Thursday, 17 January 2019

Photo Reconnaissance

Another scenario for WW1 dogfights.

German Briefing
Good morning Gentlemen.  The High Command suspect the Tommies are planning a push in our sector.  You know what this means, the command wants photographs of the artillery park south east of Ypres off to the south of the road to Comines to see what the activity is there.  You have been there before so I don't have to tell you to watch for their aircraft patrolling out of Furnes to the North or Bailleul to the west of the target.  To get the best chance of a decent picture you will need to get your photograph from under 6,000 feet.  The bad news is that the staff want two shots of the target so you will need to make two passes!  I know that increases the risk but it's better than having to go back a second time when the British will know we are interested in the state of the ammunition supplies.  Good luck.

British Briefing
Settle down chaps, yes Carstairs that means you too.  Now we have some news that Fritz is showing an interest in the area South East of Ypres, if he is interested it makes sense that we should stop him getting what he wants.  So we have been tasked with patrolling the lines in that area to make life difficult for his photographic excursions.  If he is true to form then we can expect a two seater and escort to try a quick sortie over the area about an hour after first light when the light is good for his purposes.  As he needs to come to us I suggest you patrol just this side of our lines, no point risking Jerry Archie getting you now is there.  If he does come over you main objective is to down the two seater before he can get back over his side of the lines.  Right off you go, take off is at 0500, see you in the mess for a spot of lunch later,what?

The scenario
The mission is set in July 1916.

The Germans have a Roland CII and two Albatros DIIs as escorts.  The Roland is an old Irregular Miniatures model I have had for probably twenty years or more!  The two Albatri are more recent Heroic & Ros offerings.

The Germans, It looks a tad exposed flying the Roland

They enter the playing area at point 'A' at heights of the German player's choosing..  One fighter must close escort the Roland but the other is free to roam.  The Roland must over fly point 'B' before exiting at point 'C'.  To get the photographs the Roland must over fly point 'B' at 6,000' or less at a speed of  60mph or less and in  straight and level flight during each attempt to take a photo.

The view the British are hoping for?

The British consist of two Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutters who enter from point 'D'.  Their entry height must be below 13,000 feet but can be as chosen by the player.  They enter as a pair at the same height and within 180 yards of each other they may separate once they sight an enemy aircraft.

The table is the usual banqueting table and is laid out as below

Special rules
The German observer is the photographer, so cannot man his MG and take photographs at the same time.  To obtain a photograph he must be on the camera for 30 consecutive seconds before passing over the target (including the turn passing over the target).  After the first shot, he must spend a further 30 seconds (non consecutive) changing the plate ready for the second shot and for the second shot a final 30 consecutive seconds lining up the second shot again including the time passing over the target.  He can abandon the attempt at shooting to man his gun if needed but would have to start again to be able to take photographs.

Once a photo run has been carried out roll 1D6.  On a 1 the photographic plate is damaged or the observer is convinced the shot was spoiled and it has to be retaken.  That pass doesn't count!  On a 2-6 its OK.

Archie (Anti aircraft fire); if an aircraft passes over the enemy trench lines or (if a German aircraft)  the target  at under 1,000 feet or less they will come under small arms fire from MGs.  Each turn they spend more than half of their move over or within 1,000 feet of enemy trenches or the target throw 1D6 on a 6 the aircraft is hit, throw for damage as if hit by a single belt fed MG.

This is a tough ask for the Germans.  The Roland is a tough old bird but the need to take two photographs will make life difficult for them.  The table isn't that big (at least not with the rules I'm using) so the British will be able to intercept fairly quickly.  The Germans have to make the tactical choices here the British are focused on one objective and their choices will be reactive in response to the German's decisions.  I see three main options for the Germans firstly try to get in and out fast and then back over the friendly side of the lines ASAP.   Second stay on their own side of the lines and try hit and run attempts to get the photo's, third let the Albatri attempt to shoot down the British and then get the photo's at leisure.  If anyone comes up with a different plan do let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Project management.....what project management

If you have been following this blog you will have worked out that I have a lot of wargaming irons in the fire, WW1 dogfight rules, the 2mm ECW rules project, the ECW in Lancashire project, the Dark Age campaign idea I have wanted to run for about 30 years the list goes on.  One thing this blog has been good for since I resurrected it is stopping my grasshopper mind from jumping from idea to idea without ever really finishing anything.

So to make sure things progress I have listed them in order of proposed completion.  It turns out that the voice in my head (you know the one; it's the one who looks at the Baccus 6mm catalogue and murmurs 'ohhh shiney' to my wallet) does do some project management.  I have decided that in order of likely completion I will focus on:

  1. The WW1 dogfight rules
  2. The 2mm ECW rules
  3. The ECW in Lancashire
  4. The Dark Ages campaign (796AD - whenever it ends)
  5. Operation Seelowe in Yorkshire
Interspersed with this will be some painting and modelling.  Lots of 6mm stuff in the painting queue and I NEED more Heroics and Ros WW1 aircraft.  Oh and playing some games.  Lets see if this blog can keep me on target.

Chocks away part 2

The game was intended to test the new combat mechanic I have put in place of the very basic one originally used in SPI's Flying Circus back in 1972.

Now this brings back memories
I have used what are essentially the same four damage charts, one for single or twin MGs (split between belt fed or drum fed) but don't use them to create hits on the target aircraft.  Instead once the number of 'hits' is established a second D6 is thrown if that scores the same or less than the hits a critical hit occurs.  The hits scored on the original chart are instead deducted from the pilot's resolution.  Once that drops to zero that pilot decides that discretion is the better part of valour and tries to break for home.

Like the original SPI offering aircraft are managed by a play sheet where current speed, altitude and climb progress is recorded and damage ticked off.  Each turn is 10 seconds flying time and the hexes are 60 metres flat to flat.

All aircraft models in this game are from Heroics and Ross.  The Observation balloon is scratch built.  So Chocks away and lets have at it!

The British Pair enter at the top of the 8,000 foot flight band and head straight for the Balloon at 140 KPH while climbing to 9,000.  Meanwhile the flight of Eindeckers is also looking to close on the Balloon.  They are at 7,000 feet and making maximum speed at 140 KPH and climbing.  Meanwhile the Balloon unit start winching down the Balloon but it's going to take 30 turns to get it down to earth, time they probably don't have. 

Wings gleaming in the early morning sun the British Pair close on the target
The Sopwith stays at 9,000 and continues towards the balloon while the DH2 starts to shed height steeply while turning to port (left).  The Eindeckers stay as a pair and bore straight ahead.  By turn three the Sopwith has passed the Balloon to port and is shedding height to match the Fokkers the DH2 has dived steeply to 4,000 and is lining up for a pass on the balloon.

The British split their forces laterally and vertically
The DH2 then turns hard to Starboard and takes a shot at the Balloon.  No obvious damage is seen but the Balloonatic's (the period slang for Balloon observers) resolve drops by one.  50 seconds have now elapsed.  The Sopwith dives and turns hard to port getting a firing angle on the lead Eindecker with the rear twin Lewis guns.  The lead flying around the German reduces his resolve by 4 points and more importantly scores a critical hit.  It's possible structural damage but that won't be resolved until he makes a high stress maneuver.  Meanwhile the DH2 jinks to use up airspeed and turns in towards the Balloon. 

The DH2 is lining up his attack

In an attempt to get on the tail of the DH2 the leading Fokker dives hard and is rewarded by the sound of a wing spar cracking.  No more hard maneuvers for that aircraft then.  He does get a firing solution though but doesn't hit anything vital.  DH2 pilot's resolve -1.  The Strutter fires his rear guns at the Balloon with no effect and now has to reload the Lewis gun.
Oh Bugger (in German)!
It's all hotting up now as the DH2 pilot is frantically reloading his Lewis gun and trying to jink to make the damaged Eindecker overshoot.  The Strutter solves that problem by means of a turn and throttle back to allow him to engage the damaged Eindecker with his forward armament.  Its a big hit another critical and the Fokker is left with only one of his initial 7 damage points and is trailing smoke all he can do is turn for home and hope to land before the British finish him off.  The other Eindecker is turning hard onto the DH2 and holds a height advantage ready for a diving attack next turn.  His plan is interrupted by a loud 'Woomph' as the rear gunner on the strutter, having reloaded his guns scores a critical on the Balloon which bursts into flames.  Both balloonatics bail out safely but the balloon is a goner.

The Fokkers head for home and probably a stiff talking to!
At this point the second Eindecker out numbered and with a badly damaged flight leader to take  care of turns away opens up some lateral seperation and dives for home.  The British could pursue but decide that the job is done for the day and head home for a spot of tiffin.

The control sheet and yes those are dog biscuits as markers (don't ask)
The new combat rules seem to work OK but the balloon hit was a fluke and I really should have a separate critical hit table for balloons as without incendiary bullets they were extremely difficult to bring down.  The basic air combat maneuvers need updating as the 1972 rules are a fudge to cover discrepancies between speed over the ground and actual airspeed and don't include any actual special tactical moves such as yo-yos, Immelmans or barrel rolls.  I also want some kind of rule for energy management and overspeed structural failures (those Albatri wings don't just fall off on their own you know).  More on those issues after some more reading.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Chocks Away

No I'm not talking about the last of the Christmas confectionery, it's WW1 dogfight time.

As a play test of the rules I'm going to try an early war balloon busting scenario.  The runners and riders being a German Observation Balloon defended by two Fokker Eindecker EIIIs and ground AA machine guns v a Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter and an Airco DH2:

Gentlemen, here is your target Boche Sausage
The Scenario
I will be using a standard folding banquest table measuring 180cm x 75cm (roughly 5' 10" x 2' 5").  The aircraft will enter from the narrow ends of the table.

The Balloon is at 4,000 feet with two MG positions along side, in the centre of the table The British may enter at any height they wish up to 10.000 feet.  They may enter together and at the same height or from two different points on their side of the table and at any height or heights.  Once any British aircraft appear on table the two Eindeckers may enter on their next turn.  They arrive as a pair at the same height and flying together once on table they may separate.  Dice for entry height using 2D6 x 1,000 feet to set the entry height.

For the defence two Fokker EIIIs
Special rules
The Balloon can be lowered at a rate of 500' per minute this occurs in the German turn.  The German player will start to lower the baloon as soon as British Aircraft enter the table.  The balloon has a defence factor the same as an Eindecker.  Once that is exceeded it is in flames.

The Germans have two ground based machine gun batteries these fire as aircraft mounted twin belt fed machine guns.  They can reach up to 1,000 feet altitude and have a range (as a ground distance) of  600 feet.

The attackers a Sopwith Strutter and a DH2
The game is set in April 1916 when the Eindecker was no longer the cause of the Fokker Scourge having been outclassed by newer allied aircraft such as the DH2 and Nieuport 11.  For the British the Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter has just come into service with the RNAS (the RFC didn't receive the type until July 1916).  The DH2 has been in service since February 1916. So the two British aircraft would in reality have been RNAS and RFC types and unlikely to have flown together.

Last but not lease a close up shot of the lozenge camouflage on a Halberstadt CL class.  I'm really very pleased with how the transfers (decals if in the US) I made came out.   
Not involved but worth a look 
AAR in the next post.  So chocks away chaps, do try not to come down sausage side and remember it's a mans life in the Twenty Minuter's.  Woof Woof (tm Lord Flasheart)!

Friday, 4 January 2019

Other 6mm projects

Although my main interest has always been land warfare in Western Europe from the Romans up to around 1700 AD I do occasionally go off piste.  Two projects that have taken me a long way from my core area have been World War Two land combat and World War One air combat.

The WW2 thing comes from my first introduction to wargaming,  Charles Grant's 'Battle'.  Not from the book although I do have a copy, but from the articles in The Meccano Magazine which were pulled together to create the rules in Battle, except for the morale rules which oddly didn't make it into the book.  Those articles would have been published in the late 1960's when I was at secondary school!  In those days it was 20mm (well HO/OO scale) Airfix all the way for infantry and tanks.  For the WW1 dog fighting bug I blame Biggles and Airfix kits again.

A couple of years ago I decided to have a go at Early WW2 after reading a book set in East Yorkshire during 1940 it interested me because it was where I was then living.  The book is Seelowe Nord the middle of three connected books about WW2.  It is alternative history which looks at the double 'what ifs' of Operation Sealion both going ahead and having targeted the Yorkshire rather than the South coast.  German beach landings occurring between Scarborough and Filey with airborne landings at Spurn Point and Leconfield airfield .

Improbable I know but it was fun being able to stand on the ground being described and see where various things were meant to have happened.  Plus it wasn't a bad read.  The author's other two WW2 novels are set in France during the period running up to Dunkirk and one set in the days straight after D-Day.  Again both worth a read and all three available as ebooks for Kindle.

Of course I went 6mm for this and to date have a German armoured battalion (Pz 1, 2 3 and 4s) with the various attached support units (STuGs and SIG33s and recce elements) and a Panzergrenadier company as infantry support all from Heroics and Ros.  The Brits are a mix of Home Guard  and regulars supplied by GHQ and Irregular Miniatures.  Irregular miniatures have some of the improvised armoured vehicles used by the Home Guard and a mix of their WW1 and SCW infantry act as stand ins for the Home Guard's PBI.  GHQ have provided Bren Carriers, Matilda's, A9s, A10s and Regular Infantry.  I have their towed 25lbers as well and some towed AT guns.  Enough for a decent scrap.

German Armour pre-painting.
World War 1 in the air was supplied by Heroics and Ross plus a couple of Irregular miniature castings I already had in the bits box.  The H&R aircraft are lovely models but do require some assembly.  I replace the struts with copper wire as they are easier to use.  I even went to the lengths of creating my own lozenge camouflage transfers.  Five lozenge not seven I'm not completely mad!

Adding the lozenge camouflage
I now have a decent selection of aircraft and just need to complete the rules.

The assembled aeroplanes

The Eindeckers is a lovely little casting as are the Albatrii (Albatrosses?).  The Observation balloon is a scratch build and just needs a basket adding.  It's amazing what you can do with a toilet roll centre, two beer can widgets and some paper mache I will try to do some close ups in a follow up article at some point.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

One disappointed reader

I don't normally do really short posts but I was checking the stats on the blog this morning and saw something that made me laugh out loud!  I have exactly one page view from what must be this weeks most disappointed web surfer.  They searched for "Small women perfectly formed" and  landed here!  I bet that was a WTF! moment.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Whats on the painting table - 2 January 2019

I have done the occasional how to do it article in the past  I thought a more regular update on whats on the work bench might give me an incentive to clear things off it!  Feel free to comment with constructive criticism, suggestions on techniques or to ask how (or why) I do things in the way I do.  If you see a review of a purchase that doesn't crop up in one of these posts it will probably be sat in the lead (or resin) pile waiting it's turn, and not in any way shape or form represent a project that has just stalled.  My projects don't stall they just sit patiently waiting for me to get my ass in gear!

At the moment the next job is terrain items. I have a small village worth  of Leven Miniatures buildings I need to finish off.  These consist mainly of Dark Ages period stuff.  Plus a Roman Villa which I couldn't resist as it was such a lovely design.  For those who haven't yet seen Leven Miniatures in the flesh, they are lovely castings.  The range is entirely 6mm and covers most wargaming periods.  If It's not in the range contact them and ask if it could be added, Mick (the owner) is very helpful and will seriously consider creating items to fill gaps in the range.  His customer service is first rate too.  I ordered some Small Saxon Roundhouses and received the Orc Huts from the fantasy range in error.  I contacted Mick who sent out the correct items by return and told me to keep the Orc Huts rather than send them back.  I'm sure I will find a use for them before long.

Leven 6mm village awaiting my attention
The buildings are cast in a resin which holds the details really well.  Apart from the very occasional small bubble I have never had a bad casting from Leven and they do paint up really nicely. Compared with the Timecast buildings I have the resin is slightly less weighty which may be why there is such good detail as I expect a thinner resin would allow a mould with more detail to be used. I like the fact that the buildings dimensions aren't changed to match game ground scale.  I have a church model which is an extreme example of this it looks tall and thin because of the distortion.  While it may mean that troops weapons ranges stay realistic compared to the footprint of the building it just looks wrong.  Take a look at the image below to see what I mean.

That church is just weird
I prepare the buildings by washing in hot water with a little washing up liquid and then pat dry to get the worst of the water off.  I then put them to one side for 24 hours to give them time to thoroughly dry out (that's the hardest part of the process as I'm itching to get to work on them by that stage).  I start off with an undercoat in white.  I use white because small scale stuff needs to reflect as much light as it can.  To me black undercoating dulls the colour too much.

I read a long time ago that the smaller the scale the brighter the colours need to be.   The logic is that a real person is still the same size no matter how small they seem to appear due to distance.  So the surface area from which light reflects is always the same and that is what determines the colour you see..  A model is trying to look like the actual thing but has less surface area to reflect light from (everything we see is light reflected from the thing we are looking at).  We have to enhance the effect of colour to offset the smaller surface area hence white undercoat and brighter colours.

I start by block painting the main areas and then add the details.  I go over and touch up any paint that has gone over the edges of the casting area I want it to be restricted to and then ink wash in a brown.  Lately I have gone over to Agrax Earthshade by GW.  The reason being it acts as a filter rather than just a shader.  Meaning it gives a very thin cover to everything rather than just pooling in the low points.  That ties the colour schemes together.  As a nod to zenithial lighting I hold the casting upside down while I apply the wash.

My two favourite models so far are the Saxon Great Hall and the Roman Villa.  It may not be a coincidence that these are both larger buildings.

Saxon Great Hall

Roman Villa - part painted