Friday, December 21, 2018

Shapeways customer service

This wasn't a post I was planning on writing just before Christmas, but it seems like too good a story to pass up.

On 12/19, I received another Shapeways order that contained my two Leander class frigates to go with the Cod Wars project.  Much to my surprise, one of them was misprinted.  The first one out of the bag looked like this:

The second one though, looked like this:

What the...?
Now I'm not an expert on Leander class frigates, but I've never seen ANY pictures that show one with an extra deckhouse there.  So, I fired off an email to Shapeways telling them that there was a problem with my order.  Almost immediately, I got an automated email with the usual "sorry" and asking if I would send any pictures of the problem.  It took me a couple of hours to get the pictures made and sent; in fact, the above photos are the ones I used. 

About 5 hours later, I get an email back from Shapeways customer support, which is located in the EU.  The employee (I wasn't sure about the person's gender based on their name) told me they were sorry about this, and that they would replace it.  I tell them that's fine, and that I understand if it takes a few days to get done due to the holidays.  I figure that's it for now.  Keep in mind, this all happened on 12/19.

At 0845 on 12/20, I get an email from Shapeways that tells me the replacement order has been made, and should ship by January 7, 2019.  That's fine by me, as there's plenty of other stuff to paint while I'm waiting.  At 1328 on 12/20, I get another email telling me my new order is being printed.  OK, now I'm pretty impressed, as that's a good level of service.  This morning (12/21) at 1050, I get an email telling me the order is being shipped and giving me a tracking number.  Now I'm REALLY impressed with Shapeways customer service! 

Now, you could argue that something that obvious should never have been sent out, and I would agree with you.  However, the rapidity with which Shapeways has moved to make it right, especially during a busy holiday season, is certainly a big plus in their favor.  We all have stories of horrible customer service, so when we get really good customer service I think we should let people know.

This is probably the last post before the end of the year.  If it is, here's a Happy Holidays to everyone out there, whatever the holiday you're celebrating might be.  Be careful on New Year's Eve, and we will see each other again in 2019.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

A Quick Programming Note. . . .

I'm going out of town with the family for a few days and am not taking a computer with me.  If someone makes a comment, PLEASE rest assured that I'm not ignoring you.  Should anyone comment while I'm out of pocket, I promise to answer when I get back.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

So, about those clear ships....

This is going to be just a quick post before the craziness of the holiday season takes over and pretty much shuts everything down.  In my Cod Wars post, I put up some pictures of the Shapeways 3D printed ships that are going to make up the project.  Several people in the comments section on that post were curious as to what the models would look like when they were painted.  So, for one of the last posts of the year, here are some pictures of what I've done so far.

While the ships are finished, the bases are not.  There will be some waves, and wakes around the ships.  The ships are finished though, and that's what I'm showing off here.  I've tried to paint these based on ships that were involved in the Cod Wars, and not just generic examples.  For the side trawlers, that's been pretty easy and there are lots of photos of them.  For stern trawlers, it's been a little more difficult.  I haven't painted any stern trawlers yet, so for right now it's not really an issue.

First up is the trawler Westella.  Her registration number was H194, which I'm pretty sure means she was based in Hull.  Here's a picture of the original:

And here is my version of her:

The hardest thing has been matching the color of the cabin, and I still didn't get it completely right.  In real life, the cabins are steel but are painted to look like woodgrain.  I can't do that in this scale, so went with the darker yellow (which is clearly still not dark enough).  I also might still put some black dashes along the deck area to simulate the drain holes to let water flow away.  All these trawlers come with the mast, but you have to add the supports that run forward.  Those are made of brush bristles.

Next is the Arctic Corsair.  She is another Hull trawler (H320), and is preserved as a museum ship in Hull.  She definitely participated in the last Cod War, as she rammed the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel (ICGV) Odin after that ship tried three times to cut the Arctic Corsair's lines to her nets.  As with Westella above, here is the real thing:

And here is my version of her:

I know the rust looks a little overdone.  However, in looking at photos taken of the trawlers at sea, some ships look like the rust is what's holding them together!  I concentrated the rust amidships, since that is where the vessels took the worst beatings, due to hauling in nets.  Also, yes the red band on this funnel should have a white band inside it, but my hands aren't steady enough for that anymore.

One problem that I did run into painting these was that there weren't a lot of color photos at deck level taken of these ships.  Fortunately though, there are a lot of photos on the Trip site for Arctic Corsair, and that's what I used to choose things like deck colors and the like.

So there you have it.  In my opinion, they don't paint up too badly at all.  One piece of advice though; be sure you use a primer on the models after you wash them, and not just any dark colored paint for your basecoat.  Trust me when I tell you that it will make a HUGE difference; in fact, it may well be the difference between painting your models and making the same order again.  That, however, is a story for another post. 😀

EDIT AND QUICK UPDATE:  I want to take a moment and give a big "thank you" to user Grelber over on TMP, who got me to think differently about putting stripes on the funnel.  Instead of painting a red streak and trying to put a white stripe inside it, he suggested painting everything white and using some Sakura Micron pens to put on the red stripes.  It worked extremely well.  My Arctic Corsair model went from this:

To this:

Yes, still a little shaky, but that comes from cleaning up the white area.  I think she now looks a LOT better.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Cod Wars? Yes, Because . . .

I'm of the opinion that anything which floats can be made into a good game.  For that reason, if you put on a game that has ships of some sort then chances are I'm going to enjoy it.  Due to this, I've played with everything from sailing ships to World War II battleships.  I haven't played any ancient naval (but want to try it), and I've even played Greenpeace protesters in a "Save the Whale" game.  So, I don't mind trying out an oddball game.  Keep that in mind as you read this.

One of the regular members of our gaming group likes to ram things when we play naval games.  He's at his happiest when he can bang into other ships on the table.  Preferably, the rammed ships are his opponents but I'm not sure that's completely necessary.  This has actually become a bit of a running joke among the group.  Unfortunately for him, ramming things with a sailing ship is really bad for the ship where rigging and the bowsprit are concerned.  Because of this, I've been on the lookout for rules other than ancients where ramming is actually a viable tactic, and that wouldn't require a lot of ships.  After all, this is a side project and not anything major.  Well, I finally found something that I think will fit the bill:

I know what you're probably thinking: "Cod Wars?  Huh?"  These were a series of disputes between the UK and Iceland over fishing rights in Icelandic waters.  They weren't really a war in the sense that wargamers think of one: there was only one fatality and the naval forces of the two nations never actually shot at each other.  The actions of this set of "wars" consisted of the Icelandic Coast Guard cutting the lines of trawlers in Iceland's territorial waters, and vessels from both sides ramming each other.  Not necessarily ramming to sink another vessel, but more like the traditional 'bumper boats' that the US and USSR played with each other during the Cold War.  Well then, sounds perfect for my needs.
After buying the rules, I was pleasantly surprised (and somewhat relieved) to find that all the miniatures you would need to play a game were available on Shapeways.  I bought what I would need to run the game, and was again pleasantly surprised when they arrived.

L to R: ICGV Baldur, ICGV Tyr, 3 side trawlers, British tug Lloydsman

L to R:  ICGV Odnin, ICGV Aegir, 3 stern trawlers

L to R:  Star Polaris, Star Aquarius, HMS Exmouth, ICGV Ver
Those  three sets provide more than enough ships to run any scenario, and most of the ships needed for a campaign (which is included in the rule book).  This is my first experience with 1/1200 ships printed by Shapeways, and I have to say that I am very impressed with them.  The detail is fantastic, as I hope the closeup below will show:

I will also try and get some extreme closeups before I start painting any of the models.  The fact that the ships are printed in a translucent plastic doesn't help much in seeing the details from a photograph.  To give you an idea of the detailing, the two ships at the top of the photograph (Star Polaris and Star Aquarius) are actually different from each other.  One has slightly larger funnels than the other, AND it also has an extra crane and rubber boat on board. 

You don't even need to label their bases.
As you might guess, I'm very impressed with these.  I'm looking forward to getting them painted and out for a game, just to see what everyone thinks.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Best. Day. EVER! (In gaming terms, anyway. . . .) Part II

So after the Constitution versus Java fight, Mark decided he wanted to play this game again.  We took a break long enough for me to print some ship sheets, and then went back at each other again.

This time it was just a generic frigate fight.  I picked out two ships at random: A British 36 gun frigate (HMS Santa Margarita) with 12 pound main guns, and a French 38 gun frigate (Proserpinewith 18 pound main guns.  This is where things started getting interesting.  The random dice roll for crew/captain quality gave the French a regular crew, and the British a green crew.  So we have a more experienced French crew with heavier guns, but the British can reload and fire faster (2 phases to reload, opposed to 3 for the French).  So, can quicker firing but lighter guns make up for the differences in weight of metal and crew experience?

The random setup proved to be interesting as well.  By die roll, the British started in the middle of the table.  When setup was done, the French wound up behind them, with both ships starting at Easy Sail.  The weather was moderate, with the wind from the SE at force 4.  With everything ready, the starting situation looked like this:

An English frigate chased by a French one?  Hmmm.
With both ships at Easy Sail, we were both tearing along at 10 movement points each, which is anywhere from 4.5 to 8.8 knots, depending on how the ship is facing into the wind.  I quickly decided that being the chasee was not something I wanted to do.

"No Royal Navy captain is going to let himself be chased by a Frog!"
I started taking in sail, as I didn't want to fly by my opponent and have to claw my way back.  Mark, on the other hand, decided to stay at Easy Sail.  This helped me to decide on my tactics; I would shoot high in hopes of forcing more rigging damage onto him.  That should lead to a mast falling, and then the advantage would be mine.

As we continued to approach each other, I kept taking in sail while he kept pushing ahead.  He decided to turn away from the wind so as to give himself more maneuvering room, and to stay with me.

I got my first broadside off in the red phase of turn 2:

He, however, was able to use his extra speed and get in front of me for a broadside in the white phase:

 Fortunately, it wasn't quite a bow rake (ignore my gun smoke; we just forgot to take it off).  The end of the turn found us like this:

At this point, the maneuvers became quite confusing, with each of us trying to circle around the other.  Part of me wishes I had kept a track chart of the fight along with taking pictures.  I got off another broadside at the beginning of next turn, and caught the Frenchman on fire!

I think this is only the second time I've ever seen a ship catch fire.
I won initiative for the next phases, and made the Frenchman move first, as I wanted to see where this potential hazard would wind up.  It also allowed me to slip in behind him, and deliver an almost stern rake on the target.  Unfortunately, the angle just wasn't quite right for a rake.

Beginning of the phase.

"Pour it into them, boys!"

End of the phase.

I ended the turn by pulling away from the fireship again.  To Mark's great relief, he got the fire put out at the end of this phase. 

The next turn was more jockeying for position, as the Frenchman got in front of me and tried to pull away.

The chase went on for another turn while he tried to make repairs and get some maneuvering room.

After this, he decided to circle back and come towards me.

The maneuvering continued, and we managed to end the turn by getting the two ships fouled together.  I was unable to free us, so both sides prepared boarding parties, just in case.
Apparently I didn't take a picture of the red phase this turn, but nothing happened.

We spent an entire turn fouled together and drifting.  Then the French boarding party in the bow found an opportunity, and stormed aboard.

Apologies for the blurry picture; I was really nervous.
It was three factors of regular French marines versus 3 factors of green British sailors.  I had lost all my marines in the earlier broadsides, but much to my surprise the sailors took out one factor of marines.  He moved some sailors from the waist to his forecastle to reinforce for the next round.  We drifted for another three impulses.  The boarding action was inconclusive this time, but I managed to cut the two ships loose, and his boarding party retreated in the command phase.

I didn't take a picture of the ships in this phase, but it was just
more drifting.  Nothing particularly exciting.
At this point we were up to turn 10, and we rolled for weather changes.  While the weather didn't change, the wind did.  It veered from SE to due E.  This was not a good thing for either of us as you will see from the picture below:

Since we were both in irons, all we could do was drift backwards and turn until we were not facing into the wind.  Proserpine's marines were peppering Santa Margarita with fire this whole time.  Having no marines left, Santa Margarita couldn't respond in any way which was quite galling.  I think it was during this time that my 2nd Lieutenant and one of the Midshipmen were killed.

FINALLY, we can move again!
Once we could move again, it was time to start pounding each other. After the broadsides, Proserpine again turned into Santa Margarita as a prelude to another boarding attempt.

Although I avoided his collision attempt, it meant we were so close to each other that any movement would run the risk of fouling again.  Mark adjusted course slightly, and brought Proserpine alongside, and sure enough, we fouled again.

We exchanged broadsides, and each side readied boarding parties again.

Mark flung every Frenchman he could into his boarding parties, and now numbers began to tell. Santa Margarita had started the game with 8 crew boxes and 3 marine boxes.  Proserpine started the game with 12 crew boxes and 4 marine boxes.  By this point, I had only 5 crew boxes and no marines.  With the ships fouled side by side, he could try and board from fore, mid, and aft.  All I could hope for was that none of his groups had the opportunity to board; if they did, I wouldn't have the manpower to fend them off.  Clearly, this was going to be it!

Needless to say, he tried to board from all three sections.  The boarding attempt from the forward section was repulsed, and he lost a crew factor.  The boarding attempt from the waist was successful, and the fight was on.  Although he didn't cause any casualties to my crew, one factor was forced back (in this case, that means out of the waist section).  With that, my forces were outnumbered 3:1, which meant that they had to retreat.  The center of Santa Margarita was now in French hands.  The aft boarding party from Prosperine didn't find an opportunity to board.  The situation was now dire, as you can see:

I wasn't able to cut the two ships free from each other, so we would be bound together for another turn.  At this point, I struck my colors.  I might have passed a command check, but the lack of crew meant that I would not be able to hold off the French if there were any more boarding opportunities for them.  Even if I were to succeed in regaining control of the waist, it might mean there were not enough men left to man the guns and sail her.

In looking at the damage after the battle, it became clear that, between my fire and the damage from our foulings, Proserpine was so cut up aloft that she could not have chased me had I tried to disengage.  Take a look:

In contrast, Santa Margarita was nowhere near as damaged:

So, there you have it.  Two more British defeats; one completely expected and one that (maybe) could have been avoided.  One thing I learned from this:  It's easy to see why everyone went to 18 pound or heavier guns for their frigates.  The 12's I had were easy to handle, but just didn't hit hard enough in the final analysis.

If you read the earlier post, I said there were three games.  After these two, Mark brought out his Blood & Plunder pirate game and we played an engagement in that.  I managed to win that one.  Maybe I should give up my navy captain's license and become a Hollywood pirate instead!