Saturday, 14 July 2012

1/700th Napoloeonic Naval games!

First of all I must welcome my newest follower, Whispering Al'. Cool name Whispering Al'....I like the Al' bit particularly.

Secondly, an apology for taking so damn long to get any posts written up, stuff just keeps getting in the way even though I promise myself to post several times a week. However, I have several big projects coming up that I will be posting about and adding regular updates.

OK, back to the Napoleonic stuff. As you may remember, I am the author of Blood, Bilge & Iron Balls, a Napoleonic naval wargame published by Pen & Sword Books. I got quite a good review in this months Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine if anyone want to take a look.....(hint). As such, and because it is a good game in its own right no matter who the author is, it gets played a few times at the club. We have also taken it to some of the events we support as a demo and a participation game with great success. The rules come with some very attractive 'top down' ships that can be downloaded from the pen & sword website for free...or cut out of the rule book if you bend that way. It is a great way to start off quickly and cheaply for those without ships. Despite this option we tend to use some cheap and cheerful plastic ships for club games, it doesn't matter if they get damaged or even stolen during the demo type games. But we are being asked to put on some more serious demo's and so the club has scoured the web for suitable models.

In 1/1200th scale there are several options, GHQ, Skytrex/Davco, Langton's....all pretty good in their own ways and depending on how much you want to spend. They are quite small though, an average 74 gun ship of the line is little more than three inches long including the bowsprit (the long thin pointy out sticky up bit at the front) which is OK... but they they are dead fiddly to put together and paint, a bugger to rig (all the stringy stuff between the masts that hold the sails and stuff up) and quite fragile. They don't really look like much from a distance either and a game can look very bare; large expanse of blue cloth and a dozen or so points of mild interest somewhere in the middle distance....all that hard work with the paint brush and miles of cotton rigging for no more than a cursory glance. I wanted something more visually impressive, something that could at least be seen and recognised as a ship of the period; if club members are going to asked to go blind rigging a model with a hundred or so yards of cotton there should at least be something to show for it that could be seen!

For seventy two hours I flirted with using the big Airfix models, about two foot long and the same high....saw the bottoms off to make them waterline models obviously. How cool would they look!? OK, you would have to use a badminton court floor or something to play them on but how cool would that be! But sanity kicked in eventually....that is to say that Mark and Phil kicked me until, eventually, sanity returned. The game must still be able to be played on a table top and the models stored. I lowered my sights and searched again. Langton's do a range of 1/300th scale ships....'These would be great', I thought. And then I saw the prices, HMS Victory was the best part of £300.00!!!!!!! Once I had got back up off the floor I scrapped that idea too. Then I saw a link to something called Meridian Trafalgar 1/700th....'light bulb!'

The Meridian Trafalgar range is made by Skytrex and consists of a good range of ship classes, all you might want in fact. The models sell for £21.50 each, less for frigates, but they look great and are of a very useful size.

The ship on the left is a Langton's 74 gunner, on the right is a Meridian Trafalgar 74 gunner. OK, the Meridian ship does need a bit of cleaning up here and there and the photo is not brilliant but you get the idea. Take a look at this website to see how they can look when finished Size wise this model is just what I was looking for. One problem is that Skytrex have slowed down on the range to concentrate on other periods, so there are none of the brass etched sails to go with these models. A bit of  a bugger to be sure but not a huge issue, the models were reduced to a quite reasonable price to compensate. We have the sail templates so it should not be a major faff sorting this out.........

The club has bought ten ships; five British, HMS Victory (100 guns), HMS Temeraire (98/100 guns) and three Orion class third rates (74 guns each), and five French, O'rient (120 guns), Bucentaur (80 guns) and three Redoutable class third rates (74 guns each). This gives two balanced fleets for Blood, Bilge & Iron Balls and will look impressive...and actually visible! Yes, this was a lot of money for the club to spend but that is partly what the Broadside show is for, we can now afford to build projects that allow us to promote the club and wargames to the general public at local and regional events.Wait until you read the next post I have planned!!!!

I shall bring you updates on this project as we progress...I can hear club members shouting, '...who is this we?'. In an ideal world these will all be ready in time for the Legion show in Ramsgate this October, yeah, I know.

As an aside, do any of you have or know of any of these models that might be for sale?


  1. This sounds like a blast, good luck!

    1. Hi Angry,

      A blast indeed! Every time I look at the rigging plans I get a nose bleed...

  2. Looks like and sounds like it will be good, look forward to seeing more

    1. Hi Brummie,

      I remain confident that it will all work....somehow! We have a deadline so that will help keep us focused. I am not worried in any way..........

  3. Thank you for the kind welcome.

    I've always liked the look of Napoleonic naval games but I suspect I don't have the patience required to assemble and paint the models. So I look forward to living vicariously through your posts!

    1. Hi Whispering,

      I do know what you mean about the whole painting and rigging thing, I even managed to stab myself quite badly with the hand drill I was using to deepen the mast holes in the hull last night! Take a look at the pen & sword web site, they have ships you can download to play the games with and these will work on any set of rules. All you need to do is print them off onto card, cut them out and off you go, no paint, no cotton rigging, no blood stains on the table vicariously is ok of course but you really need to bleed for your art man, brothers of the Mr Men Sticking Plaster unite!