Monday, December 29, 2008

DANG 2008

I'm just back from my sojourn to Dave Schueler's house in West Seattle. Today was the date for the 2008 edition of Dave's Annual Naval Game, one of my most looked forward to gaming events of the year. I'm not quite sure what number or edition or version of DANG this year's hoo-hah was, but I think I'm a veteran of at least five DANGs.

Dave begins planning these affairs months in advance of the date, doing his best to be as inclusive as possible. They are almost always in the week between Christmas and New Years when most of us have some time off. After pinning down a date, Dave proposes several (usually six or seven) naval topics ranging from Lepanto, which always seems to make the list, to hypothetical contemporary scenarios. Likely attendees consider the possibilities, make their priorities down, narrowing down the list, before choosing between the two finalists.

This year the masses opted for a modern naval conflict between disputed oil-rich waters dividing Indonesia from Australia using the Harpoon rules. Six of us made the trip to Daveland-David Sullivan, George Kettler, Paul Hannah, Arthur Brooking, Dave Creager and myself. We are all DANG veterans, so we knew what to expect-an interesting scenario with some tricky wrinkles, good company and tasty eats.

David, Paul and Dave opted for the Australians. I was talking to Dave's wife Lynn while we were choosing up sides, so I became an Indonesian by default, but I got to play with George and Arthur, my comrades in last year's Arab-Israeli massacre.

The game was built around conflict over some oil rigs around some islets. Arthur's command started on the board first. My task force would not arrive until three hours later (in game time.) In modern naval warfare that is an eternity. Arthur saw a blip on his radarscope and observed the commonsense modern naval maxim of firing on first contact. Unfortunately his Harpoon missiles were intercepted. The Australian missiles were not, however, and soon his missile boat and amphib vessel were smoking oil slicks. George commanded a frigate in this group, and though he lasted a bit longer the HMAS Newcastle soon had his way with him too. A photo of HMAS Newcastle appears at the top of the page. Within an hour the Aussies were in complete control of the board.

Our picture on the right is of Arthur's ships being relegated to smoking ruin.

It was looking a lot like last year's game when we simply could not bridge the gap between our armament and our enemy's superior weapons. We deliberately held back our 0500 reinforcements, so that they could combine with those arriving an hour later. We attacked the Australians only to have our missions fail due to superior AA defenses and better fighter cover. What could we do.

When the 0600 hour arrived the Newcastle had fallen into our trap. In an effort to eliminate the Indonesian oil platforms, the greedy Aussies had shelled our island port, and begun wrecking the platforms themselves. Newcastle and a small patrol boat put themselves firmly in the path of our new naval forces.

Though we prepared to extract some quick revenge, and retire to Djakarta with a declaration of victory, our old friend lady luck was still kicking us when we were down. My salvo of eight Harpoon missiles, entering the target rich environment, missed the annoying (and dangerous) Newcastle. One missile struck my own oil platform, converting it to twisted wreckage sprouting from an inferno. Three struck the little patrol boat, which sank faster than a twenty-four pound cannon ball.

One of Newcastle's sister ships popped up on radar. While George and Arthur let loose a blizzard of missiles on our old tormentor, I popped off four missiles at our new enemy-who fired eight of his own. Newcastle took three hits-finally and thankfully rolling over and plunging to the bottom. Meanwhile the incoming missiles sank George's corvette and Arthur's frigate. I nearly had the last laugh when the new enemy frigate took two hits from Harpoons, badly damaging it and knocking out the ship's radar. A second attack should have finished him off, but despite the damage, its phalanx gun shot down the attacking missiles. Life is unfair.

With that, Indonesians turned tail and fled talking up their tremendous naval victory, and preparing their statement for the UN Security Council as well as the international press. No, I don't quite believe it myself, but that's certainly how I'd talk it up.

As with each DANG it was a tremendously fun game, and quite the annual event. My thanks to Dave and Lynn and to all of my DANG colleagues.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Year End and A Look Ahead

Yesterday I went up to Renton to pick up the keelboat from Mark Waddington. It looks just as beautiful as the pictures Mark sent. Now I need to figure out how I'll use it as a gaming piece. We exchanged some scenario ideas over lunch. Now I just need some figures for Lewis and Clark's adversaries.

As promised, I've ordered the Spanish from London War Room. One bag each of the dismounted soldado de cuera. These "leather soldiers" were Spanish Presidial troops, the frontier garrison types who fought the Indians and kept the peace. There is some great information about these troops in California, as well as a description of them at the California State Military Museum and David Rickman's page on the Royal Soldados of Santa Barbara. It is known that mounted cueros intercepted Zebulon Pike's expedition in 1807, so it's not unreasonable to think that such soldiers would have been deployed to catch the Corps of Discovery. The following pictures are from Jose Maria Bueno's book on uniforms and a photo of a re-enactor.

The other bag o' troops are simply your basic Spanish infantry dudes who will be attired in white.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, I've set three priorities. One, is getting the Lewis and Clark figures done so that I can game with them. We're not talking lots of figures here. At least initially I'll be painting them all as dismounted troops. I'll order the eighteen dismounted Comanches from Conquest miniatures when I have a bit more dough. Second, I'm going to paint up more of the troops from the Battles of Bladensburg and North Point from the War of 1812. Those will probably be my big historical projects for Enfilade. My final big project will be wrapping up all my unpainted Space 1889 stuff. I need another two dozen or so RAFM figures to get my militia units up to the right size and that will be that.

I'm really feeling the need to be frugal in the hobby this year. I'm going to keep my figure purchases as low as I possibly can, and only buy what I really need. Right now, I've shared the needs that I really have. If that's it, that's it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Keelboat complete

Crap, I'm not sure why I can't manage my photos better on this blog, but it is what it is. These are the final photos of the Lewis and Clark keelboat. I included these specific pics mostly to show off Mark's incredible craftmanship. The tiller looks fabulous. Check out the reinforcement on the cabin door. Amazing stuff. I hope others see this and Mark gets some of the recognition he deserves for the kind of work that he does. On Saturday I take possession of the vessel. I'm meeting Mark for lunch, assuming that I can navigate the roads to Renton, twenty plus miles through the snow.

What comes next is the big question. I have figures that will do for L and C, but enemies for them are a bit more problematic. If I include the intercepting Spanish forces, I'm likely to use these figures from London War Room. I will probably include the dismounted soldado de cuera or leather soldiers which seemed to be used through out the 18th and 19th century American West. I'd also like to include some of them mounted. The fusiliera figures are also quite serviceable, and if bought in bags the cost is about a buck per figure. Comanches also accompanied the Spanish. I'm looking at the beautiful Comanches by Conquest Miniatures. Some of the figures aren't quite suitable because their weapons are too 19th century, but a lot of them look great. I'll have to pick up some of the mounted figures when they become available. The other likely conflict was with the Teton Sioux (or Lakota,) but again I'd need a lot of pre-gunpowder miniatures and I just don't know how available they are.

I've hit kind of painting lull. I am nearly finished with another unit of Martian militia, but after that, I'm not quite sure. I am considering remounting my Lewis and Clarkish figures on somewhat smaller bases so more will fit on the keelboat, but I'd also like to make more progress on my War of 1812 stuff. With school out early due to the snowfall, I have a chance to make some extra progress.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Up the Missouri

These are final photos of the Lewis and Clark keelboat. L and C actually had a small flotilla as they ascended the Missouri river which also included two "priogues" or heavy longboats, each with a mast and sail. They were each armed with a boarding blunderbuss, but neither with appreciable artillery. In the end all the vessels were intended chiefly as transportation for the tons of food, equipment and trade goods the Corps took in anticipation of the challenges they would face on their journey. They aren't warships, though the keelboat is built like a floating fortress with its solid bulkheads.

Mark has built some incredibly nice features into the keelboat. The mast is removable. There are two brass pins holding the mast into place that are easily removable. The one pounder and and oars are extra details that make the model quite special. I paid for the materials, and Mark took the project on for the love of doing the project. It's a Christmas present to me from my wife and I truly thank Mark for his willingness to take this on.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Keelboat follow on

These are updated pictures of the keelboat in progress. It looks great. Mark and I have exchanged information about the mast and the construction of the one-pounder. This means I'll actually have to sit down and paint up my Lewis and Clark figures and the like--and soon. Maybe over Christmas break.

Not a lot to report this week. We were on deadline at school, which meant there wasn't much time for painting.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Geekdom That's Cool

This is Lewis and Clark's keelboat. It was built for them in 1803 at builder's in Pennsylvania. It's nearly sixty feet long and eight feet wide. It would never qualify as a warship, mounting only a one pounder and a couple of boarding blunderbusses. But it was like a floating fortress with thick sides that could offer cover to the riflemen of the Corps of Discovery.

I think I've talked about my Lewis and Clark geekdom before. I think the story of the expedition is fascinating. It has all the drama of a great exploring adventure. There is the tense moment when the expedition could have erupted into violence against the Lakota Sioux. Sacagawea's role in the expedition as honorary mom, carrying her baby on her back, and the coincidental meeting with her brother in the Rocky Mountains of Montana made the expedition unlike all of the other American military expeditions into the West. The nightmare crossing of the Bitterroots nearly ended in disaster. The descent to the lower Columbia and the long wet winter at Fort Clatsop is simply a tale of persistence in the face of adversity.
Recently, however, historians have taken note that the Corps of Discovery was first and foremost a military expedition, the first of many that would scout and map the regions of the west, but as much as anything aggravate the hell out our neighbors. How else do you think John C. Fremont ended up in California at the outbreak of the Mexican-American War with American troops, including artillery? The Lewis and Clark concerned the Spanish authorities so much they sent out an expedition of their own to intercept them twice-once on the trip out to the coast and once on the way back.
I've often thought about gaming this potential collision of forces, but with Spaniards numbering about eighty men, including some Comanches, probably all mounted, being caught in the prairie would be a bad, bad thing. I wistfully considered adding a seaborne side to the expedition, but I am simply not much of a model builder.
But I know somebody who is: my good friend Mark Waddington. These are a couple of photos of the keelboat Mark is graciously building me. He began by building the basic shape and is now in the planking stage. Mark says this kind of work is really fun. The planking is basswood strips that he has stained and then cut to the proper length before gluing. Mark says he soaks the planking in ammonia and water before bending them around the hull. It is an amazing, generous project, and I truly appreciate it. I'll keep you posted on the construction.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

PT Dockyard goodies arrive!!

As I explained last week, I took advantage of the PT Dockyard Black Friday sale to order some new goodies. Among the arrivals was the Littoral Combat Ship LCS-1 Freedom. It is intended to provide support for coastal operations. Unfortunately the navy never reached a consensus on design, and the cost for the two completed LCS designs were ridiculously over budget. So much so, that the Littoral Combat Ship was cited by John McCain as an armed services boondoggle in the second presidential debate.

The model is pretty cool. It's huge compared to my other modern vessels, and comes with a helicopter in both stowed and flying mode.

I also ordered and received two of the new, but small Iranian vessels, and a pair of Fairmile B's. I've included a picture of the Freedom at its launching in 2006, as well as a size comparison shot of Freedom with an Iranian missile boat.

One more quick item. I received notice yesterday that the Puyallup Wargamers, a group of Warhammer Ancient Battles enthusiasts are now being chronicled by a blog. The blog is kept by Dean Hachimantaro and is simply entitled WAB Corner. If you are interested in WAB, the Puyallup Wargamers are very active, and are quite prolific. They have armies for the Dark Ages (using the Shield Wall supplement,) the Punic Wars, Samurai, and they are working on Hundred Years War armies, all well painted in 25mm. If WAB is your thing, I encourage you to keep tuned into WAB Corner. It is linked in my Blogs of Note.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Freeman's Farm

Bruce Meyer sent out the word a couple of weeks ago about a game at his Palace of Gaming Delights. I don't get to play with Bruce often, but I really enjoy it when I am able. Last year we did Guilford Courthouse, and today it was Freeman's Farm. The action took place during the Saratoga Campaign, as Burgoyne approached his rendezvous with surrender. Freeman's Farm was the first of two quite desperate battles as the outnumbered, and out-of-supply British try to force the Americans out of their fortifications, opening the road to Albany.

There were twelve of us there for the game. Bruce asked if I would take Burgoyne, and I was happy to oblige. Tim McNulty volunteered to be Gates. Actually Gates was safely back at his bunker, but Benedict Arnold led the American forces on the ground that day. Tim behaved just as aggressively as Arnold.

We were divided into three commands--the right column under General Simon Fraser was commanded jointly by Mark Waddington and Bruce Duthie. Our center column under General Burgoyne himself was run by Jerry Nordbye and Steve Ghan. The left column under General Riedesel was the responsibility of Michael Koznarsky and myself, entering the board somewhat later.

Our right column immediately came under fire from Morgan's rifles, losing the commanding officers of the converged lights and a line battalion. It was the first of many bad things that would happen to Fraser's column in particular and the British in general.

While Burgoyne's column of four battalions moved dutifully to positions along a rail fence facing a field, dozens of American units poured onto the field, filling the opposite rail fence and pouring to flank. The battle had scarcely begun, the British were already in deep trouble.

Fraser's column on the British right was quickly unable to advance. Forced into line by the fire of American marksmen, the difficult situation rapidly went from bad to worse. American infantry began advancing in march columns aimed right at the British line. More fire forced morale checks the British commanders could not seem to pass. It would be a common theme throughout the day.

The British troops in the center and the right took defensive positions, rather than assuming the offensive as I had planned as British commander. There were simply too many Americans who were happy to bring the battle to us. Steve and Jerry in the middle had some initial success firing their cannon at the Americans in the center, but it was like a pebble tossed in the ocean in hopes of stopping the incoming tide. Jerry found himself holding the very end of the British line facing legions of Americans with two units.

He managed to hold things for a turn or two, but Jerry took his turn to fail an easily made morale check. Instead of holding the line, the threatened unit retreated, and the line turned into a bow.

On the right, things went from bad to worse. Repeated fire decimated the the British lights and line infantry. The Canadian militia sought refuge in the woods, and the Americans poured in toward the British right, forcing the survivors to find refuge in Freeman's Farm.

Just when all seemed lost the British got a bit of a reprieve when Riedesel's Germans showed up on turn five--exactly where the Americans expected them. Michael's Hessians pulled into the gap with the artillery, while I tried to pull off an attack on the American militia through the woods. For two turns the opportunity was mine for the taking, but I couldn't roll the six on a ten sided die I needed to attack disordered. I don't know if it would have changed the battle, but it sure would have made me feel better. I also attached Riedesel to the one attack I was able to make and he was killed in the melee. The story of the British army this day.
Although the Germans had five units to add to the eight British units already on the field, it simply wasn't enough to make progress against the eight slightly smaller American units arrayed against us.

As the Hessian counter-attack stalled out things went from bad to worse on the other fronts. On the right flank, a series of American attacks wiped out the British grenadiers and light infantry. They put up a good fight, but there simply wasn't enough to fight with. Steve's two battalions in the middle were being pressed from the front, and with his right flank now wide open, it was just a matter of time before he too was a goner. Jerry was fighting off units from his front and flank, but it was clear that the weight of the enemy would eventually end his resistance. At this point, with the Hessians clearly unable to draw strength from the American attack in the center I called a general retreat to save what was left of the army.

Though the game was a tough one to lose, and lose so decisively, it was still a great deal of fun. I met some new guys, and it was another great opportunity to pull out my AWI figures, which had lay dormant since Cowpens at Enfilade in the spring. I was really proud of the British players who did the very best they could under very difficult circumstances. On a positive note, I think we did as well as General Burgoyne, who suffered terrible casualties (just like us) and was forced to retire on his baggage (just like us) before his inevitable surrender after one more assault on Bemis Heights.