Jutland Aeronef

My contribution to the recent Jutland Aeronef refight was a division of German battleships – specifically the 5th Division of the 3rd Battle Squadron, consisting of the SMS Koenig, Grosser Kurfurst, Kronprinz and Markgraf. Since we had pretty much free reign over what models we used, as long as they looked the part (there were some heavily modified Russian Borodinos as part of the German fleet !) I chose to use some of our Prussian ships, the Konigsberg and Manteuffel, modifying and painting two of each. I also painted two von Dobschutz cruisers and four Wavre frigates, although in the end they didn’t make the table.

I’ve always been very impressed by the conversion work that Jon Rogers did on his US and Japanese fleets for his Pacific Aeronef game, with additional turrets, funnels, masts and rigging, and wanted to attempt something similar. To this end, I created a bunch of turrets, new funnels, masts, AA guns, searchlights and ventilators and ships boats as 3D models and had them printed by Shapeways. As is always the way, these then sat in a box for months until I finally got round to starting the build !

The first job was a quick cleanup of the casts, removing any flash – the Prussian models are pretty clean casts and this didn’t take long. The next job was to remove all of the funnels on the larger vessels, as these were to be replaced by new plastic ones. I then turned the models over and superglued a washer underneath – the models were to be ‘flown’ on magnetic flight stands so they needed the steel washer as an attachment.

Now it was time to start adding the detail parts. All of the main and secondary turrets were replaced by new plastic models of a different design to the metal ones usually supplied with the models. They are based on the design of the German Brandenburg class pre-dreadnoughts, essentially a hemisphere with a large bustle. I mixed single and twin turrets on the ships, and added some extras on empty areas of deck – the Manteuffels in particular got a third main turret instead of the normal two.

Funnels were also replaced – the new plastic ones were slightly larger, so the Konigsbergs received one while the Manteuffels got two. New pole masts with a fighting top were added, with thinner topmasts and crossbeams made from cut up paperclips (which I figured would be a lot more robust than having such thin pieces 3D printed). I added some ship’s boats to the Manteuffels – unfortunately there wasn’t room for any on the Konisbergs. I also liberally dotted searchlights and small AA guns around the superstructures, but in the end I didn’t use the ventilators. The last addition was some large vertical tail fins from plasticard, glued under the existing tails (there are some handy beams to attach these to).

Once built, all of the models were undercoated with white Halfords automotive primer. The hulls were painted with a Tamiya dark grey and the superstructure mid sea grey. The grey areas were drybrushed with Games Workshop Longbeard Grey, then the whole lot was washed in GW Nuln Oil, which looked good but unfortunately dulled the difference between the two greys – so next time I’d use a lighter grey for the superstructure. The decks were painted Tamiya Buff and washed in Gryphonne Sepia – the wash does a great job of picking out the deck planking and also hides a multitude of sins in terms of less-than-straight edges. A quick drybrush of GW Terminatus Stone accentuated the deck detail. After that I went round and did a bit of tidying up where deck paint had got onto the hull sides and superstructure.

The last bits of the paint were pretty straightforward – funnels were painted dark red and highlighted, with black tops (German battleships had their aft funnels painted red at Jutland), searchlights picked out with yellow faces, masts and boats painted in shades of brown and windows/portholes blue, with GW washes where appropriate. The tail fins of the battleships got a red stripe and Dom’s Decals used for the crosses.

At this point the models were painted and I was able to varnish them using Army Painter matt anti-shine varnish from a spray can. They were ready for the last stages of flags and rigging – but I decided to add some more detail. Jon had added rigged torpedo net-style spars to his ships and I decided I liked the look of that. I’d finished the build earlier than expected (I was surprised how quickly it went) so still had time to go back and add extra details. I drilled out equally spaced holes in the hull sides using a dremel and inserted lengths of paperclip wire. The ends of the were were filed flat to remove any sharp points – as you can see from the rather gruesome photo below, paperclip wire can be sharp when cut… The beams were then quickly painted and washed – I didn’t bother with undercoat or varnish but it all looks OK.

Rigging was done with cotton thread. I found the trick with this was to cut an overlong piece and attach it securely with superglue, and only then start wrapping it round the other beams and spars. The thread was wrapped round each beam and a tiny dot of superglue used to secure it (I used a very narrow applicator that came with some pound shop bottles). Once the glue had all dried I touched a drop of sepia wash around each knot on the rigging to dull down any shiny or fogged glue.

And that was it – I think they looked the business on table, and in fact three of them were some of the few surviving German ships at the end of the game – they fought well and took down several enemy vessels including HMS Barham, one of the largest British ships of the time.

The detailing kit I used is now available on Shapeways – it’s not too expensive (£30 or so) and there are enough parts for half-a-dozen large ships or more smaller ones.

Jutland Refought

Over the weekend, a small but intrepid group of gamers gathered again at Stoke Rochford Hall for our latest Aeronef weekender. Joining the usual crowd all the way from Houston, TX was Andy Bouffard, who had managed to combine a business trip with a weekend’s gaming.

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This time the theme was Jutland – or a refight of it using Aeronef instead of wet navy ships. The order-of-battle for Jutland is immense, with a total of 250 ships, and much e-mail discussion had ensued about how to portray this, how many of the escorting ships to use etc. In the end we decided to only portray the heaviest vessels – the battleships, battlecruisers and the eight British armoured cruisers. It was felt that the many other smaller vessels would simply clog up the table without adding much to the fight.

So the British took to the skies with 28 dreadnought battleships, nine battlecruisers and eight armoured cruisers. The Germans on the other hand had 16 dreadnoughts, six older pre-dreadnoughts and five battlecruisers. The stats for the game were derived from the real ships, by using the figures for displacement, armour, weight of broadside and speed to create Aeronef game stats. We only generated figures for hull points, gun dice, speed and turn rate – we ignored the small number of torpedo tubes carried by the capital ships since they were rarely used in battle, and bomb dice were unnecessary since there were no surface targets. I’ve made PDFs available for the Germans and British stats so you can see what we used. The German dreadnoughts were more powerful than all but the largest British vessels, but they were heavily outnumbered – the British ships totalled over 4100 points, while the Germans came to just 2500.

Things started badly for the Germans as the battlecruiser scout force got too far ahead of the main fleet and, isolated, was quickly torn to pieces. In a mirror of the historical engagement, the battlecruisers Invincible and Indomitable succumbed to magazine explosions in the same turn (we were using the “There Seems To Be Something Wrong With Our Bloody Ships !” special rule). The slugging match between the two main fleets then panned out as expected, with British firepower proving too much for the Germans, although some nifty German manoeuvring initially saw a large part of the British force left too far away to have much influence on the battle until they were able to close the range. We fought almost to the bitter end, and called a halt with just six German battleships still aloft. The Grand Fleet had been hit hard however, losing seven battlecruisers, several armoured cruisers and half-a-dozen dreadnoughts – so they could really only claim a minor victory in tactical terms, although strategically the loss of almost the whole of the Hochluftflotte would have a major bearing on the outcome of the war.

On Sunday morning we tried out Land Ironclads using Silvio la Verde’s excellently painted Italian and Austrian forces – although this was only a brief skirmish, we all saw enough to want to play more, so next year’s SRH weekend may have more of a land combat theme…

(Almost) Ready for Action

This weekend sees the latest Aeronef weekend at Stoke Rochford Hall in Lincolnshire. The theme this time is a refight of Jutland using Aeronef – we’re hoping to have all of the capital ships that were present at the real action present on the table, although not necessarily all of the cruisers and escorts !

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We two Brigadiers are both contributing to the fleets – Phil is painting up four Victoria-class battleships which will play the part of the four heavy Queen Elizabeth-class vessels of the 5th Battle Squadron. For my part, I’ll be taking on the role of Rear Admiral Behncke, commanding the four Koenig-class battleships of the 5th Division, 3rd Battle Squadron.

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To this end I’ve been super-detailing and painting my four ships plus some escorts. I’m going to write up a full account of the process later, but this week I’m too busy finishing them off ! In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few photos of the almost complete ships. They’re based on our Prussian Koenigsberg and Manteuffel class models, two of each, and the escorts are also Prussian. I’ve replaced all of the turrets and the larger funnels with bespoke 3D-printed pieces, and added fighting masts, searchlights and ship’s boats. There is some tidying-up work to be done with the painting and they still need decals. I’m also hoping to rig them although this depends on how long I have – there is still normal day-to-day Brigade work to be done as well this week.

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Islands in the Sky

I’ve always wanted to make some flying islands for Aeronef games, but never quite seem to be able to get around to it. But the other day I happened to watch Avatar again, and the sequence amongst the Hallelujah Mountains got me thinking again, and spurred me into action.

The basis of the islands was lava rock, sold for barbecues – I’d used it in the past to make perfect asteroids for spaceship games, so I had half a box left from that project. You can get in DiY stores or supermarkets in the UK, or if you live on Hawaii, just pop up the nearest volcano… I selected half-a-dozen pieces which had a flat side which could be used to site buildings on, and drilled a hole to fit a steel screw in the base in each. This screw would then fix the islands to magnetic stands.

The top was smoothed off with ready-mixed wall filler (Polyfilla, Tetrion or similar), which was painted green when dry. This made a flat(ish) base for the buildings.

The pre-painted buildings were attached with clear glue (Uhu, Bostick etc) and the remainder of the green areas flocked. The final touch was to use a hot glue gun to stick on some trees and bushes.

Although there were points during the process when I wondered how well they were going to turn out (but then I get that in every project), on the whole I’m pretty pleased with them. I didn’t make too many this time, I wanted to have six finished ones rather than twelve which I ran out of time on. So I’ll probably make some more later – ideally I’d like to find some larger pieces of lava rock for bigger layouts.

Flying Airfield

Today we’re unveiling a new Aeronef model, and our largest to date in this range. The Langley is an American carrier which supports up to 18 fighters in its capacious hangars. It’s well equipped with anti-fighter batteries for self-defence, although with nothing in the way of offensive armament.

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The model has been computer designed and 3D printed, but styled to fit in with the existing models in the US fleet.

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The Langley is available on its own, or in a pack complete with escorts, fighters and bases. The new anti-fighter turrets are also available in a pack of 12, along with a second circular AA turret – ideal for conversions or upgrades to your existing models.

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VAN-215 – Langley Fighter Carrier – £9.00
VANFP-204 – US Carrier Pack – £22.00
VAN-7003 – Rectangular AA Turret (x12) – £1.50
VAN-7004 – Round AA Turret (x12) – £1.50

Imperial Skies

Amongst the games on show at Broadside last weekend was the debut of a new ruleset going by the name of Imperial Skies. They are being developed by our friend Robin Fitton, author of Gruntz, the popular 15mm set. Robin said that they seemed to go down well with players who joined in the game, and he’s making progress with a view to a release later this year.

I’ve nicked a few pictures from Robin of the game on Sunday (I’m sure he won’t mind) – you might recognise the scenery, as we lent him the terrain we made last year for the Stoke Rochford weekend.

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Robin’s coming down to Maidstone next month for some playtesting, so we’ll probably have more pictures then – I’m planning to paint up some new ships and terrain in time for that.

Jutland at Stoke Rochford, take 2

Unfortunately for various reasons the last Stoke Rochford gaming weekend had to be cancelled, which meant that the planned Aeronef Jutland refight never happened. However, not to be daunted, the event has been rescheduled for October, with an expansion in scope.

It will run over the weekend of 16/17/18th of October, with bed and breakfast for two nights (Friday and Saturday) and dinner Saturday night for the bargain price of £110. Lunch is available from the bistro bar on both days. For the first time it’s also possible to book a day entry for £5 per day if you are local and don’t want to stay at the hall.

The main event will be the Aeronef Jutland refight, with VSF airships battling it out using historical orders of battle. If you would like to join in but don’t have your own models then they can be provided, or if you would like to contribute towards the forces on the table then let us know and we’ll try to fit you in.

However, with plenty of space and tables available in the conference centre, we’re also inviting gamers to come along and host their own games.

For more details or to book, email Robin Fitton – bligepipe@mac.com – who is coordinating the event.

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Aeronef Stat Update

I’ve just updated the Aeronef Profiles Page on the website with stats for all our our recent Aeronef releases, including the von Perseval and Brazilian models released last week. While I was there I made a few fixes and updates to the profile generator software – all of the stats cards are generated automagically by some code I wrote years ago that takes the profiles of each model and formats a GIF image, but this seems to have suffered from code rot and a few bugs had crept in.

All of the stats cards can be downloaded from the profiles table, and they’re also in an updated Zip file so you can pull them down at one go. They’re designed to be roughly the size of a business card so when printed out can be cut out and laminated or stored in a vinyl pocket (a bit like this – Rexel Nyrex Business Card Pocket A4 Pack of 10 13681).

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Oryol Profile

Terror from the Skies

Today sees the release of some more models in the ever popular Aeronef range. This is a game that has been around for over a decade and a half but still has very strong sales every year.

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The largest model in this release is the Austro-Hungarian von Parseval dig battleship (for those not familiar with the terminology, a ‘dig’ is shorthand for dirigible – a hydrogen-filled airship). Giant airships are used to terrorise opposing populations as they fill the skies and rain bombs down on innocent civilians. The resin-cast gasbag is over 4″ long, making it almost as large as the German Schleswig-Holstein.

The other two models come from the other side of the Atlantic, with the addition of the Tamandare torpedo cruiser and Paraná class frigate to the Brazilian fleet.

VAN-712 – von Parseval class Dig Battleship – £6.00
VAN-807 – Tamandare class Torpedo Frigate – £2.00
VAN-808 – Paraná class Frigate – £0.75

If you haven’t yet been seduced by the delights of Aeronef, we have a number of starter packs available with different fleets as an inexpensive way to introduce yourself to the game.