Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Reading

I seem to be fighting off a post Christmas cold, so it's a good thing that I got some good reading on Christmas

I'm part way into this one.  Lot's of good flavour, and best of all it won't get me thinking of a new period, unlike...
 So far I've just skimmed the good bits (i.e. Balaklava) but looks really good.  Must be strong, must resist new period....

Santa was good to my inner child...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Plans for the Christmas Break

With end of term at hand (I'm writing this while 28 students write a Financial Mathematics Exam), it's time to plan for the holidays.

We're staying at home (my mother in law went to the UK instead of Sask. this year), what with my daughter studying for exams in early January and me prepping for two courses I've never taught before including one that I'm designing from scratch.

So what to do, what to do....?

  • Paint up more 28mm plastic Napoleonics
  • Paint up my 1:1200 scale aircraft to go with the 1:2400 WWII ships
  • Read a bunch of history books (depending on what appears under the tree)
  • Tidy up my wargames figures, supplies and terrain (a huge euphemism for something approaching a very specific labour of Hercules)
  • Clean up the basement enough to set up a wargames table and play a couple of solo games (this one is not completely my fault as the basement work required a very hasty shift and dump in the summer)
  • Clear the family out of a room so that I can use the floor for a solo naval game
  • Give David Crook's portable naval rules a test

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December Means ... University Exams

I'm spending the morning watching a class of 4th year students write a 3 hour final exam on construction of loss models.  Which of course means marking to come, but in this case it won't be bad as there are only 8 students in my class.  I have a second year class writing on the 20th, meaning 25 papers to mark in the days before Christmas.  All in all a fairly light load

Next term, however, will be an entirely different matter.  One of the classes I'm teaching is "Calculus for the Humanities and Social Sciences"...yep the first year calculus class for (mostly business )students who want to take the absolute minimum amount of calculus required to get there degree.  156 first year students on a class they don't want to take - fun times!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Remembering The Halifax Explosion - One Day Late

David Crook and Bob Cordery both posted about the anniversary of Pearl Harbour today, which reminded me that the 6th was the anniversary of the 1917 Halifax Explosion (see the links to wikipedia and CBC).   Halifax is my home town growing up and as i child I was fascinated by the story.  My grandmother was a high school student at the time and her school was in the heart of downtown Halifax and had many tales of the events of the day.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Peninsula Campaigning

Well David Crook asked, so I should probably scope out some plans.  Here goes with my wish list for 28mm Peninsula campaigning.


  1. 4-6 battalions of Ligne 24 strong (Victrix, Perry's in greatcoats)
  2. 2 battalions of Ligne 24 strong (Perry's without greatcoats paint conversions or Hat)
  3. 1-2 battalions of Poles (Perry's without greatcoats straight up)
  4. 1-2 battalions of foreigners like Swiss  (Victrix)or Hessians (Perry's)
  5. 1-2 battalions of young guard (Perry's)
  6.  2 regiments of 12 light cavalry (Perry Hussars, no Chasseurs available in plastic)
  7. regiments of 12 Dragoons (Perry's converted to earlier uniform)
  8. regiments of 12 Cuirassier (Perry's)
  9. 2 units of 12 detached voltigeurs (Victrix, Perry's, Hat or all of the above)
  10. 1 unit of 12-dismounted dragoons (Perry's converted)
  11. 2-4 guns with foot artillery crews (metals)
  12. 2 guns with horse artillery crews (metals)

British and Allied

  1. 4-6 battalions of British or KGL Foot 24 strong (Perry's or Victrix)
  2. 1-2 battalions of Highlanders (Victrix)
  3. 1-2 battalions of light infantry  (Victrix flank companies)
  4. 2-3 battalions of Portuguese (Perry's or Victrix paint conversions)
  5.  2 regiments of 12 light cavalry (Perry Hussars, metals for lt dragoons)
  6. regiments of 12 Dragoons (metals or Perrys French Dragoons heavily converted)
  7. 2 units of 12 flankers (Victrix, Perry's, or both)
  8. 1-2 units of 12-rifles (Perry's)
  9. 2-4 guns with foot artillery crews (Victrix)
  10. 2 guns with horse artillery crews (metals)

Painting Projects

Painting and modeling the Peninsula continues.  I have a battalion of French line infantry painted, based and flocked, and a unit of the 60th rifles painted but un-based.  On the way - the 24th foot built, primed and about 1/3 painted.  So far I'm really having fun with the plastic figures, even if my plastic modelling skills are rusty.  They paint up well, and I like the ability to vary the poses and equipment.  And you can't argue with the price - about 80 loonies gets 2 boxes of Perry Brits- 3* 24 man battalions plus a unit of 8 rifle.  That would be 14 boxes of Perry metals or $224). 

Victrix French Infantry 1807-12.

The same from an overhead view.

A company of the 5/60th.  From the Perry's British Infantry box set.

The same group of riflemen.  Since this is the 60th not the 95th these must be Fredericksson's men.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When Work and Play Collide - Bringing the D&D Dice to Work

Not many people get to play with dice at work, but I do!  This week we're looking at stochastic simulation models in my 4th year class.  Having been trained as an elementary school teacher (some time in the dark ages), I love to use concrete materials in class when ever possible.  So today I gave each of my students a D10 and had them rolling away to generate four digit random variables between 0 and 1.  The we used the inversion method to generate claim times, loss amounts and lag times to adjudicate claims (this being longer for more expensive and thus more complex claims).  On in wargamers terms were rolled a handful of dice and checked our Combat Results Tables!

The really funny thing is every time I do this exercise the class instantly separates into two groups - those who played D&D as kids (most of the Canadian kids, easily inditified by the grins that light up their faces) and those who haven't (mostly the foreign kids identified by looks of complete befuddlement).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Reading List for Napoleonics

Following David Crook's comment on my last post, I put together a small list.  A few personal favourites and in no particular order

.  Before the inundation while I like Bernard Cornwall, I would much rather read  the real thing over fiction.  So Sharp's not on my list (the TV show is great to paint to however).

This was a gift from my English Grandmother in the late 70s.  Gran lived in the same small Cotswald village as Michael Glover, so she knocked on his door and got me a signed copy.

Well, we have to give the other side of the hill it's due don't we?   IMHO the best one chapter get-you-hooked-for-life introduction is the chapter on Davout's Corps at Auerstadt.  It's an amazing view of an army (and generals) at their absolute peak.  If only wargames rules let us be as flexible as Davout - here M. Engineer- lead these infantry companies in a bayonet charge, hey sappers go take that battery over there!

Brilliant history, a great read, and great scenario ideas.   Many volumes love the Allies as dunderheads model but Duffy makes the allied command very human and realistic.  You'll really feel sorry for Kutusov after this one.  And for a general and an army cursed for slowness check out the march rate required to get them into Bavaria to link up with Mack's Austrians and then back to Moravia when the unfortunate reality was revealed!

My current read (ok one of several books on the go).  I'm on my second go round and it's both information and highly entertaining.  Covers more than Napoleonics but a lot of period stuff.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Meanwhile Back in Spain

A status report on my Peninsula project shows 

  • one battalion of 24 French line infantry painted and based and just need the bases painted and flocked; 
  • a small unit of rifle men (5th btn 60th foot) less than half way painted; and
  • lots of ambitious ideas for the future.
Actually not a bad start for the month given the distractions of planning the SSYO trip to Banff, being on the SSYO trip to Banff and then recovering from the SSYO trip to Banff!

I've been thinking about what and when I should be gaming.  Game-wise my druthers would be 1810-11 as this period sees a see-saw back and forth between French and British armies over the same terrain.  Add in sieges and subsidiary ops and there is a huge range of options for tabletop teaser type games.  Also, there's still he opportunity to model some of the foreigners in Napoleon's armies.  

However, figure-wise the intelligent move would be to look at 1813 with the short tailed and closed lapelled French jackets as this allows me to use the Perry plastics range (and metals too if the pocket book allows) straight up.  I would never doom anyone to play Joseph Bonaparte but  Marshall Soult put up excellent opposition after Vitoria.  !813-4 would still offer some teaser type games focusing on river crossings and mountains.  However, by this time the bloom was definitely fading on the Grande Armee and the flow of campaign was far more one way out of Spain and into France. 

So having discarded the intelligent option, can I still use the Perry plastics for 1810-11?  Here's some ideas.

  1. French Infantry box - can be used as legere regiments in short light infantry jackets (painting in waistcosts), Poles, Hessians and the Young Garde.  Victrix boxes of course supply the "regular" regiments du ligne.
  2.  French Hussars box - looks like it has all the head combinations to model any regiment from 1793 onwards with no modifications.
  3. Cuirassier box - I beleive there were uniform changes in 1812 but these are largley hidden by the cuirass and horse furniture.  Therefore these can be painted straight up.
  4. Dragoon box - the biggest problem as these have the short jacket with closed lapels while for pre-1813 I need the long tailed jacket with open lapels and wistcoats.  I'll need to see them in the flesh but the best option is likely to trim off the lapels and paint them in the short tailed surtout which was often worn on campiagn.  The other option is to paint the waistcosts in and ignore the lenght of the tails.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I've Been to Banff for The Youth Orchestra Symposium

Banff Centre for the Arts and Banff township from an early morning hike on Tunnel Mountain.  No military events of any type (unless you consider Man vs. Nature, Cougar vs. Elk or Snowboarder's face vs Snowbank), and the closest thing to military architecture is Castle Mountain.  

My wife and I organized a 4 day trip for mys daughter's youth orchestra and I was head chaperon.  Two SSYO has 62 members aged 11-23 with 8 parents plus conductor and assistant music director.   We left 7:15am on Thursday and returned at 4:30am on Monday.  Great trip with great kids and a great final concert.  And heck 4 days in Banff will do anybody a world of good.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Progress on Projects

In typically style, my painting is proceeding at a Kutusov like snail's pace while I rush into project ideas like Blucher.  Someday maybe I'll find a Wellingtonian middle ground where plans and results move somewhat in step.

Based on recent blogs, listing projects on the go seems to be all the rage in the UK and east coast so here goes.

  1. Span-Am project:  Plenty of ideas for scenarios and good choices for rules.  I have about 1/3 of the forces in 1:1200 home builds.  Further construction put on hold without basement renos.  I am  also consider War Times Journal 1:3000 models instead of scratch builds.
  2. World War II Mediterranean Naval in 1:2400.  Has outpaced SpanAm project since I went with GHQ models.  Have usable forces set to go, but need to get space in house to play (i.e. sort out the basement) or get my ducks together and run a game at the monthly games night.
  3. Napoleonic Naval:  My British and Franco=Hispanic fleets emerged from mothballs during renos, but sadly in need of re-rigging.  I am also considering  scrapping the current Navwar/Skytrex lot and going with Langtons.
  4. Napoleonic Peninsula War:  Has been making slow if recent progress with French infantry regiment about 2/3 painted.  The plan is to go with Perry and Victrix plastics as far as possible, based for Black Powder but with final rules choice up in the air.   
  5. French and Indian War.  Again these refugees appeared in basement renos,  The plan is to replace current single bases with Black Powder style stands and game using BP or MacDuff (depending on what MacDuff's flavour of the month is)

Monday, November 7, 2011

General Winter

General Winter made his first assault on the prairies this weekend, with 5-10cms of snow.  Here's hoping the Berezina crossing is clear for the march home this aft.

 I spent a good part of Sunday locating hats, mitts, shovels, ice scrapers and the like.  Luckily I had put the snow tires on the Nissan (aka the summer car), and well, um, never actually took them off the Subaru (aka the winter car).    So Sunday's excursions to Orchestra practice and the mall were safer for us than for many except for dodging the rest of the driving world.  Nothing like the first day of winter driving!  In a week or two most people will have figured it out, but there were two cars in the ditch off the Ring Road.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blogs Of Span-Am Interest

I'll give another shout out to Navalwarfare, which this month features USS/USGC Hudson and a story of an interesting small ship action in the Spanish-American War.  The Spanish were sometimes able to give the Yanquis a bloody nose! 

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Work Place Hazard

Today I went down to the basement of the UofR student union building where the art store is kept.  It's a nice feature of working on campus - they run a store with decent if less expensive art supplies including artist acrylic paints (my weapon of choice) and brushes.  Even better they had a 25% off deal on some colours I actually needed.

Back during the summer purge of excess basement strata I down sized my paint box by tossing paints I thought I wouldn't need again (famous last words).  So now I've restocked on yellow (needed for voltigeur collars etc), bronze (my old one must have dried up), crimson and white (OK I kept the white tube but I'm not happy with the one I had in stock).
This could be an expensive place to visit.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Single Handed Admiral Plays Multi-player Games

Disproving my own moniker, I actually made it to the monthly games night for the first time since April (being out of town 11 weekends out of 14 will do that).  I played a series of board games as follows:

  1. Witchs' Dance (actual title was German, unpronounceable and impossible to remember) a kids game that was a really difficult memory game.  Each player had 4 witches to move around a track and off the board.  First kicker -the tokens were identical except for a coloured sticker on the bottom which could only be viewed if you rolled a 6 and forwent movement.  Second kicker - if you landed on another witch, you bumped her back 7 spaces with resulting chain reactions.   After a few moves no one knew which witch was which.  I won literally because other players moved all 4 of my witches by accident (thinking they were their own tokens).
  2. Infinite City (plus an expansion, although how one expands and infinite city is beyond me!) - tile placement game that I really enjoyed - especially since I won it!
  3. Midnight Party - another kids Halloween themed game that was the most fun of the evening.  Your party going guests race around trying to avoid Hugo the ghost.  The trouble is that the 2 of the die's faces moved the ghost instead of the players tokens.  I started well but finished back in the pack.
  4. Puerto Rico - loved the game, but I was playing 3 players with a lot more experience at it than I, so I was thoroughly thrashed.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Back At the Painting Table

I did some actually modelling this week.  Plus for once, I'll be able to attend the monthly games day tonight -I'm actually in town and without social commitments!  

Inspired by a re-read of Black Powder, and online blog posts, I hauled out the Victrix and Perry plastic Napoleonics boxes from my basement and went to it.  So new projects include a unit of 8 rifles (assembled and primed) and a unit of 24 peninsula era French line infantry (assembled, primed and about 1/2 way painted).  

Other than usual issues with me an plastic models, they went together nicely.  OK well it turned out that I gave one pour monsieur two left arms in error so he's holding his fusil in his left hand and waiving his other left hand on the right side.  Oh well I'll put him in the back rank and hope no one notices.

This is a project that's like going way back in the time machine.  I painted the obligatory Airfix Waterloo boxes back in the (gulp) seventies and 15mm Austerlitz era figures in the eighties, but haven't touched a Nappy figure since then.  Most of the figures I've painted in the last 10 years or so have been medievals, so it's a pleasure to paint actual uniforms for a change.  I'm actually amazed that I never got around to the peninsula at some point in the last 30 years!

Other semi-modeling projects include relaying the front walkway and rerigging the wooden steps to link up to the walk way properly (I'm remembering exactly why I became an actuary rather than an engineer), and helping the daughter make rat shaped cup cakes for two friends having a joint birthday party tonight.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When Work and Hobbies Meet

I've been silent on the blog for the last month which has been quite a whirlwind - I was away on CIA (actuaries) business three weekends running, I'm planning and organizing a 4 day tour to Banff for a 60 member youth orchestra, and I'm trying to engineer a new walkway and front steps to replace the ones backhoed and jackhammered to death with the foundation work.  Oh yeah and I teaching two university courses!

Anyway, there's the personal Venn diagram shows two items in the union of  Hobby Space and Work Space (okay I'm obviously fully back into academic mode this term).

1. My assignment for my 4th year class on fitting actuarial models to real life cases (life mortality tables).  I've split them into two groups Team Anson and Team Bourgogne and given them the data from Anson's circumnavigation and Napoleon's invasion of Russia as their case studies.

2. I've been outed to the University Community at large.  Apparently, my blogs got spotted and I'm going into a UofR wide social media directory.  Oh well, any one who knows me has long ago decided if I'm eccentric or just plain interesting.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Interesting Google Challenge

As part of my work or with volunteer activities with professional actuarial bodies I get to travel a few times a year.  Normally before I leave I do a simple google check for hobby and games stores in the area.  I've found that searching with "wargames stores XXXX" works well in most cases when XXXX is Chicago, Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle etc.  However, last week I was hit with an interesting challenge.  I was part of a CIA (that's the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, not the waterboarders) panel visiting the premier actuarial science school in Canada at the University of Waterloo.

So try Googling for a wargames store in Waterloo Ontario see what comes up!  I  google's search routine the weight of wargames links to the battle of Waterloo far outweigh the wargames links to Ontario!

Anyhow to make a long story short, I found that using Waterloo's twin city of Kitchener worked like a charm.  However, while there was a store close to the hotel I was too busy to make it there.  UWaterloo is just a few blocks away from Laurier University, which has a music school that my 16-year old daughter is interested in and an oboe instructor/dealer that she wanted to meet.  So we spent my free time touring the Laurier campus and meeting up with the oboe guru.

A good trip all around. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Span-Am Veteran USS Massachusetts

A quick shout out to http://navalwarfare.blogspot.com/  who have an entry on this predreadnought battlewagon.  She was coaling up and missed Santiago, but was very active on the blockade and engaged both the Colon and shore batteries. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Torpedo Gunboat On Manouvers With A Flottilla of TBDs

No new models, that's my metaphor to describe my first spin cycle class of the semester.  The class is filled with mostly fit 20-somethings plus yours truly and another one or two in the same decade of life.  I'm decidedly older, heavier, slower, crankier and more apt to run out of steam.  Really feeling the extra klics on the Oldometer!

However, it keeps the cholesterol down, the spare tire under control, boosts the immune system and strengthens the wonky knees - all good stuff.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back on the Blogging Trail

And back at the hobby work bench too!  I've been largely dormant blog-wise for the summer, but with the Labour Day weekend behind us and first day of classes dead ahead it was time to get back at it.

Last night I hauled out my WW2 1:2400 ships and got some the unpainted ones clear of flash, assembled (where required) and based for painting.  There's two battleships (HMS Warspite and a Cavour class), two    AA cruisers (ex-WWI "C" classes) and 12 destroyers (3 each of "J/K", Hunt, Ciclone and Turbine classes).  I'm now at the point where I'll be repeating ship models in different scales  (I have a WW1 Warspite in 1:3000, and C class cruisers as well).  At least the ships were modified extensively between wars so that it's not complete deja vu all over again.

On the home front, the house and occupants survived the basement work.  This involved jackhammers in the basement so as to allow the steel bracing to be anchored into the floor, more jackhammers on the driveway and and yet more jackhammering to remove the concrete front steps.  We were feeling very much like Quasimodo (the bells the bells,..) by the end of it.  Plus we entertained the neighbour hood kids (and seniors) with the bobcat and mini-excavator used to dig the out foundations down to the footing.  It was looking like plates from Chris Duffy's "Fire and Stone" and some points - complete with drawbridge over the ditch to allow exit/entry via a sally port (ok the back door).

Having spent vast amounts of money to make the place look much, much worse than it used to, we're cleaning up the basement and hoping the grass seed we sowed takes before prairie winds low it away or winter hits.  Right now the "lawn" looks rather much like Passchendale.  The local Regina clay has amazing cling and clump properties (a local gardening expert describes it as having the consistency of frozen creamed cheese) and a walk across it leaves the soles of one's shoes with mud platforms that remind me of Elton John's Pinball wizard footwear.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Traveling Days

So far in July I've been in 5 provinces and 1 US state (kind of) - Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and North Dakota.

This last week I was in Calgary on business and stopped into two favourite stores.

Sentry Box  They have a really good selection of SF/fantasy reading and a very good miniatures store (yes with good historical ranges on site).  I restrained myself to the second volume of the Romanicus series that my family enjoys but is hard to get, and 12 mixed Italian and British destroyers from GHQ.

Livingstone and Cavell (unfortunately the site is very limited).  They stock a treasure trove of old style toys - Mamod and Wilseco steam engines, Marklin trains and lovely tin wind up German toys.  Best in store category goes to this wind up HMS Dreadnought.  When I win the lottery....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Span Am War- Foreign Intervention part II

BlueBearJeff asked me to finish off this train of thought so here goes.

The Hapsburg empire had the closest ties to Spain (the Queen Regent was a Hapsburg Princess) and therefore was the most likely to back Spain for diplomatic reasons.  However, in naval terms they basically had diddly-squat (to use a precise term) of use to Spain - old ironclads, coast defense ships and cruisers- and its difficult to see any of these having any impact on the war.  The Austrian cruiser Maria Theresa did accidentally appear at the tail end of the battle of Santiago, and was nearly set upon by the US Navy before she was correctly identified.  However, there might be the possibility of the Hapsburgs applying diplomatic ties to other European powers (e.g. Germany) especially if the US did fire on their ships.

Along with the French, the Germans represent the two best options for foreign intervention - both in real terms and game terms.  Unlike other powers, the main interest for Germany would be acquiring an empire.  Therefore it's likely that a Hispano-German alliance would be based on transfer of Spanish overseas possessions to German control.

Germany provides a useful battle fleet that could give the US a run for its money, with supporting cruisers and torpedo craft (but no U-boats yet).  They would be involved on both the Caribbean and Philippine theatres, Admiral Dewey famously threatening to fire on a German cruiser flying the flag of a Crown Prince in Manila Bay.

The challenge for Germany would be to get their fleet into the Caribbean to provide active support.  I suspect that this would involve transferring the fleet first to the Canaries and then across to Puerto Rico or Havana.  However, it is also possible that they would pressure the Danes or Dutch to allow use of the Virgin Islands or Dutch Antilles respectively.  However, this gives a very good campaign option sure to challenge both the US and German commands.

It's early days for a US-Japan naval rivalry, but the Japanese fleet was among the best in the world and hot off an overwhelming victory over China.  Obviously Caribbean intervention is not practical but intervention in the Philippines was certainly possible.  The Japanese couldn't match the US battle fleet but their cruisers could overwhelm Dewey's force and give the US a nasty shock.   Also they had a very good torpedo arm.  Now the US is faced with sending a large expedition across the Pacific to save face.

Oddly similar to the Japanese in this case - might intervene in Asia but not in the Caribbean. Again they couldn't math the whole fleet but could give a shock locally.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Naval Warfare Blog

I'll give a shout out to the navalwarfare blog for today's post on the USS Brooklyn (the pre-dreadnought CA-3, although the next Brooklyn also had history of note).  The Brooklyn played a key role in the Span-Am war, and looked cool to boot.  I have modeled the base hull for her (dating back 10 years ago) and while I got the tumblehome about right I'm still not sure how to mount the wing turrets on her.

Lots of cool pictures c1898 at the blog, both of the ship from a distance plus on board activities.  Past entries cover ships (mostly of the USN) over the last 100+ years.   Well worth a look.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Just Back From Ottawa

I've been off line for a while, mostly due to a week long business/holiday trip to Ottawa.  The CIA (the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, not the other one) scheduled it's annual meeting for June 29-30th in Ottawa (the 2 days before Canada day for non Canucks), so we combined my trip with family holidays.

Say the royals, didn't quite get to Parliament Hill on July 1st (300k people did which made it difficult), but did other Canada Day stuff including the fireworks.  We also did the National Gallery and the Museum of Civilization.  Good times all around.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Back to the Span Am War: Considering Foreign Intervention

It has been a while since I've been back to this topic.  The Span Am war has been on the back burner modeling-wise but not forgotten.

One way to make for a more balanced contest is to bring in foreign intervention - one of the great navies who could provide a more equal opponent to the United States.  I am going to run through the possible white knights and consider the following questions.
  • Does the power have the ability to intervene?
  • What would it take to bring about intervention?
  • How would the intervention unfold?

Great Britain

As to the ability to intervene, obviously the Royal Navy had the ships and the men and the money too!  More over they had bases and squadrons on site for North American operations (Jamaica, Bermuda and Halifax) and Asian operations (Hong Kong).

However, I would consider British Intervention as being unlikely.  There was little public or governmental sympathy for Spain and no real reason to fight the US.  It would take a combination of real skilled diplomatic pressure from Spain and really stupid moves on the part of the US to bring this about.

Operationally, if the Royal Navy came into play it would likely be a game-ender,  much as the Dardanelles operation stopped the Tsar's army at Constantinople in 1878.  Ship for ship the US navy could but a good fight, but the Royal Navy was far too big to defeat.  Plus the British cruiser squadrons could sweep US shipping off the table and bring about a negotiated settlement without getting the battle fleets involved at all.  British intervention would lead to something much like the War of 1812 (at least at sea), but with pre-dreadnoughts instead of frigates.  

This to me is not an option.  We would have to balance off the RN with further European intervention, at which point we're no longer looking at the Spanish American war!


This is an attractive option.  The French navy certainly had the ability to intervene as they still stood at number 2 in 1898.  They had the battle fleet and cruisers to scare the US without overpowering them.  Furthermore, bases were available in the Caribbean and at Saigon in Asia the latter with a squadron of ships.

It is also easier to see French involvement.  There were stronger ties with Spain, and a bit of yellow press journalism might whip up some Latin aggression versus an Anglo-Saxon power.  The US came close to giving them a cassus belli as they damaged a french cruiser (very slightly) when Sampson bombarded San Juan Puerto Rico (see wikipedia entry).   Expand this into dead matelots (or dead civilians and government officials) and let wounded Gallic pride take over!

The intervention also makes good gaming possibilities both in the Caribbean and the Far East.   I would see  a reinforced China squadron moving on Dewey at Manila, the transfer of battleships to the Caribbean and cruiser operations off the eastern seaboard.  In every case, the US Navy would have had a fight on it's hands.

Well that's enough for now.  Still to be considered are Germany, Russia, Japan, Austria-Hungary and the South American navies.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Saved by a Dropcloth

I had a near disaster tonight at the painting table.  I used my normal set up - in front of the TV using two small folding tables to hold my work and tools.  On returning from a trip to the bathroom, I nudged one table and jiggled the paint pallet off.  Murphy's law held true and it fell paint side down depositing a lovely blob of blue paint (being used as the sea). 

Luckily I listen to my wife (at least in this case) and use a drop cloth saving both the floor and my butt!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Actual Painted Miniatures

OK, still works in progress for the most part, but it's been too long since something came off the workbench.  Here are some shots of my WW2 Med RN ships.  The photos are not as clear as I would like, but I'm still learning how to use the new camera.  We don't have a fancy one so this may be as good as it gets.  In which case I have successfully reproduced a hazy day at sea!  Ships were primed white by spray-bomb then painted with artist/craft acrylics including washes and highlighting.  Name labels, pennant numbers and possibly full smoke to come.

HMS Arethusa escorted by 6 destroyers 3 tribals and 3 H class.  The Arethusas were worked hard in the Med and lost 2 of their number.  They were smaller than other cruisers and lightly armed with only 6*6" guns.  Given treaty limitations on total tonnage, the RN decided that more small hulls would be more useful than fewer larger hulls.  It all had to do with patrolling the world's sea lanes of course. 

Close up show of the Arethusa with the troublesome floatplane.  It turns out that GHQ had it right  and the class landed their catapults Walruses (Walrii?) in 1940-1 before arriving in the Med.  However, the crane remained and GHQ supplied the sprue with sea planes and cranes (common to many GHQ packs).  Having glued the plane on and painted reasonable looking roundels, I am considering a Walrus-ectomy.  The DDs in behind are the ubiquitous tribals. 

And a trio of H class DDs, standard pre-war journeymen vessels.  The camouflaged model was based on a picture of the ORP Garland (lend-lease to the Poles), but her stint in the Med was brief.  Similar patterns appeared on many RN ships.

Next time, the Regina Marina.

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?".

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Award That Keeps on Going

Hats off and cheers to El Grego over at Mini Ship Gaming who kindly nominated me for a Stylish Blogger Award! 

There are four rules that need to be followed after receipt of this award:

1. Link back and thank the nominating party - Thanks again El Grego (and yes I cut and pasted your work - it's before coffee)!
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Nominate 10-15 other blogs for this award.
4. Contact those bloggers above about the nomination.

Seven things...

  1. I have sailed for over 35 (eek) years, but don't currently own a boat.
  2. My grandparents were born on four separate continents (see if you can guess which ones)
  3. My first degree was a Bachelor of Education but it took me nearly 20 years to teach professionally.
  4. Currently I am a lecturer in actuarial science at the University of Regina.
  5. As an actuary I had to work out the insurance risk from Canada's involvement in the first Gulf War (my employer was the lead insurer for the Armed Forces group insurance plan).
  6. I have been to every Canadian province, but none of the three territories.
  7. My best vacation ever was a 3 week cruise with my father when I was in my mid-20s.  We logged over 500 miles from the Hamble to Brest and back, often spending 10 hours under sail at a time, sailing through 1000+ years of naval history all the way.

Nominations for Stylish Bloggers.  I am likely repeating earlier nominations here, but I tried to find blogs that I follow without recent nominations.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Archeology and Wargames

I'm taking the Easter week off work to sort the basement (beware of the monsters that lurk).  This morning's task was to go through, sort out, reorganize and slash and burn the war games stuff.

Looking for new homes
15mm Russian and Austrian Napoleonics
15mm Prussians SYW
15mm European town including fortified walls
25mm French and Indian War

Found in the ruins, innumerable "oh I remember getting thats", "that's where that wents" along with a lot of "WTF is thats" and "what the H was I thinkings".

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Return to Santiago - Giving Cervera a Fighting Chance

Well although the ship yards is shut down for basement repairs, Naval Operations still have thoughts on the Span-Am conflict.  I've had these jumbled thoughts on Span-Am whatifs and I thought I should get them on epaper before they ran away.

Essentially there are 3 ways of enhancing the Armada Espnanol (and yes that's still what it's called),  improving the ships on hand, getting new ships and getting foreign help.  

Today's post - making the best of the material on hand.  This is the simplest and cleanest to incorporate.  Most of these require actions by ships captains, or station commanders.   In fact I suspect that most Span-Am games implicitly take account for many of these improvements by not penalizing the Spanish for historical under performance.  So here goes with the list of improvements that could be made.

  1. Install the main guns for the Colon.  Cervera's own account states that the Navy wasn't satisfied with the 10" Armstrong guns, but I'm doubtful this was the real reason.   The same or similar weapons were installed in many ships in the Argentinian, Chilean, Japanese and Italian navies (among others).  Anyway, the weapons were on hand and would certainly help.
  2. Fix the other guns in Cervera's squadron.  Post action reports speak of broken breach blocks on the secondaries of the Maria Theresa and her sisters.  
  3. Scrub the ships bottoms.  Every keel boat owner knows that elbow grease, scrub brushes and anti fouling paint will do wonders for boat speed.  Wilson notes that Cervera's squadron was weed covered (especially the Vizcaya).   This is a simple fix, and can be achieved even without a dry-dock, and Cervera had the time while in the Canaries.
  4. Clean out the boilers and buy better coal.  Again, routine maintenance and good boat ownership skills.  The Colon would have shown Sampson and Schley a clean set of heels if the ready supply of good coal hadn't run out.
  5. Take gunnery practice to improve their shooting, which was very poor at Santiago.  Again Cervera had the time at Tenerife and it's an easy fix.
  6. Mine warfare.  This is probably the biggest disappointment on the Spanish side.  Cervera asked before sailing and was told that there the Caribbean harbours would be adequately protected by mines.  But, the mines on hand were too few and defective.  The Texas and Detroit both fouled mines on their propellers without detonating them.  Mines are simple to deploy, brutally effective and can easily shorten the odds for the weaker fleet.  Let's not forget that American paranoia on mine warfare was running high - remember that the accusations of mines used on the Maine.
  7. Torpedo boats.   I believe that the Santiago campaign included the last close blockade in history.  There was a golden opportunity to attack the blockaders with torpedo launches using small craft on hand and the torpedoes in Cervera's squadron.  These tactics were part and parcel of the Jeune Ecole (which by now had become the Vielle Ecole), and could easily have given the Americans a nasty surprise.
  8. Submarine warfare - continuing with the underwater menaces.  This is not steampunk, the Armada had one of the first practical submarines on hand (the Peral, still on display in Spain) but never made any use of it.
 It's worth pointing out that Dewey took many of these steps, acting on his own initiative and forewarned by his Navy.  As a result, he had his squadron up to high steaming and fighting efficiency.  If Cervera had shown the same initiative, Santiago might have gone very differently.  It's also worth remembering that the US Navy had bad experiences with underwater menaces including mines and submarine during the Civil War and could easily panic is faced with these again. 

There's today's grist for the mill.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Uploaded From the Archives

So I have 3 hours to kill while proctoring a  3rd year class of  actuarial science students while they sweat through my final exam.  I have my Macbook and a wireless Internet connection.  Yes I could do some useful reading, OR I can figure out how to upload and link PDF files to my blog.

Et Voila - complete but upside down.   I'll work our how to save and post these right way up, but for now Non-antipodean readers will have to use the rotate functions in Adobe.
WWI Naval
Napoleonic Naval
I should probably point out the parentage of the WWI rules, which started off as a mix of General Quarters 2 and the rules from Paul Hagues's Sea Battles in Miniatures.  I consider the latter to be a classic and a highly useful addition to any gamer's library (lubbers and seafarers alike).  You have to love an author who refers to one of his gaming personas as the "likely but inept Haguearchus"

Found During Archeological Excavations

With major basement walls renovations looming, we've embarking on a thorough clear out of the basement (the place which non-family members must not enter).  Tucked into my bookcase of wargaming books were found two sets of  naval rules written nearly 20 years ago by yours truly.  

The Napoleonic Rules are best thought of as a work in progress (or as an evolutionary dead end), but the WWI rules gave a good game.  They both incorporate the action system of movement orders discussed in earlier posts.

Now I just have to figure out how to post PDFs on a blogger - another learning opportunity at hand!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Alternatives to Plotted Movement

It looks like folks actually do read my ramblings, and we had some good discussion on the last post.  So to follow up, here's an incomplete summary of alternatives to plotted movement.

  1. Alternating bounds - Side A moves first each turn followed by Side B.  This was used in the WRG Renaissance Galley Rules (the ancestor of the whole DBA family).  It works for the galley periods, but not for sail and steam eras.
  2. Alternate ABBA (no not the group, they sang about Waterloo not Trafalgar) - side A moves first this turn followed by B.  Next turn B goes first and then A.  This was used as the default in General Quarters 2 (the first GQ ruleset for WWI).  It's simple to apply, allows for alternating initiatives and works well in the steam era when ranges are much larger than movement distances.
  3.  Initiative die rolls - each division rolls a die (which can be modified for command ability) and move in the order highest to lowest.  David Manley uses this in several of his rules.  It work especially well in the pre-dreadnought era as it allows the Japanese and US navies to get the jump on their Chinese, Spanish and Russian opponents.
  4. Leeward to Windward - used in the WH Trafalgar rules, this works well for age of sail as it gives the advantage to the fleet to the windward (as was historically the case).  I think you need house rules for squadrons sailing upwind in line ahead (a common tactic historically) as the way Trafalgar is written you'll end up rear-ending your squadron mates.  
  5. Reading through accounts of WWI actions, I've wondered about reversing this for coal fired ships - having the downwind ships move first.  This gives the advantage to the side with clear vision (as funnel smoke blocked the LOS downwind).
  6. Drawing Cards - allocate one card per squadron and draw them one at a time each turn.  This was used in various incarnations of MacDuff, and I've seen it elsewhere.  I've never tried it at sea but it worked well on dry land and provided a real source of tension.  A modified version appears in David Manley's "Form Line of Battle".
  7. Action based systems - 15-20 yrs ago (OMG I'm getting old) I wrote a set of WWI rules that used an action based movement system.  Players selected a type of action (such as Open, Close, Flee etc) and moved in sequence.  It worked quite well in practice and most players found it intuitive to use.  I'll post the full system  soon.

Any others out there?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thoughts on Movement

Typically, movement rules get short shift in many naval games.  Most rule sets use plotted movement rules (you know two steps forward, two left turns then straight ahead) and don't give much thought beyond that point.  I have some issues with everyone plotting movement and then revealing them simultaneously including

  1. It slows the game down.  Get a rules lawyer or a chess player in the game and things slooooowww down with players going through all the "if he does that and I do this options".
  2. It results in too many maneuvers.  Take a look at the tracks of the major actions over time - straight lines and gentle curves with a few major course corrections.  A case in point is the track of HMS Lion at Jutland - a 180 degree turn when the High Seas Fleet is spotted then a turn east to head off Hipper's battlecruisers.  Otherwise Beatty made small changes in course to change the range slightly, avoid destroyer attacks and the like.  Now compare the tracks in most tabletop actions - they look like toddlers' doodles by comparison - spirals and lots of changes in direction (often without any obvious long term plan).
  3. It's too easy to get directions backwards.  If there was one incident that drove home the problems with plotting movement, it was the sight of Von Spee's squadron getting it's T crossed at the Falklands instead of opening the range as desired.  With all the gyrations of maneuvers the player got his left and right backwards.
  4. It forces players to think relative of position in the sea, when in reality they should thinking relative to the position of the other squadrons.  Fixed landmarks make a lot of sense in land games, but at sea it's the enemy's fleet that's the benchmark - and that is a moving target.
Reading battle narratives it is clear while that admirals try predict their opponents moves, most course changes are made in reaction to enemy moves or combat results. Course changes are made to keep the range at its most favourable point, or in attempt to place your ships at the favourable range (this may mean running away when facing long odds or torpedo attacks!).  Alternately, a course may be maintained to block the enemy's passage or cross his T.  

While I've never commanded a squadron of ships in battle, I have skipped a sail boat in a regatta. Even with the objectives of fixed marks (bouys for you lubbers) to round, you find yourself constantly placing your boat  in position relative to your opponent.  If you are ahead, you want to go to the same side of the course as your opponent and vice versa if you are behind.  And just watch the boats jockeying for position coming up to a mark.

Of course not every rule book uses plotted movement, and a discussion of alternatives will follow in a future post.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Diversions - Mediterranean and Otherwise

I've been hit with a typical case of wargamer's woes ambitious modeling and gaming plans forced to take a back seat to real life.  I could more or less keep pace with the last two weeks of lectures and the schedules of a busy 15 year old, but the home computer blew up and our then basement sprung a leak.  

The end result is that there's not been time to get back into model ship carving.  And with the cost estimates for the basement work, buying ships is not likely to be an option.

On the plus side, I've fallen back on the old wargamer's fail safe reading and planning!  Reading doesn't take much space, doesn't create much mess and can (mostly) be done with a tired brain.  Having exhausted my on hand Span-Am reading  I of course expanded into other periods.  In the process I've generated a real interest in gaming WW2 actions in the Med.  I am eyeing the GHQ 1:2400 ship models but may have to settle for much less for now.  Right now I'm considering home made flats using ship plans and a laser printer. 

So plans are, finish up the Santiago models if the basement and family schedule allow.  Mean while investigate the WW2 flats ideas.

Stay tuned for more (film at 11:00?).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rules, Rules, Rules

I've been away from the blogging for a bit (and also away from modelling) due to a chronic case of real life.  I am a university lecturer and it's the second last week of classes - so I'm busy but the light at the end of the tunnel is visible.

However, I've been thinking about possible pre-dreadnought rule sets to use for my Santiago project.  The contenders include.

  1. Fire When Ready
    • This is the current front runner.  I have a lot of time for David Manley having read several articles, scenarios and rule sets of his over the years.  I have a copy of these rules, and they are well though out have good ideas (and look like the type of rules I'd like to write).
  2. Perfidious Albion
    • Another set of professional rules, which has been used by the Edinburgh club (including Angus Konstam).  They are apparently fun and do carry over from the Fred Jane Rules.  It looks like there's a lot of paper work, the Edinburgh games seem very bloody>  I also have some issues with the probability models used for gun combat (it wouldn't bug most people but I teach 3rd and 4th year courses in probability theory!)
  3. Fred Jane Rules
    • At some point I will run a game using these rules, they look fun and they were state of the art 120 years ago.  These do require an umpire (at least for rules interpretation) and the production of both scoring templates and strikers.
  4. DBSA (Damn Battleships Again)
    • Phil Barker's DBA variant for pre-dreadnought naval games.  Look like they give fun, fast, easy to learn games.  However, they are abstract and may not translate well to cases where the two fleets are of diverse qualities.
  5.  General Quarters Variants
    • The option does exist and there are rules translation out on the web.  The GQ system is abstract (but not as much as DBSA) but does give good results.  This will involve some fiddling around on my part (which might lead to me writing a whole new set of homebrews).
  6. Memoir of Battle at Sea
    • Bob Cordery intrigued me with his posts.  He kindly sent me an up--to-date set.  Again they look like they give a good fun and fast game.  Plus there's the advantage of being playable in a limited table space.  More abstract than the others.
  7. Homebrews
    • In days of old (pre-child, mortgage etc) this would be the natural starting point.  However, this looks to be yet another project that I would start and then stall at.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thoughts on Naval Scenarios - Relative Advantages

I've been thinking about scenario design for naval war games and came up with the following relative advantages that exists.

  1. Advantage of Strength (out-gunning) exists when one side has a clear advantage in firepower. Therefore in a toe-to toe slugfest the fleet with this advantage should win a gun battle.
  2. Advantage of Manoeuvre (out-running) exists when one side can show the other a clean set of heels and thus avoid the toe-to-toe slugfest. or alternately prevent their opponents from running away.
  3. Advantage of Position exists when one fleet holds a blocking position, essentially lies between the enemy fleet and their objective.
  4. Advantage of Situation exists when the status-quo favours one side and forces their opponent to press for a conclusive result.
Obviously the key to scenario design is to balance these for advantages to produce a competitive and fun 
game  (I'm still working on this one).  Obviously a combat between one side with an advantage of sped and another with an advantage of firepower will be short with - one side running and the other gunning until the weaker side gets away or is hit badly enough to slow down and be overwhelmed.

To illustrate these let's look at a couple of historical actions. 

  • River Plate 1939
    • The Graf Spee holds a clear advantage of firepower.  In a gun battle she can expect to overwhelm the british cruisers (and did so historically)
    • Commodore Harwood holds a clear advantage of manoeuvre and can decide to fight or flee.
    • There is no real advantage of position as the battle was fought on the open sea and neither side effectively blocked the other.
    • The british hold an advantage of situation as the Germans must fore a clear victory which in this case means to drive off his pursuers and escape in good shape.  A stalemate will allow the RN to call in further reinforcements and hold an advantage of strength.  A bloody victory will leave the Graf Spee useless as a raider and at the mercy of any new RN ships she meets.
  • SMS Goeben vs. Admiral Troubridge (1914)
    • Here the Goeben holds a clear advantage of both firepower and speed over the British armoured cruisers.  
    • But now Troubridge can hold an advantage of position by blocking the Germans access to Constantinople.
    • Historically the advantage of situation lay with the Germans, if Troubridge did nothing (as he did) then SMS Goeben  becomes the Yavuz Sultan Selim and the entire shape of the war changes.  However, if Troubridge was blocking the way then the Germans have to fight his way past while retaining full power of manoeuvre or he'd be caught by stronger RN forces.
There are similarities between the two scenarios, and they both make fun and challenging games.  However, the differences n speed and position make for different challenges.