Tuesday, May 31, 2011

School Music Concerts and Teachers' Strikes

I planned to bring my WW1 Navals to the monthly games night on Saturday, but was caught out by a very busy week and bailed on the event because I needed an evening of down time (and was falling asleep).  My 15 year old is heavily into music (2 school band, 2 school choirs and a youth orchestra) and there were 4 concerts planned for the last 2 weeks of May.  What made it even more hectic was that the teacher's federation instituted job action in the midst of it all (for very good reason and I fully support the teachers).

So 2 jazz concerts concerts were moved and combined into one on the Friday to avoid strike days, and we got involved tracking down and phoning band and choir parents and then donors for the silent auction fund raiser attached to the event.  The concert went off well, my daughter player a great sax solo and the silent auction ran well (and raised good funds) but it was after midnight when we got home.   

 Sunday we had the final school choir concert, good and not needing re-scheduling but long. 

Monday was spent with 5 hours of driving to and from the Oboe doctor in Saskatoon.  Luckily we stopped at the book store (McNally-Robinson) and I picked up a copy of Neptune's Inferno

No I'm not venturing into the South Pacific, but it looks good so far and scenario ideas travel well -don't they?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Signs of the Apocalypse

Well it looks like the Reverend Camping's predictions were wrong (BBC News), and we're still here.  This story seems to have got more media and social media play in the New World compared to the Old World.  While it makes for entertainment, there's some sad elements to the story of his believers.  At least all anybody lost was money and time on this one.

But wait, last night I actually worked on new models - after so long from the workbench it felt like a sign of "the end".  I have a the following works in progress: half-dozen each of RN and Italian destroyer, a Condottierri class cruiser, an Arethusa class cruiser and the carrier HMS Eagle.  I am impressed with the GHQ castings which were largely flash-free and crisp and cleanly cast.  The detail was clear and well-executed (a huge improvement over some of my 1:3000 Navwar WWI models).  On the larger ships, turrets and superstructure were cast separately and had to be added manually, which went well for the most part once I hit up the female members of the family for tweezers.    

Once I get a break of sunny weather (good luck on the May long weekend), the bulk of these are ready to be spray-primed for painting.  The Arethusa and possibly the Eagle need pole masts added to get the feel right.  So expect the pin vice to be making an appearance soon.

I had a few nits to pick with GHQ, all on the Arethusa.

There were two tiny castings that were to be added to the superstructure, I expect that these are tubs of AA weapons.  It was tough to work out which end was up, the location point wasn't clearly located on the diagram and the were a devil to manipulate even with a pair of looted tweezers. 

The model included a sea-plane and crane for operating this, but no catapult to launch the plane. I opted to include the crane and plane (placing the latter atop a boat which was in the right spot). It turns out that of the 4 ships in the class, HMS Aurora was completed with no plane and the others lost theirs in late 1940 or 1941.  Ah well, it looks like I've got an early war model!  I'd rip the plane off but it was a bugger to plant in the first place and I don't want to risk taking out the crane.  I've since checked the GHQ site and their completed model includes the crane but no plane - presumably the crane was used to load boats and equipment.

On the subject of aeroplanes, I'd been waffling between various ways of representing these on table.  Having seen the GHQ 1:2400 planes up close, that option has been taken off the table.  They are fine models, but one needs a magnifying glass to spot the differences between types.  I'm don't care if you can't identify the exact model fighter from a distance, but you should be able to distinguish a Swordfish from a Hurricane or a Sunderland.  Based on what I see on line, the best bet may be the CAP Aero 1:1200 range.  These are out of scale, but this works given the sea-gull's eye perspective to most naval games.  My WW1 games used 1:3000 ships and 1:144 airplanes.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Back From the Left Coast

I returned last night from 3 days in the land of the lotus eaters (that's Vancouver BC, to non-Canucks) for a conference.  Luckily it's a short diversion on the Sky-train to Imperial Hobbies where I picked up

  1. A copy of Black Powder having been curious for a while and I regretted NOT getting it last June.
  2. A 1:2400 scale model of a  Leander class cruiser for WW2.
  3. Angus K's Osprey on the QE and R class battleships in WW2
  4. Another Osprey on the Fleet Air Arm in WW2
  5. A sheet of decals which I was intending to use for pennant numbers on my WW2 destroyers, but seem to have left in my hotel room instead.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Moments that Make Parenthood Worth While

The other day while I was posting, my 15 year old daughter was curious to know what I was doing and peeked over my shoulder.

"You have have a Blog?!?! You have followers?!?!?"

Yes Katie there are other grown men who play with toy soldiers and model boats.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Basement

Before the interim fix.  My daughter noted the resemblance to Amy Pond's wall.

After the literal stop gap repair.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

No I'm Not Ignoring You...

I'm not sure if they got lost when the lights went out or if it's due to an "academic moment" on my part but several comments seem to have gone missing in the last few days.

So yes, David Crook, RossMac and SteelonSand - thanks for the comments ...I just wish I remember what they were.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Out With the Old and In With the New

My 15mm troops left a week or so ago, and Tuesday's post brought me the new toys - 1:2400 WW2 ships for the med Campaign made by GHQ.  Hats off to Don at the Sentry Box in Calgary for the good service - he shipped them off Expedited and gave the me benefits of our improving Looney vs the Yankee dollar.

For the Regina Marina I have a battleship, 6 cruisers and 6 destroyers.  For the RN it's a carrier, a battleship, 4 cruisers, 2 AA cruisers, a fast minelayer and 6 DDs.  Painting wise, these should get under way next week (following the local games con and high school music concerts).  I'll start with the DDs - no gluing involved and they're less critical if I miss up.  For starters I'll keep to simple grey paint schemes and work up to camo patterns.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When Wargames and Movies and TV Collide

The Duke of Windsor has been popping up and requiring my attention lately from a number of different sources.  He's appeared as characters in an Oscar-winning movie (The Kings' Speech) and two productions on Monsterpeice Theatre (Any Human Heart and Upstairs Downstairs).  Plus the battleship named after him (HMS Prince of Wales) appears in the Naval Histories I've been reading recently.

So the conundrum I have is : why were HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Duke of York named the PoW and DoY?  Check the timing here - the PoW was laid down 27/1/37 and launched in 1939, the DoY laid down on 5/5/37 and launched in 1939.  But the men these ships were named for had changed title even before they were laid down.  The former Prince of Wales became King Edward VII on 20/1/36 and abdicated on 11/12/36 becoming Duke of Windsor the next day.  At the same time the former Duke of York became King George VI on 11/12/36.  There wouldn't be another PoW until 1958 nor another DoY until 1986!

OK, you say maybe it's because it's bad luck to rename a ship.  Possibly, but their two sister ships were laid down as HMS Jellicoe and HMS Beatty in 1937, and then launched as HMS Howe and HMS Anson.  The post-Jutland controversies ran so fervently through the RN that 24 years later the names of the admirals involved were considered too controversial.

So how was it that the admirals who led the RN through a victorious WWI campaign more controversial than a disgraced ex-King who flirted with Hitler?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Span-Am Project Giving the Spanish A Fighting Chance

David Crook's posts about a Balkan War c1900 (over at Wargaming Odyssey) spurred my memory on this back burner project.  Previously I posted some ideas with the Armada making the best of the ships on hand.  Escalating up to the next level, I'll consider some options that the Armada had for building up naval strength through purchase and construction and redeployment.

  1. Admiral Camara's squadron - at the same time that Cervera went to the West Indies, Camara was dispatched to the East Indies with the battleship Pelayo and the cruiser Carlos V.   A redeployment to the West Indies was also possible.
  2. Italian Garibaldi class cruisers - The Italian firm Ansaldo built 9 sisters to the Cristobal Colon (with some variations in armament) and they served in 4 navies (Italian, Spanish, Argentine and Japanese).  I have found vague references to the Armada buying a sister to the Colon to be named Blas de Leon
  3. Princese de Asturias class cruisers - this class of 3 cruisers was under construction in Spain in 1898 but took over 10 years to complete.  It's easy to speculate that an spurt of efficiency would have put these in service.
  4. Reina Regente class cruisers - another class of 3 ships.  The lead ship was built in the UK, although considered a success she was lost in a storm.  The next 2 were built in Spain and modified with a lighter armament to reduce top weight and improve speed.  The redesign was a complete failure, and they were far to slow for fleet work.  Alphonso XIII was in service but incomplete and left in Europe when Camara served.  Her sister Lepanto was not in service at the time.  Again, we need to speculate better efficiency in administration.  Or we can assume that the Regente didn't sink (and thus there was no need for a rethink on design) and put a class of 3 ships under the original Clydebank design in service, or replace these with 3 Elswick cruisers.  
  5. New Orleans class cruisers - The USS New Orleans and USS Albany were purchased on the stocks at Elswick in early 1898.  Originally laid down for Brazil, these were up for grabs and the US bought them to prevent them falling into Spanish hands.  Similar ships were built by the same firm for the Argentine, Chilean, Chinese, and Japanese navies.  It easy to speculate these becoming available through political/financial crises and snapped up by Spain.  These ships were small, but fast and well armed and ideal commerce raiders. 
  6. Destroyers - the giant killer of the age, these were easy, cheap and quick to build and could in some cases be bought "off the rack" from Elswick, Thornycroft and Yarrow in the UK as well in France and Germany.  The Armada had torpedo advocates and its easy to speculate that lobbying on their part would have the Armada acquiring some destroyers. 
  7. Used battleships - at a slightly later date it become common for first line navies to sell off aging battleships to smaller nations.  One might speculate that the French or Royal navies would be willing to do such a thing in the 1890s.
Ok so what would these give Cervera?  On the surface, he would have a whole lot more of what he already had - armoured cruisers.  Increasing his squadron would not change the result at Santiago, but operating a second squadron in the Antilles would change the scenario in his favour.  The US fleet would need to split it's forces to cover more bases and therefore increase the opportunity for catching a US squadron at a disadvantage.  

A larger destroyer arm would force the US navy to be more defensive in fear of torpedoes.  This would affect not only battles but also the blockades (a night attack by destroyers on blockading squadron would make a great scenario).  

In addition, a few smaller cruisers used in commerce raiding would really change the tone of the war.  Now the US navy would have to really  spread itself thin to protect commerce plus deal with a paranoid populace.  Picture an Elswick cruiser on the Gulf Coast and another on the Eastern Seaboard, and possibly a third off California

Friday, May 6, 2011

Iberian Diversions

Well, I finally did it and picked up a copy of Command & Conquest Napoleonics, and so far am impresses with the game.  I spent an hour or so last night putting stickers on little wooden blocks, ably assisted by my daughter and much to my wife's amusement.

The basement continues to overshadow most gaming.  We had the contractors in to patch the wall as a literal stop gap measure.  This meant clearing everything back from the wall (except the washer and dryer which they worked around).  The firm was on time, polite and did good work.  They are back in June with bobcats to excavate the entire foundation, brace the bad wall, seal all the walls and then put in weeping tile.  Of course the wall to be braced has both the gas meter and the electrical panel, which should be fun to deal with.  I'm also not sure how we'll get in out once the digging starts!

I've put off doing the naval game at our local con.  I was too late getting on the schedule and would be up against the other big historical event (CCN game), which meant we'd be vote-splitting the interested parties.  Plus I'm just not ready after final exams and flooding.  Next year, and quite possible later this month at a regular games day.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Trip to the Fabric Shop

I was out with my wife today and we stopped in at Fabricland - and what do you know but they had upholstery vinyl on sale 50% off (the stuff used for boat cushions etc).   So thanks to Lynne's membership I am now the proud owner of 3 metres of 1.4 metre wide indigo blue vinyl (thats 9.9x4.6 feet for our American friends who still choose to measure in terms of King's body parts).  I already had a smaller piece of the same fabric, and this appears in the photos of my model ships.  

I enlisted Lynne's eye for colour to help choosing between royal blue (a sunny Mediterranean sea) and the indigo (a more brooding sea on an overcast day).  Now the questions is to leave it solid blue or to highlight it to make it more like a moving wave-swept sea.  And then again, how to highlight it - odds on favourite for now would be sponging on white dapples.

Actually, it is slightly reflective giving some texture even small wrinkles show adding to the texture.  So I may leave it be for now.

May Day Ramblings

What do you know, I actually got rid of some figures.  I sold off my 15mm 1805 Austerlitz allies and my 15mm Prussian SYW (both 20-30 years old), plus enough buildings to make up a fair sized 15mm town plus fortified city walls.  I sold off the French side to Hinds figures a few years back.  He gave me a fair price, but the costs of mailing them overseas was high.  Also they suffered in transit leaving Hinds with more work than he would like.

Now what to do with the windfall? Plans so far are to pick up subscriptions to the local theatre so that I and my lovely wife can actually have our own social schedule instead of living vicariously through my 15 year old.  Then I've been eyeing the GHQ 1:2400 WWII micronauts for my Mediterranean diversion.    This would give me a gaming project for the summer with the advantages of taking up less space than land based games both in the painting stage and in storage.  Handy when your summer plans are limited to staying home while your basement walls get excavated by bob-cats.

Other ideas:

  1. I also love the War Times Journal 1:3000 predreadnoughts and have thoughts on these for the Span-Am project.  However, I am trying to stick with my half completed 1:1200 scratch builds.
  2. Napoleonic Naval - I have old fleets from Navwar, Skytrex and GHQ in need of re-rigging.  I also love the Langton range.   But I am trying to postpone this idea because of the frustrations of rigging ships.
  3. 28mm Napoleonics - having sold the 15mms I now feel entitled to game the Peninsular war in 28mm.  I have Perry and Victrex plastics still in the boxes, so I'll likely start with these before getting more.  Also I am in a distinctly naval mood (no surprises there) and 28mm Nappys will take up a lot of space.

I actually watched the Royal Wedding on Friday and enjoyed it!  It brought out pride in my English side (I was born in Northampton and my dad lives near Portsmouth), but at the same time I found myself humming the Housemartins "The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death".

In Canada we have an odd juxtaposition of Federal Government events on Monday - it's both the deadline to file your income taxes (extended from the 30th due to the weekend) and election  day.  A reminder to all Canucks to cast your ballot - I do so that I can legitimately complain about the result.  Interestingly enough the advance polls had an unexpectedly high turnout and there's been a campaign to motivate young voters.  I particularly liked the campaign that hit the university campus this spring "You wouldn't let your grandparents pick your dates, why let them pick your government?".