Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, July 24th, 2016 - A Nautical Diversion

Nemesis comes alongside; Harchar's on his quarterdeck, and all's right with the world. Dreadnought to the left.

Maritime Mayhem Game, with much of the fleet in action. Lady Caroline's Revenge got in Harchar's way...

We're going to have a small diversion from our course, and talk about ships and boats for a bit. One of our Regular Readers, who has a very nice blog entitled 'Adventures in Lead', asked about the ships he'd seen in the various photos of my game room. He recently posted an excellent article on an excellent model ship of his own; please do have a look:

I do have a lot of ships and boats that I use in games as needed; this goes all the way back to my getting a copy of "Bireme and Galley" from Fantasy Games Unlimited and a copy of "Sea Steeds and Wave Riders" from Judges' Guild. I mounted all the lovely deck plans included in these publications onto foamcore sheeting, and used them for years in our adventures out at Phil's. (I still have all of them, too.) I also drew up the plans for dear old Captain Harchar's various ships for our adventures; we spent several years of game and real time afloat.

Gaming technology has come a long way since those days. I was able to get a pair of solid foam galleys and a merchant ship back in 1987, and then in the middle 200's several companies came out with cast resin ships of various sorts. Grand Manner, Old Glory, and Flagship Games / Scale Creep Games are all represented in the fleet; I have also built a number of ships for specific scenarios and games. (Commercially available ships used to be available for very modest prices on Ebay; the Missus, Queen of the Internet, really deserves a lot of credit for building up the fleet for what was a very modest investment.) Laser-cut wooden ships and boats are also coming in to the market, and these are very nice; you might have to do a bit of gluing and assembly, but it's worth it. TRE Games has some very nice boats that make great cargo lighters, for example. And, interestingly enough, the gift and novelty shops also can be a useful source of boats; I got a half dozen very nice little fishing boats / rowboats from a company that specializes in table decorations, for example.

The flagship ship of my fleet is the mighty Nemesis, a gaming model of one of the packet galleys that go up and down the Missuma River between Jakalla and Bey Su; I built her in a weekend for a game session, along with the Prince Ahmed, a smaller sailing ship that can be seen in the lower photo - she's the red and white ship with the lateen sail. She has a removable quarterdeck, as access to her cabin was an important plot element in the game session.

Usually, when I build ships, they are intended for specific games and so usually have to be built pretty quickly. I normally cut a solid 'plank' of wood to the basic hull shape, and then wrap card stock around that shape to form the sides of the ship. (Glue. Small nails. Trim up as needed.) Nemesis is three planks, stacked on on top of the other; the railings were the most time-consuming part of her build, as was gluing 96 (!) Foundry shields to the railings. Similarly, Harchar's big merchant ship is also stacked planks, but this time of the pink extruded styrene foam I used for a lot of scenic projects. Her arch foe, the Hlyss nest ship, is built the same way.

The rest of the smaller ships and boats are resin, from various manufacturers; look in 'pirate' ranges, and you'll often find some very nice bargains. I prefer to buy the smaller boats, as they take just as much work to make them look good as larger ships, so for me it it simply more cost-effective to buy commercial products then make them; it's certainly possible to make them, though.

Serious ship modellers will note that I usually don't put a lot of detail into my ships. I've found, over the years, that while doing so makes for great models, it also makes for trouble in games; the details usually get in the way and get broken, so I usually put in only the stuff that's going to get used in a game. Masts, yards, and sails all fall into this category, as the players are forever shooting them off, hacking them off, setting fire to them, and doing all the things that heroic players do in the movies. I generally don't do holds and cabins, and prefer to supply separate plans to the players - it seems to keep the games moving faster, and adds more of a surprise factor when somebody breaks doen the cabin door or falls down through and open hatch.

And yes, I do have grappling hooks, in both artillery-fired and hand-thrown sizes; look in fishing supply shops for treble hooks, and then make sure to file down the barbs on the hooks before you try to use them in a game. Stout thread for rope is always nice; I like to supply my ships with lengths of thread for ropes, just in case of need. More then one ship has had to be towed to safety, over the years. :)

I think, if people don't mind, is that I'll alternate a post on painting figures with a post on a specific ship or boat; I think it might be fun to do so, als get more information out to all of you...