Thursday, July 31, 2014

Latest Word from WTJ, Planning and Progress

So, the latest word from Jim at WTJ re: upcoming releases...

"I've got pics of Queen Elizabeth and Chatham, I'll be posting those on the Yahoo Group in the next day or two [edit - this is where the BC HMS Lion pic already is] and once Iron Duke is ready I'll post them all for sale. This will probably also include several destroyers which have wandered to completion alongside the QE."

UPDATE:  here they are:

When asked about the choice of Chatham for his first Light Cruiser, Jim had this to say:

"Chatham is the Town class group with the profiled bow, not previously given good coverage. Also, her sister-ship was Sydney, who sank the Emden. Definitely worth the coverage and also includes the Birmingham variant with two guns up forward. I've actually seen postings on other forums asking why there are no good Chatham models around, so that will be taken care of! :)"
for some good info on this class.

UPDATE: And here's some more:

Regarding the 1910 Town class of the Chatham, Sydney and Birmingham, there's some easy confusion with the 1936 Town Class, a different ship altogether.  I found this article quick and helpful [use with salt of course]:

Jim plans to release the Chatham sub-class [six ships] with the Birmingham sub-class [four ships] as well.  These are:
HMS_Chatham_(1911), HMS_Dublin_(1912)
HMS_Southampton_(1912), and three Aussie ships:
HMAS_Sydney_(1912), HMAS_Melbourne_(1912)
and of the Birmingham sub-class, 
HMS_Birmingham_(1913), HMS_Lowestoft_(1913)
HMS_Nottingham_(1913), HMAS_Adelaide_(1918)
all of which have wiki links at the above site.

So the possibility of ten Light Cruisers altogether, certainly worth a squadron of four or so.  And the perfect squadron may be the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, which composed Southampton [flag, below in a nice quarter view], Birmingham, Nottingham and Dublin

It was quite famous under the leadership of William Goodenough [can anyone named good enough not be good enough for us??] and fought at Jutland as well as raising a bit of hell under Goodenough on their own.  So will I be getting four of them...heck yeah!

One famous ship of the Town class was Glasgow, of Coronel and Falklands fame [wiki pic from above site]:

So we're looking at two famous Battleship classes, the Queen Elizabeth and the Iron Duke, one Battlecruiser class, the Lion, plus TWO neglected Light Cruisers, plus some destroyers.  Quite exciting!  I certainly won't be able to resist any of it and now know where the $130 I got from selling my Kickstarter version of Designers Edition OGRE is going...

Funds are also going to better turn gauges for GQ3.FAI and bases for my big ships.  After some deliberation I decided to run with the Old Dominion Game Works acrylic 5"x1"x1.5mm bases.  Careful measuring indicates they'll fit the big ships well, and they come with a wake [not funeral]:

I may try to spiff up the wakes a bit, but it gets me started quickly and I don't want to have people handling the ships directly after I've put on their masts and maybe a little rigging.  It will also make them easier to turn on the new turning gauge as the bases have some height:
While I'm not enthusiastic about spending money on game aids, the ability to match the base of the ship to the gauge seemed worth it - less chance of handling the ship [and breaking it].

As I plan to use some fancy ocean mats, it seems worth it to have the clear bases.  Plus it makes the ships blend in better regardless of the surface that's being played on.  So, better if I am guesting somewhere or bringing my own mats.

Speaking of which, the mats I ordered are two large ones from Corsec:
Two 80x60" mats were $80/each, and given how seriously I've been playing and throwing naval games, it seems worth it.  I like the look, which is from a satellite photo, they say:
 I _think_ they'll scale well with these models.  Someday will need different mats for 1/700 ships, but will wait upon that event.  Emailed Jonathan at Corsec, and he said the mats were at the printer, about a week after ordering them, so not bad on the timing.

Overall, lots of developments!  But with an anniversary of Savo Island in the works, as much as I can spare for this project at this time.  More coming, but for now we'll probably have to turn to that scenario due to time constraints.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Ships Have Docked! German Fleet arrives in good shape.

OK, the ships arrived very nicely sealed and packaged, a total of about 17 days after placing the on-line order on July 6th.  These rapid-prototyped plastics are usually printed to order, so take a bit longer than some of the ships that are pre-made in batches, like the 1/3000 metal ones.  

A sort of bag'n bubble wrap system was used, with the ships in little bags taped to layers of bubble wrap:

Shipping seems to have been relatively uneventful for all the vessels but the Hindenburg [an ill-omened name?]:
The five Kaiser BBs

 Comparison shot of 1916 Kaiser and 1916 Konig - 
can YOU tell the difference?  Yes, that's right:
 the captain's chair cupholder is deeper on the Konig!

 The four Konig BBs

 Three Battlecruisers:  Derfflinger, Lutzow and Hindenburg.  

"Captain, we hit the Memorial Twin Span on our way in!"

The bits at the bottom of the last two picks are from the Hindenburg's mast - three supporting poles and a crows nest of sorts.  An email to Jim gave the option to replace with same, or to replace with a solid mast version [stronger] which is in the works.  I'm opting to wait and see how the solid mast looks.  I may just replace it with wire supports as I don't want someone to break it in play, and wire's the best way.  No big deal, and good customer service from Jim as always.

And here's a great close-up of the Hindenburg's mast:

Hopefully, my ship will fare better!

So the verdict - amazing models, amazing price, amazingly easy to prep.  No trimming, no assembly, half the price of GHQ and I think they look just as nice.  Definitely better than metal which requires a lot more prep.  And of all the stages of wargaming models, I think cleaning and prep the most annoying.  While they seem to be as potentially fragile as metal models, the additional details make them worth the trouble compared to the very robust Panzerschiffe, IMHO.

My personal goal is first to get a German and British fleet ready so I can throw games with a dozen or so ships per side in 3 squadrons of identical ships.  These can be divided into two divisions of two ships as players appear [late, etc] so there's plenty of commands.  But with only three commands per side a single player could also command them.

I'm leaning towards giving the British a numbers advantage - I've 12 Germans, I may go for 16 Limeys, sort of keep a historical percentage.  These are for my initial orders.

However, the ships are so DARN GOOD that I may have to commit to buying everything Jim makes [don't tell him...he'll bleed me dry!] for this theater, but it will also revolve around how many other abandoned gaming projects get sold off to fund this, and of course how often the ships get on the table.

More on preparation and such coming up!

"The Ships Are In the Mail" - really!

OK, got sent a lovely teaser from Jim at WTJ saying that the ships are in the mail and a pic:

Dang - that's an amazing sight!!  The dark surface brings out the many details, so you can clearly see that the three on the left are the battlecruisers, the four top are Konig BBs, and the five bottom are 1916 Kaisers.  I got one to be my squadron commander's ship.  Special prize to whomever can tell which of the five is the Konig Albert 1916...

And amazing customer service.  Jim said he's only doing this preview b/c the line is new and I ordered one or more of every early ship!  Fun to get a bit of extra attention.

The suspense builds!!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

War Times Journal continues to deal Naval Gaming "Crack"

Send me to rehab, or take away my check book!  [well, paypal account].  Check out these beauties:
Kaiser Battleship in 1/1500 and 1/2400

Derfflinger 1916, 1/1500 & 1/2400

Hindenberg Battlecruiser, 1917 in...1/2400???  
- yes, friend, 1/2400.  Amazing details!

So, like, yeah.  I saw these and got tongue-tied.
Sure, had some misgivings about buying into an incomplete line, but eventually said "hell with it" and bought a fleet of 9 battleships and 3 battlecruisers.  5 Kaisers, 4 Konigs and 3 Derfflingers.

The Brits are following fast behind - Go Jim!!  He posted a great pic at the yahoogroup of the Limey's who're definitely getting slimey.  The HMS Lion, one of the Big Cat Brit Battlecruisers:

If I asked Jim to help, do you think she'd go out with me???

Next up - my WTJ ships are on the way!

Why historical naval wargaming???

It seems like an obvious question.  It's of interest to me since I didn't have an answer for it myself.  I'd enjoyed my battered copy of "Wooden Ships and Iron Men" when a young lad [God bless those old Avalon Hill men!] and over time been affected by speculative fiction [aka "science fiction"] so actually got interested in gaming Star Wars space battles, initially.

While I was working on that project, I got dragged into playtesting another gamer's "enthusiasm du jour" which was modern naval wargaming.  Specifically WWII, in this instance, and we tried "Naval Thunder - Rise of the Battleship" with mixed results.  This made me dubious, as historical reading didn't validate my abuse of the game to my advantage as a US player.  However, my pal persisted and we then went to GQ3, and played Savo Island at least twice, maybe three times.  And that's when the lights went on for me.

The bottom line for naval wargaming, is that naval warfare is VERY technical.  If you aren't faced with the same issues as the commanders at the time, you are just doing "beer'n pretzals" which is totally fine, really.  Far as I'm concerned, a good game of The Sword and the Flame beats most other games any day!  But naval gaming...well, it DEMANDS a commitment to the technical issues, or well, you really aren't gaming that war at sea.

What I liked about GQ3, is that it presented the technical issues in a way that was palatable, and also workable, while informing the gamer about the issues involved.  So not only were the rules playable "as is" with the Rules As Written - RAW - but I felt more free to "tweak" for a scenario b/c I understood what the original design compromises were btw playability and reality.

I was hooked.

I read memoir after memoir from the perfect WWII campaign, the Solomons in '42-43.  I read the USN's own analysis of their many setbacks, I read Hara's "Japanese Destroyer Commander", it was great stuff.  I got my own 1/2400 miniatures [Panzerschiffe] and ran a number of games at a local club.  I was tolerated for my enthusiasm and no one complained when I switched scale to 1/700 and focus to destroyer actions.  My favorite resource:

If anything, the games got more popular.  I did intense, close studies of a number of DD v. DD encounters at night, and ran at least a dozen battles in the Solomons.  Loved it all - ships, scenarios, everything.

Naval battles.  They pretty much rest on the edge of a knife - stray a little, and all will be lost. Victory goes to the side that is most technically proficient, first.  Second, it goes to the bold. So you can make up for _some_ technical deficiencies with sheer guts.  

Naval gaming.  Basically, you have to give the players a time and place where the technical factors are close enough that tactics and guts are enough to win the fight - I also think it helps if _historically_ the sides were committed to engage one another.  So the Solomons are perfect - IJN training and ships v. USN tech and ships.  The USN is green but aggressive, arrogant  and brave, and they have radar [which they're just beginning to understand].  The IJN is experienced and smart, with intense night training and advanced optics, plus an understanding of their slight edge that can give them victory and willing to risk it for a win. 

Later in the war, the radar advantage gives the Allies such an edge that gaming scenarios are wipeouts or feel forced ["12 conditions need to be just right for the IJN to engage and hope for success" type of thing].  But the Solomons saw intense major and minor naval battles.  The only other WWII campaign that seems close is the Mediterranean in 1940-2, where the Axis was committed to supply Rommel, and the British held on for dear life.

But now, 2014 has brought on a new period to my gaming horizon - WWI.  Initially, the "problem" came up when some gamer junkie posted his lovely ships from War Times Journal at  Instantly, my long-time desire to collect a couple fleets of pre-dreads was inflamed.  WTJ has it down - perfectly - with their rapid-prototyped plastics.
However, after lots of thought and polling the local gamers, I had to go with WWI as it's the 100th anniversary AND it is the ultimate B5 - "Big Boats Bashing Big Boats" era.  

Yes, the commanders and governments were usually too chicken to risk their very expensive toys, but WWI has some real appeal for the naval gamer.  Neither planes nor mines dominated the battlesea as they would in WWII, yet you get to use HUGE battleships.  Is it as good as the pre-dread?  I think not.  The planes, mines and torpedoes were weaker in the pre-dread era, so if you want B5 and don't care about the scale of the boat, go for pre-dreads.  But if you want an intense knife-edge conflict, it's harder to find something as perfect as the North Sea, 1914.

Then WTJ came out with WWI printed plastics, and I knew I had to go with 1/2400 WWI.  
The reasons:
  1. Intense battleship encounters,
  2. Lots of historical scenarios,
  3. difference but parity btw the Germans and Brits,
  4. Lots of opportunities for others to jump in - cheap with Panzerschiffe, pricey with GHQ,
  5. for me, the perfect balance of detail, price and assembly ease with WTJ ships.
  6. Campaign-arama with Avalanche Press games, especially "Jutland", "Mediterranean", and "Cruiser Warfare".
So here we are, with 1/2400 WWII, 1/700 WWII destroyer actions, and now 1/2400 WWI Battleship Battles, all looming over the horizon.  It happens so quickly...

And what about sci-fi spaceship battles??  One thing I've realized, is that the circumstances of historical tension ARE the underlying perfection to a naval game.  One can't just make up the intricate variables that make a specific period perfect, like Solomons 1942-3, or the Med 1941, or the North Sea 1914-15, etc.  And people who write space games utterly fail to get that.  It's not enough to write a great set of space battle rules, you have to INVENT technological differences and variety that are balanced and interesting to game.  Why bother?  Just play history, if you really get it.  No one writes fiction as good as real life, and game designers at best do a poor imitation of WWI and WWII naval wargaming in outer space.

Anyone want to buy some Star Wars fleets?  I've got what you're looking for!