Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Wargaming Project - WoSS target date December 2018 - Malburian, Ramillies in 28mm

Note to self: Malburian Battle Reference Site


I intend to contribute a painted unit of 28mm French (actually Spanish Walloon) troops [18 painted figures] - the Grimaldi Brigade for Ramillies which sounds like a low-end supermarket to me (see reference below):

Wish me luck this is my first WoSS 28mm painting project in this period!

The Walloons apparently like coats of "Green" ;)

PS: Any handy tips for painting this period appreciated!

Monday, 21 May 2018

Blood Red Skies: Battle of Britain - Bomber Escort Mission (Part 3)

The Hurricanes tussle with the Me110's having a tough battle with the frontal passes (see below)

Mixing it up they find contrary to popular belief the Me 110s can be nimble and actually having the drop on speed against the Hurricane move and hence can shoot first (see below):

Numbers should help though as four more Hurricane friends swoop in to assist (see below):

Meanwhile in the entangled melee of Spitfires and Me109s the two Germans are fighting for their lives. Although not shot down the Germans have acquired five "boom" chits through narrow misses from the Spitfires shooting. Two more "boom chits" and the formation will break its morale and run for home. This was the gamble the British player sought as he passed the Me109's head on (perhaps a bit too risky on calmer reflection). The Spitfires also got in some telling side shots but failed to get on Jerries' tail and produce a clear kill (see below):

Realising that the key was to down the bombers a Spitfire pair broke through to get the Dorniers. Two hits required to down a bomber so you have to be persistent. The good news was that if you hit them the bombers have a very poor chance to dodge unlike those crafty Me109 fighters. One bomber was sent spiralling down in flames but a Spitfire paid the ultimate price (always watch your six) as a Me109 got on its tail and downed it. However only one more German bomber downed to 'stop the raid' (see below):

A wider panoramic view sees the Spitfires giving the lone Me109 hell, but with a Skill of 4 the German pilot is just managing just to hold it together, praying for the other escorting Me109s to come to his aid. Luckily for him the frantic cries of the bomber crews have released them from their static positions and eight fighter escorts sweep down [4 x Me110s and 4 x Me109s] at an 'advantaged' state (see below):

Across the other side of the table and to overuse a common wartime phrase, "all hell breaks loose" (again) as the Hurricanes have to deal with four Me110s arriving just at the wrong time (if you are wearing RAF Blue). Cannon fire sweeps the sky. One Hurricane pilot pays the ultimate sacrifice and the mission suddenly looks to be "hanging in the balance" or rather "gone to rat-poo". Off camera the Spitfires fair better and manage to survive the initial onslaught of the 'bouncing' four additional Me109s, and eventually break the Me109's squadron morale. The Me109s will "bug out" having still their complete number plus one enemy (precious Spitfire) kill to their credit, although they failed to protect the bombers! That certainly will not go down well at Headquarters back in France. (see below):

The bravery and skill of the Hurricane pilots pays dividends as "F" for "Freddie" gets in amongst the bombers and in a skilful display of "this is how you do it" with two shots in one turn downs the second Dornier, thus breaking the German Bomber Squadron's morale. With nothing left to protect the Me110s are more concerned for their own safety and 'also 'break off'. The Me110's claim two kills. Three RAF fighters were lost in total to two Germans bombers (three engines to four engines in Albert Speer terms). The RAF claim a strategic win as the bombers did not get through (see below, the Hurricanes bring home the bacon):

Back in France a different sort of hell breaks loose. The Bomber Squadrons again complain of "no protection" from the fighters. They claim the beloved fighter tactic of "High Escorts" is a flawed concept. What is the point of having any fighters at all, if they don't turn up until the bombers are being attacked and shot down. The German fighter pilots are appalled as this means meeting Spitfires on very unequal terms - which one particular Level Skill 4 Me109 pilot knows will probably be the end of his Me109 squadron. He returns home to his squadron after the unruly staff conference to hear the hearty sing song from the officers canteen. This is bitter sweet as they are in good spirits. He knows for sure there will be far less Luftwaffe pilots returning from the next mission thanks to Goering's decision to deploy "close escorts" so that the "bombers will get through".

Meanwhile a recently "downed" and abashed Spitfire pilot is being lectured by a more experienced comrade. "Listen Fango [his Mess nickname], you would have still been in the air if you had thought a little quicker and performed the 'defensive tactics' [a card in the British player's hand] manoeuvre interrupting the Hun with a simple 'tight turn', then that nasty blighter of on Me109 would not have been on your tail and you wouldn't have been at a disadvantage. It's like a game of cards Fango, don't miss a trick. Now take a look at the new Spitfire we've got for you and get a good night's sleep. You'll be up again tomorrow."

PS: Once again thanks to Renko for the hosting the game with very nice models and a much more complete understanding of the rules. In the words of Amazon and Whiskers if you like the above, nine out of ten cats who expressed a preference, also liked: https://twtrb.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/blood-red-skies-over-channel-tale-of-j.html?showComment=1526677918061#c7630556548291730388

PPS: Many thanks to Asgard Games for hosting this event. Always nice to have access to a hot cup of tea during a wargame ;)

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Blood Red Skies: Battle of Britain - Bomber Escort Mission (Part 2)

The Hurricanes rose in unison to get to an "advantaged" position to meet the threat posed by the twin-engines, double-seated with 'evil' rear gunner. They do shift and have a special "agile"ability card which takes them out of the "bomber clumsy" category (see below):

The battle had broken down into two separate dog-fights: the Hurricanes versus the Me110's and the Spitfires versus the Me109s (see below):

When you go through a cloud (see middle of the picture below) you reset your status to "neutral" (see below):

The bombers make their clumsy was forwards. The German commander was reconsidering teh wisdom of setting their initial position to "disadvantaged" as I could not see how they could gain a better status in the tactical context of this dogfight. It simply takes the bombers too long to do anything in comparison to the nimble fighters. Once you are in a "disadvantaged" position it is very "easy" to get shot down (see below):

Meanwhile the Spitfires were keen to press ahead with their advantage in numbers over the pair of Me 109s and harass the German fighters out of the game before the extra German "top cover" could descend (see below): 

Snowdrop  Leader: "Tally Ho!" Game on. The Spitfires try a head-on attack against the Me 109s which allows the Germans to fire back. A dangerous tactic as the Me 109 has two nasty 20mm cannons and a heavier weight of fire (see below, the red tracer of 'the first round of combat'):

All depended on the "luck of the nice" but the Spits had their "blood up"!

Next: "Achtung Spitfire!"

PS: Thanks to Renko for the hosting the game with very nice models and a much more complete understanding of the rules. In the words of Amazon and Whiskers if you like the above, nine out of ten cats who expressed a preference, also liked: https://twtrb.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/blood-red-skies-over-channel-tale-of-j.html?showComment=1526677918061#c7630556548291730388

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Blood Red Skies: Battle of Britain - Bomber Escort Mission (Part 1)

Somewhere over France 1940, the German Luftwaffe masses its planes for a strike into the heart of England with a deadly combination of single-seater (Me109s), twin-engined (Me110's) and twin-engined bombers (what looked to me as Dorniers, but I could be wrong. A vast armada of 15 planes against 12 RAF - six Spitfires and six Hurricanes (see below, which is good odds for the RAF in 1940):

The Germans place the bomber formation [3] on the table (middle left) with two pairs of low level escorts on table [2 x Me109 + 2 x Me110], with the remainder in two flights of "high escorts" [4 x Me109 + 4 x Me 110] that come into play as soon as a "boom chit" is placed on a German bomber (see below): 

Spot the difference? The inclination of a plane indicated its state - facing up means "at advantage", level means "neutral" and facing down means at disadvantage which means it is relatively easy to be shot down. The German opts to disadvantage his bombers but advantage his fighters as per the scenario specific options. The Spitfires (top right) and Hurricanes (bottom right) entered in three 'wing-man' pairs (see below, answers on a postcard):

The Spitfires (me) race in eager to press home an advantage on the Me109s by sheer weight of numbers. The planes are too far away from each other for combat (see below, note clouds do block line of sight and revert status to neutral which could be 'good' or 'bad'):

Another better photograph of the same scene (see below):

The Hurricanes "amble" in. Their opposition are the Me110's. I thought these would just be a liability however I was dutifully informed they pack a considerable punch and are not clumsy bombers but flown well can give Hurricane pilots sleepless nights (which was news to me). The British players played a special Radar card to allow them to improve their individual plane statuses (see below)

We were all set up and now about to enter combat range. It is not an IGYO system but dependant on skill level and status to determine "who goes next". This means random patches of excitement happen all over the board and the safe determinism of hex based board games is  nowhere in sight.

PS: Thanks to Renko for the hosting the game with very nice models and a much more complete understanding of the rules. In the words of Amazon and Whiskers if you like the above, nine out of ten cats who expressed a preference, also liked: https://twtrb.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/blood-red-skies-over-channel-tale-of-j.html?showComment=1526677918061#c7630556548291730388

Friday, 18 May 2018

Friends, Romans (in Warloard Games 28mm hard plastic) and Countryman .. are calling me!

Yes I remember these now classic figures first from a plastic giveaway by Warlord Games. I remember them taking the wargame world by storm, being the first of the 28mm plastic revolution. The sexy Early Imperial Roman Legionary was literally given away "in the early part of this century" attached to a Wargames magazine (Wargames Illustrated I think). I painted it. It nearly killed me (tortured perhaps is a better word) but I finished it (see below, I was happy!):

You see I was mostly a WWII man at that time, my Greek ancients were metal and in 15mm - so what use had I for this 28mm giant? But it had a certain beguile about, a charm. I knew it was a wargame classic. Everybody else seemed to be painting hoards of 28mm plastic ancients; Early Imperial Romans fought Ancient Britons across the tabletop terrain in every club .. Warhammer Historical and then Impetus if I remember correctly, even DBA/DBM (or DBMM). Some day I said to myself, me too. A 'decade' later I picked up these Early Imperial Roman warriors (Starter Set) on eBay for a song, then paid as much as again for half the number of 'other' figures (cavalry and slingers) from Warlord Games in metal to finish off the required types (and I am still missing a Scorpion)! So back to the roots of things and the painting guide at the back of the Warhammer Historical Ancient Battles rules (see below):

"The Guide and my current Bible" to painting an Early Imperial Roman Legionary:

Following the instructions in the Warhammer Historical painting guidelines the figures were first undercoated white and then blocked in base colours - which I describe as "my teenager level of painting" just put some colour on the figures as a basic starting point, with no concept of needing layers (see below, my "tester sample of eight" alongside my original and its hand painted shied):

The white undercoat (from my healthy stock of Airfix Acrylic 34, from my many an Airfix starter kit [as yet unmade but their paints and brushes plundered], as I still have been unable to find a supply of Airfix 01 Grey Acrylic primer in the hobby stores I frequent) certainly does make the applied colours brighter, but I personally don't like the way is shows up "the bits you missed", unlike black or dark brown (see below): 

Okay I am thinking I could fall into a brainless "Factory System" here, which is a good thing. My first eight of the sixty basic legion in the starter box. I am still unsure how I am going to base them. Single sabots (suitable for Warhammer Ancient Battles or Hail Caesar) or fixed to a diorama base (Impetus) or blocks of four (for DBA or DBM/DBMM - the latter is highly unlikely)?

Next: The Legion awaits a "brown" and a "black" wash on different parts of their bodies ;)     

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Dawn Patrol with the Canvas Eagles (Part 2) Finale

No sooner had the RFC flyers confidence been boosted by riddling two German planes with bullets they experienced an event that literally brought them "down to earth". Or rather one of their comrades. A huge fireball explosion stunned the flyers of both sides as a "lucky shot" exploded a SE5a's fuel tank. Instant KIA (see below):

The RFC retaliation was brutally swift as an Albatross's wings folded back and canvas splayed against the wind. The plane plunging wildly out of control. Both sides planes now drew back to take stock as a fourth SE5a entered the fray and a second Pfalz (the dead players neatly took up a new plane each).  The final contest was about to begin with each sides pilots checking their fuel gauges (see below):

The RFC possessed a killer pilot whose innate cunning took the fight to the Germans; finding himself in a target rich environment he pressed on, lining up a 'tail' on the damaged Yellow Pfalz. The Pfalz was caught in the cross-hairs of the SE5a and a nicely aimed burst hit its engine. The engine spluttered to a stop and the plane started to glide. More bullets then tore into its already damaged tail. Suffering critical damaged an air-frame integrity check was required. Simply put, the tail then 'fell off' and the Pfalz hurtled to oblivion (see below):

Seeing this carnage unfold the remaining Blue Pfalz "bugged out" and disappeared into the clouds. The final Albatross was almost caught but mistimed moves by the RFC meant that it had a close brush with death, taking a pilot wound as it disappeared into a cloud bank. It could have been much worse if the RFC had been just that bit sharper (see below):

The RFC had won the day and could claim "air superiority",  2-1 kills and two shot-up Germans chalked-up for the brave pilots of  Dawn Patrol (see below):

Meanwhile in aerodromes East and West of the trenches young pilots were mounting their machines for "Noon Patrol". To be continued ...

As usual 'acres' of fun had by all. I much prefer the visual appeal of miniatures and actually prefer Canvas Eagles to Wings of War.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Dawn Patrol with the Canvas Eagles (Part 1) Opening Rounds

The Imperial German Air Service sends forth a "Dawn Patrol" of two Albatrosses (DVa, bottom right)  and a lone Pfalz (DIII, see below, bottom left) over the German lines, sometime in early 1918 (see below, note that the "hex terrain" is an ancient Battle Masters battle mat):

The Germans flyers spy in the distance a flight of three SE5a RFC aircraft and race towards them seeking combat (see below):

An errant mistake sees a novice pilot (not the stats, just me putting myself under the guns) lined up in the sights of a SE5a's Vickers which riddles his poor  Pfalz and send it into a "luckless spin". Luckily (?) the pilot has a lot of altitude to play with (to pull out of said spin) before he hits the ground hard (see below):

The planes intermingle chaotically. One Albatross in dire peril with a SE5a on its tail, meanwhile the other Albatross claims a tricky deflection shot on another fast moving SE5a (see below):

The dice are rolled and another Hun gets riddled with Vickers and Lewis machine gun rounds but just somehow manages to keep flying. This battle seems to be going the RFC's way (see below):

But there is a lot of fighting left to be done. Find out why they call it the "Twenty Minute Club!" in the RFC.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Look what I found while wandering about WH Smiths! A 1/72 Stug III (O-Series)

It had been absolutely ages since I had ventured through the doorway of WH Smith, a place I had considered "an oasis of joy" as a kid. I had intended to "pick up a mag" (wargaming) - again something I had not done in ages (years). Sadly the copy of Wargames Illustrated lacked the interest for me to part with a £5. Sad but true. On the way out, feeling frustrated, I noticed a cardboard FSDU (Free Standing Display Unit) with a variety of "magazines" with hobby toys attached to them and decided to have a mooch  - previously I had found 1/144 scale planes and the like in it. I then had a "stop me in my tracks" moment as this stared up at me (see below):

A magazine and a really nice looking 1/72 model kit - far better than the typical "tank collector series" stuff. A Stug III (O-Series), the "original" prototypes, before the Ausf A. The only upsetting thing was that it was issue 3 .. I had missed a PzIIa and PzIIIa early war versions (and I mean really early war versions, things not in my collection). Check out the stuff from IBG Models it all looks esoteric and well researched! Dare I mention the Hungarian Toldi I, II and III; the Hungarian Turan I, II and III; the Swedish M38, M39 and M40 and Japanese Type 89 in various forms to whet your appetite?

It also means I have a third early Stug III. One O-Series to go with my two Fujimi Stug III Ausf A's so guess what I could play "What a Tanker" with them ;)

Monday, 14 May 2018

RAND looks at the uses of AI and then takes a long look at the chances of an accidental Nuclear War!

This is not a passing reference to Dr. Strangeglove, in fact quite the opposite. In that film the humans were trying to de-escalate after an errant commander's psychosis unwittingly starts off a chain reaction of events that leads to nuclear Armageddon (sorry should have said "spoiler alert" before that). RAND's interpretation of risk is somewhat different and more frightening:
Especuially as "Deep Learning" is much more Black Box than the GOFAI (Good Old Fashioned Artificial Intelligence) symbolic-based Expert Systems. As an old (and distinguished) AI Professor from Aberdeen University faculty once said of intelligent autonomous systems (in this case Air Traffic Control): "Yes very clever, but keep a (sensible) human in the loop please, that might be my flight you happen to be working with!" aka "Always watch the watchers!"

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Getting ready to be a "Lardie Tanker"

In frenzied preparation for The TooFatLardies "What A Tanker" rules I have been assembling the 15mm tanks I had bought for no apparent purpose and left them in the loft. Hence I find myself making a PSC "Fury" (see below):

A PSC Panther Ausf G (see below, I am setting myself up for a late war clash [Note: The message on the tray is a note to my daughter who likes to 'play' with my paints ... or rather ruin them .. to please "stop"]):

The formations of three are forming up (see below):

The disparity between these medium tanks is 'stark' (see below, the Panther is a Fast Heavy IMHO, also see more of my "stop playing with my paints message" - it seems to have worked! I also gave her a set of my old paints as she actually is very arty):

Good luck Yanks this one looks a hard job (see below):

Nine tanks thrown together, yes the Matilda II's are not interested in playing with those Panthers (see below):

The kits are fast, neat and nice to make and I am just wondering why I didn't get into 15mm before and persisted with the 20mm obsession of mine! Let's not go there, I am just collecting everything now ;)

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Wargaming Reading Material: Reference from UK Connections 2016 - Why Wargaming Works

I managed to sneak some wargaming reading material away with me on half-term holiday as well as some miniatures to assemble and paint (WWII 28mm Warlord Games Soviets and a quite random collection of things from a hobby shop). In particular I read a reference I had picked up from UK Connections 2016 on "Why Wargaming Works" by Peter Perla and Ed McGrady, the latter who was speaking at the conference and  also had the opportunity to socially chat with afterwards on the 'hobby' side of things (see below, it can be obtained via the link at the Connections UK website:Why Wargaming Works):

An interesting read; key points being 'the suspension of disbelief' as the gamer enters the 'game state', the power and the effect of the game and the fear of those in charge ("high starring generals" and "policy makers") who don't understand the "white magic" people experience when they are let to 'play' with their imagination and think things outside of the expected doctrinal responses. Wargaming provides a relatively low cost way to access the power to cut through reams of statistics and create live-events that coalesce the experience into meaningful dynamics, outside the participants normal 'comfort zone', for example by facing up to a broken plan and having to fix it within a limited time frame. Therein lives the commitment dilemma, to fix it you have to own it, to own involves responsibility for mistakes and transparency. Something as a hobbyist I can easily endure and walk away from (unhurt but perhaps with reflective frustration), but when your professional career is on the line, good luck - you just need to win almost at any cost. Fore reference to these dragons I would recommend listening to Stephen Downs-Martin for the perils encountered here ;)


PS: I still think the article is actually a brilliant read! If you get a chance listen to the audio of their various talks at UK Connections. As I mentioned I managed to catch Ed McGrady and he is a commendable speaker that really draws you in to the subject matter.

Friday, 11 May 2018

15mm Plastic Soldier Company (PSC) Cold War Soviets .. Basing Conundrum

Darn those boys and girls at PSC they should not make WWIII Cold War NATO versus Warsaw Pact so "interesting" with their plastic kits. My impulse buy of 141 plastic WWIII Soviet Infantry leaves me with two problems (for under £20). The first problem is "how to base" the infantry on the assumption there will be a generic rule-set to use. People have implored FoW and Team Yankee style basing (see below, right hand the "rectangular squares") or to be maverick and just use the bases I picked up from 'The Works' (see below, left and the various sizes of circles). I have already been forewarned that I would be "black-balled" from playing FoSW/Team Yankee if I chose such a "heresy" [shades of 40K and Horus here ;) .. PS: I literally know nothing about 40K, so I am really faking it here]. However I have the crazy thought of doing Retro-Modern Chain of Command in 15mm, so they would be individually based or use the recently acquired WRG 1950 to 2000 Battalion Wargame Rules, which seems to fit with the "circles"(see below: my dilemma - note everything below is "temporary" so I have not committed):

The second problem is Soviet vehicles. They have lots of them. I have been told ten T-55s and 12 BMPs or BTRs, plus a Shilka and "bits and bobs". The infantry was a nice buy but spending another £80 on vehicles was not what I intended.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Classic Avalon Hill Game: Richthofen's War (circa 1977)

A friend of mine did an un-boxing of a favourite old game of his dating back to 1977 to see if "still had legs". The infamous Richthofen's War with preceded my own WWI air combat gaming by approximately 20 years and is now some 41 years old. I have to step back and think about that! The longevity of board games certainly surpasses computer equivalents and I would think a fair few miniatures collections would do well to survive intact for that long. It has the classic Avalon Hill look and the sturdy hard-backed board (see below): 

Flying as escort to a Be2c on photo reconnaissance of the trench line was hard work. My three early war RFC fighters (2xFe2 and a Nieuport) were pitched against the Imperial German Air Service (in three Albatross II's). The Be2c made it home, shot to pieces; manly hurt by Archie and a couple of strafing passes by unfriendly Albatrosses. I lost a Fee but downed an Albatross in the process. All the fighters were rather well "holed" by the end of the game. On balance a slight RFC Entente win (see below, counters rather than miniatures felt a little bit clumsy at times and we had to do our best not to inadvertently 'nudge' them by accident): 

I had a fantastic time and we immediately set a date for alter war (1917) re-match (SE5a and Sopwith Camels versus Fokker DVII and Fokker Tri-planes). Sadly no photos, it was a balloon busting run with the RFC (me) on defence. They got through and burned the balloon but the RFC downed two Germans (well Archie mainly) to one British SE5a that "exploded". The German Imperial Air Service coming away winners in this one.

I promised a return match with my 1/144 models and Canvas Eagles rules, passing on the Blue Max rule-set to show how the air war rules developed post Richthofen's War (1977) in the eighties and nineties!

PS: Just started watching Flyboys on Netflix. I followed up with a nice internet picture find:

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Modelling: Small MDF basing material from "The Works"

I found these intriguing and potentially very useful 'in high street' from The Works. Small circular (of various sizes) and hexagonal (again of various sizes) bases that seem to be crying out for figures to be mounted on! (see following pictures below):

Circles: With my playing around with some Cold War Soviets from PSC, three rifles to a base on a large circle, a two man RPG team on a smaller circle and I forgot to include a Commander on a tiny one. A 2p piece is shown for purposes of scale (see below):

Hexes: No figures attached yet. I have a suspicion that these might be more useful for Naval and Air combat. Again a 2p piece is shown for purposes of scale (see below):

You get 110 piece for two pounds sterling  in the circles and hexes so the price comparison with alternatives is good. They "feel" better than metal IMHO. In addition I found these "spikey circles" full of potential, these are eight for a quid (see below):

I have in mind painting them (and potentially putting a few cosmetic debris  items on them) for Chain of Command "Jump-Off" markers rather than my stand-in poker chits. There are various other potential uses for these as counters and the like.