Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Shroud Mage Frigates

As any good Admiral will tell you, whilst the Capital ships of a fleet gain all the headlines and the glory, it is the little ships that do all the hard work in the fleet.

And so it is in The Uncharted Seas by Spartan Games, the Frigates of each race are there to harry the enemy, provide a distraction, and when using Linked Fire provide just enough firepower at Close Range, to make the Captain of a Capital Ship ignore them at their peril.

As such each of the starter sets for the game, produced by Spartan Games will usually contain 6 of these little fellas, normally they will be organised in 2 squadrons of 3, but in some cases (the Orcs in particular) will have the option to deploy them in Squadrons of 6.

I have to say though, I'm not overly enamoured with the models for the Shroud Mage Frigates. The turrets deployed on top of the superstructure look to be just "too big" and as such the model appears very front heavy, and not much detail at the back to set against that. They are a totally different shape to the Battleship and the Cruisers who both have that sharp, angular bow, whereas the Frigates are definitely quite "squat" for want of a better word.

But again, very easy to paint, especially with the basic colour scheme that I have selected for my Bro's fleet. 

Now there is only the 3 cruisers to do from the starter fleet and then they'll be ready to be delivered back to my Bro.

Monday, 30 May 2011

The Battle of Minas Keptie

I was idly trawling through some of the wargaming related pics on my laptop when I came across a series of photos that I took of a Lord of the Rings game that I set up at Kingsleypark Manor for the boys a couple of years back. It was before War of the Ring came out, so it was the Strategy Battle Game rules (SBG) that we were playing (so no movement trays!).

So given that painting output has again slowed to a crawl and The Plastic Soldier Company Limited 1/72nd scale Panzer IV's haven't arrived yet for review, I'll put these pics up to while away the time a bit (apologies for some of the  pics being a wee bit out of focus).


Okay, so there are no high walls and towers like it's big neighbour, Minas Tirith, but the pretext behind the game was that this small band of Gondor Warriors led by his nibs, Boromir of Gondor, with a makeshift barrier across the road, had to defend the settlement, on the border of Gondor and Rohan from this....

The bounders are even sneaking through the Forest!
Surely there can be no hope for the Free Peoples?????

As in any good cowboy movie, the Cavalry to the Rescue!!

Theoden and Theodred and their respective Eoreds arrived on the Uruks' left (Western) flank (the actual point of entry had been randomly determined by the roll of a d8, following the points of the compass). And to the North, the sounds of hooves could also be heard and through the wobbly camera focus, rides Eomer and his Eored.

Undeterred by this new threat the Horde of Isengard continued their advance against the beleagured defenders.

Theoden and Theodred, in their eagerness to bring battle to the enemy only succeeded in getting in each other's way. With not enough room to pass through the Western Valley or over the ridge, the Rohirrim started to move South to threaten the rear of the Isengard army.

The Rohirrim break over the Western Ridge and launch themselves downhill into the hapless foe

But will it be too little to late??? Already the battle rages along the meagre defences of the settlement and some of the enemy have managed to break through.

Boromir, alone by the barricade, blows the Horn of Gondor in desperation

The Rohirrim, now with space to manouevre, ride down the enemy wherever they can be found

At the end, after several long hours of play, necessitated by having to move so many single figures, the desperate defenders of Minas Keptie had hung on, just.

The Gondor garrison were on the point of breaking but the pressure of the Rohirrim on the Uruks was starting to tell, the strength of Cavalry riding down an infantry opponent being a key factor in many of the combats.

We haven't played such a large SBG game since that time, though I have come across some pics of a re-fight of Helm's Deep that the boys played so I will try posting them up sometime. The advent of War of the Ring and the use of movement trays would have no doubt speeded up the Minas Keptie battle and made it easier to move so many figures, but despite the drawbacks of having so many single figures, I kinda like the sort of "chaotic" look that the battlefield has as a result.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Shroud Mage Battleship

Well after a successful introduction to the world of The Uncharted Seas in The Battle of Foggy Bank Straits my bro decided he would take the plunge and get himself a fleet. With Orcs, Dwarves and Human fleets already well catered for (and an Elvish one if GordonY ever gets his act together and gets the Elves finished), bro decided he would go for those mysterious Shroud Mages and bought himself a starter fleet for that race.

Only problem, bro doesn't paint figures. So on the promise of him buying the new GW Tomb Kings army book for me (which has now arrived) I offered to paint them up for him.

The Shroud Mages are a race who do rely on steam power for their ship's propulsion but unlike their distant dwarven cousins are adept at the magical arts (which is reflected in the powers and abilities available to them in their deck of fleet cards). So no sails to paint, so that was a good starting point.

From the design of the ships, clearly metal is a major component but bro didn't want the ships looking too bright, so I would need to tone down the shine off the metallic paints that I would be using.

The starter fleet for the Shroud Mages, comprises 1 battleship, 3 cruisers and 6 Frigates (and that is a standard selection for all of the other starter fleets currently available). Each fleet comes in a nice colour box which provides a useful painting guide for those of us lacking inspiration for a colour scheme

So if the colour scheme was good enough for Spartan Games, it was good enough for me, so I decided to try and produce a colour scheme similar to the models shown on the box.

I decided that I would start on the Battleship being the biggest model in the fleet, although it is not a partcularly big model

After a wash with some warm water and detergent and being left to dry thoroughly, I pinned the 2 funnels as I figured the model would be handled a lot during a game, so the funnels would need all the support they could get. So using the tried and tested "put a dot of paint on the part to be pinned" method

I positioned the funnels in place, a quick drill with a pin drill on the funnel and the ship using the dot as my guide and then fixed a pin in place and stuck down the funnel. An undercoat of black spray paint and once dry I was ready to go.

The decking was painted with Vallejo Chocolate Brown and then given a wash with the trusty GW Devlan Mud.

The Armour was painted with Vallejo Gunmetal Grey and then washed with GW Armour Wash (yes folks I still have a bottle of that!). The large steam tank in the middle of the ship was painted with Vallejo Brass and then given several washes with Ogryn Flesh to dull it down. GW Tin Bitz was used for the various pipes and the paddles of the propulsion system. The cannons are painted with Humbrol Acrylic No.113 Rust. The Funnels were painted with Foundry Chainmail 35A

I'm not going to gunk this model with my watered down satin varnish solution as I think with all the pipework that it would pool too much, even when applying it with a brush, as I do normally, so I'll finish the model off with a spray of Dullcote.

I got this finished in a couple of hours (and that's quick for me) so hopefully I can get the rest of the Fleet finished before too long and he can get them into action (only to sink at the hands of my Dwarven Flagship, which is on the painting stocks awaiting it's launch!)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Unknown Barbarian

Ok folks, help me out here. I've had this dude in my collection for god knows how many years. I rebased him a wee while back but never thought to take a note of any details on his base as to which manufacturer made him. I know he is definitely not a Citadel Miniature.

He is 28mm tall foot to eye and he is  mounted on a solid base, not a slotta, and he must have been in my collection at least 15 years.

I am hazarding a guess that he is either a Ral Partha or Grenadier sculpt but from what range I haven't a clue.

So Dear Reader, can you help identify this dude's parent and point me in the direction of which company manufactured him??

Monday, 23 May 2011

Byzantine Skutatoi

Although I have collected wargames figures for many, many years, up until recently, the majority of my 25/28/32mm figures have been fantasy figures. I do have some Viking figures, but they were bought initially as part of the "Kremlo the Slann" Warhammer deal, one of the very first "army deals" that Citadel ran, just shortly after the release of 1st Edition Warhammer (I must have a look for Kremlo, he's in a box in a cupboard somewhere in my room).

The Norse were a recognised race in Warhammer in those days and so I added to those figures by picking up a few painted figures at Bring N Buys over the years but never enough to field a decent sized army. And then, of course, latterly the Norse disappeared from the Warhammer mythos (although an unofficial Army Book is available thanks to the Warhammer Fantasy Battle Reporter Forum).

And although I picked up Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) when it came out (and 1.5 edition) I never really got round to doing a historical army in the larger scale. Regular readers of these ramblings will recall that I have a 15mm Nikephorian Byzantine army, purchased in the early 1980's during my years at Dundee University and some Macedonian figures as well but that was really the only Ancient period armies I had, and when they did make an appearance after my University days it was usually DBA or DBM that was played.

Then about 2 years back, I got it into my head that I needed to get hold of the WAB army books before they went out of print.

And so I did.

All of them.

Within a space of about 3/4 months. Thankfully, most were eBay purchases otherwise, Mrs Kingsleypark would have been filing for divorce if I had paid full price for the books, but still it was a fairly irrational spend as WAB had only made a couple of appearances at Kirriemuir Wargames Club and then it soon transpired that the fabled 2nd Edition of WAB was due to be released and no one knew at that time what effect the new rules would have on the Army Books.

Okay, I could play WAB with the 15mm guys, but again in another bout of irrationality, I got a dose of figure envy and was eyeing up all the fabulous pictures of 28mm Ancients Armies that populate the interweb. So as Xmas was approaching I decided to write my letter to Santa and I knew I would ask the old fellow for a 28mm Army. Which one? Well there could only be choice as far as I was concerned and that was a Byzantine Army, and I suggested to Santa that he looked at the wonderful army deals that Gripping Beast offered on their web site. And so it was that Xmas 2009 saw the arrival of the 28mm Byzantines to Kingsleypark Manor.

Not a big army, it was the Thematic Byzantine Army Deal 1 which consisted of a unit of Heavy Kavallaroi, a unit of Light Kavallaroi, a couple of units of Psiloi, a unit of Skutatoi (they call them Kontaratoi but I can't stop using the WRG 6th Ed terminology) and a Mounted Command pack. But it was enough to be getting on with and filled with new found zest, I decided to paint up the Skutatoi.

I would like to show you the rest of the Army but they don't look very interesting with just a black undercoat.....

Friday, 20 May 2011

The German Fleet at the Battle of Dogger Bank 1915

For someone who likes to play Naval Wargames, it's a sad fact that over the years I've actually managed to play very few. Several years ago, naval map games were quite popular at Kirriemuir Wargames Club, where one of the guys would umpire 2 teams moving their fleets on maps at either side of the hall and then bring the fleets to a table when contact was made. The problem with these games, however, was that if both sides were too "clever" you could be shuffling ships round a map all night and never make contact with the enemy at all.

We played with General Quarters rules, the map games usually involving WW2 ships, thus planes etc played more of a role but I always favoured the WW1 period. Less complicated with fewer technologies to get bogged down with, this was the era where the "big gun" ruled the seas.

So it was that I started building up 2 fleets, one for the Royal Navy and one for the German High Seas fleet in 1/3000th scale using ships from Skytrex/Davco and from Navwar and being very much a supporter of the British Empire, I tended to play the Royal Navy when we did get the models out on the table. Problem I had with them, is that very much like their real life counterparts at Jutland, I usually found that " there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!" as my sleek battlecruisers usually disappeared under the waves from a hail of German fire.

Also, even in 1/3000th scale, you tended to need a rather large table which made gaming at home difficult (if you halved the ranges, it would work but just didn't feel right) and in those days 1/6000th scale hadn't really started to make an appearance.

Re-fighting Jutland would be the pinnacle of any WW1 Naval Grognard's ambitions but it would be an ambitious re-fight for even the most hardened and committed Naval Wargamer giving the number of ships that took part in both Fleets, although Magister Militum do produce the complete orders of battle in 1/6000th scale for both British and German fleets for this titanic battle.

But if Jutland is just a bit too ambitious, then the Battle of Dogger Bank fought in January 1915 is perhaps a more realistic goal.

The background to the Battle was an attempt by the Royal Navy to try and catch one of the German Battlecruiser squadrons, which from time to time would carry out a raiding attack on the eastern coast of the British Isles. Unknown to the German Naval High Command, their codes had been broken by the British Admiralty and thus a trap was set to bring one of these raiding squadrons onto the waiting guns of a superior (in terms of numbers) British Fleet. False intelligence was fed to the German Admiralty that a small force of British ships were carrying out reconnaissance in the Dogger Bank area of the North Sea and consequently Admiral Von Hipper's 1st and 2nd Scouting squadrons set out to catch and eliminate what they thought would be a small British force. Instead they ran into the British 1st and 2nd Battlecruiser squadrons led by Vice-Admiral David Beattie.

The German 1st Scouting Squadron consisted of 3 Battlecruisers -

SMS Seydlitz

SMS Derfflinger

SMS Moltke

And the armoured cruiser SMS Blucher

Supporting the capital ships were the light cruisers of the 2nd Scouting Squadron -

SMS Kolberg

SMS Stralsund

SMS Graudenz

SMS Rostock

(This is actually a model of SMS Breslau, a Magdeburg class light cruiser, but very similar to the Karlsruhe class light cruiser that Rostock was a member of - but I don't have a model of Rostock!)

The squadrons were supported by 2 flottilas of destroyers (or Torpedo Boats as the Germans tended to designate them) totalling 18 boats.

Facing them were the Battlecruisers, HMS Lion, HMS Tiger, HMS Princess Royal , HMS New Zealand and HMS Indomitable, the light cruisers of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, HMS Southampton, HMS Nottingham, HMS Lowestoft and HMS Birmingham and the "Harwich Force" consisting the light cruisers HMS Aurora, HMS Arethusa and HMS Undaunted and 35 destroyers.

Realising that they had been out maneuvered and were out gunned, the German fleet turned tail and headed for Port with the British ships chasing them down. Due to poor communication between the British ships, their fire was poorly distributed among the German ships, so that instead of each of the large British Battlecruisers concentrating their fire on their German equivalents, the guns of Lion and Tiger were engaging Seydlitz, while Princess Royal engaged Derfflinger, leaving Moltke free from fire and thus she was able to concentrate her fire on the Lion, which was the British flagship.

The other two, older British Battlecruisers, New Zealand and Indomitable concentrated their fire on the Blucher which soon started to suffer heavy damage and being slower than the 3 German Battlecruisers started to fall out of the line. Von Hipper, however, could not risk allowing the Battlecruisers being dragged back by waiting for Blucher and decided to leave the old ship to her fate. Seydlitz took some heavy damage and only as a result of some quick action, leading to the flooding of her magazines avoided a catastrophic explosion, but was now in too poor a state to fight back effectively.

Lion too was taking a heavy pounding and when she suffered a direct hit to her forward turret, which again required her magazines to be flooded to avoid destruction of the ship, she started to fall behind Princess Royal and Tiger in the chase to catch the German Battlecruisers.

Further poor signalling between the British ships led to them turning all their guns on the doomed Blucher and by the time Blucher turned turtle and sank beneath the waves, taking almost 800 of her crew with her, and after a false reporting of a German U-Boat in the area caused the British Fleet to go into evasive action, the German Fleet was out of range and heading safely for home.

While Dogger Bank was undoubtedly a victory for the Royal Navy in terms of damage inflicted, the reality is that they had missed a glorious chance to inflict a much heavier defeat on Von Hipper's squadrons. Their poor fire distribution at the start of the combat meant that the British fire was not as effective as it could have been, only 6 hits from the large 13.5" calibre guns were scored by the British ships whereas the Germans scored 22 hits on the British ships with their 11" and 12" guns (16 on Lion alone) and the signalling problems suffered by Lion led to the fleet concentrating their fire on the stricken Blucher whereas Beattie had intended that the ships keep up their pursuit of the German Battlecruisers.

Both Seydlitz and Lion were severely damaged and each required several months in dock for repairs. But whereas the Germans took the opportunity to learn from the effects of the damage caused to Seydlitz to improve their flash protection throughout the fleet, the British did not and this lack of foresight ultimately led to the destruction of the Battlecruisers, Invincible, Queen Mary and Indefatigable at Jutland the following year.

However, the battle did have the effect of further eroding the confidence of the Kaiser in the ability of the High Seas Fleet to engage in a head to head fight with the Royal Navy and orders were soon issued for the surface fleet not to seek combat with the Royal Navy except where intelligence was confident that the High Seas Fleet would outnumber the opponent. Thus the seeds were sown which would lead to the great but inconclusive Battle of Jutland where once again German Intelligence believed that they had set a trap for Beattie's Battlecruisers but in which the High Seas Fleet found themselves almost sailing directly into the full force of the British Grand Fleet.

I still need to paint up New Zealand, a few more of the Light Cruisers and about a dozen or so more destroyers to be able to field the British Fleet at Dogger Bank but maybe they'll get to the top of the painting queue one day and I can try and see if I can do better than David Beattie.....