgraded rather than buy a new batch.

Hopefully I'll get them all on the table for a game before long...

Friday, April 23, 2021

Post Second Vaccine Blues

Yep, as the title says I had my second Covid shot on Monday and I've felt rough ever since. I'm still working on the Lion Rampant retinues, and hope to finish off the last of the mounted men-at-arms from the original collection. More to follow when I'm feeling better.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

A Dozen Serjeants

The mounted serjeants for Lion Rampant are now finished, varnished and based up. These are intended to be somewhat generic, but will probably fight for France to begin with. They came together quite nicely in the end in spite of my early reservations about the multi-part assembly.

It's getting high time I got some figures on the table. We're halfway through April and I haven't fought out a single game yet. It might have to wait until next weekend since I'll be busy all next week. I get my second Covid vaccination on Monday, so we'll see what happens.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Serjeants on the Go

The next batch of figures for Lion Rampant are on the painting block and undercoated. These are a dozen mounted serjeants, which I'll paint up in generic fashion although I suspect they'll mostly deploy as part of a First Barons War French contingent.

These figures are by Blue Moon Manufacturing. They come in three separate piece - horse with rider's lower torso, rider's upper torso, and kite shield. No lances were supplied so I cut my own from wire. I'm... not a big fan of these figures. Getting the top half of the rider to sit properly in the lower took a good deal more cutting, filing and fiddling than I can normally tolerate. In spite of my best efforts some figures had gaps where the fit wasn't quite right, necessitating a spot of filling.

Fitting the lances and shields were marginally easier. However, the castings are crisp and clean and should paint up nicely. I'm looking at getting another batch to make up a castle garrison retinue.

If anyone wants to see how it should be done, head over to PanzerKaput's blog, where he has a number of First Barons War units painted up in superb fashion.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Happy Easter

 A Happy Easter to one and all. I'm still around, just busy right now. I finished the Doctor Who collection for my Better Half. Now it's once more unto the breach with the First Barons War figures. Next up - the mounted serjeants.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Doctor Who, One and Two

A little progress on my wife's birthday present. The first two Doctors meet to confer about a sinister door in a recently abandoned cellar. 

Of course, when the Doctor's around, there's bound to be trouble that needs sorting out...

The figures are by Black Tree Designs. I searched for images from the first two Doctors and chose the simplest costume designs. The BBC put Hartnell in two types of trousers, one of which is a mid grey chequered pattern as shown above. The other was more of a houndstooth design. I found this choice a bit puzzling, as it would normally have been too 'busy' for the primitive TV cameras of the time to process. I did the chequered pattern using a fine sharp pencil.

Next up will be the Fifth Doctor personified by Peter Davison. This is likely to take a bit more work due to the fine red stripes on his costume.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Second batch of crossbowmen

The second and last batch of crossbowmen are now off the painting block and ready to make a thorough nuisance of themselves on the vasty fields of France or elsewhere when required

My wife's birthday is coming up in a few weeks, so I'll put the Lion Rampant stuff aside for a while so I can concentrate on painting the Doctor Who figures I bought for her a long time ago. Once they're done she'll have all the Doctors from Hartnell through to Matt Smith. I'm not sure if anyone's produced a Peter Capaldi or Jodie Whitaker figure yet, but I suspect it'll only be a matter of time. I keep getting tempted by the 7TV rules for gaming 60's and 70's TV tropes. Can anyone tell me if they're playable solo?

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

First batch of Crossbowmen

The first dozen crossbowmen are off the painting block.

These are a mix of the old figures I got with the original batch, and the new Essex ones bought at Christmas. I painted them in mixed colours for a bit of variety with a preponderance of red and yellow, which could represent the Earls of Winchester or Norfolk. The next batch will be blue and white livery to represent a number of English lords' retinues, French/Flemish for deployment in England or France.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Now showing...

It's been an annoying week in some ways due to computer problems. Last summer Windows 10 performed a MASSIVE update, my machine hasn't worked properly since and it's getting worse. Measures are in hand to rectify this, so on to other things.

I just finished this book - After Hitler: The Last Ten Days of World War 2 in Europe. It's a fascinating and well-researched work on the spluttering final kick of the Nazis. It has a lot of alternate ways to use late war figures and gear. Fancy deploying the German-equipped anti-Bolshevik 'Russian Liberation Army' against die-hard SS divisions in Czechoslovakia? Or play out a number of what if scenarios where the Western Allies - particularly Patton's army - decide to push as far as they can into Occupied Europe before the Russians arrive?

The Lion Rampant project moves on at a steady pace. I have the crossbowmen on the painting block now. I aim to turn out one batch which can pass for English in the employ of the Earl of Chester and the Bishop of Winchester (who had a talent for tactical deployment of such troops). Another will be French/Flemish.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Six Knights of France

The next batch of figures roll off the painting block to join the retinues. 

I'll be the first to admit the fleur-de-lis designs on the shields and pennants don't bear close examination. I find my painting skills have declined of late. At least they're fine for the 'three feet rule' standard I paint to anyway. 

According to the retinue lists in the Lion Rampant rules I'll need as many mounted men-at-arms again for a French retinue, but the rules are highly flexible and you can field other warrior types easily enough. There are plenty of small actions mentioned in the book about King John covered in the previous post that have a different balance of types, especially crossbowmen.


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