Thursday, March 22, 2018

Special thanks to BW

Since I started blogging, I feel I have made some On-line friends, which is good and fun and something I enjoy very much.  Leaving comments on people's blogs, reading the replies, and receiving comments in return is especially gratifying.  And more to the point, one of the main reasons for doing this in the first place was to build something of a community around this fun hobby we share, and to interact with other fun people.  A quick Thank You to everyone who makes this possible.

"My Captain My Captain" 

 But on a special note: As I've said in previous posts, BrianW is my Age of Sail mentor and runs a blog about sailing ships.  I have received a very nice package from him the other day that brought a smile and a laugh to me and my family.


I was going to wait until I had somewhere nice to put it so I can post a picture, but I'm very distracted with other family stuff right now (nothing bad) and don't know when I'll be able to do so;  But I didn't want to go too long without acknowledging this fun (and touching) gift.

Thank you My Captain!

I'm enjoying our On-line friendship.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Set Sails V: a French 74


What?  another post and another ship so quick!  I know what you're thinking; that I had this ship already done when I posted the British ship and now I'm posting this one in a blatant attempt to increase my post count....  as if those things mattered...

NOOOooo.  Actually when it comes to ships;  I've found that I can assemble and paint two ships at once, but when it comes to rigging it's easier to focus on one ship at a time so you don't get lost / confused on what you were doing and miss a piece.  Rigging actually goes pretty fast once you have all the materials prepared, but it goes in stages; Standing rigging-ratlines-shrouds and backstays-running rigging (basically you work from the center of the ship to the edge).  And if you do miss a part of one step it's very hard to work backward as now rigging is in the way....

How was that for an extra fascinating peek into the process of model ships huh?  I mean, you pay for the whole seat but you only need the edge.

So I finished the British 74 and started working on the rigging of  this French 3rd rate 74 gun Ship of the Line, and maybe it's because I'm in a groove or something but somehow I managed to get it done very quickly.    Also, I foresee being a little busy in the near future, so was motivated to get this posted up.

A French 74, properly rigged?

Now ALL THIS TIME I'v been rigging my French Ships of the Line wrong.  I've been rigging them the same as the British ones, thinking they were all basically the same.  WRONG!

Turns out, as I've read on HERE, that the French actually rigged the Mizzen mast forward to the main mast,  and not backwards to the Spanker sail like I was doing.  I'm sure you all noticed but were too polite to say anything.  

-The link is to one of BrianW's excellent posts on rigging.  BrianW's blog is a must for anyone interested in Age of Sail.  Big bonus, he actually knows what he's doing while I fake it.  here's a link to his HOME PAGE and check it out for more pics of ships and history.

So here we are: a French 74 properly rigged with the braces going forward.  This one is also decorated with  a single race-say red stripe across the center. 

My big fingers included in the pic for scale purposes...

Vive la France! 

And true to my pattern, the French ships just come out looking sexier than the British ships.
I think it' the rounded bow..

Enough pictures already!

Going Forward

Now that the replacement ratlines are here and I'm on a rigging roll, I think that I'll start re-rigging the ships that were damaged in the shipping disaster  (which will be a chance to do the French rigging right) so that the whole fleet will be complete and I can properly call myself Commodore.  Don't worry, I won't post a pic of each ship as it gets done.  That WOULD be cheating.

Then, being out of ships, I can focus on something else.

Thanks for reading!  Comments appreciated.  

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Set sails IV: A British 74

There hasn't been much time for gaming and hobbying lately due to family life.  Something we all content with time to time; not that it's bad.  But it does produce moments where I briefly walk into the hobby room while doing some chore, or pause in the garage while taking out the trash (my miniatures are stored in the garage), and glance longingly about the miniatures and sigh.

Even More British 

Anyways...despite me complaining there has been a few hours spend here and there at the hobby desk, in the wee hours of the night while everyone else sleeps (I mean 9 PM) so I've managed to complete a ship of the line.

Fresh from the ship yard is a British 3rd rate 74 gun Ship of the Line.  Painted in dazzling 'Nelson Checker.' 

I think this ship came out really well, if I do say so myself.  This is my 5th ship, so practice effects are apparent as I get better at getting the details of the deck down right (which are hard to see in pictures but more visible to the naked eye, but trust me; they're splendid!).

I have found that the double jib sails are a pain, they never seem to fit right with the foremast and I always have to bend them up and around.  I much prefer the bowsprits with a single jib, but when you order the sails it seems to be random on which one you get.

This ship is at 'fighting sails' with the t'gallant sails (upper sails) and courses (lower sails) furled, with only the topsails (middle sails) deployed along with the spanker (sail hanging over the stern).  This is just to be different from the other British ships that are at 'easy sail.'   I was initially toying with the idea that all the British ships could be at one sail set and all the French ships at another for the purpose of easy recognition, but now I want variety.

TLDR version: "Lookit, I make ship, she purrty."

Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Shipping disaster...

Alternative title:  I'm father of the year.

Set the Scene

4 year old Daughter #1 comes into hobbyroom wanting to know what I was doing.  I guess the Peppa Pig cartoon ended.
She puts her foot on the plastic tub that has the Napoleonic ships inside, which I stupidly left on the floor, like she's about to stand up on it to see onto the desk better.
I say, "Oh, don't stand on that, the stuff inside is fragile, just wait a sec.."  and then I look away for just a moment...


I look back:  She obviously didn't listen, stood on it but just on one side, and the thing went flying end over end and her down to her butt.  


In a calm voice,  "What did I just say..."

My wife says I'm father of the year for not loosing it.   

Daughter #1 did get a time out for not listening.  I picked up the tub and heard the tell tale sound of small pieces moving about loose from inside.

The Damage:

What a mess!

Wrecked rigging, bent bowsprits, mangled masts, ruined ratlines, and broken sails...(I couldn't think of a good alliteration for sails, maybe slandered? shamed?).    

I think the flags are salvageable, but the ratlines I feel are beyond repair

Repairs in process

Meh, maybe not as bad as it looked.  I think it helped that the ships hulls are glued on wide ocean bases, which are on magnets, and placed on some metal while in the storage tub, so maybe they didn't knock around as much as they could have.  I tore off all the rigging as much of it was ruined.  Bent the masts back in place, glued back on some broken masts and sails... All in all not too bad.

 Instead of trying to figure out which ratlines went where from that huge pile, I've decided that I'm going to bite the bullet and get new ratlines and then redo ALL the rigging for all these ships, plus the two I'm painting now...So the future will be ships for the time being.

The hardest part will be, when I make the order to WaterlooMini's for the ratlines, to resist the temptation to order even MORE stuff.  Like even more ships...

Such is the life of the Wargamer.  Trails and temptations abound.  : )
Morale of the story: pick up your things from off the floor.  : )

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Post Captain AAR; Action in the Ocean

I blame CS Forester and Lavery

I've been reading a lot of Hornblower lately as well as "Nelson and the Nile" by Brian Lavery, so I was really motivated to play an AoS (that's Age of Sail) game, and managed to squeeze in a game with Dai (HERE).  The rules were Post Captain.  I had just made some minor modifications / house rules (see my previous post) and thought this would be a great opportunity to try them out because surely Dai's ships would end up riddled with cannon ball holes as I sailed circles around him...

Action in the Ocean

Just the highlights of the game, because honestly blow by blow accounts can get long winded and AoS games have enough wind already (Oh my, that was a stretch).

Here we have the important key elements: the ships, the gauges, and the alcohol.
Dai opted for the British so I took the French.
We rolled for Captain and Crew skill which favored the British.  Here is the small OOB:

French Fleet: The 74 gun Scipion and the 110 gun Republican.  Both with Regular Captains and Crew.

British Fleet: the 74 gun Spencer with Elite Captain and Crew (this would prove to be a big advantage, as elite crews just shoot so much better) and the 100 gun Royal Sovereign, with Crack Captain and Crew.

Opening moves and initial broadsides

The French plan...

Same pic as above, different angle...
The Glorious French Navy in the foreground

and this is where I teach Dai a valuable lesson about having the proper spacing between your ships..

French Diaster

Somehow I managed to sail my first rate so close behind my 3rd rate that it was forced to crash into it, there not being enough room to maneuver out of the way.  Terrible!

The Ulm, after being hit by the larger ship Republican, has taken enough damage for a command check.  On a d12, an 8 or less will see her continue the fight, a 9 would see her open the range to 500 yds but stay in the fight.  a 10 will signify a withdraw.  She rolled an 11, which causes her to strike her colors on the spot.  : (    Obviously a sick hearted and weak willed captain...

The Republican, with the admiral on board realizing that it was complete victory or disgrace, continues to fight on after cutting free of the entangled rigging. However has no luck as her broadside causes little damage and in the returning fire from the Spencer, she lost her Fore T'gallant mast.  (the toothpick sticking out the side, I'll have to make markers...)

Turn about is fair play, so they say.  Dai moves his ships to gang up the lone French 1st rate.

I concede defeat...

What a fun game!  but ultimately a disaster for the French, but that will teach me about sailing too close together.

  I continue to like these rules.  The gusts and eddies aspect is a nice touch to make the speeds of the ships less uniform.  I now have the firm opinion that 2 ships per player is the sweet spot, enough going on to be constantly busy but not so much that one is overwhelmed in the details.  I can't wait to play this again! I'm really glad I got into this period.   My house rules about crew management worked well I thought, but since I was the only one whose ships took any real casualties, more experience is necessary.

The game set up and tear down was so easy too.  : )

I got so jazzed about AoS again that I paused my ACW work and assembled my next too ships.  As soon as the-never-ceasing-rain stops I'l get to priming and painting.

And because of my "rule of two" (where I only have two prjects going at once) this means I'll have to finish the ships or the ACW project before starting another one.

Thanks for reading!  Comments appreciated.  : )

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Post Captain Conventions Modifications

Post Captain (slight) Modifications:

As stated before, I really like these rules, and one can read my review HERE.  And as I say in that review the only thing that annoys me is the crew management aspect.  Not that you have to manage the crew, that part I like, it's that the crew assignments use fractions, and everyone hates doing math with lots of fractions. Even simple math like addition and subtraction gets complicated when you throw in a .75 here and a  .50 there.  Plus, I want to run this game at a convention sometime, so imagine the math being done by over-caffeinated, perhaps slightly drunk, definitely hopped up on sugar, sleep deprived gamers.   Actually that description can apply to me nearly all the time....

Also I want a gamer to run 2 ships at a time, to minimize the effect of a lucky shot taking out a ship early in the game and leaving the player with not much to do.

Now usually I am not much of a tinkerer with rules, I tend to just play them as written and use common sense when needed, but in this case I see a need to be filled and felt inspired, so here goes:

Two 3rd rate ships square off!
The French ship Scipion and the British ship Spencer

Fractions fractions everywhere:

(I know that this will only be of interest to a very small audience (those that have PC and those that hate fractions, imagine the Venn diagram! ), though still, read along if you wish for fun nautical terms.)

in PC. a 32lbs gun box requires 1.75 crew factors; which makes sense in that each crew factor is 24 men, it took 14 men to work a 32lbs cannon, each gun box is 3 cannons, so 3 x 14 = 42 men / 24 = 1.75 crew factors.  A lower deck, where the heaviest guns would be,  is typically 5 gun boxes, so what's 5 x 1.75?  can you do that in your head easily?  I can't.  It's 8.75.  how many for 4 gun boxes?  4 x 1.75 = 7.  (I can't do that in my head either).  To work 3 gun boxes needs 5.25 crew factors, 2 gun boxes needs 3.5 crew factors, and of course 1 gun box needs 1.75 crew factors.  This sort of fractional math is repeated on all the gun decks, and it all becomes rather messy.   Lets take an example and examine the crew requirements for a 74 gun third rate ship the HMS Spencer (because I really like the name Spencer, because it sounds terrible!).  If you have the rules you can look at the ship card and follow along..  The Spencer has a lower deck of 32lbs, a middle deck of 18lbs, and an upper (or weather) deck with one 18lbs, one 18lbs cannonade, and two 32lbs cannonades.  It has 21 crew factors (504 men).  So to work and fight the ship the basic crew layout is:

8.75 - Lower Deck (32lbs)
6.25 - Middle deck (18lbs)
1.25 - Upper deck 18lbs long cannon
1.50 - Upper deck cannonades (both of the 32lbs and the 18lbs)
2 - To sail the ship at battle sail
1.25 - surplus crew members
21 total.

That's 5 fractions to keep track of; which is a lot.  Maybe you think I'm making too big deal of this and you're right; I'm not in a state of nerd rage or anything.  The rules are also specific in that the intention is NOT for the player to keep track of every crew factor every turn, but only when it's important.  However I've found through playing that it's important more times than you think.  There are some critical times when you have to decide; how many crew to work the guns (and which guns), how many to sail the ship, what are the marines doing (working guns or firing volleys), how many crew for repairs, boarding parties (though that is rare), complicated by subtracting losses of crew, marines, and gun boxes.  Yet there are several times when a ship will take a crew casualty in the Red phase, and the player must decide from which deck / task the loss come from, (the effect of the loss is applied immediately), which then will effect the blue and white phases and perhaps the rigging / repair and this needs to be apparent.

A solo game of PC, that I did because I was BORED at home and wanted to test stuff out.
The ships are in their starting positions, the wind is from the right.

This pic gives an idea of how far ships move in one turn.  Close to a foot.

Rounding is Easy

So step one is easy and just round everything to it's whole number (you can fudge it a bit if ya want).  I also just combine the Upper / weather deck into one category as well to make it easier to track and this deck is filled with the lightest guns anyway.  And now have:

9 - Lower Deck (32lbs)
6 - Middle deck (18lbs)
3 - Upper deck (18lbs long cannons, and the 32lbs and the 18lbs cannonades)
2 - To sail the ship at battle sail
1 - surplus crew members
21 total.

People just grasp whole numbers easier, and one can honestly say that while the layout with fractions is more accurate, the one with whole numbers is much easier and faster to understand.
Added bonus! using whole numbers make it easy track when you use Marines to sub for crew.  (2 marines equal 1 crew for manning the guns in PC).

Here's a table for the actual crew numbers rounded to whole numbers for the most common cannons lbs.

crew numbers for 5 gun boxes of 32 lbs, 24 lbs, ad 18 lbs cannons.
(12lbs cannons are the same as 18lbs cannons BTW)

But One Change Produces Others...

SO this means we have to change (slightly) the way that we track crew assigned to guns, as the standard rules still require fractions.  This again is easy enough:  the first loss of 1 crew should reduce 1 gun box from being worked (reloaded)  and and then at a ratio going down keeping as close to the original numbers as possible.  sounds more complicated than it is.  let's continue with the Spencer and the lower deck:

9 crew = 5 gun boxes  (fully manned)
8 and 7 crew = 4 gun boxes
6 crew = 3 gun boxes
5 and 4 crew = 2 gun boxes
3 and 2 crew = 1 gun box.

--This creates a minimum number of crew factors per number of working gun boxes.  I then figured it out for ALL types of cannons for all decks on ships.  this makes it very easy for the player to know how much crew is needed to fire which guns.  I then put this info into a table for each type and you can see it here....

For example: to reload 5 gun boxes of 24lbs, you need at least 7 crew factors.
 if one has only 5 crew factors working the 24s, it's 3 gun boxes.  

For the weather deck, which usually has the carronades and the lightest guns which require 1 or .5  crew each, just add it up and round as appropriate.

It's really just the same info as above, but in this way a player can immediately see how many gun boxes can be worked by looking at how many crew factors the player has assigned to the deck.  I'll provide a better example below....

Putting it all Together

The deck log that comes with PC is pretty good as is, but as I'm messing about with the crew numbers and providing additional information / tables regarding how the crew and guns interact; I also made a table laying out all the crew assignments.  This is essentially the same as the deck log:

The initial crew assignments of the Spencer in whole numbers.
Multiple columns to the right are there to provide space to do new assignments.  

Now, using power point (power point is your friend, you can do cool wargame stuff with it), I took an image of the ship card, my gun tables, my crew assignment table, and any other info I think is important to be handy (like when to take a command check) and put it all on one sheet.    Here is the Spencer in all her glory:

This ship goes to the Captain

I also added little numbers next to the gun box rows so players can more easily ID which is which.

Overall what this does is make the math easy, and put all the info in one place.  Now when a crew factor is lost, a player can cross it off the ship card, and remove it from the crew assignments, and easily know just how much man power is remaining to sail and work the ship and when a ship needs a morale test.  

(This is NOT close range.) 

You still need the standard deck log to track MFs, reloading, and repairs.  But since a deck log can track two ships, a player only needs to have a deck log and 2 enhanced ship cards to play.  Which is the same sheets of paper one would likely need to play anyway without modifications.  

Here are a few other examples:

You get the idea..

An Example:

So here is the enhanced Spencer Ship card with some damage marked off...

Add caption

So over game play Spencer here has taken 2 hull damage, 3 crew losses, 2 rigging, and a marine loss (Just enough damage to be worrisome).  The crew assignments table clearly shows that the Lower deck has 8 crew, the middle 5, the weather 1, sail 2, 2 assigned to repairs (these are in hash marks  and probably assigned to repair the rigging and the hull, that's what I would do), and with the 3 losses.  The idea with the crew table is that as one column gets messy, just move over to the next.

using the tables on the bottom of the sheet, the player instantly knows that:
8 crew on the lower deck will work 4 gun boxes.
5 crew on the middle deck will work 4 gun boxes
and 1 on the weather deck will work 2 gun boxes (probably the 32lbs carronades).

And since Spencer still has 5 gun boxes on the lower and middle deck (good for it!), the player uses 2 marines each to work the gun boxes (as 2 marine factors equate to 1 crew factor).  The player notes this by drawing a line under the marine factors and just writing M or L under it to mark their assignments.  If the Marines move (or die), then these can be erased.

Other Small Game Play changes:

BUT wait!  there's more!  after doing all this work to avoid fractions it make sense to modify the instances in the game when damage is halved, just to continue to have whole numbers.  Fortunately, there's only 2 instances where a ship would receive half damages:  Bow rake and Volley Fire.  

Bow rake produces an effect of  EDR (damage rolls)  x 1.5.  so 2 EDRs would produce 3, and 3 would produce 4.5.  Easy, just round  round up or down to the nearest whole number depending if you want more carnage or less.  Rakes are pretty rare anyway...

Volley Fire:  the table has some instances with 1/2crew or 1/2 marine.  just modify these to be misses or 1 damage as you see fit.


The Cannon CRT table has sections of "1/2 PRG"  In a convention setting,  I would have players ignore this option; ie, don't roll, it;s not a shot.  It's kinda long odds anyway that the shot would result in significant damage, and I think taking the shots will ultimately result in players just watching each other miss.

The Star of our examples, the Spencer.

The French 74:  the Scipion


That's it.  I hope that was useful to someone.  PC is a great AoS game for small actions.  These mods are not at all necessary to play, but I think are good tweeks / streamlines for a wargame convention to make the game more accessible.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Make like a tree Part II: Completion

Make Like Many Trees

I finished up the remaining 5 CD bases along with a batch of 7 or so singly based trees to add to the collection.  I added some rock piles to these CDs just to vary up the terrain some.  The single trees are based on a large washers to make them bottom heavy, just like me.  Came out looking like this:

unfortunately, I forgot to take pics with figure in for scale.  I am lame.  I owe Lasgunpacker one awesome pic in the future....

Stick to the Plan man!

As discussed in the previous post (see HERE), the idea is in future 15mm games to shake out some Woodland Scenic Earth Blend onto the wargame mat to make the area for the the woods, and put the trees on top.  The bigger idea being that I could then make woods in any size/shape that I want.  I tried the plan out on my old GW wargame mat.  I don't use this much anymore because I have homemade wargame mats that I prefer that I use for my gaming because they are 5x7.5 or 6x10. (If interested in that process you may look HERE )   But those were all-the-way-in-the-garage and I was feeling lazy.
So the mat goes on the table and I laid down a layer of the earth blend and placed some CDs on top.  Looked like this:

The ground cover in these photos is off it color.  In real life the color is much more brown than it is yellow in this pics...

Meh, it looks alright but I was not over awed by the effect.  Somewhat disappointing, but close to what I am thinking.  Maybe it'll look better on my actual wargame mats which are a darker green than the bright green this mat is....  time will tell.

However, I'm not saying it's wasted effort because one can never have enough trees. 

and everything together; the whole collection:

Which lead me to think, "how many trees do I actually have anyway?"  And as the night progressed and I found that I strangely had access to a clean kitchen table while other family members were engaged (daughter #1 in bed, Wife in the bath) I decided to put out all the trees for 15/18mm gaming to see what I had.  This meant I had to walk to the garage after all.  OH the constant toil...

Gonna need another 10 CDs...

The table is just shy of 3x3 feet, so I'll say I have 9ft square of trees.  NOT BAD, if I do say so myself, which I just did.  I do like the way that the CDs seem to cover more area than if I had just based all the trees individually.

Side discussion: Pine trees:

Dai asked about some conifers and I answered I had the problem already solved (well 'problem' is a strong word for anything in a wargame blog) in that a looooong while ago I invested in some of the  Battlefield in a Box Pine woods  during my Flames of War days.  In fact, I bought these so long ago it was before they reduced the amount you got in the box (it's less now, the sneaky devils, I think when I bought it you got 4 bases versus 2).  I still use the bases on occasion but since they are large and rigid don't get out a lot.  But with those I have a modest assortment of lone tall pine trees and small ones grouped together that go well with 15mm figures, and these trees are really durable and have stood up well over time.

Put that wood away...

And because I am super-nerd-wargamer-genius, how to store the things was always part of the plan, so each has it's own tub from Target...

Individual trees in their own box...

and a tub for the CDs

This completes the Tree project.  Thanks for reading and comments appreciated.