Thursday, November 28, 2013

New from Heinrichsen - 40mm Flats

I received an e-mail flyer from Heinrichsen recently, announcing two more 40mm sets re-issued, and they are busy preparing more sets for next year's 175th (!) anniversary.  Aside from more 30mm which is always welcome, the other refurbished molds will be for casting the old 70mm figures and apparently no additional 40mm.  Regardless, we can enjoy these now:

Both were first issued contemporary with the dates shown.  Love those Ottomans !  I do like that we get to see the castings in this case, all the more tempting to visualize painting them myself.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

WTJ Armored Cruisers - WK Project # 8

Here's a couple of armored cruisers which I recently finished.  First up is the Infanta Maria Teresa which was sunk by the US navy in 1898, will be rechristened for the navy of Vavarde in the game.  I have to say that WTJ has done a great job with these 1/1500, but I think this particular model is not quite a home run, the low freeboard gives her kind of a squashed look, at least to my eyes.


Then again, perhaps it's accurate, but it seems to me that a small model looks better off exaggerating the freeboard on the high side over appearing to ride low in the water. In any case, I shimmed the hull with a base of 0.5mm styrene.

Next we have a Gloire class armored cruiser.  As squat and ungainly as a lot of the French pre-dreads look to modern viewers, the same features on a hull stretched to armored cruiser proportions make for a considerably more elegant ship.  I use mostly Vallejo acrylic paints for these ships.

I am now working on soldiers at the moment and hope to have something to show for it before too long.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Map Making, Part 2 - WK Project # 7

You may recall my post mentioning the plan to use the old PC game Imperialism to create The Lazy Man's Instant Imagi-nations World.  What seemed like a pretty simple idea ultimately involved sinking a lot more time into this than I had anticipated.    

On the plus side, Imperialism creates a reasonably convincing 19th / early 20th Century alternative world, populated by challenging AI Great Powers competing with your own in the quest to become the greatest nation through a combination of economic strength, trade, diplomacy and war. The maps as zoomed in still hold up graphically, and are populated by provinces, natural resources and infrastructure built by the Powers such as railroads, mines, agriculture and so on.  And there is no fog of war blanketing these map features, although details of the other Powers' exact military strength, industries and inventory remain hidden, with the human player depending upon bar graphs rating the relative strength of the active Powers in industrial capacity, armed forces, size of merchant marine, and so on.

Further, while the Random country and province/city names can tend towards the odd, sometimes decidedly so, most of the game's seven Great Powers are given recognizable linguistic identities. Despite the strictly random arrangement of map generation, these cultures are linguistically identifiable and consistently appear in whatever geographic world the player chooses to select:

* German
* French
* Italian/Spanish
* Russian
* Japanese

The remaining two are more of a mixed bag, sometimes Turkish, Scandanavian, Middle European in flavor or just a polyglot mixture. Nothing decidedly English, unfortunately.  Things get odder still using Fixed names (where the same 7 countries always appear), including two Powers Zimm and Haxaco with provinces bearing place names from New Jersey.  Unless you're Chris Christie, not so good. It seemed the way to go was letting the program create random Great Power names.

Drawbacks ? 

1) Alliance system in the Random game play causes some strange turns of events.
2) Aside from your starting Power, can't rename anything besides your army units and ships.

In the interest of brevity, more about the alliance system later.  Suffice it to say now that the well-worn "herding cats" phrase applies to the wacky doings of my AI rivals but I think I've learned enough through trial and error to avoid the most egregious, game-breaking outcomes.

On the second issue, it took me way longer than it should have to figure out that while the names of the Powers are not visible in the map creation mode, they are color coded. For example, the light blue country is Russian, orange seem to be Germans, and so on.  Before that belated epiphany, I was blundering around taking pot luck with whatever the program came up with, only to find out about 10 mouseclicks later that it just wouldn't do.  The other breakthrough was learning that a hidden map key system allows the player to save a good map format which can continually be restarted to generate new country names.

Even so, with the Saxonia (Yellow) under my personal control, it turned out that getting 6 other random names for the Powers where at least one or two weren't downright goofy was something akin to hoping for the right combination of winning lottery numbers.  It took me literally hundreds of new game restarts to arrive at the following, but at long last here we have it: the final cut !  (The simple flags designed with this handy tool - In no particular order, these are the international players:

SAXONIA (Yellow).  Odd province names, but they're going to be British and like it.

AVENE (Blue).  French

AOKA (Red). Japanese

FASÜZ (Purple). Austro-Hungarian

KROVURSK (Lt. blue). Russian

SESSLAU (Orange).  German

VAVARDE (Green). Italian/Spanish

Another thing that turned out to be time-consuming was finding a map with a Minor country which could conceivably be representative for a US styled army and navy.  Rather a challenge as the Minor country names are often Asian in linguistic flavor, or just exceedingly strange.  The map I decided upon happens to have a suitable minor:


Yes, not a playable power in Imperialism but it can be once I kick things off. The backstory is that they gained independance from Vavarde ca.1800.
Showing the game's diplomacy menu, here is the map:

Coming up, more WTJ ships and having a re-think about the armies.  The appeal of using a Funny Little Wars approach for the army organization is growing on me, and using an economical alternative to amassing sets of zinnfiguren for the 1900 era.  I'm starting a new job tomorrow but one not nearly so lucrative as to contemplate buying up figures like Malcom Forbes, even if I had the time to paint them all. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

1/1500 WTJ Ships - WK Project #6

Having decided upon 1/1500 as the scale of choice, let's look at a couple of examples.  As you can see in the top photo, the WTJ Rapid Prototype processed ships are cast in a semi-transparent plastic.  Of course they have no top masts, but they either already have existing holes ready for simple installation, and if not, the larger size makes them robust enough for drilling without fear of ruining anything.  They do not come with secondary (or tertiary) casemate guns, a sensible design choice given the chances of breakage while prepping the hull.  You can drill holes and install these guns if so desired.

First up, the an Iowa class battleship for my Federation (quasi-US) navy.  I installed the mast and one more fighting top. I don't do spars, but no reason you couldn't.

And the Borodino for my surrogate "Russian" navy.  Installed masts with fighting tops.

Once I finalize all the countries (grist for another post on map progress), my plan is to label the ships with their fictional names and imagi-nation flags, securing this with removable tape. Underneath the base I'll write the real world nationality and ship class.  In that way, the ships can easily be converted back to their historical identities as for the most part, I'm not getting too fanciful with the paint jobs.

Kudos to WTJ for a job well done on these ships.      

Sunday, November 10, 2013

1/1800 Ships

The helping hand of Poseidon

In the previous post, I indicated that I had made a miscalculation on the scale of ships to be used for my imagi-nations project.  That is, the 1/1800 ships don't match my existing BMC fleet. For example, armored cruisers in comparison. 

But, since I have the 1/1800 samples, let's at least see what we've got here.   Shapeways is an option if you like the 1900 era in this scale. Of course, the A&A War at Sea tie-in is at play for the Shapeways ships.  So as you might expect, WW2 is much in evidence, as well as some very nice what-if ships for refighting scenarios from the Bywater novel, The Great Pacific War.  But, there are ships for the Spanish-American War.  Here we have a good portion of the Spanish fleet on a sprue.

I painted the Brooklyn. Interesting that this ship is cast in the semi-transparent plastic as used by WTJ, vs. most being the white plastic as seen above. I added the .015" masts and shimmed the base with a thin layer of styrene.

Next up, the HMS Thunderchild. HG Wells aside, It's a good generic pre-dreadnought, suitable for British or Japanese battleships in this style.  A sturdy model with the masts already done. The white plastic is slightly rough in texture, but hardly noticeable once the paint goes on.

You do get good value for the money at Shapeways, but for high caliber models, nothing beats the Rapid Prototyped WTJ ships.

First up, we have one of my favorite pre-dreads, the Russian Retvisan. Built in Philadelphia, I like the look of it compared to the French style of most of the Russian battleships. Painted her in the peacetime livery.

And a German battleship, Kaiser class. Some care must be taken with these models, they are tough but not indestructible. Unlike the 1/1500 ships, these examples have no pre-drilled hole for the upper masts, should you care to add them. I ham-handedly snapped off the rear mast of this ship while inserting the wire, had to drill and pin it to the deck to salvage the model.  I also trimmed the wire a little too close, but once done there was no turning back.

Kudos for WTJ for a process which packs such detail into a small package. But what I like best is the scaleability.  The same ships, your choice of anything from 1/1500 to 1/3000.   And my final decision for the Weltkrieg project ?  1/1500.  Fortunately WTJ had some samples in stock, and thus allowing me to avoid the production queue time,  I ordered some.  Love the bigger ships and examples to follow shortly. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Weltkrieg Project 5 - BMC Ships

Some of you may recall previous posts about the antique BMC / "Minfigs" ships here, and also most excellently covered at the SteelonSand and A Wargaming Odyssey blogs.  I still have a lot of these ships as yet unconverted to my own style so I stripped and reworked a few more.

Amongst the warships, I also have several merchant and transport vessels.  These should come in handy.  In the next two photos, my updates on the left, originals on the right.  I suspect the dazzle painting and hospital ship conversion weren't the original livery, quite possibly added by a previous owner.

And two more British cruisers, Pelorus and Highflyer class.

Highflyer Class (I think)

Pelorus Class

I left the nationality flags and ship names off the bases this time, as they'll be serving a new ficticious country, most likely Saxonia (think I have hit upon a winning Imperialism map).  Don't have much in the way of BMC pre-dreadnought battleships, but many cruisers both Armored and Protected as well as a host of destroyers & torpedo boats, plus a few subs.

However, I think I may have blundered in selecting 1/1800 as the scale of choice.  I received the Shapeways 1/1800 ship samples this week and they are tiny in comparison with these !  Utterly incompatible.  What hurts worse is that I ordered several more WTJ ships at 1/1800 and if they're they scale out the same as the Shapeways, I'd have been better off ordering 1/1500.  For the purpose of this project at least, I'm going to have to jettison one set of ships or the other.  Quite stupid, I'm an experienced enough modeler to have taken measurements and planned more carefully.  In any case, it's all food for a subsequent thread with scale comparison shots.