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.