New Ships, Paddlewheels on the Cheap, Oar Concepts for BDB

If you been following along with the bouncing ball, you know that I’ve been working on a 15mm fantasy boat project called BIG DANGED BOATS (If not, read more HERE).  15mm is a fun scale to paint in because it’s small enough for my mediocre painting skills to be less easy to see and large enough to highly visible on the table.  I like 15mm in a naval context as it is a good scale for boarding actions, and this game is going to emphasize that form of Naval Combat.  6mm seems to lose the figures in  the melee.  I’ve really not had a problem finding ships and items to kitbash to make into boats for this game.  Old Glory have made the bulk of them, and they are nice for the level of detail that Joel Gregory (the principle sculptor that I know of) puts into them.    However, many of the smaller OG Ships are sculpted somewhat small and narrow for big sprawling boarding action games so I’ve had to improvise and adapt a wide range of hulls from various flea market finds, toy builds, and kitbashing.  The first ships come from a couple of truly revolting finds from a flea market a long time ago.  They are resin galleys of a sort.. perhaps from the same era as “My Galley Sally” games.  They came unpainted and were clearly some sort of knockoff casting.. horrifically pitted and with poor levels of detail.  When I was building out my first ships for BDB, I was looking at these hulls, trying to figure out how they could possibly be useful.  They were at least boat shaped, but it would take hours and hours of effort– filling with putty and sanding smooth– to make these hulls look even mediocre.  OR.. I could make them a kind of ship that actually is SUPPOSED to look rotten, and that is the approach I went with.  Here are the DEADNOUGHT and BLACK GALLEY, Ships for the Bone Brigade faction in BDB.    These two ships are oar powered by Undead Crews that never feel fatigue, which gives them an advantage in this game.  Unlike other ships in the middle sea, Bone Brigade ships do not use Boom Powder weapons.   Count Saliestro, the head of the Bone Brigade (a Vampire), is a trifle conservative about modern inn0vations, and prefers to use the giant rock lobbing capabilities of the Deadnought for missile fire.


The Deadnought from the Bone Brigade
Deadnought Bridge
Top of the superstructure, DEADNOUGHT, with Count Saliestro, center.
Close up, Bone Brigade crew getting ready to fight
Black Galley
The Black Galley, another horrible casting I found in a flea market. I’ll have make this look even MORE pitted and rotten to make it match the horrendous Deadnought.

Making Oar Sets for Resin Galleys

One regrettable feature of naval warfare in this scale is that oars are rarely sculpted or depicted. Since maneuvers that take out oars are part of BDB, I wanted to represent them somehow. There’s no easy way as I haven’t found many standalone oar sculpts in this size. I’m experimenting with a representational (not factual) indicator of Oars in this game, by creating a sort of faux oar bank that I can attach to the sides. Here is the oar set for the Deadnought (still incomplete).

Kit-bashed Oar set for 15mm galley. I used a 1/4 by 1/4 piece of basswood, drilled holes in the sides at an angle and inserted bamboo skewers into the holes. Then another slightly wider piece of basswood on top of that and a piece of styrene on top of that. Not the most elegant approach, but it does LOOK like oars from a distance, and they don’t look half bad painted up.


The Ragnar Brothers are a pair of piratical Berserkers that plague the Middle Sea Shipping lanes. Their ships, FREYA and RED RAGNAROK, have very little in the way of organic missile fire due to the conservative nature of the Ragnar Brothers, who prefer to close and board in a battle fury rather than stand off and fire a Boom Powder gun, which they view as dishonorable. Álfráðr Ragnar, the captain of the RED RAGNAROK, has recently capitulated and mounted a couple of light swivel guns on the stern end of his ship, but these are not capable of doing a lot of damage. As the Ragnar Brothers have a bonus for boarding melee, it is unwise for any captain to discount these swift and deadly ships when they are sighted on the horizon. Ship Notes: these are a couple of the Dragon Wars Viking ships, with minor modifications. I added a fighting platform at the top of the mast on the Freya, just for an archery platform. Each ship should carry about 15 crew of mixed bowmen and melee troops with no reinforcements.

Ragnar Brothers Ships: Red Ragnarok and Freya
Red Ragnarok. Swivel guns hidden by sail.
The Freya. Fighting platform cut off from view


The Seng are often vilified by inhabitants of the Middle Sea for introducing Boom Powder to an already deadly and contentious state of affairs. The Seng regard themselves as opportunists and traders rather than outright combatants, but they won’t hesitate to get involved in an armed melee, especially if it furthers their trading interests. Ship notes: The Flagship is a roughly 15mm scaled toy from a Pirates of the Caribbean playset, and Scarlet Castle is a junk resin model from Old Glory.

The Seng Flagship is a large War Junk probably more heavily armed than any other ship on the Middle Sea, which is no surprise as the Seng hold the monopoly on Boom Powder.
The Scarlet Castle, a “Junk” model from Old Glory. It doesn’t look particularly junk-like to me, but it works as a Battle Barge. The Castle gets towed into a battle area and serves as a gun platform. Armed with 2 cannons and a rocket battery, it can be a formidable opponent.

So that’s about it for new ships online this week. The Deadnought has been hanging around for years, actually, but now the rest of the shipbuilding is catching up with it.

One last item:


I have a lot of models of steam powered craft in 15mm, but very few depicted with any obvious motive power. I can assume that all steamboats are driven by a submerged screw, but where is the fun in that? I like paddlewheels and want to add them to my steam ship models. The problem is there is nobody that I can find that makes a paddlewheel in 15mm scale, nor have I found a lot of obvious candidates for a shape I could kit-bash into a paddlewheel. The other day, when in an A.C. Moore, I found myself in the wood bits bin and found a large spindle shape that look just about right.. about 2.5 inches long, flaring at both ends, and a hole down the middle.

Make your own paddlewheel components

Construction was pretty simple. I cut off about 1/4 of one side of the spindle with a fine hacksaw. I then traced the cut wheel on paper, flipped it over and marked where to cut the wheel on each end and drew a line with a ruler. The resulting cut spindle is surprisingly stable and flat. Then I marked around the wheel about every 1/4 inch, and cut a notch into it for the blades. I cut the blades out of thin balsa stripping. Glue them in the notches around the wheel, and voila, you have a very nice looking paddlewheel. Execution time was about 45 minutes start to finish.

The finished paddle wheel mounted on the Gnome’s Siege Machine. I think it looks great. I’m not giving this a closeup as I tried priming it with rustoleum dark brown and the paint got all cakey from the humidity (embarrassed face)

Really, there’s not much left to build when it comes to ships. Captain Stench and the Zombie Pirates for the most part, though I may add another Dwarf ship to act like a launcher for the Da-Vinci style gliders. For the most part the crews are all painted and there’s a lot of happy to glad stuff to do on the ship models, but I’m going to be tightening up the rules between now and Historicon as my first priority.

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