Sunday, November 9, 2014

Progress on the WWI front...with Floatplanes!

Our recent group mega-order from Shapeways arrived and with it the fun. I've got a lot of work lined up for the winter. For a quick start, I primed two models that were ready for priming. These are two German Imperial Naval Air Service planes - the W12 two seat fighter and the W29 late war two seat monoplane.

The W12 is in the foreground with the W29 behind.

These models are printed in the Fine Ultra Detail (FUD) material. It's basically a smooth plastic resin that provides great details. The only downside is that it's not as durable (i.e. game table friendly) as the White Strong Flexible (WSF) in which I get most of my models printed.

You can see the detail on the wing ribs, the engine exhaust and struts. 

The model has the Wings of Glory flight peg cast to the bottom of the model - that's a plus.

The W12 next to it's predecessor the KDW.  North Seas gaming anyone?

Wonderful detailed model. The only assembly required was to attach the propeller.

Monday, October 20, 2014

1/600 ACW ship models from Shapeways.

I recently stumbled across a designer on Shapeways that made 3D models of ACW ships available. Shapeways, for those that do not know is a 3D printing company. Their printers can lay down a model one layer at a time. The finished product is a one piece model with no (or is some cases a little) assembly required.

Brown Water Navy Miniatures produces several models in 1/600. I ordered two of them - USS Monitor and CSS Baltic. I've been using 1/144 model planes from Shapeways for the past year, but this was the first time I'd found ACW ship models.

The models are durable. If you are familiar with the "White Strong and Flexible" material used by Shapeways, you know that it's a porous, tough material. It's a staple for the 1/144 airplanes and is a great material for table top miniatures - light and tough. The downside is that it's porous. To get a smooth surface for painting, you need to do a bit of prep work filling and smoothing the surface. But hey - it's a relatively cheap model ($6.00 for USS Monitor).

The USS Monitor is well sculpted with easily recognizable details. I've built several 1/600 kits of the Monitor, as a result, I feel comfortable reviewing this model.  Let's start with the basics, for a 1/600 model, it's a little on the small side. Checking Silverstone's Civil War Navies, we find the Monitor should have a length of 179 feet and a width of 41.5 feet. In 1/600, we're looking for 3.58" long by 0.83" wide. The model is 3" by 0.77" which by my numbers is 84% long and 93% skinny compared to the expected result.'s a little small.

The model sports a mix of features that don't cleanly mesh. The pilot house is the post-Hampton Roads refit with the improved angled armor.

But the smokestacks are clearly the pre-Hampton Roads square boxes designed to be removed before action. Post-Hampton Roads these two exhausts are routed into a common funnel.

Here we are side by side with a Peter Pig monitor casting. The SWF 3D model does not have the same level of detail as the pewter cast Peter Pig model. The anchor well and forward hatch are missing, but the rear ventilators and aft hatch are present on the Shapeways model.

Okay...this is just a bad picture. (my bad.) You can see the armored ledge around the top of the turret and sort of see the sloped armor of the pilot house.

CSS Baltic has similar issues at 83% of expected length, but 101% of width.

Bow view of Brown Water Navies CSS Baltic.

CSS Baltic. This view shows off the 'grainy' surface of the WSF material. With a bit of work and a top seal coat, you can get a smooth finish. You don't get the surface detail  or Thoroughbred or BAY, but it's recognizable as CSS Baltic.

The wheelhouses are inline with the hull. Since there is no photographic evidence to the contrary...okay. It's similar to many of the Peter Pig models. It lacks the detail parts you'd get with Thoroughbred.

Not bad models, definitely game table pieces...but tough, durable game table pieces. If I was running a game for kids - this is the way to go. They'd be hard pressed to break anything. But if you are closer to the scale modeling end, you'll want to stick to the Bay Area Yards and Thoroughbred Miniatures stuff. 

I'll likely order some more models from Brown Water Navy Miniatures in the future. There are some interesting odds and ends that look like they scale out closer to true 1/600. Keep your eye on this guy - Brown Water Navy Miniatures and Shapeways could become another player in the 1/600 ACW space. 
resin that is really tough. It takes a bit of prep work, but it pays off in the painting.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Puttering about with the ACW models

I've been puttering with the 1/600 ACW ship models. Did some detailing on Union Casco class "torpedo boats" as well as work on some other models. Below are a few pictures of what's going on on the workbench. It's mostly slow work.

The big accomplishment was getting the primer coat on a couple of models. I'd had trouble getting Gesso to adhere to some of the the resin that Bay Area Yards used. I gave the models a couple of baths in warm soapy water and even tried CRC contact cleaner (don't try this at home kids!) to cut through the mold release agent.

Fortunately, with the recent spell of warm, dry weather, I could go to the old reliable method of using $1.50 a can gray spray paint from Wally World as a primer coat. I had no trouble getting the primer coat to stick to the models. 

Bay Area Yards CSS Texas with a primer coat applied.

CSS Texas is a new model in the Bay Area Yards lineup. The model seems to crouch on the table with the severely sloped casemate. I've got the model based and should be able to get this finished quickly.

Bay Area Yards timberclad USS Lexington.

I had a little trouble with the stacks on the Lexington. Sometimes, I'm my own worst enemy. One of the stacks was out of true, so I tried to bend it...and snapped it off right at deck level. I was able to reattach it, but the stacks are a bit out of true and look a little goofy. We'll see how it looks later with a coat of paint.

The timberclad in front of the Thoroughbred Figures model of USS Tyler.

I do like the variety in models we can access these days. Way, way back in the past, we were lucky to have one model of a timberclad from Peter you can get detailed models of the Tyler, Lexington and Conestoga from multiple manufacturers.

Union Ellet ram Lioness from Bay Area Yards

Last up - an Ellet Ram. Ever since reading Chester Hearn's book on the Ellet Brigade, I've been hooked on the whole concept of the rams on the Mississippi River. Fortunately, I was able to add the sternwheel ram Lioness to my collection before it dropped out of production. I like Lioness because this is a rare model of a sternwheeler and makes a great addition to your model fleets of sidewheel rams from Thoroughbred and Peter Pig. I'm not quite done with this model. It needs another top coat, then some weathering and finally a little touch up on the base. Should be able to join the fleet by November!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

More 1/600 ACW naval fun

A few pictures showcasing some of the recent and current projects on my workbench.

USS Minnesota with USS Housatonic on the starboard side.

Confederate gunboat Fanny alongside USS Minnesota. Models by BAY

Sidewheel transport from Thoroughbred Figures. The cargo is 15mm ammo crates from the Command Decision line.

A new model from Bay Area Yards - CSS Texas

CSS Columbia (top) from Thoroughbred and CSS Texas on the bottom.

Beam on comparison of the two models.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

CSS Mississippi - a comparision in 1/600

Years ago, before the glorious golden age that Civil War naval games now enjoy, finding some of the more offbeat ship models was a challenge. So much so that we were reduced to having to scratch build some stuff to have a tabletop model. Reaching back into the archives I found one such project - one of my early attempts to model the never completed ironclad CSS Mississippi.

I started with some rough text descriptions - similar to CSS Louisiana, simple construction, two funnels. Now I had a model of CSS Louisiana from Thoroughbred Figures, so that became the benchmark of the project.

Thoroughbred's CSS Louisiana, with USS Minnesota in the background.
Sketching out some rough shapes gave me a workable hull form. I cut the rough shape from scored styrene. Around this I added strip styrene to give the shape of the wooden hull. Atop this, I added a casemate also cut from scored sheet styrene. The challenge was cutting the pieces correctly so that they assembled into a mostly square edged, sloped rectangular casemate. The result looked like this.

Ray's CSS Mississippi

It's a little crude and dated. The stacks and hatches are styrene. The ventilators were salvaged from a Sassacus kit that had been sacrificed to the parts bin. The upper deck of the casemate does not quite join with the port side of the casemate wall, but otherwise, it gives the impression of a large ponderous ironclad that would have been CSS Mississippi.

As the years rolled by, my scratch built model was no longer alone on the market. Bay Area Yards rolled out a growing product line that eventually included a model of CSS Mississippi.At some point I added this model to my collection. Research into ACW ships had advanced greatly (or else Stephen had done his homework) for this model differed greatly from my creation.

The Bay Area Yards CSS Mississippi
While the two models share some common traits - approximately the same length, two stacks and a armored pilot house, our execution of the ship varied greatly. Stephen had modeled a sleek, low ironclad that seemed to share more with CSS Atlanta than the Louisiana.
Ray's scratch build on the left, the Bay Area Yards model on the right.

This beam on shot shows the dramatic difference in heights between the two models.

The overhead shot shows the similar hull forms that still end up different.

The Bay Area Yardshull is likely a more accurate model, but I have a strong attachment to my model. I'll keep both in the collection, if only to remind myself of where my modeling skills were at back in the day.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Smoke on the Water at Advance the Color 2014

After a seven year hiatus, I returned to American Civil War naval gaming at Advance the Colors 2014. On the first evening of the show, I provided a small game pittiing Union and Confederate ships against each other on the Red River. We had a good turn out with three Union players and two Confederate players. The Union Squadron consisted of the following

USS Chillicothe
USS Lafayette
USS  Choctaw
USS Marmora
USS  Argosy

The Union squadron had been the mission of raiding the Upper Red River and destroying at least one Confederate vessel or battery.  Facing them were the Confederates consisting of the remains of the River Defense fleet.

CSS Missouri
CSS Arkansas
CSS Indianola (captured earlier in the war)
CSS Sumter

Battery Savory...two guns - a medium rifle and a super heavy coastal Columbiad

Assisting their efforts were are minefield of torpedoes and some rocky obstructions about midway across the area of play.

The Confederates were tasked with defending the Upper Red River. All they had to do was not lose all their ships.

Designer's note: Okay, I looked at this and thought, "yeah, this is doable. Both sides have easy missions."

Union players - Darryl, Lawson and Craig, not pictured Shawn

The battle opens with a long range duel between the rifles of the Choctaw and Lafayette and Battery Savory. The Union immediately suffered a setback when one of the rifles on the Choctaw exploded. Parrott guns were known for their weakness and this guns proved no exception. 

The Union chose to advance in line. USS Marmora displayed a little too much enthusiasm and charged forward ahead of the fleet.

Marmora leads the way!
Battery Savory first engaged  the USS Choctaw, but then switched fire to the Marmora once it passed through the mines. In additon, the guns of the Indianola and Arkansas fired as well.

Marmora suffers multiple hits and catches fire.

The pummelling fire forced a morale check for the crew of Marmora. Lawson threw the dice and FAILURE! The crew has had enough and abandons ship. Worst, this allows the fire to grow unchecked.

Undeterred the Union continues to advance. Layfayette and Choctaw on the right, with Chillicothe and the Argosy on the left. The abandoned Marmosa slows to a halt...and the fire burns itself out. This leaves the uncrewed Marmora floating in the middle of the battle.

CSS Missouri approaches slowly screened by Sumter. Chillicothe and Argosy in upper right corner. Missouri and Chillicothe by Thoroughbred Miniatures. Sumter, Argosy and Marmora by Bay Area Yards.

Lafayette and Choctaw maneuver through the minefield untouched. Choctaw by Thoroughbred Miniatures. Lafayette by Peter Pig.

Battery Savory scored a lucky hit on Choctaw's magaine resulting in a spectacular explosion that rained damage on Lafayette.

Next came the 'ramming portion' of the show. Chillicothe collides with Indianola. Arkansas rams the Argosy. Missouri plows into the side of Arkansas. It's a wreck. Ships start to blaze away at point blank range. Argosy suffers heavy damage (from ramming and 11" shells) and fails it's morale check...the crew abandons ship.

Inidianola rams the Chillicothe. Models by Thoroughbred Figures.

The train wreck of ramming....CSS Arkansas model in center and tinclads by Bay Area Yards. Others by Thoroughbred Figures.

USS Argosy (Bay Area Yards model) busrts into flame following heavy fire from Indianola, Arkansas and Missouri.

On the Union left, Chillicothe collides with Inidanola and attempts to board...and fails. Both models from Thoroughbred Figures.

With Chillicothe's wheels shot away, her captain orders the ship scuttled and the crew over the side. His plan - to blow the magazine and take Inidianola out in the blast. This would fulfill the mission steep cost.

The Chillicothe bursts into a roaring fire. The countdown begins...can Inidianola get free in time.

(Ray: This is where I start quoting Khan from Star Trek II. "No, you won't get away this time....From hell's heart I stab at thee....")

Backing away from the blazing wrecks. Confederate victory is near...
I feel compelled to add that the Sumter, in turning around managed to sideswipe the riverbank and ground the stern of the ship. By the end of the game, the ship was still aground under the guns of battery Savory. Sumter fired a total of two shots the entire game.

In the end, the the Lafayette survives...barely. She's been shot to pieces and more drifts downriver than steams away. The Union have lost two ironclads and two tinclads and the Confederates have not lost a single ship. The result of the game - a resounding Confederate victory. There will be hard questions asked in Washington as to what transpired in the murky depths of Louisiana and why the navy ascended the river in the first place.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Adventures on the West Coast...

My job sent me to San Francisco for the week. While the days were long and the work was engaging, I was fortunate to be able to break away one evening and spend some time with Stephen Taylor owner/operator of Bay Area Yards and all round nice guy.
The National Maritime Museum has a great collection of sailing and steam vessels.

After meeting me for dinner, Stephen graciously invited me back to his place to hang out and shoot the breeze. This was easily the most fun I had the whole trip. The time flew by as we talked gaming, books, movies and reviewed miniatures from the collections of Stephen and his friends. Before I knew it, the evening was over and I had to return to my hotel across town.

It's always fun when how you imagine something to be runs into the reality of what it actually is. We often talk about many miniature wargaming manufacturers being 'cottage' industries. Stephen showed how true this was in the case of Bay Area Yards when he opened a case and said "This is Bay Area Yards" all the molds and some of the masters for casting all the models that BAY offers.

Bay Area Yards - this is where the magic happens.

Assorted 1/600 models ready to go! 

I used to think the Dunderburg was a large model! British casemate ironclads.

HMS Warrior...come out and play! The scale is in inches!

Stephen has a wonderful sense of humor and he carries this into many of his gaming projects. One example I'd wish I'd taken a picture of was his Kelly's Heroes Tiger tank....modeled after the Tiger tank in the movie.'s got the suspension of a T-34 and the turret of a Tiger, but mounted on the forward turret ring of the T-34 chassis. It's a great match to the prop from the movie.

Speaking of movies...this made me laugh! This was one of the more colorful command stands in Steve's collection. As it's not labeled, all we can say is that this is "the brigadier with no name."

You all remember the Rat Patrol, right? Willy's jeeps versus the wily Afrika Korps in the desert. Stephen's ready to game these actions with his custom figure conversions.

Pardon the blur, but this photo is supposed to show the Rat Patrol -with correctly modeled crews. The red kepi of the driver is obscured by the gun barrel.

And the classic "Germans" driving American kit conversions.

All in all - it was a great night meeting new people and having a great time bonding over miniature gaming. It was over all too quickly.

If  you find yourself in San Francisco - drop Stephen a line. He's a great guy happy to share information about his town and his hobby.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Smoke on the Water at Advance the Colors September 19th, 2014

I'll be providing an ACW naval game at HMGS-Great Lakes 'flagship' convention Advance the Colors. The game is 7:00pm on September 19th. Given the short slot available for the game, I'm forced to keep it relatively small. For simplicity, I'm going to use mostly tinclads and gunboats, maybe an ironclad or two per side. Possibly a battery of guns and the ubiquitous torpedoes and obstacles like "snags".

I'm going to loosely model this on the Red River campaign with some of the 'what if' elements that the Anaconda campaign game allowed to happen. What I'm thinking is...

Union Squadron with;

USS Chiilicothe
USS Lafayette
USS Choctaw
USS Argosy
USS Forest Rose

Confederate Squadron with;

CSS Missouri............casemate ironclad
CSS William H.Webb.......paddlewheel ram
CSS Indianola (Captured earlier in the war)
CSS General Sumter....gunboat ram

Battery Van Foose
2 Medium Smoothbore guns

 The problem with convention games is that you never know how many players you will get or what their skill and experience levels will be.

So...this is a relatively low end game. Mostly light and medium guns with some heavies opposing heavily armored counterparts.

The alternative is to do Hampton Roads with Congress, Cumberland and Minnesota against Virginia. This has the benefit of being a short game with lots of opportunity to fire guns. 

Too much? Too little? Too weird?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Even more ACW naval models!

I keep sorting through stuff, so here's a few more pictures.

One day, I ought to build and index of all the models. But not today!

 First up some tinclads and timberclads.

Assorted tinclads and timberclads from  Peter Pig, Bay Area Yards and Thoroughbred.

USS Blackhawk was a large, lightly armed tinclad that has the distinction of serving as flagship of the Union Mississippi River Squadron. The model is from Peter Pig. As far as I know, it's only available from Peter Pig.
I added the forward mast, midships masts and stern mast. The paint scheme is based of an image from Silverstone's Warships of the Civil War. The vessel is large enough that she had a stable for Admiral Porter's horse.

USS Blackhawk

Next up USS Lexington (I think). This is a Thoroughbred model of a Timberclad. They saw heavy service early in the war especially at Forts Henry and Donnellson and the Battle of Shiloh.


Bay Area Yards does a nice set of Confederated River Defense Fleet rams, one of which is Earl Van Dorn. This is a small model - the photo does not do it justice. Even though it's small, there is great detail present.

Earl Van Dorn - a work in progress

Van Dorn on the quarter showing off her casemate.

Another small model - Bay Area Yards did the CSS Fanny. This is a small, steam powered fishing vessel that was converted into a light gunboat for the defense of coastal North Carolina. She mounts two light guns. Fanny fought in a handful of coastal actions before being scuttled to prevent capture (and to deny the Union use of the Dismal Swamp canal),

CSS Fanny from Bay Area Yards

Yet another Confederate  from Bay Area Yards, this one is a little larger - the commerce raider CSS Florida. Florida is a cruiser with moderated armament and decent endurance.

CSS Florida from Bay Area Yards. The model sports a set of Bay Area Yards masts.

Close up of CSS Florida. This will look good when I finally finish the model.

Switching back to the Union for a bit, I started pulling out tinclads. I found a set of four that share a common parentage. All four were sculpted by Patrick Hreachmack. Two are resin that Patrick cast himself, 2 are models he did for Bay Area Yards - Argosy and Forest Rose.

Attack of the tinclads

Needs more tinclad. Forest Rose and Argosy on the right side.

Forest Rose from Bay Area Yards

Mortar Schooners. Thoroughbred's on the left/front. Peter Pig in the right/rear.

USS George Page. Another is a series of small warships from Bay Area Yards.