Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Weltkrieg Project 4 - Recruits


Time now to turn our attention towards the land forces. As indicated in the first post, I've decided upon using 30mm flats.  Fortunately, I didn't invest too much in acquiring or painting figures for the 1916-1918 era before making the final decision to turn back the clock a decade or so to the heyday of pre-dreadnoughts. All these are potential belligerents:

* Britain
* Germany
* France
* Japan
* Russia
* Spain/Italy
* Austria-Hungary
* Ottomans

The idea is to use troops painted with historical accuracy (quite possibly with the exception of the flags) but now fighting for their respective imagi-nations.  So far as availability goes, French, German, Russian, Japanese armies are well represented with available castings or older factory painted sets on the auction sites. Some of the others are more of a hit or miss proposition, but as thousands of flats were cranked out depicting troops of the 1900 era, sooner or later other things will surface.  Just the other day, I saw a nice set of Serbs on German eBay. In any case, there's more than enough readily available to get started.

What comes first ?  I have on order and already en route from Germany this good old Russo-Japanese War grouping from Heinrichsen, Schlacht am Yalu.  One set of the castings was still in stock, and are supplemented by old (and probably rare) castings from sets depicting the battle of Liao-Yang and Siege of Port Arthur. A big tip of the hat to Dr. Grobe at Heinrichsen for her labors. Two countries, already sorted !

I'll be painting the castings myself, but Heinrichsen's modern mode of factory painting shown here is not bad at all.  Given the number of figures to be painted, I really must consider simplifying my own style in order to make sufficient headway with this project.  Speaking of the Yalu castings, I wonder if the designer drew some inspiration for the Cossacks firing over their mounts from this illustration ?

On other fronts, I located a strategy guide for Imperialism, and as you might expect, dirt cheap these days for such an "obsolete" game.  It's already proved of value for the map making.  Work is proceeding apace with the ships. I have some BMC reworks nearly completed and the samples from Shapeways scheduled to arrive today or tomorrow.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Weltkrieg Project 3 - Naval

I'm going to put off for a bit the follow-up post about the Imperialism map-making experiment. Suffice it to say for now that it's going okay but not without some obstacles to overcome. But I'm still confident of making a go of it.

As indicated in the first post, this imagi-nations world war is inspired by the campaign guidelines laid out in Phil Dunn's Sea Battle Games book.  Hence the planned emphasis will be on naval activity, but you know me, can't resist painting some soldiers too.  The action on land will hopefully take on a more concrete form than abstract battles between 10,000 man blocks, but with smaller skirmishes representing much larger scale battles.

It was the introduction of the WTJ series of Rapid Prototyped Plastic models which inspired me to backdate the project to the pre-dreadnought era. And 1/1800 is the scale of choice, for several reasons.  First, it seems a reasonable compromise between the playability of 1/2400 and the appealing detail of 1/1200.  Secondly, available models: WTJ, some additional offerings on Shapeways, and the opportunity to use my antique lead BMC ships.  And 1/1800 is about as small as I can reasonably go with scratch-building.  Yes, I could probably build 1/2400, but wouldn't be able to improve much, if at all, on Panzerschiffe where the ease of buying inexpensive commercial models would render my own labor hours a waste of time.

My plan is to adapt the Dunn template of real ships renamed for ficticious navies.  But not to the extent of drawing playing cards to randomly assign them to the player's fleets regardless of national origin.  My intention is, for the most part, to group the ships in their historical fleets with accurate color schemes.  The models should retain some commercial value if I later divest myself of the collection or upon my demise. 

Which navies are essential ?  I think the following:

* Britain
* Germany
* France
* Japan
* Russsia

That almost completely takes care of the 7 Great Powers in the Imerialism scheme, perhaps some combination of Italy/Spain or Austria-Hungary for the other.  And who is not to say that Minor powers won't have fleets as well ?  Of course they could.

With that lengthy preamble out of the way, let's take a look at a recent scratchbuilding effort, a French Danton class battleship.  I did this model at 1/1800 scale, the usual composite materials of wood, styrene and brass wire.  I also used balsa wood in places in lieu of basswood, not entirely happy with the appearance of the model on that score but it did save some time.  Having based the ship on the Jane's Fighting Ships plan, not surprisingly the freeboard is a bit accentuated relative to the prototype:

The peacetime livery ca. 1900 is how I want to paint the "French" ships but probably anachronistic. The slow pace in French shipyards meant that these "semi-dreadnoughts" weren't launched until ca. 1910 (already obsolete by the time they joined the fleet).  And speaking of semi-dreadnoughts, you have to think that the 9.4" secondary battery would have caused fire control problems when mixed with the 12".  The extra turrets sure increased my build headaches but once I started the ship, I wanted to finish it.

A few more pics:

Not the greatest build as I was a bit rusty. Nevertheless, satisfactory.  I did choose to make it a bit simpler than what I did here with the Austro-Hungarian battleships:

Upcoming posts: follow-up about the map, some words about the army figures and a few more BMC ships reworked.  I have on order some WTJ ships as well as a few from Shapeways but the lead time on scheduling the production runs of these models means it'll be another week or two before anything arrives.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Weltkrieg, Part 2: Map Design

Recently completed: Spenkuch Matrosenboot

I've been a mere dabbler in this Imagi-nations thing for some time now.  I've been going about it somewhat backwards, painting figures with an unfocused intention to eventually develop their imagi-nations world to the point of having plausible nations with a history, identity and suitable motivation for war.  But always putting off the work of doing the "imagi-nations" part of it right, probably because it's seemed like, well....too much like work. 

The funny thing is that when growing up, my brother and I created a richly imagined continent whose countries were ruled by characters from fiction or more often, people we knew in real life.  We did role playing, made illustrations, created football leagues (the American game) and often these countries fought wars. We didn't play in any style that could be dignified with the title of "wargaming", at least not in the adult sense. 

Wargamers, kindly indulge me for a moment. Truly the most memorable thing that developed wasn't wargames, but the sports car racing.  We dice-raced multiple seasons with 1/32 toy and model cars on racing circuits drawn in chalk on the cement floor of the basement, each of the countries holding a Grand Prix or two.  We published the race accounts and results in a hand-lettered Motor Journal, with driver and manufacturers championships awarded at the end of the season. Magical things happened: hard luck drivers uncannily broke down at the worst moments, devil-may-care drivers in the mold of de Portago sometimes didn't live long, team and driver rivalries were rife.  One year, a new two-car team of Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagatos improbably swept all before them, leaving the hordes of Ford, Ferrari and Porsche drivers to fight over the scraps of the remaining podium spots.

Anyway, I'm not up to the effort of creating a massive new world, or even a couple countries worth of it.  I have the early 19th Century map done in Hexographer, but it doesn't have nearly enough sea hexes for a global naval conflict.  What to do ?  Casting about for some computer-aided help, I remembered the late 90's PC game, Imperialism.  Some of you may recall it.

I thought it might be usable but was doubtful of finding the game and even more doubtful of getting it to run on my Vista 64 operating system. But it was worth a shot, a quick Google search and popped up on the first page. Bingo, Imperialism I @ $5.99, not a huge risk.  And not a bad deal at call considering I got "The Witcher: Enhanced Edition" thrown in for nothing.  Great action RPG by the way, if you like that sort of thing.

In a nut shell, Imperialism is a game of world conquest spanning a century (1816-1916), tightly focused on economic development, trade, diplomacy and war.  There are two ways to play: Historical Scenarios or Random Worlds.  It's funny, I played a bit of Imperialism when the game first came out, but didn't persist with it. I recall finding it a bit complex, which it certainly isn't when compared to games like Victoria and Hearts of Iron.  The basic gameplay elements are relatively simple: it's how you collectively manage them against a cunning AI, therein lies the challenge. 

My idea was this: play in a random world as one of the Great Powers to develop the world's infastructure, and letting the course of the gameplay create it's own backstory suitable as a jumping off point for my campaign.  Random maps can be generated at will, just continue clicking on the globe icon until arriving at a satisfactory configuration of continents.  In the Random Worlds mode, there are 7 Great Powers and 16 Minor Countries.  The basic map unit is the Province (120 in all), of which the Powers start with 8, Minors owning 4 each.

That's rather too regular for my needs, but it seems simple enough to continue playing until some of the Minors are absorbed through colonization or conquest, and the Powers have fought enough to grow or shrink according to the fortunes of war.  Hence the size of the countries will begin to take on an irregular nature, with enough squabbling over colonies, land grabs against the Minors and grudges between the Powers over territorial gains or losses to provide suitable casus belli.

How is this plan working out so far ?  With some reservations, not too badly.  Observations and some trial AAR screenshots will follow shortly.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My Weltkrieg - Part 1

"It is far more satisfying to wage a global conflict against the personal armies, airforce and navy of you pal, than it is to command (say) British and German forces. If you play this game, you are king of your own domain." - Phil Dunn, Sea Battle Games.

Some of you may own a copy of Phil Dunn's Sea Battle Games: Naval Wargaming: 1650-1945, part of John Curry's History of Wargaming Project.  I'll admit to having only skimmed most of it, but the chapter which I have read in full more than once is Chapter 9: The Hypothetical World War Game. Mr. Dunn starts with the premise that "Land and air forces are necessary in order to wage true naval warfare".  What follows is an outline for setting up an Imagi-nations campaign in a WW2 setting.

Played on a fictional world map, in addition to what one would expect in terms of cities and terrain features, additional facilities and resources come into play such as production factories for land and air forces, shipyards, steel mills and oil refineries.   The players' forces are asymetrical; determined by dicing for quantities of warships, transports, aircraft and 10,000 man army groups.  Actual warship classes are used, but assigned by drawing playing cards.  Which, for example, could lead to the incongruous possibility of the Bismarck and Hood fighting as battle squadron mates, although of course they'd be renamed something else by you in your all-powerful persona of the world power leader or dictator. What follows are some simple rules governing production rates, repairs & reinforecments and transport and supply. Good stuff !

My question has been, how to make use of something like this as I'm not so interested in replicating WW2.  Not knocking WW2 naval gaming mind you, to each his own and I'll confess to having bought more Axis & Allies War at Sea models than I had any use for.  The brief WaS buying spree was done with the same spirit and feverish anticipation of my 10 year old self, tearing open packs of tantalizing bubble gum-scented baseball cards in hopes of scoring a Willie Mays or Rocky Colavito, but knowing full well I'd more likely get yet another duplicate of the Washington Senators backup catcher.

But I digress. As obvious to blog readers here, my naval interests tend much more to the Pre-dreadnought era and the clean lines of the WW1 dreadnoughts in the days before battleships grew baroque superstructures and became festooned with AA guns.

The other question (besides the map and its potential antagonists) was where to go with air and and land battles.  Turning back the clock to WW1 would make for weaker air power, and did I really want to replicate trench warfare if using miniatures instead of maneuvering blocks representing 10,000 man units ?  Not necessarily so, the firepower would still be deadly but Imagi-nations wouldn't have to command enough manpower to dig in from one side of a continent to the other.  As for the planes, it could be done with 1/144 models or left abstract.

I did buy a sample box of WW1 plastic infantry but found painting 1/72 figures not quite to my taste. Next I tried some 30mm flats, independent of the result, the painting of which pleased me more.  But I will leave the figures to a subsequent post in this series.   And before turning to the next topic - the map ! - I must mention a further evolution (mutation ?) of the thought process.  That is, turning back the Imagi-nations clock still further to circa 1905, just prior to the advent of the Dreadnought.  More to follow shortly.                 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Queen's Navy - 1/1200 Scratchbuilds

Here's some old ships that I built a while back. 1988, to be precise !  The construction is pure balsa, with wire for the guns & masts. Let me amend that, some of the ship's boats are metal castings, but I haven't the foggiest memory of where I got them.

Here's HMS Majestic and Caesar in their spiffy Victorian livery:

And a couple armored cruisers, HMS Diadem and Argonaut.

You'd think that with as much time I sunk into detailing these, I'd have gone to a little extra trouble to sand the wood smoother in spots. But such were my construction techniques at the time. 

What do these have to do with the new project ?  Being the wrong scale, they relate only indirectly.  But the naval element ca. 1900 certainly plays into it. More anon.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Status Report

Wow.  I've seriously neglected the blog.  Time has slipped by and I'm a bit taken aback to realized that it's been nearly two months since I've posted anything.  It's been a combination of things really.  My wife's medical situation and my job search have been distractions, and certainly essential ones considering the priorities. However, it would be grossly overstating the case to offer those as excuses.

The truth is, I'm unemployed and have had ample time. I just flat out hit the wall, ran out of motivation to continue painting - or at least the ethusiasm to work on whatever things I had in the pipeline.  So I took a break, dabbled in building a couple of plastic models, played computer wargames, spent more riding the bikes, etc.

This is about the last thing I painted before this fallow period, a few Conquistadors.  The foot are old figures from Kieler and Loy, the rider from Scholtz.

What now ?  Taking a somewhat different tack, I have in mind a new project which has really rekindled my enthusiasm.  And I promise not to wait another two months to reveal the details.