Thursday, July 31, 2014

Scrap Iron Heroes

It probably won't surprise anyone to hear that I have a soft spot for small quirky ships. The Scrap Iron Flotilla is a classic example of such:

These five hand-me-down destroyers served in the Australian Navy. They were a little like the naval equivalent of the comfortable old pants that weren't quite in style anymore that you found at the Salvation Army. They were warm, the price was right, and you needed winter clothes, so you bought them only to have the fashionable rich prick with the next locker over deride you for it.  In this case the fashionable prick was the Nazi propaganda machine, which bequeathed the moniker "Scrap Iron Flotilla" on these fine destroyers. They served with distinction through the arduous early war, initially in the Mediterranean, where Waterhen was lost supplying Tobruk, and later in the Pacific, where Vampire and Voyager met their fate at the hands of Japanese bombers. At left in the photograph is flotilla leader HMAS Stuart, followed by Waterhen, Voyager, Vampire, and Vendetta. Below is a second picture with the four V class destoyers (don't ask me why Waterhen is a V. Maybe she's a double V) along with HMNZS Achilles of River Plate fame. Vendetta is now in the foreground with Vampire, Voyager, and Waterhen behind her.

The next ship didn't start out as scrap iron, but sadly became so when it found its way to the bottom of Savo Sound. It was quite a new ship at time of loss, actually, but her history makes her almost as quirky as the five tin cans above. Her fate is particularly tragic since she had perhaps the best picture of the situation, having a newer radar set than her teammates. But perhaps because of her diminutive size the admiral in tactical command broke his flag aboard San Francisco. Quite ironically, Rear Admiral Norman Scott had gotten himself rather lost aboard San Francisco several weeks earlier in a crazed melee that turned out rather well for the Americans. At the reprise things went more poorly and Scott paid with his life. (As did the OTC, Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan.) Not only did two different American admirals die that night, (one aboard our subject) but the five Sullivan brothers died aboard or in the water awaiting rescue after the fight.

The ship is, of course, USS Juneau. I typically try to paint my ships in a mid 1942 scheme, and Juneau is no exception. (I target a date in June of 1942 as closely as possible. Not really sure why, mind you. And if you believe that . . . ) While I admit I'm happy about my choice, I might well have broken it if Juneau had ended up in these duds any later. This oddball hybrid scheme amuses me so greatly I might have chosen it had it been applied in 1943. (Which isn't possible, of course, as paint doesn't really dry well underwater.) However, the fact that this is both the paint she wore at miraculous mid-year and on the date she met her tragic fate makes it an absolutely sure thing. No other scheme would suffice. For the curious, the model is an older Superior casting of a first run Atlanta.

So here's to the men who served aboard the scrap-iron, those who lived to tell the tale and those who paid the ultimate price for what they believed in; defending their families and countries and ways of life. Here's to the scrap iron heroes. You did what needed doing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Large, Small, and Buggy . . .

I hope you will bear with me as I take a brief detour into the darkness of the far future as envisioned by the likes of Rick Priestly and Jervis Johnson. Today I want to talk about figures new and old, large and small . . .

'Bout that large and small . . . I finally got my hands on one of the classic era Ogryn models. Like all the casts from that period the fit was imperfect, but the style was impeccable. These were dark, lovely models. I love the crooked smile. Next to him is a very early halfling "adventurer", though he's kitted out more or less with standard issue Imperial Army equipment of the day. Obviously these are "old." Now lets take a look at some "new."

I don't generally have much temptation to buy contemporary 40K miniatures, and while these two ladies are both now out of print they're recent enough that they should be off my radar, but they're both quirky and well sculpted. These two in particular seem to hearken back to the pulp roots of Warhammer 40K and fit in well with a Rogue Trader era collection. The Last Chancers seem a clear reference to the likes of the Dirty Dozen and the fine lady in the kilt would fit in fine in Mad Max or Tank Girl. In point of fact, I've painted her up in Clan MacLeod colors. (Approximately the "hunting tartan." The "clan tartan" was too yellow for my taste.) More pulp has been wrought in the name MacLeod than could possibly fit in this blog, and I'd bet more than either you or I realize. (Maybe between us we can come up with a more complete set, but by the Faerie Flag I doubt we'll get them all.)

Gaunt's Ghosts, from whence the lady in khakis and cape originates, also feels like a very nice movie reference. There's a gritty feel to the models from that line that is strangely absent from too much of 40K these days. Since she seems so very competent and we're on a desert world I gave her decent desert garb, though she's stuck with a green autogun she picked up somewhere. (Must be an autogun. Lasguns don't need clips.)

And back tot he old . . .

These three fellows are an interesting mix of Bob Oley pirates failing to follow the lead of a "Confrontation Tech Gang Leader." Confrontation was a predecessor to Necromunda that came out in the pages of White Dwarf. I got this miniature in a mixed batch of pirates and wasn't initially sure what he was. Turns out he was probably the rarest miniature in the box.

Of course as an Old lead fan, I have been slowly attempting to collect the "adventurers." These fellows are all Imperial servants of one sort or another. The angry bossy man in blue was simply called an "official." I take him to be a sort of spoiled planetary governor. The minor nobility of the 40K universe, if you will. Accompanying him are a pair of priests. The gentleman in green was initially billed as an imperial psyker and later became Astropath Yerl. The fellow in white is named Techpriest Schlan. Between the two clergy, suffering the wrath of the rotten tongue, is Pilot Lorgar.

The trouble with the Imperium of Man is that there are so many . . . well . . . not men exactly. Surely not human . . . so many bugs in the system. 

Of course the bugs tend to become more human over time . . .

This fellow was apparently an Imperial Army trooper . . .

But he seems to have gotten lost and joined the cult. (Along with the space eunuch.)

Of course, at that time, where there were Gene Stealers there were often Zoats. I figure they're the brains of the operation. More will follow.

But Inquisitor Augustus can clean it all up . . . with a little help from his friend Ed.

Ed has popped up here in the past. He's a heavily converted vinyl E.D. 209 in need of some love and care, but if something needs cleaning he's your man. I figure one of these days he'll be a very nice objective marker. 

(Incidentally, what idiot decided that hacking up kits and putting them back together backwards with parts from ten other kits mashed in was "scratchbuilding"? It's not. It's kitbashing. Scratchbuilding works from raw materials up, which is to say no kits are harmed in the making of a scratchbuilt thing. Ed here would be misnomed "scratchbuilt" on many 40K pages. He is in fact kitbashed.)

. . . 

But I digress. I hope you enjoy this little bit of stuff and nonsense. I will return you to the wonderful world of Naval Wargaming in the next post, but stay tuned. More Rogue Trader era 40K will pop up from time to time. Maybe I'll even get a game going. Seems to be the thing to do these days and I've had it in the back of my head for some time. (Even ran a one-off where a group of plucky adventurers cleaned up a whole batch of greenskins and stole their wagon to boot. "We got a mule!" said the band's tough, referring to the ATV cum pick-up from Firefly. Indeed they did. No more appropriate vehicle was ever called a mule.)

Thanks for listening space-fans. Talk to you again soon.

The Composer.

Monday, July 28, 2014

To War on a Japanese Liner

Just prior to WWII Japan had one of the largest and most modern merchant marines in the world. Military subsidies and government support kept the major ship-builders busy constructing fast new liners and tankers by the score. During the war most of this shipping was taken over by the military and subsequently sunk. If you want to game WWII it's instructive to examine the brief but interesting period between impressment and loss. Several of my newest endeavors have been of this sort, including two ships bought from Viking Forge: Asama Maru and Hikawa Maru.

These are two of the ships Viking Forge casts for the Seabattles line; a very nice line of well sculpted models of generally smaller warships, merchants, and auxiliaries. Hikawa Maru is particularly interesting, as she is one of the very very few Japanese merchant ships to survive the war (the large red crosses no doubt helped) and one of the only Japanese ships of that vintage (merchant or otherwise) still afloat today. She's now a museum ship, which is a rare enough state. It's particularly nice to see a ship more typical (and less glamorous) than the Missouri or Queen Mary preserved and open to the public.

The variety of both generic and specifically Japanese merchant ships available in 1/2400 is impressive. With some careful conversion it can be made even larger. To wit, let's look at three merchant ships from as many suppliers:

In the above photo the two models in front of the pier depict OSK liner Buenos Aires Maru (in civilian colors) and NYK liner Asama Maru (in two-tone grey.) Behind the pier is a model of another NYK liner, Hakusan Maru. The three ships are from Panzerschiffe, Viking Forge/Seabattles, and GHQ respectively. I invested a similar amount of work in all three, building masts and adding details to each. (Even the GHQ ship). Each has advantages and disadvantages, but to my mind all three look pretty good together. For the price, Panzerschiffe is the only way to go, but their variety of available merchant ships is not endless, so if you want a more colorful fleet without scratchbuilding it other suppliers are also useful. Typical Panzerschiffe merchants run $3-4. Viking Forge merchants usually run about twice that, with larger ships costing somewhat more. GHQ merchants run anywhere from four to six times the price of Panzerschiffe, thus making up the smallest percentage of my collection. Even so, some of their ships are quite pretty and I'm willing to shell out every once in a while.

In addition to the companies above, C in C also casts some fine merchants and Viking Forge has some in house sculpts, which you can see below compared to one of the Seabattles ships and a different Panzerschiffe liner.

The two tankers at the left are the Viking Forge and C in C models. Both depict "Kawasaki" type tankers taken over as fleet oilers. Both have had masts added. The Viking Forge model (in the rear) has also bee armed and generally militarized. The Panzerschiffe model, foreground on the right, is older work which I did more quickly and with less research or detail, but even so I think it makes a nice addition to a convoy. The escort in the foreground, sold as an "Etorofu" type escort, is another Viking Forge house sculpt, though a much more recent one than the tanker. Their new work is really quite good, fully up to the standards of C in C or GHQ.  The masts are added, but it's a nice little model even without them. The detail is crisp and the casting is clean. (Cleaner, in fact, than most of their Seabattles casts.)

One final option for 1/2400 merchant ships is available through Panzerschiffe. In addition to the ships in their general catalog they sell a number of "merchant groups." This is a sort of "budget" line that seems to be specifically aimed at convoy gaming. Where a typical merchant might run $3, these generally run a little less than half that, though you must buy them by the group. Each group is $20 and most contain about eight ships. (A few have more and one has seven.) Below are two ships from MG-7 next to the VF/SB Hikawa Maru.  These are less detailed ships (and I have added less detail) but even so, they can serve to flesh out a convoy nicely. (And I think if I invested the time they could look quite nice.) And if you want simple markers in which you don't need to invest the effort of painting, these little merchies, like all Panzerschiffe, are cast in grey and could be used for a game straight out of the box.

If you want to specifically model merchants and auxiliaries 1/1200 might possibly serve you better, but for wargaming the variety of models available in 1/2400 is, I think, quite suitable. There's a little something for every budget and every skill.