There aren’t a lot of small scale scenery tutorials out there, either as videos or traditional blog post writeups. Viv on RubbishInRubbishOut, though, did some YouTube videos of Dystopian Wars scenery a few years ago, and it turns out that DW is in something approximating 1/1200 scale, more or less.
Also, Dispatches from the Front has been working on some fantasy naval scenery for Man’O’War using the Brigade Models buildings and it looks fantastic. Fantasy microscale terrain has a definite appeal, you can get grandiose epic terrain on the table that wouldn’t work at all in any larger scale!
When I did my first WW2 coastal order to Last Square back in November 2019, well over six months ago now, I added a pack of British Beaufighter/Beaufort and a pack of German Ju88 for the heck of it, chosen because both types of aircraft show up in the maritime strike role for most of the war with various loadouts.
I got them, looked at them, was dumbstruck by the insanely minute size of the things, and put them aside to paint the boats up instead. Having just finished (most of) the second order of Last Square coastal naval boats and being in a get-stuff-finished mood, I decided to have another look at the tiny tiny planes and figure out how to mount and paint them.
I recalled reading about using plastic broom bristles for masts and antenna previously, so I decided to test this out for creating flying stands suitable for tiny planes. I used the same 40mmx20mm thin acrylic bases I’m using for most of my boats, because I’ve got them, and I happened to have a micro-drill-bit in my tool stash almost perfectly the same size as the bristles I harvested off our household broom.
I kept the flying heights fairly short, about one inch maximum, which means these planes are all coming in at wavetop height, pretty much, which seems to make sense when attacking small coastal vessels and is way, way easier to store than taller possibly more realistic height stands!
All my current paints are from the Reaper Master Paints series. All six planes got a white primer, and then for the RAF I used Muddy Brown and Military Green for the topside camo; the underside is Heather Blue mixed with Rainy Grey which seems like a good match for the RAF “sky blue” grey-blue underside paint.
The Germans were a mix of Rainy Grey and Muddy Olive 1:1 for the all-over base coat, with two of the Ju88s getting slightly darker grey-green camo added with some additional Stone Grey added to the Rainy Grey/Muddy Olive mix.
I adding some highlighting along edges mostly by mixing a bit of Rainy Grey into the relevant base colour, and the Germans got some yellow recognition patches with Marigold Yellow. I also used some Games Workshop Nuln Oil (black) and Agrax Earthshade (brown) washes, especially along the roots of the wings.
The German iron crosses are Walnut Brown, a lovely almost-black that I use all the time instead of actual Pure Black.
The RAF roundels are Marigold Yellow, Sapphire Blue, Pure White, and Carnage Red.
Windows and cockpit canopies were picked out with Ghost White, a blue-tinted off-white.
Aircraft don’t actually play a huge role in most of the engagements coastal naval vessels find themselves involved in, so I don’t think I’ll be adding to my collection of tiny aircraft anytime particularly soon, but these turned out to be fun to paint and they ended up way better looking than I was thinking they would, given the diminutive size of the things!
Latest batch of World War Two coastal naval vessels in 1/1200 scale is done and based. As with the previous vessels, these are all Figurehead from Last Square in the States. I’m especially pleased with the two German patrol trawlers (Vorpostenboote) with their dazzle/disruption camo scheme.
I also did up a few more Royal Navy Coastal Command craft, four Fairmile B Motor Launches and four 70′ British Power Boat (BPB) Motor Gun Boats. The BPBs are really tiny at 1/1200 scale, under 20mm long!
And the reason it’s been quiet here on the blog for the last couple of weeks is that I’ve been completely pulling my hobby/painting area apart and have finally mostly put it together again, all with the aim of installing a big Ikea shelving unit in one corner, a Kallax 57′ x 57′ monster.
The cubicles of the Kallax will fit a banker’s box (there’s a couple in there already) which is already my standard method of storing and transporting scenery. I’m still planning a massive sort of my scenery stockpile, which will (to be honest) probably take another couple of months in bits and pieces. There’s stuff in the stash that hasn’t hit the table in years and year because it’s buried under other things or just straight up been misplaced and I don’t actually know where it is!
Both Narrow Seas and Coastal Patrol (and probably other naval games, I’m guessing) include rules for the moon being full or partial in their sighting and visibility rules, and a difference if your target is silhouetted against the moon or “down-moon”. They’ve also got rules for star shells and flares, with a different diameter in each game – 12″ diameter in Coastal Patrol, 8″ in Narrow Seas.
Accordingly I decided to crank out full moon, partial moon, and star shell illuminated area markers suitable for both games.
The star shell markers are quarter-circles; you could print four and tape them together, I guess, or just do what I intend to, use the quarter circle as a quick flexible marker for the extent of the illuminated area around a marker denoting the centre of it.
The moon graphic was originally from OpenClipArt.org, still a useful site but much, much messier than it used to be. I suspect the moon in that image was pulled in from elsewhere on OpenClipArt, but searching that site has become harder and harder. I cut mine out separately with a circle cutter then glued them back to back for ease of use.
I’ve done four simple 3d starshell/flare markers for use on the tabletop to mark the centre of an illuminated area and the actual star shell location, each a length of wire on a 25mm MDF base with tufts of cotton wool for the characteristic smoke/light effect you see in photos of starshells. They’re a bit rough but they work, I think.
The bases are 2mm thick MDF and 25mm wide; I used the same water effects with gloss gel that I use on terrain for this naval projects then did some basic highlighting with white paint to kind of give the effect of light glaring off the water.
I worked a bit of white glue into the cotton wool so the whole thing was more wargamer-proof and the plumes stand up better.
We’ve only done two games since actually introducing the illumination rules to Coastal Patrol, and it’s fascinating to watch how the illuminated areas are treated like “terrain” to be avoided while maneuvering around the table. They definitely add tactical complexity to the small unit naval game!
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.
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.
Narrow Seas vs Coastal Patrol
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.
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!
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.
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!
At BottosCon 2019 earlier in November I got the chance to play Warlord Games’ new Cruel Seas coastal naval game, British vs German speedboats in the Second World War. It’s not a bad game, but it’s definitely got some quirks and while the models are lovely, 1/300 (6mm) is too big for naval gaming. The table got very crowded very quickly and it felt more like bumper-boats than anything else.
That said, this sort of coastal gaming with light forces has always been one of the few areas of WW2 I’d consider gaming, so a quick chat with friends and look around the web pointed me to Last Square’s 1/1200 coastal forces, the Figurehead range, and I ordered a few British motor boats, some German boats, a few merchantmen, and a couple of aircraft. I also had a look at Magister Militum’s 1/1200 Hallmark range but decided to stick with Last Square for now.
I was also already aware of Brigade Models’ Small Scenery range, which has intrigued me for several years but which I’ve had no particular use for until now. You can, of course, run a perfectly good and realistic naval game with nothing but ship models and a blue or grey mat, but did anyone really think I was going to start a new genre and scale without doing some sort of scenery?
All of that stuff is enroute to me now and I’ll update when it arrives!
In the course of looking up the North Sea and English Channel battleground, I discovered that the amazing David Rumsey Map Collection has England and Wales, Sheets 1 – 146. Ordnance Survey, Popular Edition One-Inch to the Mile digitally composited at crazy high resolution so you can zoom way in and see what the land side of England and Wales looked like between the Wars. Not much in the way of maritime details like shoals and reefs, but fantastic for getting a feel of what the shoreline might have looked like, especially when you can compare the 1923 map with modern Google Maps/Streetview images.
Also from David Rumsey is a 1922 atlas showing the southern North Sea and English Channel with a bit more maritime detail like shoals, sandbanks, and shipping routes.
If anyone knows of a set of pre-WW2 Admirality charts online that cover England and maybe further, please do point them out. The National Library of Scotland has charts but they only cover Scotland.
Finally, on a more directly related to the tabletop note, Mel the Terrain Tutor did some terrain for Cruel Seas when it first came out. Obviously the scale will be different from what I’m planning, but sandbanks and such are pretty scale-agnostic anyway… By way of an end to this long and rambling post, here’s Mel’s rather good tutorial video on sandbanks for small scale naval games.