When planning for the future it is often important to reflect on the past.
When I discovered that Privateer Press was planning to release a book called Pirates of the Broken Coast, something went off in my brain that made me a little crazy. Maybe it was all those Pirates of the Caribbean movies I had watched the last few years. Or maybe all the days and nights I spent out fishing for salmon. Either way, I started to plan out a game board that would simulate a scenario for ship to ship dueling combat. I had an idea to take a 4×4 board and imagine it as being completely water. Then I could take two pieces of foam board and make two large sections of ships that would simulate two ships having completed a broadsides volley with their guns and now would begin the boarding assault.
I wanted to make a partial pirate ship featuring the poop deck opposing a larger supply ship. I figured that the pirate ship would have gotten the jump on the supply ship, moved close, and unleashed Hell. The pirate ship will have fired it’s broadsides of guns, or at least the main compliment, and damaged the supply ship. Naval combat back in the day was tricky business. Pulling off a successful “Broadsides” could win you a victory. But you had to be close, man, real close for it to work correctly. An 18th century man of war like the HMS Victory had cannons that were only accurate at short range. Plus, the penetrating power of naval guns was mediocre; which meant that the thick hull of a well-built wooden ship could only be pierced at short ranges. These wooden ships sailed closer and closer towards each other until cannon fire would be effective. Each tried to be the first to fire a broadside,s often giving one side a decisive head start in the battle when it crippled the other ship.
And so, in my crazified brain I started plotting. The pirate crew would be boarding the supply ship. Boarding, in its simplest sense, refers to the insertion onto a ship’s deck of people. However, when it is classified as an attack, in most contexts, it refers to the insertion of personnel that are not members of the crew by another party. Boarding may be carried out during wartime by naval infantry in an attempt to seize and possibly destroy the vessel, or it may occur in peacetime by pirates and other criminals, or as a means of inspection by a nation’s coast guard (or navy) to prevent piracy and smuggling. It is used in wartime as a way to seize a vessel without destroying it, or to remove its cargo (people or goods) before it is destroyed. It can also be used to aid in the collection of naval intelligence, as soldiers boarding a sinking, crippled, or surrendered vessel could possibly recover enemy plans, cipher code books or machines. For a boarding to be successful, it must occur without the knowledge of the crew of the defending ship, or the ship’s defenses must be suppressed. All that seemed like a cool chance for some fun gaming situations!
So you can see in the picture above that I have a piece of 4×4 plywood from Lowes and two sections of salvaged blue insulation foam board cut to size to represent sections of large ships. There will be a section of Deep Water between both ships. I decided to make boarding planks and cranes to allow movement from ship to ship. I hoped it will be cool when it is all finally finished. The next step was to playtest on the board to see if it would make sense to try to use it as a real game table. You can see from the pictures that the hulls of the ships are more than large enough for practical game play and cool scenarios. I was a little worried that the models would be al cluttered and clumped up and make game play uninteresting … but that was not the case. It was a lot of fun. I was hoping that when the Pirates of the Broken Coast book came out, it might include formal rules for ship to ship combat. (It didn’t but the Call to Arms event Broken Coast Raids did offer some cool rules that linked up well with my ideas.)
The next step was to start working on the hull and figure out ways to make it start looking like a section of a pirate ship. I glued the sections of blue and white foam board together using Elmer’s White Glue All. Then I used painter’s tape and wrapped the entire thing together to hold it in place and allow it to dry. I then started to smooth out the rougher places of the hull by adding tape to the sides.
You can see (below) a few of the odds and ends I had laying on the hull at the time I took the picture. There is a small post from one of my model docks, a toy crane I picked up from Goodwill for 99 cents, a superman toy which will serve as a twin steam engine and smoke stack. A wooden boat to mount on the side of the Poop Deck. A couple of pickle barrels for stowing blades and guns on deck. And Bosun Grogspar of course. If you look at the bottom right corner you will notice my cat (“Monkey”) who is “helping” me to build the hull.
I added a white foam Dwarvenforge container to serve as an elevated part of the ship’s poop deck. Here I placed three wooden shower curtain rings that I bought at Goodwill awhile back. I started to glue them down three at a time using Elmer’s Glue All. I found out the hard way that surface tension and the expanding glue didn’t allow me to stack more than three at a time unless I wanted the rings sliding apart and ending up all crooked. I would ultimately use them to anchor the mast for the Poop Deck to the Ship.
Then I cut out a small area in the top of the main deck in order to add a cargo space. I used styrene grating that I bought awhile back. I placed a lid from an air freshener (painted silver) on the foamboard of the deck to simulate a steam vent. Now came the tedious task of using glue to affix “wood planks” to the deck. I tried to stagger the sticks in length, and cut them at odd angles sometimes to give the planks a realistic look. I then planked around the “vent” with my wooden planking. I also glued the “steam engine” into place and started to plank around it as well.
Making the “steam engine” was easy. I used a Superman toy that I had bought at Goodwill several months ago. I took the toy and carefully cut off the “ball” with a sharp knife. I then sprayed painted the “steam engine” with bright copper floral spray paint. Looking it over, I was pleased with the look of the piece. Although it doesn’t look jut like a boiler or steam engine, it’s close enough for me. In any case, it’s got smoke stacks. I hoped that in the end it would look like part of a steam engine sticking up out of the deck.
It was fairly simple to use a utility knife to cut of the Daily Bugle globe off and reveal the “smoke stack” underneath.
At this point in the project, I found out that Broken Coast Raids was being moved up to June rather than going down in September. I knew that there was no way we were going to pull off a Broken Coast Themed event in June, so I gave up for a little while. I almost chucked the entire project. However, I decided to give it another go about a week later. My main problem was figuring out how to plank the sides of the ship without having to do the thing where you wet balsa wood and then bend it. I know I don’t have the skill or the patience to do that! I’ll discuss in another post what I ended up doing to make the side planking without having to use balsa wood.
At this point in the project, I found out that Broken Coast Raids was being moved up to June rather than going down in September. I knew that there was no way we were going to pull off a Broken Coast Themed event in June, so I gave up for a little while. I almost chucked the entire project. However, I decided to give it another go about a week later. My main problem was figuring out how to plank the sides of the ship without having to do the thing where you wet balsa wood and then bend it. I know I don’t have the skill or the patience to do that!
As you can see, I had made some decent progress by this point. It almost is starting to look like a ship, or rather a section of a ship. Never meant to be the whole ship, as you know. Just a part of it. Anyway, I finished planking the entire deck in a flurry of activity one Sunday.
New additions included:
Flags. I used think dowel rods shoved directly into the foam. The flags are plastic flags stolen from a Spiderman Daily Bugle Lego set.
Rear Vents: This series of three vents is simply a Sugar-Free Peeps container turned upside down and glued in place.
Reinforced Metal Grating on Deck: These are Lemax Plaza sections which come in squares. I glued a few of them into place and will paint them to simulate metal sheets.
Side Railing on Elevated deck: These are plastic toy ladders turned on end and glued into place. They look okay.
Gargoyles: These are LEMAX Halloween Graveyard Gargoyles. Nice decorations for eye candy.
The Mast: This is several of the aforementioned wooden shower curtain hooks glued in place. I them ran another thin dowel rod down through the center of them. I then cut a hole in a 1″ diameter wooden circle sign from Michaels Craft Store to act as a makeshift crows nest platform.
The Rigging: It’s plastic rigging from the Pirates of the Caribbean Deluxe Black Pearl set.
The Mast Boom is also from the Black Pearl set.
I added a hatch in the center of the deck. This is a Warhammer 40k Cities of Death building piece that has a hatch built into it.
I added walkways on the sides of the ship, and these are again pieces from the 40k Cities of Death building sets.
The ramps leading to the Poop Deck as from the Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors Battle Base which, by the way, has a bunch of great bits which can be used for making Steampunk terrain.