Monday 29 June 2020

All at Sea - Spanish Fleet Box Build

After a short break, painting and rigging a couple of ships for my friend Bob and featuring them in the recent series of rigging tutorial videos, work continues on my own collection of model ships and JJs Royal Shipyard carries on the work started with the launch of Santisima Trinidad to build my Armada Espanola.

As seen below, the core of the collection is to be built around the Warlord Spanish navy box set with my big three-decker to represent the 112-gun Santa Anna as featured at the head of this post.

All the hulls constructed and parts primed ready to start painting

The last week saw the hulls put together and primed in my normal light grey primer paint, with the various fittings such as masts, anchors and boats primed separately either on the sprues or, as you can see, held by clothes pegs in the case of metal parts.

I tend to paint these parts separately and then bring them together at the end thus leaving work on the hulls much easier to do without having to paint in between already affixed mast and boats.

All the painting done and fitted out with masts and boats, it’s time to start rigging.

As you will also see I am only concentrating on the rated ships at present and so this initial batch of models includes the three frigates, Diana, Ninfa and Ceres, the three third rates, Montanes, Neptuno and San Juan Nepomuceno and my first rate Santa Anna.

My generic first rate has been finished to look like the 112-gun Santa Anna

As always, these models give plenty of detail to work with and the opportunity to try and capture the look of the ships the models will represent, all be it that these are not historical replicas of the originals and were not designed to be, but instead wargaming models that to my eye really capture the look of the ships of this period and will grace any table when gathered for battle.

With those caveats in mind painting and modelling these kits has to acknowledge those variations from the actual historical ship, such as the occasional variation of figurehead and the over accentuated name plates, below stern galleries.

The Spanish frigate Ninfa (Nymph) displays her angelic figurehead with spread wings

I personally like the way Warlord have designed these models to be easy on the eye and very functional wargaming models and with a carefully applied paint job can be made to look the part which a full set of rigging will do.

Lots of added detail complete these kits with specific figureheads and stern galleries

So this week will be spent fitting these models out with their rigs and then I will start work on my three Spanish third rates of renown, Monarca, Argonauta and San Justo, thanks to Robin at Warlord Games who sorted out my particular box not having its metal deck and figurehead/gallery parts.

Following those I will return back to the similar boxes for the Royal Navy box with HMS Bellerophon, Revenge and Tonnant and the French box, Indomptable, Formidable and Argonaute.

Once these models are finished it might be time to do a bit of a fleet review.

So lots of work in the dockyard to look forward to, alongside more book reviews and game reports and perhaps a bit of outside reporting on a little local waking trip Carolyn and I have planned.

Saturday 20 June 2020

The Struggle for Sea Power, A Naval History of American Independence - Dr. Sam Willis

My reading list from the Age of Sail has been updated with my recent reading of Dr Sam Willis' 2015 title covering the maritime war of the American War of Independence (AWI).

Although my current modelling project is very much focused on the naval forces of the era that followed this struggle, namely the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, the links to the way that latter naval war was conducted and fought, lie very much in this earlier period, and I was conscious of a gap in my knowledge about the conduct of the naval war in the AWI that I hoped this book would inform.

My interest in the AWI has always been more inclined towards the war on land in America, with a good understanding of that aspect together with a limited interest in the naval aspect focused on Suffren's campaign off the Indian coast, around which I built a collection of Langton 1:200th models, which encouraged further reading.

However any student of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic era soon realises that the rise and success of the Royal Navy in that period clearly had its roots in this earlier war and the commanders who led that navy developed the strategy and tactics from the experience gained between 1775 to 1783 and gained a better understanding of how to wield sea power globally with its ability to project power and influence events on land. 

The Struggle for Sea Power is careful to include the contribution of the freshwater navies, and reminded me of the picture I took back in 1988 on a visit to the National Museum of American History in Washington DC, and the amazingly preserved hull of the gondola Philadelphia, recovered in 1935, part of General Benedict Arnold's fleet of hastily constructed boats on Lake Champlain, that resisted Carleton's expedition around Valcour Island in 1776

Dr Sam Willis is a leading maritime historian, archaeologist, and broadcaster with several naval histories from the Age of Sail to his credit, one of which I reviewed here previously, 'Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century, The Art of Sailing Warfare' which I thoroughly enjoyed and so was looking forward to reading this next book by him.

What I found particularly interesting in this book was Willis sets his stall out right from the start in how he constructed this history basing the work around five rules:
  1. A naval history that includes reference to the formal and informal navies that characterised the war with the national and state navies together with the privateer fleets, 
  2. The scope to cover the war on the rivers and lakes as well as at sea, 
  3. The global nature of the war that included alongside the fleets from the US, France and Great Britain, those of Spain, Holland, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, the East India Company, the Bombay Marine and native American Indians, and 
  4. A joining up of all the dots by linking the effects of war between the navies in widely separated theatres influencing each other.
His final rule five set out to highlight how all sides involved in the conflict had expectations of sea power that were often disappointed with a clear mismatch of the expectations and an understanding of the unique aspects that control of the water, be that riverine or maritime could deliver; which as a theme constantly seeks to illustrate how, when the role of sea power was exploited effectively by all the combatants, its effect could be dramatic and war changing.

A contemporary watercolour of Arnold's fleet at Valcour Island in 1776 with the sloop, Royal Savage in the centre and with the gondola, Philadelphia, seen above, shown second from left - Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada.

This latter rule was so clearly emphasised for me by the chapter covering the impact of the lack of cooperation between the French admiral d'Estaing and American Major-General Sullivan off Rhode Island in 1778, following the great excitement and anticipation French naval power seemed to offer American capability in the land war; when the French admiral departed the American coast after the effects of storm damage and a robust resistance from British Admiral Howe's smaller squadron seem to  convince the French commander that he needed to be anywhere else other than helping his American allies to capture Newport. 

D'Estaing and his dismasted flagship Languedoc 80-guns narrowly escaped capture following the storm off Rhode Island in 1778, when attacked by Captain George Lawson's HMS Renown 50-guns, part of Howe's British squadron.

The effect was to leave the American's hugely disappointed and Sullivan's troops unemployed the following year, with Washington having no idea where the French fleet was or if it was coming back, with d'Estaing having departed for the Caribbean. Thus it was that Sullivan's troops had time on their hands to head up to the Mohawk Valley area and devastate the Iroquois Indian settlements, a deployment that had previously baffled me when purely focusing on the land war, but now makes complete sense, with the Mohawk valley being such an important food resource for the American army and in desperate need of relief and with troops more than capable and available to take punitive action.

Washington crossing the Delaware - Emanuel Leutze
A somewhat fanciful and romanticised rendition of Washington's several crossings of the Delaware River in December 1776, captures well the impact of John Glover's Marblehead men in enabling safe passage of this large river in winter for the American general and his army to conduct a surprise campaign that would drive the British out of New Jersey and its rich supply base.

Willis takes pains to stress how important it was for the land forces to cooperate closely with the maritime forces when operating on or close to water, which was a natural consequence of operating along the extensive coast line of the American colonies and in the vast open tracts of colonial North America where large fast flowing rivers and great lakes were a major feature of the landscape.

As well as the ability to land on or blockade the American shoreline, very often it was the same sailors from the respective navies and their commanders who were recruited to enable the armies to operate on these fresh water obstacles and where the cooperation was effective, very often the results of that collaboration paid dividends, with examples of the Marblehead sailors led by John Glover who enabled Washington to escape from Brooklyn and his later crossing of the Delaware during the American winter offensive that led to the actions at Princeton and Trenton.

The Siege of Charleston, March 29th - May 12th 1780 - Alonzo Chappel
Just under 5,500 troops together with tons of stores, munitions and shipping fell into British hands, the worst surrender of US troops until 1862, illustrated the benefits to be had by coordinated command from land and sea.

Likewise General Clinton's successful attack on Charleston, South Carolina in 1780 was more than enabled by the close support by the Royal Navy on the sea and on land with sailors under the able command of Captain George Elphinstone who like Glover and the Marblehead men worked with the army, transporting guns taken from the supporting warships to bombard the city on land after the British siege train was lost at sea on route, and enabled the army to outmanouvre American defences in the swamps and marshes of the River Ashley using flat bottomed boats to transport the troops with muffled oars to avoid detection.,_1777.svg

Where that cooperation sadly lacked the consequences could be disastrous, with General John Burgoyne's seemingly ludicrous decision, amongst others, to leave Skennesborough at the bottom of Lake Champlain and march off on a sixteen mile hike through the woods, dragging a hundred bateaux over bogs and thickets and crossing the same creek forty times in pursuit of the Americans who naturally turned to fight in terrain perfectly suited to their tactics. The alternative being, with British ships controlling the waterways, to return back up Lake Champlain and take his army on prepared boats down Lake George leaving just a short march on well used roads to Fort Edward on the River Hudson. 

Willis outlines how both France and Spain were careful and deliberate in their timing of entry into the war not to be pulled in until their preparations were complete. In Spain we see the first signs of their decline as a leading power with their forces unable to make an impact until they combined their efforts with France, which was not without inherent problems.

The Spanish forces led by Bernado de Galvez at the Siege of Pensacola - Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau,_Galvez_en_America.jpg 

This decline in Spanish capability is best reflected in the inability of the Franco-Spanish fleet to break into the English Channel to enable an invasion of the British Isles and their failure to prevent a resupply of Gibraltar together with repeated attempts to take the rock, after they had made it the centre piece of their agreeing to enter the war with France in the first place. Overstretch of the Royal Navy would enable them to take Minorca and to capture a very large British convoy off Spain, but of their few successes perhaps Bernado de Galvez, Governor of New Orleans deserves the most credit for engineering British woes along the Mississippi and the capture of Pensacola with his combined operations using a limited naval capability to rapidly move his forces and take full advantage of British weakness.

The take-home messages for me was that the British political management of the naval conflict as with that on land was a woeful performance by Lord North and his government, offset somewhat by the leadership of key admirals such as Howe and others who had to often defend British interests with overstretched and inadequate resources given the cuts to the navy before the war, only made up for from about 1778 onward as the Admiralty geared up for global conflict.

The British were clearly aided by the Bourbon navies of France and Spain being often unable to cooperate to combine their strengths to overwhelm the Royal Navy, coping with the built in distrust that haunted the alliance against a common foe. That and the technical differences between the opposing fleets with the gradual improvement in the Royal Navy's ability to operate for longer periods at sea and avoid the sickness levels from poor hygiene and inadequate nutrition that continued to take its toll on the French and Spanish sailors, whilst less so in the Royal Navy.

The Spanish ship San Domingo explodes before HMS Sandwich, flagship of Admiral Sir George Rodney at the Battle of Cape Vincent, 16th January 1780, otherwise known as the Moonlight Battle by Richard Paton

With the advent of British developments such as the carronade and coppering of their ships hulls, the latter carried out amazingly quickly and at great expense, this combined with the rapid ship building programme initiated on the entry of France into the war, the tide of war at sea was turned and prevented the loss of even more of the British Empire than might have been the case without them, and with the improvement in British tactical methods and the aggressive approach demonstrated by commanders like Admiral Rodney at the the Moonlight Battle against the Spanish in 1780 and the Saintes against the French in 1782, laid the foundation for their greater battle effectiveness in latter periods as well as a strong negotiation position during the peace talks. 

The Battle of Flamborough Head, 24th* September 1779 - Richard Paton
Captain John Paul Jones and the US 40-gun ship Bonhomme Richard defeats the 44-gun HMS Serapis, one of the most hard fought actions of the war, that left both ships very badly damaged and saw the Bonhomme Richard sink two days later. Captain Richard Pearson was knighted by King George III for his defence of the Baltic convoy, all of which escaped capture and effectively ended Jones' cruise.
* Note the date for this battle, highlighted in Sam Willis' account, is the 24th not the 23rd quoted in many accounts, including that on Wikipedia! 

In amongst the great naval events of the war Willis weaves in the other no less important aspects such as the war waged by privateers and the state fleets, with the exploits of characters like John Paul Jones, who along with William Bingham in the Caribbean were able to take the war into British waters in a way that the fledgling Continental Navy was never able to do.

We see the rise of the tension that would be a key part of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic period in the Baltic as Russia sought to take advantage of perceived British weakness and British blockades of France and Spain and the insistence of their policy of stopping, searching and if necessary confiscating merchantmen from Sweden, Denmark and Russia, found carrying supplies to enemy ports. This Russian manoeuvring would bring the Dutch into the war, much to their cost, that would see their naval power and overseas holdings taken apart by British naval power, keen to remove the threat from just over the Channel and to take or neutralise important overseas holdings in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and the Cape where Dutch traders had been profiting hugely from the British war whilst supplying her enemies at a very advantageous price.

Vice Admiral Sir Edward Hughes gets a much more sympathetic appraisal from Sam Willis, which chimed with my own thoughts. The admiral compares very favourably alongside, to quote Willis 'the useless' Thomas Graves.

Finally one of the interesting aspects of this read was the characters described who shaped the outcome of the war, two of whom stuck with me, namely the irascible Admiral Sir George Rodney, who though gifted with great talents in leading fleets in battle, displayed less admirable qualities of self enrichment at the expense of the greater war effort, repaying the Dutch for their trading pursuits in the taking of the Dutch island of St Eustatius (now I know what that card refers to in Washington's War) and his somewhat  disregard for the chain of command when it suited, and Admiral Sir Edward Hughes who has often appeared in other naval histories as rather unimaginative and plodding but who Willis takes pains to recognise for his ability to manage well the limited resources at his command and to fight a successful defensive campaign that ensured the Indian sub continent would remain firmly in British hands at the close of the war.

I really appreciated the approach to the layout of the book in that my understanding of the naval war in the AWI and its wider impact on the war as whole gained a much clearer understanding as Willis, whilst describing the events of a particular campaign in a particular theatre, constantly took the reader back to the impacts the events described had on other theatres and the conflict as a whole.

In addition I came away from reading it with a much better understanding of the learning process the British naval and military leadership went through in this war in understanding the need for close cooperation in combined operations. Of course these lessons would need to be relearned as a new war commenced after the previous one, but the tactical success of the landings in Aboukir Bay and the wider cooperation between British naval leaders and the army in the Peninsular War that followed can trace a path of experience gained from the Howe brothers landing an army off New York with great success and planning in 1776 and would become a key factor that would allow British power to be projected so successfully around the globe in the next century and beyond.

The Struggle for Sea Power, A Naval History of American Independence is 587 pages that includes:

List of Illustrations
Sixteen Colour
Twenty-Four Black & White

The charts in this book are extensive and well executed to follow the text

List of Charts:
America Before the War
Rhode Island
New York to Quebec, Part 1: New York and the Lower Hudson
New York to Quebec, Part 2: Hudson Highlands and Lake Champlain
New York to Quebec, Part 3: St Jean to Quebec
Northern Europe
The Caribbean
The Red Sea and India
The Gulf Coast
The Chesapeake Bay
The Invasion of Canada
The Pennsylvania Campaign


PART 1 American Revolution, 1773 - 1775
1. British Pyre
2. American Origins
3. European Gunpowder
4. Canadian Invasion
5. Colonial Sea Power
6. British Evacuation

PART 2 Civil War, 1776 - 1777

7. British Attack
8. Freshwater Fleets
9. American Riposte
10. British Surrender
11. American Sea Power

PART 3 World War, 1778 - 1780

12. Bourbon Alliance
13. French Firepower
14. British Survival
15. Caribbean Sea
16. Indian Empire

17. Spanish Patience
18. Bourbon Invasion
19. British Resourcefulness
20. Caribbean Crisis
21. French Incompetence
22. American Destruction

23. British Dominance
24. Allied Recommitment
24. Spanish Skill
26. Russian Meddling

PART 4 American Independence, 1781

27. Dutch Disaster
28. British Obsession
29. French Escapes
30. Allied Success

Glossary of Nautical Terms

The book in hard copy retails at a list price of £30 but at the time of writing Amazon are listing new copies available for as little as £10.95 which is a steal for this quality of book.

Next up - Work progresses with the Spanish Fleet in All at Sea and more adventures from Washington's War in Vassal

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Washington's War on Vassal - Game One

The adventure into the world of boardgaming with Vassal continues for Steve and me as we get to grips with playing Washington's War, the GMT revision of the original Avalon Hill game, We the People that Steve and I first got to grips with in its original incarnation, as one of the first card driven games that is such a modern feature of many games today.

Having cut our teeth using Vassal to play Columbia Games 1812, followed by L2's revision of another classic Avalon Hill title, Breakout Normandy, we wanted to see how Vassal copes with using a card driven mechanic

War of 1812

BKN Game One

BKN Game Two

The position on our first game of Washington's War, at the end of 1777 played using Vassal 

We started our game of Washington's War just before my computer hard drive blew up and sadly I lost the first three years of play game shots and so my account starts from the end of 1777 with the map seen above.

The first thing to say is that the graphics in this game are superb with a great map and game pieces rendered as beautifully as the original board game, and once we had reacquainted ourselves with the rules of play, the game flowed along quite nicely, with two or three rounds of card play being quite possible in an evening of play.

Below is a shot of the British card hand, with the American having the same screen not visible to the British player. The cards are drawn by a simple click of a button under each card, so not visible here and the cards are played by a right click on the selected card, giving a drop down menu of the range of options to play it, as seen over the D'Estaing card seen below, with the system delivering the card to the playing board once an appropriate selection has been made - 'simples as the meer-cat would say!' 

Vassal handles the seven cards held by each player at the start of each turn in this window allowing easy play of a selected card without the other player being able to see the hand held.

Both Steve and I were finding our way with Washington's War in the early play, being more familiar with the older version of the game, but as you will see from the map below, we had had some early action, with Greene and Washington driven out of New England by Howe, attacking out of Boston, later supported by Cornwallis, establishing a line above New York and gradually securing up to Canada with an array of British PC control markers.

End 1777, the Year of the Hangman and the British are starting to build their position in New England with the US army relatively weak and French intervention a long way off.

In 1776, Clinton landed at Norfolk with a 5 strength army, drawing Arnold south to cover him, only to see Clinton quickly reembark to his ships and land at Wilmington to allow a march on Philadelphia, then held by Washington, defeating the American leader and dispersing Congress, only to have Washington counterattack after an American PC was placed behind the British force to prevent any retreat.

Clinton was forced to surrender losing his army and the British Infantry advantage as well as ramping up the French intervention chart, with the only recompense for the British being the turning of Arnold and his removal from the American order of battle leaving the map looking as it does at the end of 1777. 

End of 1778, with Congress dispersed to Charlotte, North Carolina, and British garrisons starting to take up residence in New England

Playing the British, I soon focused my attention on New England to give me my six states including Canada to give the Crown victory should the war come to a close before 1782 as the last card laid indicated it might.

The one asset the British are wealthy with is troops, which provide a useful way of sprinkling garrisons behind British lines to hold down the country from American PC placement and flipping once my main armies had marched past.

It soon also occurred to me to have my generals in close proximity to police the River Hudson and prevent American incursions as one of their number moved between states delivering those garrisons, thus forcing the Americans to make the running and take their chances against my mutually supporting armies able to call out the militia and get naval support when close to the coast.

End of 1780 and Greene has moved into Canada to try and threaten Montreal and Quebec, before Carleton and Burgoyne returned north to seal off that front. Howe and Cornwallis hold the Hudson line against Washington, whilst Clinton has done a first class job setting up garrisons around New England to secure the rear

By 1780, the British had got a strangle hold on New England with French intervention still six points away, not the three shown on the map and no sign of the Ben Franklin card.

Steve had a go at breaking the British line at New York, initially driving the British army out and back to Long Island, only to have Cornwallis counterattack after picking up reinforcements there and rolling a one with plus two on the dice leaving Washington needing a four or more to repulse the British but rolling a two and finding himself wintering once again in Philly.

End of 1781 and end of the rebellion, with Washington surrounded in Hartford and with the 1779 card played indicating war end.

As the war rolled into 1781 the British were in a strong position and looking for that war end card to grab the six state victory.

It was then that Steve played the 1779 war end card that decided the war would end that year leaving Steve to make a final bid for glory by threading Washington between Howe and Cornwallis to grab Hartford Connecticut and thus deny the state to the British by playing his last card with two activation points to place the necessary PC markers.

Of course the Americans were banking on the British not having a campaign card to mitigate such a move, but sadly, they did and Howe moved into the attack as Clinton took up his position on the Hudson to secure New York and the forward line.

War end with the British Minor Campaign card on the board and Washington bottled up in Hartford and unable to prevent British control of the state 

Howe lost the battle of Hartford and pulled back to New Haven, but this left Washington surrounded and unable to flip Hartford to American control thus leaving the state in British control.

Quite a nail-biting conclusion to a cat and mouse struggle and with me looking forward to commanding the Americans in our next play through.

The small changes in the rules between Washington's War and We the People make this feel a distinctly different game, but still a classic in that how the cards roll out will produce a completely different game each time and will force different strategies from both players accordingly.

The northern strategy worked well in this game with no intervention from the French and the early ejection of Greene and Washington from Boston and New York. However that might not be the case in our next play and the British may be forced to look south where North and South Carolina and Georgia are relatively small states sitting below the winter line making the establishment of British garrisons less problematic to maintain provided strong British forces are nearby.

As far as an American approach to the game, my mind is still open to ideas and I will be thumbing through the playbook this weekend for some new ones.

Next up: A book review from the Age of Sail and work starts on the Spanish collection of Napoleonic ships with JJ's Dockyard ringing to the sound of hammers.

Saturday 13 June 2020

All at Sea, Rigging Tutorial Video, Part Three - French & Spanish Running Rigging

This series of rigging tutorials concludes with a look at fixing running rigging on French and Spanish Napoleonic ships.

In this final video I demonstrate the fixing of running rigging to a frigate illustrating the difference to that shown in the video looking at the British rig. A little longer than the previous two, I have shown the method for each mast in detail which will hopefully make the process easier to follow.

If you intend using these guides to help you work on your own models you might find the rigging PDF tutorial I produced earlier a useful accompaniment - see the link below

Next up - More adventures in the land Vassal and Steve and my game of Washington's War, and a booe review looking at the naval war of the American War of Independence

Thursday 11 June 2020

Breakout Normandy on Vassal - End Game Two

Steve M and I concluded our game of Breakout Normandy a few weeks ago following my last report on how things were going, last month.

Apologies for a delayed update on the final result, but a combination of time taken to put together the series of Napoleonic ship rigging tutorials and what I gather is known as the Windows 'Blue Screen of Death' that caused me to need a new hard drive on my laptop combined to set my schedule back somewhat.

My laptop, about a week ago, looking rather sick and forlorn

The good news was that my local computer repair man had things back up and running very quickly and I managed to salvage my hard drive content thanks to a regular backup on my external drive and being able to salvage the few files that weren't backed up, that were on the old drive, which included some game save screen shots that I wanted for this post.

The Normandy Front at the end of D+3 with St Lo and Caen under severe pressure and the centre of the German front only just holding, and 5 Allied VP on the scoreboard

So having left things looking rather worrying for the Wehrmacht in Normandy three days after the landing, Steve and I picked up with the Allies looking forward to a sunny June 10th to press their advantage and close out the game in Week One with 5 of the 9.6 points required already on the board.

The US front end D+4, with St Lo in US hands and Carentan looking set to fall the next day

Well suffice to say, things went from bad to worse for the Germans, despite bitter resistance in Caen and Carentan, that saw the defenders battered but grimly contesting those key areas, but St Lo falling to 2nd US Infantry Division and tanks from CCA 2nd Armoured Division, before 3rd Falschirmjager Division could make it into the area, suffering air attacks along the route as they resorted to sealing off the city to the south.

The British/Canadian front end D+4 with the defenders of Caen grimly holding on, but for how much longer

Only the arrival of strong German artillery assets set up around the southern outskirts of Caen prevented the city falling into Allied hands, but by the end of the day the Allies had added another 3 VP to their tally and looking likely to only need one more day to finish a very successful week a day early, despite the weather set to turn next day, the only slight hope for German plans.

The US Front on D+5 and Carentan has fallen along with Foret de Cerisy, which with those 3VP make it game, set and match for the Allies with one day to spare in Week One.

Well needless to say Steve 'was not at home to Mr Cock Up!' to quote Captain Blackadder, and the US forces finished off the German defenders in Carentan, followed up by a drive in from the Omaha beachhead by CCB US 2nd Armoured Division to clear the German defences in the Forest de Cerisy to grab another 3 VP and end our game a day early with little hope for the battered German defences to salvage the situation.

The British/Canadian front end D+5 with little change due to the shorter overcast day and Allied efforts put into securing the required VP on the American sectors. However despite German reinforcements the fall of Caen seems imminent.

With maximum effort put into the US front, the Anglo'Canadian sectors remained fairly quiet with both sides resorting to artillery barrages that left the Germans in and around Caen the worse off and ripe for heavy attacks going forward to reset the lines here.

Well played Steve, in both our games, in which he played as equally well running the Allies in game one and demonstrating that Breakout Normandy is a game that offers both sides opportunities to alter the course of the historical campaign; providing a game system that from our experience never seems to produce a predictable outcome and with games differing remarkably one to another but always staying within the historical narrative.

The Normandy Front on D+5 with 11 Allied VP in the bag together with a lot of German POW's

As the German player on the end of a torrid four days following D-Day, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of resisting the Allied onslaught as best as I could with the resources to hand, and the rushing forward of arriving reinforcements under air attack because of Allied breakthroughs and the constant need to spend activations on blowing bridges and getting artillery strikes in before the inevitable Allied counter-strikes prevented them firing really seemed to capture the German experience of fighting in Normandy recounted in the surviving German accounts of the historical campaign.

One love affair with a favourite game rekindled, Steve and I decided to let Vassal entertain us with the playing of another favourite, 'We the People', soon upgraded to 'Washington's War', the GMT update, that would allow us to explore how the system handles card play, a favourite game engine mechanism in a lot of games today, but pioneered first in Mark Herman's excellent game recreating the American War of Independence published originally by Avalon Hill, a report on this game to follow.

Next up: Rigging Tutorial Part Three, looking at French/Spanish running rigging, before I start work on the Spanish collection of ships for my All at Sea collection, and a report of our first game of Washington's War using Vassal.

Saturday 6 June 2020

All at Sea, Rigging Tutorial Video, Part Two — British Running Rigging

Following on from the first video looking at fixing the standing rigging to these 1:700th model Napoleonic ships, I finish off the model by rigging it as a British 74-gun ship of the line.

All at Sea Rgging Tutorial Video - Part One, Standing Rigging

Fixing up running rigging to these models can really take them to another level in terms of the visual appeal and help give a great impression of perhaps the most technical war-machine of their age with a seeming myriad of lines allowing the crews to control the ship With sail settings appropriate to the weather and battle conditions.

The diagram pictures in the video should help to map out the route taken with the ends of each line, always starting with the top lifts on each mast as illustrated here on the mizzen

Of course we are not looking to recreate the rigging as a whole, but simply give an impression of it, and this can be achieved by adding the lifts and braces associated with the running as opposed to the standing rigging, covered in part one.

British style running rigging is unique to British and some American ships in that the braces, the lines leading from the ends of each spar or yard, always lead back to a common fixing point behind the mast on which the yard is on.

I have colour coded the route of each line (red-port, and green starboard)

As you will see, the sequence of rigging each mast, starting with the mizzenmast follows a similar pattern with the start point being the creation of the top yard lifts and then leading the ends of the line back to a fixing point and then back to one of the lower yards to create another set of braces and lifts, before bringing both ends of the line to a common fixing point in terms of the foremast or the hull anchoring points on opposite sides of the hull in terms of the mizzen and mainmasts.

In this and the previous video I have made errors in setting some lines, not having rigged any models for over two weeks before starting these, and a process I had got to an unconsciously/competent level of performing, having built lots of ships in the previous months, is now slightly back in the consciously/competent zone, where more thought is required to complete the process without error.

Perhaps that’s not a bad thing as these tutorials will most likely be of most use to beginners in this way of building model age of sail ships and so you will see that if at first you make the occasional error it is easy to replace a line or put one in which was left off.

For more posts looking at my collection of Napoleonic ships, just click on the ‘All at Sea’ tab at the top of the blog which will link you to all my posts in date order. There you will find modelling ideas, painting tips and links to their video briefings, game reports using the models and suggested reading from book reviews on the subject.

Next up, I will finish off this series of tutorials by running through the running rigging on a French frigate which will illustrate the sequencing of the lifts and braces peculiar to the warships of those navies.

Wednesday 3 June 2020

All at Sea, Rigging Tutorial Video, Part One - Standing Rigging

The last few weeks of lock-down has been for me a great opportunity to reflect on a lot of things, and like many indulge the time into broadening my hobby.

A few weeks ago I posted about the role blogging performs as part of my own hobby experience and the importance of sharing, by using the platform that blogs can offer to help others get as much out of wargaming as I enjoy.

This got me thinking, in particular about my current theme to build a collection of 1:700th Napoleonic era ships and the learning I have garnered from rigging them in the last nine months.

All at Sea - Rigging Tutorial

It was back in December last year that I put together a PDF on how I go about rigging these models, 

JJ's Wargames - Rigging Tutorial

I know it struck me then, that the one thing a PDF can't show you is the sequence and method of working through, what for many can seem, a complicated and problematic process.

At the moment I am working on a couple of models for a friend from club, Bob, in an effort to give him some reference models to work from when putting his collection together and it struck me as an opportunity to learn some video and editing skills and try to capture the process for YouTube so that it would compliment the instructions in the PDF and perhaps provide a better overall guide.

Putting this, the first of a planned series of three fifteen minute tutorials, has been a steep learning curve using my IPad and IMovie to film and edit my work, first starting with the standing rigging, common to all the ships and navies of the period and then looking at rigging the first model of a 74-gun ship with British pattern running rigging and then to follow that with a third video, looking at a frigate with French/Spanish pattern running rigging.

I hope this will encourage those I have heard from in the process of posting my 'All at Sea' series of posts, who have commented that the rigging process can seem a bit daunting, to see that it is a methodical step-wise process that is quickly learnt after a few models and will give a lot of satisfaction when seeing the results of the finished model, oh and it's really not that difficult.

Enjoy and Bob, I hope you like the models, when you finally get hold of them, but in the meantime you can follow the progress of them getting done.