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

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.

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A Look Around

As part of the Tow Tank feature I would like to offer a look at what is out there from some of the manufacturers. In depth analysis, in terms of fit and finish, of these models will follow. For now I simply offer a view of what one gets when they order a particular miniature. Some are quite good, some are less so. You can judge for yourself.

Viking Forge

Here are some of the offerings from Viking Forge for the PLAN. These models were purchased about seven years ago and the good folks at VF have increased their range of available ships since then. I’m in the process of acquiring the new ships re-shooting the finished models.

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052C DDG in the blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052C DDG

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052B DDG in the blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052B DDG

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 054 FFG in blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 054 FFG

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VF 1/2400 scale Type 053H FFG in blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale Type 053H FFG

 

 

 

 

 

How Small is Too Small?

I was so pleased with how well the rare earth magnets worked with the flight stands for 1/285 scale aircraft that I wanted to take a look at smaller applications.  Could they be made to work with 1/2400 scale aircraft?

Well…  Um…  Ah…  In a word, no.

The problem isn’t with the magnets really.  I found some 2mm x 1mm magnets which aren’t too obtrusive even considering the diminutive size of 1/2400 scale aircraft.  The problem is the stands themselves.  I couldn’t find a reliable combination of base and post that works with the magnets and provides acceptable stability without looking too chunky drawing attention away from the models.  The search will continue.

  In the meantime I have decided to mount some of my 1/2400 scale aircraft on more traditional stands.

  I used sheet styrene and my Dupli-cutter, from North West Short Line (NWSL), to make a handful of roughly 1/4″ strips.

An excellent tool for repetitive cutting of sheet styrene or balsa to make uniform strips.

An excellent tool for repetitive cutting of sheet styrene or balsa to make uniform strips.

  Once that task was complete I used my Chopper, also from NWSL, to cut the strips into roughly 1/4″ x 1/4″ squares.  Obviously, I could have skipped some of this work if I had strip styrene of the appropriate size on hand.  I didn’t have anything acceptable on hand on my desired time line so I did it the old-fashioned way.

Another great product from NWSL.  The Chopper makes short work of chopping strips to a uniform size.

Another great product from NWSL. The Chopper makes short work of chopping strips to a uniform size.

  After cutting the rough bases I drilled a hole in the center of each one for the steel pin which would become the stand.

Bases before and after drilling center hole for flight stand.

Bases before and after drilling center hole for flight stand.

  To prevent the model from teeter-tottering on the game table I counter-sunk the hole on the underside of the base that would conceal the pinhead.

Underside of base features countersunk center hole which will accept pinhead to prevent teeter-tottering.

Underside of base features countersunk center hole which will accept pinhead to prevent teeter-tottering.

  Before gluing the pins to their bases I cut them down to scale lengths appropriate for hovering helicopters, aircraft flying Nap Of the Earth (NOE), aircraft flying low level bombing runs, and maritime patrol aircraft.  With the current bases size pins longer than 2 inches would probably be unstable.  At scale that is about 400 ft, a reasonable representation of routine operating altitudes for ASW aircraft.

Some of the steel pins cut down to size.  Those on the right are for hovering helicopters while those on the left are for NOE aircraft.

Some of the steel pins cut down to size. Those on the right are for hovering helicopters while those on the left are for NOE aircraft.

Here is the flight stand base and pin ready for gluing.

Here is the flight stand base and pin ready for gluing.

Glue applied to pin.

Glue applied to pin.

Pinhead fits into recess presenting a flat and stable surface for the flight stand.

Pinhead fits into recess presenting a flat and stable surface for the flight stand.

These are completed flight stands, except for painting of course.

These are completed flight stands, except for painting of course.

Prototypes are complete. Aircraft are mounted.  In this case GHQ F-111 standing in for SU-24 and two MiG-29s.  Caution, these are really small. I accidentally drilled all the way through the second MiG-29.

Prototypes are complete. Aircraft are mounted. In this case GHQ F-111 standing in for SU-24 and two MiG-29s. Caution, these are really small. I accidentally drilled all the way through the second MiG-29.

 

Making these flight stands was pretty fun and I’m looking forward to making more.  After I get these stands painted it will also be much easier to photoshop them out of pictures with my fleet.  I hope you enjoyed the mini tutorial.

Els Quatre Gats

     There is a cafe in Barcelona, Spain known as “The Four Cats” which has a rich history, excellent food and a very pleasant ambiance – I highly recommend it if you are in the city.  It also has almost nothing to do with wargaming.  Or does it?  Picasso, the artist, was a famous resident of Barcelona and Els Quatre Gats was one of his frequent haunts.  He would often meet other artists, musicians, novelists, or other minor celebrities of the day at the cafe and discuss everything from art to poetry to politics.  If one sits in the cafe one can almost hear the echoes of the laughter or the shouting as they debate their favorite portrait or novel. 

     I got to thinking about these seemingly random connections the other day when I was reading Red Star Over the Pacific, by T. Yoshihara and J. Holmes.  Their research explores the inner workings of modern Chinese naval strategy and theory.  Their central premise seems to be that the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is chiefly influenced as much by Alfred Thayer Mahan as it is by Mao Zedong.  An interesting concept.  What if Mahan and Mao could meet for coffee and discuss naval strategy?  I haven’t finished the book yet but it has made me rethink some of what I thought I knew.  [The link will take you to the condensed version published in an Australian Defence journal.]

     All of this prelude is to get us to the main point of the post, the PLAN navy.  In my last post I discussed my ongoing difficulty with ordering GHQ ships via Grandiosity and unfortunately there is still no resolution there.  I do however have something to share in the form of pictures of the GHQ Jiangwei II I ordered directly from GHQ.

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     As with all of GHQ’s models this one is highly detailed and the limited assembly required was very easy to accomplish.  The one small disappointment however was the slight offset in the alignment of the two halves of the mold.  This produced a small but noticeable seam-line on the model, more than just flash.  This misalignment was more than I would have expected in a brand new model.  I should also note that the misalignment was present on both ships that I purchased.  One was affected more on its ports side while the other was more affected on its starboard side.  With some judicious filing however both seams were removed.

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     The other good news coming from GHQ is the announcement of their almost complete 2013-2014 product line.  They’re still holding out on a November surprise but the rest of the list looks pretty good.  In addition to the USN LCS I mentioned previously they are going to produce a few more modern naval units all of which will be in the PRC line.  The first up will be the Type 053H1G Jianghu V which seems like a solid choice.  The second unit will be the Project 956EM Sovremenny which saves me a lot of conversion work and makes me very happy.  The last unit will be the Type 051DT Luda IV.  I think all of these are great choices and they don’t overlap the offerings from Viking Forge.  With the previous PLAN ships and Arleigh Burke Flight IIA model released last year there is a growing opportunity to get some ships on the table and play out some Pacific scenarios.  Now if they would just make some new JMSDF and S. Korean vessels as well. 

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.