Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mediaeval Cogs...

Every now and then a serendipitous discovery leads one down fascinating and exciting paths. Years ago, looking out for sources of buildings for wargames, I found copies of Usborne's books - Mediaeval Village, Sea Port and Roman Fort. There are others.

But the sea port included a feature I had not altogether expected: a 3-D paper sea-going vessel. There were a couple of 'flat' small craft as well - always good for a diarama - but it was this cog-type vessel that took my fancy.

There it is in the back cover depiction of the Sea Port completed: lying to against the the mole, or breakwater.

As you can see by this plan, I never did build the model in the book - though I will one day. I went one better. Using it as my template, I made one up using different materials...

... and here it is. The masts were lollipop sticks (Chup-a-chups, probably. I don't have much of a sweet tooth myself, but have been fortunate in my choice of family members...). Sails: tissue paper, chosen for their lack of stiffness compared with other types. The sails were criss-crossed with brown or black cotton. I didn't bother with rigging, but it could have been added with a little trouble.

The whole vessel was painted with enamels, acrylics and/or water colours as the mood took me. The shields draped about the fore- and after-castles, in order to lend them a military look, were made up in strips, with the designs in pen and felt-tip markers.

The bases were as prescribed for DBM 15mm scale. Given their derivation from the Usborne books that employ a broadly similar scale, they could probably have been crewed with 15mm figures as well, though I suspect 10mm would look better. All the same, these are not large vessels!

Having built one, I had to build more. A certain wargaming buddy was using Mediaeval Germans at the time, and wanted 3 cogs as his naval contingent.

This next cog was something of an experiment in building up the hull with strips of cardboard as strakes laid 'clinker fashion' with the upper edge of each strake oberlapping the next upper strake. Unfortunately the close-up picture showing this didn't come out, so I can't show it...

The thing wasn't an unqualified success by any means, yet the finished article looked OK. I gave that vessel the shields of a single sponsor that favoured a quartered argent and sable design.

The final vessel was slightly larger than the other two, but the overall design was the same. The foremast was raked forward slightly; the mizen slightly aft. I quite liked the look of this one.

Finally: some pictures to show how a fleet can be more exciting to look at than a single ship...

The next close-up was really just an arty shot to show foresails, forecastles and the ocean trodden by the three cogs in line abreast. The bases were simply painted, though a little sand laid out in ridges by way of a wake would have looked pretty good, I reckon.

With flags and pennons fluttering gaily in the breeze, one can well imagine the order of Edward the Third to his ship's captain: 'I wish to tilt with that one!'

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Byzantine Navy...

I guess I ought to be finishing the next part of the Raesharn Spring Offensive of 66941, but right now we have Broadband issues that dissuades me from that for the time being.

Instead, I thought I'd do something completely different. Years ago, whilst visiting Greece with my partner, Karen, we took a look, among a multitude of fascinating sites, sights and museums, the Nautical Museum of Greece, I think in Khania, Crete. Therein I found a couple of fine postcards featuring models of some of the Byzantine dromons on display.

You can see that the sketch that heads this post was modelled upon the first of the postcard pictures.

Having long had a Byzantine wargames army of the 11th century, I bethought myself to add some naval elements. To be honest, I never got past the first one.

I scaled the thing roughly at 500 to 1. The length of the vessel is 10cm (representing c.50m) long by 2cm beam - possibly a little beamier than it ought to be as the length width ratio seems to have been nearer 7:1 than the 5:1 I allowed myself.

The frontage of the element was the standard 40mm for a 15mm-scale army, but that meant, of course, a rather more depth than usual. The old DBM rules were pretty flexible in this regard, fortunately.

The materials used for this model were my usual assortment of cardboard, balsa, bits of skewer, tissue paper, cotton and pins. The shields lining the waist of the vessel were the severed heads of the pins I used for the oars.

One of the fascinating features of the dromon was its little fighting tower in the bow, with a long Greek fire projectors (syphons?) over the port and starboard quarters, and through the mouth of the dragon figurehead.

I really, really, must make some more of these...

Friday, February 17, 2012

A new Campaign, Part 1: Preparations

White we still have quite a bit of back history to fill in, Jono and I decided to begin the Campaign of 66941 with a attempt by Raesharn forces to break the deadlock imposed upon them by Kiivar's army just as late autumn morphed into the winter of the previous year.

The Raesharn-Omez High Command began by assaulting the centre of the front towards the city of Nazpu, which point had formed the high water mark of the Raesharn 'Operation Redbeard' the previous summer.
The rather bad photo, badly touched up, of the map is roughly how the the thing will look once the playing pieces of the respective armies have been prepared. The plan is to run the campaign on this map, with specific battles being settled by representative small scale actions as a table top wargame. Whenever the map play has to be suspended, all we have to do is photograph the thing for setting up next time.

The sector of front was held by a platoon of the 83rd Shing Wong Infantry Regiment, supported by a squadron of light tanks from 17th Wah-Hey Armoured. A dedicated composite battery of 1x15cm and 2x10cm howitzers gave artillery support. The Infantry platoon's two sections were each divided into 4-man fire teams, with an anti-tank rifle assigned to one from each section. It was also reinforced by a heavy machine gun and a medium anti-tank gun on either flank, and an infantry gun covering the centre. The front was covered here and there by barbed wire entanglements that covered rather tenuous mine 'strips'... Kiivar High Command had intended to garnish the whole position with anti-tank obstacles and extensive minefields, but shortages had left much of this work undone (I couldn't find my stuff). So, beneath the barbed wire, the engineers has placed a line of anti-tank mines - a slender enough defence, as it turned out.

Much weakened by earlier fighting, Raesharn units had not fully been made up to strength as the winter rains gave way to spring sunshine. The Raesharn had available a weak regiment of tanks (2 squadrons of two medium tanks apiece) and a rather attenuated battalion little more than company establishment; a troop of cavalry; some anti-tank guns, and a battalion of 4 artillery pieces.

The local Raesharn commander probably felt that his forces were none too many for the task, yet, as this action was to show, the outcome of battle is apt to be unpredictable.
(to be continued)

Monday, February 13, 2012

More on Naval Warfare in Jono's World...

Prospects seem fairly bright that Jono will be starting a blog of his own about his world - or in fact, several worlds - that have sprung from his fertile imagination.
For the time being, though, I'll be continuing the occasional posting as preparations for wars in the setting of Sideon IV continue to take shape.

For this posting: more work on navies. Readers will have seen elements of the Raesharn and Kiivar navies in past postings. The latter is merely a rump, much of it lost in heavy air attacks and interceptions on the high seas shortly after the declaration of war.

Here we see elements of the Sarbian Navy, a squadron comprising cruiser, aircraft carrier and battleship, under Raesharn air attack. The Raesharn attack comprises several stands of single-engined carrier-based aircraft, but a stand of land-based twin-engined bombers has joined the fight. Two stands of fighters from the Sarbian carrier attempt to fight off the attackers.

I've been calling a stand of aircraft a 'flight' and probably will continue to do so, but it is more cognate to a squadron of, say, 12 to 15 aircraft. In these navies, carriers, with a single exception, operate 4 'flights' (say 48-60 aeroplanes), that can be used as fighters, bombers or torpedo bombers as the player directs. The single exception is the Kiivar Carrier KNS Condor, a rather larger vessel than usual (I had an appropriate piece of wood I used as the flight deck that turned out to give a significantly larger vessel than the Raesharn had). The Condor - sole surviving carrier in Kiivar's possession - can operate 5'flights'.

It seems likely that I will be contructing stands of single aurcraft as 'scouts' or reconnaissance patrols.

Although I have limited the navies to the following vessels: Carriers, Battleships, (Heavy) Cruisers, Destroyers, Submarines, Landing Craft and Merchant Vessels (MVs), I find it already tempting to add 'in-between' types: battle cruisers, armoured cruiser/pocket battleships, light cruisers, and escort carriers. This leaves out smaller craft like mine layers and sweepers, flak ships, armed trawlers and Motor Torpedo Boats. But that is I think to over complicate something I would much prefer to keep simple.

Readers might ask why I have gone the 'cartooned balsa' route, rather than, say, obtaining 1:4800 or maybe 1:2400 scale models. One is expense, but the main one is that I have never found the tiny models particularly engaging. The balsa vessels have each a character of its own, which, by engaging their commanders' synpathies, I hope will have interesting effects on naval strategy.

Once I have organised a really simple naval wargame playable on a fairly small surface, then some back history (i.e. destruction of most of Kiivar's blue water navy) will be enacted by way of a play test. I have a couple of scenarios in mind already:
1. Battle of the River Bowl. A pair of Kiivar cruisers returning home from a pre-war diplomatic mission is to be intercepted by a Raesharn task force comprising several destroyers and cruisers supporting a single battleship. This task force has been split up into a number of groups patrolling athwart the Kiivars' likely course.

When one of the groups encounters the Kiivar ships, they call for aid from their friends, but have to engage the enemy to prevent their escape...

2. Amethyst Harbour/Pitchanto. A powerful air attack by carrier-borne aircraft attack a significant portion of the Kiivar fleet whilst they are still in port.

Some ideas to chew on for the next few weeks. The next posting is a generating circumstance of a Raesharn land offensive to capture a major Kiivar city. The Raesharn armour breaks through, but does that mean the battle is won?