Wednesday, April 19, 2017

French fleet photos

Too often, I think many wargamers see the Napoleonic French navy as some sort of seagoing joke.  In fiction, they're often represented as nautical babes in arms who might get the best of our heroes in the middle of the novel, but are safely vanquished by the end of it.  Like so many historical 'facts,' this representation is greatly simplified.  In 1781, the French Royal Navy fought the British Royal Navy to a tactical draw but strategic victory at Chesapeake Bay which directly led to the birth of the United States. By the mid 1790s, the French Navy was a shadow of itself.  What happened?  The short, and greatly simplified, answer is that the French Revolution happened.  After destroying the officer corps (almost all nobles) and disbanding the cannoniers matelots (considered to be "petty aristocrats"), the new French government crippled its navy so badly that would take over twenty years to recover.

So, given the above, a French fleet can't be much fun to play, right?  Non, non mes amis! Bien au contraire.  A properly played French force can be quite deadly.  Don't rush right into close range and start blasting away; that's what the British player WANTS you to do.  Instead, stay at long range and punish the British player as he tries to get into close range.  Do it right, and your British opponent will soon understand why Nelson said, "you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil."  With that introduction out of the way, here are pictures of my French fleet at last.

First up are those heavy hitters, the three deckers.  I currently have two, which puts me in a bit of a conundrum.  That's more than I need for Trafalgar or Santo Domingo, but not enough for the Glorious First of June.  There's an obvious solution to this problem though:  Buy more after I'm set up for Trafalgar!
you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.
Read more at:

This is a purchased ship

Next are the 80-gun ships.  Although they are considered 3rd rates by both the British and French navies, they have the firepower of a British 98, and are normally used as flagships for smaller squadrons.

According to Mrs. Langton, this is a very old miniature.
I bought it, and should probably retire it, but...

I just love the stern decoration!  Completely different from my other ships.

This is the very first ship I built after getting back into naval gaming.
That makes it about 17 years old now.

Another purchased 80

I own 10 74/76 gun French ships, so for them I'm only doing side views.  First off are what Langton calls a 76/small 80, followed by the 74s.  Both these 76s are purchased.

Purchased 76 #1

Purchased 76 #2

"The Showboat" has stuck to this ship as a nickname.

For some reason, this is one of my favorite ships, and paint schemes.

Purchased 74 #1

Purchased 74 #2
The next ship is something of an odd duck.  It is a French 64.  However, by the beginning of the French Revolution, this class had been phased out of use in the French navy.  Consequently, in most scenarios it stands in as a British 64.  If I ever get around to doing a Suffern vs. Hughes campaign, then I will need some more of these.
Purchased French 64

Just like the real navies, I'm awfully short-handed when it comes to frigates.

40 gun frigate (purchased)

38 gun frigate (purchased)

36 gun frigate #1 (purchased)

36 gun frigate #2

20 gun corvette (purchased)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ironclad Interlude

After a few weeks of travel and being away, I'm back at the blog.  In this post are some photos of the ironclads I showed off in the "Getting My Hands Dirty?" post back in March.

After thinking about it, and some discussion over at TMP, I've decided that I am going to have to base these ships as well.  Compared to the sailing ships, these ironclads are mere slips of metal and I think that bases will be much easier in moving them.   Also, some of the gunboats are easily under 100 feet long, so less than 1 inch in 1/1200 scale.  In a way, it's the opposite of the sailing ship problem; instead of being top heavy, they are so small that a sneeze might blow them away (or at least the resin ones).

Unlike the sailing ships though, these are going to be on clear bases.  Given that Civil War ship operations go back and forth between rivers and deep water, I don't want to own one set of ships on ocean bases and one set on river bases.  While I realize that I could use my ocean mats for riverine scenarios, this is an area where traveling has convinced me otherwise.  After looking at various rivers during my trip to Virginia, one thing I can say is that rivers aren't blue!  Brown, green or some mixture of the two, but not blue.  I'm thinking about going with this mat for my rivers: as it would let me place land on top of it while still having a very wide river if that were to be needed for a scenario.

Below are some photos of the ironclads after they've been painted.  While I'm happy enough with how the two Monitors came out, I'm not as happy with the CSS Atlanta.  I just don't think that I did justice to all the fine details that Thoroughbred put into the model.  For the moment I'm consoling myself with the fact that the pictures show the ship at much larger than full size, thereby magnifying my sloppy brushwork.
USS Weehawken
Obligatory shot with US quarter
USS Nahant. You can see why the different markings are necessary.
Their opponent, CSS Atlanta. The flagpole is removable so she can be the
USS Atlanta
as needed.
Even this ship is not particularly tall, as the quarter shot shows.
Toby Barrett at Thoroughbred was nice enough to send me a little extra with the order, which was a 2 gun earthen battery.  So, those pictures are below.

It actually looks a lot better in person.  This photo makes the color look
like dog poop brown.
I tried to make the mud around the guns a slightly different color,
to show it being stirred up by people moving around.
I think it worked pretty well.
The detail is very nice.  This flagpole is also removable.
So all that remains now is to get in a game, and see what we think of the rules I've chosen.  Right now, I am going with Sail and Steam Navies, which appears to be well thought out, while still having as much detail as the old Ironclads game by Yaquinto.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

New Basing Ideas

If you've viewed this blog before, you know that I make my own bases for sailing ships.  I use a wooden base, make a water surface out of Sculpey clay, and then bake it as per the instructions.  I've never been too happy with this method, because the Sculpey contracts as it sets and this causes the wooden base to sometimes warp.  However, it was the best way I could think of to make each base look individual, which is something the Langton resin bases just didn't do to my satisfaction.  I think, though, that I might have found a better way of making bases.

While in Charlottesville VA, I went into a hobby shop named Rail Tales (  If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend dropping by, as they do more than just model railroading.  In fact, one of the owners (I think it's Nathan) used to be a naval wargamer!  While telling him about my problems with bases, he suggested that I go with Evergreen sheet styrene for the base instead.  .060 styrene is 1.5mm thick, so there will be no difference in height with my older bases.  Since I didn't want to bake styrene in the oven, he suggested the Vallejo water effects paste instead.  I tried some experiments with these this week, and I think I like the results.
This is the stuff I'm talking about.

The styrene sheets I bought are black, so I started by cutting out an appropriate size base, and then painting it in the blue I normally use.  Then, I put down a layer of the water effects, and let it dry.

So far, not very impressive (and not quite dry yet).
Since it dries clear, it doesn't really look like very much.  I then paint a few of the ridges in a gray color and then drybrush over them with the blue again.

Looking a little better.

 After the hull is glued in place, I build up the water paste around it and let that dry.  I then paint the wake with light blue and white, then hit the entire base with Vallejo gloss varnish.  The pictures below show how the new bases look with my Russian 50 gun heavy frigate.

Now that's more like it!
I think this might be the way forward for the sailing ships.  I will try and get out the mat to see how well this new base blends in with it.  I promise to add those pictures here when I do.