Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Love in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 2

If you read the previous post, you saw the 1938 Gran Prix cars that are one of my unfinished projects.  I think that's one of the fun things about a post like this; you get to see some things that normally probably wouldn't be shown on this blog, given my focus on naval stuff.  I can even hear you asking, "what OTHER kinds of minis does he have that he hasn't shown us?"  Well, there's WWII, American Civil War, mobsters. . . Oh wait, you say you didn't ask that?  Bummer. 😞  Well, for the purposes of this post, I'm going to just pretend that you did ask.

My friends who game with me regularly already know my opinion of air power in naval games.  I think aircraft are sneaky, underhanded contraptions that are barely one step above submarines in terms of ruining a good naval fight.  Zeppelins fall into the same category, so don't think the lighter-than-air people get away either.  In short, if it moves under the sea or flies over it, I'm not a fan.

Now, airplanes fighting airplanes?  That's cool, and even more if they're jet powered.  That's probably why I've got a few sets of rules, and a box of airplanes to play with.  The set of rules I use is the one that is most popular in my area.  To wit:
They give a fun game, are easy to teach and give reasonable results.  Using these rules, I've played everything from Sabres over Korea (and other places) to "MiG-28's" from the original Top Gun. I've also played the WWII version, but the faster planes are more fun to me.

So what types of air wars do I like to play?  Well, there are a couple of periods with another in the planning stages.  As an American, I can't ignore the big dog in the room, which is Vietnam.  I've managed to mostly resist the obvious temptation to buy USAF and USN aircraft, restricting myself to USAF.  It's an interesting period because most of the Vietnamese aircraft in scenarios are MiG-17's, with an occasional MiG-21 or 19.  MiG-17's are fun to "fly."  They are quick, and maneuverable enough to run rings around any US aircraft.  Their biggest disadvantage is that they don't have any of these:


the robotic flying boomstick of DEATH, aka the Sidewinder missile.  It seems that my destiny as a Red pilot is to get hammered by one of these 🤬every time we play.  The funny thing is, they are actually pretty unreliable in game terms.  Still, they get me more often than not.  I didn't post any pictures of the Vietnam aircraft, because they were some of the first ones I ever painted.  I'm no longer happy with how they look, since they're what taught me I'm no good at using washes.

Since missiles seem to be my nemesis, the best thing to do is step back to a period where there aren't any, or not very many.  No, not Korea, as those planes aren't fast enough.  For real fun, you gotta try these:

"Oh, I recognize those.  They're, . . . wait, whut?"
Those are planes for the Indian-Pakistan War of 1965.  While the ground war ended up being a bit of a stalemate, the air war was not.  The general consensus was that in this round of the ongoing Kashmir crisis, the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) was the winner.

As a game, the air war has a lot going for it.  It's short, only about three weeks.  The Indian Air Force (IAF) is flying a grab bag of British, French, and Soviet equipment, but the PAF is flying American aircraft exclusively.  The aircraft themselves range from outmatched WWII gear:

deHavilland Vampire.  First flight: 1943
Miniatures by MSD Games, flight stand by Fight's On! (https://www.fightsonstore.com/)


To evenly matched dogfighting rivals:

F-86 Sabre and Hawker Hunter. Both minis by I-94 Enterprises
(main site: https://i-94enterprises.com/ store: https://raiden.25.ekm.shop/ )


To the limits of 1950's technology.

F-104 Starfighter and MiG-21 F-13.  Both by I-94 Enterprises.
There's not just fighters, of course.  Bombers and attack planes play their part as well:

English Electric Canberra and Dassault Mystere IV
Canberra by ??? and Mystere by I-94.

There are still more planes, but this is already getting to be a long post.  So how did I find out about this offbeat conflict?  As with so many other things, I read a couple of books:





















I'm not saying which one I read first. 😎

Back in part 1 of this post, I promised you that I would tell you about a new project that somehow tied in a little closer to what I normally do.  So how does all the above stuff about airplanes tie into that?  Well, that will take a couple of more photos.  Let's look at some stuff on the painting table, shall we?


Now where could they be going?

Well, those are some good-looking ships, even if one isn't quite finished!  Pretty much the epitome of the Cold War Royal Navy.  Got to be a project set in the 1980's then.  World War III at sea, maybe?


Geez, more 1:1200/1250 aircraft carriers.  The one on the left has a ski jump and no angled deck, so clearly not US Navy.  The right hand one doesn't quite look American, but not British either.  With so many modern(ish) aircraft carriers around, there's got to be some airplanes. . . 

Oh, hello!
Well I would guess that is a naval airplane, given the anchors painted on the wings.  Maybe he can fly by again, so that we can get a better look at his markings. . .
OK, thanks.
Obviously, I'm going to start doing some of the air attacks during the Falklands War in 1982.  It gives a chance to run a small campaign using both naval and air forces.  Yes, the ships will be stationary targets, but they still need to look good!  Besides, they can shoot back with their anti-aircraft defenses like guns and missiles.  I really love Check Your 6 Jet Age, and so this project should be a lot of fun.

In closing, there is one company listed here that I would like to give a little more of a shout out to.  That company is Fight's On!, and their website is: https://www.fightsonstore.com/ .  They make terrain and accessories for air games.  Their best-known product, other than missiles are the "Cadillac of the Sky" flight stands that you saw in the pictures above.  The stands can track movement and altitude by using magnetic rods of differing lengths.  It sounds complicated, but is really not.  For some photos of them in action take a look at: https://www.fightsonstore.com/product-page/cadillac-of-the-sky-flight-stands .  Full disclosure: The owners of the company are gaming buddies of mine.  You can tell them I sent you, but I don't think it will get you a discount.😁  

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Before anyone wonders what song this title is related to, for this post I am changing the rules slightly.  Instead, it's a reference to a book title.  In this case, the reference is to Gabriel García Márquez's novel, Love in the Time of Cholera.   After all, nothing says we can't class the place up once in a while!

From a gaming/painting viewpoint, I'm finding this quarantine period a bit confusing.  From reading TMP, TWW, or other people's blogs, it seems like everyone is getting loads of figures painted.  Indeed, it seems to be our patriotic duty (no matter what country you're in) to sit on your backside and wield a paintbrush,  So far, this has not been my experience.  Instead, I'm finding it more interesting to play on the Internet, catch up on some reading, or even helping my wife cook.  I can hear what you're thinking out there: "Gee Brian, you're just in a slump.  It happens to everyone; it's even happened to you in the past."  Normally, I'd agree with you, but I'm not ignoring the hobby.  Instead, I'm doing something that I'm afraid is much, much worse.  What, you ask, could I possibly be doing that is so horrible?  Well, I'll tell you.

I keep catching myself looking around for new projects.

  Even though I've said many times that I don't want any new projects, the call of something shiny and different still beckons.  For example: On TMP today (4/14) there was an article saying that a set of sci-fi rules were on sale at Wargame Vault.  "Ooh," I say.  "That could be fun.  After all, they're just navies in space."  Never mind that I have several sets of space battle rules; I'm still looking at these.  I manage to talk myself out of the idea before I start looking at spaceship miniatures though.  Some might call it strength of character; I would call it sheer laziness. 😒 

OK, so not completely new projects then.  Now, I'm looking through the unpainted miniatures, along with finished projects that haven't been shown here wondering if I can expand them.  Trouble is, I've got a LOT of miniatures that aren't on this blog.  Heck, I've got miniatures I don't even have rules for.  Take these guys for example:



These are the 1/72 scale 1938 Gran Prix cars produced by Minarions Miniatures in Spain ( https://minairons.eu/en/ ).  This has always been one of my favorite periods of racing history, probably because of a book I got when I was a child.  When Lluis at Minarions announced this project, I was all over it.  In fact, I have three of his new cars somewhere in the mail waiting to arrive.  The different makes of cars are pictured below.

Auto Union Type D.  The driver in the yellow sweater is Tazio Nuvolari.
Mercedes Benz W154.  The car noses are colored to help the pit crew
distinguish the drivers.
Alfa Romeo c12/312.  Italian racing red was not a uniform shade at this time,
and could be almost maroon.
ERA. This British make was popular with private teams.  The colors are,
from L to R: Belgium, Great Britain, Siam.
A lack of rules shouldn't be a problem, because I wrote a set of stock car racing rules for Two Hour Wargames.  Called Win or Go Home, it was fun but didn't sell very well and is no longer on the THW website.  It did, however, give me some ideas and was working on other versions before it tanked.

My baby.  My poor, orphaned baby.
So, I will be modifying these, but will also be writing a rules set that uses a complete track, like the old Speed Circuit boardgame.  My rules assumed that you were part of the pack on the lead lap, so only had enough "track" to hold all the cars.  Apparently, most racing game fans prefer a game with an entire track to chase each other around.  Why two separate sets of rules, you ask?  Well, I do want to use these cars, so will use whichever set most people like.

I have some other projects too, but I don't want to turn this into some sort of long, run-on post.  You can expect to see them in another post that will be up soon.  Whats in the next one?  Well, let's just say that these other projects are a little bit closer to what you might expect from me!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Climbed a mountain and I turned around . . . .

It's taken a little while to get this post up on the blog.  As my regular readers know, sometimes you just have to take a break from building sailing ships.  I have been putting ships on the Ironclads page, but apparently Blogger only tells people when I update the main page.  Oh, well . . . .

The title of the last post is a modification of the old sailor's song "Spanish Ladies."  Like I said, it's a slight modification as the original line went, "Farewell and adieu to you Spanish ladies."  I didn't think that fit too well into a post introducing two new Spanish ships, so I changed it.  Nonetheless, that song is the source for the title of the last post.  The song inspiration for this post is much newer, and probably won't be too hard for the readers to guess.

The two new ships in the post actually represent quite a milestone.  These are the last two ships needed to complete my Spanish Trafalgar fleet.  This is actually a bigger thing than you might think.  While I've been working on Spanish ships lately, this project has been (mostly) guiding my sailing ship building since about 2014 or so.  Consequently, I've worked on all three fleets, not just one.  There were 60 ships of the line at Trafalgar; right now I have 48 of them.  At this point, my fleet breakdowns are:
British: 19 of 27 SOL
French: 14 of 18 SOL
Spanish: 15 of 15 SOL.
I promise that there will be a post with all the Spanish Trafalgar ships together in the future.  

These two ships are from the 74/80 gun Montañes class.  According to Google Translate, the class name translates out as "Highlander," or "Mountain."  The first two ships (Montañes and Monarca) were built in 1794, the third (Neptuno) in 1795 and the last ship (Argonauta) was built in 1798.  They were well-designed ships, and Montañes was said to make 10 knots close-hauled and 14 knots running large in a fresh (force 5) wind.  All four ships served across the Spanish empire,with Montañes spending eight years in the Pacific and returning to Spain in 1803.  All four ships were at Trafalgar: Monarca and Neptuno were captured but sank in the storm that followed the battle.  Argonauta was also captured, but burned by the British after the battle.  Montañes  survived the battle but was out of service until February 1806 making repairs.  She remained in service until 1810, when she ran aground in Cadiz Bay during a storm.

So, with no further delay, here are the final two ships of my Spanish fleet at Trafalgar:









 And Now for the Brow Furrowing. . . .

As I mentioned in the last post, these models have some differences from the generic Spanish 74's that make me furrow my brow a bit.  As has been made clear on other forums, the Langtons say that their ships are generic types other than the named models, which do represent specific ships.  With that in mind, let's take a look at the deck plan of a Montañes class ship:

Taken from: https://www.todoababor.es/historia/como-es-por-dentro-un-navio-de-linea-de-74-canones-el-montanes/

For our purposes, there are three main areas of interest.  Those are the solid square on the poop deck (officer's cabins), the grates along the side of the waist opening, and the large square with four smaller ones in front of the waist.  This is the chimney for the ship's stove.  Below is a picture of my two ships before the masts were put in.


Hmmmmm.  Clearly the cabin on the poop is not solid, there are no grates around the waist, and that is definitely not a set of chimneys for the ship's stove just forward of the waist.  To me, these don't look like a Montañes class ship.  Now, let's take a look at NS3, the generic 74 gun Spanish ship of the line.


Well, now that's more like it!  We have the solid cabins on the poop, the grates along the waist AND the stove just forward of the waist.  There's even the curved rail behind the main mast.  Clearly the NS3/4 is the Montañes class of 74/80s, and I suspect that NS 21/22 would actually be the generic 74.  The stern piece in NS 21/22 is much closer to correct for the Montañes class ships than the stern piece for NS 3/4 would be.  The pictures below should make that quite clear.






So, what does this all mean?  In a perfect world, I guess I would rebuild my Spanish fleet using the correct hulls and sterns so that both types of 74 are correct.  😂😂😂 Yeah, like that's gonna happen!  I have spent too much time and money to throw all those ships out and start again.  Also, I've never had anyone at one of my games notice what I've discussed here.  Truth be told, I guess it only affects sticklers such as myself and Vol Williams. (You were right Vol, this is exactly what I was going to talk about!)  

Anyone expecting me to say anything bad about the Langtons can just surf off to another website right now.  Even with what I've described, I still prefer them over other brands.  GHQ ships are truly generic amazingly specific to the prototypes, as Vol and AdmiralHawke over at TMP have pointed out to me.  For example, the GHQ model of HMS Boyne actually has the appropriate figurehead for the ship!  What this means is that my bias against GHQ is based on two touchingly petty personal preferences: the GHQ ships feel too small,  and I don't care for their masts (I told you they were petty reasons 🙄) .  As for other brands, Navwar ships were rough when I started with them back in the 1980s and don't appear to have changed any.  Skytrex/Red Eagle ships are also unchanged from the 1980s, but they were better than Navwar back then.  When Rod Langton started his business, he really elevated the market for 1/1200 scale naval gaming miniatures.  Even with my nitpicking, I still think they're the best and I will keep building them.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Hello to you, Spanish Ladies

Obviously, the title for the last post was a takeoff on the "Day-oh!" lyric from Harry Belafonte's famous Banana Boat Song.  For this post title though, I've gone a lot farther back than the 1950's.

This post is particularly exciting to me, as it means I am coming close to finishing part of the Trafalgar Project.  Now that these two are built,  I only need to finish two Montañes class ships of the line for  the Spanish fleet to be completed.  After those are done, I will wrap up the French fleet (4 ships to build) and then the British (8 left to build).

Like some of my other recent builds, there's not a lot to say about these ships.  Good old 74 gun ships of the line, the backbones of almost every fleet in the Age of Sail.  One ship of the two is "at quarters," so is a bit more bristly than its companion.  What really sets the two ships apart are their paint jobs, and I'll talk about that after the photos.







Like I said, the two ships are basically identical.  The ship at quarters is at fighting sail, but other than that and the upper stern decoration, they are the same.  In fact, their catalog numbers are NS3 and NS4.  What I find interesting is how much different they look due to the paint job.  The ship with the single yellow stripe appears to be smaller than the other one, even though this isn't so.  Given the side-by-side photos of these two paint schemes, it's easy to see how someone on another ship several miles away, looking through a telescope or the naked eye, might mistake the ship on the right of the photo as being all black.  I tried to take a picture from 15 feet away (3 scale miles), but my current phone camera isn't up to the task, unfortunately.

The single-striper will stand in for the San Justo, as I think she was one of the ships mentioned as being "black" by some British observers.  I remember reading it somewhere, but can't find the source now.  There is, however, a model at the Greenwich museum that support the idea that she was all black.  It comes from a diorama of the battle that was originally built in the 1840's.  The diorama was disassembled in 1978 and all that is left are the model ships.  The models are not on display in the museum, but there are pictures of them on the museum website.  This is the San Justo:

You can find this photo online at: https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/539417.html
This was not a standard paint job for the models, as this photo of San Ildefonso shows:

This photo is located at: https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/539239.html
Pictures of the diorama taken before its disassembly are at: https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/68704.html .  Overall, I'm pretty confident that the paint scheme on my San Justo will pass inspection.

This is the last post for 2019.  When I post the finished Montañes ships we will be in a new decade!  In that post, I'll point out some interesting differences between those ships and these.  Those differences are a cause of some brow furrowing for me where Langton miniatures are concerned.  What is it, you ask?  Well, I will only drop you a hint by saying that Vol Williams already knows what I'm going to talk about. 🤔  Tune in next time!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Ray-o, Ray-ay-ay-o!

The last two posts shared a title, since both of them were about the Texas Broadside convention.  In case you didn't recognize the line, it's from a Jimmy Buffett song entitled, "A Pirate Looks at Forty."  Since my main game was about capturing prizes in the Age of Sail, I thought the lyrics of the chorus fit pretty well:
Yes I am a pirate
Two hundred years too late
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothing to plunder
I'm an over forty victim of fate

  For the title of this post, I've gone a little farther back in time than 1974.  Even with that, for those of us who are "of a certain age," this one should be an easy guess as well.  Just as with the previous title, this one is modified but only very slightly.

Our subject this time is the Spanish 100-gun ship Rayo, which according to Google Translate means "Thunderbolt" or "Lightning" in English.  Yes, I skipped the obvious Bohemian Rhapsody jokes, and yes, you're welcome.  The history of the real ship is pretty interesting, which is why there's a brief history lesson before we get to the usual pictures.

She was originally launched in 1749 as an 80-gun ship of the line named San Pedro, and was commissioned into the Spanish Navy in 1751.  She had the usual spells of activity and idleness during her career, and was laid up from 1798 to 1803.  She was thought to be in poor shape by 1803, but her construction from tropical hardwoods (she was built in Havana) meant that she was still mostly sound.  She was taken and converted into a 100-gun ship in 1803 by enclosing her upper deck, similar to how Santisima Trinidad went from 112 to 136 guns in 1795-96.  By January of 1805, Rayo was in Cadiz.  Later that year, she joined the Combined Fleet after it returned from the West Indies.  She fought at Trafalgar, returned to Cadiz, and sortied again on October 23 to help recover the ships Santa Ana and Neptune.  She was then driven ashore and shipwrecked in the storm following the battle.  She was the oldest ship at the battle, being about 14 years older than HMS Victory.

This particular model turned out to be a learning experience in more ways than one.  Langton has begun casting its larger hulls in resin instead of metal, and this was my first experience working with one.  Overall, the detail is every bit as good as the white metal hulls.  Unfortunately, this model had damage to the starboard quarterdeck bulwark that would have made it impossible to run rigging lines.  It looked like it had been broken instead of not having enough resin in the mold.  Fortunately, I had some .010 plastic sheet, and a couple layers of that, combined with a bit of carving to shape,
made for a fairly quick repair.

It's easy to see the difference between resin and metal detail in this photo.
Also, you can see the repairs to the quarterdeck bulwark.
The sharp-eyed among you have already noticed other pieces of black plastic as well.  Another problem with this hull is that some of the channels for the ratlines seem to be positioned incorrectly.  Instead of ending in line with the hole for the mast, they end before the hole.  Consequently, the brass ratlines should not align properly with the masts.  The next picture will give a better idea of what I mean:


It is kind of a big deal.  As the plan of HMS Serapis below shows, the ratlines have to line up with the mast.



In fairness though, the Spanish 80 gun hull from Langton has the same problem, so I should have expected it.  Unlike the metal hull, this resin one made a repair much easier.  Take a piece of the .010 plastic sheet mentioned earlier, cut to roughly the right size, and glue them on.  I had thought that I might have to support them from below, but once the glue dried they were remarkably sturdy.  I won't say it's a perfect solution, but once paint is applied you can't tell the extensions are there.  I should probably have trimmed the back of the channels to make them a bit smaller, but didn't want to run the risk of damaging them.

Other than that, painting and basing went mostly as expected.  I decided to paint the ship based on some pictures I found on a website called Todo A Babor:  https://www.todoababor.es/  .  If you're interested in the Spanish navy, then put this website in your bookmarks!  There are articles, paintings and information on the Real Armada that I've not seen anywhere else.  There is a definite shortage of English language information sources on the Spanish navy out there, and this is a useful corrective.  The website itself is in Spanish, but Google Translate handles this quite well.  Some of the more specific nautical terms may be mistranslated, but you can still figure out what they mean.  Todo A Babor has a couple of different color paintings of Rayo, but I decided to go with this one:



Another painting shows the ship with the third gun deck painted yellow (which would be in line with regulations), but I decided that I liked the look of this interpretation better.  I decided to drill all the holes after the painting was done, and it was here that I discovered an odd problem.  In a couple of places, the outer layer of paint flaked away from the primer when I drilled the hole.  As you'll see from these photos, it looks like a bad problem:



No need for a circle here; the gray against black is very visible.

All the above photos are at 3X zoom, so obviously these are very small spots that should touch up easily enough.  I mention it only because I've never had it happen to a metal model before.  Also, I prime my ships in black, so I'm not sure why it showed up gray after the paint flaked away.

With the running rigging in place as seen above, the running rigging was going quickly and I was feeling good about finishing this ship quickly.  As I should know by now, that feeling is a prelude to something going wrong.  It started when I cut a line on the running rigging and cut into the knot, so it came loose from the sail.  In taking off the other end of that line, I accidentally cut the main mast standing rigging by mistake.  Annoying, but not disastrous.  While re-running the main mast standing rigging, I realized that the fragments from the old lines were making it impossible to get all the new ones through the hole.  So I decided to enlarge the hole from .5 to .7 millimeters.  After all, what could go wrong?  This could:

AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!
Yes, the bulwark broke into pieces.  Fortunately, I was able to find the largest pieces and glue them back into place.  What I couldn't find I was able to replace with some of that .010 plastic I mentioned before.  I covered everything with super glue gel and waited for it to dry.  What I got was this:



I re-threaded the mainmast rigging very gently, as I wasn't sure about the strength of my repairs.  I wound up having to re-rig the mainmast a third time, as a rough spot on the hole cut the string during the first re-rigggng.  A quick BUT CAREFUL re-drilling of the hole solved that problem and let me re-finish the standing rigging.  After this three hour delay (I told you I was being careful), everything else went off without a hitch.

Well, that's enough grousing and extreme close-ups of ship damage.  Below are the usual beauty shots of the finished vessel:









Obviously the camera angle is a little off on this one.
I assure you, Rayo is not skidding through the sea at an angle!

And since the Quarter of Comparison (TM) hasn't been seen in a while, here's a size comparison shot:


As a closing thought, this ship is also an example of the "check twice, paint once" adage.  If you look at the drawing from the Todo a Babor website, you'll notice that the ship is NOT painted in the Nelson Checker pattern; instead, the gunports are open.  I didn't notice this until after the ship was painted and partially rigged.  I could have gone back and painted her properly, but it would have been fairly difficult.  At that point, I decided it was just too late.