Sunday, December 21, 2014

British and French Ironclads plus a Fort

 To the left are the completed ironclads and a fort that I have submitted for the Analogue Painting Challenge.
 First up is the British Flagship - the iconic HMS Warrior.  The Warrior was a huge ship and this is a huge model in 1/600 scale - it's 10.5 inches long!  Like the Hector, the model is scratch built based using a rather poor hull casting for the basic dimensions.  One modeling tip - a dremel rotary tool is a great addition to the scratch builders tool kit.
 The Warrior is on display in Portsmouth and it's on my list of to do's during one of my frequent business trips to the UK.  Like the Hector, the Warrior is classed as a broadside frigate which means she was armored along the sides but her bow and stern were not.  Her armor was 114mm iron plate on top of 457mm of teak.  The ship's armament consisted of 36 x smoothbore 68 pounders, 10 x 110 pounders and 4 x 40 pounders - that was a lot of metal to throw in a single broadside.

 The Warrior was an extremely fast ship and was capable of sustaining 14 knots which was blazing fast for the age.  However her length and bulk limited her turning radius which could be problematic if an engagement occurred anywhere other than the open sea.

The model itself is a resin hull that's been "planked" in plastic card,  The Masts are plastic rod with greenstuff making up the furled sails.  The life boats came from my bit's box and the davits are just bent brass rod.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how she came out.  Sometimes scratch building is the only way to complete a project.  It can be very rewarding but one has to go into to it with a mindset that the first few versions will need to be redone.  Ok, in my case there might be more that a few "re-done versions"

Next up for the British is the HMS Scorpion.  The Scorpion has a very interesting history - she was laid down as the CSS North Carolina.  Unfortunately for her builders, it was illegal to sell warships to the Confederacy so they fabricated a ruse that the ship was being built for the Egyptian navy under the name "El Tousson".  During her delivery voyage to Egypt the plan was for the ship to turn to starboard rather than port near the Straights of Gibraltar and then raise the Confederate flag.  Unfortunately for the builders, the 'coppers figured out the scheme and she was seized and completed for the Royal Navy.

 The Scorpion / North Carolina was intended to be a commerce raider but she had a very low profile which made her harder to hit but also greatly reduced her sea handling capabilities.  In fact after a few years of service the Scorpion was relegated to costal defense duties, which is the nautical equivalent of a kid being kept inside the house on a sunny day to practice violin while his friends are all outside playing baseball.

The ship was armed with 4 x 9 inch guns in two rotating turrets.  The had a relatively low rate of fire but packed a real punch and had a long range.  Speed-wise she wasn't the fastest ship afloat but could make 10.5 knots on a calm day.

The model is from Thoroughbred Miniatures and is metal.  Thoroughbred makes the best 1/600 scale ironclads available.

 Next up the the CSS Columbia which served towards the end of the war in Charleston Harbor. She really didn't have a distinguished career, but in my alternative ACW scenario the ship maybe have a bit more renown....
 This model is also a metal kit from Thoroughbred, although kit might be stretching the definition as one just has to glue on the mast and smokestack and its' done!

 A group shot of the British Expeditionary Fleet as it currently stands.  I'll be adding a few more ships and some targets oops I mean transports.
 A staged "action" shot showing the British fleet taking on some US ships - the New Ironsides and the Monitor.  The picture shows just how massive the Warrior was in it's day.

All of these models will be used as part of a linked two day game I'll be putting on at Historicon in July of 2015.  The first day will feature a naval battle "somewhere along the Chesapeake" that pits a US force against a combine British / CSA fleet that's trying to force a landing to relieve a trapped Confederate army.  The outcome of the naval engagement will impact the second days game which will be a large land battle in 28mm.  If the British/CSA players are successful, the game will feature an assault by the combined CSA/ BEF on an entrenched Union army.  If they are unsuccessful during Day 1, the British army will have landed further down from the Rebels and the game will feature a Union Assault on the Confederate position with the British racing to rescue their allies.  Think Waterloo with the Union as the French, the Confederates as the British and the British as the Prussians... confusing? that's what I'm looking for.  I have found that adding an additional goal (other than winning) to a convention game does a great job in keeping everyone focused.  Oh yes, the composition of the British army during the second battle will also be influenced if any of the transports are damaged or sunk during day one.

 Speaking of the French, the game will feature a small French fleet sulking about.  Neither side will really know that fleet's intentions because, well, you know, they're French.  The flagship of the French fleet will be the Gloire.  This ship was launched in 1859 and has the distinction of being the first ocean going ironclad (much to the chagrin of the Royal Navy).  The model is yet again from Thoroughbred and is superb.
  The Gloire could reach a sustained speed of 11 knots and was armed with 36 6.5 inch muzzle loading rifled guns - ship mounted rifled cannon where not all that common in this age and gave the Gloire a distinct range advantage.

The ship also had a very unusual lattice armor structure with a layer of iron ontoo of teak followed by another layer of iron and then yet more teak.  The cumulative depth of the iron sheeting was less than her British counterparts but the armor proved to be much stronger - it could shrug off a direct hit from a British 68 pounder at a range of 20 meters.

 The last part of the overly long post is a Fort.  The casting comes from Bay Area Yards and is modeled on Fort Jackson in New Orleans. The fort is similar to both Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan which guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay and I spent many a day scrambling over both in my youth.
 Civil War forts featured fearsome guns which were more accurate than their ship board foes (because forts generally don't bob up and down with the seas).

Saturday, December 20, 2014

28MM DAK Army Started

The painting workbench has been cleared of 1/600 scale ironclads (the subject of a future post) and the next project underway is a 28mm German Afrika Korps force for either Bolt Action of Chain of Command.

The mini's are from various manufactures, which consist of (from top to bottom) Rubicon Miniatures - plastic PanzerIII's, Warlord - resin 8-Rads, Perry Brothers - 38 plastic Infantry men and Warlord again - the two motorcycles.

Some artillery support and heavy machine gun support will need to be added to the force over the holidays but what's on the table will be a good start.  With my holiday preparations pretty much complete, I'm hoping to complete this lot and submit them for the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge in the next two to three days.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Interesting Day

 Today was a very interesting day.  First off, I was on a conference call in my office that was interrupted by a flock of sparrows chattering and flying into my shrubs and hitting the house.  The cause of the commotion can be see in the center of the picture if you squint - a Red Tailed Hawk came by on a "grocery" trip - he was very successful.

It was a very cool moment and the call ended up focusing on my "play-by-play" of the hunt rather than the topic at hand.

Also arriving today is my main Christmas gift - a bunch of electronics parts that will be turned into a collapsible quad copter by him over the Christmas break.  The components which include a GPS module and a video camera cost less than $200 and will be turned into something he can sell for $1,500 if he wants to (which he will not).

I remember the days when I would assemble the toys for him so he could play with them - now he just wants the parts and enjoys building them himself.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge V: Week 1 Report

 Week 1 of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge V is "in-the-books" and my progress was more or line with plan with 4 submissions totaling 147 points vs a plan of 129.  Of course there was some variation is what was actually done but more on that in a later post.  The submissions themselves are a bit of an eclectic mix:

 First up is a unit of US Mobile Artillery for All Quiet on the Martian Front.  This is a really fun unit to play and the models are based on the basic Steam Tank plastics with metal parts for the gun cabin and barrel.  Both fun and easy to paint up.

 Next was a US 105mm Artillery unit from Battlefront for Flames of War (15mm).  We all can use more US artillery in that game!!

 The third submission is the HMS Hector - a 1/600 scale British Ironclad that will be used at my upcoming Historicon Game in 2015.  The model is essentially scratch built as the hull casting I purchased was really bad.  It may not be the most detailed of models but she'll do well on the table top.  The masts are plastic rod and the sails are made of greenstuff.  I went a bit oversized on the mast/spar dimensions to ensure durability when used for gaming.

The fourth and last submission of the week is a 28mm Scaled Rolls Royce Armored car from Trenchworx - this model rocks - go out and buy one!!!!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Hobby Workbench Organized

With the start of the painting challenge, a little clean up was in order of my workbench.  A few hours and two big trash bags later it's relatively organized with a 15mm unit of US 105mm artillery underway (for Flames of War)

It's unlikely for the workspace to stay this organized, but it will be nice while it lasts.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

5 Hours Until Paint-a-Gedon Commences

 Well it's roughly 5 hours until this year's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge V (AHPCV) commences.  In honor of this grand event I uncorked a bottle of one go my favorite Malbec's and proceeded to finish it off while cooking dinner for my lovely wife who's been delayed due to a surgery going a bit longer than she expected.

I decided to try an earn a few extra hours at the painting workbench this weekend by making dinner - a simple pasta and salad plus the wine from above.  The sauce is simple - flash fry some garlic in olive oil, add the wine and cook it down then toss in the tomatoes and some (ok a lot of) white pepper.  Let if cook for an hour of so and you look like a chef.  The key is not to burn the garlic in the oil.

We'll see how much extra paint desk time this meal earns but it couldn't hurt

Ladies and Gentlemen - Start your brushes!!!!!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge V: Maybe I'm going off the Deep End....

I'm about to embark upon a grand social experiment - an empirical test to see if project planning always sucks the fun out of any human endeavor.

Yes, I've gone off and actually set up a painting plan for this year's challenge, including estimated submissions for all the bonus rounds.  It's kind of sad really when I think of it, but we'll see if thinking out past my usual 2 weeks actually results in more productivity.

We've got 15 weeks in this year's challenge and I've prep'd and primed about 70% of the planned submissions.  I've even figured out what I'm doing for each of the 7 Fortnight Challenges (ok the one I'm thinking for for "Hot" is sketchy at best). Curt will be relieved to know that none of my planed submissions involve 1:1 scale work bench furniture.

Periodically, progress will be reported on actual vs expected - usually when the comparison is favorable to yours truly.  I suspect there will be some substitutions along the way and that some of the estimated points I have will vary from Curt's arbitrary and capricious judgements.  How does one score a All Quiet on the Martian Front Land Ironclad, which is over 12 inches long and weighs 5 pounds?  Rather than reveal my estimates, I'll wait to see what the Lord High Commissioner (LHC) deems my unworthy submissions to be worth - sometimes it's just better to accept the judgement of ones social superiors.  At the end of the competition we'll compare estimated vs awarded points, which creates a built in excuse for me to use in case of failure.

All kidding aside, I really do thank Curt for organizing and running this event - it's a lot of fun for me and the other participants but an astonishing amount of work for Curt - thanks for the efforts*

Back to Prepping and Priming.....The primer spray cans fumes man... all the pretty colors.......

* Those readers with suspicious minds might think the second to last paragraph is a blatant attempt to curry favor with LHC Curt to gain better points allocations for judgmental entries.  My only response to that statement is that "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here"

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Prep for The Analogue Hobbies Challenge Continues

 This weekend was all about figure prep and priming for the upcoming Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.  Assembly was finished this morning on 38 28mm DAK WW2 Germans and 36 28mm French Napoleonic line infantry (both sets are Perry plastics.  Also in the photo is a TrenchWorx WW1 British tank and a All Quiet on the Martian Front US Mobile Artillery unit.

Check out the new website Curt has pulled together - it's very well done and the prize support for this year's event is superb.  Well done Curt!.

So far I've got just about 1,000 points of my targeted 2,000 points for the challenge assembled and/or primed.

One of the benefits of the challenge is it really does reduce the lead pile, which thus "forcing" me to re-stock (win-win!!!!!).  While planning my contest entries, I realized that I've been neglecting my Napoleonic collection and thus want to get a few French units read to go.  You might see some British Cavalry and maybe even some War of 1812 Indians added to the manifest as the Challenge progresses.

I'm a bit behind figure prep at the moment as I spent the last week in London on business.  Here's a shot out of my office window at One Hammersmith (West side of London).  You can see in the middle left the obligatory picture of a double decker bus.  It looks like I'll be jumping across the pond ever six weeks or so.  While hideously expensive, London is a great city to travel too on business.

Sacrifices have commenced to the calendar gods to help me manage the scheduling so one of those trips occurs so I can go the the fabled Salute show.  It will just be a coincidence that the schedule will work that way - trust me....

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rubicon Models: Panzer III Test Build

 Like any other gamer, I equate new toys with new joys and rushed out to pick up some of the recently released 1/56th plastic tank kits from Rubicon Models - specifically 3 Panzer III's, 3 Shermans and a Tiger.  I purchased mine from the Plastic Soldier Company and record very fast service (UK to US) - order placed on 10/27, models received on 11/4 - very impressive.  So how are the models?  The first picture shows what comes in the box - 3 sets of sprue's, a very detailed instruction sheet and a great set of decals.  The price per model is roughly $28.00 US which compares nicely to the other plastic kits and is much cheaper than the resin alternatives.

As for the instructions - they are very well done - very cleanly illustrated and easy to follow.  The decals were also a very nice surprise and included marking for the Africa Corps which these Panzer III's will be modeled for.  The plastic casting was VERY clean with really no mold lines on any warpage.

 It took me about 40 minutes to build the first tank any I'm really pleased with the detail.  One thoughtful thing about the kit is that the shurtzen (the hull and turret side armor - upper left and still on the sprue) is removable which provides a lot of modeling options.  The gun options included in the tank include a long and short barely which fit tightly - no glue needed again giving yet more optionality.

I went ahead and built the second (of three) panzer III and was surprised it only took me about 15 minutes to complete.  Everything went together without a hitch and all of the hull seam points were gap free!

I have one minor criticism for the Panzer III kit the deck details (tow cables, tools etc) are molded onto the to top section and are a little faint.  To be honest they look to be true scale and appear to be "thin" when compared to other 1/56th scale tanks which tend to have over scaled hand tools and such.

I doubt this will impact the finished model all that much.  Painting will be delayed until the start of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, which commences on December 5th.

All in all, I'd rate this kit a 9.9/10, which is superb - highly recommended!

Fall In 2014: The Host is most definitely not the Most

When writing comments about gaming events, I try to be even handed (and likely fail) and take into account these events are organized by volunteers who share my hobby but spend in-ordinate amounts of time and effort to "put the show on".  Perhaps the most important thing I can say is "Thanks to all the volunteers and GM's who make the show happen".  As for the event itself well I have a markedly divided view - the gaming aspect of the con was superb.  It seemed to me like attendance was up a bit and the crowd was generally happy to be there.  I had a fantastic time catching up with old friends and making new ones in our odd little hobby.   Despite a shortage of volunteers, things went smoothly and I really enjoyed the show.  Excellent event.

So where's the "yeah, but in this little diatribe?"

Ahhh yes, the venue.  As with past years, Fall In was held at the Lancaster Host Resort (as Cold Wars will be).   The location is great from a North Eastern US gamer perspective (it's only a 2.5 hour drive from St Michaels, MD for me).  Unfortunately, the redeeming qualities of the Host end after latitude and longitude coordinates.

The place is a shambles.  Every con that's held there has a special "Host Moment" that range from inedible food, leaky rooms and hallways, mold, non-functioning TV's and wireless - you name it was bad.  For me the apex of Host Moments was the year the staff needed to roll up not one but two septic system pump out trucks and run 5 inch hoses through the front lobby entrance to service the mens room in the main hall.  Oh yes, this event occurred during check in on Friday and you had to step over the leaky hoses to get to the tournament gaming room.  Nothing says quality lodging like a main lobby replete with leaky septic hoses in full working glory - kind a like a "filth fountain".  I thought this moment could never be topped.

I was wrong.

This year the Host out did themselves in yet another plumbing related mishap - they ran out of water early Sunday morning - not just for my room but the entire facility.  Think about this - you've got a hotel filled a thousand or so gamers waking up Sunday morning after late nights of gaming, beer and fatty foods (ummm not me of course - my wife reads my blog) and there are no working toilets on the facility.  I'll let your imaginations run wild.  Apparently the water level monitor in the Host's cistern failed and the system didn't know to refill itself and the water just kind a drained away.  The facility just isn't maintained (perhaps the 50 or so buckets in the hall to catch leaks is a tip-off to that fact) and I doubt that's likely to change.  The staff tries to do a good job but lets just say they have the chips stacked against them.

Some people defend the Host because it's cheap, and that is true, but still one has to get some value for whatever price is paid and I think we've gotten to the point where guests need to be compensated for the risk the take staying at the place.

I understand from talking to some of the HMGS volunteers that the current contract for the Host runs through 2017, but the last year can be voided without penalty.  I would strongly suggest they start to look for a new venue - perhaps to the West as the Host isn't going to cut it.

As for me, I doubt I'll do another overnight for a con at the Host.  Cold Wars is the next one and I suspect that I'll just drive up for the Bolt Action tournament on Saturday and head home.  There is an interesting event in Williamsburg which will likely get my spring'con business The lack of my presence will not move the needle but I just can't stomach the Host anymore.