More Old Bits Of Cardboard!

I’ve actually managed to get a small amount of stuff painted recently, despite concentrating on preparing figures for painting in the next few months.  But I’m going to leave the new stuff until maybe the next post and in the meantime come back to something I mentioned earlier in the year.

Having done recent posts on my Boxer Rebellion Chinese and Allied forces, I thought that I should maybe feature some of the ships that I scratchbuilt in 20mm scale to go with them.  Some of these ships could be used for games set as far back as the mid-19th Century, whilst others would be OK in a WW1 setting.  All of them are scratchbuilt from card and they’re semi-scale i.e. they incorporate features of the classes of ship they represent but with reduced overall dimensions to let them fit on a wargames table.  By my reckoning, all of these models are at least 20 years old.


For my 1880- to 1900-period Chinese I built a floating battery, basically a wooden raft with an armoured box housing cannon or field guns (shown above).  It has a basic command bridge and a rudimentary steam engine to allow it to change position or prevent it from drifting with a current.


I made some open gun ports and left enough room to get guns and crewmen in as I need them (leaving enough room for the UK 1p pieces I use as bases for infantry figures).


Next up is a flatiron gunboat (above), so named because their shapes resembled the irons used for pressing laundry (which, based on my usual appearance and dress sense, is something my wife says I know nothing about)!  These were common in European and Chinese navies, so it’s a handy model to have.  It’s shown here with a French crew and the forward gun can be lifted out to get crew round it when required.


As well as the flatiron gunboat, I built a couple of wooden gunboats and these can be used by just about anyone (shown below).


These gunboats have panels in the gunwales either side of the gun that were kept up to improve sea-keeping or dropped down to allow the gun to fire.  I scratchbuilt the guns and carriages in their entirety, based on pictures of the guns used on American Civil War vessels, and was really pleased with them.


As well as gunboats, I also wanted some early torpedo boats (shown below), so I built a couple of very small vessels with a bow-mounted single torpedo tube and an armoured conning tower with a Gatling gun on top of it.  These are more typical of 1890 period vessels I think, and are based on a French boat if I remember correctly.  They can be used by just about anyone and would still be OK for use in a WW1 or Balkan Wars setting.


For a more capable craft I also built a 1900-period destroyer for my Allied forces, again based on a French design (see below).  It was also quite usable as a WW1 destroyer once I added an extra gun mount that could be placed in the bridge platform and this model also featured in my re-fight of German operations in the Baltic in 1917 as posted here.


Last, but not least, are three steam lighters (below) that can be used to transfer men or supplies from ship to shore.  One of them has a modified control position with an armoured screen to protect the crew in the event of a opposed landing.


I think I’ve managed to use all of these models in a game at some point or other and I quite like being able to add an amphibious or naval aspect to wargames.  At some point, though, I think I need to get some more crew figures painted for them.


  1. Very impressive! The paintjob is maybe a tad cartoonish by today’s standards, but the models are beautifully built and with really nice details. I also like the matching deck bases on the crew!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fabulous array of boats you have there John, it has to be admired the amount of research you must do to keep these within scale and coloured correctly, let alone what navy had them..

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Some nice boats, and like others have said, I like the rust too. I like the figures as well and how you did the one with wooden plank bases. I wonder if the figures, besides providing eye appeal, might be useful to represent Hull Points, Attack or Defense Dice that lessen as the ship takes damage, etc.?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Ann! The figures on the planked bases were dropped into a hole cut into plasticard so their feet were sort of flush and then just puttied in and painted. Good idea about the figures used as markers! 🙂 To be honest I can’t even remember what my special rules for ships are now!


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