Cod Wars: More of the Weird Stuff

I’m a huge fan of David Manley’s games. He’s done tons of them.  My favorites are Action Stations for coastal combat in WWII, soon to be superseded by a slimmed down version newly published called Narrow Seas. I really like his two air games, Air War C. 21 for modern air combat and his hopefully his WW II version Air War 1940.  They are elegant, easy to learn, and easy to play which you can’t say about many air rules. Finally, and this is going to sound like a back-handed compliment, but it isn’t intended as such at all, I really like his naval rules for the American Civil War, Iron and Fire.  Based on my limited play, I feel like Manley is the only Brit who gets this conflict at sea and can put it into game terms.

Lots of other great Manley rules, but the most recent set to lure me into something new is his game for the Cod Wars. What, you may rightly ask, are the Cod Wars?  They were a series of three international incidents between Iceland and Great Britain that occurred between 1958 and 1975.  They grew out of an effort by Iceland to protect its cod resources, continually extending its exclusive fishing zone, while British fishing fleets continued to fish in ancestral fishing grounds in defiance of Icelandic law.

While no lives were lost, the presence of Icelandic coast guard vessels among the British fishermen, cutting nets and impounding trawlers, precipitated difficult relations between the two NATO allies.  During the third Cod War in 1975 following the extension of 200 mile fishing exclusion zone, the British fishermen were escorted by frigates from the British navy, featured more cut nets, and ramming that put both the coast guard ships and the frigates in dry dock for repair.  After each of the Cod Wars, Iceland’s right to protect its cod resource was affirmed by international law.

So, I know what you’re thinking: “Smyth, don’t be ridiculous.  Nobody makes miniatures for the Cod Wars.  Fishing trawlers my ass.”

Hah! Let me just respond that you are wrong, wrong wrong. Not only are they made, sort of, well made on demand by Shapeways, but you can get them in a variety of different scales.  They are available in 1/600, 1/1200, and 1/1800 scale.  It was my original intent to do them in the largest scale, but the game really requires several of the British frigates and in 1/600 they would be about 60 bucks, so I went with 1/200.

I ordered my first batch of vessels about ten days ago, and they arrived on Saturday.  They look really nice. They’ll need to be cleaned according to the Shapeways protocol, before priming and painting. The first batch include the British frigate Exmouth, the Iceland Coast Guard Vessel (ICGV) Baldur, and two support vessels to the fishing fleet, Star Aquarius and Star Polaris.  They are all about three inches long.

Cod Wars 2

The first batch of stuff in clear plastic. From left to right, ICGV Baldur, HMS Exmouth, Star Aquarius, and Star Polaris. Exmouth is just short of three inches. They have a fair amount of detail for their size. I’m impressed.

The second group of ships I received are a collection of British fishing trawlers. There are three stern trawlers and three side trawlers.  They are all pretty generic.

Cod Wars 1

British fishing trawlers. The top three are side trawlers and the bottom three are stern trawlers. They perform differently in the game. Really nice miniatures, the side trawlers are just short of two inches. The trawlers offer the best opportunity for interesting paint schemes.

I’ll add more ships offered in sets by Decapod, as well as more of the Leander class frigates.  I won’t start painting them, however, until I also order some clear acrylic bases for the ships from Litko, and I’m still a ways away from making that order.

Cod Wars!, the rules for fighting actions or a campaign are great.  They are available as a .pdf download from Wargame Vault for $12 normal price, but David’s Long Face games often have sales. They include rules for engagements, and include plenty of ship cards for the vessels that took part.  The included mini-campaign looks pretty interesting too.

With all the other projects I have floating around, this may seem like one more thing to do.  But as my friend Michael Koznarsky once told me, when he was explaining me to someone else it was “Kevin, he does the weird stuff.”

A fistful of Gee Bees

The last of my Shapeways planes are Gee Bees.  Gee Bees are air racers built by the Granville Bros between 1929-34.  They are perhaps the iconic air racers of the Golden Age of air racing due to their unique shapes and flying colors.  Sort of iconic like a black widow spider is iconic.  The Gee Bees eventually killed or severely injured all their pilots.  The reason there were no Gee Bee’s built after 1934 is because the Granville Brothers went bankrupt.

Gee Bee Z has a fuselage length of 1 1/8" and a wingspan of just under 2"

Gee Bee Z has a fuselage length of 1 1/8″ and a wingspan of just under 2″

It's a well designed, well cast miniature. Though it lacks detail, it just requires some photos and a little effort to make it usable.

It’s a well designed, well cast miniature. Though it lacks detail, it just requires some photos and a little effort to make it usable.

I’ll ‘fess up though, the Gee Bee Z, with the it’s 525 hp Pratt and Whitney Wasp engine is my absolute favorite plane.  Short and stout, its yellow and black flying colors make it seem short and quick.  That Shapeways produced the miniature was probably one of my incentives to move to the smaller scale.  The miniature is well made, though the rough resin really sucks up the paint.  I decided to go with Vallejo Deep Yellow as the base color with Vallejo black for the accent color. I felt  the pigment-rich Vallejo black would work best with the bumpy surface. My experience is there just isn’t a lot of room for error and my craft black just doesn’t seem to cover the resin well.  I’d never use a craft yellow for any purpose so the Vallejo yellow is a natural. The Gee Bee Z won the 1931 Thompson trophy, but crashed later in the year, killing pilot Lloyd Bayles

The most fun of the Gee Bees to paint.  You can see the much longer wings and fuselage than the purpose built racers.

The most fun of the Gee Bees to paint. You can see the much longer wings and fuselage than the purpose built racers.


The fuselage length of this miniature is about 1 3/4" and the wingspan is nearly 2 1/2".

The fuselage length of this miniature is about 1 3/4″ and the wingspan is nearly 2 1/2″.

The Granvilles built two Gee Bee Model Y’s, called the “Senior Sportsters.”  Shapeways designer “Arctic Skunk” offers three version of the Y.  Mine is the 1931 version with the 215 horsepower Lycoming engine.  This plane was lost when it’s propeller flew off over New York City, and its engine vibrated loose.  It crashed in the ocean, but the pilot was recovered.  The second Y raced in the Chicago Nationals in 1932, finishing second.  The following year it appeared up-engined, with a 450 h.p. Wright Whirlwind.  This version killed pilot Florence Klingensmith at this same event.

All the Gee Bees had unique and interesting markings.  Due to the small size Doolittle's dice are hard to show.

All the Gee Bees had unique and interesting markings. Due to the small size Doolittle’s dice are hard to show.

This miniature has a fuselage length of about 1 5/8" and the wingspan is about 2"

This miniature has a fuselage length of about 1 5/8″ and the wingspan is about 2″

The best known Gee Bee is the R model “Senior Sportsters.”  R-1 was flown to victory in the 1932 Thompson Trophy Race, by Jimmy Doolittle.  It also won the Shell Speed Dash.  In 1933, the R-1 crashed, killing pilot Russell Boardman.  The second R, R-2, was not a winner and crashed in 1933, seriously injuring pilot Jimmy Haizlip.  As if the Granville’s hadn’t had enough, the remains of both planes were reassembled into the R-1/2, lengthening the fuselage.  Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to save pilot Cecil Allen, when the plane crashed in 1935.

The Gee Bee Y and Gee Bee R-1 are painted similarly.  I used Vallejo Vermillion and a white craft paint.  I decided against adding struts to any of the planes.  First, the models are really small.  They also limit what can be done on the fuselage and wings.  Because each of the three planes had important parts of their paint schemes where the wire should go, I decided against.  On a bigger model, absolutely, but on this small version, nobody would notice anyway.

All photos were taken with a Nikon Coolpix P510 with macro settings on.  From the closeups you can see how rough the resin surface is, which makes detailing a bit of a challenge.  Heck, the lines looked straight with my reading glasses on.

Looking Ahead to Next Year’s Museum of Flight

Tomorrow is the annual NHMGS day at the Museum of Flight.  I’ve written about it many times on my old blog.  It is probably my favorite game event of the year because we’re under an SR 71 in the Great Hall of the Museum of Flight and it’s frickin’ amazing. We have lots of time to rub elbows with the public.  There are lots of games to take a look at.  I get to hang out with Dave Schueler and Mark Waddington.  Oh, and I run the air racing game in the morning.  (Because I schedule the show and keep the list of games, I can schedule my game whenever I please. Bonus.

Air racing is the one semi-demand the museum puts on us for the show.  That and arriving early we get set up before the public arrives at 10:00.  I love air-racing.  It’s a lot of fun.  I have a collection of planes built and painted by Paul Hannah, Dave Schueler and myself.  They are 1/48 scale kits, and the planes look great.  Some are the old Testor’s kits that were introduced by Hawk fifty years ago.  Some are a bit more upscale and include the Minicraft Seversy racer, and I even have a nice resincast Me-209 which was a test bed world speed record holder.  I really like the racers.

Unfortunately they are a lot to transport, and because we have to transport them quite a distance from the parking lot, they can be a lot to schlep.  It will rain tomorrow, and with several trips to get everything in from the car, it will be an unpleasant walk in the weather. Worse than that however, is my constant fear that we’ll have accidents on the tabletop.  Mounted on flight stands 1-7″ tall, the planes become top heavy.  In a crowd, watchers can inadvertently brush them and knock them to the table or the base, and if that happens, it’s over. That happened once at Enfilade with our seaplanes and that was pretty much the show. They haven’t been out of the box since.

Dave and I have often talked about our wish that someone could make the planes in a more manageable scale, say 1/144th.  The racers are relatively tiny at that scale, small, save weight and all that.  John McEwan at Reviresco made a nice mini of the Travelaire Mystery ship ten years or so ago in that scale and I always hoped he’d follow it up with more planes, but none have been forthcoming.  At that size the bases would be heavier than the planes and they’d be smaller to transport though they wouldn’t be quite so eye-catching.  If only they were available.

I was very pleasantly surprised when Dave sent me an e-mail last week with a link to Shapeways.  Shapeways is a 3D printing company that converts designs submitted to them into 3D miniatures.  Lots of game topics, but amazingly one of their designers, Arctic Skunk, supplied them with some air racing designs in 1/144th scale. The Howard Ike and Mike are available.  The Gee Bees are available, models R, Y and my favorite, the Z, and more. I don’t know how they’ll paint up, but they look pretty basic and interesting.  There are pretty close to a dozen planes in the range.  (Don’t get stuck on the category for Golden Age Air Racing, more are available.) They aren’t cheap, though not bad. The smallish Ike and Mike are four bucks, while the bulky Gee Bees are more than twice as much.  Of course, if you want the super detail material instead of the basic white and flexible resin, you pay more.  About three times as much.  I’m pretty sure I’ll stick with the basics and paint in the detail with the help of Mendenhall’s The Air Racer.

Clockwise from left the Shapeways designs by Arctic Skunk are 1. Hall Bulldog; 2. Howard Ike; 3. GeeBee R 1-2; Gee Bee Z