sci fi

sci fi

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

More books, Vicar?


Another day out, this time in the perpetually damp town of Tavistock, which is a great place for second hand book hunting despite the inclement weather. The Oxfam bookshop turned up a copy of God's Warriors for £2.99 and a stall in the pannier market landed a copy of Victoria's Victories for £3.00, both in very well preserved hardback format. I am justifiably pleased, especially with the latter as it features some splendid colour plates and a chapter on Tamai, which is suitably stirring stuff and should enliven the forthcoming and long overdue PITS revival project.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Bag The Hun 2 North Africa Game [2]


I spent the afternoon reading through The History of 73 Squadron Part 2 in search of an historical precedent for the multiplayer scenario that I'll be writing up for the club game. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything to match the set up that I was intending to use for the game, although I did pick out at least half a dozen actions that would make great scenarios if I had the requisite Ju87's, Bf110's and Ju88's that ended up as tangled wreckage all over the Tobruk perimeter in 1941.

On the plus side, there's lots of potential for a series of linked games and I may well have a go at writing them up in the future, either for fun or for publication somewhere. Some of the actions described in the book would be hair raising to say the least and would make for some superb scenarios. The five against one dogfight to the death of RCAF Flt Lt James 'Smudger' Smith on 14th April, for example, is one such encounter that makes you sit back and think.

Anyway, I'll be making up a fictitious background for the club game, allowing for some imaginative bending of the parameters to fit what I've got on the flight line. This will mean that the Italians will get six G50's to escort an SM81 on a vital re-supply mission, with top cover provided by six MC202's. The RAF will have two flights of four Hurricanes to intercept the SM81 and fight off the Italian fighter support. I'm not sure if I'll use bogeys but, if I do, they'll be allocated to the Italians who otherwise will face a bit of an uphill struggle against the experienced pilots of No73 Squadron.

Incidentally, I've been thinking of ways to replicate the fuselage flash that No73 Squadron began to use in North Africa in the middle of 1941. I experimemted with some red decal strip before I added the fuselage codes, which should be grey not white (!), but gave up in frustration. I may have another go at this attempt to make the Hurricanes less generic but, if it doesn't work, it's not the end of the world as no one else is likely to notice or even be that bothered. My Hurricanes are MkI's and really should be MkIIb's, so it's all a bit wonky either way...

Aaarggh!!!

Dux Britanniarum Background Book


We went to Tintagel again today as the weather was decent and we have English Heritage membership, which makes it a cheap day out. I'm not a fan of Tintagel due to the excessive numbers of tourists and the proliferation of plastic pixies, pasty shops and knick knack emporia, but it's an impressive site nonetheless.

To minimise the culture shock, I bought a copy of this book in the gift shop as background research material for Dux Britanniarum. I know next to nothing about the period so it should fill in some gaps, although the rules do have a very good overview of the whole sub-Roman period. I'm not sure if it's any good but it looks quite interesting and has lots of maps, which is usually a good thing.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Normandy Firefight US Anti Tank Team


A trip to Launceston today before the torrential rain arrived and I now have an addition to the 1/35th scale figures for Normandy Firefight, in the form of a couple of bazooka teams for the Yanks. They were a bit of a bargain and will form the basis of at least one tank hunter figure, assuming I can find matching prone or standing figures for each of the pairs. These can be supplied from existing figures in the collection.

I've negelected this project for a few months but have been encouraged to give it another look after Steve Blease jumped onto the Normandy Firefight bandwagon with his 1/32nd scale Airfix multipose inititiative. He's made the sensible decision to go for a theatre with minimal terrain complications, with North Africa, Italy or Burma as his battlegrounds of choice.

...having said that, Italy does have some mileage with the stuff that I've got, so might be worth a thought.

Thanks Steve.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

X Wing Quickstart Game


We played the quickstart set up game from X Wing this afternoon and I think it went pretty well.

The basic mechanics are quite similar to Wings of War but with an improved movement system, using various turn templates rather than cards. The combat phase is, however, quite different and uses an opposed dice roll system together with hit cards to determine damage, although this wasn't detailed in the quick version of the rules that we were following.

I enjoyed the game and it looks like it's got a decent set of legs, when the full rules and the advanced options are included. I'll have another go tomorrow, using the full rules for a solo game, before I attempt to explain how the system works to the boys. We're off to Tavistock on Tuesday and I'm hoping that the local games shop will have the expansion packs in stock, so that I can acquire at least one more X Wing for the rebel alliance.

Good fun!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Finest Hour Campaign Plans


I've offered to run a Bag The Hun 2 campaign sometime in 2013 at the club, with four or five players already signed up. I originally intended for this to be a Tobruk set up but have been re-thinking the idea and will now probably go for a Battle of Britain campaign using the Finest Hour supplement. This is an easier option than working it all out myself.

It will allow me to use my existing Luftwaffe collection of eight Bf109's, four Bf110's and nine Do17's, together with the twenty four (!) Ju88's that I painted up for the club participation game a couple of years ago. The latter need re-basing but otherwise they'll fill a big gap in the Luftwaffe air fleet, although I'll need to do some more fighters as well to make up the numbers.


I've also decided to leave my existing Hurricanes to one side and instead to paint up a full squadrons' worth of Spitfires, twelve of which I already have on the leadpile. These will be decked out as 609 Squadron machines based at RAF Middle Wallop in 1940, which just happens to be twenty minutes up the road. I like the local connnection and I also have a full set of 609 squadron decals to mark up the fuselage insignia.

The challenge will be to match the paint shades and finish to the existing RAF aircraft that I have in the collection but this shouldn't be too difficult, as I have everything written down somewhere, so can duplicate the camouflage without too many headaches. I hope. I'll get started on the project as soon as I've cleared the decks a bit and have had a decent break.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Bag The Hun North Africa [21]




I finished the fuselage decals and the tidying up on the Hurricanes earlier in the week but, as things have been a bit manic of late, I haven't posted any updates until now. Anyway, they're pretty much done and dusted, apart from painting the bases and flight stands. The Blenheims will have to wait until I get back from Cornwall this time next week but they shouldn't take too long to finish off once the canopies are sorted.

Flames of War - Achtung!


The copy of X Wing arrived yesterday, so it'll be packed into the baggage tonight ready for the trip to Cornwall on Saturday. However, number one son wasn't especially impressed despite the enthusiasm of his younger brother, who nearly exploded with excitement and then pestered me for a game all evening. 

Anyway, in an attempt to win big brother over to something historical and wean him off his half hearted but very expensive Warhammer 40K habit, I've ordered a copy of the Achtung! Flames of War starter box set. This was on sale for £20 from Northstar, as the new FoW starter set has probably grabbed everyone's attention, leaving this less than impressive pack gathering dust on the shelves.

The boy got a good school report this week, so it's also a bit of a reward and might even spark his latent interest in history. I'm really not a fan of Flames of War, which always seems to feature bumper to bumper tanks at ludicrous proximity to one another, but it should appeal to the sprogs with it's cool artwork, colourful layout and relatively straightforward mechanics.

...worth a try anyway!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

X Wing


With the half term holidays on the immediate horizon , I thought it would be fun to bring a boardgame or two to Cornwall, just in case the weather socks in. As this is an absolute certainty rather than a  likelihood, I decided to splash out on a copy of Fantasy Flight Games X Wing, rather than drag out my much loved and overly pampered Wings of War collection.

As the boys have been soaked in old school Star Wars since conception and have now been exposed to the whole Clone Wars thing, they should find it a bit of a blast. I have no idea how the system works but it looks like a lot of fun for minimal outlay, by today's inflated standards at least.

I'm really looking forward to a few swiftly paced and desperate dogfights between my rebel X Wing and the evil Imperial boys in their collective Tie Fighters, assuming the box arrives from Amazon by the end of the week that is?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Bag The Hun 2 North Africa Game


I've found a free Tuesday in November to do a follow up to the BTH2 Battle of Britain game that I ran at the club last week. It won't be until the 27th next month, however, which gives me plenty of time to finish off the RAF and Luftwaffe aircraft on the workbench, alhtough the latter aren't really needed for the scenario. I'm nearly there with the Hurricanes as it is, so it should be easy to get them sorted for the game.


This will be based around one I played back in 2009 against my erstwhile opponent Andy, with an Italian reconnaissance Fiat BR20 being escorted (badly) across the table by a couple of flights of Macchi Mc202's. In the original game the RAF flew Kittyhawks but this time round they'll get the Hurricanes, which might even things out a bit for the Italians, who in turn will get a nice SM81 to chuck about the sky instead of the BR20.


I might even deploy the Luftwaffe Bf109F's that I have as 'emergency' back up but that depends on the numbers who sign up and the way the game turns out on the night for the Italians. I'll crack on with the written bit in the meantime, writing up briefings for the two sides and sorting out some turn cards, to replace the less than fantastic ones I produced for the original game.

Monday, 22 October 2012

No73 Squadron

I found this really, really useful paperback on Ebay the other day and thought it would be handy as a potential mine of information for Bag the Hun 2 scenarios. I'm not disappointed as it is packed full of day by day combat reports, maps, photographs, eyewitness accounts, useful notes and even colour profiles. It looks like I'll have more than enough for some serious game development, with lots of potential for some linked games set around 1941 way out up the 'blue'.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Bag The Hun North Africa [20]


I spent some time this afternoon adding the fuselage roundels to the Hurricanes, using the I-94 two stage decals. This is a fiddly business at the best of times but I had twelve of the buggers to do, so ended up with decal fatigue by the time I had finished. Rather than tackle the whole lot with fin flashes and codes, I decided to maintain some semblance of sanity by finishing them off one section at a time.

Here, as a result, is the first installment of Red Section No73 squadron sometime around May 1941. 

If I was being picky, they'd be in temperate 'A' pattern green and brown camouflage, with sand and spaghetti all over the leading edges and engine cowling. However, I think they look better in the slightly less accurate mid stone and light earth desert camouflage, with a characteristic absence of squadron codes, both of which make my life a lot easier when it comes to painting and decals.

I'll tackle another section or two tomorrow and, hopefully, paint up the bases as well.

(I'm still not happy with the sloppy canopies so may have a go at cleaning them up if I get the time...)

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Bag The Hun North Africa [19]




I started on the decals this evening, with the upper wing roundels on the Hurricanes and the trial run Blenheim fully marked out with roundels, fin flashes and fuselage codes. The decals are from the I-94 range with the insignia from a sheet of 1/72nd scale WW1 RFC lettering by Blue Rider. I'm not happy with the cockpit glazing bars on the Blenheim, but I've bought some new 000 brushes to make the rest of the painting a little more precise.

Battle of Britain Books




I'm whacked this weekend due to a cold that I can't shift and too much to do at work. However, I have added yet more books to the aviation collection with a distinct focus on the Battle of Britain, inspired in part by last week's Channel Dash game and by my long term interest in the subject. In fact, I'm thinking of running a mini-campaign for Bag The Hun 2 using the Finest Hour supplement at some point in the New Year. More about that later....

Friday, 19 October 2012

Luftwaffe III/JG51 Combat Report


The dashing pilots of III Staffeln / JG51 have submitted their combat reports following the recent action over Das Kanal. In the interest of fair play, I'll let the somewhat inexperienced but valiant Leutnant Beens take up the story...

Lt Heinz Beens reports:

Flying in formation with our Top Ace, Oblt Trautloft, we surprised a flight of Spitfires head on. A short burst of my cannons put one wingman into panic as parts of his cockpit burst into the sky and he quickly dove for the sea and turned for home.

My wingman, Lt Gruber, was hit as we chased the British flight leader. Without being able to fire his little gun but using the skills he had learnt from me, he was able to bring his damaged plane back to base.


Meanwhile I joined our leader in pursuing and taking out another Spitfire, causing it to spiral into the sea after a longer burst from my cannon.

The third Spitfire was also damaged and ran for the coast, but we were unable to pursue as the second flight was suffering badly against a flight of Hurricanes, so we turned to offer them aid.

Those damned Hurricanes are tough. but we drove them off before heading home.

...clearly, Lt Beens would benefit from some additional aircraft recognition lectures from the Intelligence Section of III/JG51, although you can't fault his enthusiasm!

:O)

Thursday, 18 October 2012

No14 Squadron Blenheim IV



I've been working out the decal options for the Bag the Hun North Africa Hurricanes and Blenheims and have decided to mark up the latter as machiens from No14 Squadron RAF. This was one of the principal light bomber units in North Africa and was operating at the time of the Tobruk siege in the Spring and Summer of 1941. The Hurricanes are still up in the air but with probably end up as 73 squadron machines, which had a flight entirely composed of Free French pilots.


Anyway, I found a cracking website with photographs of the Blenheim IV's in their distinctive squadron markings, which consisted of a prominent horizontal white or light grey bar adjacent to the fuselage roundel and accompanied by a single letter to identify each aircraft. I have some Blue Rider 1/72nd scale WW1 lettering decals that would be perfect for this, so I'm hoping to try them out on the single model that I've finished painting, with the other five following over the weekend.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

RAF No56 Squadron B Flight Combat Report



I was going to write up an after action report of the Bag the Hun 2 game but Paul, taking the role of F/Sgt 'Taffy' Higginson of B Flight, No56 Squadron, has done such a cracking job, that I'll let him take do the de-brief...

"Flight Sergeant Whitehead and myself were leading our sections to intercept a number of German bombers that had been picked up on radar, but unfortunately we missed them on the climb. Instead we were bounced by a couple of ME109 sections, not what we were expecting for a sunny afternoon, the Hun really do not play cricket properly!

I was fortunate enough to break left and get behind the leading Hun section, but poor Whitehead was hit by their dastardly leader - I recognised his plane as I flashed by, I am sure he is one of their top aces!

Anyway, Whitehead and his chaps got involved in a horrible dogfight with the leading section. I saw one of the Germans limping home, but poor Whitehead and one of his chaps had to bail out. I was pleased to find out, when I returned to base later, that Whitehead had got out ok and was picked up by a local fisherman, but the other poor chap's parachute failed to open....The third chap limped home as well so poor Whitehead's section was decimated.

It really was very bad luck that he came up against one of the Hun's top men!


As I mentioned, I was fortunate enough to slip past the first German section and was soon engaged with the second one. One of them got on my tail and fired a long burst, but miraculously I only received minor damage, a few holes in my left wing. The good 'ol Hurry did me right again! It was enough to break our formation though and we were soon engaged in as fierce a dogfight as Whitehead.

Lady luck then intervened, I managed to come out of the sun on one of the Hun and he was soon bailing out. My other two chaps also did me proud, managing to shoot down 2 of the other 3 Germans (I am sure one of them exploded, but I was looking into the sun at the time).


Just as I thought we were safe I was surprised by a couple of the Germans that had hit Whitehead coming up behind me, plus the surviving one from the section I had faced coming from the right. Two of them got long bursts at me and I thought I was a gonner.......I shut my eyes momentarily, waiting for the explosion......

When I opened them I saw the Germans heading for home and I was, again, miraculously unscathed! I therefore report that my section had 3 confirmed kills for no losses, although how the latter happened I will never know......"
 
Thanks Paul!
 
Incidentally, the real 'Taffy' Higginson was a genuine fighter ace and ended up as a Wing Commander by the end of the war.

Empress Miniatures Drivers

These have just been released by Empress Miniatures and are perfect for both my VBCW forces and for the Back of Beyond, where I could use them for the American Dinosaur Hunters or for a British Indian armoured car force, should I ever get round to putting one together, or even for the Arab Revolt for which I have some figures. They're good value as well as being excellent sculpts, so I've ordered a pack for use in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Tally Ho!












The Battle of Britain Bag The Hun 2 introductory game this evening was a real success and was well received by all of the players involved. In the end, I ended up with slightly fewer participants so decided to run a simple fighter v. fighter game, using the cards that I'd laminated up but leaving out the bombers to keep things simple.

I'll do a write up of the whole thing later on, after I've had some feedback from the flight and schwarm commanders, but it was a narrow RAF victory. This was a bit of a turnaround for the plucky players concerned due to a bit of a sticky wicket in the opening turns. However, the collective stiff upper lip didn't wobble and things turned out tickety boo by the close of play.

Well done chaps!

Incidentally, everyone was duly impressed by the turn cards which Duncan very kindly provided for the game. As you can see in the photos, they are rather good and add a definite quality to the game, especially the Bale Out! card, which was employed on at least four occasions towards the climax of the proceedings.

Tally Ho!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Bag the Hun 2 Channel Dash Game



I've spent most of the evening laminating the turn cards for the Bag the Hun 2 Channel Dash game that I'll be running tomorrow night at the club. The cards have been blown up to just under A6 size so that I can use some plastic laminating pockets that I found in WHSmiths at half price a couple of weeks ago.

They're a big larger than I'd like but will work well for a multiplayer game, where bigger is definately better. It took me quite a while to shove them through the laminating gizmo and even longer to trim them down to size but I have no doubt that they'll be worth it.

Thanks once again to Duncan Hamilton for the excellent cards, which I'm sure will add much to the game and make it all the more enjoyable for everyone involved!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Iron Cow CDSU Task Force






The extra CDSU packs that I ordered in the Brigade Models 6mm sale arrived yesterday and I've been sorting them into units for my projected East African campaign. I have a company of tanks, a company of infantry in APC's, a battery of rocket launchers and SPG's, with a couple of AAA missile carriers in support, together with half a dozen HQ command APC's. It's not a lot in game terms but should be a potent enough force for a few try out games with the Iron Cow rules.

These are now in the painitng queue but, if I follow the quick spray and wash method that I used on the British battlegroup, they won't take long to complete, whenever I get round to them. I've also had an idea to base the infantry, using the Renedra plastic bases wih countersunk holes as before, but with some of the new Citadel texture paint to blend them in. It might work but I'll have to do some experimentation on some test bases before I tackle the infantry en masse.