A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words or $3.00

In a recent post I mentioned that I have undertaken a project to rehab my entire fleet of modern carriers and large deck amphibs. Some of the work is the result of damage incurred during my many moves while in the military. As a consequence of that I had to order a bunch of replacement parts from GHQ. Main masts, radar platforms, that sort of thing. My initial conversation with them left something to be desired. The worker answering the phone demonstrated little knowledge of their products or policies and suggested I write an email request instead. In truth, it sounded like she didn’t want to deal with my request and the sooner I was off the phone the better. Three weeks and two unanswered emails later I decided to call back. The phone was answered by a woman, I wouldn’t swear that it was the same woman but the voice sounded very similar, who was very helpful and carefully explained their special order policy. This is not the first time I’ve made special orders but I appreciate the reminder that sometimes they have to do additional cast runs to fulfill the orders and therefore it may take more time and would not be returnable. Fine with me. All of the special order parts are priced to reflect this extra work. I was shocked however to find out that each of the CVN deck decals would cost me $8. Ah, I’ll find another way.

One of the vitally important items to me was a replacement CIWS/NATO SS sponson that was missing from a CVN I purchased on ebay many years ago. At the time I shaped one out of styrene that was a reasonable approximation and it has served that purpose well. Here is what I’m talking about.

Hand Made Sponson for STBD Side CIWS/NATO SS on GHQ CVN-71 Model.

Hand Made Sponson for STBD Side CIWS/NATO SS on GHQ CVN-71 Model.

So on the phone and in email I described this piece as the sponson forward of the deck elevators that mounts the CIWS and NATO SS. A few days later I received an email telling me my order was almost ready to ship out but the worker who packages up the parts wanted some clarification of exactly what part I was talking about. Awesome, I thought, now I’m sure to get the right part. My response was that what I needed was “the smaller part that mounts on the right side forward of the deck elevators, not the long piece” in reference to her question about the long piece that attaches on the port side of the ship. What I should have done was taken a picture because I forgot something.

Photo of STBD side of GHQ CVN-71 Model Showing Three Sponsons.

Photo of STBD side of GHQ CVN-71 Model Showing Three Sponsons.

Yes, there is a sponson under the island, one between the elevators and the one I wanted forward of the elevators. If I had taken this picture then I could have saved myself $3 and received the part I really need. Instead I got this:

Sponson Part from Between the Elevators on the STBD Side of GHQ CVN-71 Model

Sponson Part from Between the Elevators on the STBD Side of GHQ CVN-71 Model

No refunds. And I do recognize that I bear some of the blame, this is not intended to be a total rant against GHQ. I thought I was clear but I wasn’t looking at the part sheet and I didn’t send a picture of the part I wanted during the email exchange I was having with them. They were looking at a part I had frankly forgotten even existed so we ended up talking past each other. Live and learn. I guess I’ll have to order another replacement once I get a future order together. In the meantime if you ever wondered what $62 buys you in spare parts from GHQ here it is. Seven mainmasts, four radar stanchions, four radars, and the wrong sponson. Sometimes you have to really want to do a restoration to pay those prices.

Spare Parts for GHQ CVN-71 Restoration Projects. Mainmasts, Radar Masts, and the Wrong Sponson.

Spare Parts for GHQ CVN-71 Restoration Projects. Mainmasts, Radar Masts, and the Wrong Sponson.

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

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.

 

In The News…

This week I’m taking a step back from my own work to highlight some recent news in the hobby industry.  Admittedly it is a bit of a cop out but with Carnivale last weekend there wasn’t much time to do more.

First up is I-94 Enterprises, one of go to favorites for storage boxes and 1/285 scale aircraft.  You may recall that I’ve previously mentioned that Dave WInfree purchased Raiden MIniatures.  Their latest news release states that they’ve brought several models back into production. Most interesting to me are the Grumman F9F Cougar and the Gloster Javelin.  While neither aircraft saw real combat there were ‘what-if’ scenarios that could have resulted in combat engagements for the Javelin and they’re both cool looking aircraft.  During the early 1960’s Javelins were stationed in Singapore to support Commonwealth forces in the ‘Konfrontasi’ between the British Commonwealth and Indonesia over the creation of Malaysia.  Indonesia operated mostly Soviet aircraft designs it could be an interesting scenario for fans of early cold war kit.

Next item is an announcement from author and game designer Larry Bond. Here is their announcement:

Larry Bond and Chris Carlson are pleased to announce the formation of the Admiralty Trilogy Group, LLC, a Virginia limited liability corporation. The Admiralty Trilogy Group (ATG) are the exclusive publishers of the award-winning Admiralty Trilogy wargame system, games that span naval combat in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These include:
· Harpoon (1955 and later, up to current day)
· Command at Sea (1925 through World War II and up to 1955)
· Fear God and Dread Nought (1905 through World War I and up to 1925)
The new company will publish wargames in digital format, using the Internet to deliver quality products through the Wargame Vault. We have over twenty titles available for sale, and will be expaning the list in the coming days.
Our biannual newsletter, the Naval SITREP, will continue publication. Issues 14 (April 1998) through 47 (October 2014) are available for sale at The Wargame Vault. Content in earlier issues will be condensed and published in an upcoming product. Current subscriptions with Clash of Arms will be honored, but will not be renewed. Instead of a $21.00 subscription for three issues ($28 overseas), each new issue will be posed on The Wargame Vault for $3.00.
In addition to the Trilogy product line previously published by Clash of Arms, Inc., The AT Group will be expanding and improving the game system with new naval and land-based rules sets, all designed to work with the current system and enhance your gaming experience.
The AT Group can be reached either at our email, AdTrGroup@aol.com, or on our Facebook page.
Our webpage, AdmiraltyTrilogy.com, will be up soon. We hope you will come and visit.

For the uninitiated Larry is the techno-thriller author who is also the creator of the Harpoon naval wargame system.  While sometimes maligned by gamers as ‘too technical’ or ‘too complicated’ for casual gaming the system was used extensively,at least in the 80’s and 90’s, within the U.S. Navy to teach basic naval warfare concepts to officer candidates.  What began as a modern naval combat system has expanded and evolved through the other games of the Admiralty Trilogy to encompass all naval warfare from about 1900 to the present.  The Admiralty Trilogy staff have been ‘unifying’ all the underlying equations for damage, construction etc. across the entire spectrum.  Does it matter to the average gamer that the data sheet for their HMS Agamemnon battleship of 1906 is calculated on the same basis as their HMS Agamemnon minelayer of 1940 or their HMS Agamemnon nuclear powered submarine of the present day? Probably not.  For me however it is significant.  After all, haven’t you ever wanted to game out the Final Countdown attack where the Nimitz class carrier travels back to Dec 1941 and must decide whether to intercept the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor.

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.