EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Thursday, March 6, 2014

One Steamboat, two steamboats, three steamboats

"Compression and Compromise"

I never quite understood why we had to count "steamboats" when I was compelled to play touch football, "football" also has 2 syllables and so takes the same amount of time to count but would have made more sense. However, the list of things I don't understand is pretty much endless so I'll move on to talk about my boat building industry.

The Reuse and the Recycle began as identical sister ships but now both have been refitted in their own way and are ready for hard service.
Back in the days when the Royal Navy would land my 15mm top hatted British troops on various West Indies beaches, they used nice Battle Honors boats with seated infantry, rowers and the whole bit. Lovely little scale models that fit on the table despite being long musket range   from bow to stern.

When I went from 15mm to 54mm as my primary scale without becoming a 1:1 "skirmish" gamer the disconnect between model scale and gaming ground scale became a major obstacle made worse by my reluctance to abandon the WYSIWG, moving diorama approach to wargames.

My 15mm boats came out of retirement one last time about 10 years ago to appear on Gary's table. 
Dropping back down to 40mm had little impact on the problem but my fairly recent conversion to a more abstract  toy soldier and growing appreciation of a symbolic approach crossed with a toy esthetic has helped.

Take the boats in the first picture, the proportions are internally inconsistent and wrong. They are obviously too small for the figures but their foot print is still too big for the ground scale. Despite these faults they have been used in games again and again and worked well. Because of the esthetics the eye overlooks the inconsistencies while the footprint works within the structure of the rules.

When I decided I wanted some smaller boats to ferry troops up or across rivers, I hit an extreme case of the old conundrum. What I wanted was a longboat, something akin to the souvenir fishing dory in the 2nd row above but with the foot print of the red toy boat. Since my two steamboats are meant to be larger vessels with cabins and some freeboard, they should be taller than a longboat which is obviously not the case with my existing boats.

My first thought was to just do a thin wooden hull with a mast. Oars would probably be better but they  look odd with standing oarsmen who then join the  landing party and permenently sitting ones just take up too much room. This low hull has a reasonable height differential with the decks of the steamers but in practice the figures look like they are on a raft, not in a long boat.

First row prototypes, 2nd boat commandeered boats, 3rd Recycle, 4th Reuse before her make over.

The issue of course is that without a deck, the figures on the boat should actually be sunk down into the table, obviously a problem. A mental review of OS boat pictures reminded me that this is usually done by adding unnaturally tall gunwales out of cardboard. Fine, I started to fiddle with some cardboard and then realized the bit of wood I had used for the hull was so thin that gluing card gunwales to it in a robust fashion exceeded my skill. I made a 2nd hull from a slightly thicker board, an offcut from my last trimming of my gaming table as it happens.

I started on the gunwales again and again I stopped. The figures looked just as silly with knee high gunwales but deeper ones on such a small boat just looked too bizare. To distract myself I started experimenting with  masts and crew capacity while pondering movement rules for wind and current where the river is only 1 square wide. Since small steamboats were used by both sides of the War of 1812 to move troops on inland waterways I decided that my life would be easier if Atlantica was precocious and made wide use of steamboats. Two pieces of dowelling soon provided a boiler and funnel and work on troop capacity and gunnels continued.

Tugboats and fishing trawlers both came to mind as I fiddled with bits of cardboard. They often have a higher bow and a low stern with low or no gunwales. The high cardboard gunwale on the bow would suggest structure while the low  quarterdeck would allow troop bases to overhang and help keep that low, smaller vessel feel compared to the big armed steamers. The use of a screw for propulsion is a bit anachronistic for the 1812 and 1837 campaigns but dashed convenient.

I want to add a few small details but essential she's ready to assist the bigger boats on an expedition. Together they can carry 5 companies of infantry plus a company of blue jackets and a naval rocket battery.

Is that enough or should I make one more?

Almost there, just a few details to add either physically or with paint. Cutting a very basic gunwale stretched my cardboard modelling techniques, I don't think I'll be making tanks or artillery anytime soon!

14 comments:

  1. I think they look fine as they are but you could try adding some railings around the sides and back of the boats by tapping in some pins/nails and running some wire around them, it might give them a bit more definition and the feeling of depth without the claustrophobia of raised gunwales. Just my twopenn'orth. Best wishes, Brian

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    1. Thanks Brian, I did consider rails but in the past, some of the ones I've done have been a bit fragile during games. I was also concerned about not being able to let bases overhang the edge of the deck for those mounted on washers.

      I might do it yet though.

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  2. It's always good to see 'something else'...great job here, inspired and unusual...and a splendid looking table!

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    1. Thanks Phil, I do try to avoid the well travelled paths.

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  3. Ross Mac,

    I think that the gunwales improve to look of the smaller craft. Perhaps a lower one around the stern might add a little bit of height to the look at the boat without reducing it carrying capacity.

    All the best,

    Bob

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    1. Thanks Bob, that was the plan until I realized that I will occasionally need to let bases overhang the deck, esp multifigure bases.

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  4. sometimes all you need is the 'suggestion' of what is going on, your solution is quite artful in my opinion

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    1. Thanks, 'suggestion' captures the idea nicely.

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  5. I always like your steamboats. Murdock's "suggestion" is a good point.

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  6. I like that cute little craft that rounds off this posting. I tend to agree with Brian Carrick's idea of a 'pin and wire' railing or cordon as 'finishing off' the vessel - giving it more definition abaft the boiler. Of course that might tend to devalue its utiltyt as a transport vessel...

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    1. Thanks, I have some troops on bigger bases and they may ooverhang the deck so for now I'm going to leave it open and just add some hint of detail to the boiler and bow. It is growing on me though and I could see a small flotilla of these, each towing a barge full of troops!

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    2. I'm just thinking that the barges could carry the troops, and stick some sort of gun or howitzer in the bows of these little steamers. Yep: a flotilla of these chappies would be just the deal for punitive expeditions along wild coasts and up jungle matted rivers and desert-lined streams... Each steamer ought to be capable of towing a large or two small barges in tandem...

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  7. Hmm, actually the larger steamer is supposed to be the supporting gunboat and this was supposed to be a landing boat. It is the minimum size but I'm wondering now if I've made the bow too high because I'm starting to think of it as a trawler or tug rather than a steam launch. I'll have to think on that.

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