I’ve Got A Guy…

If you’ve ever lived the life of an Ex-pat far from your home country then you have probably experienced some level of culture shock.  It takes far longer to get even the most mundane tasks accomplished until you can figure out how things work.  Where can you get hobby paint? Or tools?  Or anything you need for that matter.  Often knowledge and wisdom come slowly – mostly through tribal knowledge.  When I lived in Bahrain it was a phenomenon I like to call “I’ve got a guy”.  You need your date palms pruned?  I’ve got a guy.  You need your son driven to rugby practice? I’ve got a guy.  You get the idea.  Well this is another post about decals, specifically 1/2400 scale ship decals.  If you need decals for an aircraft carrier, a modern PRC destroyer, or a U.S. cruiser…  I’ve got a guy.

Actually in this case it is two guys, Tanner and Brad.  Tanner handles the design and Brad does production and sales I believe.  Brad sells these decals through an ebay storefront known as Taskforce2400.  Copyright information on the decals will either say WWII Central, Tanner’s handle, or Taskforce2400.  To date all the decals in both the modern and WWII ranges are specifically sized for 1/2400 scale ships from GHQ.  The picture below offers some idea of the range of modern vessels covered.  The decals are full color which is both a benefit and a problem as will be shown a bit further down.  The selection is not limited to helo decks by the way.  In fact the LHD deck decals are some of the most detailed decals I’ve seen.  My latest LHD is still in progress so the big reveal will have to wait.  Additionally, Brad and Tanner have recently added RN Falklands campaign deck decals for the Type 42, 22, and 21 ships.  I have these on order but they haven’t arrived yet.

An array of modern deck decals for USN, RN, and PLAN ships from Taskforce2400.

An array of modern deck decals for USN, RN, and PLAN ships from Taskforce2400.

If you prefer WWII they offer a wide selection of carrier deck decals as well.  There are many more designs than the two included below including decals for Graf Zeppelin and Aquila.  Some of the decals are offered in slightly different designs which feature different color shading, air recognition symbols, or line markings.  I believe the goal is to be able to model any fleet carrier, light carrier, or escort carrier from the war.

Flight deck decal for GHQ 1/2400 Ark Royal by WWII Central.

Flight deck decal for GHQ 1/2400 Ark Royal by WWII Central.

1/2400 scale flight deck decal for USN CV-5 or CV-6.

1/2400 scale flight deck decal for USN CV-5 or CV-6.

Why is this important?  Well if you game with or collect modern warships you have to deal with aviation capable ships, after all helicopters are everywhere.  Until now there have been very few options.  Paint the lines yourself, find decals, or go without.  I certainly don’t have the talent to paint flight deck lines in this scale so that was a non-starter.  I don’t really want to go without if I can avoid it so that leaves decals.  I’ve tried to make my own decals with some success

1/2400 scale USCG Cutter by Viking Forge.  Decals by the author.

1/2400 scale USCG Cutter by Viking Forge. Decals by the author.

But making your own decals is hard and white lettering, marks, or lines don’t work very well unless you have access to an ALPS printer which I don’t.  Even my attempts to find a good used ALPS printer on ebay were totally frustrated.  So most of the time I went without as evidenced by the bare helo deck on the USCG Cutter.  Then in the mid 1990’s another option appeared, SeaBat Replicas.  For a while these were a godsend.  They offered a limited range – only the USN 1/2400 ships offered by GHQ were covered.  But there was one huge advantage SeaBat offered and that was hull numbers for the whole class and usually in three different colors.  The SeaBat decals were white lines on clear film so, unlike Taskforce2400 decals, whatever color you painted your deck would show through.  Here are some of the SeaBat decals still on the sheet.  It is hard to make out the white markings but they’re there.  In 1998 or so these stopped appearing on store shelves so I quickly bought out any remaining stock I could find in hobby shops or on ebay.

1/2400 scale deck markings for Ticonderoga class CG by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale deck markings for Ticonderoga class CG by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale model of Spruance DD by CinC, decals by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale model of Spruance DD by CinC, decals by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale model of Arleigh Burke DDG by GHQ, decals by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale model of Arleigh Burke DDG by GHQ, decals by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale model of Oliver H. Perry FFG by GHQ, decals by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale model of Oliver H. Perry FFG by GHQ, decals by SeaBat Replicas.

Here are the Taskforce2400 decals for comparison.

1/2400 scale model of Ticonderoga CG by GHQ, decals by Taskforce2400.

1/2400 scale model of Ticonderoga CG by GHQ, decals by Taskforce2400.

1/2400 scale model of Jiangkai II by GHQ, decals by Taskforce2400.

1/2400 scale model of Jiangkai II by GHQ, decals by Taskforce2400.

So here you can see one of the problems of the Taskforce2400 approach.  My old flat black flight decks are not technically correct in terms of  accurate color representation.  Personally these are more game pieces than museum pieces so I don’t worry about it that much.  When you use decals which have the deck color included it can really stand out if it doesn’t match you planned deck color.  The Jiangkai II for example looks kind of wonky because the blue gray deck color referenced from pictures here does not match the gray of the flight deck decal.  The white balance of the photo above is a little off but the deck decal matches nicely with the gray of other photos of Jiangkai IIs just not the pictures I chose to use.  So who is right?  Well it looks kind of silly so I’ll probably have to strip the ship down and repaint to match the decal.  Guess I should have waited to paint the ship until after I had seen the decal. Oh well.

I really like these decals and I love that the range is continually expanding.  If I could have one wish it would be for them to expand their coverage to the Viking Forge line of 1/2400 scale ships as well.  Unfortunately because they can’t print pure white decals I don’t think they’ll be able to make hull numbers anytime soon.  One other note about applying the decals.  If you use the Micro-Sol/Micro-Set approach be aware that the decals will bubble and wrinkle and generally look like an epic fail but will then smooth out very nicely.  Don’t get too anxious and start trying to smooth it out or move it around.  If you can’t resist you stand an excellent change of tearing or stretching the decal.  Good luck and I hope you enjoy.

 

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.

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.

You can’t always get what you want…

Welcome back!  In fairness I guess I was the one that was away from the blog for a bit.  Well, Organizational Behavior Theory is over and I have a few weeks until the next class so its time to get back to work, or play as the case may be.

As the the title suggests today is about failed expectations and other negative things.  I apologize to those who are getting their auras scrubbed or those who may be re-aligning their chakras – this may not be the best blog to read.  For those that don’t mind a cautionary tale or two read on.

Returning guests they will already know that I am usually a big fan of GHQ miniatures.  They have had their failures and upsets in terms of products but far fewer than other companies.  Today’s story is about some of those failures and upsets.  GHQ is not always the villain in these stories but they are the unifying theme.  Here is one example…

In March, in my Pivot to the Pacific piece I wrote a bit about my PLAN navy and my intentions to order the new GHQ Type 054A (Jiangkai II) FFG, and the Type 053H3 (Jiangwei II) FFG.  Their cash register apparently can’t deal with a transaction split between two gift cards so I had to split the purchase.  The Type 053H3 (Jiangwei II) FFG directly from GHQ and the Type 054A (Jiangkai II) FFG from Grandiosity, one of the online e-tailors of GHQ products.  At the time I was happy with the arrangement because GHQ products are discounted on Grandiosity’s website.  Maybe you can get what you want.

By the end of April my Jiangwei II had arrived from GHQ.  Not so the Jiangkai II from Grandiosity.  When I contacted Grandiosity by email they were apologetic and told me GHQ failed to deliver on their restock request twice!  I suppose that could happen.  If true, why not send a quick email “hey your package is delayed…”  At the time I was told they would send GHQ another restock request that very day.  That was nearly a month ago.  Mail takes longer to reach me here and that’s okay but email?  So today I sent another note to Grandiosity to find out what has happened.  Their reply, which was very prompt, was that they called GHQ and were told “they would be getting them out to us”.   I just want to be done with the he-said-she-said routine.   Hopefully I will be able to post an update in the near future that the package is in the mail.  I wish I could then tell them the check is in the mail but they’ve already charged my card.

Item two.  This is the time of year when GHQ announces their new releases for the following production year.  This year, like last year, they are rolling out a teaser a day.  The teasers tell you what they will release but not when.  Overall it is a cool feature that gets plenty of people frothing.  In the not too distant future they will release the full list of products and the production schedule.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that one of my main interests is modern naval wargaming and until last year GHQ has been very disappointing.  Last year they released a Flight IIA Arleigh Burke and the previously mentioned PLAN carrier and frigates.  Prior to those releases GHQ has had a dry spell of over 20 yrs of not producing a single new modern naval model.  In my mind that seemed a pretty clear signal that they were done with that line.  After all with built in marketing opportunities like the 15th, 20th, 25th, and 30th anniversaries of the Falklands/Malvinas war coming and going and GHQ produced no additional models to complete their RN Falklands line-up, well that was just silly.

But hope springs eternal.  Last year GHQ kick started the line again with some solid choices.  This year?  The full list isn’t out yet but they have announced one modern unit  LCS 2 USS Independence.  The one disturbing thing about it is the way they announced it.  Here’s a quote “This may give us a good read on how many people are excited about Modern naval.”  Okay, its new, its in the news, and its kinda funky looking, all plusses.  But I hope it isn’t really something they intend to judge the strength of the available market by.  Don’t get me wrong I’ll buy one but would the average gamer buy more than one or two of these?  There are soooo many other more probable ships that are likely to get into real life altercations which can be made into plausible scenarios.  Another missed opportunity.  Perhaps that isn’t the only modern being produced this year, at least I hope it isn’t.

I had items three and four but suddenly I’ve decided that that’s enough negativity for one day.  I promise pictures in the next post.

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…

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… and a Udalloy class DDG…

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… and this is a Bunker Hill class CG…

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…and an Arleigh Burke class DDG…

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     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.