Thursday, 4 August 2022

Cartoon ships: Taking the plunge with a manufactured model ship

For many years I’ve been an advocate for what I term ‘cartoon’ model ships for use in wargames, and as even a quick glance at some of my scratch-built models shows, they are particularly suitable when used alongside wargames figures.

HMS Empress, one of my 'cartoon' ironclad battleships. The 15mm figures give some idea of the model's actual size.
HMS Empress and another of my 'cartoon' warships in action during an opposed landing.

I was once asked where I got my inspiration from, and I cited Fred Jane. His 1:3000th-scale model ships were caricatures of the original ships, where the main elements of the ships’ designs were in the correct position on the model but were exaggerated to make them more recognisable to the players. The hulls were also much wider than they should have been to make them easier to pick up.

My Janes Naval War Game Greek Navy. The models were scratch-built using descriptions and a couple of poor-quality photographs of some original models used in Fred Janes' battles.

Some years ago I became aware of the Japanese Chibi-Maru models made by Fujimi

Fujimi's Chibi-Maru model of the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi

… and Aoshima’s ‘Deformed Combined Fleet’ models.

Aoshima's 'Deformed Combined Fleet' model of the Japanese battleship Nagato.

These are also ‘cartoon’ ship models (the Fujimi models were actually produced to go alongside an online and tabletop game that has a related TV series that features anthropomorphised Japanese World War II warships that are depicted as cute girls) and several times I have been tempted to buy some examples to see if they would be suitable for use in my wargames. It was the lack of availability of the models in the UK stopped me from taking the plunge as I did not want to order them from Japan and wait for months for them to be delivered.

The discovery that Meng Models (a Chinese model manufacturer) also makes similar models that are available online from Amazon changed my mind, and I decided to buy a copy of their model of HMS Hood. It as now been delivered, and I hope to construct it over the next week or so.


  1. Bob -
    Enjoyed this posting! I have been eyeing those 'Chibi-Maru' sets for a good while: VERY tempted to get one (some). Had the company produced examples of US WW2 as well as the Japanese, I might have acquired by now a little squadron from both navies.

    What I like about the Chibi-Maru in particular, is that they woult 'fit' my table grid cells - roughly 4" long. Meng includes Allied as well as Japanese have an idea that the Meng are larger, about double the length, I think.

    The Aoshima deformed combined fleet looks very interesting. This is the first I've seen of them. I had a further look and, if my eyes don't deceive me, they make pre-dreadnoughts!

    I'd surely like to know more about them.

    1. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

      The major problem that I have in acquiring any of the Chibi-Maru and 'Deformed Combined Fleet' models is availability and cost. If you can find a retailer in the UK who is selling them the prices are very high, and if you buy them from Japan, the cost of transport is as much as the cost of the models. At least I can get hold of the Meng models as a price that I am willing to pay, but the rang is rather limited.

      The model of HMS Hood is 16.5cm/6.5-inches long, which makes her about 50% larger than her competitors, so she won't fit into my Hexon II hexes or 4-inch square, but ...

      I did not know that Aoshima did pre-dreadnought as well, as that might well change my opinion about buying some. I'll investigate this further!

      All the best,



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