Wednesday 29 February 2012

Going large

I suppose that I should have called this blog entry 'I blame Ken H' ... but I decided that all he had done when he made his comments yesterday was to put into words things that I was already thinking ... that the methods I had used to build my prototype 'Monopoly'-inspired model battleship could be used to build other (and possibly larger) models.

This all came to mind late this afternoon when I sat down to finish varnishing the prototype warship model. My brother and I had spent a large part of the day trying to get my father to the opticians to be fitted for his new glasses ... without much success. He was just too tired (and rather too irritable) to want to go with us, despite the promise of having lunch out in a local café rather than in the care home dining room. The day did, however, give my brother and I a chance to have a long chat about all sorts of things, and for that reason alone I can say that the day was well spent.

As I was sitting with my paintbrush in my hand, Ken H's comments came to mind, and as I glanced around my toy/wargames room I began to wonder if I could build some ships for my long-planned Operation Barbarossa/Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War wargame campaign. The models would have to be somewhat bigger in size (my current World War II collection is 20mm-scale) and generic rather than specific ... but it should be achievable without a lot of effort using the methods I have been using to build my prototype model.

So what ships will I need to model? For the Soviets I will need at least one battleship, ...

... a cruiser, ...

... and a couple of destroyers/torpedo boats.

For the Axis a cruiser and a couple of destroyers/torpedo boats should suffice. I will probably also need to build some merchant ships. This is not a particularly large number of ship models to build and I am very tempted to undertake this project before continuing the building of further 'Monopoly'-inspired model battleships.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

The unvarnished truth

I have to go out later today to attend a meeting, but before I went I just had time to finish painting (but not varnishing) the prototype 'Monopoly'-inspired model battleship.

It looks like this:

I had hoped to paint some form of bronze or gold ornament on the bow ... but could not find any suitable paint so it will have to go without for the moment.

The next 'Monopoly'-inspired model battleship is already on the stocks

The prototype 'Monopoly'-inspired model battleship has been undercoated and awaits its topcoat ... after which I will probably gloss varnish it. I want the end product to have a 'toy boat' look about it, and this will go some way to ensuring that.

A typical tinplate toy battleship produced at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Whilst the paint has been drying I have not been idle, and I have already begun work on the next model in the series. I suspect that this will be much closer in size and look to the final model warships that I hope to produce, and may well end up as a pre-production model rather than as another prototype.

Monday 27 February 2012

Reflections on the 'Monopoly'-inspired model battleship prototype

Now that I have had a chance to think about the prototype 'Monopoly'-inspired battleship model I completed today, I have come up with the following improvements that I will try to include in the next model:
  • The hull does not need to be quite so deep (i.e. have such a high freeboard) unless I am trying to model one of the French-style battleships/cruisers of the period.
  • The superstructure could have been a bit longer, with not such a large gap between the superstructure and the turrets.
  • The turrets must be of a slightly larger diameter or slightly shorter (I suspect that the turrets on the model would be ideal for the main guns of a cruiser or as the secondary armament on a battleship).
I intend to paint the prototype model in typical peacetime colours for Victorian-era battleships, but I may opt for a white hull rather than a black one. This will reinforce the American 'look' of the model, and will be in keeping with the origins of the token from the game of 'Monopoly'. (The token appears to have been a generic model based on US Navy warships of the late nineteenth century.)

Building the 'Monopoly'-inspired model battleship

I finally managed it. I built a model battleship whose design was inspired by the token used in the game of 'Monopoly' ... and I actually managed to make it 4"/10cm long!

I decided that the first thing I had to do was to make a proper plan. I started by finding a photograph of the 'monopoly' battleship token ...

... but because it was taken at an angle, I needed to 'straighten' the waterline out a bit. I did this using a very simple photo-manipulation program, and the result looked like this:

I then 'drew' over the side view of the token to give me a rough silhouette of the battleship, ...

... removed the background, et voila I had a working side view from which to make my model.

I then used basswood to create the hull and superstructure using simple woodworking/modelling techniques, the resulting model looks like this:

It is not an exact replica of the original 'Monopoly' battleship token ... but I think that it will work as a proof-of-concept/prototype for future models that I can use on the tabletop.

Mission accomplished!

Sunday 26 February 2012

Expanding the fleet

This morning my wife and I went to the local shopping centre, and whilst I was there I was able to pop into the local branch of ModelZone. I visit the branch every couple of weeks - more in hope than expectation - but today I had a very pleasant surprise! For the first time they actually had an Airfix 'Sink the Bismarck' set on sale ... so I bought it! Not only that ... they also had several Revell 1:1200th-scale kits on sale so I bought them as well (three Duke of Yorks ...

... and two Bismarcks).

The Duke of Yorks will be built to represent three of the ships of the King George V-class battleships and the Bismarcks will be consigned to the 'spares' box ... for the time being. I already had two Airfix Bismarcks and today's purchase of a third means that I can build both Bismarck and Tirpitz and have lots of spare parts for possible light cruisers and other conversions/scratch-builds.

Memphis Mangler IV: A report

'Memphis Mangler IV' took place yesterday in the Defence Capability Centre, Defence Academy, Shrivenham. It was organised by Jim Wallman (a founder member of Wargame Developments and Megagame Makers) and Tim Price (who joined Wargame Developments just a few months after it was founded). Like me, Jim and Tim (along with Andy Grainger, who was also present yesterday) took part in the original ‘Memphis Mangler’ wargame that was set up and run by the late Paddy Griffith at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in 1981.

The wargame was conducted in a set of rooms near the entrance to the Centre thus:

Each participant was allocated to one of the two 'player' teams (The 'Free World' team or the 'National Liberation Forces' team) or to the 'Control' (or umpire) Team.

The player team structures looked like this:

The wargame began at approximately 10.30am with a briefing in Armstrong Lecture Theatre.

Jim Wallman (on the left) and Tim Price (on the right) conduct the pre-game briefing in the Armstrong Lecture Theatre.
This enabled the various participants to meet the other members of their teams and for the game's structure to be explained to the participants.

Once the briefing was over, each team went to its allotted room, where they began to plan for the forthcoming operation. The 'Free World' team or side (henceforth referred to as the FW) was by far the larger of the two, and each player had a specific task within their team. Their brief was to conduct a sweep of some villages near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in order to gather intelligence and to reinforce the concept that the FW controlled the area.

The Free World team planning for the forthcoming operation. What is of particular interest is that each player or sub-team seems to be very intent on their part of the planning process.
The 'National Liberation Forces' team (henceforth referred to as the NLF) was a much smaller team, but they controlled a significantly larger force, whose brief was to inflict as many casualties upon any FW troops that entered the area and to reassert control of the border area near the DMZ.

What was noticeable about the NLF team was how much time they spent together talking and planning their response to any FW incursions into their area of operations.
The Map Room
Whilst the players were planning what they were going to do the Control team or umpires (of which I was one) ensured that the Map Room was set up ready for the game to start.

The room was organised so that each pair of large-scale sections of the map of the operational area were placed opposite each other on tables that were divided in two by screens.

The outer side of the room was where the FW players would sit by the appropriate map section when their troops were deployed into the operational area whilst the inner side of the room was allocated to the NLF players. This arrangement was chosen in order to minimise the possibility of opposing player seeing what their immediate opponents were doing ... and what was happening on other parts of the battlefield! This tried and tested system seemed to work quite well on the day although it did mean that at times the Control team were running about like mad things when combats were breaking out all over the operational area.

It is worth noting that once deployed players were only allowed to communicate with their superiors or to ask for air/artillery support using hand-held radios ... which were not always very reliable!

Let Battle Commence ...
Once the planning stage was complete (and lunch had been eaten) 'Memphis Mangler IV' started at 1.00pm. The FW had requested that a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (or LRRPs, pronounced 'lurps'), be infiltrated into the area they proposed to use as a Landing Zone (LZ) during the night before the sweep was to begin. The LRRPs duly did as requested ... and ran into the tail of what they estimated to be a battalion of regular troops from the NVA (North Vietnamese Army). Despite receiving this intelligence, the operation commenced as planned at 0800 (game time) when 'A' Company of the FW/US force landed on the LZ ... and immediately came under heavy fire from AA artillery fire, small arms, and mortars.

'A' Company did its best to push forward from the LZ in order to clear the way for the follow-up waves of FW troops. Artillery and air support were used to pulverise a nearby wood from which the NLF fire had come ... but an unfortunate mistake by the FW player did cause a 'blue-on-blue' or 'friendly fire' incident when troops he had moved onto the infamous Hill 51 were hit by an airstrike that had been ordered to attack Hill 51. The subsequent CASEVAC (Casualty Evacuation) by helicopter took a long time coming, and was an indicator of future events. Likewise the fact that the LZ was kept under intermittent mortar fire by the NLF forces should have indicated that the NLF forces were much stronger (and better trained and organised) than anticipated.

Having secured the LZ and the surrounding area, 'B' Company and the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) Company arrived and immediately struck out towards their objectives. Within a very short time they were heavily embroiled in firefights with NLF forces, and the number FW casualties seemed to reaching serious levels.

The commander of 'B' Company, US Army (Guy Farrish) looks suitable bemused with the situation whilst John Curry (one of the NLF team) discusses the situation with Tim Gow (my fellow Table Controller/Umpire).
The ARVN did manage to reach their objective and were able secure a large part of it. They were able to capture several prisoners and conducted some very useful interrogations that yielded some possibly useful intelligence.

Jim Wallman (with his back to the camera) listens to the ARVN company commander (David Winch) whilst two of the NFL team (Allan Rowell and Peter Antill) patiently wait to hear the results of their attacks upon the ARVN troops.
Whilst this was happening, 'A' Company searched a nearby village and captured a small store of ammunition, some medical supplies, and lots of propaganda material. They also flushed out what might have been an NLF supporter, but he managed to make a run for it and escaped.

The LZ then came under attack just after a major re-supply mission had taken place ... and soon afterwards the codeword 'Broken Arrow' was heard over the radio net. This signified that all FW forces were to be withdrawn as soon as possible. Despite problems evacuating the dead and wounded and coming under attack from the NLF forces, 'A' and 'B' Companies were exfiltrated by helicopter from the LZ or from a nearby open area. The ARVN were left to their own devices, but had already cleared an LZ for themselves and were also recovered. Large quantities of various FW supplies had to be left behind, although attempts were made to render them useless.

The game ended at the projected time (4.00pm real time) and the participants went back to the Armstrong Lecture Theatre for a ‘hot wash-up’ or debriefing session.

This began with Jim Wallman, Tim Price, Andy Grainger and I briefly relating how this incarnation of ‘Memphis Mangler’ compared with the original. The team leaders than gave their appraisal of events (which was very interesting, and in the case of the FW, wildly optimistic regarding the numbers of their own casualties and the number they had inflicted) … followed by feedback from the Control team. Tim Gow and I estimated that the FW had lost over fifty combatants (mostly WIA but with quite a few KIA or likely to die as a result of wounds they received) whereas the NLF suffered over one hundred casualties.

My conclusions about 'Memphis Mangler IV'
In my opinion the whole operation started badly … and just got worse as it progressed. That said the FW forces did their utmost to achieve their mission objectives and can justifiably argue that – despite their casualties – they gave the NLF forces a bloody nose. The ARVN did well, even though their main opposition were local guerrillas and not NVA main force troops.

The NFL can feel confident that they have taught the FW forces a lesson, and will be able to use news of this ‘victory’ in their propaganda broadcasts.

Some overheard comments
As happens in many wargames, the occasional overheard comment can often sum up what happened and how involved wargames can become in what is happening:

Where are those CASEVAC ‘choppers? There are people dying here!’ (An overheard radio broadcast from ‘B’ Company’s 2 i/c. Incidentally, there was a huge amount of First Aid equipment at the LZ – which was only 1Km away – that could have been used to treat the wounded and dying … but they could not get to it because they were under attack from all sides.)

I wish to move a platoon up to the top of Hill 51.’ (‘A’ Company commander to Table Control)
Are you sure you want to move a platoon to the top of Hill 51?’ (Table Control to ‘A’ Company Commander)
Yes. I am sure.’ (Moments after the platoon reache the summit of the hill a flight of fast jets is heard approaching Hill 51. Seconds later they drop their bombs on the hill.)

Who says that wargames can never be realistic?

This was one of the best megagames I have ever taken part in ... and was a great memorial to Paddy Griffith. Much of the briefing material was heavily based upon what he researched and wrote over thirty years ago. As a member of the Control team I had a great overview of what was happening ... and unlike some occasions when I have been an umpire, I was busy for the entire day.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Memphis Mangler IV

Nearly thirty-one years ago I took part in a large-scale wargame organised by the late Paddy Griffith. There were just over thirty participants, and the wargame was fought out on a large cloth model in one of the lecture theatres at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. The game was set in Vietnam and was called 'Memphis Mangler' ... and it was the first so-called megagame.

Today I took part in another wargame set in Vietnam ... 'Memphis Mangler IV'. This was organised by Jim Wallman and Tim Price (both whom took also part in that very first megagame) and served both as a reaffirmation of the megagame format and as a memorial to Paddy. I intend to write a lengthier blog entry about the game tomorrow, but I would like to put on record my thanks to Jim Wallman, Tim Price, Keira (Tim's wife), and all the other participants in today's game. For a few brief hours the years seemed to roll away ... and I felt young again ... and it was thanks to all of you.

Friday 24 February 2012

I have been to ... the 'Who Do You Think You Are?' Show ... again

Because my wife is an amateur genealogist, we go to the 'Who Do You Think You Are?' Show at Olympia every year. It is the premier genealogical event in the UK, and hundreds of different organisations that have stand or put on presentations at the show.

As has been the case in previous years, the 'Military Pavilion' (actually part of the upper floor of the hall) played host to several stands including one that represented the UK's military museums (Army Museums Ogilby Trust) and two military historical societies (the Western Front Association and The Rifles Living History Society. Ministry of Defence – Service Personnel and Veterans Agency was also represented, and they were very helpful. My wife is trying to track down her recently deceased father's military service record as well as request details of any medals that he was awarded. During his lifetime he never claimed any of the medals to which he was entitled, and my wife hopes that it will be possible to claim them now so that they can be displayed alongside those of my father and maternal grandfather. The representative from the Ministry of Defence – Service Personnel and Veterans Agency was not only able to give her some practical advice but also copies of the forms she will need to complete in order to get a copy of her father's service record and his unclaimed medals.

Location of the 'How to ...' downloads changed

As part of a plan to rationalise the numerous locations I have used for downloads from this blog, I have moved the location of the 'How to ...' downloads to Google Docs.

I have tested the new links, but if anyone has problems downloading these files, please could they leave a comment and I will try to sort any problems.

If this trial proves to be successful I will eventually move all the downloads from this blog to Google Docs.

Thursday 23 February 2012

The joys of VAT!

When I 'retired' from full-time employment in education and set up my own educational consultancy business, I had to register for VAT (Value Added Tax). My company's turnover has never actually been high enough to meet the threshold for VAT registration, but because all my 'clients' were (and continue to be) local education establishments, their regulations required that the company was registered.

Until recently this has never been a problem ... in fact, of all the various sections within Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that I have to deal with, the VAT people have always been the most helpful. The problem is that HMRC is now moving over to paperless VAT returns and electronic payment of any net VAT that is to be paid to Customs or reclaimed from them (the dreaded contents of Box 5 on the VAT return!). I have, therefore, had to register my company for the new electronic 'service' ... and it has taken me several hours and quite a bit of swearing!

Firstly I had to register my company for the service. I did this online on 9th February, and was told that I would get a unique User ID sent me me by post 'within seven days'. Needless to say, the ID did not arrive until this morning, and this afternoon I have completed the process of registration ... just!

The problem is that I am registered under my own name for Income Tax self-assessment, and every time I logged on to the HMRC computer system it kept directing me to my personal account, not the company's account. Once I had finally sorted that 'minor' problem out, the registration process was quite straight forward ... until I had to register an email address for reminders to be set to me when the VAT returns were due. I entered the email address I wanted to use ... and was then informed that it could not be activated until I had received an email containing an activation code 'which will be sent you in a few minutes'. I am not sure how long 'a few minutes' is supposed to be ... but it was nearly thirty before the email with the correct activation code arrived.

The registration process is now complete ... but I now feel quite frazzled and not very motivated to continue the modelling task that I stopped in order to complete the VAT online return registration process. What has also annoyed me about having to do this is the fact my wife and I are hoping to wind up the company in about six months time ... and that means that I will only have to do three VAT returns using this new service.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

One step forward ... and two steps back ... but it will be worth it in the end

I began work on laminating Plasticard to create the hulls of my 'Monopoly'-inspired battleships ... but I have run into a bit of a problem.

The problem is not the actual lamination process; it is the fumes given off by the liquid polystyrene cement that I am using. Even with the window open (which is not very nice at this time of year), the smell of the glue has begun to pervade the upper floor of the house (my toy/wargames room is on the top floor of our three-story home) ... and my wife has objected. This leaves me with a dilemma; do I continue the laminating process – which will upset and annoy my wife – or do I use an alternative method.

After giving this matter considerable thought, I have decided that I will try to find an alternative method of gluing the layers of Plasticard together. In the meantime I am going to go back to using basswood and PVA glue to create my prototype model. I know that this is going to be somewhat challenging as it will present me with some construction problems ... but the extra effort will be worth it if it keeps my wife happy!

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Jim Duncan's Blog

Jim Duncan has now joined the blogosphere by starting a blog entitled ...

I have already signed up as a follower, and I suspect that some of you will do so as well.

His blog can be found at:

Read and enjoy ... I know that I have!

Retail therapy

Once in a while my wife likes to indulge in some serious retail therapy ... and one place that she likes to go is the McArthur Glen designer outlet centre just outside Ashford, Kent. Today was once such occasion, and as a result this morning I found myself driving down the M20 motorway towards Ashford.

She spent an hour or so wandering round the shops whilst I tried not to look too bored (I am not a great lover of designer labels on things ... unless the name is Airfix, Revell, or the like), and then we had a very nice lunch in a pizzeria. She was very pleased with what she had been able to buy, and on the way home I persuaded her that a short diversion to Newnham Court Shopping Village on the outskirts of Maidstone would be a good idea ...

... especially as one of the shops situated there is a model shop called Model World!

I was very pleased with what I managed to buy there. I was able to purchase several sheets of 0.08" Plasticard (which is very useful when one hopes to build quite a few model warships over the next few months!) and another Airfix 'Sink the Bismarck' set (which means that I now have two!).

So in the end it turned out to be quite a good day's retail therapy for both of us.

The Portable Wargame … revisited!

Over the past few months a large part of my wargaming activity has been directed towards the development of MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) and MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT). During that time I have not forgotten about the PORTABLE WARGAME although I have not devoted any time to it … until today!

Because I needed to allow quite some time for the glue to set between the layers of Plasticard I will use to create the hull of my ‘Monopoly’-inspired battleship, I had some ‘spare’ time … and I decided to revisit and review the last draft of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. What struck me was that – apart from the combat system – there were several similarities between PW2 and MOB. I suspect that these arose because MOB was designed after the latest draft of PW2 was completed, and that the design of the latter informed the design of the former.

One thing that immediately caught my eye as I re-read the PW2 rules was the fact that – as presently drafted – it is impossible for artillery to hit an enemy Unit that is in hard cover unless they are at Short Range. It is also impossible for non-artillery weapons to hit Units that are in hard cover regardless of the range.

I cannot remember why I wrote the rules in this way, and on first sight it does not make sense. I suspect that I chose this to encourage players to get their Units in close and to fight close combats rather than to stand off and engage in artillery duels and firefights. Now that I have spent time away from drafting and using these rules, this strikes me as something that I need to think about again … and that is exactly what I am doing.

Link to MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) at Google Documents
Link to MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) at Google Documents

Monday 20 February 2012

The Battle of New Orleans

Yesterday I was able to attend a meeting of the 'Jockey's Fields Irregulars' for the first time in almost a year. Alan Buddles had organised the event, and had chosen to stage his wargame about the Battle of New Orleans.

The players were split into two teams (British and United States), and given a copy of a hexed map of the area around New Orleans ...

... and a small box containing the troops under their command. The map came from Liberty Games Inc's 'Battle for the Bayous: The New Orleans Campaign' that was published in 1998, and Alan used the original map to plot the progress of the various units involved in the campaign. The 6mm figures were all made by Baccus and painted by Alan.

I was part of the United States 'team' and was given command of the Tennessee and Kentucky Militia – along with Hind's Dragoons – that were occupying Slaughterhouse Point. At a council-of-war the American defenders – led by Andrew Jackson (Ian Drury) – decided that the best course of action was to concentrate their forces in and around New Orleans, and to use Hind's Dragoons and the native Indians as scouts who could warn of any British advance. Preparations were also made to fortify the nearest approaches to the city as it was felt that the American troops would fare better if they were in entrenchments. Contact was also made with the pirates led by Jean Lafitte, and after some negotiations (and a promise of a pardon and gold) they agreed to assist in the defence of New Orleans.

As anticipated, the British landed a brigade on the shores of Lake Borgne (to act as a diversion) whilst the bulk of their forces (two brigades) landed on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. Whilst the British slowly manoeuvred their forces forward – shadowed all the way by the Dragoons and Indians – the Americans prepared.

The British began their attack by advancing their right-hand brigade towards the flank of the incomplete American defences. These troops were faced by a regiment of Tennessee Militiamen armed with long rifles. At that point news reached General Jackson that a second British brigade was moving across the front of the American defences ... and seeing that he had the opportunity to defeat the British attack piecemeal he ordered an all out attack upon the British.

The resulting battle was a rather confused affair. The American advance was met by an advancing British Brigade ... which fell back before battle could be joined. Whilst the Tennessee Militia Regiment harassed the other British brigade, the Americans continued their advance. Unfortunately, just as the third British brigade arrived, the majority of the right-hand British brigade was able to shrug off the Tennessee Militia and crossed the bayou towards the American defences (which were manned by some of Lafitte's pirates), thus threatening the American rear.

The Americans rapidly withdrew, with the intention of defeating the right-hand British brigade before the rest of the British force could come up to support them.

The battle did not go according to plan for the Americans, who found themselves gradually being attacked from both sides and slowly but surely annihilated. When the Kentucky Militia Regiments collapsed and fled the field just as the American Regulars found themselves fighting the British on two fronts at the same time, this marked the end of the battle. The defenders were defeated and New Orleans lay at the mercy of the British.

This was a very enjoyable game, the more so because it was not just a straight re-fight of the Battle of New Orleans. The pre-battle planning and manoeuvring created the narrative for the battle that was actually fought, and although the result differed considerably from what happened during the real Battle of New Orleans, one felt that it worked very well indeed.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Jim Duncan's Navy

Before I left for central London this morning, I received the following email and photographs from Jim Duncan. He has very kindly allowed me to publish them as a blog entry.

Read and enjoy!

Here are some slightly better pictures of one of my fleet.

The base is thick card, the hull is three layers of foamboard cut in a ship shape with the top layer recessed to form the maindeck aft of the foredeck. The peaked bow is made from cereal box cardboard and the bridge is another couple of pieces of foamboard. The turrets are carved from balsa wood with guns made from cotton buds. I only used a single barrel on each turret to keep the overall size limited. The mast is a cutdown cocktail stick and the funnels are large drinking straws cut to size. The flags are cut from cereal box cardboard and glued closely to the mast and funnel for resilience. The smoke is made from a pot scourer pad and has been sprayed black. The rest of the paint job is a heavy covering of acrylics including portholes and anchors covered by several coats of gloss varnish. This model is several years old and has fought in several battles without a scratch thanks to the resilience issues covered in its simple construction.

I have two fleets of these, unfortunately lost somewhere between my loft and my garden hut. I hope one day to find them again and put one some more 'cotton wool ball' battles. The main combat system involves throwing a cotton wool ball at a profile target lying flat in a box across the width of the table (usually six feet), the number of balls used is dependent on the number of turrets bearing, the range, the bearing of the target and the speed of the target. Victims of successful shooting usually lost either a turret or a funnel signifing loss of shooting power or loss of speed. Sometimes the bridge would be hit with a subsequent loss of control. A ship would eventually blow up.

Ships suffered accidental and catastrophic magazine hits when the firing captain dipped his cotton wool ball in his beer before firing!!

Great fun was had all round.

What a lovely model ... and what very simple, fun rules! I hope that Jim can find the rest of his fleet and share more photographs of them with us in the near future.

Leaky pipes can ruin your plans

I spent most of today in central London playing a wargame. For some time I have been a rather inactive member of the ‘Jockey's Fields Irregulars’ (an informal group of wargamers who try to meet once a month in London), but today I had my chance to actually attend and take part in a very interesting wargame ... about which I will write in due course. However, upon my return home I was confronted with a domestic crisis that has rather upset my plans for the next day or so.

I was supposed to be meeting David Crook tomorrow for lunch and a long 'chinwag' ... but I have had to cancel our meeting at short notice because of a leak in the outflow pipe from our first floor bathroom. The pipe developed the leak during the recent spell of cold weather, and the upshot has been that some of the waste water from the bath and sink has been running across the roof of the conservatory ... and then dripping inside the conservatory. I had thought that I had cured this dripping problem, but it returned a couple of days ago, and that is when I realised that the outflow pipe was leaking.

I don't have a long enough ladder to get up onto the roof of the conservatory, but my neighbour – who is a builder – does, and I asked if I could borrow it. Instead he suggested that he should look at the leaking pipe (he has seen my attempts at DIY and knows that I am not very adept at repairing things around the house!), and whilst I was out today, he did so. Unfortunately what he found was that we have a somewhat more serious problem than just one leaking pipe.

It appears that over the passage of time the plastic pipes, joints, and seals on the back of our house have become brittle due to the affect of sun and cold ... and the leaking outflow pipe had developed a split. In addition, the other pipes are showing signs of cracking along their length and some of the joints also needed to be replaced. Our neighbour managed to 'lashed up' a temporary fix so the leak has stopped for the time being, but he thought that the current cold weather was likely to cause it to fail sooner rather than later, and that unless the pipes and joints are changed as soon as possible, we could end up being unable to use the bathroom without flooding the conservatory.

So tomorrow, instead of spending time talking to David Crook about wargaming, I will be sat indoors waiting for the plumbers to arrive and do their work.

Mock-up lessons

Having drawn up a basic design for my 'Monopoly'-inspired battleship, I decided to make a rough mock-up to see what changes might need to be made before I began the build.

It turned out that was a very wise decision to have made.

I made the mock-up from a mixture of basswood and balsa that I had to hand ... and the result looked like this:

The first lesson that I learnt was that balsa wood was too fragile to use for the superstructure. It split along the grain when I drilled the holes for the funnels. I could have avoided this by drilling the holes farther apart, but the design had funnels that were very close together and I wanted to see what they looked like.

The second lesson was that the funnels looked very thin for their height, and might need to be shortened, whilst the third lesson was that the hull sides would have to be deeper if, as on the mock-up, the superstructure was high enough so that 15mm figures could be placed on the model without looking too ridiculous.

When I placed a 15mm figure onto the model it became apparent that the superstructure would have to be slightly higher than it currently is and that, once the turrets were fitted, there would be very little deck space for figures to be placed on it!

I then placed the recently built models of a coastal/river gunboat and a coastal/river passenger steamer alongside the mock-up ...

... and this showed me that the battleship – as currently designed – was far too small to look aesthetically correct if I was going to use all these models together.

This could have been very disheartening but ...

... thanks to some rather badly and hastily used photo-manipulation software I was able to see what the mock-up would look like alongside the models of the coastal/river gunboat and coastal/river passenger steamer if the battleship was built 50% larger than the mock-up ...

... and the results were very encouraging.

It would seem that I am not going to be able to build my 'Monopoly'-inspired battleship so that I can use it alongside my existing 15mm figures and model ships unless I accept that it will have to be closer to 15cm long rather than the 10cm length that I originally planned to use. This is a compromise that I am willing to make ... and as a result building the mock-up has proven to be a very worthwhile and sensible decision.

Saturday 18 February 2012

... but then I would not have ended up over there

Having decided that the Admiral Ushakov-class battleships/coast defence ships will be the basis of my next attempt to model a 'Monopoly'-inspired battleship, I set about finding a suitable set of working drawings.

After the suggestion that I look at old copies of Jane's Fighting Ships I found a very rough plan and side view of the Admiral Ushakov-class battleships/coast defence ships in one of my reference books. I scanned these into my computer and used them as a basis to create a 'cartooned' version of the design. I distorted the image I used so that it was twice as wide and tall as it should be, and the results looked like this:

This is much more like what I hoped my 'Monopoly'-inspired battleship would look like, and I can now proceed to the next stage, which will be constructing the hull. I will probably use a mixture of balsa and basswood ... although I might try using Plasticard.

Friday 17 February 2012

If I was going there I wouldn't have started from here ...

After several false starts and dead ends I was on the verge of giving up my idea to build a model battleship inspired by the design of the battleship used as a token in the game of 'Monopoly' when I remembered seeing a 1:1250th-scale model of a Russian battleship many, many years ago. It formed part of the Russian fleet in one of Eric Knowles's naval battles using Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game rules, but I don't think that it lasted very long and was sunk quite early in the game. From what I could remember, it looked somewhat like the 'Monopoly' battleship ... so I spend some time looking through the relevant section of CONWAY'S ALL THE WORLD'S FIGHTING SHIPS: 1860-1905 and found it ... or – to be more precise – them. The ship I remembered was one of the Admiral Ushakov-class battleships/coast defence ships.

The class consisted of three ships, Admiral Ushakov, General Admiral Graf Apraksin, and Admiral Senyavin, and they were originally designed to counter the armoured ships that had been built for the Swedish Navy during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

As the following photographs show, they look vaguely similar to the ‘Monopoly’ battleship.

Admiral Ushakov

General Admiral Graf Apraksin

Admiral Senyavin

I have even managed to find a plan of the Admiral Ushakov-class battleships ...

... and I am seriously thinking about basing my next attempt at modelling my 'Monopoly'-inspired battleship on a version of this class of ships.