Sunday 17 March 2019

Cruel Seas: Italian Fleet

The Blue, Blue Mediterranean

Have just finished painting my Italian Fleet - that's fleet 3 if anyone is counting.

The Italians made beautiful ships: ships, cars, planes, suits, just about everything looks more stylish if it come out of Italy.

Night Falls

Keep a sharp look out for those damned Inglese in their Vespas (shurely shome mishtake? ed.) and Dog Boats, Lorenzo.

Great models; Highly Recommended.

Thursday 14 March 2019

Review:Tumbling Dice Pe-Dreadnoughts

Scale Shot Against A 10p Coin of The Realm

Pre-Dreadnoughts have always fascinated me. They existed in a brief slice of historical time between the iron clads and true battleships when naval architects were still experimenting with how best to mate steam power, steel armoured ships and long range shell firing guns into the optimum package.

Unfortunately, sources of models are limited.  I had even half convinced myself to buy the large 1:350 display models before sanity intervened.

Over at Cavalier, I happened to see a display of Tumbling Dice's Tsushima starter pack range of miniatures. I had previously rejected these because they seemed so small at 1:2400 scale but, on seeing them painted up in the, ah, pewter; well, they looked great.

And this  from a person who declines to buy and paint any model smaller than 20mm owing to fading eyesight and unsure hands.

The Doomed

The detail in these little ships is excellent. And they are beautifully sculpted and very hard edged making them dead easy to paint. They take washes and highlighting easily. There is absolutely no problem of distinguishing different classes of similar ships.

Togo's Tigers

Tiny little ships, like torpedo boats, come attached to sea bases. I am not sure whether I will bother to base their larger cousins. They look good as they are and, with a hard gloss varnish finish, should be reasonably robust to paint wear.

TD have many  models in their 'Age of Battleships' range with even more planned.

I can see myself collecting all Paul Sulley's Pre-Dreadnoughts.

Highly Recommended.

Sunday 10 March 2019

One Hour Skirmish - Colchester Club: Cross Of Iron MiniCampaign

The Cast

Steven from the Colchester Wargames Club sent me a report of a mini-campaign that they devised using my One Hour Skirmish Wargame Rules.

Movie fast action was what these rules were designed to recreate so the Colchester club were using my book exactly as intended. I think this group approach wargaming in exactly the right way - to whit having fun with your friends.

I reproduce The Colchester campaign report below pretty much as Steven sent it to me.

Simon played Steiner, Steve played Kruger and Neal had the rest. Steven himself commanded the peace loving Soviet forces.

The Colchester Wargames Club is an informal group that  meet at: Stanway Village Hall, Villa Road, Stanway, Colchester CO3 0RH on every Friday evening 7-11pm.


Game 1 Opening Moves

Game 1 “Good Kill”
Recon platoon to destroy a mortar pit with 3x 82mm mortars and a maxim MMG and their crews and a command bunker.  To take out sentries, play as in close combat but the attacker adds an extra card (so 3 vs 1) due to surprise. If the attack succeeds, then it is a silent kill.  If unsuccessful, then sentry raises the alarm.

Germans, Motivation 4

Cpl Rolf Steiner, MP40 SMG, Pistol, 2 x Grenades, Binos, Leader 3, Inspiring, Lucky

Kruger, Pistol knife, 2x grenades, Fast, Scout, Bruiser

Cpl Schnobart, MP40 SMG, 2 x Grenades, Scout

Köne (bent ear) KAR 98 Rifle, Bayonet 2 x Grenades, Garotte, Bruiser

Axel/Kaiser (Blonde bloke), KAR98 Rifle, Bayonet,  Radio, Scout

Schmidt, KAR 98 Rifle, Scope, 2 x Grenades.  Dead Shot, Bruiser

Russians, Motivation 2
Sentry 1 - PPSh SMG
Sentry 2 - PPSh SMG
Sentry 3 – Rifle, Bayonet

Large Mortar Emplacement
3x 82 mm Mortars
Crew, 1 Pistol
Crew 2, Pistol
Crew 3, PPSh SMG
Crew 4, PPSh SMG

Command Emplacement
Officer, Pistol, Leader 1
Radio Operator, Pistol, Radio
Youngster, unarmed but blonde

Maxim Emplacement
Crew Served Weapon, Wheeled Maxim MMG, 2 x crew, 3 Shots (facing away so has to move by pivoting before it can fire)

The Russians are all facing away from the German approach through woods. They cannot make any actions until the alarm is raised by a sentry winning a combat or by a German shooting or by a grenade explosion. The mortars are firing, making enough noise to mask the German approach.  The Germans may capture instead of killing a young blonde Russian boy in the Command emplacement by beating him in close combat. 

Something Wrong With Our Grenades Today

Game 1 - Result
The Germans killed all 3 sentries silently but Kruger and Steiner missed with their first grenades into the mortar emplacement - rather embarrassing.  The Command bunker copped it from grenades but the young lad managed to survive.  Rather worryingly, the Maxim MMG turned around and was just lining up its three shots but Schmidt slotted one with his telescopic sighted rifle and Cpl Schnobart got the other crewman before it could fire.  A second set of grenades wiped out all 3 mortars and that was game over.

A German win with no casualties ("Good Kill") but they were a bit miffed not to have the Russian boy as a captive - he legged it off the board.



Game 2 “The Death of Leutnant Meyer”. A defensive action against a large Russian assault. Action centred on a tripod mounted MG34, with the Recon platoon and Lt Meyer at the centre of the action. Capt Stranski runs around at the back, controlled by the Russian player.  Russians work as horde, so just keep coming until a time limit is reached, when reinforcements arrive on 30 points as in the Zulu scenario in the One Hour Skirmish rulebook.

Germans, Motivation 4

Survivors of Game 1, any of which can substitute an MP 40 or PPSh SMG for rifle, (Steiner gets a PPSh from game 1) plus:
Lt Meyer, MP 40 SMG, Pistol, Leader 2
Pte Dietz, KAR 98 Rifle, Bayonet 2 x Grenades (“They are sending us babies now”)
Tripod MG 34 Crew – Crew served weapon, 3 shots

Cpl Schnobart counts as Dead Shot on MG34 if he joins the crew after either are downed or killed.

Captain Stranski (“Heroic Horses Ass”), MP 40 SMG, Pistol, Leader -2, controlled by Russian player using their action points, has a -2 morale effect when within 6 inches of the Recon platoon (so he negates 2 of Steiner or Meyer’s leadership)

Trenches count as hard cover so +2 cards.
After checking Army Morale at the end of each turn, the German player draws a card and notes the value.  Once this total has reached 30 the game is over as reinforcements arrive from Battalion and Steiner is wounded by an explosion.

Russians, Motivation 3

Officer, Pistol, Binos, Leader 2
8 x Ivans PPSh SMG, 2 Grenades
8 x Ivans Rifle, Bayonet, 1 Grenade
1 DP LMG Crew Served Weapon, 2 Shots, can move but costs 2 actions

Any Russians killed reappear at the tree line in the following Russian turn

Random Events, large artillery shells, AP 5, 3” radius 3 cards attack, 3-5” radius 1 card attack.  Centre of table, draw 3 cards, 1st card = clock face, next two cards = distance from centre of table. 

Lt Meyer's Charmed Life


The Russians suffered from consistently low action point cards so never really got their attack going.  The Recon platoon deployed swiftly and started taking out lots of Russians. There were a couple of close shaves from the random artillery and the Russians shot up the tripod MG42 but, with Cpl Schnobart working it, the Germans wasted Russians fast - just as in the film.  Lt Meyer was never really threatened though, other than by an artillery shell which he survived. Then the Russians turned an ace on their morale check - with lots of casualties it was game over.  

Again, no German casualties, Capt Stranski never really got going due to the shortage of Russian action points.  


Game 3 “Tank in the Factory” Another Russian assault but focused on the T34/85 in the factory part of the action. 

Germans, Motivation 3 due to stress, casualties and Stranski’s influence in the absence of Steiner.

Survivors of Game 2 (excluding Capt Stranski and Lt Meyer if they survived)

Option 1, add 3 x Teller mines to any Germans, close combat contact placed, AP5

Option 2, add a Pak40 75mm gun, AP7, 3” radius or an IG18 75mm Infantry Gun, AP4, 3” radius.

Russians, Motivation 3 as they are now seriously on the attack

T34/85 Medium Tank, Armour 4/2/1, 85mm Heavy Tank Gun AP7, 3” radius, coax and hull MG, arrives on Russian turn 3

Commissar, Pistol, 2 x Grenades, Leader 2
4 x Ivans PPSh SMG, 2 x Grenades
4 x Ivans Rifle, Bayonet, 1 x Grenade

Game 3 was quite a laugh as we used my 1/72 scale motorised T34/85, which actually managed to climb into the factory on its second move under its battery power. The Russian infantry were again too short of action points to get going fast but on Turn 3 the tank rolled forward and started slaughteringthe tail end of the Recon platoon.  The Germans just managed to get the key people out of the tunnel but Köne and Axel got wasted by the T34, both red card deaths at the end of the turn. 

The Victor

Overall Conclusion

Great fun, quite close to the film in Games 1 and 3 but in Game 2 the Russians just kept turning over low action point cards: stuff like this happens in real war and in some films though, so very enjoyable evening.  We used a mixture of 1/72 figures, by Pegasus, Italeri and Revell and lots of Amera and Bellona vac formed terrain for an old school vintage feel.

Monday 4 March 2019

Cruel Seas: Modelling Drache - The First Helicopter Carrier


It's the 26th September, 1943. You are looking through the gun-camera of a Bristol Beaufighter at a ship called the Drache - and she's taking a straffing from the Beau's four 20mm cannon and six .303 machine guns.

This time, she survived.

Drache is a very special ship because she was the very first to carry a helicopter on a flight deck.

Zmaj Sea Plane Tender

In 1928, The Royal Yugoslavian Navy decided it needed a  tender to support its seaplanes operating along the Dalmatian coast so commissioned an 83 M vessel from Hamburg that they named Zmaj - Dragon. The above drawing shows the ship as built with a central crane and two 3.29" Skoda AA guns plus two twin 40mm. The Zmaj carried a De Haviland Moth.


In 1937, the RYN converted Zmaj to a minelayer and used in that role during the German invasion. She was credited - and I use the word advisedly - with the sinking of of some Yugoslav civilian ships.

Zmaj was captured by the Germans on the 17th September, 1941 and renamed Drache - Dragon.

The Kriegsmarine re-designated her as a Flugzeugbergungsschiff (wonderfully expressive language - German), an aircraft rescue ship - pretty much changing the ship back to her original role

Schiff, Showing 4.1" Gun

At the end of 1942, Drache was moved to the Aegean and underwent a refit back to being a minelayer in the spring or summer of 1942. She was re-equipped with two 105 mm (4.1") guns, five 37 mm and six 20 mm cannon.



A rear platform was added with space for 240 mines on four rails.

The Germans also renamed her Schiff, but she is better known as Drache so I use that name here. Drache was successful as a mine layer, laying fields sinking two allied destroyers and blowing the bows off a third.

Brandenburg Marine Commando Boarding

She took part in the Aegean campaign, serving mainly as a troop transport; a task for which she was well suited due to the large uncluttered rear upper deck.

Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri ("Hummingbird")

The same deck made Drache ideal for trials as an experimental helicopter carrier. The chopper was unarmed and intended to be used as a spotter - submarines being visible at some depth in the clear, impoverished Mediterranean.

Drache - Final Appearance

On the 22nd September, 1944, Drache was anchored in Vathy Harbour on the island of Samos when the Beaufighters finally got her. Despite her heavy AA, the planes set her alight, killing her captain and many of the crew. She exploded and sank two hours later.


I made the Drache using the resin hull from a Warlord Games German minelayer as a base. This entailed changing the bridge, extending the raised fo'c'sle, flattening the rear, and laying a top deck. I should have moved the 'funnel' aft but it is an integral part of the resin hull and I confess that i just couldn't be bothered to chop it off and make a new one.

Landing Deck

The Flettner is a 1:300 metal model from Heroics & Ross. The chopper is manned and the deck crew are giving the go ahead to launch (more H&R German infantry models).

Successful Launch

The Flettner is up, up and away!

Action Stations

But what's this! After recovery of the aircraft a sneaky Beaufighter attacks at low level.


And straddles the Drache with a stick of bombs, setting the aircraft fuel alight.

Lucky Escape

A Spitfire makes a pass at a Warlord Games Stuka over Bomb Alley in 1940.

I have to say that these Warlord 1:300 planes are amazing. They are so detailed with recessed panels. Old 1:72 kits rarely managed recessed panels. Apparently, it's because of the modern use of CADCAM techniques.

The old unbranded Spitfire model from my collections is nice but it can't compare.