Monday, 22 June 2009

55 Days at Sea: War Times Journal Ships

Yes, I finally gave in, having more or less topped off the collection of Navwar ships for the 55 Days project, I couldn't shake the feeling of being bereft of certain key ships. I'd originally sworn off buying vessels from the excellent War Times Journal Miniatures due to the exchange rate between the £ and the $, but just a handful of ships wouldn't hurt - would it?

I can therefore, having received a large box from the good ole US of A the other day, wax lyrical for the first time about a comparison between the two manufacturers, and detail the ships that will be filling the gaps in my collection so far.

My order from the U.S. arrived promptly, around ten days or so after despatch, and came in a large box with plenty of cushioning material inside; in fact this more or less filled the whole box, given that I had only ordered eight ships! Each vessel was individually placed in a small plastic baggie, although with none of the information/specs that you receive with a Navwar purchase. On first examination, the casts were extremely clean, and flash was minimal to non-existent, unlike the models of some other manufacturers!

You can see all the vessels in their natural, untouched state here. Of course, WTJ has done the wargamer/collector the great service of having some close up, detailed photos of their products on their website, so I don't intend to duplicate their efforts here, rather merely relate what I bought to the 55 Days project.

First up we have a view of the Chinese Torpedo Gunboat Fei Ting, (WTJ 0012302) a very nice sculpt with her unusual twin-funneled layout; what is immediately apparent is the clean detailed lines of the model, and the detail visible on the ship's boats, a feature of all of WTJ's products.
I simply couldn't resist augmenting my Chinese Navy, and as I discussed in a previous post, short of buying the special, large scale packs from Navwar, I couldn't source these vessels from anywhere else. Only the funnels themselves might need a bit of shaping up with a small file; significantly, the base is entirely clear of flash, and has a deeply inscribed and therefore easily legible code number on the bottom.

Next we see the Torpedo Boat Destroyer Fei Ying, (WTJ 0012304) which was present in the Pei-Ho river during the capture of the Taku Forts. Another nice model with good details; the indented funnel tops are a nice touch, and the forward gun is clearly visible, if a little slight.

Moving over to the Russians, we have the Grozyashchi Class Gunboat, (WTJ 0022602) a number of which were present in 1900; beautiful detail on the ship's boats here, and great proportions overall; I'm actually going to use this as the Bobre, which took part in the assault on the Taku Forts. She was of a different class, but the Navwar version from the Khabry/Abrek pack has an unhistorical bow section, and is better suited as a model of the Mandjur class, so this model will be used to take advantage of the better depiction of the instantly recognisable revetted gun above the bow, a characteristic of many of these Russian boats.

The Chinese riposte with a contender of their own, augmenting the various TBDs with an actual Protected Cruiser, the Hai Yung (WTJ 0012211), which was recorded as being in attendance on the Allied Flotilla off the Taku Bar in 1900. No belligerent action on her part was historically recorded, but her anchor point, at the sternmost area of the fleet there, suggests intriguing possibilities for any surprise attack!

I must now confess that we are suffering from 'mission creep' somewhat on this project, in that having picked up the Don Juan de Austria to use in her American re-incarnation, I was attracted by the Reina Regente Class of Protected Cruiser (WTJ 0033230), with a view to allying her, in the form of the Lepanto, to Navwar's version of the Battleship Pelayo as a mini-squadron that might represent the fictional interests of Spain in the Far East.
With the Philippines lost after the Span-Am War, I was 'imagineering' that a good scenario would see the Spanish try to take advantage of the focus on China, and independence agitations in the Philippines themselves, to retake a measure of control: the Battle of Manila Bay Part II perhaps?
I had been disciplined in not widening the net too much with my Navwar purchases, but couldn't resist the detail and proportion of this excellent sculpt:

Next we visit Germany, and the sleekly designed Protected Cruiser the Gefion, (WTJ 0077215),
a notable absence from the Navwar catalogue, especially given her unique nature and long service in the Far Eastern theatre:

Hopping back to the Chinese once more, we introduce the 'big guns', which will make their fleet more competitive in any scenarios involving conflict with Allied Powers. Below we see the Protected Cruiser Hai Tien (WTJ 0012210), a sculpt noticeable for the visible deck planking, a characteristic of the WTJ minis, and the lack of any casting line, which can often disfigure the foredecks of some Navwar ships:

Sailing under the U.S. stars and bars, we have the war prize Don Juan de Austria (WTJ 0033231) an Unarmoured Cruiser that has a likeable 'tubby' look to her amidships:

Finally, a group of comparison shots that will go some way to represent the differences between the two manufacturers; overall, the WTJ examples are crisper and cleaner than Navwar, if perhaps a bit more delicate looking, the actual castings are definitely lighter.

The Grozyyashchi up against Navwar's U.S. 'Gunboat' Helena; note the casting/mould line so visible on the latter:

Navwar's Cissoi Veliki dwarfs the greyhound-like proportions of the Hai Yung, are perhaps WTJ's minis, although looking a nicely accurate and balanced 1/3000th scale, a tad larger than similar ones from Navwar? the Battleship was historically 106 metres overall in length, with the Chinese cruiser at 99 metres, so perhaps it is just to my eyes; certainly, on the tabletop, there will be no trouble mixing the two manufacturer's output.

Navwar's Navarin next to WTJ's Reina Regente class; although the former has great character, the mould line along her length is immediately apparent, and the detailing on the latter is obviously much clearer:

Finally, we see the Navarin straddled by the Chinese Cruisers; the detailed deck planking on WTJ's vessels jumps right out at you here, and of note are the dimples or nipples which the sculptor has added to indicate the proper position for masts, should you wish to scratch-build and include them.

Overall, I was very impressed with the WTJ ships, a lot of care and attention to detail has gone into their manufacture, although it might be said that in their unpainted state, they look perhaps a little to clean and sterile, lacking the gusto of some of Navwar's 'broad brush' approach. Being UK based, cost is a factor in deciding to invest in these ships, and of course no-one can yet compete with the sheer width and breadth of the British company's catalogue.

Yet if you are looking for those hard to get ships, or want a particular, special model, then I cannot recommend them highly enough; efficient, internet based purchasing, and quick service coupled with excellent little models is a hard to beat combination.
Certainly, I was very glad to have had the choice available to augment my variety of vessels for this somewhat under-exposed historical period (at least in Naval terms), and I understand that WTJ are looking to expand and update their ranges in the near future, alongside the "Battlefleet 1900" rules system that they have developed; furthermore, their website is a mine of useful information, research, tips and advice, which therefore offers you the whole package.

I'm looking forward to painting up these new additions, and adding them to my 'characterful' Navwar flotillas, and then finally getting down to the serious business of playing out my 'What-If?' campaigns, so stay tuned!


  1. Superb review and I am really interested in this project! I had steered clear of the WTJ stuff for the reasons mentioned i.e. exchange rate but seeing the comparisons with Navwar has made me think twice. I am off to Navwar today (it is only a 30 minute drive from me)for my own bits and pieces re Balkans and Black Sea Russians and am tempted to review them as you have done. I want to get the WTJ shore battery/fort they produce but can see some models creeping onto the list!

  2. Those ships are really nice but I just can't help feeling they should be on flying stands, floating through the Ether...

  3. Hi Guys, thanks for your comments, always good to know people find the posts useful!

    Mad, that's quite a good idea, actually, might open up whole new possibilities for Aeronef type gaming, in a new scale; I think Irregular do some minis along these lines in their sci-fi ranges, sort of beefed up dreadnoughts etc, Heirs of Uranus (No sniggering at the back!) or something like that...

    Ogrefencer, you've made me jealous being so close to the Navwar shop at Seven Kings, I've used theirs and Heroics and Ros minis for nigh on 25 years, but have never been; tell me is it worth a trip, I imagine an Aladdin's cave presided over by a curmudgeonly wise man, an oracle for all things 1/300th and 1/3000th...

    Like to see more on your Greek/Turkish campaign, another interesting idea on a relatively unknown conflict, with lots of 'what if' possibilities.

    Couldn't agree more about the WTJ shore fort- looks really good, the only thing that stopped me buying one is that the design doesn't resemble the dreaded ones at Taku, so probably a scratch build coming up on those!

  4. Excellent review - many thanks!