Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: The Good, the Bad, and the Dumb

2010 is coming to a close at last.  In retrospect it wasn't a bad year, it just seemed long and plagued with issues that made miniature wargaming difficult.  If I had to pinpoint one major shortcoming of the year it's that I didn't get to play enough games.  Why?  Part of it was simple exhaustion.  I'm a wretched sleeper who struggles even more to snooze when confronted with stress and anxiety.  I had the latter in spades in 2010 with the JagWire trial in the spring and the continuing saga of my in-laws health, moving, and general inability to care for themselves.  On the other hand, the trial is finished, and my mother in law is amazingly on the mend. My goal for 2011 is to game at least once per month if not more.  Twice would be nice.

 One of my goals for the year was to purchase fewer figures.  I try to track purchases on the blog, but I'm really awful at it.  Updating those settings is something I really procrastinate about so I have little idea if I've purchased more than I've painted.  I can tell you I believe I'm ahead of the game.

I had a few substantial figure purchases this year.  I bought a lot of Perry AWI figures.  The good news is they are almost all painted.  The big American Virginia and Maryland units for the southern campaign are finished.  I've painted most of the British figures--about twenty left from purchases in 2010.  I've even dipped into some older reservoirs of AWI figures.  My other big purchase was of Spanish Civil War figures in 15mm.  I did a little less well with these.  I probably have close to 100 figures left to paint, and I'll close these out this year. 

I painted 540 figures in 2011, within the range of 500-600 figures I projected last year.  For the first time I struggled to keep plodding away every night.  I've talked about my eyesight issues and it's really bugged me. If I hadn't had a magnificent June, I wouldn't have come close to meeting my goal.  I have really enjoyed painting during the Christmas vacation weeks.  I simply have to find a way to paint at least an hour every day.  My down days I've really enjoyed reading, and simply put I am a reader always have been.  Somehow I need to find a balance between the two.

I have no major plans for new purchases.  Well, sort of.  After receiving a copy of David Manley's medieval and renaissance naval rules I'm looking around at some of that stuff.  Outpost miniatures and Navwar both carry medieval cogs.  Can you say Sluys anyone?  I may also pick up some Raiden planes for some Airwar C21. In terms of actual figures, I have some troops I'd like to add to my AWI.  One of my Enfilade projects is Hobkirk's Hill, and I'll need some ammunition carts and/or limbers for the Americans.  Perry makes some very nice ones.  But beyond that I have loads of figures to paint.  I also have eight Hasslefree minis on order for role playing, and I didn't order, but haven't forgotten the ship models from Bay Area Yards.

What will I paint this year?  You can depend on some AWI.  I have lots still to paint:  the 23rd regiment, Von Bose Regiment, two Guards battalions.  I'll be busy.  Beyond that, wherever my interest takes me.  I would guess I have 10-15 unfinished projects, and I just want to enjoy painting them.  It took me the better part of two months to finish the Invalids and Coffin's Light Dragoons, but in the end I enjoyed how they looked.  Maybe that's my new motto:  Take yer time and paint 'em nice. 

One of my goals is to do a bit better job keeping up with this blog.  I'll try to do more with works in progress.  Dean Motoyama over on the WAB blog does such a super job with that.  I'll also share my thoughts and suggestions on books, rules and stuff that might be helpful.  In any case as this blog nears 20,000 page views, I wish the best for you and your families in 2011.  Thanks for visiting because it keeps me writing. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

WIP: Video and Indians on Mars

One of my Christmas gifts was a flash video camera from Lorri.  It was something I didn't need, but she thought it would be nice to include video with my blogging. I did include one video with my Lepanto entry.  It's funny, I thought there would be more excitement in miniature wargame to shoot, but I'll have to work at it a bit more to get it figured out.

The camera is a Panasonic, and so far I highly recommend it.  Lorri got it on a Groupon for about a hundred dollars and it shoots stills as well as video.  If you watched, the picture quality is decent and the audio is embarrassingly good. Between my iPhone and my flash camera, I think my imaging is covered.

 I've had this bag of OG colonial Indians for a couple of years now.  They're intended to be Indian troops on Mars.  I've got them organized into three ten man units plus one white officer.  I'm enjoying the painting, and they go fairly quickly.  The unit of Madras infantry with the red turbans is finished, while the other two are on their way.  It would be nice if they sold them separately as Sikhs, Bengal infantry, Baluchis etc because their headdresses are different.  Maybe nobody will notice--but I doubt it.

DANG: Lepanto

Each year Dave Schueler sends out his missive in October or so, prompting those of us who make the pilgrimage to his house on the Monday after to Christmas to play in his annual naval game.  The October e-mail always offers us the opportunity to choose from his suggested naval topics, ranging from the ancient period to the near future.  For the last several years Lepanto, the climactic 16th century naval battle between Ottoman and Holy League forces has appeared, but never garnered enough votes to be the big winner.  But this year was the year and today was the day.

 Daveshoe went with this interesting period, and ordered the Lepanto fleets by Noble Miniatures.  Through some fits and starts of receiving the minis, Dave managed to get them all painted, and they look quite nice.  Rules were an interesting choice. Christian Fire and Turkish Fury is a Fire and Fury one off. Ships scale is 1:7 and the units are squadrons.  There is a maneuver table, fire tables, and close combat table that would seem very familiar to any veteran of Rich Hasenauer's most wonderful ACW game. The adaptation is by David Manley who has written many games, most notably Action Stations.
Dave Schueler's 15mm Barbary Wars project.  The two vessels on the left are Thoroughbed minis, while the unfinished vessel on the right is scratch-built.

 Eight of us trekked to chez Schueler in West Seattle and nicely divided the forces into four Holy League and four Ottoman commanders.  As always, Dave had some operational commanding to do.  The rules for the operational moves were easy and quick, giving each side the opportunity to pick up some stray victory points by raiding.  As an Ottoman player, I commanded the elite Barbary squadron, and followed the orders of David Sullivan, aka, Ali Pasha the overall Turkish commander.  My mates were Paul Hannah and Dave Creager, both veterans of DANG wars past. Our squadrons were a bit dispersed, so our challenge was to try to gather our fleet together while using some of our dummy counters to disperse the Christian fleet into chasing our phantoms.  They, of course, were trying to do the same to us.
Dave's super cool operational level map.  You can see the starting positions of the fleets.

 We agreed to try a raid, as the Christians were doing the same.  We combined our fleet and moved to Crete to take on the Holy League base there, as the Christians were doing the same to our base on the Dalmatian coast.  We cheered as the Christians were forced to give up their move for the next turn.  We were horrified when our raid failed utterly and our entire fleet lost boarding factors.  We were forced to refit, taking two operational movement turns.  It also convinced us our best shot was to confront the Christian fleet as soon as possible.  Two turns later it was so.
David Sullivan and Scott Murphy commanded the Ottomans and Holy League respectively. 

As dummy counters are encountered they're removed.  Eyeball to eyeball the fleets get ready for action

 We had already assigned squadrons to the various commanders.  Each commander had certain specific characteristics.  I commanded the Barbary squadron, which was the best of the Turkish ships.  We agreed Paul, who drew the aggressive commander, would advance along the right wing Holy League, while David Sullivan would advance in the middle.  Dave Creager had two squadrons that advanced on the right.  My ships formed the reserve, intended to mop up the broken bits of center left when David got done with them.
Two views of the fleets coming into action.  The Holy League to the left and the Ottomans on the right. The nasty galleasses lie between two Christian squadrons.

Our plan was constrained a bit when Daveshoe laid out the map.  Islets on the right and left constrained the board, our fleet would struggle just to stay off the shoals.  It would also maximize the Christians' firepower advantage.  Well, always trust to the bayonet..  We followed through with our plan as best as possible.

Paul's wing was first into action.  In order to stay off the rocks, he advanced in line astern formation and tried to deploy beyond them.  Because his orders required that he move full speed he couldn't wait for the Holy League to come get him. Unfortunately he didn't realize quite what he was facing.  One squadron of galleys and another of galliots left Paul quite unprepared for Mark Waddington's two squadrons of elite Venetian galleys and some shaky die rolling.  Though they fought on for three or four turns, the left wing of the Ottoman fleet was quickly dispatched.
Death ride of Son of Barbarossa.  Constrained by the shoals Paul had to advance in an unfavorable formation.

 David commanded the Ottoman center, and they advanced on the Holy League defenders.  Each side had two squadrons of galleys, but the Christian center was pinned on three stands of galleases, oared round ships.  Though slow, they were armed with a passel of guns, and about a 270 degree field of fire.  We believed that these were dangerous, but should be through the fire in a turn to engage in close combat.  Wrong.  In the first turn of fire, David lost four ships in one squadron and one in another.  By the end of the second turn his command was wrecked and just trying to hang on, which he did, gamely, for another couple of turns.

Dave Creager commanded the two right hand squadrons.  He was faced with the difficulty of maneuvering into position while skirting the shoals, and aligned his ships into two rank lines. He engaged George Kettler's squadrons.  Both sided gave pretty much as good as they got for several turns.  Dave eventually emerged the victor on the right, but his fleet was in very ragged condition and unable to continue the fight.
The Barbary Squadron moves to the attack.  The remains of David's Turkish squadron to the left, Dave Creager's squadrons attack on the right.

 As my reserve squadron pressed past David's survivors in the center, we were met by an attack from Dale Mickel's Christian squadron.  The Barbary galleys were untouched and I began a pretty solid string of die rolls.  My flagship joined the squadron to make it six models and the action wasn't in doubt.  They came under ineffective fire from one of the galleass models and pressed on to attack the next of Dale's squadrons.  The result was the same, except that I was in range of one of the galleasses after the action, and could attack with a breakthrough move.  Galleasses were the uber-vessels in the action, and suffered no ill effects from the fact that I out numbered him 6:1.  However, David had disordered it in the last round of fire, and that combined with my elite status was enough to destroy it.
Final positions in the middle of the board.  The Venetian squadron is fully intact beyond top of picture.

 This left both fleets pretty ragged.  The Holy League had their right flank largely unscathed and their middle half intact with two galleasses ready to blow my ass off.  Their right was gone and ours was tattered to say the least.  Though my squadron was unhurt, it was just a matter of time until the superior Christian numbers and firepower began to take its effect and we called the game a Holy League victory.

 I really enjoyed the game.  We needed a few things to break our way to win.  They did, but too late, and we had nothing to pin the Christian left wing.  The rules were very fun and Dave and Lynn Schueler did a brilliant job of hosting as always.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reindeer Droppings

Christmas always brings the important question--did Santa remember your hobby?

 The answer is rarely yes.  Let's face it, as bricks and mortar hobby shops disappear, it becomes more and more difficult for our loved ones to support our very specialized needs for this strange but wonderful activity we all enjoy so much.  That's my story and I'm sticking with it.  I've gotten gift certificates and sometimes my friends will score me something cool, but not this year, and that's okay.
   This year I am indirectly turning gift goodies into gaming stuff.  First, credit where credit is due.  Dave Demick, my oldest friend in the whole world exchanges gifts with me every year.  This Christmas we had the same idea and exchanged copies of a new board game, Red Poppies by Worthington Games.  It's a World War I tactical level game, beautifully made with eight scenarios, from cavalry skirmishes in 1914 between Belgian and German horse, to 1918 assaults featuring stormtroopers and tanks. It screams for more scenarios.

Books, my family almost always honors my book requests, as long it is in print and not ridiculously expensive.  This year was no different.  I only had one military history on my list this year, The Southern Strategy by David K. Wilson.  It's a strategic analysis of the decision to move the focus Revolutionary War to South Carolina and Georgia by British planners.  I'm looking forward to it.  Lots of other books took, completely maxing out my ability to take on further new book purchases. Bummer, I'm in crisis.

 Last, but not least, I got cash.  Cash is good because I can turn it into whatever I want.  I want to buy a couple of the Bay Area kits I mentioned earlier this week-USS Mississippi and USS Monongahela.  The latter is one of those ubiquitous Union sloops one can never quite seem to have enough of.  I'm also going to order six or seven Hasslefree miniatures for role-playing.  They're nice, costly, but the pound is not high against the dollar right now, and Hasslefree has reasonably shipping.  They are such interesting action-packed minis.  I did take a look at the suggestions offered by Dave S and CuorDiLeone, and while I liked them, just found them to be not quite what I was after.  

Regardless of what gifts you did or did not receive for Christmas, I hope you had a fabulous holiday.  The older I get the less meaningful I find the presents under the tree.  Instead I look forward to the time with my family and friends.  They are special to me and the conversations about everything from Ichiro is overrated (he's not), to whether the Beatles are cliche (they're not,) or whether Obama has sold out (he hasn't) are the best part of the holiday.  My best Christmas moment yesterday--watching Will Ferrell eat cotton balls in Elf with Lorri who had never seen that movie before.  We both laughed through the whole film.

DANG tomorrow.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bay Area Yards re-issues USS Mississippi

The USS Mississippi was a lot like Neanderthal man::  a branch of evolution that represented progress, but a dead end in the development of the steam warship.  It was the smallest of the three sidewheel frigates built by the U.S. Navy, but probably had the most glorious history as it was Commodore Matthew Perry's flagship when he opened up trade with Japan in 1852.  The Mississippi grounded on the shoals under the guns of Port Hudson in 1863 and was burned to prevent capture.  It was a beautiful ship with leaner, more elegant lines than its larger, boxier sisters Susquehanna and Powhatan. 

 Bay Area Yards, in its early days, began by providing resin hulls to interested modelers.  The modelers supplied everything else-guns, masts, ships boats, rigging, etc. As Bay has developed, however, they've manufactured their own bits, and have a superb range of cannon, masts and accessories to go with their hulls.  The past couple of years they've begun casting in ships in white metal.

 They've also begun supplying entire ships in kit form.  That's great, I love to see that because I'm such a dope about such things.  While I haven't exactly been knocking down the door to do this, if more kits were available I could go there.  This morning on TMP they announced that USS Mississippi, which they'd removed from production, was available as a kit.  I've been dithering about ordering the masts to complete my model for some time, but the new hull looks fabulous, and with masts, hull, guns and boats included for twelve bucks, all that's needed is some elbow grease.  It looks to be my first first New Year's purchase.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Finished at last:: Coffin's Provincial Light Dragoons and Other Hangers On

Actually I'm showing off three units.  The first is the light dragoon regiment.  Like most cavalry units in the southern AWI, it's a small unit.  It represents 80 men, which is pretty typical for the war in general and the campaign in particular.  Horses were hard to come by, and once procured, i.e. stolen from a partisan for the opposite side, they could be difficult to feed.  Both Americans and British complained about shortages of horses and keeping adequate mounts.

 Coffin's light dragoon unit is a loyalist formation.  I've painted these figures based on the notion they were actually a South Carolina loyalist unit, perhaps raised from the South Carolina Royalist infantry regiment.  There seems to be little or no information about the unit on line.  However, after I inquired on TMP, the most reliable information was that they were red, faced yellow.  They wore light dragoon caps, beyond that not much is known.  I used figures I got in a trade from Doug Hamm.  The riders are Front Rank, and they are very nice figures. The horses are a bit of a mix.  Some Front Rank and maybe some Dixon mounts.

I've had these on my mostly cluttered painting table for two months.  I like 'em but I'm sure glad their done.

The flag is totally apocryphal.  Flags, as you know, for AWI are bit of a hit and miss effort.  Brits we usually know pretty well because, well, they're British with a long regimental history in most cases, and there is a clear record of their standards.  Provincial units, unless they were taken on the British rolls after the war are pretty dicey.  I chose the yellow standard to match the facings and gave them a GR cypher inside the gartered emblem.  I added simple crescent and palmetto devices.  I also chose a standard over a cavalry banner because many irregular units-militia and yeomanry in Great Britain-seemed to have small (32" square) banners.

Coffin's regiment was present at Hobkirk's Hill and Eutaw Springs.  They did some fighting at Hobkirk's, trying in vain to capture the American artillery when Greene's infantry broke.  They were charged by William Washington's dragoons and driven off.  At Eutaw Springs Coffin's cavalry led the British counter-attack when all American troops fell into confusion as they looted the British camp.

 The second unit is the battalion of convalescents at Hobkirk's Hill.  It was a temporary formation composed of invalids in the hospital at Camden but were well enough to fight. The invalid battalion was in Rawdon's second rank at the battle, and little is said of their specific performance at the battle.

 My unit is composed of Perry figures in southern dress, but retain their cuffs and facings colors.  This actually works for them because they would have been composed by men from many different units.  Their flag is simple union standard with no regimental designations.  Simply a flag to align themselves on.

 The last unit is the Queens Rangers.  I've actually photographed these before.  Doug Hamm painted these, and I acquired some from him last year in our Enfilade deal.  However, over the summer he painted up a few more bases and now my Q.R. unit is a more useful six stands of troops.

 I'm taking a bit of a break from AWI and will painting about 50 figures for my Space 1889 project.  I'll show the painted Indians and Martian askaris over on my Shastapsh blog when they are done.  Should go fast.  How long does it take to paint and wash a bunch of khaki?  After these are done, however, I'm kind of up in the air about what comes next.  I have just the New York Volunteers and some artillery to paint for Hobkirk's Hill, and then I'd also like to paint up the South Carolina Royalist Dragoons that defended Charleston.  Maybe them, but we'll see.

All pictures were taken with my silly phone camera, 'cause honestly it's just a lot easier to work with it. Rumor has it Santa is bringing me photographic reinforcements.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Figures for Role Playing

I know, this is a little off topic, but I like to role play with old friends.  I've run in games hosted by Dave Demick for the better part of thirty years, and now a couple of equally old buddies, Tim Barela and Bill Nelson and son Casey and I have joined in the fun.  Every five years, whether I'm ready or not, I run a campaign and this time it's loosely based on Joss Wheedon's Firefly universe.  I'm looking for some figures for player characters and a few NPC's.  Not looking for anything particularly Starship Trooperish, but more near future with pretty standard weapons.  I know the Sgt. Major has not-Firefly figures, but they are personalities and I need something a little less identifiable.  Thinking of some of the Adventurers from Hasslefree but they are ungodly expensive.  Thankfully I only need six or so.

If you, my brilliant readers, have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Hope you all have a fabulous holiday and Santa brings you happiness and time with family, and perhaps a nice goody under the tree.

 Next week is Dave's Annual Naval Game so expect a report as well as a year in review together with my plans for 2011.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Architects of War: Barb's Bunker lives again.

This morning TMP announced that Architects of War was a new advertiser.  Architects of War is built on the ashes of Barb's Bunker.  Barb's Bunker was a custom terrain building site that was simply fantastic.  I have a number of her pieces-fields, vineyards, an entrenchment and a gorgeous blockhouse.  Barb's husband has gone into the miniature wargaming biz, offering some of his own ACW sculpts and is now the national distributor for Perry's Plastics.  In addition, some of Barb's wares are also available on the site.  Hopefully more will follow.

Coffin's Light Dragoons: WIP

Not a lot new to report.  Haven't played any games or finished much.  I'm hoping to have Coffin's Light Dragoons, a provincial cavalry unit of some unclear origin, affiliation and dress finished by this weekend. Through some discussion on TMP I have them in light dragoon uniforms with yellow facings.  I dare anyone to find data to dispute this, and if you do, so what!  Major Coffin had his dragoons at Hobkirk's Hill where they accomplished little, and at Eutaw Springs where they captured William Washington when his cavalry's charge failed.

A couple of other quick items I've linked to Dave Schueler's Naval Gazing page.  On December 27th he'll host our annual DANG game (Dave's Annual Naval Game.)  This year it is Lepanto.  Long on my list of to do's.

Front Rank British Light Dragoon figures in yellow facings form William Coffin' light dragoons

Coffin's troopers may have been mounted infantry from the South Carolina Royalists
 I've also added my other non-gaming blog, From the Upper Left Hand Corner, to my list.  Long neglected, this blog includes a variety of topics, but mostly Mariners baseball stuff.  I recently blogged a review of The Wall by Roger Waters which I was fortunate to see in Tacoma last Saturday.  Amazing stuff.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Why December is better than November

I know I'm five days late, but I'm thrilled November is over.  It's a difficult month for me.  I always have my week of Jagwire commitments, but there are a lot of other things going on at work as well.  November is the month ER dedicates to parent conferences.  I always try to make myself available at convenient times for parents, meaning after their work days end, so many of my evenings are eaten up with meetings.  This November we decided to do our Battle of the Bands fundraiser, which meant a couple of late days for auditions and one Friday evening for the event. 

In the end I probably devoted six or so hours to painting for the whole month and accomplished very little.  I flogged a dozen Perry AWI infantry and eight Front Rank British Light Dragoons.  Didn't get very far with them.  Even over the six days I had off for snow and the Thanksgiving holiday, I was busy with family, our little trip to Seattle, and I even chose reading (nothing hobby-related) over painting.  Just one of those months.  The only items I finished painting were a dozen miniatures for Sky Galleons of Mars. 

December looks a lot clearer.  Not many evening activities, conferences are over.  Today I even finished painting those Perry infantry.  My plan for the month is to wrap up those light dragoons and then leave AWI behind for a while.  I'm going to change over to my Martian project for a while.  I have 33 Indian infantry figures to paint and then another 22 Martian askaris.  After that I'll have to see.  Maybe I'll even take up some of 15mm figures.  In any case, the Martians should take me into the new year. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Planes Part 2: Jets

When I started painting jets for our Mustang derivative, called Phantoms if my memory serves me, I just had a blast painting.  I actually had a couple of projects for the jet age.  My ffirst effort was a hypothetical based on an air strike in Cuba during the Missile Crisis in 1962.  I painted up a lot of MiG's models 15 to 21.  I put them in Cuban markings.  The more I read about the crisis, the more I'd like to revisit this topic.  There are also more planes available--really nice models from Raiden miniatures I'd love to paint up for both the Navy and USAF.
Scotia F-86s painted as Navy FJ-3 Furys.  These might have done some of the ground atack missions as the Navy was still adding the A-4 Skyhawk to its inventory.
SDD Miniatures, now Stronghold Miniatures, makes some very sturdy jets, including some FG.1 and FG.2 Phantoms that served with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.  I love the RN color schemes for their Phantoms, designated F-4K, and I painted a couple of these together with Buccaneers in markings celebrating the 1977 Silver Jubilee.  Just for fun.  No projects planned.
Crappy photo with bad color of the F4K.  Loved the deep blue with the nose flash.  Withing two years the Royal Navy would retire all remaining carriers and all their Phantoms too. SDD Phantom FG.2.
My really big project however was for my Taiwan Straits game.  I painted large numbers of Taiwan and Chinese planes as well as some stray U.S. planes just in case.  Daveshoe built an Arleigh Burke class destroyer we could build a scenario around and we ran our game at our final Fife Enfilade way back when.
Navis Miniatures Su-27.  The Chinese bought a fair number of the export model Flanker SK.  Nasty stuff.

The J-8 is a highly modified MiG 21.  This Navis miniature represents the same variant that collided with the Orion intelligence plane in 2001 near Hainan. 

Q-5 Fantan attack plane is modeled on an airframe at least thirty years old. Navis miniatures shot down in droves in our Enfilade game.
I still have piles of unpainted aircraft.  Many, many planes for the Spanish Civil War and a few odds and ends.  I have a bout a dozen unpainted jets-Super Etendards for the Falklands, some F-100 Super Sabers for Cuba, and some stray MiGs.  I see some of these being painted in the next twelve months.  Painting airplanes are a nice change of pace from figures.
GHQ Super Cobras

Navis Ching-Kuo indigenous fighters, built for the defense of Taiwan

  Mirage 2000 in Republic of China Colors

Tomcats.  When things get too nasty always call your local F-14 hotline.  My photo assistant, Malcom, helps with posing and lighting. He's easily distracted.

F-18A's by C in C. Much less fiddly than their F-14.  Big and clean

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Planes: Part 1: Fleet Arm-Operation Goodwood

Scotia Firefly 1's

Grumman Hellcats in FAA colors.  Seems weird doesn't it.

Scotia Corsairs flying cover for the bombers

Scotia Wildcats masquerading as FAA Martlet IV's
After my long spiel on searching for new aircraft rules it was only right to share some of my own minis.  As I mentioned in my previous post, painted up quite a few figures for the operation against the German battleship Tirpitz at Altafjord in Norway.  The Royal Navy launched a series of furious air attacks against this menace called Goodwood 1-IV.

Bringing an Old Project Back to Life

Ten years ago I played a lot of air miniatures.  Our rules was Avalon Hill's Mustangs, a board gameUnlike many board games, they weren't overly technical, in which players captured two minutes of real time in four hours of play.  They were more like a chess match in which players planned their maneuvers ahead of time to set up their best shot.    Though I was almost notoriously bad at Mustangs, I enjoyed planning for projects and all the fun that went into them.

They were fun and interesting and for Paul Hannah, Dave Schueler, Phil Bardsley and a few others, they became what we did.  I painted up some random planes and developed a few projects that weren't random at all. My biggest projects were the 45+ planes I painted up for a jet version of Mustangs.  Based on an encounter in the Taiwan Straits between elements of the Taiwan Self Defense Force, the Peoples Liberation Air Force and elements of the U.S. Navy, I put together a sizable number of planes for an Enfilade game.

My second big air project was a WWII game based on the effort to sink the Tirpitz at anchor in Norway.  Based on a Royal Navy operation, the Brits actually flew a great many American naval fighters in Fleet Air Arm colors.  So I painted about 36 planes in FAA Duck Egg Green camouflage, about two thirds of them included Hellcats, Martlets, and Corsairs to fly against German Me-109's and Focke Wolfes.  It was an interesting game and I enjoyed it a great deal.

It's been six or seven years since I last pulled my planes out their tubs in the garage.  Paul Hannah was our spiritual leader, and he's moved on to DBA.  Paul and Daveshoe are great friends to have because they are superb at seeing the possibilities in a project. Dave is the best scenario designer I've ever known because he is so good at providing choices to the players that will inevitably destroy them.  Paul is simply genius.  He brings energy and creativity to a genre and rules set that should inspire yawns, but Paul makes them new and fresh.  He did it with Mustangs and continues to do that with DBA.  When he took up DBA, however, Paul just walked away from the planes--mystery of mysteries.   Without Paul's leadership, and formidable collection of planes, the game just sort of died.  Sad, really.

Airplane games just sort of languished until a couple of years ago when Check Your 6 was published.  I've stayed away from CY6  for two reasons.  I've had lots of other irons in the fire and have been too busy to head down that road.  The rules, supplements and mats would be costly and a distraction from investments I've really wanted to make in the Hundred Years War and AWI.  My other reason is because CY6 seems to have attracted players with a certain intensity that I just don't share in air gaming.  I loved Mustangs because it was laid back, the experience was more important than winning, and it gave me an excuse to paint airplanes. 

Last weekend I broke down and tried Check Your 6-Jets.  When Chris Rivers offered to put on an Israeli/Syrian air combat, I jumped on it. At the Museum of Flight Daveshoe and I talked about the Wessex Rules for modern air combat he had, and this gave me an opportunity to compare the two.  The big stretch for me is that Chris's planes are all 1/600, and mine are 1/300.  In any case I looked forward to trying out one of the two sets of rules.

Arrived on Saturday morning ready to play, and we ran a four Syrian Su22 fighter bombers and four MiG-23's against two Israeli F-15A's and four F-4E's in fighter bomber mode.  Each side had the same objectives--destroy ground targets while protecting the ground attack planes.  It was fun.  Reminded me a bit of my experiences with Blue Max or even Wings of War in which the speed determines which maneuvers you can do.  The mechanics were easy, though it would take some playing to implant all of the choices in my memory.  The rules were fun, and I had a good time.

The outcome of the game isn't important (it rarely is with me,) but it turned out as you might expect.  F-15's had planes falling out of the sky all over the place.  I ran the Syrian bombers and I actually did do damage to the Israeli ground targets, but none of my planes returned to base to share the story with my comrades.  Of course, they were all dead, so, no matter.  The MiG's managed to plague the Phantoms, but the Eagles shot all of them down too. 

Due to the cost of all the goodies, I'll probably go with the Wessex AirWar: C21 rules.  I can use a standard mat without hexes and I can use my 1/300 planes with my Mustangs altitude sticks.  I downloaded the C21 rules from Wargames Vault including the data annex for less than fifteen bucks.  The base rules for CY6 Jets is $30, plus all the other stuff I'd need, so there is a practicality issue for me. That said, I may purchase a few 1/600 planes I can play with when we get together.  They are very cheap and easy to paint, though selection remains pretty limited at the present time.  Don't know quite what to do about my WW II planes though--I'll have to figure that out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Veteran's Day Celebration: The Battle of Monmouth

Before our Museum of Flight get together on the 6th, Scott Murphy suggested we do some gaming on Veterans Day since many of us were public employees and had the day off anyway.  I thought that was a great idea, and chimed in to support.  When discussion on the topic fell silent, I thought maybe folks had changed their mind.  When we met at the Museum it was clear that there were guys who were interested in gaming and Bruce Meyer suggested AWI.  I was an immediate taker. 

Bruce has pushed for some simple, showy AWI games for some time.  In addition to Bruce and myself, there are several gamers in the area with collections of American Revolution figures.  Bruce initially suggested Long Island.  I said let's go and we were on. 

Bruce has a very simple set of AWI rules called With Fife and Drum that are great for large gatherings with lots of troops.  They don't require a lot of knowledge of the period and the mechanics are easy.  We've used them to play Guilford Courthouse and Freeman's Farm from the Saratoga Campaign. 

When I arrived at the Game Matrix on Thursday with my figures in tow, Bruce said he'd chosen a different battle, the closing phases of the Battle of Monmouth from 1778.  Monmouth is actually a much better game subject because the British and Americans are pretty evenly matched in quality and and quantity, while Long Island finds the Americans being flanked fighting for their lives with troops that are not yet veteran enough to give a good account for themselves. 

The game was great fun, with eventually eight players.  The Brits start with more troops on the table pressing some advanced elements of the American army back on supporting lines of militia.  As the British forward momentum builds, massive American reinforcements arrive to stabilize their line and begin their own counter-attack.  The game eventually dissolved into three separate battlefields with the Americans on the right fighting desperately to hold on on the right, but flanking reinforcements and additional infusions of troops in the center creating a hazardous situation for the King's forces.  By the end of the game, the British were being forced back on the right.
A view from the American left.  The American advance guard confronts the British advance while the militia waits.

In the center, the Americans really threatened the Brits with annihilation.  The British had plenty of troops on both flanks, but only remnants and a couple of guns connected the two British flanks.

I was on the left flank.  I had the one of the initial American advance forces, and I withdrew slowly across the table, harassed mercilessly by British light infantry.  As reinforcements arrived, including some vital artillery, the front stablilized as the guns did great execution.  Even so, some bad morale rolls, and an over-audacious counter attack left us over stretched and outnumbered as the game drew to a close.  Even so it was unlikely, given the progress of the battle, the Brits could have taken advantage of the situation. 
British columns advance on the American left behind light infantry

It was a very fun day.  Between Bruce and I we probably had close to a thousand figures on the table, and by far the majority were his.  I'd love to try this again, maybe with a little more planning.  It could be an Enfilade game.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dave Niehaus Dies: Voice of Summer Stilled

Dave Niehaus died of a heart attack yesterday.  For those who don't know, Dave was the voice of the Seattle Mariners from their first game and remained the chief radio play by play announcer through the end of the 2010 season.  Through the many bad years and the good ones, Dave was the one constant for Mariner fans.  His trademark "Fly, fly away," home run call, his knowledge and his passion for the game made him special, and that he did it every game for so many years, made Niehaus feel like a part of the family, a celebrity or distant uncle that dropped by the house every night to talk baseball.  From my oldest son, Pat (whom I started taking to baseball games when he was three,) to my wife who has only known baseball in relation to Dave Niehaus, to my baseball-hating son Casey (where did we go wrong), we were all in shock when we heard the news.

I know what  you're thinking?  What the hell is he writing about now?  For me, baseball and miniature wargaming are my two greatest passions and they are inextricably wound together.  For as long as I've been married, during the spring, summer, and early fall I've come home from work, eaten dinner, and pulled out my painting and listened to baseball.  Whether my painting stuff was in the living room, the bedroom, or in its more prosperous location in the den, that is what I did seven evenings out of ten.  I painted literally thousands of figures-15mm Napoleonics, 25mm colonials, my current crop of 28mm AWI and Hundred Years War figures-all glued to the radio or television set listening to Dave Niehaus share his observations into this boys game played by men.

My best friends in the world are miniature wargamers.  But the ones I'm closest to are those who share my interest in baseball.  Mariners games and gaming, Rainiers games and gaming.  Listening or watching games and gaming.  Talking about baseball as we're playing.  Playing with the game on in the background.  Those are my life.  How many turns slowed to a crawl because we listened to Dave Niehaus tell about something fantastic on the field  (such as some silly Mariner bunting into a triple play) or just lamenting what the Mariners will do next in the off-season, or whether Brett Boone's 2001 season was really the best we've ever seen. It was. 

Niehaus would softly sing out the count, or the situation on the basepaths.  He'd tell stories about growing up in Indiana and listening to Cardinals games, his voice would build from a fever of intensity to explosion as the Mariners scored or scream "Get out the rye bread and the mustard Grandma; it's grand salami time," and I'd drop my paintbrush, thrust my fist in the air and scream "Yes!" (Unless it was the Yankees, and then I'd scream "Fuck you Yankee bastards!!") When the Mariners entered their glory years, yes they really did have some, and cable T.V. beckoned, Dave spent more time on the tube.  It was a millieu I don't think he was really comfortable with, and the last few years he spent a lot more time back on the radio.

Julio Cruz, Alvin Davis, Mark Langston, Ken Griffey, Jr., Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Olerud, Jamie Moyer, Ichiro Suzuki,  and Felix Hernandez have all starred for the Mariners.  Many left, some were traded, others retired as Mariners.  But for the Mariners fan, Dave was always the constant.  He was the original Mariner.  It's Niehaus that deserves a statue outside Safeco Field.  We love you Dave, we'll miss you.
Dave Niehaus was inducted to the broadcast wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008

For those of you who can't forget, don't want to forget what it meant when Dave Niehaus, was, well, Dave Niehaus, here is a link to the game winning hit in the 1995 Division Series over the Yankees.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Museum of Flight 2010

Saturday was the NHMGS gathering at The Museum of Flight.  I'm sure I say this each year, but the Museum of Flight game day is my favorite gaming event of the year.  I run my air racing for half the day, and the second half is whatever.  This year I hung out at the information desk with Daveshoe and chatted up some NHMGS business with Bruce.  That was perfect because I was trying to overcome the results of insomnia, which is never any fun.  I'm going to keep this entry short and let Dale Mickel's great photos tell the story.  We had nine games going on including a full morning and afternoon session as well as DBA all day.  I enjoyed seeing everyone, as usual, and we had some great interaction with the public.  This is the best free day of gaming in the best venue in the history of miniature gaming. 

The first couple of photos give you a general idea of what's going on.  Bruce Meyer and Dave Schueler are busy setting up the info table.  Bruce ran the Gran Sasso raid to rescue Mussolini with Michael Koznarsky.  Dave did such a great job of interacting with those museum visitors that wanted to find out more about NHMGS or miniature gaming in general. The second shot is a view of the Blackbird, our gaming millieu at the museum.  I'm the guy in the black sweatshirt directing traffic during air racing.

Jeroen Koopman brought his 15mm WWII miniatures as well as guests to help him play his game.  His beautiful miniatures attracted a lot of attention from passersby.

Paul Hannah and Andy Hooper play a friendly game of DBA.  Paul stayed on the DBA table all day, played at least 15 games, and kept me up on the unfolding Husky disaster at Autzen Stadium (boo Ducks.)

Andy also brought his 20mm Spanish Civil War game to the Museum, which attracted a lot of attention in the afternoon session. 

Dale Mickel guest hosted a Tobruk game using micro-armor.  All the participants seemed to have a good time. Got some great pics of Al Rivers and Denny Hartung.  Al uncharacteristically won the morning air-racing, seems to be enjoying himself in the afternoon round. 

Lloyd Bowler and Dan Carter made the trip up from Astoria to host Wings of War in our morning session.  They are delightful guys who were, sadly, without sick buddy Dave Mebust.  They attracted a lot of interest from younger gamers ready to try out their wings. 

Last, but not least, I always run air racing at the museum.  We had five guys vying for the title of  "He Who Crashes Last."  A fun game this year, with nary a crash in the lot.  Al Rivers was the winner, but it was a nice grouping of racers.  Chris Bauermeister and Tom Bieker did quite well as the noobs.  Chris probably would have won the race in the Gee Bee except for a poorly timed stall in the last lap. 
A great day, and we'll do it again next year.