Tuesday 25 February 2014

Ironclads for 1866

Our little group has been playing ACW 1:600 scale ironclad  games for many years, using the Thoroughbred Miniatures models and the Jackson Gamers' ironclad rules. While these have always been fun games, we have struggled to create balanced games and scenarios are always limited to estuarine or riverine actions.

A couple of years ago I had the idea to make some models for the Franco-Prussian War navies, but although the French had a sizeable ocean going ironclad fleet the project fell over because the German navy was so small. By chance I saw an advertisement on the Miniatures Page for Bay Area Yards, who not only make a large ACW range, but also a broad range of European ironclad navies, specifically those of Britain, France, Austria and Italy. France and Britain were the first to develop ironclad navies, but apart from some minor actions in the Crimea, there were no serious actions involving their navies in the ironclad period.

On the other hand the Italians and Austrians had ironclad fleets and there was at least one significant action - the Battle of Lissa on July 20, 1866. There was the germ of an idea, but that is what it stayed for some time - just an idea. Then late last year, after we had played an ACW game, we were discussing what we could do to to find scenarios. I mentioned the Italio-Austrian navies and there was interest. 

So I looked at it seriously and the possibility of doing the entire fleet for both sides. This was a realistic proposal because there were only seven Austrian and twelve Italian ironclads in the navies and a number of wooden ships. It was even possible to do all of the ships by adapting some of the BAY models to represent the wooden ships. But I restrained myself and in late January I placed an order for all seven of the Austrian ironclads and nine Italian. A subsequent order will take this to fourteen vessels a side. Many of the rest were smaller gunboats, which might make for some interesting coastal raid scenarios, are a possibility further down the track.

The  unpainted models, with the Italian hulls in the foreground and the Austrians in the background

So early last week the models arrived. They are hand poured resin castings, and typical of that casting method the had a few flaws resulting from air trapped in either the mould or the resin, but nothing that a bit of Green Stuff or Emerkit and some sand paper couldn't fix. Clearly some of the masters had been made from balsa and some of the grain of the wood had come through in the casting, but again easily fixed with some epoxy putty and sand paper.

I chose to work on four of the models first: the Italian turret ship Affondatore and the three Austrian ships of the Kaiser Max Class - Kaiser Max, Prinz Eugen and Don Juan d'Austria. It is important to undercoat these with an enamel paint as the resin repelled the usual acrylics, but once appropriately undercoated they painted easily and quickly. The slowest part for me was making the masts. BAY make a range of masts, but I am not a fan of cast masts, they are too fragile for play, so I chose to make them from steel wire with furled sails made of Green Stuff.

Affondatore or "the Sinker" was finished first. It looked OK but a little flat until I put the ship's boats on it. Normally these would not be towed astern in a fight to prevent splinters flying around the decks. Under normal conditions they would be hung from davits, by I had no intention of trying to make those so I simply glued them on the deck. Suddenly the model began to have life. Then when I put the rigging on it looked even better. Finally I put glued the model to a base, textured and painted the base.

The Completed Affondore

The second finished was the Austrian Kaiser Max. If I thought the masts were time consuming, I hadn't considered the rigging, which was ten times more complex than the Affondatore, but looks so good! The Prinz Eugen was done next, with Don Juan d'Austria painted and rigged, but not based.

SMS Kaiser Max

Next I painted the Italian 2nd Class Armoured Frigates, Re d'Italia and Re di Portogallo. Re d'Italia is finished now. What a complicated rigging. I aim to have all of these complete by the end of March.

Re d'Italia

Re d'Italia and Prinz Eugen


  1. Nice work Alan.......I too have a passion for ships of this era. My Lissa fleets were mostly scratch built. I am currently working on the French navy 1859 to 1899.....the pre-dred designs are amazing.

    1. Thanks. I don't play this period enough...must break them out again.

  2. Hey Mark, I'm trying to collect ships to refight Lissa. I can still get Bay Yard ships, but what did you use for the wooden ships on each side? Are they Bay Yards? thanks for the help.

    Larry Sturgeon

    1. Hi Larry,

      Yes I used BAY models for all of these. I know that for SMS Kaiser I used the HMS Hero model from the British range, but I can't access the BAY list anymore to see what I used for the others. I am pretty certain I used either the British or French frigate models for the other wooden ships and some of the British gunboats for the small Austrian gunboats.