Monday, 9 April 2012

Naval wargames and me

As even the briefest scan of my more recent blog entries would confirm, I love naval wargames. I would even go as far as to say that I probably like them as much – if not slightly more – than land wargames.

Looking back, some of my first wargames involved ships, and I can remember fighting naval battles on the lawn at home using warships made from all sorts of odds and ends of wood that I found in my father’s shed. They had gun barrels made from nails, and were never painted. I also fought a number of battles on the tabletop at home that involved aircraft attacking convoys of ships, including a home-made aircraft carrier that I built from a papier-mâché hull and plastic boxes. The hull was formed around the hull from a soft plastic bath toy merchant ship, and when the papier-mâché had dried, I painted in with gloss paint to help protect the surface. The plastic boxes fitted inside the hull, and their lids formed the flight deck. The lids could be lifted off so that aircraft could be stored inside the boxes/hangers.

I also remember building and painting eight pre-dreadnoughts that I constructed from balsa wood. I used matchstick for the gun barrels and dowel for the funnels. They fought battles against each other on my bedroom floor … probably much to my brother’s annoyance!

My first experience of ‘real’ naval wargames came when I took part in the famous Madasahatta Campaign run by Eric Knowles. The battles were fought using ships from Eric’s large collection of 1:1200th ironclads, pre-dreadnoughts, and dreadnoughts, and the rules were a version of Fletcher Pratt’s rules. These battles were part of the campaign, and affected the arrival of supplies and reinforcements for both sides.

My contribution to this campaign was to build a model of HMS Agincourt for Eric as well as four Kongo-class battle cruisers for his Japanese fleet. HMS Agincourt was built on a scratch-built hull of Plasticard and armed with turrets from a model of the Prinz Eugen whilst the Kongos were made from cut-down (and extensively cut-up) models of HMS Hood.

HMS Agincourt (commonly known as the 'Gin Palace'). She was armed with fourteen 12"-inch gun in seven turrets, and had been laid down as the Rio de Janerio before she was sold to the Turks, who renamed her Sultan Osman. She was seized by the British before she could be delivered, and was then commissioned into the Royal Navy.
Kongo, the British-built lead-ship of a class of four battle cruisers. Her design influenced the design of HMS Tiger, the last battle cruiser built for the Royal Navy before HMS Hood. It is therefore not very surprising that it was not too difficult to convert a models of HMS Hood to represent Kongo and her sister ships.
HMS Hood
I also converted four of the Minifig 1:1800th-scale pre-dreadnought battleships to represent four of the Japanese pre-dreadnoughts (this was not difficult, and was mainly a paint conversion) and one of the Minifig models of HMS Dreadnought into an Austrian ironclad, SMS Kronprinz Erzherzog Rudolf. This was a much more extensive conversion, but to my knowledge the ship never featured in any of our battles!

The Minifig 1:1800th-scale model of HMS Dreadnought was converted into ...
... a model of SMS Kronprinz Erzherzog Rudolf by carefully cutting of the forward and centre turrets and adding a new mast. Although not a perfect replica, it look good enough to use on the tabletop.
I have maintained my interest in naval wargaming throughout my time as a wargamer, and it still forms an important part of my wargaming. In fact, as I get older, it seems to have gained in prominence … and long may it continue to do so.


  1. Hi Bob,

    My first introduction to Naval Wargames was with Madasahatta and for me I have never looked back since! I tend now to always look at the naval perspective in connection with any land gaming I want to undertake.

    As a long time wargaming 'butterfly' the naval side suits me far better as it is a lot easier getting a force of warships together than an army or two - from the point of view of the number of models and the required painting time.

    I can only echo your sentiment with my own 'long may it continue' statement!

    All the best,


  2. Bob
    We certainly seem to have 'rediscovered' naval wargaming in recent years! My first naval games were played with the then new Airfix 1/1200 scale ships, so it's particularly pleasing to have them back in production.

  3. Naval wargaming has always been my favourit could be as Im an ex navy man started of with Peter Dunns Sea Battle Games book back in the 1970's. Now playing it online with the HPS and Storm Eagle games

  4. David Crook,

    Wargames navies are usually much easier to create than armies ... and usually easier to store!

    Madasahatta was - and still is - the best wargame campaign I have ever been involved in, and stands as a benchmark by which I measure my own efforts.

    All the best,


  5. Tim Gow,

    The Airfix kits were a godsend when they came out ... and have made naval wargaming much more accessible. I only wish that the range was larger ... but as you have shown, you can do a lot with what is available.

    All the best,


  6. Johntheone,

    Dunn's book occupies an important position on my shelves of wargames books ... and always will do.

    I have yet to try any online naval wargames, but I suspect that they are better than many other online wargames.

    All the best,


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