(Original Article by Phil Sensibaugh, edited by Bill Pickl and Strike Models) Note: this is one section of a comprehensive model warship construction manual originally published on the BDE/RC website. This section is applicable to both Big Gun and Fast Gun combat.
First things first – decide what ship you want to build.
This decision alone may take many months of procrastination while sorting out all the facts that seem pertinent when in reality, it doesn’t make all that much difference. I have participated in about 50 RC combat warship battles over the past five years and have followed the action of other clubs closely. One thing that I have learned is generally, there is no such thing as a bad boat. Assuming a boat is reliable and well balanced so it is seaworthy, and put in the hands of a skipper that has learned how to use the features of the particular ship to his advantage any ship can be an effective part of a team.
Ask yourself why you want to participate in this hobby.
Presumably the reason is to occupy free time and consume some disposable cash, for this hobby will certainly do that, but more likely the real reason is to have fun. The best way to have fun is to have a ship that is reliable and seaworthy. It’s very frustrating to have your ship role over and sink as soon as it begins to take on water, or to spend the day sitting at the side of the pond working on your ship instead of participating in the game.
Consider a used ship as your first ship.
This will allow you to begin playing the game sooner and there is no better way to decide what ship fits your style than to participate in the game for awhile in order to learn your strengths and weaknesses. If you go this route, you want to see the ship in person and in action — there are too many sad stories of buying a ship sight-unseen and not having it be as represented (broken, inoperable, rotted, rusted, etc.). Ideally the owner will allow you to battle the ship before you purchase it and to have an experienced third party examine the ship. If you like how it responds to your style of battling and it operates reliably through the day it is a good choice to get you in the game quickly. When you get a ship test all systems to ensure that they work, and how they work, then use this ship to gain combat experience and as a construction aid and test bed for your new ideas. That’s right. To test out your new ideas. About every modeler I have ever known has his or her own ways of accomplishing tasks and you will find yourself asking, “Why did the original builder do it this way?” Most often there was a reason, but sometimes it was just a mistake, an attempt to implement a new idea that didn’t work very well. There is no substitute for experience in building a ship and learning combat techniques.
Avoid small ships and complex ships for your first building experience.
There are many operational systems in our warships and every system is equally important in its own right. Think about it, which is more important, cannon, drive motors, pump, steering, or balance? After a little reflection you will probably decide that all systems are equally important since your ship won’t be combat effective if any of these systems don’t work well. It’s by far and away easier to learn the basics of maintenance and installation on a ship that has fewer operational systems. It is easier to get the hardware installed in a larger ship. Small ships test the talents of the most skilled builder. For your first ship you will be well advised to build a larger ship rather than a smaller one. Larger ships are more survivable in combat as well.
Keep it simple.
Another sound tidbit of advice would be don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Stick to the basic and proven methods of implementing a function. Look at the ships of the seasoned skippers and pay attention to how they implement the various functions, then follow suit.