Progress Update: All Those Tiny Ships

A few years ago I decided to try out a new scale for naval wargaming, 1/6000. This scale offers a few potential advantages, from a gaming perspective, over my traditional naval wargaming scale of 1/2400. For one thing the “ground scale” can be matched more closely with the actual scale of the models. Depending on the scenario, a small scenario on a large table, one could even run a game at 1/6000 ground scale. Ship formations would be more realistic, at larger scales bridge to bridge distances between ships would require the miniatures to overlap if a player wanted to simulate naval doctrine. One result of this is players use formations that “look right” but end up breaking down the mutual support capabilities planned into particular formations.

In modern scenarios this scale helps illustrate how potent fast moving missiles and aircraft can be. Many rule systems designed for use with 1/2400 scale models use a ground scale of 1/36,000, in this scale two inches equals one nautical mile. Aircraft and missile move through engagement envelopes very quickly at this scale and certain abstractions have to be made to allow players at least one defensive shot.  Even running these smaller miniatures at a ground scale of 1/12,000 provides a 3x expansion over the typical scale with larger models. This reduces the need for many of the abstractions necessary with larger models. I think this gives a much better feel to the game.

So what are the downsides? Well they are smaller models so those of you who are more into collecting will have less detail to entice you. Another downside is that, to my knowledge, if you leave 3D printing out of the equation for the moment there is only one manufacturer that I’m aware of, Figurehead Miniatures. I believe, but I am far from certain, that Figurehead is owned by the good folks at The Last Square. In the 1/6000 range Figurehead offers models from the Russo-Japanese war up through moderns. If you’re a fan of modern naval wargaming then the modern range may be a little disappointing. To date they only cover U.S., British, Russian/Soviet, Argentinian navies, and some commercial shipping vessels. If you want to run the Falklands war you can. If you want to game the rise of the PRC in the South China Sea you can only field one side. I have spoken to  The Last Square about expanding the range to include JMSDF, RoKN, RoCN, PLAN, and Indian naval forces but so far there isn’t enough demand signal for them to go forward with those ideas. One can only hope the future will see these lines expanded. Even GHQ broke a 12+ year hiatus and started making new 1/2400 scale models for modern navies including JMSDF and PRC.

For those who may not have seen these ships here are some newer pictures. Once I get more painted, I’m only about 25% complete, I’ll standardize how I want to paint the water effects on the bases. Enjoy!

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Sacramento Class Replenishment Oiler. Model by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Sacramento Class Replenishment Oiler. Model by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Iowa Class BB, Raleigh Class LPD, Whidbey Island Class LSD, and Thomaston Class LSD. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Iowa Class BB, Raleigh Class LPD, Whidbey Island Class LSD, and Thomaston Class LSD. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale Russian/Soviet Navy Slava Class CG and Boris Chilikin Class Oiler. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale Russian/Soviet Navy Slava Class CG and Boris Chilikin Class Oiler. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Carriers and Cruisers. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Carriers and Cruisers. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Amphibs and Command ships. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Amphibs and Command ships. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Replenishment Ships. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Replenishment Ships. Models by Figurehead

This Just In…

After a longish hiatus I’ve come back to give you an update. Major projects underway at this time include a complete rehab/refurbish and repaint of my 1/2400 scale modern aircraft carriers and large deck amphibs. Originally these had their flight decks painted flat black. While this choice made the aircraft and deck decals stand out better it wasn’t realistic. With something like 15-20 ships, when I include the LHA/LHD classes, this has been a major undertaking. GHQ has informed me that my special order replacement parts should be going in the mail today so unfortunately that project will have to be a future post.

Another future post will cover my ongoing, if slow, attempt to paint my growing 1/6000 scale modern fleets. Currently, I have a collection of a little over 450 ships with another 20 due to arrive any day now. I’m struggling to paint them all and fix the carriers and build the naval base diorama (yet another future post)… I am about 25% complete overall, all of them are primed, most have their base hull color and now I’m going through, ship class by ship class, painting decks and details. Still not sure how I want to address the water effects for their little bases though.

So, if all of that lies in the future what is this post about? Well, occasionally when I have a bit of extra cash I look around to see what’s new from various manufacturers. Today I’m going to be featuring Viking Forge‘s Mini-Fleet line of 1/2400 scale warships. I’ll simply refer to them as VF. I have mentioned them before and they have some pretty interesting stuff in their product lines. If I understand their products correctly they are a licensed manufacturer of Sea Battle miniatures, from Austria, as well as making their own models. If you look in their catalog the items with numbers that begin “SB” are Sea Battle products and those without are VF products.

In general, all the products in the VF catalog are well proportioned, crisply cast and well detailed. You won’t find the hyper-detailing of GHQ’s products but you will see scale appropriate details. From time to time some of their models have moderate seam lines or flash as well as loss of crispness in the details. This is likely due to the age of the molds being used and affects all casting molds eventually. It would be interesting to find out if they have their own masters here in the U.S. or if they have to import new ones from Austria. Another company that carries Sea Battle in the U.S. is ALNAVCO. I talked to them years ago, before VF picked up the licensing, about this range and why it was so expensive. ALNAVCO imported their models from Austria so on average you’re paying almost $10 more per model. The catalog numbers are essentially the same. The models are the same, I have one ALNAVCO purchased JMSDF Oosumi LHA (catalog number SB353) and one purchased from VF (catalog number SB353). They are identical. ALNAVCO sells theirs at $23.50, when I bought it it was maybe half that. VF sells theirs for $6.95. I’ll leave it up to you.

Enough! On to the pictures. My most recent acquisitions are a pair of French Navy LaFayette frigates, a pair of RoC Navy Kang Ding frigates, a Wichita class AOR for the USN, and a pack of four Type 022 FAC for the PRC PLAN. The first three items are Sea Battle molds and the FAC are a VF creation. The Kang Ding’s are modifications of the French LaFayette class so I bought the French ships just to see if the VF marketers got out ahead of the modelers.  Here are the results and I hope you enjoy.

French Navy LaFayette Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

French Navy LaFayette Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

French Navy LaFayette Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

French Navy LaFayette Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

RoC Navy Kang Ding Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

RoC Navy Kang Ding Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

RoC Navy Kang Ding Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

RoC Navy Kang Ding Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

US Navy Wichita Replenishment Oiler. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

US Navy Wichita Replenishment Oiler. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

US Navy Wichita Replenishment Oiler. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

US Navy Wichita Replenishment Oiler. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

PRC Navy Type 022 FAC (Houbei Class). 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

PRC Navy Type 022 FAC (Houbei Class). 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

PRC Navy Type 022 FAC (Houbei Class). 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

PRC Navy Type 022 FAC (Houbei Class). 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

The Wichita models looks like it is showing signs of aging. The seam lines are more pronounced than I would have liked and the area around the flight deck looks like it has lost some detail over the years. Don’t get me wrong this is still a very good model I just think it might be getting a little long in the tooth.

Viking Forge 1/2400 Scale Wichita Class AOR Showing Minor Seam Slippage.

Viking Forge 1/2400 Scale Wichita Class AOR Showing Minor Seam Slippage and Detail Loss.

 

The new frigate models were very clean and crisp with very minor seam lines, on par with any manufacturer anywhere.

Viking Forge 1/2400 Scale Kang Ding and LaFayette Frigates Showing Very Minor Seam Lines on Flight Decks.

Viking Forge 1/2400 Scale Kang Ding and LaFayette Frigates Showing Very Minor Seam Lines on Flight Decks.

Blog323

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot

What would you ask for if you had a replicator?  I suppose people in the 23rd century are beyond needing cash or maybe Jean-Luc would order up some gold bullion instead of tea.  While I don’t have a replicator but I do have access to Shapeways 3D printing. As I have mentioned before I have become very interested in Figurehead’s line of 1/6000 scale modern naval miniatures.  They pack a very impressive amount of detail into very small packages.  To date I have collected a little over 300 of these ships.  Sadly I have been a much more diligent collector than painter.

Figurehead Miniatures will be the topic of a future post so I won’t get too far down in the weeds here.  What I will say is they have a decent range of models available for the lines they choose to cover.  As one example, their Falkland Islands range is probably the most complete range of any manufacturer in any scale.  If you want Russian/Soviet kit, Royal Navy or U. S. Navy ships the you’re in luck.  If you want Chinese (either one), Japanese, Korean, or even French ships you’re out of luck, so far.  I have no insight into Figurehead’s production plans and I have no patience either.  Enter Shapeways.  I guess I should say once again that Shapeways is actually the print shop the actual designer is afrodri from Objects May Appear…

I have been reluctant to order very many “printed” ships.  The pictures on the Shapeways website aren’t always convincing.  Other photos I’ve seen on various fora suggest the models come out looking a little fuzzy.  Not out of focus but actually fuzzy.  My own experience with the JMSDF Hyuga was positive but not overwhelming.  But I have needs.  I need JMSDF, Korean, Chinese, and Indian naval vessels.  Looking through the Shapeways catalog I settled on a one-stop shopping approach for the Indian Navy.  While these ships weren’t at the top of my list they had the advantage of being offered all together.  The other “fleet packs” for JMSDF and Korea didn’t have the mix of ships I was looking for and there isn’t a set for PRC that I could find.

In terms of what comes in the package this is what the website says.  Indian Naval Fleet: 3 Brahmaputra, 3 Godavari, 3 Delhi, 6 Talwar, 8 Kumbhir, 12 Veer, and 1 Vikramaditya.  I don’t think I would have left the aircraft carrier last in the list but that is just me.  It looked like a pretty solid offering and all that for under $20.  I would like to see the Kolkata and Shivalik classes as well but this is good enough for now.  I have to say even though it was only an investment of twenty bucks, ordering a bunch of ship models with only the computer generated picture to go by was a bit disturbing.  Printing a Veer/Tarantul at this scale seemed unlikely to be successful.  In fact at one point I received an email from Shapeways informing me there was a delay with the shipment of my order “Each and every product is made to order at Shapeways, so sometimes we experience delays during the complex 3D printing process”.  And I felt sure the next email would start “We regret to inform you…”

Of course that didn’t happen.  The shipment went out three days later and arrived about a week after that.  Right out of the box I was impressed with the ships.  The level of detail is  on par with the Figurehead ships I think, although the semi-translucence of the material makes it hard to judge for sure.  If I can figure out how to base them in a manner similar to the rest of my 1/6000 fleet I will definitely call this experiment a success.  Here are some pictures…

1/6000 INS Naval Fleet Pack.  Models Designed by afrodri from Objects May Appear...  3D Printed by Shapeways.

1/6000 INS Naval Fleet Pack. Models Designed by afrodri from Objects May Appear… 3D Printed by Shapeways.

Detail of 1/6000 Vikramaditya. Model by Objects May Appear...

Detail of 1/6000 Vikramaditya. Model by Objects May Appear…

1/6000 INS Destroyers, Frigates, Missile Craft, and Amphibious ships.

1/6000 INS Destroyers, Frigates, Missile Craft, and Amphibious ships.

Detail of 1/6000 INS Delhi Class.

Detail of 1/6000 INS Delhi Class.

If I can get my hands on a digital calipers I’ll take some measurements to see how close the models are to true 1/6000 scale but that will be the subject for another day.

Works in Progress

Well summer and summer vacation are drawing to a close.  Its time to take stock of what has been accomplished and what has been left undone.  It feels like more should have been accomplished but when I consider the trips to Rome, Florence, Matera, Alberobello, etc. its small wonder there are so many things left to do.

I have been rapidly expanding my 1/6000 scale modern fleet.  As I’ve mentioned before I think the Figurehead miniatures are exceptional considering the scale.  I have just over 200 ships in my collection already with more on the way.  I’m still trying to decide how to paint up the sea base and blackwash the models.  The details are so fine I don’t want to overdo it.

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian Slava CG

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian Slava CG

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian/Soviet ships

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian/Soviet ships

I will say this about Figurehead, if you are buying them in the store carefully inspect the packages before you make your purchase.  I have made nearly all my purchases online and have discovered that four of the packages have incorrect ships.  The errors have all occurred in packages with a mixture of ships never when there is only one kind.  For example from the pack that was supposed to have two USN California class, one Bainbridge class, and one Truxton class I received one California, one Bainbridge, and two Truxtons.  The problem is there was only one Truxton made so I have a useless ship.  I encountered a similar thing with the Royal Navy pack that should have one Type 82 Bristol.  Maybe I’ll use these extras as wrecks or something.  I contacted the manufacturer about the errors, not really expecting anything to be done about it, and I received a nice email saying they would look into it and provide a replacement as necessary.  So far nothing else from them.  At least I wasn’t expecting any action so I shouldn’t be disappointed right?

 

More magnet madness.  I purchased some 1mm rare earth magnets online with the idea that maybe I could have revolving turrets on 1/2400 scale battleships.  Well I don’t have any unassembled battleship kits at the moment and I would hate to mess up the paint job of the finished ones I have on this experiment so I’m going to use a proxy to test the magnets.  Enter the trusty MRAPs, in this case the RG-31 Nyala from GHQ.  The machine gun turret should be comparable to a battleship turret peg so we’ll see how it works once the magnets arrive from Hong Kong.

 

GHQ 1/285 RG-31 Nyala

GHQ 1/285 RG-31 Nyala

 

Keeping the nautical theme going for the moment I have a handful of 1/2400 scale ships awaiting paint and decals.  If you remember my Pivot to the Pacific threads there hasn’t been much progress in terms of painting just adding more ships to the fleet.  I’m particularly keen on getting my hands on the Takanami DDG and the GHQ Hyuga when they come out next year.  I’m hopeful that GHQ will also solve my deck marking issues with an excellent set of decals they usually provide with their modern aircraft carriers.  Not appearing below is my recent purchase of GHQ’s LPD-21.  The model itself is up to GHQ’s usual standards and the V-22 Ospreys provided are also pretty good.  The major fault I have with this pack is the “Sea Stallions” listed on the website are in fact the same 20-30 year old casting of SH-3 Sea King helicopters.  I would buy  four or five extra sprues of Sea Stallions if they ever got around to making them but I guess I’ll have to wait.

GHQ 1/2400 Russian/Soviet/PRC Sovremenny

GHQ 1/2400 Russian/Soviet/PRC Sovremenny

GHQ 1/2400 PRC Jiankai II

GHQ 1/2400 PRC Jiankai II

Shapeways 1/2400 JMSDF Hyuga

Shapeways 1/2400 JMSDF Hyuga DDH

GHQ 1/2400 Arleigh Burke Flight IIA

GHQ 1/2400 Arleigh Burke Flight IIA

 

Switching gears to the land side of things I’m making, as a test case, a small diorama or vignette as a backdrop for photographing microarmor.  For this one I’ve decided on a European setting which will include a small farm complex with tree lined road, orchard and farmer’s fields.  The vision is to have the vehicle in the field on the left.  The photo would be a quartering shot, not straight down the road as shown here, with the orchards on the hill to the left and the farm complex center right with the road acting as a visual lead in line running from near right to far left.  We’ll see how it turns out.  And then there’s the need for an Arab-Israeli war setting as well.

Micro Armor Photographic Vignette

Micro Armor Photographic Vignette

Time to get busy.

 

Mini or Micro?

I have been a fan of microarmor (1/285 scale) and micronauts (1/2400 scale) since discovering them in college in the mid 1980’s.  The details and the quality of many of the models, given their small size, was very impressive.  In the past few years however I’ve found something which is even better – for some applications.  The Figurehead range of naval miniatures are smaller (1/6000 scale), less expensive (on a per model basis), and have a larger product range than 1/2400.  I suppose now is a good time to caveat my comments with the fact that I’m speaking about post-WWII models.  I’m just not familiar enough with earlier ranges to judge which ones are most complete.

Figurehead also seems to offer the most complete line of vessels for a full Falkland Islands campaign.  The only other line that comes close is SeaWulf, but I don’t think theirs is as complete and for 1/2400 scale the quality isn’t as high as GHQ, CinC, or Viking Forge/SeaBattle.  Don’t get me wrong I like the SeaWulf line because they offer ships no one else does like the Leander class frigates and all the variants of that class but they are gaming quality not collector’s quality pieces.

With a new affinity for 1/6000 scale I’ve launched on a naval expansion program that will provide a significant increase in capability and diversity of my navies.  In truth the original attraction to this scale was the breadth of models available.  GHQ makes some fantastic models but they have a very narrow selection in modern naval miniatures.  They are trying to correct that now but with eight major product lines spanning five scales, modern naval is almost the red-headed step-child.  As an example, the announcement for the 2014-2015 product year had four modern naval vessels out of forty-seven new models.  About 8.5% of their new model production.  The WWI and WWII lines each will be getting four new models as well so overall naval enthusiasts will be getting about 25.5% of GHQ’s attention next year.  Just think what wonderful models could be made if a company of GHQ quality focused only on naval units, but I guess its the sales revenues of all the other things that allow them to expand as they have in the first place.

Back on point, it was the breadth of models available that attracted me in the first place.  For several years now I have been working on a scenario supplement for the Harpoon ruleset published by Clash of Arms Games.  My supplement is devoted to aircraft carriers and naval aviation.  I have more than a dozen scenarios from 1962 to 2013 researched and written, some large, some small, some historical, some ‘might-have-been’ and so on.  If you follow my blog then you know real life often interrupts my projects and the Harpoon supplement is no exception.  At this point I’m not sure CoA will ever speak to me again much less publish my work.  Maybe I’ll have to go into micro publishing and do it myself…  I digress.  Some of the scenarios I’ve written that take place in the 1960’s have no miniatures in 1/2400 scale, only Figurehead makes appropriate ships.  Naturally I want to someday be able to play my scenarios on the table top and Figurehead, for the moment at least, is the only solution.

All of this got me thinking about the hobby and scales and names and things.  While GHQ has trademarked certain names like Micronauts, is “micro” really appropriate anymore when there is something even smaller?  A similar situation exists with Micro Armor, also a GHQ registered trademark.  With 1/600 scale tanks and vehicles on the market should the smaller version become ‘micro’ and the 1/285 range become ‘mini’?  Or maybe the 1/6000 ships and 1/600 tanks should be called ‘nano’.  There may be a marketing downside to that however.  The word ‘nano’ makes it sound impossibly small.  I doubt GHQ will give up their trademarks so the point is moot.

New Digs!

     Hard to believe I’ve been AWOL since August but that was when the world changed and I found out I was getting short fused tasking to move.  So everything gets packed up and shipped out.  If you’ve never moved overseas it takes a while for your things to arrive by ship…  a long while.  Which I guess is the origin of the phrase ‘a slow boat to China’.  For the curious it takes even longer when moving from one overseas location to another – those pesky customs officers at both ends just want to peek into everything.

     Well we are in are new home now.  All our stuff has finally arrived.  The walls have been painted and pictures have been hung.  My ‘Honey-Do’ list is down to two pages so its time to get down to the real business at hand.  During my absence I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with the blog and I’ve come up with an idea I hope you’ll enjoy.  In addition to the normal WIP posts and the eventual section on model evaluations I’ve decided to include a post or two a month on a tool or technique that I have found particularly useful and this is the inaugural run of these ‘Tool-Time’ posts.

     Many of you are probably familiar with Micro-Mark tools.  If you’re not you should give them a look.  Now I get nothing from them for this so I don’t care if you check it out or not but they do have a lot of cool gadgets.  Most of them are geared for the model train enthusiast but are easily adapted to micro hobby uses.  My latest favorite is the Universal Clamp (Item # 21129).Image

     This clamp is awesome for working on miniatures.  It comes in two main components.Image

     The clamp head can be used with or without the wooden handle.  The clamp head comes with eight steel pins, although I only have six installed for these photos.  With the precision drilled holes and expanding jaws pin placement should allow you to handle almost any miniature.

Image

     I think one of the really neat things about this clamp is the thumb screw which opens and closes the jaws allows you to hold a miniature under compression as I am here with a 1/6000 scale Ticonderoga class cruiser from Figurehead.

Image

     And you can hold a mini under tension by expanding the jaws with the pins placed inside interior hollows.  Although the picture is not the best this technique works very well with GHQ minis which feature hollow undersides.  The aircraft carrier in this photo is GHQ’s excellent 1/2400 scale model of the PLAN Liao Ning.

Image

     The ability to place the pins inside the hull have the obvious advantage of providing unobstructed access to the entire hull for painting or detailing. 

     I was looking at this clamp for a long time before I decided to commit and I’m not at all disappointed.  A word about the price.  Currently (Jan 27, 2014) Micro-Mark has it listed for $31.95 but I wouldn’t (and didn’t) pay that much for it.  Micro-Mark is always having discounts and flash sales and if you’re looking for tools or other hobby products it is useful to sign up for their email notices.  They send out notices two or three times a month.  If you don’t like the spam I can understand that but I got this clamp at about 40% off their current list price during one of their flash sales so it can pay off.

     Ciao!

Could they be any smaller?

     I have been wargaming with miniatures since 1986.  Modern naval wargames have always been one of my favorite genres and I will confess that I have always been kind of a snob when it comes to scale of choice.  Size matters, right?  I have been a religious follower of the 1/2400 cult.  1/3000?  That’s old world thinking.  I can remember looking at the CinC miniatures catalog and wondering, “who in their right mind games with 1/4800 scale ships?”  Although I must say the ability to buy a reasonable 10-12 ship task force for less than the price of one GHQ ship was appealing.  But at the time I was focused on modern engagements and CinC doesn’t offer moderns in that smaller range.

  Then a couple of years ago I first heard about Figurehead Miniatures and their range of 1/6000 ships.  1/6000!?  I hadn’t actually seen any of them yet but I couldn’t help thinking it would be like a flea circus, impossibly small ships with indiscernible details.  How could you possibly have a meaningful game?  Then about a year ago I saw another blog, with pictures of these worthy vessels.  Then I couldn’t believe how much detail you could actually put on a ship that small.  But enough of my words here are some pictures.

This is the Slava class CG…

Image

… and a Udalloy class DDG…

Image

… and this is a Bunker Hill class CG…

Image

…and an Arleigh Burke class DDG…

Image

     I could go on and on but I think you get the point.  These are really well done and just to calibrate your eyes, each of those hash-marks is 1/4 inch.  Yes, these ships are less than two inches in length.  Now I just have to get some really small brushes from Micro-Mark and I’ll be all set to paint these up.

     So far the only fleets available that I’ve seen are US, Soviet/Russian, UK, and “Latin America” a.k.a. Argentina.  This is the only manufacturer I’m aware of that carries all the combatants for the Falklands/Malvinas conflict.  That in itself makes this an attractive scale to consider.  And if that’s not your bag, baby – they have ships from the Russo-Japanese war through present day.