My No-Paint Project


I dunno how many unfinished projects I have laying around.  Okay, let’s just say a dozen (actually that’s a fib, I count 23 incomplete projects, some more incomplete than others.)  If you need to see an actual list, let me know and I’ll send you one. But it feels like the end of the year and time to start thinking about something different.

But I have decided I will NOT take on one more thing to paint.  Maybe I’ll feel differently some time down the road, when I’ve made progress in more areas.  Honestly, just sticking with the projects I have will keep me busy for the foreseeable future.

I have a longing for a naval project.  I mentioned this a couple of posts ago.  I really don’t want to do the same thing others are doing. No slam there, I just like to go my own way, because that’s who I am. If others are already doing that, I’ll love it.  If they want to join in, welcome to the party.  But for me I really want to do 1/1250th scale pre-dreadnaughts.

Let me just focus a little bit more and say I want to do American pre-dreadnaughts, as well as some potential enemies. I have a real fondness for the American ships 1883-1906.  There are some really good ships, and some godawful designs. The good news is, with some very rare exceptions, I won’t be painting anything.

Fire When Ready

We’ll use David Manley’s Fire When Ready Rules.  They are available as a PDF from Wargames Vault.  You can also buy the supplement Fighting Fleets that will help with creating ship cards required by the game.


I picked up a copy of Jane’s Fighting Ships as a game resource.  This is the Arco reprint from from 1970.  In really good condition, it was fifteen bucks plus four dollars shipping. In 1970 it sold for $19.95.  Good deal.

First, I’m thinking we’ll use David Manley’s Fire When Ready Rules.  They seem well known, I’m fond of his rules in general and it’s easy to create ship cards for the game. To do that I’ve also purchased a copy of Janes Fighting Ships 1905/6, which can be obtained pretty inexpensively, and I’ll probably add the earlier Janes Fighting Ships 1898, also relatively cheap (less than twenty bucks used.)

The armored cruiser Vineta, and the gunboats Luchs and Iltis both participated in the festivities threatening the Monroe Doctrine over Venezuela’s failure to pay back loans from German banks 1902-3. Hah, you thought the problems were just Chavez and Maduro. Vineta by Navis.  Luchs and Iltis by Mercator. 

I’ve tried to create some limits to the project. I’d really like to focus on potential conflicts between the United States and other colonial powers during this time period.  So, the US had diplomatic conflicts with Germany over Samoa, Venzuela and potentially Morocco. So adding German ships to the mix seems smart.  I’ve also thought about Japanese ships, as potential conflict over China or the Philippines seems like a possibility.

Another limit is the type of ships I’m most interested in.  While I’m not adverse to having some battleships (hell, I already have some battleships), I’m thinking the best scenarios might be cruisers and gunboats.  Why?  Well, battleships are expensive to dispatch, and early destroyers are very small barely seaworthy in an ocean battle. Cruisers range from 2,000-12,000 tons, and gunboats are surprisingly large at 1,000-2,000 tons. Armor is generally not great, and guns are generally not big. So, cruisers in all their variety and there are lots, and gunboats are my main interest.

Sources for ships in this scale are limited.  Once upon a time there was a perfectly adequate range of ships in 1/1100th scale.  Richard Houston’s Lyzard’s Grin made ships for the Spanish American War, for the Battle of the Yalu, and other ships.  Unfortunately, those models have passed into the ether.  They also required painting., but I probably would have sucked it up as needed. War Time Journal likewise makes some good-looking 3D printed ships, but they would need some work-masts and perhaps other bits I’d have to fabricate.  And they’d also require primer, paint and additional time that will distract me from other projects.  I’m not saying never, but I am saying not likely.

American ships from upper left.  Gunboat Helena by Hai miniatures.  Protected cruiser Brooklyn from Navis.  The Atlanta by Hai was the first ship in the American steel navy.  The Pubelo, in later 1909 colors by Navis was a large and nasty armored cruiser.

So I’ve turned to the collectables market.  They come painted, usually in a color I want.  I prefer my Americans in the white and buff of the peacetime navy.  The miniatures are lovely, and come mostly from German manufacturers.  The biggest of the lot is Navis, but the Austrian company Hai has a ton of the earliest American cruisers that are fairly worthless in a battle, but are representative of a time.

The bad news is that they are generally pretty expensive.  An American cruiser is usually somewhere from 40-50 bucks a whack. The paint job adds to the cost of the vessel. There are some things that can keep the price down a bit.  It’s sometimes possible to get ships used, and I’ve done that to acquire a few German ships. German companies are homers, they make lots of German ships, so there are more used miniatures.

Yeah, that’s a lot and an extravagance.  However, I have a regular Kevin fun budget for each month. That pays for game bits, lunches with friends, movies and other stuff.  Guess what I’m not spending money on these days?  Like, all those things. I’ve been able to wheedle the funds for a fair number of ships, many of them used for a lower price.

i guess it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m interested in this project.  1/1250 ship combat was one of my earliest miniature wargaming interests.  Of course, in those days, a top of the line battleship cost fifteen bucks.  We also played on a gym floor.  We won’t be doing that, my knees can’t take it. Nostalgia only takes me so far. In any case, this is a project just begun.  Forces will grow pretty slowly, but I’m looking forward to moving ahead and hosting a game, when such things are possible again.


3 comments on “My No-Paint Project

  1. bandrsntch says:

    War Time Journal has 3D printed ships for around twenty bucks vs $50.

  2. Pete S/ SP says:

    A wonderful period to game there.



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