Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ship Scale Bake-Off Results

I’ve finished both the 1/2400 and 1/1200 versions of the 74 gun Ship-of-the-Line. The final verdict is the same as the last post - I like the 1/1200 Langton a lot more. The Langton’s are a challenge to build but it’s a fun challenge and I

really like the end product. After completing the rigging (which is not as detailed as the instructions indicate) I have realized I need some special model ship rigging tools so it will be off to the Micro Mark website after posting this update. I still need to weather the sails but that cam wait for now.

During this latest build step I completed the rigging, added the etched brass ratlines and finished the detailing. All-in-all I’m very happy with the results and have already started my next Langton - the second of 4 74 gun US ships-of-the-Line for my “what-if” fleet. All told it took me about 12 hours to complete the model. I’m very confident that with the experience learned on the first model that I can get the build time down to the 6 - 8 hour range. I’m not sure I want to go any faster as the building has been a lot of fun.

I did have a tricky time with the etched brass ratlines - they can be a little finicky but they’re worth the effort.

I will be completing the rest of my 1/2400 scale ships that came with the intro kit I got as it’s a shame to waste them and they’ll be useful to recreate a large scale battle. I will probably build them as a large British fleet since the first one is painted in a UK color scheme.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ship Build Update

I’ve made a good bit of progress on my sailing ship build test. I’m building 2 74 gun ships of the line in different scales (1/2400 and 1/1200) to see which scale fits my needs. The 1/2400 scale is from Hallmark/Figurehead and the 1/1200 from Langton.

Both models are excellent products. From a cost and ease of construction the 1/2400 win hands down - only 4 parts including the base vs over 20 for the Langton. I did find the painting the hull on the Figurehead model to be difficult. The gun ports are moulded onto the model and my hand is just to shaky to highlight them. I resorted to dipping the hull to try and show off the detail. Total build / paint time for the 1/2400 is roughly an hour. If this were a business class we would likely say 1/2400 is the most efficient, therefore it wins, class dismissed.

However, miniature wargaming is something that I would never describe as either a practical or “logical” hobby - we do go to extremes don’t we? So why should the norms of standard business judgement apply here? Besides, look at the mess that the application of standard business judgement has gotten us into. Can anyone say “Credit Default Swaps plus Cross Collateralized Risk is a big boo-boo?” But I digress....

Our other build, the Langton model is about 60% complete. Most of the structure is done as is the major painting but I still have to attach the spanker sails, do some paint touch ups, seal the model, complete the rigging and add on the ratlines. By the way, it’s important to build the model in that order. While a challenge, the model has been a real joy to build. I’ve got about 8 hours into her now and likely have another 6 until completion. I’m estimating the normal build time to run around 8 hours once I know what I’m doing - if that’s ever possible :)

The most challenging part of the build was the sails, but if one reads the instructions and takes your time it’s rather fun. I got the process down after completing the first mast. In all fairness, the manufacturer, Rod Langton did point out that the brass sails are not for beginers. Langton does offer a cast option for the sails which appear to be much easier to build but I like the look of the brass sails when completed. The brass sails are more than worth the moderate extra effort.

I’m building this model as a US ship of the line (the Ben Franklin to be precise) and she will be part of a 10-12 ship US fleet that will have 4 74’s as it’s backbone.

So here are my conclusions - both products are excellent. If you’re on a tight budget or consider yourself more of a gamer than a modeler then the Figurehead 1/2400’s are the way to go. They’re not as detailed as the larger scale but you can field a very large force with a limited investment in time and money. However, if you’ve got some more resources to invest and like the modeling aspect as much as the gaming aspect, then there is no better choice than Langton. I’ll be choosing Langton.

Please note: neither model is attached to it’s base - they’re just on them for the photos.

One comical build note - as I was building the Figurehead ship, I manage to drop the stern mast sails onto the floor. While small, the part isn’t that tiny - it’s roughly 3/8 inch by 1/4 inches. After looking for about 20 minutes I couldn’t find it. Like most modelers, I have a black hole under my workbench that occasionally consumes small parts and I thought the sails were on their way to another dimension. I went upstairs for some coffee and my wife started laughing at me and asked, in a mocking tone, why I was at full sail? Apparently, as I got down to look for the sails, I managed to glue them to my left elbow!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ships for Trafalgar

I finally got around to starting to build some ships for the Trafalgar ruleset. Being an indecisive gamer, I purchased ship models in both 1/2400 and 1/1200 scale. Both models in the picture are a British 74 gun ships of the line. The one on the left is from Figurehead (1/2400 scale) and the one on the right is from Langton (1/1200 scale). Not shown in any of the Langton pictures is the thread for rigging the masts. In addition to more detail / build complexity in the larger scale there is a significant cost difference, with the 1/2400 ships running at $3-$4.00 per ship and the Langton’s running at $10 - $15 per model. I’m going to build both ships and then decide which scale to get into in a big way.

I’ve included some other pictures of the part detail for each model. My estimate is that the build time for the 1/2400 ships will be roughly 1-2 hours each and the 1/1200 5 - 10 hours. We’ll see how I do with the rigging exercise. If you do decide to get some Langton ships (which are fantastic models) you should get the build guide he offers - it’s a great help.

Despite the significant build complexity and higher cost, I’m leaning toward the Langton’s and 1/1200 scale - they just look that good when completed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

28mm Napoleonics

I recently joined a local gaming club, the Ellicott City Association of Miniature Gamers Association or ECAMGA for short. It’s a loose group whose main goal is to have fun and I’m grateful that they lowered their standards and admitted me. I was able to attend a few games of 28mm Napoleonics and was amazed by how great these models look on the table and how much fun the game was.

Each side had close to 1,000 miniatures each arrayed across a 15 foot table with absolutely fantastic scenery. As for the miniatures, themselves, the vast majority are Perry Brothers and painted to a very high standard, indeed. The members of ECAMGA are both great modelers and a lot fun to play with. My apologies for a lack of photos of the games, but I was having to much fun to snap off a few pictures.

We were playing a homegrown ruleset that was based around event cards and command control. I must say it was easy to learn and a lot of fun. During my first game, I had command of the British left wing, which consisted of 3 infantry brigades. I spent most of the game cowering on the reverse slope of a hill after I learned that infantry in column formation and enemy artillery batteries are a volatile combination. I did have a blast and enjoyed meeting the club members.

I saw more action in my second game, where I again commanded the left flank, but this time for the French. My orders were to seize a town and bridge from the dastardly British. For this endeavor, I was allocated 4 brigades of infantry, 1 of dragoons and 1 artillery battery. Of course, the ECAMGA members on my side were gracious to the “new guy” and allocated me most of the elite troops. This impressive force was able to seize both the town and the bridge and win the game! Of course, I did out number the opposing British by almost 2 - 1, they had some atrocious luck, and I was given a “do-over” at a critical point, but a win’s a win! Besides, I’m pretty sure the loss column will balloon in size once the “be nice to the new guy” stuff wears off! Never-the-less, I had a great time and really enjoyed getting to know some of the club members better.

My experience with the club has reinforced one of the prime motivations for my switching hobbies from model rail roads to miniature gaming - social interaction. Outside of conventions (which I rarely attend), I found MRR to be enjoyable from the craft perspective but a rather lonely hobby, especially after my son lost interest in running trains with Dad (oh, I do miss the Thomas the Tank Engine days). Miniature gaming features the same craft aspect but has a much higher degree of social interaction - playing a game is a lot more fun (to me) than watching trains roll around a track. I don’t really care that much about who wins or looses the match but the aspect of competition and the human “surprise factor” is very interesting and fun. Don’t get me wrong, I still like model rail roads, especially garden ones (G scale) but that hobby will now need to share time with gaming.

I have the strong feeling that 28mm Nappy’s will be in my immediate future as the next army to build. Hopefully, I can figure a way to create a campaign that links the Trafalgar rules and the ECAMGA house rules for a series of amphibious battles.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Road Building or Try, Try Again

When at first you don’t succeed, ask for a bailout. Unfortunately there is no TARP money left to bail out miniature scenery projects, so it off for another try. The fabric based under-layer for my roads proved to be susceptible to warping and I couldn’t figure a way to keep the roads both flat and flexible (to follow terrain contours). Then I had an idea - use heavy weight strathmore board as the under layer for the paintable latex caulk, and it works like a charm. Here is a revised list of materials for making roads:

Under-layer: - Heavyweight Strathmore Board
(purchased from Michaels’ Art Stores)
Covering: - DAP paintable caulk - I choose a buff tone which helps in
the shading of the final product
Paint: - Folk Art “Twill” paint - nice neutral tone
Tools: - Hobby Knife and Steel straight edge (to cut out road
Caulk Gun
Popsicle Sticks (to spread the caulk)
Bamboo Skewer (to make ruts)
Cup of Water (to help with smoothing out the caulk)
Paint brushes

Total Materials Cost $28.00

Cut out Sections:
I decided to make my roads 2 inches wide. In previous posts, the roads where 2.5 inches wide, which is more accurate for a 15mm scale but they just look too wide on the table. The reduction to a 2 inch width really made them look better.

Draw your road sections out on the strathmore board. Using a straight edge cut out the sections with your hobby knife. Strathmore is a pain to cut and it takes me about 4 passes with a hobby knife to make a clean cut using medium pressure. Make sure pull the knife away from you - the board dulls a blade very quickly and you will hit some snags that cause the blade to “jump”. You can see in the first picture below one of the base sections before being caulked. I cut out the following sections:
8 - 12” straight
2 - 6” straight
2 - 3” straight
2 “T” Crossings
1 “X” crossing
1 “Y” Crossing
2 90 degree curves - these need to be free handed when cutting

Apply the Caulk:
Once the road sections are cut, it’s time to apply the caulk. I put a bead of caulk down in a tight wave shape along each section and then smoothed it out with a wet popsicle stick. I tried to get thin covering along the the entire road section and it’s sides. Don..’t worry if a little of the strathmore board shows through as it paints up . I let each section set up for about an hour before adding wheel ruts using a bamboo skewer. Now I have a heavy hand and the initial ruts were too severe but that was easy to fix. I used a damp foam brush and lightly swept over the road sections to damp down the ruts. I then let the road sections cure for 24 hours.

The road sections will still warp a bit while curing but can be easily bent back into shape (the strathmore board is surprisingly strong and flexible). One section was somewhat resistant to de-warping (I had way too much caulk on it). That was easily fixed by inserting straightened paper clips into the strathmore for support (think of this as paper clip rebar). I then cleaned up the ends of each section using a sanding block to make sure the road sections would fit together cleanly.

Painting involved covering the roads with Folk Art “Twill” acrylic paint thinned 50/50 with water. I painted a base coat over each section and then went back and highlighted with un-thinned twill. I like the results.

Once the paint dries, the road sections are ready to use. The srtathmore is bendable so each section can we adjusted to fit terrain contours. To be honest, I’m not sure of the long term durability of the strathmore so I have reinforced the underside of each section with duct tape. Might be overkill but then again it might not.

I’ve been very happy with the initial results and plan to make some more sections for the table. I used about 3/4 a tube of caulk for what I made with this first set.