Oh no! Not Hawkmoon figures!!!

I’ve been re-basing away here in Smythland.  Really meant to be painting, but I’ve been re-basing my Louisiana project and so far so good.  I’ve rebased 18 or so units and with a refreshing of my needed Litko bases today I’ll have plenty to finish up this project, and maybe enough to do the Aztecs and Conquistadors too.  Well, in addition to painting my Louisiana leftovers–about 150 figures worth.

Haven’t quite decided what to do about mounted units.  I bought 25 60mm round bases, which is what it would take to squeeze two mounted miniatures on rounds  But they sure would take up a lot of space.  Would make ’em more vulnerable to shooting and attack.  Dunno.  Might be able to make ’em look cool, but may be more trouble than they’re worth.

In any case, the I’m going to stick with the plan and wrap up the 150+ figures I have to paint for the Louisiana project, but I’ll probably remount all my painted units before I move on to painting more.

Remember my no new projects for 2017-18 (Enfilade pledge?  Well, it’s being sorely tested.  I ran across some hard evidence–as in figures available with a price on them–for the Hawkmoon range of fantasy figures by Eureka Miniatures.


Fantasy figures?  Who cares, you might be saying.  Usually the answer is, not me. But these are figures based on the Hawkmoon stories by Michael Moorcock.  Anything from Moorcock’s Eternal Champion cycle interests me, but Hawkmoon is probably the simplest and most fun of these.  During the late 70’s and early 80’s I read every Michael Moorcock book at least twice. That he agreed to the production of these figures is pretty exciting stuff.

So, what, you ask, would you do with it?  Strictly Dragon Rampant fun.  Yes, I have tons of stuff to paint for Dragon Rampant, but if I limited myself to one retinue of the Kamarg warriors that fight for Hawkmoon and his allies, and one retinue of the Granbreton nasties that are trying to kill him, that may be enough.  At $3.00 or so a pop, that may be all I can afford.




You die, he dies, everybody dies: the America Rampant playtest

As promised, today Dave Schueler and I dropped in at Meeples to try out the America Rampant adaptation of The Men Who Would Be King. I knew we’d be playing on a pretty small table, probably 5′ X 3′.  So I couldn’t have too many units out there. Thursday and Friday I took every minute I could to remount enough figures to play the game.

I settled on a simple scenario idea, the search for cannon captured and hidden by the Miamis at the Battle of the Wabash in 1791.  It was a good idea, but the scenario played poorly in execution. But it did give us a good look at my basic ideas and I’ve got to say they were two thumbs up.

TMWWBK plays like a super cleaned up version of Lion Rampant, and why anyone wouldn’t create house rules to adopt those changes is beyond me. Free actions.  An activation failure just means move on to the next unit. It all made for a good flowing game.

America Rampant changes the game from a rifle dominated game to one in which melee in close terrain is more likely.  In our little game, casualties through muskets and close combat played a part in the game.

i hoped to learn two things from our little playtest:

  1. Did my remount make sense from a game context?
  2.  Did the rules adaptation work from a mechanical and historical standpoint?

The Remount

The remount was not easy. Lots of steps.

  1. Figures were pried from their bases.
  2. Glued to their new bases.
  3. Modeling paste applied to bases
  4. Bases painted with Burnt Umber
  5. Bases dry brushed with Trail Tan
  6. Apply Woodland Scenics turf
  7. Glue in clump foliage
  8. Final touch up and Dullcote

It was time-consuming, and it took every spare minute I could summon Thursday, Friday and even a half-hour this morning to finish seven Indian and five American units. I don’t have any more painted natives, but I have tons of American militia and regular units, and a lot of Spanish.  I’ll need to acquire more bases to finish them all, but it’s on the docket to finish all of them this summer.

That said, it seems completely worth it. They don’t rattle around in their cases.  It took much less time to set up a game.  Movement was easy.  Pick up went really fast.  All the objectives were achieved.  They look pretty good too. The remount was a success.

The Rules Adaptation

I chose to take the Americans and Dave took the indians.

Dave had:

  • Two tribal infantry without modifiers
  • Two tribal infantry with veteran +1 to discipline
  • two tribal infantry with veteran +1 to discipline, and fierce.

I had

  • One veteran regular infantry, +1 to discipline
  • Two plain ol’ veteran infantry
  • One unit of irregular infantry, militia
  • One unit of veteran militia, +1 to discipline, armed with rifles.  This was a rule change allowing greater range (18″ vs 12″ for smoothbore muskets,) but allowing only half the figures to fire each turn due to slower loading and shooting.

The two sides were divided by a fordable stream, and Dave set up his units in covering terrain.  Another change to the rules is the Indians have only an 8″ shooting range and always fire at long range (this requires all hits to be halved.) Deciding he was too far away and unlikely to coax me into crossing the stream, Dave launched all six of his units at me.

Because shooting is a free move for regular and irregular infantry, it didn’t make much sense to do a lot of moving around.  The first turn of fire was made at long and short range, depending on the unit. My troops did little damage, and successful pin rolls were made all around.

In the second turn, as some units moved close enough to consider attacking at the double-quick, the Indian units mostly failed their activations. But one of the fierce units did not, and hit a regular infantry units.  Dave rolled 24 dice and hit on eight of them.  I rolled ten dice and hit on two.  Bad news. The unit failed its pin roll. I was not shocked.

But my second turn of fire went much better. All my remaining units hit at a greater than 50% rate, and pinned their targets, rendering them unable to move in turn three.

But our fierce friend struck another unit, inflicting another eight casualties against only three losses. Two of the five units in my command were now shattered, and by a single unit. My center was simply remnants, my left was holding and gradually reducing their attackers, and my veteran rifle unit was isolated, pouring fire at two potential attackers, but firing at half strength was not going to cut it forever.

In turn four, the fierce unit dispatched one of its badly wounded prey, while the two left flank units ended the resistance by their opponents. Three Indian units were eliminated.  But on the right flank, one of the units was across the stream, and the other was finally moving into the stream.  Trouble was coming.

In turn five, the fierce unit was fired on as it advanced toward the last remaining regular unit, and reduced to five figures. One of the Indian units in the right flank attack struck the collection of figures assigned to finding the hidden cannon, driving them back, but suffering loss. More losses came with fire from the rifle unit, and they were pinned. But the fresh unit on the far right was lining up the rifles for destruction.

Turn six was the final turn. The fierce unit attacked the American regulars and were finally worn down to nubs.  But the unit on the right hit the rifles and killed half of them at minimal loss. They were driven back and pinned, but failed their pin recovery.  The two American left flank units advanced toward the carnage in the center as the game end. By the end of the game, far more stands were removed than were still in the game.

Our verdict was the game played as intended.  The rules were simple.  Lots of bases were removed.  No real snags in the flow of play.  We didn’t use the officer characteristics rules. One other rule change, was the addition of a leader to each command.  The leader could give a +1 to activation or pin rolls to one unit per turn. This played a minor role int he game.

I’m pronouncing these a success, but I want to play them again soon.

Louisiana: It’s a Start

Lorri and I are leaving tomorrow on a little vacation.  We’re going to the San Juans.  First time for either of us.  Amazing because both of us have lived almost our entirely lives in the Puget Sound area.  Oh did I include the fact that three Australian Shepherds will be joining us.  Yes, it seemed like such a good idea at the time.

I hoped to get a lot more miniatures work done today, but no such luck.  But I did manage to rebase all my Woodland Indians-mostly Old Glory with a few Front Rank figures in there for good measure. I pried them all from their 25mm X 25mm bases, remounted them on Litko rounds.  50mm in diameter for three figures, 40mm in diameter for two figures and 25mm rounds for singles.  They are in 12 figure units so the basing is 3 X 50mm, 1 x 40mm, 1 X 25mm.

I covered all the bases with Liquitex modeling paste.  I really like this material.  It’s easy to spread, and because it’s acrylic it doesn’t chip, and it dries very quickly.  In an hour or less you’re good to go. I’ll paint all the bases an overall Ceramcoat Burnt Umber, a very dark brown.  Then I dry brush it with Ceramcoat Trail Tan.  When it’s all dry I’ll spread some brown and green flocking.  These are all units that fight in the woods, so I’ll use Woodland Scenics Hobby Tack to glue down significant bits of clump foliage.

I finished a unit of Woodland Indians and a unit of militia today.  American militia figures strongly into the Americans forces for this project. They are a 10 figure unit and include 2 X 50mm, 1 X 20mm and 2 X 25mm.

Woodland Indians on the left.  Militia on the right. 

As I said before, I’ll be meeting Dave Schueler in West Seattle to try out the rules on July 8th, and following up with a Friday Truants game with whoever can get loose at the Game Matrix on the 14th.  I’m pretty set with a hypothetical historical scenario with Dave–recovering one of the cannon taken and hidden by the Miamis at the Battle of the Wabash in 1791.  I’m thinking five or six Indian units vs. four or five American units.  I should have the Indians all done, but the Americans will have to show up in their singles–except for one militia unit. I’ll plan the Truants day accordingly

I’ve located all my figures for Louisiana.  Yes it should be easy, but it’s not.  The remounting will take some time.  But I also want to take on the painting and wrap up all the miniatures I have.  I currently have enough Woodland Indians for seven units.  I believe I have enough unpainted figures to get that up to at least twelve. I have enough Wayne’s Legion figures to paint four units of Legion infantry 1792-4–you know, the guys with the colorful turbans and plumes.  The rest of my units all have black turbans and white plumes.  I already have a couple of light infantry units from the Legion period painted.  So it would be fun to do some scenarios from that period as well.

Anyway, plenty to do and I’m all in.  However, there is the matter of ten mounted archers on my painting table from the Hundred Years War.  They’ll need to be finished before anything new can be painted.


Return to Louisiana

I wrote about my the various phases of my Louisiana project a few years ago.  For those who’ve heard this before, feel free to skip this stuff and follow down to something more interesting.

Let’s see, Louisiana in a few words.  In the decade from 1995-2005 or so, I was utterly taken with the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Right, the bicentennial and all that.  I read everything I could get my hands on including Donald Jackson’s Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  A letter confirmed Spain sent an expedition to arrest Lewis and Clark and bring a halt to the expedition.  I thought there was a game in that, and lo, I made a game.

Further reading, especially Seduced by the West by Laurie Winn Carlson, convinced me Lewis and Clark was the first of a number military exploring expeditions intended to poke Spain in the eye and threaten its distant western empire. Enough, in fact, that Spain and the United States were on the verge of war several times between 1797-1810 when Mexico launched its decade-long war of independence. If I had the 150 or so figures for Lewis and Clark, surely it wouldn’t take many more to put together more Americans and some Spanish to put this together.  Heck I already had 100 or so painted Woodland Indians who could double as Chickasaw Spanish allies.  I even kicked in the cash to buy a Comanche mounted warband from Conquest Miniatures. I ran a few games at Enfilade and even put together a role-playing/miniatures game featuring something loosely based on The Burr Conspiracy.

If all this sounds incredibly strange and obscure, well, I’m used to it.  I’m Mr. Obscure, but I’m totally fine with it.  Let’s face it, miniature wargames are simply problems that need solving, and the problems I choose to solve are just a bit different than everyone else’s

Even so, I was never terribly happy with the way the games played out.  I began by using Two Hour Wargames wonderful Black Powder Battles.  I really liked them, but the games I wanted to play were just too big to use them effectively.  Then I moved on to the AWI rules in Brother Against Brother, but those too left me unsatisfied.  I didn’t like the morale rules, and it felt like I was trying to graft some ACW rules on a different period, which is exactly what I was doing.

Louisiana has largely been on the shelf since 2014, but I’m looking for an excuse to finish the figures I have for it-about 100 Americans, Indians and Spanish-and play some games.

Some photos from my Louisiana project. From upper left, Spanish troops in my Burr Conspiracy game.  Comanche cavalry that could sometimes be persuaded to fight for Spain when they weren’t raiding the frontier. The Louisiana Regiment with the Hibernians in the background.  Mounted militia rifles. Bottom, Spanish Cuera lance armed, musket armed, shielded cavalry that regularly fought native adversaries–including those nasty Comanches. 

The Big Remount

But there are two major issues on the table to make me happier with the project. First I decided to remount my miniatures.  Just to be clear I’m not a remounting fetishist.  I hate remounting.  But since I wrote an article for the dearly departed NHMGS Citadel six or seven years ago declaiming about the proliferation of single figure games, I’ve worked on nothing but single figure projects.

My Louisianans are all mounted as single figures, along with my Lion Rampant, Quetzacoatl Rampant and Irish Civil War miniatures.  While singles have their advantage for skirmish and semi-skirmish games, they are also an enormous pain for three reasons: 1) Singles slow down set up and put away of a game. 2) Singles slow movement during a game. 3) Safely transporting zillions of singly mounted figures is dicey, because many tend to fall down despite my best efforts to prevent that. I think singles are great if you’re talking 40-100 figures, but my games are never less than 200-400 figures and that is simply too many.

3-2-1 basing

I’ve decided to remount my figures in a style that has begun to gain traction at least among some of my friends.  It’s a 3-2-1 system, with stands of three, two and one figures mounted on round bases.  It’s basically a making change system.  So a twelve figure Native American unit has 3-three figure bases, 1-two figure base, and 1-one figure base.  That’s five bases to set up, put away, and move around in a game rather than twelve. And the larger bases will offer more stability during transportation than a bunch of single bases with high centers of gravity rattling around in the car despite their magnetized base bottoms.

Rules: America Rampant

My friend Dave Schueler suggested The Men Who Would Be King for Louisiana.  He noted the use of obsolete muskets in the colonial era rules and suggested this combined with the use of melee characteristics for Britain and France’s colonial opponents might work for my 1797-1810 era.


I picked up a copy of TMWWBK shortly after they were released, but hadn’t looked at them very closely.  I was tucking them away toward a future Sudan project.  But with summer break and allocating my game project  time, I decided to give them a closer look.  I really like these rules.  They retain a lot of the interesting quirkiness of Daniel Mersey’s other rules sets, and eliminate some of the annoying glitchy stuff.  Every unit has some automatic activations it can do, and a failed activation doesn’t end the turn for a player.

But in the end, I didn’t feel the rules had the right period feel for that early black powder era. So I did what all good gamers do and I “adapted” the rules to my needs and produced America Rampant: War on the Border 1792-1810.  Finished the framework on Tuesday.  I’ll have the opportunity to try them out on July 8th with Dave. Will keep you posted.



Falklands 2: Pucaras and the mounted retinue

Yesterday I assemble and primed my Pucara light attack planes.  I have four of the Heroics and Ros models.  They are an interesting plane.  They are twin engine turbo-prop counter-insurgency aircraft, are home grown, manufactured by Fabrica Militar De Aviones. The planes were capable of mounting a variety of light machine guns and cannon, as well as conventional bombs and rocket pods.

However, the coolest version of Pucara, is AX-04, a prototype that experimented with mounting a pair of torpedoes.  Admit, that would be interesting.  Unfortunately the war ended badly for Argentina, and the development project ended.

Pucara AX 04

Picture doesn’t quite do the prototype torpedo slinger justice. It’s a mass of red markings that would be pretty cool to paint.

There were a dozen or so Pucaras sent to the Falklands to use the short, grass airfields at Port Stanley and Goose Green inaccessible to Skyhawks, Mirages and Super Etendeards. .  Most were destroyed on the ground by RN Sea Harriers.  One was shot down by a Sea Harrier, and another was brought down by a shoulder-fired Stinger ground-to-air missile.  On the plus side, two Pucaras scored Argentina’s only air-to-air victory by shooting down a Royal Marine Scout helicopter on May 28, 1982.

Pucaras were relatively easy to assemble.  Just have to glue the tee-tail on, plus whatever under-wing stores. I used a stick of light bombs, but it would sure be nice to have your basic SNEB 2.75″ rocket laucher available. There’s a bit of scraping and adjusting to fit the tail, but nothing major.

After priming, the question was color.  Most of planes stationed on the Falklands arrived in gray.  I decided two of my planes would be in that color.  I decided to stay light, and went with the USAF Light Gray by Vallejo.

But some of the planes were given a field paint job.  Land-based Pucaras got a very nice series of green and earth bands.  It appears from examples on the ‘net, something sort of similar was tried at Port Stanley and Goose Green, but something went horribly wrong.  The colors were quite washed out and didn’t follow the same pattern.  Like the Japanese at distant locations during WWII, the paint may have been applied with whatever mop or broom that was handy.  I chose to do two of my planes to look like this.

I started with Vallejo Sky Green, which is basically Sky Type S, and then I mixed it with a drop of the USAF Light Gray.  I wanted the gray in the green.  Then I lightened further with white.  Then I lightened some Vallejo US Brown Drab in the same way.  Painted the canopy Vallejo Sky Blue and and added some Ceramcoat Coastline Blue as a kind of glare/highlight. I’m okay with the way they turned out, though I think the planes should be a little less green and a little more gray.  Like the brown drab, I just think the green is off.

I finished up by adding the Argentine decals from I-94.  They turned out well.  I took a few pics, and included two photos of a gray and a field camouflaged Pucara

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I’m going to try to paint on aircraft numbers and then these bad boys will be done.

Moving on from the ten Argentine Skyhawks awaiting my attention, I’ve decided to dip into my heap of unpainted Hundred Years War figures and create a mounted retinue for Dragon Rampant.  I have enough unpainted Old Glory Mounted Archers to do 3 X 12 figure units, sufficient mounted hobilars to do a 1 X 12 unit of mounted sergeants, and I can add a unit of mounted knights to boot.  I’d like to do mounted and dismounted versions.  I’m going to do all of them on multiple bases and experiment with how that turns out.  Again, we are really talking about ease of storage and movement here, so I’m anxious to see how they all turn out.

The first ten figures are primed and I’ll work through the lot, along with the Skyhawks, so I’ll keep you posted.

Paintin’ Planes: The Falklands


Heroics and Ros Super Etendards for the Argentine Navy ca. 1982. Each is armed with an Excocet missile carved from a US GPU smart bomb. The electronics pod is under the right wing. The Naval insignia replaces the national insignia and is hand painted sky blue.

One of the projects Dave and I talked about for fun, and maybe Enfilade 2018, was something based on the Falklands.  He has the ships and George and I have the planes.  Boy do I have planes.  I decided to choose two batches of planes to paint up, Dassault Super Etendards strike planes and English Electric Canberras.

The Argentine Air Force received 10 of these 1950’s era bombers during the 1970’s and the participated in 36 bombing missions during the war.  Armed with conventional bombs, they were slow and lacked maneuverability compared to the spiffy Sea Harriers flown by the Royal Navy.  One Canberra was lost to a Harrier fired sidewinder missile.  A second was brought down by a Sea Dart sea-to-air missile fired by HMS Cardiff. I’m not sure how much action these planes would see in a game scenario.  Their primary use was bombing British soldiers ashore at night.


Heroics and Ros Canberras in Argentine colors ca. 1982. I added underwing stores and painted the prominent aircraft numbers. The rest of the markings area ll the excellent I-94 markings for Argentina a Greece.

My Canberra miniatures are Heroics and ROS planes.  The quality of the casting is quite good, better than many planes from H and R. It has the full original canopy, which is not correct for the Falklands, but what the heck, I paint what I have.  Scotia makes a version that is more appropriate. The model came with wingtip tanks, and I added some underwing stores.  Mostly bombs-at least until I ran out. The planes are painted with Vallejo Medium Gray with Vallejo American Dark Green in a camouflage pattern I found online. The underside is Vallejo USAF Light Gray.  I added the yellow tail stripe, and other photos I found suggested broad yellow bands on the wings.  Markings are all from I-94 Enterprises.

The Super Etendards are also by H and R.  Not a great miniature.  The wings seem too broad and clunky.  Again Scotia makes a nice one and at some point I may replace them. The Super Etendards were manufactured by Dassault, and were relatively new versions of the plane.  Five had the electronics to fire the handful of Exocet anti ship missiles that proved quite deadly during the war.  I painted five of the planes.  Again, not likely to get into a game because the Exocets are so nasty, but I’d had a few for a number of years and George had a couple more in his pile o’ planes he passed a long to me.

The Super Etendards were annoyingly difficult to paint, because I had a hard time with a paint match, and still didn’t get it right.  They are a dark blue gray.  I could do dark blue.  I could do dark gray.  I could do kind of a purpley-blue, but nothing straight out of the bottle would work.  So I mixed Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue with Vallejo Oxford Blue, and still managed a color I was pretty unhappy with. Oh well.  The only bad miniature is one that is unpainted.  The underside is, again, Vallejo USAF Light Gray.  I made an Exocet missile out of some U.S. “smart bombs” by C in C.  Again, not exactly right, but don’t think I’ll get much heat for 1/300 “just missed.” I also added the big electronic package from my C-in-C box of goodies under the right wing. And voila.

I did a little extra work with markings for these planes.  I absolutely love the Argentine markings from I-94, but not a lot of help with the Super Etendards.  These are Argentine navy planes.  These carry the anchor insignia instead of the Argentine national insignia.  Unfortunately the decal set only comes with the anchor in black, instead of the sky blue the Etendards carried, so I hand-painted those.  Ever notice how many A’s there are in the standard pack of white letters?  Not nearly enough.  So I did put the Armada (navy) markings on two planes, but not on the other three.

I did use the markings on the Canberra.  National insignia on the left wing and fuselage.  After my aging white letters pretty much disintegrated, I decided to paint on the aircraft numbers.  Not bad, though some are clearly better than others.

C-in-C’s box of ordnance is pretty nice, but sure wish there was a bit more out there.  Would love some rocket pods, and more single bombs.  Doesn’t have to be on C-in-C to make ’em either.

As with almost all air projects not involving assembling Swordfish bombers, painting these was thoroughly enjoyable.  Don’t know if I’ll leap into more Argentine planes right away or do something a little different for the rest of the month.  I’ll add ten A-4’s, the planes that did the bulk of the heavy lifting in the air campaign against the Royal Navy, and the basis of any likely game.  I also have four Pucara light attack planes I’d like to paint, so 9 down, about 14 to go. They’ll all likely be completed by midsummer.

A Thunderboats! primer

It’s been a long time on another blog site since I’ve written much about Thunderboats!  There’s been some interest on The Miniatures Page recently, so I want to get as much out there as I can so those who are interested can try to acquire boats, get the rules and have as much fun.

First of all, just a little history.  When I was a young boy living in Seattle in the 60’s, there were no major league sports.  Sure the Huskies football team had years when they were very good, won PAC-8 (?) championships and destroyed a very good Wisconsin team in the Rose Bowl, but professionally, not much.  Except those damned hydroplanes.

For those not in the know, hydroplanes emerged after World War II to dominate the competitions held by the American Power Boat Association.  They replaced the deeper- hulled, high-powered boats by riding on top of the water due to their aerodynamic three point designs, driven my WWII surplus Allison and Rolls Merlin engines that once powered P-40 and P-51 fighters. By the 1950’s, boat designs like the Slo-Mo-Shun IV were competing with boats out of Detroit for the coveted Gold Cup Trophy and bringing Seattle its first championship since the Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup in 1917.

Hydroplane racing was THE summer sport in Seattle when I was young.  We would gather as a family to watch the Seafair races in August, or the Gold Cup if Seattle was hosting.  The drivers and boats from Seattle-Miss Bardahl, Miss Exide, Miss Thriftway, Hawaii Kai and a host of others, were our favorites and we rooted them on as their colors, and frequently their drivers changed.  Some boats were perennial favorites, and others were annual also-rans.

And sometimes the sport was beset by tragedy.  To this day, I have never forgotten the disaster on the Potomac River when three drivers were killed in the 1966 President’s Cup.  In a race that became known as “Black Sunday,” Ron Musson, Rex Manchester and Don Wilson were all killed. The sport was plagued by numerous deaths throughout the remaining seasons of the decade.

But certainly during the 60’s, at least before the arrival of Seattle’s first “big league” team, the NBA Supersonics, the city was obsessed with the loud, powerful boats that ran on Lake Washington.  New hulls, new sponsors, new color schemes were the talk of the town.  Anyone from the Northwest of a certain age remembers.

In the early 2000’s as Enfilade was winding down on a Sunday afternoon, we were hanging out in the convention hall discussing future game ideas waiting for the last knots of gamers to head home.  Dave Schueler wrote the Golden Age Air Racing rules, and one of the guys in the group suggested the rules could be altered just a little to make a fun set of hydroplane racing rules. It quickly got my attention.  Master modeler and owner of Craftworks, Shawn McEvoy assured us he could supply us with inexpensive resin hydroplanes. When Shawn showed up with real miniatures the next year, the die was cast, and a short time later, boats were on the mat and rules were out of the printer.

Thunderboats! is a fun game based on the simple premise that the most fun games are those in which the players have loads of choices to make.  It begins with choosing from my large collection of boats, to creating your lean, mean flying-on-water-machine and then taking all kinds of chances to run your boat in a race with 5-7 other unscrupulous ne’er do wells trying o finish ahead of you.

What do you need to play?  First you need a hex mat.  My racing hex mat is 6′ X 8′  felt with five inch hexes. Yours doesn’t have to be that big, and the hexes could be as small as three inches. The mat was hand-made in the days before screen-printed mats were available, and we used it for multiple purposes. Size doesn’t need to be standard, but generally you want to allow at least two full hexes on the outside of the course to provide a little maneuver room to the racers.  You need a set of marker buoys–they can be made of anything–and one should represent the start/finish line. Eight buoys is optimal

You need Formula De dice, and more than one set.  I have three, but probably could get by with two. These are 4,6,8 and 12 sided dice that are numbered irregularly, more like averaging dice.  Formula De is currently in print so the dice are available separately. About $12 a set from Amazon.  In addition to these, each player needs a ten-sided die-preferably not yellow, red, orange or green.

Finally, you need boats.  I get my boats from Mr. McEvoy.  If you are interested I can help you contact him, just message me through WordPress. Shawn’s boats are smaller, less expensive versions of his magnificent 1/48 and 1/25 scale resin hydroplanes.  Those are intended for collectors and modelers while the 1/87th (HO) versions we play with are for the game. Shawn has also begun producing decals for the boats so they don’t have to be completely hand-painted.  Limited decals available so far, but more on the way. Boats are $5-10 each, and well worth the price. An alternative is the Hot Wheels/Matchbox versions.  Unfortunately, these boats are all the later turbine boats, and don’t have the same historical cachet of the shovel nose, drop sponson, and picklefork boats of the Craftmaster models. Shawn also sells buoys and a few other goodies.

Finally, players will need something to represent a roostertail into the following hexes. I made mine out sheet styrene and shaped them with a Dremel tool.



My boats from the late 60’s and 70’s.  The checkered Miss Bardahl was a Gold Cup winner in 1968.  The picklefork designs widened the hydroplanes and made them safer, less prone to becoming airborne and “blowing over.” 

The rules are Thunderboats! by Dave Schueler.  The rules are owned by Dave, and I have his permission to distribute them. My association with the game is simply one of gamer, promoter and enthusiast, and I have the advantage that Dave is one of my best friends. The rules include basic rules, event cards (as a word document for business cards), boat cards, and an expansion of the rules for extended races of more than one three-lap heat (includes rules for the always exciting nitrous oxide bottle.) Again, if you contact me via WordPress I can make these available to you electronically, and there is no cost.

Rules are easy.  Players spend points to buy a driver and build their boats. They put ’em out on the table, and choose their throttle settings and roll the dice representing those. Players can choose to run their engines faster than they should, pay fewer points for turning than is intended, run through roostertails, or occupied hexes, all at a risk of doing damage to their boats.  My motto is no risk no reward.  It’s an easy game to play, and by the end of the first lap, players are running the game themselves.  It’s much fun.

Alan Ameel’s Hydroartprints is a great site for subjects to paint. 

Last, but not least, there is the question of how to paint those hydroplane miniatures. This is my favorite part and I’ve studiously tried to paint mine as historically as possible.  If you go that route, there are lots of great resources to explore. Here are a few:

Artist Alan Ameel has a great collection of hydroplane prints at $65 a pop.  But you can see them here at hydroartprints.

Leslie Field’s Hydroplane History site has loads of pictures, but is in the process of upgrading to another site with more sources.  Hydroplane History also has a wonderful Facebook page full of pics, if you are not Facebook averse.

Finally, the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent, WA has a fine website with access to history and some photos.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you are interested in rules or contacting Craftworks about boats.  If you’re looking for something fun, that’s easy to run for gamer and non-gamer alike, Thunderboats! is a good choice.

From my collection of photos of Thunderboats! games including boats from the 50’s and 60’s. From upper left-Tahoe Miss leads Miss Wahoo down a back stretch, Miss Bardahl (1962-65), Miss US-5, with Miss Smirnoff (blue) and others in background.  Miss Exide gets an early lead with Slo-Mo-Shun V, Miss US 5, Miss Bardahl and Miss Wahoo grouped closely behind.