Saturday 30 October 2010

1/3600th Ancient Galleys: Painted examples

Throwing aside all my regular projects, I took the plunge and had a go at painting up a fair sample of the Ancient Galleys seen in my last post. Now my knowledge in this area is rather lacking, so don't look for any authentic colour schemes amongst these - I took rather a 'that-might-look-good' approach, so these are probably more Hollywood than Hellenistic.

Having said that, I think they turned out rather well, with some strong colour contenders emerging for future fleets, and also some lessons learned.

Having needed to do no more than minimal preparation, (The bottoms of the bases are cast nice and flat, and there is no flash to speak of), I used a black undercoat, and then began by lining in the main hull colours.
This was followed up by the sails and oar banks, and then detailing strokes to bring them more to life - the masts, sail designs, some coloured blobs as various decorations on sternpost etc, and finally the addition of the all important 'eyes' at the bow.
I also was ambitious enough to put a blob of bronze at the very tip of the bow to suggest a metal ram - although to be fair, this is so minute, that it can't really be seen - particularly in the photos! The whole was completed with the base being painted, and some white lines added as an indication of movement.

They are indeed, really tiny, and I was thankful for my experience at painting up other small scale minis such as 2mm soldiery and 1/3000th ships.

Running through, then, some Hexeremes:

Being the largest, of course, these provided the best scope for attempting sail designs, although having started with fine ambitions of sketching in Gorgon heads and geometric designs, I was reduced to a few squiggles - I found it's pretty hard to get your brush tip in close and control it with something this small.

Talking of which, the Triremes meant that plainer schemes were prevalent, although the front of the sails did provide enough space for a few decorative strokes here and there. I found that in spite of the clear casting of individual oars, the oar banks were best done by strokes of a 000 brush, rather than taking a dry-brush action, as this tended to just clog them all together - the only niggle is that seen from above, white oars look rather like fish bones!

The Quinquiremes are a nice median if you like, with just enough scope for hull decoration, as well as tolerating some expressionistic sail decorations - hopefully on the table top, this will look more effective than in a camera close-up:

I think the most striking thing, given my assumption that the sails would provide a good surface to identify individual vessels or protagonists, is the fact that after all, it is the hull itself that is the most obvious at a distance, and is therefore the better identifier; a 'red' flotilla illustrates:

followed by a blue:

a green;

and finally a natural wood-coloured one:

Overall, I've been quite pleased with them, as they paint up very quickly for a very small effort, and certainly look good en masse:

How practical they are for gaming is yet to be seen; mounting multiples of them on large bases might be the easiest way of handling them, but sort of defeats the object of most Galley combat rules, which probably quite rightly tend to accentuate individual ship duels.
Used individually, each vessel on its own is rather fiddly to handle, being so tiny, and storage would be a problem - it occurs to me that a strip of magnetic sheet under each would make this easier, although applying it would be a rather time-consuming exercise.

If you gaming intensions though, demand enormous fleets of varied craft, then these might just be the ticket -Actium here we come!

Monday 25 October 2010

1/3600th Ancient Galleys from Outpost Wargames

EDIT: just to say that sadly, Outpost Wargaming has had to close. So these are now OOP

So, just when I thought it was safe to relax and look forward to progressing with my regular projects, my butterfly mind once more caught me out and sent me winging my way in the direction of something new.
To a chorus of groans of "He's only gone and done it again....", I'll therefore present yet another review of a new, yes, that's a new project - to whit the small but perfectly formed Ancient Galleys from Outpost Wargame Services!
These Roman and Hellenistic vessels are scaled in at 1/3600th, so I have managed to move into something smaller......perhaps a hint of downsizing for the coming recession? As if....
(Scroll down on their Ranges web page, and look for Naval/Ancient Ships)
I'd been wanting for some time to have a go at some Ancient Naval, but had been thoroughly intimidated by the thought of taking on the larger scale products available in say 1/1200th or by the likes of Xyston, and was very happy to come across these ships that would fit very nicely into my ethos of putting down Mass onto the tabletop, without breaking the bank, nor requiring painting skills above and beyond my capabilities.
The beauty of these vessels is that they are simple enough to paint up quickly, yet are gifted with enough detail to provide interest, and moreover, come in packs of twenty five!
Yes, that's twenty five vessels for UK £3.00 - £4.00, depending on vessel type.
Now before I get too misty eyed about the qualities of the smallest of smaller scales out there, I have to admit that as this was one of my (Ahem), subsidiary projects, I only invested in a limited number of types, and moreover, actually avoided the smallest ones that are available....yes even I baulked at some of the really tiny models that they provide, namely classes of ship such as the Lembi and'll see what I mean if you take a look at the illustrative and useful gallery at their website:
I went only for the MED4 Trireme and above, hoping to balance the playability versus the paintability of such small vessels.
To put things into perspective, these Galleys featuring integral bases range roughly in size from around 7mm up to 20mm in length.
I purchased the MED5, Trireme with sail, the MED6 and 7, Quinquireme both with and without sail, and the MED11, Hexereme with sail.
The castings arrived in a nice and clean state, with only some small slivers of venting flash present on some of the base corners, that easily snipped off.
Outpost were kind enough to inform me that there may be a slight delay in despatch due to unforseen circumstances, but in any event, I received the minis within a week of ordering by e-mail and paying by PayPal.
For their size, the Galleys are very nicely proportioned, with banks of oars visible, as well as distinctive bow and sternpost decorations and sails and masts. One criticism might be that in the Trireme in particular, the sails are heeling forward somewhat due to the sculpting style, but this is only really a small niggle - although I have to warn that the hardness of the pewter material makes it impossible to straighten these into a more vertical position in any way.
I like the fact, without going into the whole 'Galleys in combat shouldn't have masts or sails in place' debate, that you have the option to field either type, although I have to say that for me, I wanted a majority of those with sails - it somehow just looks right, particularly in this scale.
Looking at what I bought individually, then, let's start with the MED5 Trireme w/sail:
The Galley itself measures at 12mm stern to bow, with the integral base being 14mm by 6mm wide - the overall height from base bottom to the top of the mast is 5mm, give or take.
I know that these measurements have led others who know better, particularly Tony Hughes of Gildas and Tiny Tin Troops fame, to state that they are probably closer to 1/3000th in scale; he has a useful photograph at his old website:
The Quniquireme measures out at 17mm by 8mm base wise, and has a more erect sail, with a nicely pronounced Hellenic ram-style bow, perfect for painting eyes on!
The Hexereme, compared to the others, is suitably broad and chunky at 20mm by 12mm based, and comes with some great looking archery or 'siege' towers fore and aft:
It is difficult even with a decent Macro setting to truly capture these diminutive ships, but I think you can get an idea of the level of detail that you have to play with below:
Even I won't be attempting to mount any deck crews of Hoplites or Marines, but I think they should paint up nicely, and give a good sense of the originals in full flow:
Having said that, the mast-less vessels do offer the opportunity to glue in some scratch built catapults......only kidding!
As always on this Blog, the squares on the green cutting mat are sized at 10mm or 1cm each, but for clarity, here's a view of one of them up against a UK Penny:
Then a group beside a more international standard AAA battery:
Overall I'm pretty pleased with what I ordered, and looking forward to putting some paint their way; I'm not sure just yet as to how exactly they are to be used in a game (to base or not to base), but I'll likely be looking at one of the variants of Corvus as a set of easy play rules.
As a subsidiary project, these are going to be more about having a go at something different, rather than being a big commitment to a unified game system or period.
I'm not going to be too stuck on a particular period or group of protagonists, rather use the ability of the smaller minis to stand in as a number of different types in various eras.
Certainly, Ancient Naval Warfare purists might shudder at the broad brush sculpting and characterisation of these miniatures, but I think for a small investment, they should more than do the job, and at the very least would provide a good weekend project for any miniaturist or gamer.
I think that I can say that if you want to have a go at becoming "The Face that launched a thousand ships", then these are definitely the way to go!

Friday 22 October 2010

2mm Colonial: The Battle of Ginnis 1885

I've been looking around for a while now for a suitable battle to make use of the fledgling Colonial forces in 2mm that have so far left the workbench. It doesn't seem fair to have them just sitting waiting for some VSF themed vehicles or some such to appear, so in the meantime I am thinking about using them in a small-scale battle set in the Egyptian Sudan.
Given that I haven't quite achieved the hordes of units originally envisaged, the Omdurmans, El-Tebs and Tel-El Kebirs of this world are a little out of range as yet, so I've settled on the more diminutive Ginnis, circa 1885.

This took place in the aftermath of the fall of Khartoum and the loss of Gordon, when the River and Desert Relief Columns had withdrawn over the border, leaving some small garrisoned outposts in the Northern Sudan.
These forts had increasingly come under harassing attacks by local Emirs loyal to the Mahdi, in particular the one located between Kosh and Wadi Halfa on the Nile at Ginnis, held by a detachment of the Cameron Highlanders and the Ninth Sudanese Battalion. General Sir Evelyn Wood therefore despatched a force of two infantry brigades and a cavalry brigade to push back the Dervishes.

This battle is interesting in that the force under Grenfell was a combination of Egyptian, Sudanese and British forces, including mule batteries and Camel Corps, and was one of the last outings for the scarlet tunic for British troops - certainly, anyway, the OOB seems to roughly match with what I have happened to have painted up, so it fits the bill!

The always excellent Savage and Soldier website has a brilliant article by Doug Johnson that sets out the background and narrative to the action, as well as providing details on the units involved and the aftermath of the engagement:

Johnson makes the important point that it was ironically the fear on both sides that the armed presence in the Northern Sudan border areas was a prelude to invasion that lead to the engagement and in spite of the success of the Anglo-Egyptian force, the Mahdists were eventually left in possession of a longer stretch of the Nile than they had previously occupied once the isolated garrisons were withdrawn to Wadi Halfa.

In any event, I think the battle is interesting in that it should allow the use of separate brigades of an all-arms force to engage the Mahdists, who in contrast to perhaps the conventional Wargamer's idea of a headlong charge, carefully deployed around the besieged fort.
Indeed, they had pre-placed captured Artillery pieces in batteries along the Nile, had taken command of the dominant feature with riflemen, and once the battle had begun, were able to mount a credible flanking manoeuvre into the Anglo-Egyptian flank.

I've got to do some more work and put together some scratch-built scenery, principally village buildings, before this battle can become a table top reality, and of course could also do with lots more Mahdist infantry, but it should be fun, particularly as it also gives me an excuse to deploy the Nile River Steamer, here in the guise of the HMS Lotus - Huzzah!

Stay tuned for more on this in the coming weeks.......

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Pre-Dreadnought Photos: Part 12

An American flavour, now, to the latest instalment of Pre-dred pics, in this case colourised Postcard views of various U.S. Navy vessels from around the turn of the century.
The colourisation means that you shouldn't take the colour schemes as Gospel, but nevertheless, I think some clear and interesting images.

(Remember, they are all clickable for a zoomed, Macro view.)

Above we have a stern view of the Armoured Cruiser Brooklyn, tied up at New York, and showing lines that are very reminiscent of the Varyag, built in the U.S. for the RJW-era Russian Navy.
A veteran of both Santiago Bay and the Boxer Rebellion deployment, she was re-commissioned during the First World War in order to add to the American naval presence in the North Atlantic.

Next up, we have a view of the Armoured Cruiser USS Pennsylvania, launched in 1903 from the Cramp's yard, she was renamed the Pittsburgh in 1912, and soldiered on until 1931:

Moving on, we have the Armoured Cruiser the Colorado, of the same class, which was also renamed during her career, this time as the Pueblo; there's a good summary of her life at the battleships-cruisers website:

Another view of the Brooklyn here, this time from the bows, with another Cruiser in the background; these cards are from The Illustrated Postal Card Company of New York, circa 1910:

Moving up a class, we have the Battleship USS Kearsage next, which having been launched in 1898, apparently survived all the way until 1955, albeit in the guise of a Floating Crane ship!
Nice view of the turret-upon-turret design here - can't imaging what it was like for the gun crew in the primary when those secondaries gave fire just above....

Moving on, we have a view of the Armoured Cruiser USS Washington, launched 1905, part of the Tennessee class of improved vessels:

Now a representation of the Battleship Vermont of 1905; there's a nice web page concerning her weapons complement that can be seen here:

Next up, we have another veteran of the Span-Am War, and at least at the time of writing, the last surviving of her type - the Cruiser USS Olympia - hopefully she can be retained as a floating Museum, rather than be scuttled after all these years......what a waste!

The authoritative record of why she deserves her reputation can be found here at the Span-Am War website:

Next we have the Bainbridge Class Destroyer, the USS Decatur; there's a good Wiki page with all her info here:

Surprisingly, for a small vessel that had cruised extensively in the Far East and Philippines, she was transferred to the rough waters of the Atlantic for convoy duty at the tail end of 1918:

Finally, we have a nice colourised depiction of that strangest of weapon-platform craft, namely the Dynamite gun armed USS Vesuvius (aptly named....):

There is an explanatory entry at the excellent Span-Am War site as below:

The 15" weapons fired an explosive charge through an 'explosion' of compressed air; propelling the mixture of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerine out to a range of one and a half miles!
At least that was the theory......

Certainly a unique vessel - it's a shame, but I don't think any 1/3000th manufacturer makes a model of one. :-)

Wednesday 13 October 2010

2mm Web Resources: New entries!

Hello All, just a quick 'heads up' with regard to some new teeny-tiny wargaming minis appearing on the old WWW. A couple of posts have been brought to my attention, firstly at the always interesting Panzer Eight Blog, which debuted earlier this year, followed by Tim Gow's Blogsite, Megablitz and More.

Mr Gow has posted some great photos of an ACW game setup, using some interesting ideas involving generically painted 2mm forces that might be employed for a number of different protagonists and conflicts:

Panzer8, meanwhile, has been working hard on some WWI units, producing some excellent-looking British troops, mounted on particularly effective scenic bases. I particularly like his use of kitchen steel wool teased out and cut to form barbed wire:

Make sure to drop by and take a look; hope to see more from them both in the near future!

Tuesday 5 October 2010

New "Test" Project: WTJ Eylau Sequence MGVs

A look now at yet another "Test" project, this time Sci-Fi related, in the shape of the excellent 'Eylau Sequence' minis produced by War Times Journal. Yes, you guessed it, the recent rush of shiny new metal across the pages of the Blog has ignited the need for more of the same - and I found myself justifying just a small purchase of a selection of these intriguing models.....only to test the water as it were...... :-)

For some time now, Jim over at WTJ has been working on a whole new type of line, a far cry from his normal 1/3000th naval, and has come up with a product that is of similar quality, which is further supported by a whole slew of relevant gaming and background information, from creative fiction to stats and rules - you might say he has written a whole new Sci-Fi Universe into the canon, or should that be Microverse?

I won't attempt to explain the well-thought out and inspiring ideas behind the range here, the WTJ site itself has links to all the relevant information, but suffice to say that what we have is a future war where the main protagonists employ tiny or even microscopic vehicles to engage each other, autonomous, armed and deadly!

Being such a small scale fanatic, I knew I couldn't resist the siren call of these 'tiny' minis for long, so took the plunge with the sculpts that I will be showcasing here.
Now WTJ, in the same way as their 1/3000th Pre-Dreadnoughts, have detailed photographs of the miniatures on their site, so I won't attempt to replicate those here, but merely relate those I acquired to one another to give an idea of how my own project might shape up.

Two of the factions in the Eylau Sequence story have vehicles that are named for, and loosely designed around real-world flora and fauna, with the Californians employing reptiles, and the Selangor carnivorous fish. The Mediterranean states are the exception with a less organic look, deploying craft of hard, technical weapon-related nomenclature.

I got a selection of heavy and light from the various factions, with a view to producing a sort of battleship and escorts type of unit from each.

From the Californians, then, we have the larger L35 Chameleon (WTJ-9011501) and the smaller L63 Whiptail (WTJ-9011502):

The sculpts on these are clean and sleek, with the very high quality detailing familiar to purchasers of the company's ships. There are some mould lines visible, but to be honest at this scale, these become more part of the design than extraneous to it, and where present are very clean and sharp. Seen here in their 'out-of-packet' state, there is a small amount of venting/flashing remnants, but nothing worth speaking of.

The intriguing concepts brought forward from WTJ, not only the miniature technology but the 'organic' design background are fresher than the standard 'future aerospace-spacecraft with wings' or 'alien equals bulbous bugs' approach, and I think it is great to see some new thinking in terms of styling making it from concept to the gaming table - I have seen in various discussion forums that these minis could equally be used as Grav-tanks or even Fleet-scale spacecraft, as well as for their intended purpose.

In keeping, perhaps, with this novel approach, WTJ has decided to include a unique mounting system with these miniatures; to whit a notched metal part to the base of the mini that corresponds with it's own small metal stand and base - these are included within the purchase price of the mini itself.
I was initially sceptical about this, having moved alongside most gamers into the area of using magnets and plastic stands for vehicles such as this, and I also feared, given the small weight of the minis themselves, for what the balance and fit would be like.

I need not have worried; in line with the product quality on show elsewhere in their ranges, WTJ's MGVs should fit neatly and easily onto the stands - indeed, in the following picture, the Chameleon and its partner are balanced 'au-naturel' on the corresponding base pedestal - at this stage no glue involved!

Of course, gluing would be necessary, and the company has thoughtfully provided advice on their website as to how this is done, although many people might have their own ideas as to how to do this, or might even feel the notch and groove pedestal would not fit into their standard basing - but I don't think this makes the minis any less attractive!

Moving on, we see the EU11 Mace (WTJ-9011406) alongside the EU7 Lance (WTJ-9011404):

These Mediterranean/Australian craft have a much more technical look, and would therefore, perhaps, more easily fit in as alternatives alongside existing small-scale Sci-Fi ranges.

It wouldn't be hard to imagine either as Fleet-scale starships, for instance.

I think the L35 Chameleon is particularly effective, and has great proportions, and let's face it, just looks d*mned cool, even in an unpainted state:

It's heavyweight foe might be the K312 Rock Shark (WTJ-9011306), which has a really menacing aspect, again with a technical edge.

These micro- or even nano-bots look like they could kick up some serious fuss, even if it is on such a small scale - the game statistics themselves feature the option to have them battling it out out with insects, fungii or even malevolent mold, and the terrain might be littered with impeding ice crystals, dust or hair!

At the moment, my take on these minis will probably follow the conventions laid out by WTJ themselves, including the basing - I've even got a bag of mini toy plastic insects somewhere that would add some colour to their combats - but it does occur to me that the more organic-looking sculpts might even do double duty as some scary alien Aero-Fauna in VSF/Aeronef gaming.

Hopefully, a lick of paint should firm these ideas up a bit, and I'll return to these little beasties in forthcoming posts - in the meantime, remember the old adage that it isn't the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog - small can be deadly!