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 model 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:

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 model 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:

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!"