Sunday, 30 December 2018

Infantrielandungsboot or I-Lighter


The Germans used a small flat-bottomed motorised lighter or boat to move men and supplies around calmish waters - rivers, estuaries, the Baltic and Mediterranean. I-Lighters were particularly active around the Greek Islands.

I modelled these mostly using balsa wood. The original boats were around 15-18 m long so these are small models. They have a small one-barrelled automatic gun, an MG or 20mm cannon, on a mount near the bow.


This is the photo I used as  a template .

These boats were involved in combat with British coastal craft in the Med.

Dutch Plan

I-Lighters were built all over Europe so they probably varied a bit. These plans are from a Dutch workshop. Note the association with Siebel.

3D image

Another take on an I-Lighter.

Underwater Wreck

A wrecked I-Lighter found by divers off Croatia. This photo shows the stem.

The Helm Position

The View Aft

The Bow

Note that the bow is detached from the rest of the hull. Apparently I-Lighters could be disassembled for transport on trains.

You can read more on the Axis History Forum.

Lake Ladoga Patrol Boat

The last I-Lighters were used by the Finns on Lake Ladoga as gun boats with a 57mm gun fitted centrally .
Finnish Gunboat Underway

Out Of The Water

Again, these photos are derived from the Axis History Forum, which is a mine of expert opinion.

Size Comparison

To show how small these craft were, here is one of my scratchbuilt models alongside an S-Boot. Both are 1:300 scale .

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Cruel Seas: Kriegsmarine M35 Minelayer

Hellar 1:400 M35/40/43 Minesweepers

The M35 minesweeper was one of the most successful of the Kriegmarine's coastal ships. They were designed to supplement the older minelayers that had soldiered on since WWI. The M40 was a simplified mass production version and the M43 an improved larger vessel. Two hundred and eighteen were launched, of which around 100 were lost in combat.

They were equipped with two 105mm (4") cannon, three AA mountings (one on each side of the bridge and one in the X turret position, minesweeping gear or mines. I chose to equip mine with a typical load out of two 20mm autocannon and one twin 37mm.

The ships were used for minesweeping (duh!), minelaying, convoy escorts, sub-chasers, torpedo boats (M43) and as patrol boats.

Size Comparison

The Heller 1:400 model alongside a Warlord Games 1:300 S-Boat.

The Fleet

My Kriegsmarine collection in 1:300 to 1:400 grows: eat lead, Tommy!

Friday, 14 December 2018

Cruel Seas: Scotia Grendel LCI (S)

The Landing Craft Infantry (Small) was a small ship designed to carry troops from their base and unload them directly onto a beach after it had been stormed using small assault landing craft. They were never intended to lead an assault.

You can find out more about these craft here.

 This Scotia-Grendel model is from their high quality Ship-to-Shore 1:300 range of landing craft, designed to compliment their microarmour models.

It has a resin hull with many metal small-detail components. I always find these a pain to put together but the results are excellent.

The model is clearly based on a model in the Imperial War Museum of LCI(S) 507. This example was armed with two 20 mm autocannon for defence. Later models had four or even five 20 mm AA guns (plus whatever their crews could 'acquire' and weld on).

I added an extra 20 mm on the bow and a twin MG aft from spare bits.

Just to illustrate how small these craft really were, here is one alongside a Warlord Games plastic Vosper MTB in the same scale.

Final another IWM photo of the real 507.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Formula Ork

Da Ork racing car has a few features not found on a Ferrari.

Da warp jump drive to aid in overtaking, or example. Well there's nothing in the rulebook preventing warp drives.

Da grinda is very useful when a backmarker fails to give way. No one's complained yet, well no one whose been through the grinda, hurr, hurr, hurr.

Dis is a bit of da grey area in the rules but the shok attack gun and bombardment rockets are very useful if that dat Hamilton overtakes.

Da Boyz are stikklas for the rules: the car has not one but two wooden skid blocks - as well as some stickbombs.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

T-23 Torpedoboot

This is the finished cut down waterline model: a 1:400 Heller T-23 Torpedoboot.

Torpedoboots were fast, small warships designed to fire torpedoes at capital ships. They led to the torpedo boat destroyer, designed to escort capital ships. The destroyers were larger and far better weapons platforms so became attackers as well as defenders.

The Germans kept the torpedo boat concept going through the interwar years as coastal defence ships. They were not particularly useful but gradually grew into the successful Type 39 Elbing Class, which were about the same size as a British WEP destroyer so they were reclassified as Flottentorpedoboot.

The T-23 was unusual that it survived the war.  She was completed in 1943 and served in the Bay of Biscay, escorting blockade runners. She took part in the Battle of Sept Isles and the Battle of the Bay of Biscay.

From 1944, T-23 operated in the Baltic.

She was armed with four 4.1" guns, five AA mounts with 20 mm and 37 mm guns, and two triple torpedo tubes. The ship could achieve 33 knots flat out.

My Cruel Seas Kriegsmarine fleet is growing .

The S-Boats are 1:300, the U-Boat 1:350, and the T-23 is 1:400.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Cutting Down A Full Hull Ship Kit

You know the problem: the only kit that covers the model you want in the scale you want is inevitably full hull. So what is the easiest way to convert it to a waterline model suitable for wargaming?

Do not take a saw to the plastic; that way leads to shattering.

Use a sharp knife to score the unmade hull sides along the waterline. Many kids have lines marking the waterline as painting guides... And these work equally well as scoring guides for the blade.

If not then mark the waterline with tape.  Airbrush masking tape is fine.

Use the knife lightly, repeating on a small length, say two inches, as many times as required. Resist the urge to press hard and take your time. You are trying to score the plastic,  not cut it.

When a section is suitably scored, gently bend the plastic to snap it along the score line. Repeat along the hull half until it is broken in two.

You should have two halves as above .

Cement the two hull halves to the decking and check for rigidity. It should be fine but add supports as needed.

The underside should be pretty square but there will be slight notches and bumps.

Now sand down the model base on a flat surface, gently pushing the model across the sandpaper. Resist the urge to push hard.

The final waterline model should sit neatly on a flat surface.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Type IX U-Boat

The Type IX was one of the two mainstays of the Kriegmarine's submarine fleet. It was longer range and heavier armed than the ubiquitous Type VII.

There are many Cruel Seas scenarios that might feature a U-Boat, notably where a damaged boat attempts to struggle boom in the surface, possibly escorted by German coastal forces. It would be a prime target for MTBs and MGBs.

I made this mini from an Academy hull/waterline kit. The idea is that one can add the bottom hull, or omit it to make a waterline model.

This is okay in theory but in this kit the two hull shapes were not joined by a straight line so the waterline version is banana shaped. But no problem, boiling water and filled coffee mugs as weights soon sorted the matter.

These are beautiful little kits with multiple small parts and photo-etched bits..... Most of which I threw away. It's pointless to add them to a wargaming model as tiny detailed bits will not survive rough handling.

The keen-eyed will notice that the Academy kit is the standard Japanese naval 1:350 scale, not 1:300 as used by wargaming minis. Actually it little matters. Indeed,  it is an advantage to use a non-linear correlation between ship size and mini scale. By the time one gets to a Destroyer-sized ship model, 1-400 is possibly a good plan.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Cruel Seas Torpedo Boats Sprues

Managed to acquire an example of Warlord Games' Cruel Seas starter set sprues.

There are two sprues, and each makes two different boats: a mid and late S-Boat and a Type 1 and Type 2 Vesper MTB.

I made them up as intended, adding nothing with the sole exception of the Vospers' masts...which are way oversized.

If one wanted to add mast's to these vessels I would recommend nylon house brush 'hairs'. You could use fine wire but I have had bad experiences of putting my hands over models to move them without noticing a very sharp upward pointing wire! And they are a hazard to children.

The boats are great. ..highly recommended.

I am trying to blag an early review copy of the starter set for review .........

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Decommissioned MTB

This is a photo of Penpol Creek, where it runs into the River Gannel. Crantock and the open Atlantic is downstream to the left.

The headland opposite is Pentire, separating The Gannel Estuary from Fistral Beach....Europe's premiere surfing beach. I was born in a room in a house on top of this headland and this was my play area when I was a child. I learnt to swim in Penpol Creek.

The Gannel was an overwintering anchorage in the Nineteenth Century and a two masted schooner called the Ada was permanently laid up there. Horatio Hodges bought her and used her as a houseboat. Lord Haw Haw once boasted that she had been bombed by the Luftwaffe but the bombs feel on Trethellan Farm where my grandma later kept a caravan so yah boo sucks to Haw Haw. She was eventually turned into a curiosity Museum for tourists. The schooner eventually rotted out after WWII but the family bought a decommissioned MTB and mored her up on the Creek to house the Museum.

There were many of these boats de-militarised and sold off as houseboats.

This is a close up of Ada II. From her lines, I suspect she was a Fairmile, probably a Dogboat. I went on her a few times .

I think she eventually caught fire and burnt out in the 60s but I don't really remember.

 It was all a long time ago.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

New Evidence On Hastings

Research for the Hail Caeser supplement on the Normans had revealed some intriguing new Evidence about the battle .

Think I will have to rewrite the special character rules.

Monday, 17 September 2018

One Hour Skirmish Wargames

In the chaos of combat

I have always like the idea of skirmish games because (i) one can experiment with a small unusual army that one has no intention of turning into a 2000 point force, (ii) one can have a great game in a small area, and (iii) a game can be played theoretically in a limited time.

But many skirmish systems have only allowed points (i) and (ii) but not (iii). The logic has been that because a skirmish involves a limited number of models then each one has to have lots of complicated special rules. The trouble is that these slow the game right down until a thirty second encounter in game time takes an hour to play out in real time. Burned into my brain is a game of Foxbat & Phantom where a single pass by two Tornadoes on a Soviet formation took all day to play.

I wanted a skirmish game that had all the feel of the shootouts in Where Eagles Dare: I wanted to have heroes like Clint Eastwood jumping form cover and mowing down the bad guys with a schmeisser fired from the hip.

The problem is that one can’t just simplify the rules or one ends up with something completely bland that has no feel for the period.

So that was my first task: to speed up the game without simplifying the rules.

I started to experiment back in 2006 with my long suffering regular opponent, Shaun.

Much of the tedium in skirmish games concerns the dice-based randomiser system. This inevitably involves lots of tables with lots of modifiers. Clint Eastwood jumps out from cover and checks the hit number of his ballistic skill, modified by the weapon, range, target and concealing terrain and carries out a deal of mental arithmetic before...being gunned down by a stormtrooper firing his schmeisser from the hip on full auto.

It is a fact the skill in mental arithmetic is age-linked. The advent of cheap, powerful, easy to use, portable digital machines means that mental arithmetic skills are going the way of calligraphy as a universal skill.

I solved this by switching to a playing card based system. Playing cards offer a wide range of various probabilities from 1:2 to 1:52. Randomisers become simply a matter of drawing additional or fewer cards against the opponent, highest card wins. This system is mechanically fast and simple but very complex wrt the range of probabilities

This means that all the unit-data needed to play a game can be summarised in a few lines on a
card that the player keeps in front of them. The player spends 99% of his time considering what to move, where to move it and what to shoot at.

In playtesting, we found the act of turning over cards against each other competitively was fun in itself….kinda like pontoon.

The game is not bland, because the wide range of modifiers easily available using a single mechanism means that it is no hassle at all to give individual figures special skills.

For example, an ace sniper might draw two extra cards when shooting; a scout with concealment skills might draw an extra card over and above the terrain normal; and a skilled technician might draw three cards when trying to start a machine compared to a normal bod against a fixed number depending on the scenario rules).

The second major point after speed of play that I wanted to address was chaos. Large ‘things’ with multiple sub units, like one division versus another, are easy to predict because all the chaotic interactions cancel out. Tiny subunits, like one person against another, are controlled by chaotic processes and so are unpredictable. That’s one reason why one needs a wide range of probabilities for a skirmish game.

This game rewards player who can handle chaos and exploit changing circumstances: it is poker rather than bridge.

I introduce this chaos by the way the game turn is structured. A turn is divided into phases. The player who wins the phase initiative draws a card to get command points that are spent moving and firing figures one at a time. A single figure can make up to three moves before firing (or doing something technical) but each extra move cost exponentially increasing command points. The extremes are moving lots of things once and not shooting or moving a few things a long way. Command points can vary between 1 and 13 depending on the card drawn.

When a player has used all their points, initiative switches to their opponent. This continues until a Joker is drawn by either player whereupon the turn end immediately. Players go to the end of turn phase.

Army moral is tested to see if one (or both) armies have had enough and retreat. This is based on a card test on the actual number of soldiers that have been killed. Using an absolute measure rather than a percentage makes the game self balancing and introduces the ‘heroic’ Hollywood-feel that I wanted to simulate. Having lots of indifferent troops lurking in the middle distance will not stop your army from withdrawing but leadership is critical because they add extra cards when testing morale.

Assuming both armies survive, models knocked down by shooting are tested to see if they are
permanently out of action (doesn’t necessarily imply killed - they could have gone to ground) by drawing a card for each: Red is Dead.

There is no bureaucracy in the game to slow things down. Models defeated in close combat are removed, shot models are knocked down. A good tactic is for one of your figures to make the knock down and the another to close combat the down figure whereupon a kill is automatic.

The book is structured into eras, with each era introducing special rules for the period and an historical scenario with army lists based on a real event. The scenarios get more complicated as appropriate new rules are added, eg automatic weapons, armoured vehicles, guided weapons and, er, rayguns and psychic powers.

The eras are (i) Early Days - Age of the Musket, The Rifle Era, (ii) The Twentieth Century - Wars Within Peace, World War II, The Cold War, (iii) Extending The Game - Pulp Action.

There are rules for campaigns, including a WWII example. A points system is included, although the system is forgiving for asymmetric warfare, and ideas for modifying scenarios to refresh them.

The book is to a large degree a skirmish tool-kit. Because skirmish games are so dependent on scenarios, I wanted very much to provide an open ended system so buyers got the maximum value for their hard-earned dosh.

What made me turn what was intended just to be an experimental system to test new ideas into a commercial product was a constant reaction from each new playtester:

“This,” they said, “is fun!”

Thursday, 9 August 2018

'Nam: The Air War

F4 Phantom

The next air campaign that I intend to cover for my new game is the air war over North Vietnam.

F105 'Thud'

Accordingly, I have bought a few suitable 1:300 models from Scotia-Grendal's Collectair range. These are old fashioned metal models (lead alloy?) and some of the moulds are slightly ragged BUT they are excellent value for money. This whole collection cost less than £30 including postage.

Mig 17

The Soviet fighters are really small compared to American planes. These obsolete 17s gave the USAF and USN some real headaches.

Mig 19

The Mig 19 was not exactly a roaring success after the 17 and 15, and was not used much by North Vietnam.

Mig 21

The 21, armed with two reverse-engineered Sidewinder missiles, was a formidable opponent. The fighter/interceptor is the same generation as the Lightning and Starfighter.