Sunday 24 May 2009

55 Days at Sea: latest painted ships

A look now at the latest ships to leave the workbench; part of the second phase of miniatures, which widening research forced me to invest in - more information, more ship names, more to paint! Not that I'm complaining, it's been good fun being able to work with such a varied fleet, with all the various nations, and it gives good scope to game with lots of different protagonists, without having to model as many vessels, as say, the entire fleets at Tsushima or Jutland. Mind you, I know plenty of people do just that, but this is, after all, my first foray into 1/3000th.

Below we see the Japanese flotilla as she currently stands, now with the addition of the Cruiser Yoshino, the Murakumo class Torpedo Boat Destroyers Yugiri and Usugumo, and the cute as a button old gunboat Atago. I love the poetic translations of the names of the two TBDs, 'Evening Mist'  and 'Fragile (or thin) Clouds', of course the title Atago is connected to the Fire Deity or the mountain in his name, Atago Yama, but I have a theory that the name is actually tongue in cheek - if you reverse the syllables A-ta-go, you get O-ga-ta, which can mean 'big one' - seeing as she is the smallest vessel I've yet painted up!

Then we have a slight departure from the historical list that I have come up with so far, namely the Merchant vessel Saiko Maru (Navwar N9038), which I wanted to introduce an element of colour to the proceedings; I hope to add in a few transports/troop ships which will come in handy in various scenarios in the future. According to Navwar, she served as an armed merchant cruiser at the Battle of the Yalu, and later was used as a hospital ship, so if she wasn't present in person off China in 1900, she is at least not atypical of the time.  

The Elswick-built Cruiser Yoshino is guarded fiercely by the diminutive Atago, although as the Navwar sculpt shows so well, the former probably has enough quick firers to her broadsides to deal with all but the largest attackers...

Those poetic TBDs in close up, here in the form of Navwar's N5517 Kagero Class:

The Saiko Maru:

Moving on now to the Pearl Class Cruiser the Walleroo, serving on behalf of the Australian New South Wales contingent, I gave her a blue ensign rather than a white one to distinguish her from the British vessels in the fleet, don't know how historical this is, not sure exactly what she might have flown, but this does at least have a suggestion of the modern Aussie flag:

Heading to an altogether older country, we have some companions for the Dim Don and Vlad Mon, the Ad Nach and Ad Korn - I just can't be doing with those lengthy Russian names - too much like a Chekhov play! 
The Navwar Ad Nach is depicted with rather large guns, certainly larger-looking than they appear in my copy of Janes, but I guess we have to let that pass, certainly, with 8x8 inch, and 10x6 inch guns, she was no lightweight in 1900.

Now the French flotilla, with the addition of the Jean Bart and the Friant. The former is interesting in that she was originally built with two massive armoured fighting tops so beloved of the French, but these were found to be too top heavy for a vessel of her class, so by the time she was off China, these had been removed.

The Navwar sculpt, however, seems to have retained some semblance of the original armoured conning-towers, with them merely being shorter, not sure if this is historical, as I've yet to see a photo of the modified ship - did she have a more normal fighting rig, or these 'dwarf' fighting tops? 

The Friant mini, meanwhile, is a tidy looking beast, with plenty of guns visible:

Now the augmented Italian contingent, considerably re-enforced by the two Carlo Alberto Class ships, these look suitably menacing, and are well provided with visible barbette guns in the Navwar model:

Finally then, we see the 'little and large' of the allied fleet so far: luring the Romanov Empire into a false sense of security, the Atago moves in for the kill!

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Pirates: 1/450th Pirate Ships from Peter Pig

Target  to 'larboard!

Yar! A pair of tubs to be sure!

Run out yer guns!

I said run out yer guns ye scoundrels!

Heave-to ye scurvy dogs!

Away to the Spanish Main....Yo-Ho-Ho!

A quick bit of fun there, involving the 1/450th Pieces of Eight Pirate ship range from Peter Pig. Just found these pics when cleaning up the hard drive. I'll be working on some future posts on how to put together and paint these little beauties, but for now you can "feast yer eyes" on the No. 9 Large Warship Square Rigger shown above, including the extra Medium Guns and Deck Crew (Yer swabs!).
The targets are a couple of 1/1200th Rod Langton cutters that are actually for another project entirely, just looked good in the photos!

Anyway, keep yer damn'd eyes peeled for more on the horizon - Yar!

Sunday 17 May 2009

Small Scale Sci-Fi Update

Just finished putting together my mix of 2 and 6mm scale sci-fi minis, in this case a Terran Infantry Battalion and supports as well as some Alien forces, all of which were glimpsed in their unpainted state in my previous post on this subject. I'm quite pleased with the results, as they've given a 'small, medium and large' look to the forces which represents the classifications into light, assault and heavy units that I'd been aiming for, and shows that in terms of visual scaling, at least, you can mix and match quite successfully. One point to note , however, is that the 2mm Sci-Fi range from Irregular is built on a much bigger scale than all their other ranges; a sci-fi tank dwarfs a similar one from WWII. A great summary of how they shape up with basing tips can be found at this old workbench article over on TMP:

First up then, a couple of 2mm miniatures that I really like from Irregular; here's the Yobbo MBT, IKSF17. the sculpt is a little flat and squashed, but I think makes a great mid-tech tank, with its triangular track set and trailing wheels:

Then we see a couple of shots of the Four Legged walker, IKSF27, which is a possible contender for a small scale Hoth battle; perhaps a future project? :-).
These have good animation, looking as if they are about to pounce! (in as much as a transport weighing hundreds of tons can pounce...)

Next we have a view of the Aliens that I'm calling the Telosians, a desert race that make use of vehicles 2mm from Irregular and 6mm from Brigade. In the rear we have the Pacfed Minigwal from Brigade, and in the front the two-legged walkers from Irregular. I've mocked up a command vehicle amongst the Minigwal having broken one of the weapon sets, seen on the central base.

Needing, of course, a suitable Heavy Unit, I could not resist the brilliant 'Ray Gun' look of the Pacfed Tanami SPG, Brigade SF300-708:

Turning to the Terrans, this is where I mixed 2mm Infantry with suitable 6mm vehicles, giving the transport a really 'beefed up' look. The Infantry arrive in Buffel APCs, and deploy all arms teams, made up of Irregular's Power Armour Inf and Heavy Weapons bases. The Command APC seen in the rear just had a bit of sprue added to the roof to give antennae/aerials, and the 2mm Human Transport had some plastic block I had lying around added to the rear compartment to make a good stab at a Medevac vehicle:

In the right rear you can see the Light Armoured Support formed by Brigade's new NeoSov tankettes. Everything is based on 50x40mm card backed with magnetic sheet:

The infantry, are really teeny-weeny, (although larger than the figures in the other 2mm ranges) but have enough detail to give a good version of armoured skirmishers, and the Heavy Weapons in particular are great fun, with two large tripod mounted weapons and various cables, boxes and power units.

Heavy support comes in the form of the Zhu De SPG:

and finally, the Baldur Light Tank forms the armoured contingent. I went a bit wacky with the colours/camouflage, basing it upon the really interesting urban scheme sported by the British 'Berlin Brigade' vehicles during the Cold War; for a normally conservative institution like the British Army, it was quite experimental!

Saturday 16 May 2009

Doctor Who in 6mm

I was inspired recently to return to an old project by a post over on the excellent Firezone Studios Blog, that made a similar use of some 'Not' Daleks, otherwise known as the NSF7 Attack Robot from Irregular Miniatures:

I've been a fan of the BBC show since I saw my first episode way back in 1975 or so, probably the Green Death (I'll never forget those giant maggots!), that was shown on the cusp of the Tom Baker-era, he who will forever be 'my' idea of the Doctor. I was absolutely charmed, then to discover that Irregular did some interesting look-alike models in their 6mm Sci-Fi range, and just had to get some to paint up as various versions of the arch enemy of all arch enemies, the Daleks!

Unfortunately, there were no other 'Not' miniatures available, so I had to persevere and trawl various ranges to provide other characters from the show. The Riot and Civilian ranges provided a couple of figures that would serve as Tom Baker and his companion, and a quick and somewhat rough-looking scratch build (Very small effects budgets on that show- don't you know!), provided his means of transport, the T.A.R.D.I.S., as you see above.

Next, of course, bearing in mind that the Doctor would need some armed backup, I invested in some of VN9, the Green Berets from the Vietnam range to stand in for the beret-wearing 1970s era U.N.I.T troops, although, I'm yet to find a suitable 'Brigadier' as their leader; perhaps a figure from amongst their WWI miniatures, I wonder...

At least I had to have the ubiquitous Land Rover for the Command Stand, and here, in terms of scale, I found the Navwar BM32 the best fit, Irregular's own offering being rather squashed and ugly:

Just like Phil over at Firezone, I wanted to cast the net wider for other villains that the Doctor might face, and was reinvigorated in my search by his work with his own Daleks; skimming the GZG website for another project, I knew I had found my Sontarans; those clone-warriors could only be depicted by their DM135, UNSC Marines in HardSuit, the best fit for those helmet wearing potato-heads, if I ever saw one:

Commander Lynx leads his troops into the quiet of the English Home Counties:

Now a look at my own meglomaniac pepper-pots, here in their Tom Baker 'Genesis of the Daleks' grey livery:

again, here in their newer outfits for the recent series of the show:

and appearing on behalf of the Imperial Faction, some white ones alongside a scratch-built (well, filed down) Heavy Weapons Dalek:

Next, the Doctor and his companion wished they had turned left instead of right after leaving Gallifrey, and come face to face with Daleks of an earlier era, those who needed a metal surface to travel on!
Finally, framed by two of his enemies, the Doctor wonders just who will appear next; depending of course, if I can come up with some other likely stand-in minis.....Cybermen anyone?

Thursday 14 May 2009

55 Days at Sea: China's Navy and some scenario ideas....

China had over thirty vessels sunk or captured at the two engagements of Wei-hai-Wei and the Yalu during the Sino-Japanese War, with the powerful, modernised Beiyang fleet being totally neutralised. It was, then, merely the rump that remained in 1900, and I can find references to only the following vessels being extant or in service at the time of the Boxer Rebellion:

Modern Second Class Protected Criuser: Hai Tien, Hai Chi
Protected Cruiser: Hai Yung, Hai Chou, Hai Chen
Screw Frigates: Kai Che, Fu An, Tung Chi
Torpedo Gunboat: Kuang Ting
Coastal Gunboat: Fei Ting
Torpedo Boast Destroyer: Hai Hola, Hai Lung, Hai Nju, Hai Ying and the Fei Ying
Four torpedo boats of either 128ft or 138ft, and 4 old 'Rendel' Gunboats.

(Note: there are a number of ways of transliterating Chinese into English, Pinyin being one of them, which can lead to a number of confusing spellings to the Western eye; Tientsin becomes Tainjing, Chen Yuen can be written as Ding Yuan - where possible, given my limited knowledge, I've stuck with spellings that were current in contemporary documents/histories.)

Thomas Brassey's Naval Annual of 1898 (or at least a snippet I've seen of it) mentions the following structure post the conflict with the Japanese:

Beiyang Fleet: 3 Cruisers, 1 Torpedo Cruiser, 1 Torpedo Gunboat
Nan Yang Fleet: 6 Cruisers, 1 Small Cruiser, 4 old Gunboats, 4 Modern Torpedo Destroyers, 4 Torpedo Boats.

This obviously does not tie in exactly with what I've outlined above, and of course it is hard to guess which vessel is what, given the differences in defining vessel class and type between the contemporary experts like Jane and Brassey, historical writers, and their modern counterparts; at least I don't know enough yet to sort the wheat from the chaff!

I know that there is a book available, "The Chinese Steam Navy 1862-1945" by Richard N. J. Wright, that would no doubt put all my speculation to rest, but unfortunately for the life of me, I haven't been able to get hold of a copy in the UK, so my best guesses are currently reigning supreme!

As to how to portray these disparate and enigmatic vessels on the wargames table, here I have hit another slight hitch, in that although Navwar has an excellent range of Chinese vessels available, rather than offering them singly like the ships of other nations, they are bound together in special, somewhat expensive packs. 
Typically, these are divided up in such a way as to mean that for the majority of the survivors of the Sino-Japanese War, you would require 3MCHN2 "Post Foochow to the Yalu 1894" yet for other vessels crucial to our period of 1900, including the Hai-Hola class TBDs, you need the next pack, 3MCHN3 "Post Yalu until 1937".
All well and good, you might think, but priced at £15 each, and containing together some sixty-odd ships, I couldn't justify the expense for the handful that I would actually need.....oh well!

So, scouring the catalogue for look-alikes, I'm afraid the pickings are rather thin. There is of course, the battleship Chen Yuan, lurking amongst the Japanese list in her captured form, N5116, the Chin Yen, but as she was long-since captured and her sister-ship sunk, by 1900, not much help there. The Torpedo Gunboat or 'small cruiser', the Kuang Ting, however, luckily bears a passing resemblance to the Austro-Hungarian N8140 Panther Class, at least by removing a funnel, so we have one likely candidate: 

Next up the Hai-Holas, and here we can at least employ a similar TBD, in that they are known to have been two-funnel vessels with two tubes amidships, so N1528 the British 'D-Class', does the job nicely, please note the newly available Chinese flags now on sale from Brigade Models:

Finally we have those N9036 Armed Kwantung Junks again, strictly merchant vessels, I suppose, but for the heck of it I added the National flag, had to press them into service to add to the mini-flotilla!

I was particularly keen to add the Protected Cruiser, the Hai Yung, as she is depicted in that Russian text on the Taku Bombardment web-page, but so far no luck with a stand in- any suggestions greatly received! 

Now for some scenario ideas, that I will be developing in future posts; it is important to note the following quote from Section 79 of the "Notes on China, War Department, Washington, August 1900":

"In view of the overwhelming superiority of the Foreign Fleets in Chinese Waters, the Chinese Navy will not be a factor in the operations now in progress..."

Oh ye of little faith! - 

June 1900: The Sneak Attack: The Foreign Cruisers Orlando, Newark and Zenta lie at anchor off the Taku Bar, when from the north, two Kwantung Junks appear and approach in an apparently friendly manner, traders, you might think, that's until four sleek torpedo craft angle out from aft and begin their attack runs!

Ship to Shore: The Italian contingent has been outraged by their treatment at the hands of the Austro-Hungarians, particularly as the captain of the Calabria was made to sit under a painting of the Battle of Lissa at a recent dinner. Seething tensions are the result, and when a flashing Aldis lamp signal from the Kaiser und Konigin Maria Theresa to the shore is mistaken for the winking blast of 6pdr quick firers by a sleepy watchman, all hell breaks loose...

Battle Royale: Recriminations abound after the debacle that saw the failure to capture the Taku Forts, with each nation blaming the other; when false news that the Legations have fallen to the Boxers, and that Seymour's expedition was sabotaged by the desertion of a certain European power causes open conflict. A rumour that Russia has concluded a separate peace with China is all that is needed to light the fuse:
Britain, Japan, France and Italy square up to Russia, Germany, Austro-Hungary and China, with the U.S. sandwiched in-between! 

Should be fun, I'll keep you posted of how it all develops....

Saturday 9 May 2009

Small Scale Sci-Fi: eM-4 Plastic Spaceships

As promised, a look now at the plastic spaceships available in the UK from eM-4 Miniatures. These are a relatively new discovery for me, but I realise that they have been around for quite a while, being licensed copies in plastic of the original "Silent Death- The Next Millenium" game starships.

The game itself, I believe, is now defunct, and I'm not sure about availability of the miniatures elsewhere, I know Metal-Express were supporting the line:

I'd been looking initially for some air elements to support the alien races amongst my Weird WWI forces, and was keen to get my hands on something cheap and cheerful that could do the job. Whilst there are some awesome small-scale craft in metal out there, they tend to be on the expensive side, so I hit the mother load for cheapskates when I came across the eM-4 plastics page!
These minis are the best kept secret on the web in terms of value, being a set of twelve individual ships for £2.50, that's right, £2.50 - around 20 pence a ship! Now I hadn't used plastics before (at least not since the Airfix models of childhood), so I wondered about the quality of what would arrive when I made my order. Let's just say I was very pleased; the sculpting detail on these is crisp and fine, and eM-4 even throw in the plastic flight stands for the ships, so you're ready to go. They are sprue-mounted, so I washed them carefully in soapy water, allowed them to dry, and then went for a black undercoat. The ships you see here are a work in progress, but so far I've found that they take acrylic paint really well, and although I'm not such a hot painter, give good results.

The ships were obviously originally intended to be used as deep-space fighters, but the multiple designs mean that some have a distinctly aerospace flavour, as well as a couple that to my eye would make good VTOL/ Ground Support types for either 2 or 6mm figure ranges, given that they measure from around 10mm to 37mm in length.
This abundance of types soon tempted me away from my original 2mm/ 1/900th Weird WWI ideas, and transmogrified into a need for a new generic small scale-sci-fi project.
I believe that in the original game, the ships were alloted type names, but I've gone with my own ideas on that, so will refer to them in my own way below:

First up, we have what I term 'needle' fighters, these could either be space or atmosphere craft, and have a great jury-rigged look about them, as if cockpits have been welded onto the drive engines of a much larger vessel, thereby creating a sort of hot-rod capable of high straight line speeds. perhaps they might be used by mid-tech colonists or rim-worlders, as pirate craft, or as a response to superior alien forces:

Talking of pirates, that is the scheme I went for with these next craft, again which might be comfortable in the atmosphere or in orbit, maybe these are older versions of the current technology available to the military of a planetary federation:

Next we have what I term the 'Phantom 4K' in that without a doubt, these have the look of a future-tech version of that venerable fighter bomber, the McDonnell F4; again, great for a force that has lower end technology, perhaps not operating beyond the planetary atmosphere.
These guys are still in their undercoat, not sure whether to go with an old school 'wild-weasel' type scheme, or something more futuristic.

Next, a somewhat more advanced craft, that I call the 'hawk' fighter, again, more of an atmosphere craft, although getting further toward the high tech end of things:

Then we have perhaps the first of the more alien-looking types, perhaps a direct competitor to the 'hawk' above, with a nice little top turret, or is it a droid co-pilot that is visible? These could even pass for much larger scale craft, if it's actually starships that you're after, they sort of bring to mind the kind of ships you might see in some B-movie sci-fi by Roger Corman Productions, perhaps "Battle Beyond the Stars" or something similar....

Now we have the first of the possible VTOL/Support or Gunship types, these I term the 'bug' fighter, and to me have a flavour of a future A-10 warthog, small, chunky and hung with guns!

Similarly, enter the 'black widows', a definite gun bus if I ever saw one! These would work well in all theatres, whether low over the planetary battlefield or cruising in deep space:

They might be accompanied by the 'salamander', a patrol craft that is just a tiny bit 'primitive Klingon' to my eyes, perhaps before they developed warp technology? :-).

Next we have another planetary fighter bomber type, it must be the next stage in evolution from the 'Phantom 4K' above, with some heavy duty missiles slung beneath the wings:

Next we have what I term an 'Alpha' fighter, these I see as being the standard small scale craft of an interplanetary fleet, clouds of them issuing from a carrier, manouverable and lightly armed:

Then we move to a distinctly more alien place, these long range fighters have a slightly organic design, with their arachnid style pod cockpit slung between two weapon/propulsion booms; might be seen in orbit or in the atmosphere, these look well armed and pretty fast, too:

Finally, the Weird WWI Venusians present their 'Frog' fighter; (What, you've never heard of the Vensusian Killer Tree Frog?), small and quick at dealing death to all those who oppose the Green Empire:

All in all, there are plenty of designs here to run with, that could be applied in a number of ways, and being so cheap, mean that you can easily build up a decent set of combatants; of course it would be great if they were individually available, but perhaps some might be found floating around on E-Bay or elsewhere.
I think if you're looking for a 'weekend' project, or just fancy painting something different, then you can't go wrong with these, and at the price- what is there to lose?