Sunday, October 4, 2020

Don't Cry for Me, Argentina

 The last post took its name from the Pat Benatar song, "Invincible."  It was the theme song for a 1985 movie titled "The Legend of Billy Jean" that I never saw.  Apparently, I didn't miss much.  According to Pat Benatar introduces the song at her concerts by saying, "This is from the worst movie ever made."  So why did I pick that song?  C'mon, the title of the song is "Invincible," and it's a post about the ship of the same name. 😏  You have to admit, it's a lot stronger association than some of the other song titles I've used here. . . . 

THIS post title is so famous that it's not even worth waiting for the next post to talk about it.  This post title is from "Evita," so clearly we're going to be looking at something Argentinian today.  I will say that this was not my first choice for a post title.  The other choice came from a very obscure (in the US, anyway) British song about the Falklands War that I heard once on the Doctor Demento show in 1982.  I thought that might be a little too obscure.  Also, I wasn't able to find a copy that would let me confirm my memory was correct.  Anyway, despite what the title might make you think, this post is not going to be about the General Belgrano.  Instead, we're going to look at HMS Invincible's hypothetical opponent, the ARA 25 de Mayo.

Like the General Belgrano, the 25 de Mayo had an interesting history.  She actually started out in the British Royal Navy as the Colossus class carrier HMS Venerable.  Launched in December 1943 and commissioned in November 1944, she saw service in the Pacific before the end of WWII.  Immediately after hostilities, she returned prisoners of war home to Canada and Australia before herself returning to the UK.  She was decommissioned in April of 1947.

In April of 1948 she was sold to the Dutch navy and renamed HNLMS Karel Doorman in honor of the Admiral killed during the Battle of the Java Sea.  She gave a solid 20 years of service to Holland, with a major rebuild from 1955-58.  This is where she got her angled flight deck, catapult, new elevators and island along with a new set of boilers.  



A major boiler fire in April 1968 signaled her retirement, and she was sold to Argentina in October of 1968.  Renamed ARA 25 de Mayo after the National Day of Argentina, she was commissioned into her third navy on March 12, 1969.

By 1982 her flight deck had been strengthened to operate the French-built Super Étendard fighter-bombers that were coming into service with the Argentine Navy.  They weren't used on board 25 de Mayo during the war though, due to troubles launching them from the catapult.  So, she carried 8 A-4 Skyhawks, 6 Grumman S-2E Trackers (anti-submarine aircraft), 4 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King heavy helicopters, and  one Alouette III light helicopter for her air wing.

Where do you find a model of the 25 de Mayo?  Normally I would say on Shapeways, since that is where I got mine.  For some reason though, I can't find her there anymore.  Now, I will be the first to admit that their search engine is terrible, but it looks like the model may not be available any longer.  If someone can find it on Shapeways, please let me know and I will post a direct link to it.

Since the model seems to be currently unavailable, I'll skip most of the runup about how I painted it and what decals were used.  Instead, I'll just show some pictures of the finished model.  Like Invincible, this one also has a currently empty flight deck, but that should be rectified in the near future.

The stripes are from Microscale, the numbers are from Miscellaneous Minis, and the circles are from an old Dom's Decals sheet.  It is not a perfect reproduction of the flight deck and all her markings, but I think I've captured the spirit of the old girl.

I think this might be a post-Falklands model. The aft elevator was 
removed after the war for Super Étendard operations.

Even after all those years of service and facelifts, she's still a pretty ship.  She deserved a better fate than being scrapped, but most ships do.

On a closing note, I just finished reading One Hundred Days by Admiral Sandy Woodward, the commander of the British task force.  The scenario of an airstrike from 25 de Mayo against the British carriers is still a very good "what if" scenario.  In fact, Woodward mentions that they were standing by to receive a dawn strike on 2 May.  The idea of a counter-strike from Invincible and/or Hermes is a lot shakier, however.  Indeed, Woodward never even mentions the idea in his memoir.  Instead, he expected one of the two submarines in the area (Spartan and Superb) to find and deal with the Argentinians.  As it happened, neither of them contacted the Argentine task force, and the 25 de Mayo carrier group returned to base safely.  I still think a counter-strike by the British might be a fun scenario, but I also have to acknowledge it's pretty near the realm of fantasy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

"It's a do or die situation - we will be INVINCIBLE!"

It's time to start writing about ships and song lyrics again!  I know that COVID-19 is still running rampant, especially in my part of the world.  So yes, this could clearly be called "Love in the Time of Coronavirus Part 3" or whatever.  But ya see, I want things to go back to normal.  I want to visit my friends that I haven't seen in months, and I don't care whether it's to play games or just chat.  I've come to appreciate virtual gaming applications like Roll20 and Discord; they have allowed me to get SOME gaming in.  It's still not the same as pushing real minis around a tabletop though.

Now, I can already hear what you're saying to your computer: "Yeah, well, that's the same thing we ALL want! Stop whining, you big baby."  🤔🤔🤔  OK, fair enough.  My point though, (such as it is) was simply that here things can be normal, more or less.  That means less mentioning the Coronavirus, and more talking about ships and finding a song lyric that fits the subject of my posts.

In this case though, finding an appropriate song lyric was almost ridiculously easy.  As mentioned in the "Love in the Time of Coronavirus" posts, my newest air/naval project is the Falklands War.  After painting British warships for the Cod Wars, it was a natural progression.  I mean, why not get more than one use out of your minis when you can, right?  Also, I have to admit that I love the Royal Navy ship designs from the 1960's to the 1980's.  They just look good.  Finally, the Falklands War has one of the best "what-if" scenarios of all time, and it requires almost no jiggering of real life events.  Let me explain. . .

On May 2, 1982 most of the Argentine Navy was at sea, including their aircraft carrier, the 25 de Mayo.  Their objective was to find and strike either of the Royal Navy's two aircraft carriers: HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible.  With the British at the end of a 6,000 mile supply line, the Argentinians thought that any serious damage to either carrier would force it to leave for repairs.  If the Royal Navy lost one of its carriers, that might well tip the balance of the war to Argentina.  The Invincible group  was found late on May 1, and at 0600 the next morning, the Skyhawks were ready to be launched.  Then, fate (or nature) intervened.

The Skyhawks needed 40 knots of wind over the deck to launch with a significant ordnance load.  The carrier could make 20 knots, but the South Atlantic winds refused to cooperate and stayed at 10 knots (some sources say a dead calm), making impossible to launch the strike.  So, the first carrier versus carrier combat since WWII did not happen.  Like I said, it's the perfect "what-if" scenario, and all you really need to do is make the wind a few knots faster.  The normal winds for that time of year in the South Atlantic are 15-25 knots, so it's not even an unrealistic adjustment.

For a scenario like this, you have to have a target.  I found mine thanks to  Martin, the proprietor, had an assembled and painted Triton/Skytrex Invincible and I quickly snapped it up.  As usual, I decided I didn't like the old paint job and decided to repaint it.  Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the old version.  The original idea was to just repaint the flight deck, but as always, I wound up redoing the whole thing.

The problem is, I wound up repainting the flight deck more than once.  For those who don't remember, the flight deck of the Invincible looked like this:

Illustrious (front) relieves Invincible, August 1982.

Well, I thought I could paint those stripes by hand and keep them straight.  THAT necessitated a second repaint of the flight deck. So, after a lot of paint, a bit of cursing, and some payments to decal makers, my Invincible now looks like this:

The white stripes are from a company called Microscale who mostly make decals for model railroads.  The numbers are from Miscellaneous Miniatures (  As with any of my projects, the mistakes appear pretty obvious to me.  Some of the lines that run the length of the deck are a little bit wavy.  They don't look that bad in person, but it's pretty blatant looking here.  I think the problem is that I put those down in 1" segments, so there was more chance for them to not be straight.  Also, the lines on the sides of the main runway are too wide.  Every stinking picture I had of Invincible, I sear those stripes looked wider than the rest.  Not until I was finished and the deck was sealed did I find a close-up of the ramp that showed all the lines the same width.  Finally, the engraving on the deck was very light, and in the multiple times repainting, I lost the deck elevators under the paint!  I'm thinking about cutting some .001 plastic sheet to size and putting them in place, but just haven't done it yet.

As a closing thought, I know that big open deck looks awfully bare.  The next step will be to find some 1/1250 deck gear and aircraft to spot here and there.  Even like this, though, she'll make a good looking target for the Argentine Skyhawks I'm painting up.  Those will be in a future post, of course.

OH, one last thing now that I think about it. (Don't 🙄at me; I can practically hear it through the monitor.)  I thought that with the Coronavirus, I'd be making a lot more blog posts.  Obviously, that hasn't quite worked as planned.  The reason for that is our family has rediscovered game nights.  After dinner we play cards, or dominoes or Yahtzee.  For some reason, that's a lot more fun easier than writing blog posts!  I promise to do better in the future.

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! (

To evenly matched dogfighting rivals:

F-86 Sabre and Hawker Hunter. Both minis by I-94 Enterprises
(main site: store: )

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: .  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: .  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 ( ).  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:

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.