Thursday, May 31, 2012

Projects: a look ahead

It's time for a little reflection over the past year and a little planning for the coming year.  Yes, I know it's the end of May, but my wargaming year ends with the convention and I begin to think about what to do for the next Enfilade. 

Though I found this convention pretty relaxing, I ran at least one more game than I would like to.  Ideally, next year I'd like to keep my activities at the con to just three games, with the rest of the time an opportunity to play games, photo games, shop, have a quiet meal, etc. I don't think I'm going to plan anything major that's new for next year, which kind of leaves me free to enjoy the painting I'll do and confine it to my existing projects.  Here's what I'm thinking:

1.  Thunderboats were missing from our schedule of games this year.  A couple of guys asked me about them.  They're low stress and fun, and I think I'll probably host a hydroplane racing game on Sunday. Maybe just a fun free for all.  Maybe something like the Gold Cup race a couple of years ago. I think I have three boats left to paint, and I'd like to get those done.

2.  I want to leave one game free for an air or sea project with Dave.  I just like working with Dave.  I learn a lot from him about scenario design, he's a good friend, and really the projects don't take that long or cost that much.  I'm in.

3.  St. Jean is a game I've run before at other gatherings.  It's a big setting up nightmare, but I think it would be fun.  It will also keep me motivated to paint my huge stash of Hundred Years war figures.  Poitiers in 2016, maybe sooner. 

4.  This is a big maybe, but I'm assuming with the War of 1812 bicentennial Mark and Doug are going to want to run Crysler's Farm, which is an 1813 battle. I don't know how much I need to be involved in the planning, because the painting is done.  I may just plan to play in the game, either side is okay, just to be a resource and be a kibbitzer involved in the scenario design.  The battle is definitely fiddly and will require using game elements effectively to make it balanced enough to create a semi-historical result.

So, at least at this point, that's where I am with potential Enfilade games.  Nothing really new, except maybe for an air or sea game.  I'd really just like to have an enjoyable year of painting with little rush, just painting what I feel like.  Here are some things I'd like to pick at:

1.  Hundred Years War--I probably have 500 painted figures for this period, but I also have about 400 more unpainted figures.  Some are intended for my singly mounted stuff, most are intended for my larger scale project that will become Poitiers.

2.  War of 1812--I am committed to hosting the Battle of Bladensburg outside Washington D.C. for Enfilade in 2014.  I am also going to help host Lundy's Lane and Chippewa.  There are lots of militia to paint, and lots of British, including my pile of Victrix figures.  I probably need to buy another box of British elite companies and hunt down some really great Royal Marine figures.

3.  America vs. Spain--I've painted up all the infantry figures I have for this period, but still have fifty mounted that need work.  I'd like to begin to acquire more Spanish foot too, and at least one more pack of Wayne's Legion foot.  Not pressing, but I'd like to at least paint what I have.

4.  Paint those ships--I really enjoy painting ships of all kinds, and, shockingly, I have lots of ships of all kinds to paint. One more 25mm cog, wouldn't mind acquiring a fourth.  ACW ships, batteries and buildings from Thoroughbred and Bay Area Yards live in my drawers of shame and could do with some building and painting. I have given a base coat to all my PT Dockyard vessels for St. Nazaire and would really like to finish them up.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Enfilade: the games

I didn't do a really good job of taking pictures of my own games, but I'll share what I have.

Friday Night: Tripwire- The Straits of Hormuz

Dave and I had six willing participants for the game.  Let's face it, modern naval combat is fairly unique at a game convention.  Andrew, Steve, John and Brian chose the Iranians and Andy and Chris managed the Americans.  It was different than our playtest in some ways, but very similar in others. The Americans, again, chose the LCS 1 and the bunch of American and UAE  gunboats and missile boats.  The Iranians went a bit different direction with two groups of Boghammars, and one each of China Cats and the Tir torpedo boats in reserve.  What we wanted was the tension of when to start fighting, and we got it.  Lots of bluster and warning until  Andy Doty's Cyclone stepped on a mine.  Then it was missiles galore.  The Iranians game out on the short end of this fight, with many losses, but they clearly won the propaganda fight with the Americans starting the shooting.
An American Cyclone gunboat tripped over a mine and began the entire incident

Captured live on CNN, Exocet missiles streak toward and IRGN Thondar class missile boat, and a fishing trawler (??!!) Hmm, Charles Taylor just got 50 years.  Andy Doty?
Saturday Morning

This was the only period I didn't have anything going on.  I didn't sleep much the night before so I wandered the Bring and Buy and dealer areas, helped out Jim Denberger totaling receipts.  Just kind of tried to wake up. 
American troops emerge from their water transport and mass for their advance against the Spanish positions.
Saturday Afternoon-Chickasaw Bluffs Part One: Smoke on the Water

As the morning game period came to a close, I shifted into full fretting mode.  I never playtested the scenario, though I walked through things in my mind many times. Most troubling was that the board was fairly busy and I was concerned the board area wouldn't quite work out.  Thankfully, Mark Waddington gave me a hand setting up and it was fine.

Dave Schueler and Lloyd Bowler ran the American assault on Spanish prepared positions controlling the Mississippi.  The Spanish, controlled by Thomas Moore and Francis Munroe  deployed their Spanish regulars into the redoubt, and waited sleepily for the fun to start.  By turn three, the Americans climbed the steep hill from their boats to the hilltop and were beginning to form for battle, when the Spanish gave the alarm to their camp.  Thomas moved one of his infantry squads out of the redoubt, to receive the attack, but retreated back in a hail of gunfire.  As the Americans spiked the Spanish guns, they began to close in on three sides of the redoubt.  Just as things began to look hopeless for the defenders, reinforcments arrived from the camp.  Choosing to mount one of their militia units, Francis hurled the cuera lancers at the Americans, and really did do nasty stuff, but there were enough Americans to drive them off.  Though the Spanish were able to hold on to the redoubt, the Americans with their long range riflemen were sufficient to inflict unanswered damage, and they surrendered.
An American infantry squad masses in formation
Spaniards of the Louisiana Regiment awake to find the Americans ready for a fight.

Yikes, lots more Americans than they counted on.

It was actually a nice game of back and forth.  All played well and it was fun.

Saturday Night-Chickasaw Bluffs Part Two: Just a big Indian Fight

This is the game I did playtest and it went badly sideways.  Sam, Mark and Tim played the Indians while Doug, Brian and Scott ran the Americans.  The playtesters suggested the Americans be allowed to set on to the table two feet rather than the 18" I allowed.  It was a disaster.  On the first turn, the Americans, getting ready to cross the little creek were blasted by Indians.  The militia was routed and the regulars were mauled.  Though the Chickasaw units were also weakened, they had plenty of reserves, and when I called the game, were in danger of surrounding the advancing regular units. Yecchhh.
Sunday Morning-Atlantic Blockading Squadron, in the Gulf
Three ironclads looking for something wooden to ram.
David Sullivan and I agreed to host a Sail and Steam Navy game at Enfilade some time ago, but didn't finalize its contents until Wednesday night.  It had some interesting elements-Confederate ironclads attempting to break through some Union blockaders at Mobile.  The rebels had the ram Tennessee, the sidewheel ironclad Nashville, and the barely armored steamer Baltic.  Together they sailed through early morning fog toward the Union fleet.  The Tennessee rammed and sank the wee monitor Neosho.  The Baltic absorbed, sort of, the scalding effects of having a steam line severed. But heavily armored Nashville and Tennessee were sort of the "men about town" administering nasty shots with their Brooke rifles.  Well, until their stacks were shot away and then they were sort of the "cripples about town," absorbing the broadsides of Hartford, Iroquois, and a fine supporting cast as well.  Needless to say, this turned out badly for the Confederates. 
A glimpse down the barrels of a pair of 7" Brooke rifles.
The Hartford, ready to let fly with a broadside.
Bonus round: Sunday afternoon-Crysler's Farm

In the weeks before the convention, Mark, Doug and I agreed we'd try out a War of 1812 battle, Crysler's Farm.  Fought in 1813 near Montreal, it's one of those tried and true American disasters.  The heart was willing but the brain was petrified, so the attack failed.  We agreed to play using Regimental Fire and Fury, but it's a challenge for scenario designers because the British are so badly outnumbered.  The Americans, rated as trained, advanced against the Brits and just sort of ran them over.  Unfortunately, in the actual battle the American commanders, that slimy bastard James Wilkinson, was quite ill, and his sub-commanders lacked talent.  The Brits pretty much held them off all day. We definitely need to do some fiddling as I expect we'll host this game next year on the 200th anniversary.

A full weekend of hosting.  I really didn't get around to see as many games as I would have liked.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Enfilade: The Recovery

Got home from Enfilade right at 7:00 last night.  I know because Mad Men was just beginning.  Even though I was just dying, I managed to stay awake until 10:30 and collapsed.  Not quite enough energy to make a blog post.
Andrew, John, Steve and Brian are ready to begin their short service in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy.  It kicked off the weekend for me on Friday night.
I'll have several different posts about the convention over the next couple of days.  Let me just start with: by any measure-personal, community, financially-the convention was a success.  Going into the last month of preparation there was concern about the number of games, but certainly it all worked out.  The attendance, at about 265 plus dealers and staff, was among the highest ever, if not the highest.  Great attendance is super for everybody-vendors, game hosts, and the attendees.  In my first year off the organizing committee in many years

One thing that was great for me was that I didn't serve on the committee. The new guys, Dean Motoyama, Adrian Nelson, and Al Rivers did a really great job, despite a bit of a deficit in the volunteer department.  Jim Denberger managed the Bring and Buy, took in record amounts of money and handled the event really effectively.   Even though I was involved in running games almost every period, I think I enjoyed the convention much more as just a gamer dude.  I'll write a bit more about my games in coming posts, but suffice it to say I had a great time. 
Drank some of Centralia's own magic elixir in the hotel bar several times.  Not to be missed on tap.
Perhaps the best part of any gaming gathering, whether Enfilade or something smaller, is just seeing friends.   It was a great weekend with friends: those I see regularly or least stay in regular contact with, and those I only am in contact with at Enfilade.  I ran games with Dave Schueler and David Sullivan.  Talked into the wee hours with Doug Hamm, and together we plotted with Mark Waddington about War of 1812 ideas.  Saw Joe Waddington who came out on the losing end of an argument with a washing machine and discussed the really important things in life-Ballantine books and beer. No less important are those guys I see only at Enfilade-the White Rock gamers from B.C. are all great guys some of whom I've known for many years and others whose company I enjoy immensely, but hardly know at all.  I hope to make it up to Salute in the spring to see them again.
Joe Waddington and I discussed the really important things in life at the end of the day on Sunday.  That the discussion was mostly about really good beer did not break my heart. 
An important part of any gaming convention experience is shopping.  I managed to sell some items at the Bring and Buy.  Gently used non-essential toys went off to new homes and left some change in my pockets.  I had some items I was really interested in picking up if they appeared in the B and B, but no such luck. I had my eye out for HYW French halberdier and militia types, or some Old Glory Wayne's Legion figures, but none made an appearance.  However in a moment of absolute generosity, Bill Vanderpool passed along most of a pack of Wayne's Legion figures to me.

I did make some investments in existing projects, however.  Monday Knight Productions brought in a bunch of the very nice Bay Area Yards ships, forts and buildings.  Most of the great ship kits were gone by the time I arrived Friday afternoon, but I did pick up some of the remaining items on Sunday.  First on the list was the beautiful Fort Jackson kit that appeared in Patrick Hreachmark's New Orleans game at Historicon last summer.  Very cleanly cast, Fort Jackson is a star fort, usable in other actions.  It comes with guns, and for thirty dollars is an amazing deal.  Given its size and detail, one of the finest pieces of resin casting I've seen. I got some other goodies too, notably the ram CSS Webb, and one of the very inexpensive and also very clean warehouses.  Great stuff and relatively inexpensive.  My other purchase, also at Monday Knight, was to fill out the Galactic Knights goodies I picked up last year.  I got everything I wanted, and now I just need to do something with.  Daveshoe also added to his collection, so now we just need to paint it up and play.

A great convention.  I had a lot of fun, but today it's a good day just to relax.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Last of the Enfilade prep.

Spirit of CNN flits past the LCS-4 Coronado, likely drawing boos and perhaps .50 caliber fire.

Enfilade  begins Friday.  Unfortunately I have to teach that day and I'll leave from school with my fully packed car.  I have to be pretty careful and meticulous in my packing, so this year I've made a pretty long list.  I'm running or helping to run four events, but most of the prep and packing comes in my Chickasaw Bluffs game.  The Straits game is minor because it's a naval game.  The Sail and Steam Navy is still up in the air, but I'm hoping David Sullivan will let me know what ships to bring.  There is also the matter of the Sunday afternoon War of 1812 game Mark Waddington, Doug Hamm and I are playing.  Lots of stuff. It's going to be a busy three days.

Fire Scout drone screens LCS-1 Freedom.  I didn't get a good comparison shot with Coronado to show the size difference.  Those pics were more blurry than usual.

Anyway, I've added some goodies to my Straits of Hormuz vessels.  First, I painted and mounted the two MQ-8 Fire Scout drones that come with my LCS-2 model.  They are nothing to paint, and the mounting turned out to be easy too. The Fire Scouts are intended for reconnaissance purposes, armed chiefly with sensors and a laser range finder.  There was some talk of arming them with rockets, but a couple of crashes in March have got the lot of them grounded at the present time.

A nice look from the side and above to show the size difference between Coronado and the Iranian vessels.  Unfortunately the Iranians seriously outgun the much larger vessel.

I also painted up one more small vessel.  I believe that what the Straits game needed was press coverage.  I had one little left over vessel from PT Dockyard that Dave Gregory sent me as an experiment.  I think it's an MAS boat, an Italian torpedo boat, but what the heck.  I painted the hull white and superstructure red and stuck a CNN flag on the back.  If I had one more, I'd paint it up for al Jazeera.  We talked, while we were doing the walk through, about the public opinion factor.  I don't know if Dave included it in the final scenario, but maybe it will make players nervous.  Besides, it's a naval game which are generally short on the cute factor.
Yeah, this was a mistake.  The CNN vessel is about an inch long and 1/8" tall.  The flag is only 1/8" long.  Magnified it has lots of flaws.  I'm okay with it.  Looks fine on the table.

I've included a couple more photos of  of the big Independence class LCS just for a size reference.  Damn it's big.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Game Review: Blockade Runner

Blockade Runner by Numbskull Games is designed by Patrick and Alex Stevens and costs about $50.
I had my eye on Blockade Runner at Game Matrix for some time.  It's an ACW game based on the economics of running the blockade.  I was thrilled when I received it as a Christmas gift, but as with all multi player games, it's tough to get enough friends together to play, so last night was the first time we'd walk through.  After an evening of good food and good conversation, Dave Demick, Tim, and Casey agreed Blockade Runner is an awesome game.
A look at the board from the Gulf Coast side.  It is a mounted board, colorful without being busy, and its includes very easy to use charts to track the supply and price of resources.
Interestingly, the game only lasts five turns.  Beginning in 1861 owners of Confederate blockade runners are faced with helping to keep the rebellion going by delivering war supplies.  While war supplies are important to the war effort and ultimately the game, the winner of the game is the player at the end with most cash, and war materials just don't pay.  Instead the blockade runner must run tobacco and cotton out to Havana, Port au Prince and Bermuda, and run back with the obligatory war supplies and black market goods.  So you're Rhett Butler bringing Scarlett back silk and perfume, along with the odd Enfield rifle and Whitworth cannon.  The price of commodities can go up and down based on supply.  The economics of the game are simple but elegant and work well.  As players make money, they use it to buy or load more commodities, bribe officials and bid on additional ships.
Overall look at the game board from the north side.  The blocks are wooden, and the counters are nice and thick.
All this would be fine if players were just playing against each other in a Darwinian economic system.  However, they're also fighting this damned war. Each turn, before the Confederate players move, they get the bad news and the Union Navy has its way. First, the players count up the number of war supplies they brought in.  The fewer they have, the more nasty things the Yankees can do.  Blockading or strengthening the blockade of ports, closing ports through assault, the loss of inland economic centers and the interruption of rail lines. More war supplies means less Union activity, but less profit, so that tension persists throughout the game.  It encourages a certain amount of cooperation, which the game encourages, however no cash may ever exchange hands.
All the Union actions are run from the War Effort Chart.  Just apply the simple mechanics to information from this chart and, bingo,  the Yankees are done in five minutes.
 We all agreed the game works.  It tackles a pretty complex, offbeat subject.  Yet, the simple commodity management system, and the series of straightforward die rolls to run the Union actions don't get in the way of each player executing their actions.  I spent a fair amount of time walking through the rules before we played, and we did reinterpret some gray areas a couple of times, but all the players found the game easy to play and we were finished in about two and a half hours including a couple of interruptions. We all agreed we loved the game and needed to play it some more. Just for the record, I won.  I thrashed my son, who usually kicks my butt in these sorts of games. 

Blockade Runner is a costly game, about fifty bucks, but beautiful in its execution.  It has a fully mounted board.  The counters are nice and thick.  The three decks of cards are nicely laminated to prolong their life. The only drawback to the game is pretty minor.  Each ship has a hole for a colored smokestack to denote which player owns it.  The hole is too shallow or the smokestack is too big, so they fall out all the time.  No biggie.
The game materials are awfully nice.  The cards are laminated and have lots of illustration.  The money is based on Confederate bills.  Probably keeps the game expensive, but still a nice touch.
Patrick and Alex Stevens designed Blockade Runner and it is published by Numbskull Games.  They've done a fine job. I heartily recommend this game with 4 1/2 out of five stars.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

LCS-4 Coronado and my most sincere thanks

'm more or less finished with my Independence class Littoral Combat Ship.  As I said in a previous post, it's the Cyber-Hobby styrene kit.  Assembly was just plain over my head.  I am a pretty basic model builder and this had more tiny bits than I was prepared to add on.  Not only that, but it's a game piece and not something to be admired on my shelf. 

Even so, I did manage a fairly basic assembly and paint job.  This was the first time I'd worked with photo etched parts.  Some of them were fairly easy to work with.  Others such as the flight deck rail/netting were beyond my limited tools/experience/ability to do much with.  The final embarrassment, however, were the decals.  The kit came with a pretty extensive decal sheet, which I decided early on I would use selectively.  I chose to paint the dark gray walking areas on the bridge and gun deck and focus mainly on the flight deck.  I never realized getting things to lay down in straight lines could be so hard.

I guess the most important part is the ship is done and I can move on.

I also took a few the time to finally paint my Skytrex APD, or destroyer transport.  It's a chunk of lead I bought six or seven years ago when I first began collecting my 1/600 coastal vessels.  Built on a flush deck destroyer hull, I'm not sure when I'll ever use it in a game, but when the time comes I'll have it. I have a few Skytrex vessels.  I have a pair of their LCG's I've used in a couple of scenarios and I like those a lot.  I'm less wild about most of their smaller craft.  The metal flash seems highly noticeable and hard to get rid of compared to my PT Dockyard boats.  I have one more large Skytrex vessel, a British V and W class destroyer to paint, and I hope to complete it over the summer.

I have a couple of the little helicopter drones to finish that go with the LCS, but they are just a basic gray.  I'll be moving on to 28mm horsemen for my Mississippi project.  The ship models were a very nice break.

Thanks for all of the kind comments about Jack.  It's been a very difficult week for my wife and I.  We've been married for 32 years and she's never seen me shed a tear, but they've appeared in buckets this week.  He was a very special dog, a very special friend and I miss him so. It gets a little easier every day, and we've even begun talking about another companion for my Lucy, who may miss him even more than I do. Maybe in July.  We'll see.

Enfilade is in two weeks.  I'm in for four games.  It looks like I'll remain for as president of NHMGS for at least another year, and I'll try to cobble together a functional board of directors.  Should be enough to keep me off the streets.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

My friend is gone

At Owens Beach, Point Defiance with Lucy.
 I know this is a gaming blog, but sometimes events in my other life, what I hesitate to call my real life take over and bury everything else that's going on.  Lorri and I have had a lot of sorrow in our lives the last few years, but for me, at least, nothing is worse than losing my Jack dog yesterday.  Jack is a miniature Australian Shepard.  I've never known a creature so full of life, so full of guileless energy.  At age ten, we hoped to have many more happy years with him, but it just wasn't going to happen.
Jack and Lucy together in the back yard
We rescued Jack when he was fifteen months old.  We thought he would make a good companion for our Lucy, also an Australian Shepard, who was a year older.  We were his third home in his short life, and we knew we had to be his last.  It took me a long time to love him.  He was an alpha dog and hard to get along with, but when I finally did, it was forever. Long walks, dips in the Puyallup River, rolling on the bed with his characteristic grunts, getting my face washed with his long tongue, those are the things I'll remember.

Jack suffered from a long illness, that we thought we could manage, but it didn't happen.  He had a serious surgical procedure a couple weeks ago that added to his quality of life.  He was happier and more energetic than we'd seen him in a long time, and we had high hopes for his recovery. But things came apart suddenly last night, we rushed him to the veterinary hospital, and had to make the decision to let him go.
He'll always just be "my boy."
I know many of you may be thinking, "he's just a dog." For some who met him he was.  He could be irascible, and hard to get along with, especially if you were an unknown male.  But once he was your friend, you had a buddy for life.  I never knew how David Demick, an avowed dog lover, could avoid getting another after his Watson died, many years ago.  He always said it was because of loyalty to his dead friend.  I think I understand now.   I couldn't  replace Jack; I don't think I'd want to try.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Revenge of the Boghammers

Three missiles fired from the China Cats in the background rush toward the LCS Freedom.

Today was the day of the Staits of Hormuz playtest.  Daveshoe and I hauled our ships out to Game Matrix and met son Casey and new friend Charlie Berlemann to try out our game.

I called the scenario Tripwire, not sure it works, but Dave developed a fine scenario based on the closing of the straits by mines.  The Iranian player has to defend the minefield, while the American mission is to clear the minefield, seize any potential mine layer and fight off any Iranian attacks.

Any Dave Schueler scenario requires the players to make choices, and this was no different. Charlie was the American player and chose a Freedom class Littoral Combat Ship and a six vessel battle group including two U.S. Cyclone class patrol boats and four United Arab Emirates missile boats and gunboats.

Casey and I were the Iranians and chose four battle groups.  We settled on two groups of three China Cat missile boats, a group of one Zaraf class rocket boat and four Boghammer class patrol boats, and a group of four Tir class torpedo boats that would enter the game later.

Two of the Iranian groups began the game escorting vessels through the minefield.  I took the Boghammer group escorting a trawler through the mines.  Casey had one of the China Cat groups and escorted a minelaying auxiliary masquerading as a freighter.
One of the escorting Boghammers in the foreground trains its 75mm recoilless rifle on an advancing group of American and United Arab Emirates vessels.

The hands of Charlie Berlemann moves more US and UAE vessels.  Soon he'll move his MH-60 helicopter to the trawler in the foreground and the die will be cast.

Of course Charlie acted aggressively against the minelayer, and attacked my fishing trawler.  He dispatched his helicopter and fired shots across its bows to get it to stop.  Boghammer crews filmed the whole thing for YouTube and Al Jazeera and shouted insults at the American pilot.  I immediately turned my speedy little boats around to give attention to the passel of American and UAE vessels.
Freedom launches a mine hunting MH-60, as it moves to the middle of the board.

After one turn of fire a Boghammer is sunk and another is badly damaged, the trawler is sinking.  However the striped Cyclone is also crippled.

In the next turn a UAE gunboat fired into the engine room of the trawler and badly damaged it. Given all the diplomatic cover I needed, I opened fire on my larger adversaries with recoilless guns and rpgs.  The opening salvo badly damaged one of the Cyclones, and wrecked one of the UAE gunboats.  Fire from Zaraf's multiple rocket launcher damaged an additional UAE gunboat.  Machine gunners on the Boghammers shot down the offending helicopter.

Round one to the Boghammers, but retribution was coming.  Fire from the larger ships sank one of the little patrol boats, and wrecked two more.

However the turn was not over.  The Freedom plunged into the mine field and detected one of the mine locations.  Her helicopter flew off trying to find more.  Unfortunately, with all the the commotion to the north, Casey decided the time was ripe to unleash his TV guided C-701 missiles from his China Cats.
Two hits by C-701 TV guided missiles strike Freedom, leading to her demise. Game over.

With three missiles in the air, Freedom maneuvered to unmask his RAM short range missiles.  Unfortunately it only brought down one of the missiles and the surviving pair slammed into the LCS.  Freedom sank and brought an end to the scenario.

We debriefed considerably.  There was a lot to like about the scenario.  I loved running the Boghammers, but it's always challenging to the game master to know how other players will run their commands.  Dave is talking about some tweaks, but nothing major is required.  It was a great game. We use David Manley's awesome Bulldogs Away!! rules.  I find them to have the right balance of modern technology and ease of play.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

IPMS doesn't want me, and how to hunt mines from the air

I may be finished with all my Enfilade building, painting rules tweaks etc., early.  Three weeks from the convention and I'm wrapping up the last of my painting this weekend.  One of my jobs is to finish a styrene kit of an Independence class littoral combat ship.  I bought this model because it was available relatively cheap from Amazon, and PT Dockyards discontinued their large, costly miniature. It's been sitting around the last couple of months, but I started working in earnest this week.  I still need to glue on the photo-etched, railings/netting for the flight deck, but then it will be ready to paint. Started working with the photo-etched parts--please shoot me now!!!
LCS 2 from three different views.

This was a fairly miserable model building experience for me. Lots of small, teeny pieces, great details for the kit, but some I just passed on, such as the microscopic three piece life raft racks. I'm really not equipped (or patient enough) to do microscopic.  Even so, despite some, er, um, mistakes, such as assembling the radar mast backwards, the ship looks okay.  The timing couldn't be better because I start deadline today with really late nights starting tomorrow.
CH-53 that comes with Coronado kit.  I stuck it on a 3" piece of brass wire and mounted it on base for a flying Martian (I'll have to figure something out for that lonesome miniature later).

Built and mounted the mine sled.  Painted the base and drenched it in Liquitex Gloss Gel Medium to give it that whale surfacing look.  Connected the copter and sled with eeny teeny gauge brass wire I use for rigging ships.  Yes that is an official wire weight.
One aspect of the kit that may play an important part in our scenario is completing the helicopter-towed mine sled.  These both come with the kit (LCS-5 Coronado by Cyber-Hobby.)  It provides the American player with one more option to work with.  The CH-53 Super Sea Stallion is nicely modeled, but like many things in this kit is needlessly fiddly.  The mine sled is likewise needlessly complicated, using at least ten parts including several photo etched bits.  My hope was to show the sled a bit more submerged, but the idea of chopping down the legs with the cable cutting edges didn't occur to me until it was already assembled.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Saga of the Littoral Combat Ships

Littoral Combat Ship.  What a cool designation and new kind of warship for the U.S. Navy.  Intended to operate in shallow waters and even river estuaries, the LCS is intended to fill a seldom tapped role for the primarily blue water American navy.  It was even new enough to generate two designs, a traditional planing monohull, and an unusual trimaran, so intriguing the navy contracted for both.  In all 55 littoral combat ships are intended to join the navy between 2010 and 2040.
PT Dockyards LCS-1 is a chunk of resin.  It could use a detail kit, but an admirable subject for the 1/700 modern coastal range.
Yet the LCS is one of those Pentagon nightmares.  Think B-70, Sgt. York AA system (DIVADS),  V-22 Osprey, or F-35 Joint Combat Fighter. The problem with the LCS is that it's damned expensive and it is unclear how to arm and equip it for its varied envisaged missions. Though the LCS could be a brown water workhorse, it is also intended to replace the Perry class frigates and aging minehunters, with a ship whose armament is much less formidable than the tiny Iranian missile boats it could face in the Persian Gulf.
Side view of Freedom miniature.  LCS-1 has a steel hull and aluminum superstructure.  Interpreting photos, I painted the lower hull gull gray and the upper works a light haze gray.
Armed only with BAE systems Mk. 110 57mm automatic cannon (that's right, just like a WWII British 6 pdr. firing 230 rounds per minute), .50 cal. machine guns, and a  RIM 116 Rolling Airframe Missile to defend againt anti-ship missiles, drones, helicopters and small vessels.  These vessels would also depend on their complement of MH-60 helicopters to perform surface attack, mine warfare, and ASW tasks.  Unfortunately, at about 3,000 tons, or frigate size, it's not clear these vessels can defend themselves, let alone project offensive power with their standard armament.

Though the standard armament on the LCS is relatively puny, its punch should come in "mission modules."  These could be be mine detection and clearance modules, anti-submarine modules, or surface attack modules for sea or land. These would supplement the standard armament while offering flexibility in planning for specific missions. 
The turret mounted Mk. 110 and the RIM 116 are clearly visible on the miniature.  I painted in much of the detail including aft hanger doors and the landing area on the helicopter deck.
Unfortunately this has driven the cost of the LCS well above its planned cost per copy.  LCS+electronics+mission module is now well above the $550 million per copy.  This is almost twice the cost of better armed European or Israeli frigates. Hoping to build an export market for the Littoral Combat Ships, the United States now finds itself in a difficult decision to determine a mission for the LCS, holding costs down at a time of shrinking budgets and escalating costs.  For the Littoral Combat ships the sky would be the limit--if it was fifteen years ago and the Navy didn't have to reexamine its wallet.

A fabulous critique of the LCS program appears in Defense Industry Daily.