From heraldry to railroad ties: my gamer’s life

I’m a very project oriented gamer.  Almost everything I work on has a beginning and an end, based on its intended purpose. When Enfilade is over in May I’m almost always geared toward what I’m going to do for the next Enfilade. I’ve mentioned my Enfilade projects already, and at some time I’m sure I’ll go into depth about them.  But I’ve shifted gears away from my Lion Rampant stuff, which I really enjoy painting so something a little less interesting and exciting, painting 1/600 scale bits and pieces for a scenario based on the Raid on St. Nazaire.

For those of you who don’t know this action, it was a WWII raid on the French port of St. Nazaire which possessed a strategically important drydock built for the enormous French liner Normandie, the only one big enough on the French coast capable of servicing the German battleship Tirpitz.  The British feared the Germans would move the Tirpitz there where it could menace shipping, the British coast and control of the English Channel.  If you want to really set the Brits off, threaten control of the Channel.

On March 28, 1942 a combined force of British commandos were ferried into St. Nazaire by motor gunboats and an explosives-laden ex-American destroyer, the Campbelltown.  Their mission was to destroy the massive caissons of the dry dock as well as operating machinery and industrial targets in the dock area.  The Germans defended the port apparatus with dozens of automatic cannon and about 6,000 men. The raid succeeded in the sense that the Campbelltown detonated and destroyed the caisson while loaded with celebrating German officials, but the raiding force was largely forced into captivity and the motor gunboats and smaller vessels were mostly non-factors.

Dave and I plan to recreate the St. Nazaire raid, including the Campbelltown and supporting MGB’s, emphasizing mostly the role of the commandoes.  The players will run the British while the Germans are more or less randomly run.

Our challenge as game designers is to reproduce all the dock goodies, including buildings, railyards, teeny, tiny figures and the vessels involved.  After our last meeting, it looks like Dave and I are agreed on using rules inspired by the Raid on St. Nazaire board game published by Avalon Hill many years ago.  We’ve worked together on many projects, and I always look forward to our collaborations.  Dave is the brains of the outfit, and often takes on the bigger modeling pieces.  I usually take on more of the smaller bits. For example, when we did our Tirpitz game a couple of years ago, it was Dave who took on the battleship, while I worked the Fleet Air Arm stuff.

This game is a little different.  We’ll be trying to recreate portions of a large port city, including living areas, industrial and warehouse districts, rail lines and buildings, as well as bridges, canals, lock-gates, and, of course, the enormous dry dock caissons and the ephemera that go with them.

I wish I was an awesome scratchbuilder who could make all this stuff myself, but alas I am not.  So, I’ve been acquiring 1/600 scale buildings from a variety of sources.  One source I really like is the old Skytrex range of ships and buildings. They are all in metal, which I like a lot, but they are also spendy.  Another complication is that Skytrex folded last year and have since been acquired by Ros/Heroics.  I’ve made a couple of orders to them and found them easy to work with, but their goodies are priced in pounds and shipping is significant. I’ve included pictures of some of the items I’ve received.

Another important supplier I’m using is PicoArmor.  If it wasn’t for this project, it’s a company I would have overlooked.  Pico does a lot of work with WWII and Modern 1/600 ground and air combat.  But they also carry some wonderful buildings in that scale from Brigade games. I’ve ordered their industrial buildings and railroad bits, as well as their own 2mm (as in eeny-teeny) figures needed to play the game.

Railway buildings by Brigade Miniatures.  Eeny teeny, but oh so necessary

Railway buildings by Brigade Miniatures. Eeny teeny, but oh so necessary

Railroad tracks by Brigade.  Without question the most tedious thing I've ever painted, period the end.

Railroad tracks by Brigade. Without question the most tedious thing I’ve ever painted, period the end.

Some of the Pico buildings are really small, so Dave and I are also exploring some of the buildings made by Bay Area Yards for their ACW naval range.  I really like Bay, and I really like their buildings.  They are more substantial than the Pico structures, but there is also the question of size and scale.  They may be out of scale, but sometimes it’s important to have something larger and more detailed for our failing eyesight to look at than be just so on something so small.  I’ve included pictures of the warehouses I’ve completed to give you an idea of what they are like as well as a comparison shot with the Pico buildings. Bay casts in resin, and their buildings are nice, and quite inexpensive.  The resin poses a few problems with bubbles and such, but they’re hard to pick out when the miniature is this small.

Bay one

This is a big change from painting my beloved Hundred Years War miniatures, but I’m also very excited about this project.  I’m hoping it will be as good a game and as pretty a project as the Tirpitz affair.  When I’m ready for a bit of a change I’ll share the building of the PT Dockyard vessels awaiting construction.

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