Sunday, December 11, 2022

Roman Playmobile Galley Conversion

Converted Playmobile ship, adding the artillery tower and corvus.

I have a bee in my bonnet to do an Ancients naval game with my 54mm Republican Romans and Carthaginians. To that end, I have been collecting an assortment of Playmobile Roman and Greek galley boats for this game.

The Greek boats are okay "as is", but I plan on painting them myself, rather than play with them in their original plastic colors. The Roman boats need a "Corvus" which is a boarding ramp that they developed for ship to ship and hand to hand melees. The corvus looks like a long bridge with a large spike at the front underside. As the Roman boat would draw near to the Carthaginian boat, the Romans would lower the corvus with a winch and the iron spike would embed itself into the deck of the enemy ship. Then the Roman legionaries would cross over the corvus bridge and engage the enemy in hand to hand combat.

Conversion (left) and Original (right)
The corvus has been lowered from the ship on the left onto the ship on the right.

In theory, the Carthaginians were better sailors than the Romans and so the Romans invented the corvus so that they could take advantage of their superior skills in hand to hand combat, on the deck of the ships. In practice though, the Roman navy was very skilled and they often got the better of the Carthaginian ships in naval battles. Furthermore, the Romans' advantage in financial wherewithal meant that they could crank out hundreds of new warships to replace and outnumber the Carthaginian fleet.

So for my Roman galleys I needed to add a corvus to the deck. I would also need to add a wooden tower onto the deck from which to fire their "artillery" (large bolts of flaming arrows).

Here are some pictures of my new Roman galley. As always, click on the picture to enlarge the view.

The tower is made from Balsa wood, painted light grey, and the stones were painted onto the surface.
These towers were made from wood and  painted to look like stone. There would be archers stationed in the tower
where they would have a good line of sight on the opposing ship.

Comparison of the converted model (left) with the original model (right).

The corvus has been lowered onto the ship on the right.
The plank has to be wide enough to accommodate my 40mm round bases.

The corvus is made from a 3/8-diameter dowel rod which I fit through a hole in the deck. Below deck, there is a plastic bottle cap with a hole in it into which sits the dowel rod. This allows the dowel rod to pivot on the deck.  Another bottle cap is placed on the deck to provide stability to the corvus, which can get fairly top heavy so it needs some sort of support.

The plank portion of the corvus is sized long enough to reach the other vessel. It also had to be wide enough to hold my individual figures that I mount on 40mm round bases. If you look at the first picture above, you can see that I made a cut out on the plank so that it fits around the dowel rod. I then drilled holes through the dowel and through the plank and inserted a piece of brass rod. This allows the plank to swivel up and down. A piece of chain connects from the dowel rod to the end of the plank so that the plank can be raised or lowered as needed.

Once I figured out how to engineer the manufacturing of the corvus, the construction and assembly was relatively easy. Now that I know how to do this, the other three Roman galleys should be easier to build. Even if one were hesitant to do this extra conversion work, the simple matter of painting the ship with your own paints makes a world of difference in the appearance of the galley. Thus, all of my ships will be primed and painted.

I had briefly considered adding some balsa wood planking to the deck, but this would have added a level of complexity that I was not ready to take on. Besides, the deck looks fine with a dry brushing of the plastic planks. In several areas, I had to cut off and file down the round plastic pegs on the deck that are used to support the Playmobile figures. This was not a big deal.

I probably won't use any of the decals that come with the galley because they don't look right with the painting and conversion work. I still have to paint an "eye" on each side of the bow and maybe do some red highlighting on the hull before I consider the model finished.

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