All posts by Brian Burger

Started this site way, way back in November 1998, when the web was young. It's still here, and so am I.

Tiny Ships: A Game of Coastal Patrol

As mentioned last weekend after our game of Narrow Seas, we also wanted to try out Coastal Patrol, available in the Summer 2011 Special from TooFatLardies.

I managed not to take a single photo during either of the two games Corey and I ran today, but nothing about the visible setup we’ve got has changed in a week except that all my 1:1200 scale boats are properly based, on 20mm wide by 40mm long by 1.5mm high clear acrylic bases ordered from Litko.

tiny ships on bases
Tiny ships all based on 20mm wide by 40mm long 1.5mm tall acrylic bases from Litko. Gloss varnish makes great glue for this sort of thing and won’t fog the acrylic the way superglue can. Click for larger.

The first game we ran was very small, a pair of Royal Navy Fairmile D MGBs (Motor Gun Boats) escorting a coastal freighter, under attack by a pair of S-38 mid-war Schnellboote. The S-boats roared in, fired all four of their ready torpedoes at the freighter while taking scattered gunfire from the MGBs, blew up the freighter, and roared off. As they were exiting the board one of the pursuing MGBs ran head-on into a stray mine (Coastal Patrol has a random events table that can be pretty lethally random!) and was blown out of the water.

For the second game we gave the Germans a convoy to escort, a freighter and a tanker somewhere along the coast of France early in the war. They had an armed trawler and two Raumsboote (R-Boats) escorting and were under attack by a quartet of tiny, lightly armed Vosper 73′ MTBs. This game ended in an absolute draw, as nobody lost any ships, although part of this was because we were messing with the Coastal Patrol torpedo rules and concluded that we’d taken them from massively powerful (any vessel struck by a torpedo is considered sunk automatically) down to nowhere near powerful enough because although the trawler and the freighter got hit neither took any serious damage. The Vospers all roared off into the night again, although one of them was taking on water quite badly, pumps just barely keeping up.

For both games we were (just like last weekend’s Coastal Patrol games) ignoring the rules for spotting, target ID, blinds/dummy markers, and all that stuff. I’ll be making some blinds and markers before our next games (of either system) so we can incorporate those rules, which are sure to change the on-table dynamic again.

So, compared to Narrow Seas, what are the rough similarities and differences? CP uses a TFL-style actions-per-activation system, with vessels getting between zero and three actions (diced for) every time their card comes up in the activation deck. This leads to some tense decision making, which I like. Do you maneuver your ship, run damage control, or fire, and at who?

One thing we definitely liked about CP vs NS is that CP’s turning circles are considerably smaller than the NS turning arcs. This makes the vessels feel more agile, and increases the effective size of the table.

CP’s firing is much simpler than the NS system, and involves much less dice rolling. We did seem to miss a lot more with CP than with NS, though, which isn’t really unrealistic with small vessels moving quickly over the water!

There are definitely a few rough spots and gaps in the Coastal Patrol rules. Some of the game mechanics don’t seem to be fully explained (damage from collision/ramming, for example) and although Making Smoke is an available order and Smoke Generators are listed as shipboard equipment on some of the damage tables, there are not in fact any rules for how smoke is intended to work… That said, there is a file of Coastal Patrol house rules out there that fill most of the gaps easily enough, but which I can’t currently find online to provide a link to!

We will be coming back to Coastal Patrol, and might stick with it as our main coastal naval rules, but we’ll have at least one more bash at Narrow Seas as there are definitely some things it does better than Coastal Patrol.

An Actual Game of Tiny Ships!

This afternoon we actually got the tiny ships onto the table and had a game using the Narrow Seas rules.

First, of course, I had to use blue-tac and scrap card to base up my tiny ships.

all based up
The Brits and Jerries all based up, for now. Click for larger.

We ran two British coastal merchant ships escorted by a quartet of RN Fairmile D MGB gunboats, being menaced by a quartet of S-boats somewhere along the coast of England. We ignored all the visibility, spotting, and illumination rules for this game, it was purely run-and-gun.

early game
Early in the game, two merchants hugging the coast, British Fairmile D boats maneuvering to intercept the approaching S-boats at the top of the photo. Click for larger.

The Germans kicked up to high speed to maneuver toward the sluggish merchantmen, while the MGBs tried to intercept.

Late in the game. The tape strips are German torpedoes in the water, heading toward the merchants off the top of the photo. Click for larger.

The game ended with three of the four S-boats getting away at high speed, while one S-boat was being scuttled by it’s crew close to shore after taking massive amounts of damage. The Germans fired seven torpedoes, only one of which hit, but that was enough to send one of the merchants to the bottom almost instantly, while gunfire also sank one of the MGBs.

I’m honestly not sure how much of the Narrow Seas rules we were doing correctly, but the basic system seemed to work. Consensus was that damage was awfully dice-intensive to resolve, especially if a ship got hit hard and was up to the Heavy/Wrecked end of the damage table. We also realized we were doing the cascading damage wrong partway through the game, however, so a careful re-read of the firing and damage rules is clearly in order.

As a scenario balance thing, Fairmile D MGBs are scary, scary beasts, each of them having significantly more firepower than an individual S-boat. More S-boats or fewer “Dog” boats, perhaps swapping an armed trawler in for one or two of the Dogs, would probably make the game “fairer”. On the other hand, the Kreigsmarine did manage a minor victory, and trading one S-boat for a coastal freighter and an MGB is more than fair.

We had a good game overall and will definitely be back to Narrow Seas sometime soon; we also want to try out “Coastal Patrol” from the Summer 2011 TFL Special as TFL rules are much liked in these parts. My proper bases are enroute from Litko, and I’ve now got a list of counters I need to produce to make the game run more smoothly.

Tell the Bartender Your Troubles

Way back in December 2018 on Twitter, Bears Head Miniatures showed off pictures of their new Beholder-alike floating eye beastie, Narthoks the Excellent. I made an offhand comment of, “With that expression, somehow I see him as the wholly unexpected barkeep behind a very strange bar somewhere, towel draped over one tentacle, goblets and beer mugs in the other tentacles…”

A few weeks later, Bears Head posted this:

…and naturally I had to join their Kickstarter, even though I had no particular use then or now for a Beholder, in bartender guise or otherwise! (is a bartending Beholder actually a Beerholder? A Barholder?)

My understanding is that the bartender version was a Kickstarter-exclusive, but the regular and sci-fi versions of Narthoks are available over on the Bears Head website, along with all sorts of other interesting figures!

So what did I get for my offhand comment? Narthoks is a big chap, roughly 2 and a half inches across at the tentacles and about 2 inches tall from bottom of tentacles to top of head/topmost eyeball. Taller than that once he’s on his flying base, of course. He’s got a towel and glass in his frontmost tentacles, a cocktail shaker in his right-hand tentacles, and a bottle and glass in the left. All the bar-ware is scaled to Narthoks, which means the glasses and shaker are the size of barrels from a human viewpoint!

barholder, bare resin
Bare resin Narthoks straight out of the box from Bear’s Head back in May 2019. Click for larger.

The figure is resin and nicely cast, with only a bit of cleanup along seams and some casting flash. He’s in two parts, tentacles and base/neck (?) and then head, and while the seam between them has more gaps than I’d normally like to see, the textured nature of his skin makes disguising this seam easy once you break out the greenstuff.

Anyway, after Narthoks the Barholder showed up in May 2019 he sat in his box until just a few weeks ago (end of January 2020), when I felt the need to radically change up my painting after painting a couple of dozen lovely but fussy and tiny 1:1200 WW2 naval boats!

For painting, I was inspired by Dana Howl’s awesome video on using glaze medium, which I’ve linked to at least once already on this blog, and by the splendid and underused (by me, at least, in usual day-to-day painting) Royal Purples triad from Reaper’s paint line.

barholder, wet paint
Blending basecoat in progress. Almost all the paint you can see here is still wet, as the glaze medium slows drying time. Makes for fun and dynamic painting on a big figure like this! Click for larger.

Narthoks’ underside is various shades of bright blue, his topside is mostly Imperial Purple, shaded down with Nightshade Purple and highlighted with Amethyst Purple. The eyeballs were painted Pure White then glazed with a variety of yellows, reds, and oranges.

barholder basecoated
Basecoating done, eyeballs and other detail parts included. Click for larger.

Final highlights on Narthoks’ body were a mix of Amethyst Purple, Pure White, and glaze medium, 1:1:1; this is most visible on the eyelids and on the bits just above the “horns” along each side of the body. The eyeballs have all had a coat of gloss medium, although as I haven’t given the whole miniature the usual coat or three of protective matte varnish, this gloss will have to be redone in due course. Ah well.

narthoks finished, front
Narthoks all finished except for basing. Go on, tell the bartender your troubles! Click for larger.
narthoks finished, left side
Left side of Narthoks. I really like how the shading of the horns and above them has come out. Click for larger.
narthoks finished, right side
Narthoks’ right side. The eyeballs have turned out nicely too. Click for larger.

Narthoks comes with a standard clear plastic flying base; I ran a length of paper clip wire up into him for a painting handle and to help pin the two halves of his body together. I’ll trim that short and slot it into the post of the flying base, but I might replace the clear plastic base with something more bar-like, either flagstones or a wood floor. I’m actually tempted to get a small display dome for Narthoks and put him on one corner of my home bar cabinet as a mascot of sorts, as I currently have absolutely no actual gaming-related use for this awesome figure!

Tiny Ships Painted!

I finally have painted ships (well, boats, mostly) to go with the coastal terrain I’ve been showing off!

All my 1:1200 naval stuff so far is from Last Square, the Figurehead range. Last Square are very easy to deal with and shipping from the States up to Canada was quick, although their website is one of the most glacially slow I’ve seen in recent years!

The figures are incredibly detailed for such tiny models. I’m not kidding when I say I own 28mm figures with less detail on them than these little boats!

For painting I hot-glued everything to 6″ craft sticks/tongue depressors, which worked well. I plan to use clear plastic bases (which aren’t here yet, the Litko order of custom bases is enroute) so couldn’t base the boats before painting. I did the Royal Navy & merchant ships first, and cramped myself too much – about four ships per craft stick is a good spacing, closer and your ships get in the way of the brush.

For Royal Navy colour schemes/camoflauge patterns I picked up an ePub copy of Mal Wright’s British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II – Vol I from Pen & Sword, and can highly recommend that book if you need inspiration for your RN coastal warfare boats. We tend to think of warships as grey (well, I do, anyway) but the WW2 RN used a lot of white and blue disruption or dazzle pattern schemes on their vessels, some of them complicated enough to be challenging to reproduce in 1:1200 scale!

royal navy 1
Foreground, four anti-submarine or minesweeping trawlers, then a small coastal tanker, and two flavours of Fairmile D MTB/MGB in the background. Click for larger.
royal navy 2
RN armed trawlers and Fairmile D (“Dog”) boats. Click for larger.
royal navy 3
Tiny Vosper MTBs on the left, the tanker, and Fairmile D MTB/MGBs on the right. Click for larger.

I’ve got sixteen Royal Navy vessels right now, ranging from tiny 70′ Vosper Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs) to armed trawlers to both Torpedo and Gun (MTB/MGB) versions of the famous Fairmile D (“Dog boat”) vessels.

For the German Kreigsmarine there doesn’t seem to be a handy single-volume book of paint schemes like there is for the Brits, but after some questions on the Naval Gaming FB group and some Google Image rummaging I decided on a simple off-white for the famous Schnellboote and a grey-and-dark-grey disruption pattern on the more utilitarian Raumsboote.

kreigsmarine 1
Schnellboote (S-boats) in the foreground, Raumsboote (R-boats) in the background. Click for larger.
kreigsmarine 2
R-boats on the left, S-boats on the right. Click for larger.

With dozen Kreigsmarine, sixteen Royal Navy, and a pair of small coastal merchant ships I’m set for a good variety of scenarios already. More S-boats, more merchants, and some of the missing classes of Royal Navy Coastal Command vessels, especially the very common Fairmile B, will come in the future, but this is a good mix for a mid- to late-war setup, from 1942 or so to the end of the war in Europe.

Our first game should be this Sunday, using Narrow Seas by David Manley. Need to print off ships sheets and a few other things before then!

Links of Interest, 27 January 2020

First links of interest of the new year – and the new decade, come to that!

Dana Howl has a fairly new YouTube channel that I discovered via Twitter. She’s a great antidote to the shouty beardy death metal school of YT videos, being soft spoken and very, very dry humoured. Her favourite video of mine so far is her introduction to using glazing & glaze medium on miniatures, which is a new technique to me. I’ve picked up a small bottle of glaze medium from my local art supply store and while I’ve not used it much yet, it’s another very useful tool in anyone’s painting toolbox. I think it’ll be especially useful on large monsters. I’ve got a huge Reaper Bones dragon that I got in one of their Bones Kickstarters that I should start painting one of these years…

Another recent (to me) find of small scale scenery is over at League of Augsburg, where Jim is building whole chunks of coastal England to sail 1:2400 scale Anglo-Dutch War ships upon. He’s actually using the same Brigade Models small scale buildings I am, and they work just fine in a scale half the size of the one I’m using them in.

I’m currently attempting to paint impossibly tiny 1:1200 coastal warfare boats without going mad or blind, and Mal Wright’s excellent little handbook on Royal Navy WW2 paint jobs British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II – Vol I has been incredibly useful. It’s available in ePub (the linked version) and traditional dead-tree from Pen & Sword in the UK; I went for the ePub because I didn’t feel like coughing up for S&H for one book, but I might actual also buy the “real” book at some point. Mr. Wright is apparently currently working on a similar volume for the Americans and Japanese in the WW2 Pacific theatre, which is awesome, and has apparently also done some work toward a German Kreigsmarine counterpart to his Royal Naval series.

More soon, including photos of those impossibly tiny coastal warfare boats!

Coastline Complete

The first coastline segments are done, barring a tiny amount of touchup here and there.

coastline overview
Overview of the coastline and other bits. Click for larger.

The sandbank off the headland still needs some paint and the waves done, and I need to do a bit of drybrushing along all the cliff segments to get a better colour match along the whole thing.

headland
Low level view of the coastline, starting from the headland. Click for larger.
village
Low over the coastline, approaching the village. Click for larger.
farmland
Over the village and looking at the farms and countryside beyond. Click for larger.
river
The last part of the finished coastline features a lazy tidal river and mudflats.

I’m planning on running this 1/1200 naval game and a big 28mm Pulp Alley game at Trumpeter Salute 2020 in April (the 17th through 19th) so I doubt I’ll do more coastal segments until after that, but in the future I do want to do several more segments, enough eventually to have one side of a table as solid coastline, so six or more feet.

Now on to the tiny ships!

A Headland for Tiny Ships

Cranked out a headland for my coastal terrain, so we can have the coastline end on-table without looking super-weird. It’s designed to go on either end of the modules, so that constrained the design considerably, but I like how it worked out.

headland in bare plaster
Basic headland before painting. See text for details, click for larger.
As with the larger coastal sections, the base is 1mm (.040″) plastic card cut down and sanded, with a chunk of half-inch styrofoam insulation for the land. I used a couple of different grades of sandpaper to shape the landform, including the slightly undercut eroding cliff faces, which I really like the look of.

After that I covered the whole thing with a 1:1 mix of premixed drywall plaster (the pink stuff) and white glue, smoothing and shaping it with my fingers to cover the styrofoam, smooth out the sanding marks on the cliffs, and shape the sandbank in front of the point.

painted finished point
The headland basically finished. Click for larger.

Painting and gloss gel for wave effects went fairly quickly, with a dose of my usual flock mixes on the land side. Because this headland section has to connect to any end of the other coastal sections, and I (deliberately) didn’t run roads off the ends that limited what I could realistically put on this piece. So it’s just scrub, cliffs, and ocean.

headland in context with village
The headland next to the village module. Click for larger.

Finally, a quick shot of the new headland next to the village module, which is still awaiting woodland sections. I can see I need to do a little bit more drybrushing on all the cliff sections together to match them up, but otherwise everything looks good together. The gap between the modules is less obvious when they’re properly in place; here the headland is tipping off the edge of my cutting mat and making the gap look giant!

I’ve had a bit of setback with the river section – glue accident while putting flock down – so it’s back to finishing that off in the next few days then I need to actually do the wood canopy sections to call this round of tiny naval terrain finished!

I have to admit to being straight-up intimidated to start painting the 1:1200 Last Square coastal naval boats. They’re tinier than anything I’ve painted in years and incredibly detailed. I’m not kidding when I say I own 28mm figures with cruder details than these tiny, tiny ships, most of which can balance on a fingertip.

Small Buildings & Tiny Ships, Part Three

A green and miniature land! The first two coastal modules are finished, except that I’m still mucking about with forest canopy solutions, so those aren’t done yet either. There is also the chance of me being (more) obsessive and going back to add even more details – cars on the roads and sheep in the fields, maybe?

Imaging that the odd brown-black blocks in the following photos are solid woodland canopy, please.

tiny village 1
The farms outside the village. Note vegetable garden in the nearest farm. Click for larger.
village 2 closeup
The village up close, looking down the slope. Note war memorial for the Great War next to the church. Click for larger.
river module
The river module finished except for trees, as with the village, and some more gloss varnish over the river itself. Click for larger.

Incidentally, for some other high-detail microterrain work that covers whole tabletops, not just slivers of coastline, go feast your eyes on the Münsterland Wargaming English blog’s 2mm archive. The towns are all amazing, and the autumn coloured table (for an early winter Franco-Prussian war battle) is gorgeous.

I’ve got a headland module underway now; no photo because it’s currently a slightly glossly white blob under plaster and glue. These three will let me end the coastline on-table sensibly, and the headland is designed to fit at either end of the coast. I’ve got definite plans for at least two more full size coastal sections, but first I’m going to paint boats!

Small Buildings & Tiny Ships, Part Two

Painting up the Brigade Models tiny English buildings turned out to be ridiculously fun. They’ve got all sorts of great detail and really reward a little bit of extra effort beyond a basecoat and drybrush, although you could turn out perfectly usable buildings that way too.

1/1200 ships and buildings all primed
Buildings and boats all primed and ready to be painted. Click for larger.
Above is everything I primed in this batch, including a number of buildings I don’t intend to use right way and all of the British 1/1200 boats and the two coastal merchant vessels I bought from Last Square in December for this project. Everything is mounted on tongue depressors (craft sticks) that are 6″ long and about 3/4″ wide, just for scale. Small buildings and tiny ships, indeed!

tiny buildings in progress
Painting buildings in progress. Click for larger.
more tiny buildings in progress
More buildings in progress. Click for larger.
The only thing left to do on most of the buildings now is to go in with black and darken all the windows, and then some cleanup here and there. I’m going to be mounting some of the buildings on thin plastic card to make it easier to add garden walls and similar details, and then we’ll get onto flocking and detailing the actual coastal pieces last seen mostly painted in the previous post.

British WW2 coastal combatants
Some of the British coastal combatants & merchants from Last Square. Click for larger.
Finally, because this is supposed to be a naval wargaming project, here’s a look at some of the Royal Navy ships & boats from Last Square, along with two coastal merchant ships. In the foreground are three anti-submarine or minesweeping trawlers, then four Fairmile D Motor Torpedo Boats. The third stick back has Fairmile D Motor Gun Boats and (with the red hatch covers) a coastal merchant vessel. In the background right is the stern of another, larger coastal tanker, as well as two Martello towers from Brigade Models.

Small Buildings & Tiny Ships

Progress on my naval project, last seen in November’s A Naval Diversion post. My buildings from Brigade Model’s Small Scale Scenics range and British & German ships from Last Square’s Figurehead 1/1200 Coastal Forces line all showed up before Christmas, but aside from doing some quick and basic cleanup of most of the castings I didn’t do anything with them until after Christmas.

The scenery plan for this project is fairly simple, a set of modular coastal strips. After some experimenting with the Brigade buildings I decided on 4″ wide by 12″ long modules, with roughly 3.5″ of land and half an inch of sea/beach. The base is 1mm (.040″) sheet styrene, which I buy in big 4’x3′ sheets from our local plastics shop, and then half-inch styrofoam insulation for the land on top.

coastal scenery planning
Quick graphic done up in Inkscape to explore options for coastal modules. The left-hand trio were 3″ deep, the right-hand set 4″. Click for slightly larger.

Because I’d never done any scenery this small before, I grabbed a scrap of MDF and did up a quick test piece. A lot of flock and foam foliage is too coarse for 1/1200 scale stuff, where 1mm equals 4 feet, so an average human is under 1.5mm tall! I wound up picking up a couple of extra colours of fine foam flock, and I really like the look I got on my little 3″x3″ test piece.

tiny scenery test
A 3″x3″ scrap of MDF plus various foliage materials and such for a test piece of 1/1200 scale terrain. Click for larger.

So far I’ve done just two modules, but I want to do at least one more full-size module and a headland/corner module of some sort so the coast can end on the table without looking weird. The first module has a looping tidal river and not much else; the second one has a village at a low break in the coastal cliffs and farms outside the village.

village planning
Brigade’s tiny English buildings laid out on one of my coastal modules. Click for larger.
The village has a fair-size church, a small commercial area/High Street, some row houses, and a few other buildings that might be the village school or similar.

village module
The village module, mostly painted. Click for larger.
The river module will be mostly river, mud flats, scrubland, and fields, but there will be a small lifeboat station in the outer edge of the big curve. Just one or two buildings and a short dock.

river module
The river module. There will be a small lifeboat station on the right, where the road comes down to meet the river. Click for larger.

Finally (for now!) here’s a photo of all the Brigade Models buildings I bought. The group of large buildings in the left foreground is SSS-8010 Industrial Buildings, then going clockwise from there we have all of SSS-8037 English Detached Houses, SSS-8007 English Churches (three of those), SSS-8022 English Town Shops in the back corner, and finally SSS-8006 English Village Houses in the right foreground. They’re amazingly detailed little buildings, and should be awesome to paint up.

Brigade Small Scale Scenics group shot
All my current Brigade Models Small Scale Scenics English buildings all together. Click for larger.

More soon as I get into painting buildings and ships!