Wednesday, 27 May 2015

15mm Sudan Campaign Ansar

As a break from all the Naval wargaming I thought I'd show how the 15mm Ansar army is progressing. I've managed to finish another couple of units of Hadendoa (Fuzzy Wuzzies) which are shown here in the foreground. These are all Old Glory figures, whereas the ordinary Dervish in the background are both OG and Peter Pig. They've been easy to paint, however you do need a huge amount to balance the forces against the British.

Further to my Sudan obsession I've completed the book by Henry Keown-Boyd "A Good Dusting". If you've an interest in the period and haven't got it, I'd consider it essential. An absolutely rip-roaring read full of the fear, determination and heroism displayed by all sides in the conflict.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Western Approaches Convoy Action - 1941 - Bay of Biscay‏

This is another AAR by Club Member Chris, from last Wednesday. Again it's using General Quarters First Edition Rules and ship models at 1/3000 scale (aircraft 1/600). I must say I don't envy Lawrence having to fend off all those bloody U-Boats and air attacks! Once more there are no photos from the game - although I'll certainly take some when I get along to the club next.

This time it was a poorly defended Western Approaches convoy which had left Freetown, around the Cape, via Gibraltar, and was now heading through the Bay of Biscay. Destination: Liverpool.
The convoy  ran in two columns and consisted of the following vessels.
RMS Laconia
Built in 1921 this passenger carrying liner was owned by the Cunard White Star Line. Displacement was 19, 695 tons. Her maximum speed was 16 knots.
Normally she carried 2,200 passengers, but having been taken over for “war work” she carried 3,000 Australian troops.
MV British Motorist
Built in 1924 this ship was an oil tanker. Gross displacement was 6,891 tons.
SS Empire Morn
Built in 1941 this cargo ship was converted to a “Camship” (Catapult Armed Merchantman”). Displacement: 7,092 tons. Speed: 10 knots.
MV Brisbane Star
Built in 1936 this ship displaced 11,076 tons. Refrigerated cargo ship. She was a DEMS (Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship) equipped with 2 x 4” low angle guns (one fore, one aft) and 1 x 12 pdr QF Mk V (AA) gun.
She also had Direction Finding equipment and an Echo Sounding Device.
SS City of Cairo
Built in 1915 she displaced 8,034 tons (7,422 tons of cargo and 311 passengers & crew). Speed: 12 knots.
SS Clan Alpine
Built in 1918 she displaced 5,442 tons. She could (under extreme circumstances) carry up to 11,317 tons of general cargo in her hold/on her deck). Speed: 11 knots.
SS Clan Forbes
Built in 1938 she displaced 7,529 tons. Her maximum speed was 17.5 knots. She was also a DEMS. She also had 2 x 4” low angle guns (one fore, one aft and 1 x 12pdr QF Mk V (AA) gun. On this occasion she was carrying ammunition.
She had Wireless Direction Finding Equipment & an Echo Sounding Device.
MV Dunedin Star
Built in 1935 she displaced 12,891 tons. She was a DEMS. Wireless Direction Finding Equipment & an Echo Sounding Device were also fitted.
She had 2 x 4” low angle guns (one fore, one aft) and 1 x 12pdr QF Mk V (AA) gun.
SS Dover Hill
Built in 1918 she displaced 5,818 tons. Her maximum speed was 10 knots. She was equipped with 1 x 40mm AA gun, and 1 x 20mm AA gun.
MV Automedon
She was built in 1922 and displaced 7,528 tons. Maximum speed of 14 knots.
That comprises the convoy. Now to the escort.
HMS Witch (V & W Class destroyer). Built in 1924 displacing 1,550 tons, speed 34 knots. Armament: 4 x 4.7” guns, 2 x 2pdr QF pompoms (40mm AA), & 6 x 21” torpedo tubes.
HMS Ledbury (Hunt Type 2 destroyer). Built in 1941 displacing 1,430 tons, speed 27 knots. Armament: 6 x 4” QF guns, 4 x 2pdr QF pompoms (quad mounting), 2 x 20mm, 110 depth charges (2 x depth charge throwers + 3 x depth charge racks).
HMS Violet (Flower class corvette). Built in 1940 displacing 940 tons, speed 16 knots. Armament: 1 x 4” gun, 2 x 0.5 mg (twin mounting), 2 x .303 Lewis mg (twin mounting), 2 x depth charge throwers + 2 x depth charge rails (40 depth charges).

Poor weather, reduced visibility.
HMS Witch’s radar picks up aircraft approaching the convoy. They are some distance off. The convoy continues on course (Convoy commanded by Laurence).
The Convoy commander orders the Camship (SS Empire Morn) to launch her solitary Hurricane fighter. The German air attack consists of 2 x Me-110 fighter-bombers (each with 2 x 500lb bombs) and 3 x He-111’s (torpedo bombers) each carrying 2 x torpedoes.
The Hurricane attacks the escort and shoots down 1 x Me-110. It goes on to attack the He-111’s but fails to hit any.
The German aircraft split up and 2 x He-111’s attack RMS Laconia (troopship), and 1 x He-111 and the surviving Me-110 attack MV British Motorist (oil tanker). Defensive AA fire is ineffective. RMS Laconia is hit by a torpedo from one of the He-111’s. She sinks slowly (4 turns) allowing a number of the Australian troops to get off the ship into the lifeboats. The Convoy commander (Laurence) is asked what orders are to be given in light of this disaster. He orders the convoy to continue on course leaving the survivors to fend for themselves (not sure the loss of 3,000 Australian troops, many of whom could have been saved, will be ‘welcomed’ in Liverpool).

HMS Witch’s radar picks up a further air attack. Again 2 x Me-110 fighter-bombers and 3 x He-111 bombers.  They link up with the surviving Me-110 (minus bombs) from the first air attack. The Hurricane makes a further attack on this raid driving off an Me-110 (unfortunately the one without bombs). The Hurricane continues onto the bombers and damages/drives off 1 x He-111. This leaves 2 x Me-110 fighter-bombers and 2 x He-111 torpedo bombers attacking the convoy.  Defensive AA fire is (again) ineffective. The He-111’s attack MV Dunedin Star from both sides but the torpedoes miss her. The 2 x Me-110’s bomb SS Dover Hill causing damage to her hull and rudder and reducing her speed. The Hurricane ditches near to SS Empire Morn.
U-76 surfaces in the poor weather conditions. She isn’t spotted.

 No air attacks this turn. The convoy reforms. SS Dover Hill begins to drop behind the convoy. The first “straggler”.
The convoy continues on it’s path towards Liverpool. The Convoy commander (Laurence) decides once and for all to leave the Australian troops from the Laconia, to their fate in the water. (That won’t go down well with the Admiralty, Laurence).
U-201 fires torpedoes. The U-boat isn’t spotted. All the convoy is aware of are torpedoes coming towards them from their starboard leading quarter.
The Convoy Commander orders the convoy to turn 45 degrees to port to avoid the torpedoes. U-76 surfaces ahead and to starboard of the convoy. HMS Witch spots U-76 on her radar (and visually) through the murky weather. U-201 is not detected although she fired her torpedoes at the convoy. All 4 torpedoes miss due to the convoys turn. An “object” is detected on asdic ahead of the convoy by HMS Ledbury. As yet this remains unidentified.  HMS Witch opens fire on U-76 with both of her fore 4.7” guns. She fails to score any hits.
Aircraft are picked up on HMS Witch’s radar. The Luftwaffe return. U-76 crash dives, her captain having decided it’s too unhealthy on the surface with a British destroyer firing at him. The “contact” ahead of the convoy is still unidentified this turn. 3 x He-111 high level bombers attack MV Dunedin Star. They fail to score any hits.
No air attacks are detected this turn (much to the Convoy commanders relief). U-47 (Gunther Prien – Ace. Dave’s idea) surfaces undetected. The “unidentified contact” is now virtually under SS Empire Morn. Further torpedoes are launched from the starboard side of the convoy. There are two different sources of these torpedoes (U-76 & U-201). U-201’s 4 x torpedoes have been fired at MV British Motorist. One hits, and the oil tanker is sinking (she takes 6 turns to sink – some of the crew spend 5 turns pumping out water, but eventually she succumbs to a watery grave). Not good. U-76’s 4 x torpedoes have been fired at the Dunedin Star. One torpedo hits and she sinks (taking 6 turns to go under – time for some of the crew to get off).
U-201 is detected by HMS Witch’s asdic. U-201 fires her stern torpedo at HMS Witch (very unsporting). HMS Ledbury fails to detect the anomaly in the water with her asdic which is now inside the convoy (good job Dave had decided it was a whale, Laurence, otherwise more ships would be heading to the bottom. I think Laurence had worked out it wasn’t a sub as it may well have fired torpedoes long before now).

No aircraft detected this turn.
By now the Convoy commander (Laurence) has had enough of “sitting and taking it”. HMS Violet is ordered to leave the starboard side of the convoy (where she was covering for HMS Witch who was hunting U-201) to join HMS Witch in attacking U-201. HMS Ledbury also leaves the port side of the convoy and heads to join in the “hunt”. Laurence is determined to sink a U-boat and says words to that effective (which I can’t repeat here, but he does question their crews’ parentage !!).  The torpedo U-201 fired (un-sportingly) at HMS Witch, misses.
The escorts then lose contact with both U-boats.
HMS Witch’s radar picks up aircraft.
U-47 surfaces directly ahead of the convoy. U-135 surfaces ahead and to port of the convoy. The aircraft appear (3 x He-111 high level bombers and 2 x Me-110 fighter-bombers) over the unescorted convoy (Laurence’s worst case scenario – a combined air/sea attack and the three escorts are away hunting 2 U-boats). The 3 x He-111’s attack the Dover Hill who has by now dropped well to the rear of the convoy due to her hull and rudder damage earlier reducing her speed. The AA fire (such as it is) is ineffective. HMS Ledbury luckily hadn’t gone too far from the head of the convoy. She turns with the intention of returning to her position, and opens fire with her 4” guns on U-132. No hits. U-135 fires her 3.5” deck gun at MV Brisbane Star. No hits. U-47 fires her 3.5” deck gun at SS Automedon. She hits her, causing 50% hull damage (and a “Critical Hit”). The crew’s morale breaks and they abandon ship (I’d say that’s a fairly “Critical Hit”).
HMS Witch re-acquires U-76 on her asdic. She launches a depth charge attack and sinks it. Perseverance paid off Laurence. You ‘got one’.

No aircraft detected this turn.
U-47 fires torpedoes, as does U-135. Both submerge. The convoy resumes it’s original course which is north (towards U-47 & U-135’s last known position ahead of the convoy). The escorts head towards the last known position of U-47/U-135. They re-join the convoy. The abandoned SS Automedon narrowly avoids colliding with the Dunedin Star (which is still sinking slowly). The torpedoes fired from U-47/U-135 fail to hit anything.
There you have it. The end of another Wednesday evenings Naval game, packed with 10 x turns of action.  As Dave put it afterwards, “that was something really different”. It certainly was. I thoroughly enjoyed it (and I think everyone else did, including Laurence who said it had been a challenge, but an enjoyable one).
Dave took the part of the “Game Master” – he brought on the German aircraft (random die rolls to determine what if anything came on each turn). He also ‘positioned’ the U-boats at the start (some not in a good position) and then it was left to Paul to command/manoeuvre the U-boats and decide which target/s the aircraft went for. I did the ‘paperwork’ (mainly for the write-up) for the convoy and escorts leaving Laurence free to manoeuvre the ships, launch attacks, etc. He did well. The only thing he may have done differently would have been to try and rescue some of the Australian troops instead of leaving them to (eventually) drown. But that’s the difficult decisions that had to be made. Attacking two U-boats and leaving the convoy unescorted was a gamble. Yes, he did well sinking one. There are a number of documented instances of just that occurring. Certainly in the early part of the war. Mediterranean convoys were heavily escorted (even in 1941) at the expense of Western Approaches (hence a destroyer, destroyer escort and a corvette – very typical of those I’ve read up on in 1941).
For those who like “statistics” here’s the final tally.
RMS Laconia - sunk.                    19,695 tons
MV British Motorist – sunk.            6,891 tons
MV Dunedin Star – sunk.             12,891 tons
That’s a total loss of just under 40,000 tons of shipping (39,477 tons to be exact).
Add to that SS Dover Hill badly damaged and lagging behind the convoy (5,818 tons) where she would no doubt be “picked off” by any lurking U-boat.
In addition SS Automedon badly damaged and abandoned by her crew (7,528 tons).  How long would she last !!!!
That’s 5 lost out of 10. The most keenly felt would be the troopship and the tanker.
Next time I’ll be able to put more individual detail to the merchantmen (although a convoy ran at the speed of the slowest ship unless it was a “fast convoy” – these tended to be Mediterranean convoys with 6-8 ships or even the Queen Mary crossing the Atlantic at a speed too high for the U-boats to catch her).

Watching Laurence have to make decisions faced by the convoy commander’s during the war brought it home to me just how good this game was

Monday, 11 May 2015

General Quarters WW2 1/3000 Naval Game Report

This is a battle report from Chris, one of our club members, who put on a game there last Wednesday with some of the other guys. Even though I wasn't present I thought it was an excellent write-up and just wanted to share it here:

“Malta Convoy” 1942
Last Wednesday evening, Dave G, Paul H and myself re-fought a typical Malta convoy set in 1942, using 1:3000th ships and 1:600th aircraft.

I acted as the “record keeper” so in effect only Dave and Paul were taking part. You will see from the following write-up that both players had considerable forces at their disposal (much more than would be expected on a Wednesday evening) yet we achieved 10 turns in 2 hours (and a result).
Dave commanded the Axis forces which consisted of a large amount of Italian aircraft, 8 x Italian MAS boats and (not forgetting) 2 Italian submarines. He also had some German aircraft (He-111’s, Me-110’s & Ju-87’s) and two German destroyers + two torpedo boats and 8 x S-boats.
The German destroyers were the Z-17 (Diether Von Roeder) and the Z-20 (Karl Galster). Armed with 5 x 5” guns plus 8 x torpedo tubes.

The T-22 Class were the T-22 and the T-27, each armed with 2 x 4.1” guns and 6 x torpedo tubes.
The Italian submarines were the Marcello and the Dandolo. Each was armed with 2 x 3.9” guns and 8 x torpedo tubes.

Paul commanded the British convoy. This consisted of 10 merchant ships (1 tanker, 1 ammo ship, 1 CAMship – Catapult Armed Merchantman, and 7 various merchant ships). He had quite a heavy escort (it was 1942) consisting of 10 British destroyers (of varying quality).

The escort consisted of 2 x “J/K” class destroyers (HMS Javelin & HMS Kimberley) each with 6 x 4.7” guns and 10 x torpedo tubes.
Two “G/H” class destroyers (HMS Garland and HMS Havock) each with 4 x 4.7” guns and 8 x torpedo tubes.
Two V & W class destroyers (HMS Venomous and HMS Vanity) with 4 x 4.7” guns and 3 torpedo tubes in Venomous and 4 x 4” HA guns (AA) in Vanity.
Three Type 2 Hunt class destroyers (HMS Blankney, HMS Exmoor and HMS Lamerton) each with 6 x 4” guns.
One Hunt Type 3 (HMS Belvoir) with 4 x 4” guns completes the escort.

The Axis commander (Dave) randomised the OOB, bringing on air and naval assets depending upon the throw of a dice. This represented the lack of co-ordination between the Germans and Italians, and even between their own respective Air Forces and Navies.

Turn 1
The first air attack took place on the convoy (as decreed by Dave’s die rolling).
26 Macci 200’s (that’s 26 models each representing two real aircraft. I shall refer to the number of models) escorting 6 x SM-79 bombers were intercepted by the convoy’s CAP (3 x Beaufighters). 1 Beaufighter was shot down and 2 damaged/driven off. The Macci’s lost 2 shot down and 1 damaged/driven off. 
The SM-79’s attacked the lead merchant ship of the convoy but failed to hit.

Turn 2
Nothing happened. No air attacks appeared. The convoy continued on it’s course.

Turn 3
A second Axis air attack. This time the Luftwaffe appeared in the shape of 2 x Me-110 fighter-bombers and 3 x He-111 bombers. Again the attack was made on the leading ships of the convoy. HMS Garland damaged/drove off 1 x Me-110. The He-111’s failed to hit anything.

Turn 4
MAS and S-boats hide behind an island. These are not picked up by Allied radar.
Torpedoes are fired at HMS Kimberley from the direction of the island. She has taken station on the starboard side of the convoy, between it and the island/s. She is “on her own” providing an outer defence.

Turn 5
HMS Kimberley combs the torpedo tracks and heads towards the submerged Dandolo which fired them. The torpedoes miss HMS Kimberley.

Turn 6
HMS Kimberley acquires the Dandolo on Asdic and depth charges her. Contact is lost. No result known (the Dandolo escapes the depth charging).

Turn 7
The Italian Air Force launches a further attack with 4 x Fiat CR 42 fighters and 3 x SM-79 bombers. The Convoy commander (Paul) decides in the absence of any Allied air support he will launch his solitary Hurricane from the CAMship. This intercepts the Italian fighter escort and shoots down 1 x CR 42. The Hurricane is damaged/driven off by the remaining CR 42’s (not much of a problem as its going to have to ditch in the water anyway).
An Italian submarine (Marcello) is detected by asdic (HMS Javelin) at the front of the convoy at the same time as the Italian aircraft launch their attack. AA fire from the lead escort shoots down 1 x SM-79 and damages/drives off 2 x SM-79’s.
HMS Javelin detects the Marcello and launches a depth charge attack which fails to cause any damage.
HMS Kimberley detects the Dandolo again, and launches depth charges which fail to cause any damage.
The two German destroyers appear to the rear starboard side of the convoy. HMS Belvoir opens fire on the Z-17 but fails to score any hits. In return both German destroyers open fire on HMS Kimberley who is busy hunting the Dandolo. As a result of this fire, the Kimberley’s speed is reduced to 3kts, her armament capability is reduced by 50% and she is on fire. A devastating attack. Crippled and out of the fight.
The S-boats launch an attack on the leading merchant ship/s in the convoy. 1 x S-boat is damaged/driven off by the defenders fire.
The Marcello launches torpedoes at the head of the convoy.
HMS Kimberley manages to put out her fires.

Turn 8
The 8 torpedoes fired the previous turn by the Marcello at 3 merchant ships fail to hit anything.
HMS Kimberley manages to damage the Z-20. HMS Belvoir joins in and fires at Z-20 causing hull and boiler room damage reducing her speed.
The convoy escorts fire at the S-boats and MAS boats attacking the convoy. 1 x S-boat is damaged/driven off; I x MAS boat is sunk.

Turn 9
Numerous torpedo attacks are resolved from the previous MAS/S-boat attacks.
One of the merchant ships is sunk.
Z-20 torpedoes and sinks the crippled HMS Kimberley.
At this point a CAP arrives, curtesy of the RAF based in North Africa. 13 x P-40 Kittihawks. Unfortunately no Axis air attacks are taking place this turn. They promptly strafe any MAS/S-boats they find, not really causing any damage to the fast moving little ships.
The Axis C.i.C (Dave) informs me that he fired the equivalent of 46 torpedoes at the convoy this turn and sunk 1 merchant ship. Unfortunately Dave, 4’s, 5’s and 6’s on a 6 sided dice are no good in these rules. 1 and 2 is really good and what counts.
Mind you the British C.i.C had his fair share of high die rolls.

Turn 10 
3 x Ju-87 Stukas arrive (when the CAP has disappeared) and attack a merchant ship (this happens to be the ammo ship). One Ju-87 is damaged/driven off by AA fire from the convoy escorts. Unfortunately they bomb and sink the ammo ship resulting in all Bonfire Nights coming at once.

The convoy continues on to Malta. A victory for the British (losing 2 merchant ships out of 10 in a convoy is a success).

The British lost one destroyer (HMS Kimberley) and two merchant ships (the loss of the ammo ship will be felt on Malta).

The Axis lost had one destroyer crippled (Z-20 Karl Galster) but lost numerous aircraft shot down/damaged.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

New Local Gaming Store Opens!

We've been very lucky here in Loughborough to be the recipients of yet another gaming store. Those of a more grey-haired disposition will remember the old Skytrex shop, then later years produced Wargames Inc and a GW store. The two former stores eventually closed their doors, and whilst the GW shop seems to hang on in there you'd be thinking that the continued frosty financial climate isn't likely to prove an ideal moment to open somewhere that isn't a) a coffee shop. b) a hairdressers or c) a fast food takeaway. Complaining about the standardization of our High Street is probably a bit like shaking your fist at gravity or some other force of nature. You may as well get on with it and accept that we'll never return to the halcyon days of Penny Farthings, the ZX81 personal computer or decent hobby shops.

So it's with a great deal of surprise and trepidation that I'd heard the latter was due to open it's doors this Bank Holiday. Clutching a few quid for a can of spray paint I decided I'd have a nosy and say hello. First off, was the size. It's actually two shops knocked into one, and the owner had given over a great portion of it to gaming tables. As it happens Dave Marshall of TM Terrain and Lester (both from our local Club) had brought along the Malifaux board which looked really nice. All the tables seemed to be buzzing with activity. The positive effects of this is that it gets people interacting and creates a community atmosphere. The downside however can be that a store like this can become more of a hang-out than a business. This was a previous issue with both the Wargames Inc shop and the early House of Heroes comic shop - lots of people milling about, gaming etc, but nothing being spent to support the store financially. In my own personal opinion, if you benefit from the use of something for free you should always be prepared to give something back in order to retain it. If you can't afford to do that, then at least offer some of your own free time to show your support.

Whilst there is plenty of GW items on the shelves, many of the products on sale give a good idea of the range of what I'd call "Games Workshop alternatives". Which means plenty of Sci-Fi and Fantasy stuff. This is not surprising given the prices and aggressive branding that GW has undertaken. I definitely think there's a good size market out there for a more affordable (and more creative?) beast than that promoted by GW.

At this point I may comment on how there's little in the shop for historic gamers like myself. But at the end of the day a business has to play to its strengths, and if there's a bigger attraction amongst the public for the sci-fi and fantasy end then that's what you have to aim for. I'm just happy that I can drop by and conveniently pick up some paints, brushes or sprays now and again. Alternatively I was impressed by the boardgames that were on sale. In particular several copies of "Dead of Winter" the zombie survivalist boardgame that had proved nigh on impossible to get at a decent price elsewhere, was here on my doorstep for the eyebrow raising cost of only £49.99 (I almost paid £75.00 for it several weeks back). Today there was also a good deal on their comic section with 20% off.

I managed a brief chat with the owner himself, John, before I left. We talked of the difficulties involved in business start-up and also how the table space was currently hired out to customers for free, although he may later introduce a nominal fee - which I think is only fair.

In conclusion, it's a great little store that's welcoming, friendly and hopefully has a long life here.

The address is: 4 Bedford Square. Loughborough. Leicestershire. LE11 2TP.


Friday, 1 May 2015

15mm Mahdist Figures for Sudan 1880's

These are the first of my 15mm Sudan figures, painted up and ready to go. They are all Old Glory and were purchased just last month. I decided to do them in the 'mahdist uniform' of plain white robes with irregular coloured patches sown on. If you've read anything about the dress of the Mahdist/Dervish army, the sources for their dress are somewhat sketchy and varied. Although several do mention the style I've used here.

The army was divided into three 'flags' (each about the size of a Corps). Each of these were under a commander, or Emir with their own banner and again sub-divided into three 'rubs'. The photo here shows a lesser commander with a banner that represents him as leading three units of the dark green flag. This I've conveyed by painting his banner with a dark green edge on white background. The next sub-unit commander will probably have a dark green edge and yellow background and so on. Despite what many think, the Dervish army was in fact very well organised!

If you're wondering, the banner inscription was actually taken from a Hamas flag I saw on the internet somewhere - although I did hear of someone using a Syrian Airlines logo on their Mahdist flags once!!

My Sudan models left to paint also contain Peter Pig figures. I'll have to keep these in separate units however, because the latter are on the smaller side. Nevertheless, I still like both manufacturers but will have to ensure I don't mix them on the same stands.

One of the cats also gave "help" with the basing too.....