Whilst the long pause in postings about any wargaming projects might signify that I have been inactive lately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve actually been busy working on one of the most the most challenging modelling projects I have ever faced – Napoleonic naval wargaming.
Like many wargamers, I recently succumbed to the temptation of Warlord Games’ brand new Black Seas game. I lashed out and ordered the starter box, and also a further box of 3rd-rates. Not that the models are third rate, I hasten to add! Ratings were a way of designating the size/armament of naval ships of the time – and the 64-80 gun 3rd rates were the common workhorses of the period.
When the starter box arrived in the mail, I was astonished at how extensive the contents were. Not only the ships and rules, but you also get all the markers, a two-sided map, scenic items, dice, cotton-wool smoke and flames, and even thread for the rigging. About the only things not supplied are the paint and glue!
Assembling and painting the hulls was pretty straightforward, albeit with lots of very small details to pick out. In 1/700 scale, those cannons are pretty darn small! But using the new GW Contrast Paints made short work of these.
My first challenge came with the next job – rigging! The last time I rigged miniature ships was for much larger models for use with 28mm figures – and I found even that difficult. So I was anticipating this task with some foreboding.
In the end, the rigging went quite well. Yes, the very thin thread has a mind of its own. But once I learned to use tweezers, and that a dab of superglue is much quicker and just as effective as a knot, then the job proceeded quite nicely. The main problem was when tightening one thread would cause previously tied threads to sag.
But the ratlines – oh, those plastic ratlines! Talk about sailors cursing! I rapidly became frustrated trying to stick these on, as they would keep attaching to the wrong part of the mast, or the deck, or my fingers – but not ever to where they were supposed to go!
It wasn’t till after lots of trial and error (emphasis on the word ‘error’!) that I thought of checking if there was any advice online about fitting the ratlines – and sure enough there was. Firstly, pre-bend the bottom of the ratlines so the top will fall naturally against the mast. And secondly, on the bigger ships such as the frigates and 3rd-rates, pre-cut some notches at the bottom of the ratlines for the guns to poke though.
Anyway, I eventually got the ships rigged and their ratlines attached, leaving the final job of adding flags. This was another fiddly job, not so much the large battle flags on the stern, but the smaller national and signal flags (used to differentiate between the same types of ships on the same side on the wargames table). The long narrow pennants for the brigs were especially tricky. But I eventually got them all attached.
Bending the paper and painting the exposed white edges of each flag gave them the finishing touch.
Don’t let any of the difficulties I’ve described put you off. Modelling-wise, I’m of average skills – and I have big butter fingers! So if I could do it, so could anyone else. Overcoming the challenges involved in making, painting and rigging these models, the finished miniatures have given me a real sense of satisfaction and ‘a job well done’.
Finally, what about game-play? Well, I’ve had one play-test of ‘Black Seas’ so far (with a fellow club member’s partly-made models). In the pic below you see my frigate passing between two enemy ships in a very Nelson-like ‘breaking the T’ manoeuvre, giving fire from each side. Though you can also see the enemy supply ship (which was the scenario’s objective) quietly slipping away in the background!
The rules seemed simple enough, which for me is quite something, as I’m one of those guys who can never remember all the little rules and tables of factors that some guys seem to be able to reel off at the drop of a hat … er, drop of a dice!
These rules probably aren’t on the super-realistic side, but more of a naval-themed fun game that plays quickly and simply, and looks fantastic. And that suits me just fine!
PS: The name of this blog posting is a play on words from the last time I made such small ships.