Friday 30 March 2012

H G Well’s Floor Games

Ever since my visit to the Savile Club in mid March, I have been fascinated by H G Wells' book FLOOR GAMES. So much so, that I decided to transcribe the text so that I would always have a copy.

Having done this, it struck me that others – such as some of my regular blog readers – might also like to read the text of this book. So as not to make this too long a blog entry – and so as not to exhaust possible interest before readers reach the end of the text – I have decided to publish each section of the book as a blog entry. I will include photographs where they appear in the original so that they will add to the enjoyment one gets when reading this book.

Thursday 29 March 2012

HMS Empress in action!

Although I have been very busy today visiting my father in his care home (and getting stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 for nearly two hours!), I managed to put enough time aside to take of photograph of HMS Empress in action.

This photograph gives some idea how big the completed model is when next to 15mm-scale figures made by Essex Miniatures.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

HMS Empress joins the fleet!

I managed to finish painting HMS Empress this morning, and she is now about to join my 'fleet' of toy-style warships. The model is only 4"/10cm long ... but despite that she does look quite impressive in her traditional Victorian livery of black hull, white upperworks, and buff-coloured funnel.

I think that I will take a short break from building model ships for a week or two (it pays not to get too jaded, and this can easily happen if one concentrates on only one project for too long!) ... but if I look back over the progress I have made, I find that I went from this ...

to this ...

... in only a month.

Not bad, eh?

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Zvezda T-34/76

I have been very busy today, but this afternoon I had a few minutes to spare so I thought that I would take a look inside the box of one of the 1:100th-scale Zvezda model T-34/76s that I bought some time ago. There were only a few parts, and in a matter of moments I had carefully cut them off the sprue and glued them together ... and had a completed model!

Assembly was very simple, and the parts fitted together very easily, with only a few dots of glue necessary to hold the pieces in place. From opening the box to finishing assembly took less than five minutes ... which probably makes it the quickest model I have ever built!

If the rest of the Zvezda models are as simple to put together, I can see myself buying quite a few over the next few months!

Monday 26 March 2012

Fletcher Pratt Naval War Game

Yesterday saw the monthly gathering of the Jockey's Field Irregulars, and today's game used Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game rules. The scenario was based on an attempt by the German Navy to attack and – if possible – destroy a convoy on its way from the UK to Russia.

As I had supplied all the merchant ships that made up the convoy, it was natural that I was given command of the convoy of twelve merchant ships and its close escort. The latter comprised a light cruiser (Dido-class), two destroyers (Tribal-class), and two minesweepers (one Algerine-class and one Bangor-class). The distant escort comprised a King George V-class battleship, HMS Renown (a battle cruiser), two County-class heavy cruisers, and four destroyers (including a US Navy vessel). The German attackers included two battleships (Tirpitz and Scharnhorst), a heavy cruiser (Admiral Hipper), and four destroyers.

The battle began with the German force sailing straight for the convoy, which immediately signalled the distant escort for support. This initially came in the form of the two County-class heavy cruisers, which were followed soon afterwards by the battleship, battle cruiser, and destroyers.

The British heavy cruisers engaged the Germans, and although several merchant ships were hit and sunk by gunfire from the German battleships and cruiser, the Germans eventually had to switch their fire to engage the British cruisers. The cruisers did not emerge from this confrontation unscathed. They had, however, achieved their purpose and given time for the British heavy units to join the battle, and the latter scored several telling hits on the German warships.

The British destroyers closed upon the enemy, and the cruiser and destroyers from the convoy's close escort turned to engage the oncoming German destroyers. The convoy, escorted by the minesweepers, used this opportunity to turn away from the Germans.

The battle had – by now – degenerated into something of a melee, with both sides firing whole shoals of torpedoes at each other, mainly to force their opponents to turn away. Both sides also laid down smoke, and the Germans used it to attempt to disengage from the melee. This proved to be only partially successful, as one British destroyer managed to sneak close enough to the Tirpitz to hit her with torpedoes. This sealed the ship's fate, and she sank soon afterwards. This marked the end of the battle.

The loss of Tirpitz ensured a British victory, although it was only achieved at a considerable cost in terms of ships and men. Almost half the convoy had been sunk as had one of the British cruisers and several of the destroyers. Of particular note was the shooting conducted by the British heavy units, which was both accurate and effective.

The Germans. (The arrow-shaped 'Post-it' notes were used as firing arrows throughout the battle.)
The British heavy units: A King George V-class battleship and HMS Renown.
The two British County-class heavy cruisers, one of which is under fire.
One of the British heavy cruisers fires back.
Two of the British destroyers. (One is actually a US Navy unit serving alongside the Royal Navy; the other ship is a British Tribal-class destroyer.)
The convoy comes under attack, and HMS Hermione (the heaviest unit of the convoy escort) is hit by three enemy shells. (The red upturned golf tees show the hits; the others show misses.)
HMS Hermione was hit by three German shells. They reduced her speed to 25 knots for the rest of the battle.
The German heavy units open fire again.
Admiral Hipper and three of the German destroyers move towards the convoy.
The British heavy units engage the enemy with very accurate long-range gunfire.
The convoy's close escort turn to engage the oncoming Germans.
The German destroyers fire torpedoes (the tracks of the torpedoes are shown here by pipe-cleaners) whilst the heavy units turn away and make a break for home.
The Tirpitz is hit by four heavy shells fired by the British heavy units. She was subsequently hit by several torpedoes, and these slowed her so that she could be finished off later in the battle by further gunfire and torpedoes.

Saturday 24 March 2012

Bits and pieces

I had some bits of wood left over from the most recent of my model battleship building projects, and rather than let them sit in the 'spares' box, I decided to make a model with them. The resulting 'battleship' is 4"/10cm long and 2"/5cm wide (which means that it will fit into a Hexon II hex) and it is very much in the 'cartoon' or 'toy boat' style.

The design is based upon that of the battleships HMS Victoria ...

... and HMS Sans Pareil, ...

... with a just touch of the ram, HMS Rupert.

The model has the not yet been named officially, but I am tending towards calling her HMS Empress.

Making this model did not take a lot of time – or thought – but it reinforced the idea in my mind that trying to make realistic ship models that can be used on the tabletop with 15mm-scale figures is not an option for me. I am definitely going to stick to my 'cartoon' style of model in future.

Return to Olympia

This blog entry is nowhere near as portentous as its title suggests; it merely indicates that for the second time in four weeks I have visited the exhibition centre at Olympia, West London. Last time my wife and I visited to go to the 'Who Do You Think You Are?’ show; this time it was to visit the ‘Cruise Show’, which is sponsored by the Telegraph Media Group Limited.

In past years I have used the opportunity to pick up lots of information about the various cruise lines to use with my students, but as I am now retired my wife and I were able to enjoy looking on own behalf. We entered lots of prize draws and picked up quite a few promotional gifts (mainly tote bags and pens). We also spent some time talking to several cruise line representatives about special and/or unique cruises that we might wish to go on in the future.

In particular we were very taken with what Hebridean Island Cruises had on offer. They operate a very small cruise ship – Hebridean Princess – that only takes fifty passengers and has a crew of thirty eight. Its cruises last from four to ten nights and encompass the Western Isles as far as St Kilda as well as the Orkney and Shetland Isles. This is very different from the sort of cruise we have done before, and it covers an area that neither my wife nor I have every spent much time in.

We also looked at cruises to the Black Sea. I particularly want to visit Odessa and Sevastopol within the next three or four years, and it appears that several cruise lines do go there at various times during the year. The only problem is that most of them as fly-cruises … and my wife refuses to fly anymore.

Friday 23 March 2012

More battleships by post

Some time ago I ordered a couple of 1:1200th-scale Revell King George V-class models from an online supplier on eBay. (Please note that this is not going to be a rant about eBay!) They were dispatched within a day of my purchasing them ... but they never arrived. I contacted the seller, and he very promptly sent me two more models, which were delivered this morning at 7.30am.

This now meant that I had five King George V-class models in my as-yet-to-be-built pile of 1:1200th-scale kits (one for each ship in the class)... although since my visit to Herne Bay today that number has gone up to six!

My wife and I had to go to Herne Bay this morning to do our fortnightly check of my deceased father-in-law's bungalow. We pick up any post that has been delivered and make sure that everything is secure. On this occasion we also paid a visit to the estate agent who is trying to sell the bungalow on our behalf, and as the local toy shop is opposite the estate agent's premises I paid it a visit ... and left with three 1:1200th-scale kits. They are models of a King George V-class battleship, a USS Yorktown-class aircraft carrier, and a USS Iowa-class battleship.

My pile of unmade 1:1200th-scale kits has now grown even larger, and I ought to begin building and painting some of them in the near future, otherwise my wife might begin to ask why I have bought them!

Thursday 22 March 2012

Floor Games by H G Wells: The photographs

I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that yesterday I had the opportunity to hold and look at a copy of H G Wells' book, FLOOR GAMES that he had donated to the library of his club. I mentioned that 'I would love to have been able to copy these illustrations as they are as inspiring as those featured in LITTLE WARS, but not as well known.'

After considerable research on the Internet during the course of today I managed to find some copies of those photographs. Some of them had captions, and I have included them underneath the relevant photograph.

A view showing the Island of the Temple and the invasion of the Indian's territory by Captain G. P. W.
A close view of the Temple, whose portals are guarded by grotesque plasticine monsters
A view showing the raid of the Negroid savages upon the white settlers of Pear Tree Island
A general view of Chamois City, showing the Cherry Tree Inn and the shopping quarter
The railway station at Blue End
The terraced hill on which stands the Town hall. Behind can be seen the Zoological Gardens
The School of Musketry. On the terrace the town guard parades in honour of the two mayors
Please note that the language used in the captions was written in the early twentieth century and may use words that are no longer deemed to be acceptable in common usage. Those words are included here purely for the sake of completeness and historical accuracy and are in no way intended to be insulting or derogatory in any way.

I hope that you found them as interesting – and possibly inspiring – as I did.

Wargaming: Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878

Just before I left home yesterday to go to lunch a book arrived in the post. It was Neil Thomas's latest wargames book, WARGAMING: NINETEENTH CENTURY EUROPE 1815-1878 (published by Pen & Sword Books [2012] ISBN 978 1 84884 629 6). I was able to read several of the chapters on the way to and from Central London, and this afternoon I have finished what remained.

One of the reasons I bought this book was because I enjoy wargames set in the mid to late nineteenth century, and as this book covered part of that historical period I thought that it would be of interest to me ... and it was.

The first chapter gives a historical overview of the period and examines the main elements of nineteenth century European warfare (e.g. political change, tactical developments, the changing nature of weapon technology). The following chapter then discusses how battles from the nineteenth century can be recreated on the tabletop, and this leads on to the third chapter which contains a complete set of relatively simple wargames rules.

Chapter four presents the reader with a series of potential generic scenarios that can be used (e.g. Pitched Battle, Meeting Engagement, Rearguard Action, Flank Attack, and the Minigame), and each scenario includes specific rules for that scenario. What I liked about this chapter in particular was the fact that Neil Thomas specifically designed the scenarios so that they could be fought on a 4' x 3' (120cm x 90cm) tabletop. (The exception to this is the Minigame, which is designed to fit on a 2' x 2' [60cm x 60cm] surface.) This is far more likely to be the space available to most wargamers, and he is to be commended for acknowledging this fact ... unlike many other wargame designers.

The following chapter is devoted to Army Lists, but unlike most other Army Lists, these have a degree of variability written into them, thus ensuring that opposing sides are not 'equal point' armies but are nonetheless reasonably balanced.

Almost the entirety of the rest of the book examines how historical battles can be re-fought on the tabletop. Scenarios, maps, and Army Lists are provided for the following battles:
  • Alegria (October 1834)
  • Oriamendi (March 1837)
  • Alma (September 1854)
  • Montebello (May 1859)
  • Oeversee (February 1864)
  • Rackebull (March 1864)
  • Nachod (June 1866)
  • Kissingen (July 1866)
  • Mars-La-Tour (August 1870)
  • Sedan (September 1870)
The book also has three appendices:
  • Bibliography
  • Figure Sizes, Scales and Prices
  • Useful Addresses
This book is not cheap (its published price is £19.99/$39.95) but it is a very useful primer for anyone who is thinking about wargaming this historical period.

I am only making slow progress today

For some reason nothing I have done on the modelling front seems to have gone right today. To use the current vernacular, I seem to have 'lost my mojo'.

I think that this is something that afflicts every wargamer and modeller at some time. You are making steady progress with a project ... and then something seems to take the wind out of your sails and you come to a standstill. That is what has happened to me today. It has been minor things like discovering that a plank of wood I was going to use was slightly warped or that the nozzle of the glue applicator has bunged up. Nothing major ... but things like this have been enough to put me off your stride.

So what to do?

In these circumstances my wife's advice is to walk away and leave things as they are until the feeling that everything is going wrong has passed. This makes a lot of sense. I am under no time pressure to finish this particular project. If I decide to do something completely different for a few days or even a week, it will make no difference, as the project will still be there for me to come back to.

So, to use a marketing slogan, I'm going to 'take a break' for a day or two ... and then see if my mojo returns.

All done on the back of an envelope

I was asked by a blog reader about the plans I was using for my latest ship models, and I replied that my working drawings for the hull were done on the back of an envelope. I don't know how many people believed me, but the truth is that they are literally drawn on the back of an envelop ... and here is a scan of those drawings to prove it!

To show how these very scruffy drawings relate to the finished article, here is a photograph of the hulls as they are before the bottom and top are glued to each. (The completed turrets are also included in the photograph for comparison purposes.)

My first task today is to add a top and a bottom to each hull, and when that glue is dry I will begin sanding the hulls into shape.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

An excellent lunch with wonderful company in a great location

I was lucky enough to be invited out to lunch today by a very good friend ... and it was no ordinary lunch; it was lunch at his club!

My friend is a member of the Savile Club, which is located on Brook Street in Mayfair. The club was founded in the middle of the nineteenth century and has always been a favourite with authors, although its membership list includes many people of eminence in other fields.

We were joined for lunch by another good friend, and after an excellent meal in the dining room we visited the club's library ... which contains books donated to the club by its author members. Amongst those authors was H G Wells, and I had the great honour and privilege of holding and reading copies of LITTLE WARS and FLOOR GAMES that he donated to the club's library. What struck me about both books was the quality of the photographs therein. These were reproduced on glossy paper and had wonderful definition ... and the ones in FLOOR GAMES included views that illustrated his chapters entitled:
  • The Game Of The Wonderful Islands
  • Of The Building Of Cities
  • Funiculars, Marble Towers, Castles And War Games, But Very Little Of War Games
I would love to have been able to copy these illustrations as they are as inspiring as those featured in LITTLE WARS, but not as well known.

All good things come to an end, and after coffee in the bar, we parted company and went our separate ways.

As the title of this blog entry states, it was an excellent lunch with wonderful company in a great location ... and I only hope that one day I will be able to repeat the experience.

Setting a limit

After giving the matter some considerable thought, I have decided that the next batch of ships I build will be limited to no more than 8"/20cm in length. The simple reason for this is that at some point I want to be able to use the models on the tabletop with my 15mm-scale figures, and the Hexon II hexes I own and use are 4"/10cm wide. Each ship model with therefore be no longer than two hexes.

The 'knock on' from this is that the models cannot be dreadnoughts with three or more turrets. My earlier models have shown that it is difficult enough to fit two turrets onto a hull that is 8"/20cm long, and it would appear that I would have to go up to at least 12"/30cm-long hulls if I wanted to model dreadnoughts. The resulting models would just have been too big for my requirements and would also have been more difficult to store.

Having made that decision I have begun work on building four hulls. I am using the 'mass' production methods I used when I built the gun turrets yesterday, and with a bit of luck the hulls will be finished by sometime tomorrow. I will then begin work on the superstructure blocks. These should be relatively simple, and once they are complete I should be able to begin the final assembly process.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Turrets Syndrome

I am still unsure whether to build some pre-dreadnoughts or some inter-war dreadnoughts next ... but one thing that I do know is that whatever I choose, I will need some gun turrets. I have therefore spent some time today building a batch of eight gun turrets.

By building them as a batch rather than as a series of 'one offs' I have been able to set up a sort of production line. This has speeded up the building process no end, and whichever option I decided upon, I will have cut the time it will take me to turn an idea into a finished design and completed model.

Fleet Review

Taking my lead from Tim Gow, here is a photograph of the currently finished and painted 'fleet':