Friday 28 February 2014

Prototype L-shaped built-up area

This afternoon I managed to build a prototype L-shaped built-up area, as outlined in my recent blog entry entitled 'Thinking about buildings'.

I used a mixture of balsa and basswood to construct the model, and it took me just over thirty minutes to build it from scratch. The dimensions of the model's footprint are approximately 6cm x 6cm (2.25" x 2.25").

(The 15mm and 20mm-scale figures are included to give some idea of the size of the completed model.)

I am pleased with the way the model turned out, and now that I have proved the concept to my own satisfaction I intend to build some more L-shaped built-up areas.

Thursday 27 February 2014

Another visit to the National Archives

My wife and I visited the National Archives again today in order to continue our search for her illusive forebear William Richardson. We left home at 8.40am this morning to drive the eighteen or so miles from our house to Kew ... and finally got to our destination just over two hours later!

We had not realised when we left home that there had been a serious traffic accident on the north-bound approach to the Blackwall Tunnel. The tailback of vehicles unable to get through the tunnel was so long that it cut across our route. Added to this was the additional traffic that had diverted onto our route across London to avoid the traffic jam on the tunnel approach. The result was a fraught and tiring journey that was even worse than the normal rush hour drive around the South Circular from Woolwich to Kew.

To make matters worse, the journey home took longer than usual because traffic flow on the main roads in South London had still not returned to normal ... nine hours after the accident had taken place!

As to William Richardson ... well we managed to find some records pertaining to his time in the Royal Artillery, and we are a little bit closer to being able trace his career from when he enlisted until the day he retired.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Thinking about buildings

Buildings are always problematic for wargamers.

If they are in scale with the figures, then they take up too much room (unless - of course - you are fighting a skirmish-level game). If they are not in scale with the figures, then they can look out of place alongside the figures being used. A lot of wargamers - myself included - have compromised by using buildings that are one scale down from the figures. For example, I have commonly used 15mm-scale and N-gauge buildings with 20mm-scale figures and 1:200th-scale buildings with 15mm-scale figures. Not a perfect solution ... but it does not jar on the eye too much.

A model building's footprint is also a problem. One solution that is commonly used is to make the buildings taller and thinner than they would be in real life. The resulting models are then in vertical scale with the figures, but the base area they occupy is closer to half what it should be. It is yet another compromise ... and one that some wargamers prefer to the 'one scale down' solution outlined above.

A further problem is whether or not it should be possible to put one's figures into the model building. If the model is solid, this is not possible ... and the sight of figures placed onto of a model building just does not look right in the eyes of many wargamers. Charles Grant Senior advocated a solution that many wargamers find appealing, namely having buildings that were hollow and that could be taken off their bases so that the figures could be put inside. The buildings were built 'one scale down', but because they were representative rather than representational, they looked right.

Joseph Morschauser proposed a different method, and that was to make buildings skeletal rather than solid. When seen from the side, the buildings had the correct silhouette, but when seen from above they were formed from two interlocking pieces that formed a cross.

Some years ago I designed a hollow square-style of built-up area where the walls of the square was made up of photographs of suitable buildings. When seen from the side, the built-up areas looked like a town, but figures could easily be placed inside them.

This led to a triangular design, where only two sides of the triangle had walls with buildings represented on them. These were a better design because they took up less space than the square version and were easier to store.

I am giving serious thought to revisiting this idea again as I think that it will allow me to create buildings and/or built-up areas that will look all right, allow figures to be placed inside them, will have virtually no footprint, and will be easy to store.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

HMS Thunderer is commissioned!

I finally managed to finish painting my model of the unbuilt HMS Thunderer this morning ... and I am very pleased with the result.

I painted the ship overall dark grey, and then dry-brushed her with a slightly lighter shade of grey to pick out the smaller detail. It also gave the ship a somewhat less pristine and rather more workmanlike appearance. I then picked out the funnel tops and the decks of the larger of the ship's boats.

Now all she needs is an opportunity to face the enemy! Perhaps the Tirpitz ... or possibly even a Japanese battleship or two.

Monday 24 February 2014

Furious Fuso!: The opposing squadrons

To put the recent blog entry about the Fuso’s almost single-handed destruction of a German/Turkish naval squadron during the MADASAHATTA campaign into context, here are some photographs of the real ships that took part in the battle.

Japanese Squadron



German/Turkish Squadron
Kaiser Frederick III

Heireddin Barbarossa

Torgud Reis





Furious Fuso!

One of the 'incidents' that meeting Neil Fox brought to mind occurred during the famous MADASAHATTA campaign that we both took part in over the course of a year many years ago. The campaign was fought out on the large table in the basement of Eric Knowles's shop 'New Model Army' in Manor Park, East London.

During the early stages of the campaign I wrote a number of newspaper-style bulletins about the campaign, one of which covered the intervention of the Imperial Japanese Navy in the naval side of the campaign.

(Please note that on the evening that this battle was fought, I was in command of the Japanese squadron!)

by Our Correspondent

The Japanese Squadron, which is commanded by Vice Admiral Iama Quitageza, has already made its mark upon the course of the War in this area. The Squadron, which consists of the dreadnought battleship FUSO, the cruisers NISSHIN and SOYA, and two destroyers, was on its way to the Island when it intercepted the combined might of the German and Turkish Navies in this area.

The enemy fleet consisted of the battleships KAISER FREDERICK III (which had only recently arrived in this area), HEIREDDIN BARBAROSSA, TORGUD REIS, the cruisers REGENSBERG, DRESDEN and MUIN-I-ZAFFAR, the gunboat MUCHE and the patrol-ship ILTIS, and is thought to have been commanded by the German Admiral Hans Off.

As soon as both sides came into view of one another both fleets opened fire, and the Japanese opening salvos caused considerable damage. This can be seen by the examination of the gunnery log of the Japanese flagship FUSO –
1st Salvo – Enemy cruiser (later known to be the REGENSBERG) disabled.
2nd Salvo – German battleship KAISER FREDERICK III sunk. (It is thought that at least one of the FUSO's shells penetrated the armour on the aft 12-inch magazine and this caused the KAISER FREDERICK III to blow up.)
3rd Salvo – Near hits on enemy cruiser.
4th Salvo – Further near hits on enemy units.
5th Salvo – Enemy cruiser (known to be the DRESDEN) sunk as a result of 9 simultaneous hits.
6th Salvo – MUIN-I-ZAFFAR hit and sunk by several direct hits from 14-inch shells.
7th Salvo – Turkish battleship HEIREDDIN BARBAROSSA badly damaged by several direct hits and near misses.
8th Salvo – HEIREDDIN BARBAROSSA sunk by further hits by 14-inch shells.
9th Salvo – TORGUD REIS explodes as a result of several direct hits from the guns of the FUSO, NISSHIN and SOYA.
As can be seen from the above extract the Japanese shooting during the battle was excellent, and this is a result of the training the Japanese Navy has had at the hands of a British Naval Mission, and we remind our readers that many of the Japanese ships in service at the moment are either British built or designed.

It is reported that now that they have discharged their obligations to the British, the Japanese are expected to return home in the very near future in order to assist in the reduction of other Enemy colonies in the Far East.

This battle was fought using Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game Rules ... and I have never, ever managed to replicate the accuracy of my distance estimation again! At the time I was even accused of having had my glasses calibrated because my 'estimations' were so accurate ... but the truth of the matter is that on that evening I just could not do anything wrong.

These things sometimes happen in wargaming ... and the memory of them lives on for a long time afterwards.

Neil Fox, SEEMS, and the Portable Naval Wargame

One person I forgot to mention in yesterday's report about CAVALIER was Neil Fox. He was at the show with the other members of SEEMS (South East Essex Military Society) putting on their TABLETOP TEASERS ON TOUR game.

I have know Neil on and off for the best part of thirty-five years. We met at Eric Knowles's shop NEW MODEL ARMY in Manor Park, East London, and have kept in somewhat erratic contact ever since. Whenever I see that SEEMS is putting on a game at a show I always make sure that I say hello and – if time and circumstances allow – stop for a chat.

I had a brief talk to Neil yesterday, but as I went to leave he suddenly announced that he had something to give me. He handed over a plastic wallet in which was a copy of the SEEMS modifications to my Ironclad version of the PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME. It appears that they have been using the rules quite a bit and have modified them specifically for the American Civil War ... and are going to use the rules in a game that they will be taking to shows in the near future.

I look forward to seeing the rules in action, and it will given me an even greater impetus to look out for a SEEMS presence at the wargames show that I attend.

Sunday 23 February 2014

I have been to ... Cavalier

I had actually decided not to go to CAVALIER today … but when my wife decided that she wanted to visit Sevenoaks in Kent – which is only a few miles north of Tonbridge – it seemed rather silly not to pay the show a flying visit.

Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society organised the show and – as usual – the venue was the Angel Centre in the centre of Tonbridge, Kent.

(The building is not very appealing to look at, but as I was there for the wargames show and not the architecture I just hurried past the uninviting entrance, paid, and went in.)

Just inside the entrance to the main hall was a stand being run on behalf of Combat Stress, a charity that is devoted to helping veterans and ex-service personnel who are suffering from psychological injuries and mental health problems.

The main hall was not as crowded as it has been in the past, but this did allow attendees to get around with greater ease.

During my short visit I met and talked to:

I had hoped to talk to Martin Goddard of Peter Pig, but when I passed his stand he was already talking to someone and I did not think that it would be polite to interrupt.

Wargames in the main hall
There was enough space in the main hall for a few wargames to be staged therein.

The Battle of Cape St Vincent (Tonbridge Wargames Club)

Chrysler's Farm, 11th November 1813 (Southend and Rayleigh Wargames Club)

Sunset over Shumshu: The Soviet invasion of the Kurile Island of Shumshu in 1945 (Deal Wargames Club)

Tabletop Teasers On Tour 1709: Gentlemanly wargaming in the Age of Marlborough and the Sun King (SEEMS)

Wargames in the Medway Hall
This was where the majority of the wargames were on show.

Reconquista 1450 (Essex Warriors)

Blitzkrieg! (Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society)

Kohima 1944 (North London Wargames Group)

Fraustadt 1706 (Crawley Wargames Club)

Welcome to Valhalla (SELWG)

Schweinfurt 1943 (Staines Wargamers)

Somewhere in Belgium 1914 (Maidstone Wargames Society)

Wargames in the small side room
Just off the main concourse there was a small side room which was also used to house two wargames.

Tunis 310BC (Society of Ancients)
This game was – as always – being umpired by Professor Phil Sabin.

French and Indian Wars Skirmish 1750 (Gravesend Gamers Guild)

I am glad that I was able to make it to CAVALIER this year. Besides buying a couple of things that I needed (including some grey paint for my model of HMS Thunderer!), I also managed to take a booking for COW2014 and to see some figures that I am thinking of buying.

In almost all cases it was possible to see quite clearly what was going on in each of the wargames that were on show BUT there were still one or two games where there was no signage (a big 'No! No!' in my book) and some where the people who were putting on the wargames were so engrossed with what they were doing that they were unwilling to interact in any way with passers-by.

There were some honourable exceptions to my last point ... and I was particularly impressed by the information presented to passers-by by the Deal Wargames Club and SEEMS, and by the enthusiastic interaction between presenters and the public that was exhibited by the Southend and Rayleigh Wargames Club.