Distractions in the Dutch East Indies

The last few weeks have seen a continued focus on naval modelling with solid progress made on a reasonably large Navwar order that recently arrived. This project being based around the first few months of the war in the Pacific with a focus on operations around Malay and the Dutch East Indies. Regular readers may even recall that last month I began the Malayan project by modelling the ill-fated Force Z.

Next was the main project, the Battle of the Java Sea. The battle formed one of several naval engagements of the campaign as the Japanese pressed into the Dutch East Indies.

Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy at Java Sea

The first contingent to be completed was the Japanese. Built primarily around cruisers and destroyers this group of ships should provide some interesting fictional battles. To oppose them were a mix of allied vessels. Of these the first was the Dutch naval forces involved in the Battle of the Java Sea, a summary of the ships, with photos of the models, can be found here. The Dutch were supplemented by some additional British and Australian vessels, a number of which I had already completed for the Mediterranean. They can be found here.

Now, the American contingent should also have been completed but due to ordering some of the wrong ships they will need to wait. Yet despite this error it seemed fitting to complete the naval sojourn in the Dutch East Indies with a short naval engagement. A game summary can be found here.

Now, I think I need to look at a different painting project, though what I am not yet sure.

The Naval Shipyards

Having made good progress on clearing my lead pile of WWII ships I was rewarded with the arrival in mid January of another order from Navwar. As a result my naval shipyards were replenished. Being summer here my painting time is somewhat reduced. As a result I opted to complete some small naval projects.

First out of the naval yards was the Admiral Graf Spee. The Navwar model is crisp and well detailed and an absolute bargain at the price of just 1.35 pound sterling, excluding postage. Well to be honest all the Navwar models are a great value. The Royal Navy squadron opposing the Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate was finished last year. They now await deployment to the table for what is, without doubt, a classic action. A few photos of the Graf Spee, as well as the Royal Navy squadron, can be found here.

Next out of the naval yards were the first elements of the Royal Navy’s Far Eastern squadron. Forming Force Z was a direct result of one of my regular opponents forming his own Japanese squadron. Hopefully the arrival of Force Z will counter the imminent deployment of the Imperial Japanese Navy, though only time will tell. A few photos of Force Z can be found here. A pleasing beginning to my painting projects of 2023.

Since first publishing this article we have refought the Battle of the River Plate. A description of the engagement can be found here.

Holiday Gaming

The Christmas and New Year holiday season is almost over for me as I soon head back to work. From a wargaming perspective it has provided a great opportunity to play a good number of 15mm Ancient and Medieval games against by son using the DBA rules.

My son, visiting from out of town, decided to bring three DBA armies that he has repainted or completed this year. They were Classical Indian, Seleucid and Wars of the Roses English. The first two contain veteran miniatures with the Indians being a gift from me when he was eight years old, his first army. Given they have been in service for some 27 years, and still providing enjoyment, it seems to have been one of the better gifts. His Seleucids were collected a few years later when he was building his own armies. His Wars of the Roses army was a recent purchase.

As to the games we managed 18 DBA games, all of which were between historical or near historical opponents.

His Indians were deployed twice against my own Seleucids, one game being shown above. The Indians secured victory twice. Stepping back in time we would also see Alexander the Great facing the Indians in two battles, but with Alexander and Porus achieving one victory each.

My son’s Seleucids would likewise face two opponents across four games. First the Polybian Romans secured a hard fought victory, only to be driven out of Asia minor in the second. Now Antiochus turned his attention to the Celts defeating the Galatians in a battle that was not as one sided as one would expect. Finally, the Romans reappeared and despite having a cunning plan, as Romans always should, suffered another defeat. But being Roman another army can be formed I’m sure.

Above and below, the Romans face the Seleucids. My son’s Seleucids are a mix of old Tabletop Miniatures once manufactured under license in New Zealand and Essex. The Romans are all from my own collection and a mix of Essex with some variation provided by selected Museum Miniatures.

The major on-going conflict was however Medieval. Over several evenings, and one afternoon, we played no less than ten Wars of the Roses engagements. Experimenting with different troop options and tactics the Lancastrians and Yorkists fought across England in what can be only be described as a determined campaign to replace the rightful king with a Yorkist usurper. Below, one of the many battles.

With the armies having a similar composition, but infrequently the same, it was the terrain and cunning that could provide even a minor advantage. A short summary of the first six games can be found here.

Without doubt a wonderful way to spend the holiday evenings. There is, in my view, much to recommend DBA.

Naval Progress

A final push on the painting front has completed the initial batch of models for the planned naval actions in the Mediterranean during World War II. My main focus has centred around the models required for the Battle of Cape Matapan. Though, as mentioned previously, they have been supplemented by some additional ships to provide some variety especially in fictional encounters.

In total my Royal Navy contingent comprises some four battleships, one battle cruiser, two heavy cruisers, five light cruisers and 13 destroyers. The Regia Marina in contrast comprises four battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and 17 destroyers. Considering I had no WWII vessels a few moths ago I feel a degree of satisfaction with the painting progress.

I must say I’ve really enjoyed the experience. The Navwar models are pleasing to paint with a good degree of detail. While I understand some people don’t use washes on naval models I feel mine have benefited from a wash, especially after some experimentation with density. The basing was something of an experiment, but I feel it lifts the models.

I have also completed the first few splash markers which, while also being needed for the rules, add some further visual interest. I next will attempt some further splash markers along with some markers to denote fires, though how these will be made requires some thought.

Finally, to support my naval adventures I have also started a small blog which will have a naval focus. If you are interested you can find it here. Currently it illustrates a number of the miniatures completed. In time I expect to expand it with other material. If naval wargaming is of interest do visit from time to time, or consider following the blog.

I now await the arrival of the next batch of models from Navwar. Hopefully they won’t be too long…

Battles, Campaigns & Other Thoughts

I have been reflecting this week on the role of one-off games, historical refights and linked games. While the following has a Napoleonic and American Civil War references I see the concept as equally applicable to Ancient warfare through to the Cold War.

Regular readers will recall the American Civil War 160th anniversary series recently played. That is, six major historical battles all played in sequence. Casualties in one battle didn’t influence the next, but in some ways I likened it to being something of a campaign, though without all the hard work that comes with a campaign. The down side with such an intensive historical series is there was much terrain to be built, often in a short space of time between historical battles. Indeed, I completely failed to grasp the work required. The net result being my planned miniature painting for the year has suffered. Despite that, the project was extremely satisfying and I plan to repeat it in some form, though with different battles.

The next idea was to fight a small series of games leading to a larger game. Free from the restraints imposed by historical terrain fictional encounters seemed to offer less work. This series is also now complete. My cunning plan was to play two smaller encounters first before ending the series with a larger game with all set in 1813. The first involved the Prussians and Russians engaged against the French at the Battle of Aulzhausen in August 1813, shown below. This was a typical Friday evening game with the situation generated by a scenario system we use.

The second battle found the Prussians and Russians again engaged at the Battle of Zollengen, now set in early October 1813. Again no casualties were carried over.

The final battle of the series was that of the Battle of Kleindorf set in the middle of October 1813. This last game found Austrians, Russians and Prussians engaged against the French. While also a fictional the situation was influenced by that south of Leipzig and would result in well over 3,000 miniatures deployed and shown here.

I was pleased with the concept and how it played out. While I didn’t advertise it as a series of linked games to the players, it was my intent as is evident to the reader referencing the supposed battle dates. I think there is some merit in exploring mechanisms to enhance these games further. But what mechanisms should I consider?

The first and most obvious is casualties from one game feeding in to the next. However, I am nervous that will add too much complexity and potentially distract from the concept of an enjoyable game at the end of a busy week. The next is the outcome of a game influencing where the next battle will be fought. As I write this I am pondering the battles that made up the series of engagements between the French and their allies against the Austrians in 1809. The result of one battle influencing the location of the next.

Clearly more thought is required on my part. I wonder if others have experimented with such concepts and what worked, or indeed what didn’t?