Saturday, December 31, 2011

ACW Riverine - Under Construction ... (Part IV)

At last, a couple of CSA ironclad gunboats under construction. First, CSS Tennessee.

Some details need to be added, such as coamings around what seem to be netted openings in the roof of the casemate fighting compartment (?). I presume these openings existed in order that there be a bit of light for the gun crews and others to work with. It seems reasonable that some kind of netting be drawn across these spaces as protection against shell fragments and shrapnel.

I also want to build up the bow and stern a bit, and add steering chains along the rear deck. Not sure what to use for chains, to be honest.

And, of course, the gun ports need guns and port lids. The latter were the swivel kind. As for the guns, although the Tennessee had ten ports, she carried 6 guns: a pivot Brooke Rifle fore and aft and two guns in each broadside. I'm planning on showing guns 'run out' through the fore and aft ports, and the middle two broadside ports, whilst the other broadside ports will be shown closed.

Now: the following is my 'first pass' attempt at constructing CSS Arkansas.

Not a success, as you can see. Part of the problem is a lack of information, though I have recently found out the vessel's dimensions - a big help! This ... erm ... model turns out to be too short by about a centimetre.

As it transpires, there is some disagreement as to what the boat looked like: one model maker depicting her as having vertical sides (which i suspect is a misunderstanding of the 'straight line' hull for at least the length of the casemated fighting compartment). Others show a distinct gap between the foremost broadside gunport and the other two. Here's an example from Stephen Lund and William Hathaway's downloadable PDF Modelling Civil War Ironclad Ships.There is no evidence that I can discover to suppose any arrangement different from what I have assumed here.
But clearly something has to be done about the the vessel forward and aft of the casemate. Can the thing be reconstructed, or do we start all over again?

Meanwhile, on a different note - introducing a third belligerent in the wars of Jono's World: Sideon IV: the Archepelago of Sarbia. Here is one of its three aircraft carriers...

... and a squadron of light tanks from the Sarbian Army.

These were got from packets of Army Men type soldiers that included an over scale jeep (which will become a light truck) and a slightly under scale tank (which, with its gun cut back, becomes a light tank). Tank #234 is actually a water pistol (yep: the thing can actually shoot!) that has been kicking around the house for x-teen years or more. It has become a close support tank with a rather large gun.
(The packet also contained small 'stealth' fighters that will be hard to find uses for...)

Cheers - and my best wishes to you all for the New Year.
Ion A. Dowman

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

ACW Riverine - Under Construction (Part III)

Every fleet needs support vessels by way of tenders and tugboats. Vessel #1 is a small unarmed tugboat that might be used to help with mooring larger vessels, or towing cargo barges.

Vessel #3 is slightly larger - large enough to carry a 32pr rifled cannon for self-defence. To be honest, I don't really know if such vessels did indeed carry ordnance, but it seemed a reasonable proposition.

Vessel #6 is another large tugboat or tender, slightly larger than #3. I don't think any future constructions of this type of vessel will be any larger than this...

Mortar barges. Crude looking they are, but they were constructed from an illustration in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. Three seemed a sufficient number for my purposes...

There remains a question about crewing these vessels. I do believe they might be a little over-scale anyway, but they look right. Maybe 10mm figures will have the right appearance...

Below are three views of a Kickapoo class monitor - two turrets, funnel and conning tower.

As yet, not a particularly convincing model at all. I'll probably add lifeboats and other gear to give it more of a lift, and scribe somehow the deck plates in the 'brick' pattern the Union seemed to favour for this type of vessel.

The hull will need reshaping as well into something more canoe-like. Then paint white around the tops of the turrets, funnel and conning tower... M'mmm, yes: it might look the business yet! I'll have a think about the turrets, too - possibly they are too tall.

To be concluded: CSS Tennessee and CSS Arkansas...

Monday, December 26, 2011

ACW Riverine -Under Construction... (Part II)

Above: the first of a number of Confederate steam rams/ gun boats. After all this time, I still haven't figured out how to build the 'walking beam' arrangement. It looks as though this vessel is missing a bowsprit, too. The masts could stand revisiting: the topmasts look rather too thick, as well.

This was intended to be a fairly 'generic' sort of vessel.
More CSA gunboats, armed fore and aft with rifled ordnance. Well... they would be if I had got around to completing those guns...
Rather than build specific gunboats, often named for Confederate generals and which survived maybe one or two serious actions, I gave them other names. The letters on the funnels serve as aides-memoire for Atchafalaya, Pontchartrain and Maurepas.

Here we have a generic Union vessel that might be a troop transport or maybe one of Col. Ellet's steam rams. This was made on the basis of a wood engraving, I think from Battles and Leaders

Another steamboat that might serve as a transport or as a steam ram. I don't recall what the basis for this vessel was - I think it might have been a picture of someone else's model. At the time I was building these, information was very hard to come by as to dimensions, design - even colours. At that, even professional modellers apparently have to make guesses as to what these vessel really looked like...

I think a little touching up might be in order, such as railings around the decks, lifeboats, that sort of thing...

Next time: A monitor, and some auxiliary boats and barges...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

ACW Riverine - Under Construction... (Part I)

Once you get into a war period, you start to get interested in combined operations. The American Civil War is one that leads itself in my view very well to this kind of thing. The project I began (apart from one Union ironclad I built more than 10 years previous)some 16 or 18 years ago, making enough progress that several brown water naval actions were fought, and an interesting river and shore action tried out.

A friend having noticed one of my vessels, newly exhumed from the drawer in which it had sat for well over a decade and awaiting attention, I bethought myself to take a few pics of several of these craft. To begin, a 'Cairo' Class Union ironclad a picture of which heads this posting. Here are several more angles...

All these vessels were scratchbuilt from balsa, cardboard, ball-pen ink reservoirs, wire and any other likely-looking bits and pieces. Much of the paintwork was from my daughter's rather depleted water colours, with the armour and guns being painted with my favorite gloss black and silver mix.

I chose a 1:300 scale, for a number of reasons. My ACW armies are 20mm plastics: mostly Airfix, with a few ESCI units thrown in (including a small unit of Berdan's Sharpshooters). Because of the compromise between figure and ground scales in wargames, naval vessels the same scale as the figures would look plain wrong. The Arkansas, for instance, would have to be 30 inches long by about 5 wide - imagine what that means in terms of ground scale: something over half a mile in length!

So I opted what I was using as the ground scale for my naval forces.

That the two don't look completely out of place on the same table was about what I hoped and expected. I'll post some pics of them together in a later posting. Meanwhile, more Mississippi Eads gunboats...

Cairo and Carondelet steaming downriver. You can see my rather piecemeal approach to construction, one vessel receiving its full complement of lifeboats; the other its ... awning rail? I am tempted to give at least one of them an awning, even though they were taken down in action. Wargamers' licence: it would add, perhaps, a little colour...

This is the king of the Eads gunboats, the Benton: 200 ft long, 75 ft beam (yep!), 16 guns. Actually, this Benton is missing a couple of guns. Earthquake damage likely enough. The set of drawers in which these boats reside was thrown to the floor from a great height twice (in February, then in June) by earthquakes, but the ships came out of it not too badly, on the whole.

But I notice from Battles and Leaders that later in the war, the Eads gunboats had cut back on their ordnance, often carrying three or four guns only, instead of their full complement of thirteen. So some empty gunports are not altogether out of place.

Finally (for this posting) a look at the first Ironclad I attempted, the Watusi.

A bit rough, and, lacking much information on riverboat construction, I made a lot of guesses. It was never intended as anything more than a 'generic' ironclad river gunboat anyway. I seriously doubt that there was ever a Watusi (named for a dance craze of a century later) afloat upon American rivers in the 1860s...

I had some misgivings about the stern, but need not have worried. I believe the Essex was built on vaguely similar lines. I've never had the heart to 'retire' this vessel. It has served in a few fights, standing in nobly for Tyler and Lexington in a Shiloh refight in 1990. And I've always rather liked that laddery thing climbing the stern casemate...

To be continued...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Worst laid plans...

As foreshadowed, another 'back-history' (i.e. play-test pick-up) game set in Jono's World of Sideon IV, featured an action very similar to that made famous in Don Featherstone's seminal opus, War Games. I refer, of course, to the 'Tank and Infantry Action on the St James Road.' This action, played yesterday (Sunday) purported to be a counter-attack by Kiivar forces against the invading Raesharn army.

Immediately following the invasion of Kiivar by Raesharn and allied Omez forces, the invaders seemed to have it all their own way, striking deep into Kiivar territory. But as the weeks went by, predictions of an early surrender by the beleaguered Kiivar army became less frequent. Resistance stiffened; Raesharn attacks began to experience difficulties, and rebuffs and repulses became more than occasional.

A major thrust towards the Kiivar capital along the Aya Yakoob Highway ground to a costly halt well short of its objective, and there the front stabilised for several days. It was precisely this sector of the front that Kiivar High Command selected for a counterstrike that would demonstrate to Raesharn, and to the World, that Kiivar was determined to fight until the invader was expelled altogether from its territory.

Command of the Kiivar forces detailed for this local counter-action, devolved upon Colonel Nam Wod Noi, commander of I Battalion, 47th (Gung Ho) Infantry Regiment. On the other side of the hill, Major Jono, 111th Motorised Rifle Battalion, had anticipated a possible thrust by the Kiivar forces, and disposed of his troops with the view to overwhelming the enemy with a surprise counter blow of his own...

The respective forces were:

Yii-Har Tank Regiment (elements):
Nr 1 Squadron: 2 medium and 1 light tank;
Nr 2 Squadron: 2 medium and 1 support tank.
Gung-Ho Infantry Regiment (elements):
3 Platoons, each with 2 sections of 7 infantry and 1 MMG section (1 gun with 3 crew)
- including a Coy HQ, a total of 60 officers and men;
Battery, Anti-tank guns: 2 medium anti-tank guns;
Battery, Light artillery: 2 light/field guns plus FO.

Tank Squadron: 3 medium tanks;
Infantry Company: 2 platoons, reinforced by 1 light mortar, MMGs and AT rifles (estimated 40 officers and men);
Anti-tank battery: 2 medium AT guns;
Artillery battery: 2 light/field guns plus FO.

There follows a general view of the battlefield from behind Raesharn lines.
As commander of the Raesharn defenders, Jono was told he could place his troops anywhere on the east side and up to the line where the lighter upland grass gave way to the darker meadow (that is to say, the line where the light base cloth gave way to the darker). The barbed wire he could place even in front of that line. His actual deployment was much more, shall we say, conservative.

Kiivar attack forces along their start line.
Lacking anything usable as a railway embankment (as in the original Featherstone scenario), I settled for a belt of trees, bushes and shrubs along what seems to have been a long since dried up creek bed.

The Raesharn left rear: a two-gun battery dug in, with the battle HQ nearby. A lorry-mounted infantry section gets ready to move off...

The Raesharn right wing. The Raesharn command (Jono) has taken a rather radical approach to the problem, putting his faith in counter-attack. Here he has placed a whole reinforced platoon - at least three-quarters of his infantry - and all his armour into this strike force. This left his defences very thin everywhere else. All the same, this force might prove troublesome...

Red Farm defences: two medium anti-tank guns. Neither were dug in, though the nearer had some cover from the farm buildings. Their only protection came from the single LMG at the SE corner of Copse Hill, and the line of barbed wire covering the gap between the farm and the hill. The Raesharn command figured on the enemy tanks at least being forced to pass through this gap, the farm forming an effective anti-tank obstacle.
I accepted Jono's argument, the farm buildings having rather casually been placed closer together than would allow the tanks to pass between them, and nor was there enough room between the grain store and the edge of the world...

The day was already somewhat advanced when this second shot of the Raesharn right wing was taken. Held back for the time being waiting for the Kiiver attack to develop, the Raesharn armour was stung by an early damaging blow from the first shot by the oncoming Kiivar tanks of 2nd Sqn, Yii-Har Tank Rgt.

Vengeance is swift! All three Raesharn tanks open fire upon the only Kiivar tank in range: #2. Two miss, but Raesharn's #1 does the needful: a killer blow. Kiivar's #2Tank brews up at once. At the same time Kiivar's #1 takes a damaging hit from an AT rifle on Copse Hill. Things are not looking propitious for the Kiivar armour! Tank #3 rushes forward to bring the enemy armour within range of its low-velocity pop-gun.

In the distance, the lead tank of 1st Sqn, Yii-Har Tank Rgt takes some hurt from the Raesharn AT guns about the Red Farm. Quickly discovered, the defending guns are quickly put out of action before they could do more damage.
Jono really ought to have dug them in (instead of the rear artillery). One of the guns did enjoy some light cover from the farm buildings, and could be shot at from only a narrow angle, but it did the gun and its crew no good.

Kiivar artillery in action. The Forward Observer team with their jeep take cover in the tree line.

Kiivar's 2nd Platoon closes in on Red Farm. Already having taken losses from artillery fire, #4 Section is about to occupy the grain store. Number 3 Section heads towards the farmhouse. The tanks get ready to storm the gap betwixt Red Farm and Copse Hill. With the anti-tank guns knocked out, there is little to stop them other than rifle-armed gun crew survivors, the LMG on Copse Hill, and a lorry-load of infantry hurriedly (and riskily) coming up.

Brisk tank action develops on the Kiivar left: Second squadron, Yii-Har Tank Rgt vs the Raesharn Armoured group. The odds look to be in favour of the Raesharn tanks, as Kiivar's #3 has only a low-velocity gun (which counts as light anti-tank in my rule set); and though one is badly damaged, Raesharn has 3 'runners' to Kiivar's surviving two. The Kiivar command was relying on the anti-tank guns following up to contain the Raesharn armour, should it break through.

The Kiivar tanks pushed through the first line of barbed wire. Tank #1 wiped out the pesky AT rifleman in the woods, then carried on to take out Raesharn's #3 tank. The low velocity gun of Kiivar's #3 proved good enough to damage Raesharn's #1. Behind the Raesharn tanks can be seen the hordes of infantry, awaiting their armour's victory before swarming in to the attack.

First Platoon, Gung-Ho Infantry, about to storm into the sparsely defended 'Copse Hill'.

More action on the left. Kiivar anti-tank guns drop into action north of Copse Hill. The lead gun was unlucky enough to unlimber under the muzzle of an unregarded MMG sited at the NE corner of Copse Hill. The entire gun crew was cut down. Meanwhile Tank #1 has taken another hit, but carries on the fight.
Jono rolled a 'Damage' hit, followed by a '1' for severity. Unless it receives an immediately lethal KO hit, a tank may accumulate 6 'points' of damage and continue to function. The 7th 'point' disables the tank.

Unlucky Section #4! Originally 7 strong, these guys had already lost 3 men to artillery fire during the advance. Breaking into the unoccupied grain store, they set about knocking loopholes in the walls. Down came a stonk - dead on target. Despite overhead protection, none of them survived. Section #4 was no more.
The average dice you see there (roll of 3,4 = ON TARGET) come into play when the guns are close enough to their target to fire in the expectation of scoring direct hits - 'anti-tank' range, so to speak. This has the effect of reducing the 6x6 artillery probability grid to 4x4, by eliminating the outer edge, whilst retaining the size of the 'beaten zone'. Quite a versatile device!

The Raesharn LMG man on Copse Hill is about to meet his quietus from the Kiivar infantry advancing over the feature. Third Infantry section has occupied the farmhouse and makes ready to open fire upon any enemy in or around the farmyard. First Sqn, Yii-Har Tank Regiment bursts through the barbed wire entanglements between the Farm and the Hill.

The lead Kiivar tank of 1st Squadron takes some damage from a lone anti-tank rifleman, and fails to knock him out with return MG fire. Meanwhile, the squadron's light tank engages the dismounted Raesharn lorried infantry just behind the Red Farm. First Squadron is looking unstoppable now!

Raesharn infantry, massed behind their tanks, awaiting the 'Charge' order that never came.

Victory for Kiivar armour! In previous battles, Raesharn tanks had had a slight ascendancy over their opponents, but today was Kiivar's day. True, their tanks were pretty battle-scarred at the end of the action, but only one was knocked out of the combat.
Jono's dice rolling was appalling once the action became general - rolling low when he needed high; rolling high when he needed low. Terrible luck...

First squadron, Yii-Har Tank Regiment sweeps onward towards the Raesharn gun-line. Already, despite being strongly dug in, one gun has been silenced through crew losses. The Raesharn command's desperate plan to mount an infantry counterattack through the Copse Hill has been overtaken by the speed of the Kiivar advance. Already 1st and elements of 3rd Platoons are lining the eastern edge of the feature, backed by at least one MMG. The Raesharn infantry - not before time - pull back 10 miles to form a new line.

The butcher's bill made fairly pleasant reading for Colonel Nam Wod Noi:
Kiivar's losses: 1 Tank, 13 men (infantry and gun crews), plus 4 tanks damaged, 1 seriously);
Raesharn losses: 3 Tanks, 2 AT guns, 16 men (mostly gun crews, but most of the lorried section were also lost).

This was very much a victory for the Kiivar forces, but it really wasn't intended to be so. Ordinarily, I would have massed all my armour on the left flank, but as Jono had very little gaming experience, I decided to do as the 'German' commander of the Herman Goering Division did, and split the armour between both wings. Although I made certain suggestions about deployment (e.g. several times stating how far forward he could deploy), Jono chose his own method.

But two things really determined the outcome. In his inexperience, Jono is still apt to neglect much of his disposable force, even after reminders, and placing his trust in certain crucial events on the field (like the tank battle). That will change with time, of course. But the other thing was Jono's terrible luck with the dice, especially as the day wore on. By rights his armour could have expected to win the action on the north flank, and win it handily after Kiivar lost its first tank. Even backed up by the anti-tank guns, the lone #6 Section of 3rd Platoon might then have found itself in a spot of bother against surviving Raesharn tanks and a platoon and a half of infantry...

The rule set still needs tidying up, but, for the 'one brain cell' set that I want and that seems appropriate to Army Men type games, it seems to be coming along nicely.