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.

 

Pivot to the Pacific Part Two? Part Three? Whatever…

  GHQ, a company I think I’ve mentioned in every one of my posts, has just announced their production plan for 2014-2015.  The list (which appears about half-way down the page) has lots of good stuff but they haven’t worked out production dates yet.  The most interesting for me with regards to this post are the 1/2400 modern warships.  there were no new PRC PLAN ships announced but they did announce their first JMSDF ships.  The first is the Hyuga class DDH, the aircraft carrier that’s not an aircraft carrier, and the Takanami class DDG.  GHQ is also planning on producing the Royal Navy Type 45 DDG which is the first update for their RN line in more than 20 years.  The final modern unit announced is the the San Antonio class LPD, USS New York.

   I think these JMSDF ships are a solid choices.  Viking Forge already produces many other JMSDF ships and the new vessels from GHQ will complement those without competing with them.  I previously purchased a 3-D printed Hyuga from Shapeways so I’m eager to get my hands on one from GHQ for a direct comparison. 

   The Type 45 however is a curious choice in my mind.  The Type 21 and Type 22 Frigates and the Type 42 Destroyers in the GHQ catalog are Falklands War versions and were disposed of a long before the Type 45 entered service.  The Invincible class offered in the catalog is the wrong version to serve alongside a Type 45 but at least there is overlap in service.  Essentially there are two periods represented by the GHQ RN catalog items, Falklands War and modern day.  It would have been nice to see a Type 23 or even a Type 22 Batch 3 come down the ways at GHQ at some point in the last 20 years but that’s the way it goes.

   New York, LPD-21, is another interesting choice.  I’m sure I’ll get one or two but I can’t decide if they’re useful or not from a gaming perspective.  Sure its cool that part of the ship is constructed from steel recycled from the WTC after the 9/11 bombing but without additional expeditionary strike group units it becomes another one-off.  It could be useful in a small scale scenario assaulting an isolated island garrison/radar station/ESM station or whatever but then again if it is a target small enough that 700 marines and a handful of helicopters can take it why not just use a dozen TLAM?  Paired with GHQ’s excellent LHD, and Viking Forge’s LSDs it begins to provide some expeditionary assault capability.  Hmmm… Maybe it will come with V-22 Ospreys.  Now that would be something. 

  

Pivot to the Pacific

While I ruminate on how to proceed with my monument it is time to change directions a bit and look at 1/2400 modern naval war gaming.  I want to focus on the various models offered covering the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been undergoing a renaissance of both naval theory and naval architecture.  For many years the PLAN relied on ships and ship designs cast off from the Soviet Union.  No longer.  The PLAN has been building homegrown designs in all categories from submarines to destroyers to amphibious ships.  While it is true that they still use some Soviet/Russian ships and submarines like their “new” aircraft carrier, the naval construction program is very robust.

Here is part of my PLAN fleet.

PLAN Fleet – Models by Viking Forge

These particular models are by Viking Forge.  They have a good level of detail and are very reasonably priced and as far as I can tell they were the first to bring modern PLAN ships to market in 1/2400 scale.  The two closest ships in the front row are Type 052C (Luyang II) DDGs.  The middle two ships in the front row are Type 052B (Luyang I) DDGs.  The final two ships in the front row are Type 053H1 (Jianghu II) FFGs.  I’m working on hull numbers and deck markings next.

GHQ has decided to get back into modern micronaut market with some new PLAN vessels of their own.  Its amazing to me that a company like GHQ – self titled “Best Damn Wargaming Products” supplier since 1967 haven’t produced a new modern naval vessel since 1990.  That was the year they produced the LHD.  I’ll try not to harp on them too much about that because I am very happy they have had a change of heart.  Their newest models are the PLAN aircraft carrier, Liao Ning, the Type 054A (Jiankai II) FFG, and the Type 053H3 (Jiangwei II) FFG.  Here are the unpainted models from their catalog, unfortunately mine haven’t arrived yet.

Liao Ning Jiangkai II Jiangwei II

Now if I can just get one of these fine companies to start making the PLAN amphibious vessels we could have a really good battle in the Spratlys.  Better yet, maybe a little dust up with the JMSDF over the Senkaku Islands is in order.  Guess I better get the fleet painted.

How Star Trek got it right.

  The replicator technology in the Star Trek universe is amazing.  Something out of nothing.  Just as communicators begat cell phones I think 3D-printing can trace its parentage to replicators.  If you don’t know what 3D-printing is or understand why I would talk about it here let me show you something.

Image This is a “printed” miniature.  It is a 1/2400 scale model of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Helicopter Curiser Hyuga.  I lived in Japan for a couple of years and deeply regret not going to the “open house” held when she first arrived in Yokosuka.  I desperately wanted one in this scale to augment my other JMSDF warships from Viking Forge miniatures.  [For the purists out there my understanding is Viking Forge has a U.S. production license for Sea Battle miniatures which are produced in Austria.  Their catalog items made under this agreement begin with the ‘SB’ prefix.  I have Sea Battle models made in Austria and by Viking Forge – no difference in quality but Viking Forge is way cheaper than importing.  Now back to our story…]  None of the established companies makes this ship in this scale.  Enter Shapeways.

Shapeways is a 3D-printing service, if I understand their business model correctly.  You design a product you want printed and they can do it for you.  They also provide an online e-commerce space where you can post your gadget for other people to buy.  Shapeways and the gadget creator split the proceeds in some fashion I’m sure.  Some of the designs are crap but some are interesting and possibly unavailable in any other form.  In fact I just saw a z-scale dumpster that would be perfect for 1/285 scale dioramas, but I digress.  Each of the designs can be printed in several different materials depending on your budget or needs.  “White strong & flexible” is the least expensive material and from the models I’ve seen you get what you pay for.  The finish looks bumpy under even casual examination.  Okay for a convention game where damaged or lost models is a real concern.  At a cost of $6.83 there isn’t a whole lot invested. The model pictured above is printed in the “frosted detail” material which is the most expensive option for this model at $14.30.  This is about what a premium company like GHQ would charge for a similarly sized aircraft carrier.  This model is nice but not GHQ nice.  Still, it is currently the only model of this ship available in this scale.

There are faults and imperfections with this model which I will try to cover in a proper Tow Tank evaluation at a later date.  The underlying technology is really cool though and I encourage you to wander around Shapeways and see if there isn’t something that strikes your fancy.