Scaling Down!

For a couple of months I’ve been cleaning, basing, priming and base-coating 20mm figures ready to paint them in the coming months.  But before starting to finish off any of those figures I’ve jumped back into a different scale and type (genre maybe?) of wargaming.  And, almost fortuitously, Ann over at Ann’s Immaterium launched her first monthly painting challenge, so I thought I’d sign up for that.  The challenge was entitled “March Magic & Might” but I chose to interpret that as “March Magic & Might Get Painted This Month” and Ann generously widened the scope of models that could be considered for the challenge!  As it turns out (see later) I also managed a somewhat contrived magical link in my subject matter!

As well as having neglected models stashed away waiting to be painted, I’ve got neglected armies that I’ve never added anything new to for years.  Over the last year or so I’ve tried to add extra figures/units to these armies and get them out for for a wargame (and my Boxer Rebellion armies are a good example of that).  But one set of models that I’ve never touched for a very long time are my WW2 naval forces in 1/600 and 1/700 scales, so I thought it was time to make some progress with them!

Way back in the 90s I started collecting WW2 coastal forces craft, mostly in 1/600 by Skytrex and SDD.  I bought quite a few Royal Navy and Kriegsmarine ships and a handful of Regia Marina craft, painted them, had quite a few games with them using several different sets of rules and then seemed to just put them away.  After collecting some American Civil War ships in 1/600 by Peter Pig, my interest in naval wargames was re-kindled and I bought quite a few 1/600 WW2 coastal forces ships from the PT Dockyard in the USA.  These were duly built, primed and put away for safe keeping!  More recently I’ve managed to get some WW2 1/700 3-D printed ships from Shapeways, so I thought it was high time I worked on my WW2 navies (I’m a bit sloppy about this – I’ll happily mix 1/600 and 1/700 scale ships together, since most of the time they look fine.  This lets me make use of the large number of 1/700 plastic, resin and 3-D printed models available to fill out gaps in navies.  Having said that, the range of ships available from the PT Dockyard is huge and covers a lot of the rarer vessels that saw service in WW2).


Having written my own set of simplified rules, I decided to make a start on my Italian Regia Marina forces, since they’re relatively small and manageable as far as painting’s concerned.  Back in the 90s I painted a couple of Skytrex metal MS Type 1 motor torpedo boats (MTBs) and VAS Type 3 anti-submarine launches and these are shown in the picture above, with a close up of the VAS boats below (in this scale, the slightly larger VAS boats are about 50mm/2 inches long, so these models are half the size of the new Cruel Seas range of ships from Warlord Games).


I had little info on colour schemes back then, so painted them light grey with wood decks, some patchy grey areas and rust streaks from metal fittings.  I still want to use these models, but rather than re-paint them all I’ve done is paint the base in PlastiKote gloss Harbour Blue and hand paint an identification number on the base in light grey.  Irritatingly, after I took these pictures I snapped the mast off one of the MS Type 1s so had to repair that and touch up the paint!  Since I know that I’ll never be able to make and paint a reasonable looking sea base for these models, with waves, wakes etc. I just paint the bases plain blue and live with that (I’d rather not base ships, but the underside of the base has magnetic rubber sheet on it to help store them, and it give me somewhere to paint their IDs).


So, first of the new models to get painted were two MAS555 series MTBs (one is shown above – it’s only about 40mm long), these models being resin 1/600 models from the PT Dockyard.  The models come with small parts like guns moulded in a sheet rather than on a sprue so they have to be carefully cut out, and some filling is sometimes needed for any small blowholes in the hulls, but that’s easy enough to do.  The finish is light grey overall with darker grey decks and red/white air identification stripes on the foredeck.  Because the models are so small, I didn’t bother with any shading and just added some subtle highlights to raised edges to pick them out.  I was quite surprised I managed to paint the stripes and the number on the base freehand without them looking too bad!


Next up is RD49, a small minesweeper, again from the PT Dockyard (above) and shown below with the two MAS boats.


I got an excellent book on Italian WW2 ship camouflage and that said most small vessels didn’t generally carry camouflage later in the war, even though they may have at some time earlier.


Going up in size, the next ship to get painted was Driade, a Gabbiano class corvette (shown above, and here is the somewhat tenuous link to magic in the title of Ann’s challenge, since dryads are tree nymphs and this is the closest I’ll ever come to painting something that, to me, could be considered magical)!  This model was an old 1/600 Skytrex one and had a one-piece hull that need a lot of filling and filing.  The bridge was cast as a solid lump with the hull, so I had to paint it as best I could to represent the overhanging bridge wings.


Next ship is Turbine, namesake of that class of destroyer, in 1/700 and a 3-D print from Shapeways.  A lot of these models are designed for smaller scales like 1/1800 or 1/2400 but are available in larger scales as well, although some of the detail is then less refined.  This model scaled up well and is really nice and all I’ve added are masts and twin 20mm AA guns amidships.


Last, but not least, is Lince, a Spica class torpedo boat (small destroyer) in 1/600 from the PT Dockyard and a nice model.  Once again, all I’ve added are masts and 20mm guns.  I had to do a bit more research with this one to identify which ships in the class were fitted with four single torpedo tubes (others had one twin and two single tubes).  Looking at the camouflage schemes in my book I opted to go for Sagittario until I realised I need to hand paint the name on the base, so I opted for Lince!  I’ve also opted not to paint rust streaks on ships now, since it makes them easier to paint and I think I used to be a bit over-zealous with the rust!


So, the picture above shows my WW Italian navy and I’m really pleased at getting them done.  Turbine was a larger ship that Lince, but the larger 1/600 scale of the latter means they come out about the same length (they’re both about 125mm/5 inches long) and Turbine doesn’t really appear to be a smaller scale (1/700).  I quite enjoyed painting this lot and they’re easier to paint than figures or tanks.  Problem is that I now fancy trying to get some more ships painted at the expense of all those other figures I’d already prepared to work on next!


  1. thats an amazing fleet you have there John, are you intending to war with them or just fancied a change from the norm, the the only torpedo boat i remember is the PT109, for some reason the name stuck in my head.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Steve, glad you like them! I’ll hopefully get some games played with them, but I did enjoy the change painting them and found them a big change from the more usual stuff. I already have Royal Navy opposition for them, since my British ships were painted years ago. PT109 was John F. Kennedy’s boat, rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer in the Solomons campaign during WW2, so that’s probably why you remember it! I have a lot of ships planned (and most built, based and primed) including US Navy craft for both early and late WW2, along with ships for some of the lesser known campaigns in WW2 – I’m deliberately avoiding listing them in case I don’t make much progress!

      Liked by 2 people

      • so thats why i must remember it, i believe it was either a film about it, or it was mentioned in a film. You have a busy time ahead but an enjoyable one, if you need any armies painting i will gladly help you, just let me know.

        Liked by 2 people

        • For some reason I missed your comment! You’re probably right about the film reference! Thank you for the kind offer of painting armies/figures – I’m OK at the moment, since I’m mainly adding small bits and pieces to the armies I’ve got, but I’ll keep you in mind! If you want to try painting some metal or plastic 20mm/1:72 figures for yourself as test subjects, let me know and I’ll have a look for any odds and sods that might be kicking around here, although I wouldn’t be able to get anything posted to you at the moment!

          Liked by 2 people

          • Thank you John, i have bought a few vikings to play with and i have a few waterloo models on the way so i have a few to go at, although they wont be problem to paint. Stay safe..

            Liked by 2 people

  2. Very nice ships and little flotilla you have there and I’m happy you decided to make them part of the painting challenge. Glad to see that your sailors have gotten more diligent about not letting their ships get so rusty! I like the colorful identification marks and the pretty life rafts and such on the Driade, which add a welcome bit of color in with the camo pattern. That is neat too, that in addition to the the “Might Get Painted” theme, you were indeed (and I was skeptical that you would pull it off) did manage to weasel in a bit of a magical theme. Well done, indeed!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks Ann! I really did enjoy painting this lot! The Italian navy obviously thought having life rafts in bright colours was a good idea and it must have helped in rescue situations. As far as the air identification markings go, it seems that ships operating in Greek waters had the stripes applied in the opposite direction to mine, which are correct for the rest of the Mediterranean. I think the Regia Marina had quite a good reputation in WW2, at least the smaller craft, but it suffered from severe fuel shortages. And of course, I may just have called the corvette Driade ’cause it was a shorter name to paint on a base than Gabbiano! 😉

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Lovely job, John.
    I love to see a fleet of ships like this on the tabletop, and it has piqued my interest to look around at what’s currently available, game-wise, in this area.
    I’ve been checking out Victory at Sea from Warlord games, but I need to do more research as I’ve never played a Naval based war-game before – any recommendations?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Justin, glad you liked them! 🙂 Hmmm, a tricky question! Warlord Games seem to be going big on this, with Cruel Seas and Victory At Sea for WW2 but I don’t know how they play (and naval rules can be tricky things). I have played Sails Of Glory by Ares Games (Napoleonic naval) once with someone who bought it and that seemed quite good – you can at least buy a starter set for that and see how it goes I suppose. Most of the games systems already mentioned that come as complete packages offering rules, models, scenery etc. tend to be more pricey though. But the above-mentioned are probably worth looking at in more detail.

      I’ve got ACW ships by Peter Pig, that are relatively cheap but maybe not as polished as those mentioned above, but they’re fine when cleaned up and painted. I think Peter Pig also sell the “Hammerin’ Iron” rules for ACW ship combat, which is almost worth buying for the name of the rules!

      I’ve now rationalised my naval rules and written my own set of WW2 rules, since the previous sets I used for coastal forces combat seemed a bit too detailed and time consuming to play. My rules are based around the Full Thrust starship combat rules that knock off hull boxes for hits on ships with damage assessed once any full row of boxes is removed. I’m moving more towards simple rules that tend to give realistic games these days, but haven’t had the chance to try out my WW2 naval rules yet.

      Not sure if this has been any help I’m afraid, but I’ll be interested to hear how you get on!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for that quite comprehensive answer John.
        I think WW2 is more up my street for Naval battles; not sure I want the added complication of having to take wind direction into consideration for movement!
        I’ve taken a quick look around and there’s actually quite a few different systems around. I suppose, once I have a reasonable number of ships, then it will be easy enough to find a rule-set that I’d be happy with, or just adapt one to my own liking.
        I’ll let you know if I take the plunge!
        Thanks again John 👍

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice work there John, I’m glad you mentioned there size in inches as I’m not to flash when it comes to scales apart from my own 1/72, you did well painting these as it is good to do something different every so often .

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Lord Commander! I was surprised the freehand stuff came out as well as it did! I’m still doing some ships in between other bits and pieces – the good thing about ships is I can just do one if I want to, rather than be thinking I need to be painting units of people!


  5. These look sweet, John! I’ve always liked the way that naval games look(ed) and always been tempted, but without any like-minded players they’ve been an easy pass. I did pick up some “War at Sea” prepaint boxes years ago, but never got to play). The combination of the camo and the striping looks great as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Azazel! 🙂 I’ve always liked ships and tried to do naval gaming on and off since my teens, when we used to scratchbuild ships from card. I’ve enjoyed painting these, since it gives me the chance to paint one or two at a time and, as long as they’re small ships, they don’t take too long to do! I was a bit daunted by the air recognition stripes and expected to arse them up and have to correct them quite a bit, but in the end they weren’t too bad to do! The camouflage took longer because I was working from the views in the book but I’m happy with the results.


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