Archive for the ‘Naval’ Category

11693838_10153585386580832_7342236132473556676_nHidden Warships: Finding World War II’s Abandoned, Sunk, and Preserved Warships is a great opportunity to read about and see the unique stories of the combat history, recovery, and preservation of World War II-era combat ships from around the world.

World War II produced many epic naval battles and technologies. The many resulting shipwrecks from this immense war unintentionally created a record of warfighting technologies that today’s armchair explorers and shipwreck hunters can participate in. In an accessible format with over 200 illustrations, Hidden Warships details the combat, recovery, and preservation of combat ships from World War II–beginning with the Japanese midget submarine attacks on Pearl Harbor–to the sinking of the postwar aircraft carrier USS Oriskany.

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In addition to the many combat ships that were sunk across the globe and have been located, a number of submarines once lost in action have recently been found, including the aircraft carrying Japanese sub I-401, the USS Grunion, and the combined fleet sunk while testing atomic bombs at Bikini Atoll, including the German cruiser Prince Eugen.

Hidden Warships is a really fun read.  The format strikes an excellent balance between a detail heavy academic book, and an easy-reading, coffee table book.  This makes it an easy, though thoroughly rewarding read.  The production is simply superb, with brilliant photos on almost every page.

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The section on the Graf Spee sticks in my mind in particular as being an excellent account of the research and dive into the wreckage, as well as what happened to what they managed to salvage – as well as what they couldn’t.

Recommended not only for those with an interest in WWII naval warfare, but also for those with an interest in restoration and preservation work in general.  This will be a book you come back to again and again.

The Napoleonic War-Head Spike Direction is back, with another review for us; this time the new Naval rules from Osprey Games:

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Fighting Sail is a new wargame from Osprey Games, pitting navies from the era of the Napoleonic and Revolutionary wars against each other in games ranging from one-on-one frigate duels, to squadron level battles with ships-of-the-line blasting away at each other.

I was very keen to try this one out, so much so that rather than waiting to amass a fleet of miniatures I assembled two fleets of paper ships, made with artwork from juniorgeneral.org (I highly recommend doing this if you’re strapped for cash, actually. They turned out quite nicely! MS Paint never looked so good!).

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The gameplay splits broadly between two fairly obvious areas: sailing and shooting. Initially, I thought that sailing – and the various particulars of rolling for move points and variations due to the direction of the wind would take some working out – but in our first battle my opponent (fellow SF bod Joseph Crouch) and I took to it exceedingly quickly, with only a few near misses and accidental collisions. I fully expect to be far more adept at sailing my fleet in future games, though absolute control is unlikely due to the dice-generated sailing points, but being at the mercy of the weather is all part of the joy of this game.

Shooting works in a way that would be familiar to most readers, dicing off your gunnery score versus the target’s hull, with unsaved hits causing damage. Two ships of a similar class lined up side by side will pretty much cancel each other out and the way damage works means you can’t really hope to wear them down or win on points, as crews have a decent chance of repairing damage as fast you can deal it one-on-one.  The trick is to position your fleet so several ships fire on one target, or catch an enemy ship in their vulnerable prow or stern (the ‘raking’ shot). In this way one has a decent chance of dealing a knockout blow in one turn, so being a good sailor is vital to victory.

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This game comes damn close to hitting the perfect balance between realism and playability. Providing an experience that is, generally, more ‘zoomed out’ from the specifics (Crouch hankered after rules for chain shot for example) but has an overall feel which seems about right for the period, and never gets bogged down.  Though there were a couple of minor niggles within our game specifically (ships seemed to be sunk a little too easily in the right circumstances, especially by the British with their mad gunnery skills, and boarding actions seemed impossible to achieve, with the target ship seemingly able to swing out of the way almost every time) and I suspect these may be less of an issue for a more experienced player.

The battle we played to test this out was your classic ‘Britain vs France’ but there are fleet lists in the rule book for Spain, Russia, The Netherlands, Sweden, and most intriguing to me, The United States and Barbary Pirates, between whom I am already planning an encounter.

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In the space of an afternoon I am hooked on this, and strongly recommend Fighting Sail to those with an interest, passing or obsessive, in the period, or naval combat, or anyone who’s ever seen Master & Commander or Hornblower.