Unable to leave well enough alone following the conclusion of the collecting and painting phase of the '55 Days at Sea' Boxer Rebellion Naval project, I have found myself hankering after ways of expanding the scope of my use of 1/3000th pre-dreadnought minis.
Jim over at War Times Journal was kind enough to send me some samples of his always excellent output, and so this post will see me looking in some detail at these example vessels with a view to pinning down which direction I might take in the future, and most importantly, what minis I might employ.
Broadly speaking, I suppose things would break down into three main areas:
Firstly, of course, the Russo-Japanese War: everybody, of course, does this, and for quite understandable reasons - who could resist wanting to re-create the gallant last stand of the Varyag and Korietz, or the clash of monsters at the Battle of Tsushima?
Next could be a foray somewhat back in time for the Spanish-American War, this time with a 'what-if aspect' involving the Hapsburg allies of the Spanish, namely Austro-Hungary (might level the playing field somewhat....).
Finally another possibility would be a fictional war between the greatest of historical rivals, to whit the English and the French; a titanic struggle between ironclad dreadnought turret-ship types with all the bells and whistles from an even earlier epoch.....decisions, decisions!
With these ideas in mind then, let's turn to look at the samples so kindly provided by WTJ. First up, that incomparable example of turret 'en echelon' design, HMS Inflexible:
(All minis appearing in this post are in their natural state, no clearing up of flash, etc, - straight from the packet.)
This is WTJ0055117, a very nicely proportioned sculpt which captures in great detail the layout of the amidship turrets, as well as displaying some nicely engraved ships boats; the floating bridge so clearly delineated across the top of the turrets being a particular high point, of what is more in the way of a scale model, rather than a mere playing piece.
Clocking in at just shy of 33mm, she reflects accurately the 320ft of the original. Launched in 1876 and completed in 1881, she was the first battleship to have submerged torpedo tubes and compound armour, and took part in the Anglo-Egyptian War of 1882; an excellent summary of her exploits can be found here:
The WTJ sculpt is equipped with their customary mast attachment points/holes, so 'rigging' her out would be a relatively easy undertaking, and the satin texture on the deck surfaces should paint up well to represent decking planks, again a charcteristic of these premier sculpts. Certainly the lure of a seascape full of these turreted monsters exchanging blows mid-Channel would be hard to resist....
Next we have the sleek lines of the five-funnelled protected cruiser, WTJ0022210 Askold, or the "Packet of Woodbines" as she was known to British sailors. This mini goes even further in the direction of scale-model, with brilliant attention to historical detail including the foremost funnel being more slender than the other four, the upward sweep of the bow-section, and some beautifully delineated turrets and ship's boats.
The offerings from WTJ are to a UK based gamer somewhat on the expensive side, but this vessel in particular is a tempting lure to move away from the safe and familiar represented by the characterful sculpts available from Navwar; its detail, finesse, and overall appearance far outdistancing the best that the UK firm has to offer.
To quote "quantity over quality" would be perhaps be a bit too harsh, particularly from someone, like me, who is a big fan of the output of latter company, but what would normally be put down to the necessary limitations of sculpting something as small as 1/3000th, is here effectivley undermined by this superlative model from WTJ.
A somewhat unfair comparison, but it is the only unpainted multi-funnelled Cruiser I had to hand: Navwar's HMS Powerful lies beside the WTJ Askold:
This is where the quality of the WTJ sculpting really hits home - the all too-visible central mould line on the Powerful, the lack of visible deck planking, and the slightly lop-sided proportions versus complete balance, and some detailed touches.
I suppose the reality is that I can't really praise the WTJ minis too highly, yet if you do a direct price comparison for a UK consumer, this is expensive territory; 2 x Powerful class from Navwar for £1.60, whereas a single one from WTJ is $3.75, perhaps £2.28 at today's exchange rates.
The Askold herself would be $3.25 from WTJ, her Navwar equivalent only £1.20 in the company of the Varyag. Yet to be clear, I don't think that in a paper exercise to work out the likely expense, you're really comparing like-for-like, so depending on the scale of the future project, a compromise might have to be made; a flotilla or so, and I could spoil myself with the Rolls-Royces from WTJ, opposing fleets and it's the Vauxhall Vectras from Navwar.
If further proof were needed for my typically indecisive mind, we move on to the WTJ0078210 Kaiser Franz Josef, again a masterful representation of proportion, with obvious detailing, as before:
Again, perhaps somewhat unkindly, next to an erstwhile ally from Navwar, namely the Almirante Oquendo/Vizcaya/Infanta M. Theresa sculpt; the bravura of one matching the finesse of the other:
All these ships would make an excellent addition to any collection, and give many opportunities to enhance the scope of any tabletop conflict, and yes, you've guessed it, I'm no nearer to deciding on which era to go with - I suppose the real proof of the pudding will be when I've put a coat of paint on the above, and see if this makes things any clearer - my only concern is that the Navwar sculpts will be more fun to paint, whilst I shall fret that I won't be doing the WTJ ones justice - more to come on all this I fear......!