Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Long Spell in Drydock

I feel that I owe my readers a bit of an apology right at the beginning of this post.  In looking at the blog, I realized that it has been 3 months since I’ve posted anything.  I would like to plead that Real Life ™ has gotten in the way, but the truth is that I’ve just been both lazy and in a bit of a slump.  I haven’t been completely unproductive, but the shipbuilding has really slowed down.  There are a couple of reasons for this, and they are even remotely related to naval gaming.  I’ll explain below.

Out, out damned computer!

No, I haven’t had computer problems, although I admit that would be a great excuse.  Instead, I have fallen into the snare of computer naval gaming.  I recently bought a game called Rule the Waves by a company called Naval Warfare Simulations, or NWS.  You can find their website at: http://navalwarfare.net/.  The game lets you run one of the major European navies from 1900 to 1926.  You  perform the role of the Grand Admiral, in that you get to design ships, place them, and (eventually) lead them into battle.  The navies in the game are Great Britain (of course), Germany (ditto), France, Italy, Russia, Austria-Hungary, the US and Japan.  As an option, you can manage the Spanish navy, or even the Confederate States if you want to go a fantasy history route.  I say fantasy there because all of the game is alternate history; in no way are you entitled to replay the runup to WWI.  Alliances can be made and broken based on the tension level between the great powers, and it’s even possible for the UK and Germany to sign an alliance if things go just right.  It’s also possible for real-life allies to really go after each other: In one game as the US, I fought three different wars with France.  The game is quite addictive, and many times I’ve found myself saying “just one more turn” (which is a month of game-time) until I have almost seen the sun rise.
Designing ships is one of the most fun parts of the game.  The march of technology is not always relentless, and some things that worked out in real life may not in your game.  This is an option, and you can turn it off if you so choose.  It does add an extra level of uncertainty to the game though, and I for one highly recommend it.  You can design anything from a minesweeper to a dreadnought and can ask the computer to help you if you want.  Computer designs are not always the best though!  Occasionally it will deliver a design that is overweight or has other flaws.  This is a part of the game that can keep you enthralled for hours, as you try to deliver that perfect blend of firepower, speed and protection.  If you spend money on espionage, you will get reports from what the other navies are doing, and this can be used as a guide for your own designs.  I can assure you; it WILL hurt your ego when you find that your perfect design for whatever ship is either 1) completely inept compared to its foreign counterparts, or 2) will bankrupt your country if you try and build it.  While the game stops in the 1920s, NWS is preparing Rule the Waves II which will put aircraft carriers into the game along with other technologies.  Will I buy it?  Despite my dislike of aircraft in naval games, I daresay I probably will.  After all, it’s not as if I have to paint up any aircraft carriers or airplanes, right?!  Gaming navies are a lot of fun when they’re digital, even if they aren’t quite as satisfying as a fleet of painted miniatures.

Gamer Syndrome

I think we’re all guilty of this one.  You start on a project and intend to keep a laser focus on it.  Eventually though, you look at those ships and start wondering, “What else could I use these for?”  Next thing you know, you’ve got a new project that you never planned on.  The military world calls it “mission creep,” the medical world calls it “attention deficit disorder,” and we call it “gamer syndrome.”  Even worse, you find a new set of rules that look like they would be fun, and only need a few ships.  Just a few, and they are almost all available from somewhere like Shapeways.  So, you’re looking around for those few ships, and you find all other sorts of cool stuff.  One of [fill in the blank] would be fun to paint, just to do something different.  Hmm, look at those; they would be perfect companions to that one ship you bought.  Wonder what you could do with those?  Are there rules for . . . .?  As the singer Robert Earl Keen says, “the road goes on forever and the party never ends.”
All the above is a roundabout way of saying that I have been painting some modern ships of late.  Not many; as I said, I’ve been in a slump.  One of my projects was an attempt to save a mistake that I got from Shapeways.  You might remember that in an earlier post, I talked about a problem I have with one of the Rothesay class frigates I received from them.  At the time I misidentified her as a Leander class, but have since learned the error of my ways.   Anyway, this was the picture:

I figured that given the issues with this ship, I couldn’t really mess it up any more, no matter what I did to it.  So, out came the knife.  I put the gun barrels in the turret using .025 music wire, which I thought would be more sturdy than plastic rod of the same width.  I added an upper mast out of the same wire, primarily to discourage gamers from moving the ship by its plastic mainmast.  Cutting off that circular thing did cause me to lose some of the deck details there, but fortunately I was able to paint them in without it looking too bad.  Overall, the end result looks like this:

She didn't come out too badly, all things considered.

I decided to paint her up as HMS Yarmouth.  With this one and HMS Plymouth, that gives me all of the Rothesay class frigates that were present for the Falklands War.  Falklands, huh?  Well what do you know, Shapeways has almost all the ships necessary for that war.  One shop even has the Argentine carrier ARA 25 de Mayo.  Throw in a couple of modern naval rules, and suddenly I’m buying things like this:

Obviously, nowhere near complete, or even started yet.

That is a 1/1250 scale Triton miniature of HMS Hermes, the flagship of the British fleet.  Obviously I don’t have to tell my readers where this is headed. . . .  I don’t know how long it will take this Falklands project to come to fruition, but someday my group will be playing a modern naval campaign.  Right now, I just keep telling myself that it’s still cheaper than trying to fight WWIII in the North Atlantic.

Naval “War”gaming? 

For my other foray into naval gaming ADD, the explanation is a little simpler.  Briefly put, I’m blaming David Manley for this one!  A few years back, I played his “Save the Whale” game.  In that, the players take the part of either whale hunters, or activists trying to save the whale.  The activists get to do things like use speedboats to paint anti-whaling slogans on the side of the whaling factory ship, which will give them points (as will other actions) at the end of the game.  The points are only for the protesters because victory for the whalers is pretty simple:  If they harpoon a whale, they win.  Even if that doesn’t happen, they might still win if the protesters have negative points.  In effect, the whalers have won in the court of world opinion.

Ships for this are surprisingly easy to come by.  Triang-Minic made a whale factory ship, and those can be picked up pretty cheaply on eBay.  The harpoon ships are harder to find as originals but are being reproduced so that is also taken care of pretty cheaply.  I already hear you asking, “But Brian, where do you get protest ships?”  The answer of course, is Shapeways (or as I’ve come to call it, “The Great Enabler”).  A quick search using “Greenpeace ships” will turn up only 1 option.  A shop called shipshape makes the MV Solo, which served Greenpeace in the 1990s along with the Rainbow Warrior III.  However, Decapod, who makes the Cod War models also makes a model that is a very nice stand-in for the original Rainbow Warrior.  Turns out, there is even a shop that makes rubber Zodiac boats in 1/1250 scale. 

WAY more than I will ever need.  Then again, as small as they are I do expect
to lose a few over time.

The Quarter of Comparison (TM) is feeling somewhat shy today, and decided to
try and hide.

There actually a little oversize but otherwise are really nice models.  I decided to go with Rainbow Warrior I and Solo even though the two never actually served together.  After all, this is a fun game and I don’t think anyone is going to be too terribly offended by this inaccuracy.  Rainbow Warrior is probably so well known as to not need an introduction, but here’s a picture of the original in London:

My model of this ship isn’t even primed yet, but once it’s done I will update this post with pictures of it.  The rainbow and bird will probably be done via brush, but the “GREENPEACE” lettering on the side will have to be a decal.  I think a decal will be easy to make, and will look a lot better than any attempts to do it by hand.

The Solo is much less well known, but this is the original:

And here is my interpretation of her:

The model isn’t complete yet, as I haven’t finished the base or made decals for the name and Greenpeace logo on the side.   I also wasn’t able to do the sweeping rainbow stripes by brush, so went with a blockier interpretation, as you can see.  All in all though, I don’t think she looks too bad.

So that is why the blog has been laid up for a bit here lately.  It’s not that nothing has been done, but overall there’s been very little.  I promise to get back to the sailing ships soon.  After all, the Trafalgar Project isn’t going to get done if I don’t do anything on it!