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.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Interlude: Fell On Black Days

I occasionally get inquiries about this blog.  Why don't I post more frequently?  I try not to have any snide reactions, but sometimes I just don't have something to say, or the time or inclination to post.  While my goal is to post once per week-one that I am certainly not meeting at the present time-it's important to have something worthwhile to write about.  The last month or so, I haven't done a lot of gaming, and other activities have gobbled up my gaming and paint time. I'm gonna share some of THAT with you.

As you know, I'm a teacher.  One of the favorite parts of job is advising students on our high school newspaper.  Our first issue came out on October 22nd, and it was good, I liked it.  Getting the paper out requires a lot of time, a week's worth of 12-15 hour days.  Not conducive to gaming or painting unfortunately.  We enter our second production cycle this week.  More skimpy game-related schedule coming up.

It's always important to have something important to blog about.  I could share with you what I'm thinking, when I'm showering or how happy I am scratching my dog Jack's tummy, but how that relates to this blog is probably not very important.  I haven't played a game since September 18th at Fort Steilacoom.  Got busy and didn't put up a blog post about that.  However, tomorrow is our annual Museum of Flight day, one of my favorite gaming days of the year, and I'm really looking forward to that. 

I confess to a being in a bit of a painting funk.  I'm concerned about the struggle I'm having with painting.  I just am not seeing very well.  I've been to the opthamologist, gotten bifocals and those are ghastly for painting.  I'm using reading glasses.  They're comfortable, but give me a headache after about 45 minutes.  It's hard to get much done under those circumstances.  I haven't picked up a brush in about ten days.  I usually go through periods like this during the year, so not to worry, but it does impact my time on task and slow down my projects. I'm working on a couple of British AWI units

One thing I've willingly surrendered some time to is reading.  I love to read and always have, but 2010 has been a big reading year for me.  I've always been a read before bedtime kind of guy, but lately I've been a big read all evening guy.  And it's a good thing too, because I've been focused on some massive tomes.  Hersch's biography of Willie Mays weighed in at 600 pages, Massaw's biography of Andrew Carnegie was 800 pages, even Stieg Larsen's Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was nearly 600 pages.  No cheapies here.  I'm currently reading Richard Rhodes wonderful The Making of the Atomic Bomb, and I'm about 3/4s of the way through its 800 pages.

One other distraction was the baseball playoffs.  I'm a lifelong Mariners fan and usually when they are "finished" so is my interest in the season.  Despite the fact that this may have been the most ghastly season in Mariners history, I watched a lot of playoff baseball.  In this year of the pitcher, there were just too many great performances to let it slip away unwatched and unnoticed.  I loved the Giants/Rangers matchup and was thrilled to see the Giants finally win it all. Lincecum, Lee, Matt Cain, and Doc Halladay were fun to watch and it was worth the time and trouble to pay some attention. 

In any case, I hope to return this blog to our wargaming sponsor-the letter M for miniatures.  Until I do, I'll read and listen to Soundgarden or Iggy Pop (my current musical passions,) read a lot and enjoy the Museum of Flight.  Stay tuned, we'll return to regular programming soon.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

1:10: The Only Scale

Before I leap too much further into sharing more of my AWI battle plans, I realized it might be worth your time to talk a little bit about scale and rules.  The American Revolution can be tidily divided between the northern war and the southern war.  The north features those classic actions such as Bunker Hill, Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown, Saratoga, Monmouth and a host of other actions.  These tend to be good sized, actions, with Washington fielding over 18,000 men at Monmouth.  That's a passel  of troops and a worthy subject for a 1:20 action. 

My interest in the Southern campaign, however, showcases zero battles of such size.  The largest battle is Guilford Courthouse, with about 2,000 British and 4,000ish Americans.  The other four battles are much smaller indeed. It's a campaign that calls out for 1:10 scale.  Why?  Setting aside Guilford which has a bunch of 250-400 man units on both sides, most of the participating units are small.  At Hobkirk's Hill and Eutaw Springs many of the British units are 140-160 men strong.  Those are sixteen figure units, or four stands at 1:10.  At a larger scale they'd be only a couple of stands.  One of my favorite units is Kirwoods Delaware Regt., a stud unit that wears very cool bed-ticking trousers.  They are effective light infantry with an influence on a battle well beyond their 80-110 men.

There are some snags with the 1:10 scale.  I am not convinced that the groundscale always works.  I have some very large Continental units at 40 figures or ten stands.  They take up 15 inches on the game table.  That seems like a lot of room. What about large units that can fight in open order, such as the British 33rd Regiment.  What if one end of a ten stand unit is attacked?  What then?  I guess I need to do some more reading.
Despite the ground scale concerns, I can't envision another way to do the South in a larger scale.  If nothing else the historical feel is gone and you have tiny units.  How do you show the 50 17th Light Dragoons at Cowpens, or William Washington's Continental horse at each of these five battles.  Lee's Legion would be a speck.  These units and others influenced battles far more than their tiny size would indicate-and the more there are, the cooler they look. I also think it's best in 28mm.  There, I said it.  I'm slime, but I admit it.  I haven't seen any 15mm AWI I'm particularly enchanted with, and would you really trade in your Perry figures for 15mm Old Glory?  I think not!

Rules are always an open question with me.  Most of the games I want to run/plan are geared around   conventions or with friends who aren't familiar with the rules or the period.  So, they have to be fairly easy easy to pick up with reasonably simple mechanics. I own a copy of British Grenadier rules, which I hear lots of good things about.  If I had an intact group of regulars interested in the period, I'm sure I'd play these.  They are adaptable to 1:10 and have a couple of useful scenario books.  Unfortunately, that's not the world I live in.

A couple of years ago I began writing, or perhaps deriving would be a better term, a set of AWI rules from Fire and Fury.  At that time, Regimental Fire and Fury was still in its 275th beta version and publication was not on a foreseeable horizon.  I was also intrigued with the Hasenauer spawned "Wars of America" Regtl. F and F rules intended to serve a wider audience covering the American Revolution through the Mexican War.  Those rules are still unaccounted for.  Because Fire and Fury, together with The Sword and the Flame, are the greatest rules every written I decided to adapt my own version I called Tarleton's Quarter.  These were intended to be written at a 1:10 scale and aimed at the American Revolution in the South.  With those rules I hope to capture the more open formations the British used, and the closer integration of regular troops, provincials, and militia that was a regular feature of war in the Carolinas.