Thursday 31 March 2011

The Battle of the Java Sea: Hard Rain's Gonna' Fall in Houston Texas

Hell's chorus seemed to fill the air of the bridge of the USS Houston. The screech of shells overhead and the dull thud of successive detonation after detonation somewhere aft cut into the nerves of staff officers more used to tranquil peace-time service.

The Houston's speed was down to half of her maximum. It was still just enough, but no less or escape would become impossible. The zealous training of the damage-control parties brought the dangerous blaze aft under control and the ship righted herself into a false semblance of order, just as a drunk man smartens himself up before collapsing. The end came quickly hastened it must be said by a cruel premature detonation in Houston's "A" turret (incredibly another "666" roll in this bloom'in game at yet another crucial moment!). That put paid to Houston's main 8" batteries. The IJN 5" destroyer batteries tore into her hull causing another hull box to flood and the Houston was reduced to 3cm speed. Too slow, far too slow to escape.

The combination of the above enabled a IJN Long Lance attack of eight torpedoes to be delivered at close range at the now slow target (see above), resulting in (see below):

The demise of the valiant warrior, the USS Houston. There was to be no escape or reprieve for the Dutch Java either, she had one last offensive heave at her antagonists before the power to her guns failed as she received a final fifth hull box damage from those persistent Japanese destroyers. 

At the starboard-rear of the engagement the four WWI vintage American destroyers were worsted in a short range fire-fight with two more modern IJN counterparts. The USS Alden was left dead in the water with no guns left, the USS John Ford and USS Paul Jones were at half speed and half guns and had to break back south, leaving only the USS J D Edwards with enough speed to attempt to link up with HMAS Perth. The IJN destroyer IJNS Asashio bore down on her but in act of desperation the J D Edwards put six fish in the water:

One of which connected and broke the IJNS Asashio clean in two. The way was open to link up with the HMAS Perth bar for a IJN light cruiser, the IJNS Naka that stood in the way. The IJNS Naka was however intent on inducing the HMAS Perth to her doom with one last chance of a lucky long range hit to try and slow her down.

Next: Last Dice as Darkness Falls

The Java Sea: Breakout: HMAS Perth leads the way

The crew of the HMAS Perth were the first to detect the noticeable shift in the weight of enemy fire, from the battered van of the ABDA line of battle (HMAS Perth) to its rear (USS Houston and Dutch Java). With the two main IJN CA heavy units now sunk and crippled respectively,  the rapid firing 5" destroyers became ABDA's main antagonists.

HMAS Perth (bottom middle below) drew inexorably ahead of these now slowed and damaged Japanese destroyers but the USS Houston (middle right below) and trailing Dutch Java still had yet to pass through the "eye of the storm". Although large and heavily gunned (8") the USS Houston was comparatively lightly armoured (just a CL). Both IJN destroyer flotilla's were within "minimum range" and under "rapid fire" capability so their light frames were capable of punching far above their weight penetrating the CL armour. The Dutch Java (middle right below) had already experienced this pain and was now also contending with the IJNS Jintsu, a IJN light cruiser, closing on her rear. All ABDA cruisers had taken non-trivial damage but most importantly to date they had been able to maintain an effective "escape/breakthrough" speed.

The most dangerous and potent Japanese threat was determined as the three closing destroyers (see below) positioning themselves on the starboard side of the ABDA line to deliver a last-gasp torpedo attack for next turn. The sorry sight of the burning and dead-in-the-water HMS Exeter is seen just in camera (bottom right), behind the IJNS Naka positioning herself to enter the fray (top left) and a group of Japanese destroyers shielding-off the American WWI vintage destroyer flotilla (below, top middle-right). All three ABDA cruisers turned their turrets and delivered withering broadsides at minimum range.

The results of this deadly exchange were soon clear to see. The Dutch Java received a series of telling hull hits. The IJNS Jintsu had her range, her shooting was excellent and scored critical bulkhead damage in addition to a punishing hit below the waterline. Further IJN destroyer fire stopped the Java dead in the water, yet her armaments were still able to fire on furiously. The USS Houston received telling but not fatal hull and armament box hits and stubbornly pressed on maintaining just enough speed to out pace the damaged destroyers. A fierce fire (another destroyer generated critical hit) burned dangerously in her aft. Although no Japanese destroyers were sunk, all received telling fire taking their armaments and noticeably their speed away. Any IJN pursuit was now in the hands on the light cruiser IJNS Naka.    

The Java was not going to make it, the USS Houston stood perhaps a evens chance and the HMAS Perth barring a lucky hit from the IJNS Naka should get through. The WWI American destroyers had an outside chance of joining the Australian Perth if they could get in close enough to do some damage to the modern Japanese destroyers in their way.

The light was now noticeably fading and the end game had but a few moves left. The Captain of the HMAS Perth maintained a granite stare at the forlorn Dutch Java and battered USS Houston, there was nothing he could do but press on. 

Sunday 27 March 2011

Even more Inspirational Reading for Painting

For the creme de la creme of WWII wargaming guides to painting (although aimed specifically at 15mm and out of my chosen main scale of 20mm, but there is tons of cross-over) must be the two Flames of War Battlefront Guides. Not cheap but a worthwhile investment. (Note: No sign as of yet of a issue number three though and the Germans as per usual get prime time in the spotlight!)

Dirty Tracks:

Wehrmacht Edition!:

The main reason for my excitement being the Vallejo painting guide cribs and tips, plus the ultra level of detail they go down too. Hence I am all primed to get that German "red track" look (comes from the factory red primer seeping through the tracks) on my German vehicles, now I know which Vallejo paints to use ;)

Yes, I seem to be doing far more reading than doing as of late as house renovation takes priority. What a twisted world I live in.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Inspirational Reading for Painting

I may have a thing about GW for it's overpriced (IMHO) paints that always dry up on me, but I am in awe of the general standard of Fantasy/Sci-Fi miniature they inspire. Hence the purchase of a rather expensive painting guide, but I believe it to be worth every penny.

If you see one in a store then turn to page 34 and read the brief section on Colour Theory. It's worth the price just for that (again IMHO). Not just useful for Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but applicable across all genres and scales :)

For me it is especially useful for "washes", "inks", reinforcing how "complementary colours" make layering (shade, mid and highlight) make, mixing paints and opening my eyes as to how "contrasts" work. Lots of other stuff tucked away in there too.

Saturday 19 March 2011

Big Blue and Robotic

Not a GW miniature (ha, ha I have broke the spell), I think it's supposed to be an ultra large (the scale on the pack said 1/144 which I thought was amusing) BattleField robot thingy.

I got it as it (was in a 'sale' and) suited me as a bit of mobile heavy weapon support for my 25/28mm Space Marines/Men and the like. A little friend perhaps to Hammerstein.

I think his name was "Grizzly Bear". It was also an experimentation with the Anita Acrylic Metallic Paint range. I think I need more shading, grime and dramatic highlighting.

Thursday 17 March 2011

Tau Earth-Drop Status: "Kraken One in Position" Out

I opened another box to find, a battle ready unit of Tau FireWarriors. Looking for a posed photo-shoot opportunity:

Responding to a Space Marine distress signal on an uncharted planet (in a galaxy far, far away) near a dying sun (see previous post).

These boys (girls, or gender neutral beings) "rock and roll" when they land,  piling out in every direction, heavy laser rifles to the ready. Using an ultra sophisticated sensor (looks like a metal dowsing rod to me?) Mr White Hat detects movement, possibly an intelligent alien life-form. After consulting his AI tactical manual on how to greet unidentified sentient alien life-forms, he prepares to throw a grenade.

Blue Face readily agrees, asking questions is always more successful after a massive pre-emptive suppressive fire barrage and the recommended Tau way of opening negotiations.

I like the way this unit turned out painting-wise. If memory serves me correct from the GW box art, the Tau had distinct white strip tactical markings to add (for some future rainy winter's night, methinks).

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Napoleon's last look at Borodino

The Xmas game was finally wrapped up. Below assorted Russian heavy cavalry units (top) faced off the battered French left wing (bottom), now a huddled mass of humanity rather than a rampaging legion. The only thing that deterred their slaughter was the fact they had been pushed so far back that they had inadvertently fallen upon French artillery support from the centre.

Rather humiliatingly the French "finish" positions were further back fro their "start" positions. The "big cheese" gives it his once over (see below)

Napoleon orders some of his "big cannon" to be used against the Russian Right if they advance any further. The Moscow City Militia are quite happy to stay in their newly liberated wood seeing as directly behind Napoleon is the start of his rather large Guard Column: Young, Middle and Old, plus various Cavalry formations. With no strategic incentive to "release the Guard" (other than to just to show off their factors),  Napoleon showed great strategic sense and self-control and stood them down for the night.


A very grand spectacle, given as a Russian defensive tactical victory, having done better than history, without changing the course of history. A verdict on the rules was that although once learned they could play fast like their F&F precedents, the effect of artillery seemed out of proportion to historical simulation. In F&F ACW rules the more artillery you put into an attack the law of diminishing returns came into play (which was sensible and made players spread their fire - realistically), whereas the Fire Point factors made the effectiveness of Napoleonic artillery mathematically increase under Age of Eagle. Some modifications/review needs to be done here to reduce its effectiveness IMHO (or we had missed some important caveats in the rules).


ACW 1861/62 with perhaps Regimental F&F

Sunday 13 March 2011

GW Space Marines: We "ALL" have some right?

Well I found a "Tactical Squad" of GW Space marines when I was going through some old boxes. Four Marines with "Bolters", a chap with a rocket/missile launcher that could blow a hole in anything and a imposing commander type who is bound to issue a stupid "Stand and Die" or "Attack" order.

These came free with a GW Paints Starter set, circa 2000 I think, when I was trying to figure this three-cell painting thing (shade, base colour and highlight). The "feathered headpiece" dude was a Space Marine Captain that I gave to my nephew to supplement his "Space Crusade" game. It ended up returned to me when he was de-cluttering his bedroom in favour of FHM/Loaded poster girls and the like. Was I the real winner here? Probably not.

When you "Dust-Down" on a remote planet the other side of the Galaxy what happens next? You stand around the Captain looking imposing, alert, ordnance at the ready waiting for something to pounce on you. When it doesn't you make a big safe and cosy "Space Tent", post a sentry and the rest of the squad make a "brew".

Naturally the sentry gets careless, just as something dangerous, with large teeth and animal cunning turns up to spoil the party. Oh here's one now:

I was always more of a Sci-Fi RPG collector rather than GW Codex Army builder and "the space" stuff is kind of fun to put together and paint with no historical boundaries to observe. If I were going to build an army/force of space things I would be more incline to go 15mm as there are some excellent manufacturers out there.

Footnote: I just realised I took the photographs of the grunts from the wrong side. rather than showing that the 40K world sill uses 21K numerals, I could have shown that they also use 20K insignia in the other shoulder.

Thursday 10 March 2011

2000AD Character: Hammerstein

With the painting table still out of reach (sigh) I was amusing/bemusing myself looking through various boxes and piles of books I have had to shift around while "redecorating" (top to bottom of the house, groan). Naturally I get happily distracted when I sift through some of the contents :)

Case in point, this figure was for my pure indulgence rather than any scenario need, it's my favorite 2000AD comic character: Hammerstein.

The mighty Hammerstein.

It was my intention to get the rest of the ABC Warriors someday too, but so far I have not seen at the wargame shows I've attended (that is when I had time to go to them).

Manufacturer: Wargames Foundry (looks like a mail order job for the rest of the ABC's)

Wednesday 9 March 2011

More Red Army (Metals this time)

These boys were a bit of a quick fix, a rapid force expansion if you like, stemming back to my pre-family days when I was relatively flush with wargaming cash as a bachelor in my halcyon London days. I purchased some professionally painted metals off a friend second-hand. Something that runs against the grain of my normal wargaming "modus operandi".

Hence I an unsure even of their manufacturer. Suggestions welcome on a postcard. Notable figures or striking equipment being the chaps with long bayonets which I still think are quite novel.

They were originally based just on card and sat around in that fashion for twelve years until recently when I re-based them as above.

In fact the last act of my putting away of the painting tray was a quick "flock-up" (something I had been meaning to do for the last three years.

There are twenty six all told, nice poses and are a handy bulk up to the plastics when they come off the production line. Their colour scheme was also used as a template when thinking about the plastic Russians I am currently (or was) painting.

They look an early war Summer 1941/42 bunch to me, about to experience "tank fright". Based individually (Skirmish), but they could be herded together in two's and three to represent squads/platoons (Crossfire, Command Decision, Spearhead, BGC).

Painting Tray Update: Red Army Infantry now all Base Coated

Still a "Work In Progress" (it's quite a big batch):

Revell's Russian Summer Infantry, old but still very nice:

Based to various game systems, single for Skirmish, double Command Decision and long double and larger squares to accommodate the figures and/or a small diorama. Yes I could never quite make up my mind:

That's the theory anyway:

Note to Tim Gow: No capitalist Ford salon cars for my Red Army officers ;)

Painting of a more mundane nature has caught up with me, Matt Magnolia walls, Matt White ceilings and don't get me started on the Brilliant White Gloss woodwork! That's not paint you have to smear it on!!!

Painting Guide to date:
  • Uniform: Vellejo Russian Uniform WWII Green
  • Boots: Black
  • Flesh: Games Workshop Tanned Flash
  • Helmets: Vallejo Russian Green
What Next?
  • Leather belts and cases: Vallejo Red Leather or Tamiya Dark Red Brown or GW Scorched Earth
  • Weapons: a dull Vallejo Metal or GW Chaos Black and Mithril Silver 2:1 mix
  • Wash: Not yet decided Tim Gow says Windsor and Newton Nut Brown Ink, there's GW Devlan Mud to hand and I must not forget to add a drop of PVA in this time (tip: courtesy of GW LOTR Return of the King painting guide) 
Painting tray put away for the time being so the Russian hoard is on a temporary hold until several rooms are painted :(

Monday 7 March 2011

In a Galaxy Far Far Away: Tyranids

The question is: "Brown and Green" or "Blue and Green"?

The "Blue and Green" is the "as-was" paint scheme.

The "Brown and Green" is the "could-be" alternative.

Sometimes when you take something back out of the box you don't like what you see. I vaguely remember an old saying: "Blue and Green should never be seen (together)".

My current feeling is to go "Brown and Green". There, dilemma of the day sorted (I think). Yes, and it is another way of using the last of the Games Workshop paints I so don't love anymore.

Saturday 5 March 2011

The Battle of the Java Sea continued: Deadly Fire

Centre stage ABDA is still thrusting forward trying to break the Japanese centre (see below). The crippled IJNS Nachi is in the foreground, where that cluster of IJN destroyers badly hindered her torpedo evasion chances. In the distance HMS Exeter lies is in a poor state, next to the sinking Dutch destroyer Kortenaer (below, top middle).

The USS Houston now steps in and plays her part flying the Stars and Stripes, her 8 inch guns roar silencing the IJNS Nachi's guns, leaving her with but half a hull box, floating but only just (see below from ABDA perspective, across the decks of the USS Houston in the foreground).

Again viewed from the ABDA perspective, there is one IJN hard nut still left to crack, the IJNS Hagero (see below top right) firing hard and fast, sighting her guns on the valiant little HMAS Perth intent on its destruction.

HMAS Perth faces the music, the IJN player cannot miss (that is unless the IJN player rolls a 9), flames lick out from her broadside, the Australians tense for impact but somehow the express train continues overhead landing well behind HMAS Perth. Long, well long (incredibly a 9 was rolled).

"Guns, Guns, God damn it Guns we're still in this! We need your best, now Guns, now!" The turret indicator lights are lit up one by one, resisting the urge to fire a half salvo quickly, the chief gunnery officer waits for X turret's light, then simultaneously presses the red FIRE button and shouts, "Shoot!" Answering her captain's call and gunnery officer's expertise HMAS Perth straddled the IJNS Hagero. Incredibly bright flames lept up along her Hagero's length followed by clouds of dense, black smoke. She was clearly now a doomed ship, her bulkheads gave way (it's nice to score a critical when you need it) and she slowly turned turtle to crazed Australian cheers.

As seen from above, after that excellent run of torpedo and gunfire, HMAS Perth breaks the Japanese centre.

The IJN player now is faced with a difficult stern chase in fading light. The First Japanese Destroyer Flotilla is in a confused and badly damaged state (middle left above), but "buzzing" as an angry bunch of hornets. The more intact Second Japanese Destroyer Flotilla is in a curious "V" formation to the starboard quarter of the ABDA cruiser line (middle right above). Three destroyers facing down the table, three destroyers facing up the table. The Japanese light cruisers are woefully out of position (far left, middle and far right, middle). The invasion convoy looks to be in deadly peril. Finally there is the US destroyer flotilla in pursuit (see bottom right above) not giving up on the bone.

There are six turns before darkness falls.

Therefore the ABDA line has one last IGN destroyer attack and some long range gunnery dueling to fend off. The IJN must somehow claw at the ABDA cruiser line while it is still in range (and visibility) hoping to slow them down with hull hits or steam-line critical. Worryingly for ABDA their ammunition stocks are all very low (half to over two thirds used). Sadly we had to adjourn for the night, again profuse apologies. Measurements have been taken and so we can resume as we left off above. Perhaps this leads on to "a hunt a Japanese invasion convoy at night scenario! (or do I speak too soon and as the IJN may still have a say in the matter?).

Friday 4 March 2011

The Battle of the Java Sea continued: Long Lance Impact

The IJN player covered all his options. He did not believe that the ABDA commander would just plough forward in line ahead formation, but that is all the ABDA commander could do (the "follow me" restriction still in effect, command was now devolved to the captain of HMAS Perth, simply because he was nearest the front). Hence the bulk (staggeringly 12 out of 20) of the Japanese torpedoes completely missed their targets, but eight were still on target to attack HMAS Perth and USS Houston, the leading two ships of the ABDA line.

Quick thinking and obedient helmsman following "Hard a port!" and "Hard a starboard!" in quick succession, saved both ABDA ships (Note: They were travelling just too fast and outside effective range, the IJN player needed a "1" on a d6 and Lady Luck was elsewhere, exactly where is seen below). Long Lance impact: NULL.

The ABDA sailors started to breathe again, but then were utterly lost for words:

A huge column of white water spouted amidships on IJNS Nachi (Note: Conversely she was slow and inside effective torpedo range) as she took a massive three hull and one armament box damage, leaving her stationary in the water with only one turret operational. The silence was broken as a huge cheer arose from the bridge of HMAS Perth (turning heads and stopping play on the adjacent Sci-Fi RPG table and bringing a raised beer glass salute from the ACW Naval compatriots two tables away).

Meanwhile action on the starboard quarter of ABDA, as seen from the IJN perspective, the battle was better for the Japanese.

HMS Exeter received a hammering from the Japanese Second Flotilla, First Division, inflicting some damage in return but after the exchange is left without guns and dead in the water (half a hull box).

At the rear of the battle the brave efforts of the USS Davis paid off. No hits but the IJNS Naka evaded the American torpedoes by reversing course 180 degrees taking her away from the Dutch cruiser Java. The US Destroyer flotilla was now separated from the ABDA cruiser line by the much stronger Japanese Second Destroyer Flotilla (effectively now stern-chasing the ABDA cruiser line) . 

The US Destroyer flotilla (see below) gamely sets off in chase of their stronger adversaries. 

What next? A booming crack of thunder as the IJNS Hagero targets in her eight inch guns on the Perth seeking vengeance for her silenced sister. The fast punching reply of HMAS Perth's six incher's state her intent to take this to the finish. Meanwhile the USS Houston attempted to silence the crippled IJNS Nachi which bravely returns fire from a solitary working turret.

From Hagero's muzzle flash to impact is mere seconds, HMAS Perth braces herself for kingdom come as a punishing salvo whines in for her desrtuction and death.

Thursday 3 March 2011

Battle of the Java Sea continued: White Lines of Death

The evil hiss of escaping compressed air was matched by the ABDA commander's sudden sharp intact of breath, sucking in cold air between his teeth. The pictures below should tell the tale why. Danger is fast closing in with the IJN destroyers moving in to launch their deadly cargo.

They decide to launch now rather than take more defensive fire and the sea is filled with white lines of death. Twenty IJN torpedoes to the ABDA four in response (all from HMAS Perth). Also note the end of the RN destroyer HMS Jupiter (see below, top right hand side), blown out of the water by gunfire from the IJN Second Destroyer Flotilla, Second Division. Still she did her duty and protected the ABDA cruiser battle-line from molestation.

The only faint hope for ABDA is that the cruisers are moving fast and the torpedoes are just outside of "effective range". The quantity is going to hurt though. (Note: ABDA poor command structure means the USS Houston and the Dutch Java can still only "follow my lead," though thankfully the IJN are completely unaware of this restriction). The sheer amount of enemy "fish" in the water, something is likely to hit ABDA hard!

On the ABDA starboard flank the USN Davis flush-decker, four stacker puts six of the best in the water to deter the IJNS light cruiser Naka from closing in on the rear of the ABDA cruiser line. Old kit, but it can still be deadly.

Far away from the main battle HMS Electra makes an attempt to retain "creep speed", but these pitiful efforts from the damage control parties cause the IJN player to order her immediate destruction. Accurate gunfire sees HMS Electra mortally wounded and capsize. The RN (and Dutch) destroyers are now all sunk (or sinking).

Next: Torpedo Impact!

Wednesday 2 March 2011

The Battle of the Java Sea continued: Main Battle-lines gripped in jaws of death

The main ABDA battle line carried on forward still hell bent on breaking the Japanese middle and heading for the invasion convoy over the horizon. The two IJN heavy cruisers had other ideas and would die if need be before deserting their charges. All gunfire was now horizontal rather than arced and there was nowhere to hide, things would be settled quickly. The IJNS Nachi views the closing ABDA battle-line.

As a preliminary to the main event the screeching and rending of metal on metal denoted a glancing blow on the USS Houston from the ram attack of a Japanese destroyer. Annoyingly for ABDA the USS Houston sustained machinery damage to a fore turret, incrementally bad but not immediately effecting the Houston's fire power. The heroic but crazed Japanese destroyer received relatively minor hull damage and still possessed enough movement to attempt a ram on the following ADBA cruiser the Dutch Java. The Dutchman evaded this but was induced to reduce the destroyer to a flaming wreck by gunfire (see below, ABDA cruiser line at bottom) rather than risk another ram.

Meanwhile the De Ruyter settled beneath the waves and HMS Exeter edged past the sinking Dutch destroyer Kortenaer, Exeter herself was in a very bad way. The IJNS light cruiser Naka turned to bring in the Second Destroyer flotilla, First Division on the now exposed starboard side of the ABDA line. This line of destroyers could bring significant fire power to bear if it managed to close the distance.

The First Flotilla's move brought them into contact with the US WWI era destroyer flotilla, who pressed home an unexpected and unwelcome attack (from the Japanese point of view) on the IJNS Naka (see below).

Back at the head of the ABDA line the Japanese destroyers crossing the ABDA "T" reversed their course 180 degrees to avoid fouling the IJNS Hagero's line of fire. This also wrought the end of HMS Jupiter under withering 5 inch gunfire (below right hand side). 

To the man event. The IJNS Nachi (CA) versus USS Houston (CA) traded deadly body blows, Nachi losing another turret and Houston taking a turret hit and hull damage, slowing her slightly. At the van, HMAS Perth (CL) now "rapid firing" took on the IJNS Hagero (CA). The Perth was straddled but miraculously did not receive a direct hit, in return she both straddled and hurt the Hagero, disabling a turret and stopping her dead in the water (a mere half hull box remaining). Who would break first?

A brusque Australian comment from the bridge of HMAS Perth summed the situation up: "Good shooting Guns, now put your bloody fish in the water and sink something". Simultaneously Japanese Long Lance 24" and WWI era US 18" torpedoes as well as RAN 21" torpedoes entered the water as compressed air lines hissed.

Next: White lines of death