Went on a bit of a book buying spree recently in aid of getting more background material for my WW2 coastal naval gaming; among the classic references in the field are the trilogy of books published in the 1990s by Leonard C. Reynolds, Dog Boats at War, Mediterranean MTBs At War, and Home Waters MTBs & MGBs at War. Except for Dog Boats, they’ve been out of print ever since.
I looked through a few different used book websites and eventually wound up getting all three through different ABE Books sellers, despite my standing desire not to funnel money toward noted sociopath Jeff fuckin’ Bezos.
I also picked up three Osprey books on the same subject, because one of the ABE resellers is also a full-service new book store as well and Ospreys are usually worth it. Those were E-Boat VS MTB, German E-boats 1939-45, and British Motor Torpedo Boat 1939-45.
If you’re looking for reading material on the coastal forces of WW2, I highly recommend the Publications page of Spitfires of the Sea, and the rest of that website while you’re at it. It’s written by Stephen Fisher, an archeologist/historian specializing in 20th C naval matters. He also tweets as @SeaSpitfires and is well worth following there.
A scattering of links for our first Links of Interest of 2021!
More possible sources of small scale scenery are always welcome, and over on Wargaming3d Wozname has started a new line of 3d printable STL files for 1/1200 scenery, starting with a few entire islands and some castles. Really neat to see people doing entire pieces in these tiny scales that would be basically impossible to do in any larger scale!
On the small scale naval gaming theme, the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers has a couple of articles on small boat actions in the Mediterranean in WW2, with one article on mostly focusing on British vs Axis and the second spotlighting American PT boats. They’re framed around Cruel Seas but trivially easy to adapt to other rule sets.
Reaper Minis hosted a Virtual Reaper Con last weekend, and while I’d initially signed up for four classes on various painting topics, the world conspired to only allow me to attend one class, a fantastic discussion of “Additives, Mediums, and Texture Pastes – Oh My!” by Rhonda “Wren” Bender, talking about matt and gloss mediums, flow aids, drying extenders, glaze medium, texture pastes, and various other things as they apply to miniature painting. The class handout is available at the link above, the session was recorded and will eventually show up on Reaper’s YouTube channel, and Rhonda has a great website of her own over at Bird With A Brush that’s well worth checking out.
Incidentally, the anchor chain stock photo being used as a header for these Links of Interest posts is by CastleLight from Pixabay.
For my naval gaming I knew I needed a proper mat eventually; I thought about doing up a sheet of grey felt with spraypaint and such, but then I found the Cold Waters mat from Cigar Box Battles and figured it was worth the investment.
A lot of mats are designed for Mediterranean or tropical games (pirates!) or the Pacific and are way too blue or blue/green for the North Sea or English Channel where all of our WW2 small boat stuff has taken place so far. The Cold Waters mat is described as “the perfect mat to use with your North Sea WW1 Jutland fleets” and the colour looked good, so I decided to order it.
I ordered the mat February 1st and it showed up on the 20th from wherever it is in the US that Cigar Box Battles are based. I didn’t get a shipping notification or tracking number, oddly, which I was expecting given the cost of the thing. No matter, it made it, and a three week turnaround is good in normal circumstances, nevermind our current COVID-FUBAR’d postal mess!
Honestly the mat looks even better in person than in the photos on the Cigar Box website. The colour varies randomly across the mat from quite a dark blue to a lighter grey-blue, with whitecaps across it in the fairly consistent pattern you’d expect. There’s no obvious repeats of the pattern created by lazy graphic design, which is definitely not the case with some of the other sea mats out there.
The mat is a lightweight fleece blanket material and only printed on one side, which is fine. The fabric has a bit of a shine to it, again just fine on a seascape, and just a bit of fleece fuzz texture. It lays nicely flat, no curling at the corners or edges, and the creases you can see in the photos are about the largest on the whole thing right now. I’ll iron it eventually, and then store it either rolled around something or crumpled up loosely so it doesn’t get long straight creases in it again.
I think it’ll stand up to years of gaming use, and according to Cigar Box it’s washable in case someone does spill on it once in-person gaming is a thing again.
The mat has fairly flat seams along each edge; if you were laying several out overlapping the ridge along the edges wouldn’t be too disruptive even with small ship models. It’s advertised as “4 x 6 Plus” which I think means it’s four to six inches bigger than that in each direction; I’ve not actually bothered to measure yet.
Absolutely a good value and solid looking product, with good shipping times. I’m not sure when I’ll next need a mat for something else, but Cigar Box will be on the shortlist if and when I do!
Speaking of YouTube, Dr Alexander Clarke has an interesting channel with WW2 and interwar naval stuff, mostly British. Similarly, Drachinifel does mostly WW2 naval history videos as well, more American navy but some others.
Boom & Zoom Graphics have a set of really approachable, humourous, but (far as I can tell) complete introductions to WW2 aircraft markings, painting, and camo, with entries for each of the major combatants. Superb reference for WW2 air if that’s largely a new field to you as it is to me!
Most naval rules have spotting and target ID rules of some sort or another, often with various stages of “we think something’s out there” through “there’s probably a ship over there” to “It’s a German S-boat and it has started shooting at us!” or similar.
For example, Coastal Patrol published by TwoFatLardies uses both Blinds (for small groups of ships or dummies) and Markers (for possible individual ships, or dummies) so I’ve done up both 2″ and 1″ numbered tokens, designed to be printed on light card and then punched out or cut out for tabletop use.
The current PDF covers all the major combatants – the British Royal Navy, German Kriegsmarine, Italian Regia Marina, United States Navy, and Imperial Japanese Navy, and also includes generic Red Force & Blue Force markers, all numbered 1 through 12 in both 2″ and 1″ sizes. It’s available in both Letter (for those of us in North America) and A4 (for the rest of the world) for easy printing.
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!
For this Canada Day in a time of pestilence abroad in the land, the usual mix of individual links and items that don’t quite warrant an entire freestanding post, as is an irregular feature of this blog.
I am getting more and more tempted to do either Russian Civil War or 17th C English Civil War in 2mm… to which end I recently bought the Forward March 2mm Library and might need to get some things 3d printed for me. I quite like the thought of a single print bed of bases being an entire army, and I’ve always liked the “miles of battlefield all at once” look of small scale gaming even though I’ve done nothing smaller than 15mm (and far more 28mm than anything else) for many years now.
On the WW2 naval gaming side, which I want to get back to sometime soon, I recently discovered the nicely laid out german-navy.de which has good short articles and illustrations of nearly everything the WW2 Kreigsmarine built or planned to build, from the workaday utility boats like the well known R-boote to the insane jet-powered hydrofoil they were dreaming of far too late in the war to actually matter. (German military designers spent the entire war hopped up on the Very Best Drugs, you can’t convince me that isn’t true!) If you have found a similar resource for other WW2 navies (especially the Royal Navy) I’d love to know about it.
Happy Canada Day if you happen to be Canadian, Happy (upcoming) Independence Day if you’re American, and hope July is good to you regardless of where you’re reading this from!
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.