Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Little Fokker

The German Fokker E. IV (eindecker) was designed as a replacement for the highly successful E. III to counter the British RAF over the trenches of the Western Front in World War I. Unfortunately, the E. IV was found to be less reliable, slower and much less maneuverable than its predecessor. And it proved to be a poor climber, adding to its woes. Only 49 were built.

This 1/72 scale model represents the aircraft flown by Leutnant Kurt Wintgens of Feld Flieger 6b in 1916.

Wintgens was a pilot of some note in the German air service. He unofficially claimed the first German fighter kill in history on July 1, 1915, when he shot down a Nieuport Parasol. While that kill went unconfirmed, Wintgens went on to become an ace with an official tally of 19 kills. He was the fourth pilot to be awarded the Pour le Merite, the famous Blue Max.

One of only three German pilots known to have worn glasses during World War I, Wintgens went on to receive numerous other awards. before being shot down and killed on September 25, 1916 while defending a two-seat reconnaissance aircraft. We was only 22 years old.

Only one example of an E. IV still exists, housed at the Science Museum in London.

I built this model several years ago from the ICM kit. The rigging is made from paint brush bristles, my tried and proven technique for 1/72 scale aircraft. All in all, it make for a nice addition to my collection of World War I aircraft.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Duck, Duck, Goose?

Yeah, geese seem an unlikely subject for a game. But yet Brian Garthwaite has pulled it off in this delightful print-and-play solitaire game, Snowbirds.

Downloaded from Board Game Geek as part of the 2017 PnP challenge, this is a clever resource management game. The idea is to guide your flock of geese from somewhere in the north along a migratory route to more pleasant winter surrounds somewhere in the south.

It uses a deck of cards to randomly construct a map, so you never know where your next waypoint is until it is time to take off. Each stop has a different flight distance requirement (a number you have to meet or exceed with your available flight cards), a food requirement (forage for food before you go, or the hunger will make the flight seem longer, and you have to expend higher flight cards to make it) and a "risk" factor which basically controls your exhaustion level, which can be somewhat managed with rest cards. But don't use too many - the points add up at the end of the journey! But definitely keep an eye on your hunger and exhaustion levels. Too high, and the result is a dead duck, er, cooked goose, er, you know what I mean.

It's really a rather elegant little system, with the randomized plotting allowing for increased replay opportunities. There are more map cards in the set than required for an individual game, adding variety. Plus there are expansion cards available (I haven't printed those yet) to enhance it even more. There is even a two-player system in the expansions. I haven't tried that either.

As for the aesthetics, the artwork is incredible. Very colorful and evocative of the types of environments geese are likely to find on a long journey.

I happen to live near a power plant cooling pond and a cornfield, both of which are great stopping points for geese heading south in the fall or north in the spring. The water never freezes, a bonus for the birds here in frozen Michigan. In fact, as I played the game yesterday, I could here a flock honking as it passed overhead. Nice touch. :)

So far in every game I have played, at least three of my five geese have made it. The game includes a "victory point" schedule, and on that I didn't fare so well. My high score is 3 points! Anything over 10 is a clear-cut "victory." I think the designer noted a theoretical maximum of 22. So it is a challenge, without being impossible, which is a nice balance.

Snowbirds. While it sounds like a game about senior citizens playing shuffleboard in some quiet Florida retirement village, it's definitely more fun than that. After a hard day of leading your Saxons to bloody victory over Vikings, or firing volley after volley into the approach French Imperial Guard, or blasting another Zero out of the sky with your Corsair, this is a nice little change of pace.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Destruction of Task Force Z

Note: I just found this in my drafts folder. It was written over a year ago, but for some reason never published. Hope you enjoy. 

Yes, another solitaire board game commemorating events of 75 years ago this month in the Pacific. As a follow-up to my Pearl Harbor game last week, Today I played Minden Games' Destruction of Task Force Z, which recreates the final voyages of the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in the days immediately following Pearl Harbor and other Japanese attacks in Malaya and elsewhere.

The design notes say straight up that this game should demonstrate the folly of setting sail with capital ships in the vicinity of enemy bombers without adequate protection from the air. Truth. While I did somewhat better than historically, losing only the Repulse while managing to have the Prince of Wales limp back to Singapore, that was mostly due to one lucky die roll on my part than anything. Things could have just as easily ended up with a historical result, which to me is a sign of a good game.

In the game, I stuck with Admiral Sir Tom Phillips' basic plan and headed east out of Singapore past the Anamba Islands before heading north to avoid known minefields and Japanese submarine activity. A few Japanese surface units popped up, but ended up playing no role in the game. I guess I could have tried to chase them down, but I decided to attempt to disrupt invasion plans and bombard Japanese forces in Singera and Kota Bharu.

Alas, on turn 3 (second day turn, Dec. 3), my small fleet was spotted, despite strict observance of radio silence. A total of 25 torpedo bombers and 20 level bombers appeared, and divided themselves evenly to attack both my ships. Anti-aircraft fire was marginally successful, but still the Prince of Wales suffered 2 hits and the Repulse 1 - all by the torpedo planes.

With the next turn a night turn, I decided to maintain radio silence and go ahead with the mission under cover of darkness. That worked great - until the following morning when I was spotted again. This time, though, only 16 level bombers showed up, and they proved ineffective with no hits scored. At this time I probably should have called in the RAF, but I decided to push my luck and headed for Kota Bharu.

Then things went from bad to worse. Suddenly 28 torpedo bombers and 24 level bombers attacked, concentrating solely on the Repulse. (That's that lucky die roll I mentioned earlier - basically saved the Prince of Wales.) Torpedo planes attack first, and the second plane in scored a critical hit on the propulsion system, meaning the Repulse could only move one square per turn the rest of the game. Basically it would be a sitting duck. Not that it mattered, as plane 9 scored another hit, followed by plane 11 with the final blow that sent the venerable vessel to the bottom.

Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales moved in close to shore and managed to bombard Japanese positions in Kota Bharu, but with night falling decided discretion would be the better part of valor and made full steam south toward Singapore. Risking a straight line through the Japanese submarine pickets and the mines while continuing to maintain radio silence, the Prince of Wales avoided detection and made it back to Singapore on turn 10. On her next sortie, she would undoubtedly be provided some aerial cover...

All in all a fun little game. There are some strategic options for the British player, which is good. I could have called in the RAF, or I could have tried some surface actions. I found the use of counters largely unnecessary in the battle segments, basically using only those to keep track of ship positions on the board and making use of the register to keep track of combat. It's a little tedious, as every individual plane ends up being attacked by AA and is assigned an attack modifier, so there is lots of dice rolling, especially in the larger attacks. But it's not like there are attacks going on in a dozen hexes, so it's manageable.

According the victory points schedule, I lost 12-2. Still that's better than the historical outcome, which under these terms would have been considered an 18-0 Japanese victory!

I'd like to give this another try sometime. I do have one more early Pacific game in the stash covering Bataan and Corregidor. That looks like strictly a two-player game, though, so I'm not sure when I'll get to that. Someday!

I Think I'll Slip On Down to the Oasis... First Sudan Game

Disclaimer: This game took place in July! My erstwhile opponent John and I have been talking for years about doing a summer game day in the backyard, accompanied by some burgers or some kind of meat cooked over open flame on a grill - you know, manly stuff. This year we finally scheduled one, and as it is wont to do in Michigan, it rained!

The heroic Highlanders!
Never mind, we moved it into my screen room/three seasons room or whatever you want to call it. We got several games in, I just never updated them on this here blog thingy!

First up was our first go at The Men Who Would Be Kings. I've become a fan of Dan Meresey's rules, even though I have never played one! Lion Rampant, Dragon Rampant and Pikeman's Lament are all on the to-do list. In the meantime, TMWWBK did not disappoint.

Well, this is a problem.
We often eschew the scenarios in rulebooks, especially when taking rules for a test drive, and that was the case again here. The basic scenario involved a column of British escorting a camel baggage train to God-knows-where stopping for a rest at an oasis. Unbeknownst to our heroes, a Mahdist horde has been trailing the column, and took this opportunity to pounce.

Jon commanded the heathen rogues, while I did my best with the Queen's troops. Which wasn't great! Despite my best efforts, and some reasonably good shooting, the devils were upon us in no time, and the column was overrun. This will not look good in the London papers.
Here they come!

The quick result was no fault of the rules. We decided we goofed by setting the sides up too close to each other. They were already in range, and by the time they moved, there just wasn't time for my heroic men in khaki to get off more than a couple volleys before it became a numbers game in melee. The difference in troop types did come into play somewhat, with the Scots holding on longer than the Egyptians, which seemed right.

Also of note, we played it with different leader characteristics for the British, but all the same for the Mahdists. Too difficult to keep track of individual leaders with that many units that all look the same. It worked fine. 

Terrain is scratch built, based on cork boards. The minis are all 15mm and are a mix of Essex, Peter Pig and Old Glory 15s. I like how this played out, and would like to add some more troop types.

I can see how this could be scaled up to a larger, multi-player game, and that's in mind for the future, too. It will just take painting a bunch more Mahdists! And there are the scenario rules provided, which I would also like to give a go sometime. Must keep the Empire intact, what?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018: An Uncertain Future

Wow. Three posts in all of 2017. That's embarrassing. Partly that was due to the job I started last January. It kept me busy, and (gasp) pretty much eliminated my ability to update this blog during working hours. And by the time I got home, well, with two kids and all the activities, it just didn't ever get to the top of the to-do list.

But, that job is done. That's not a good thing in terms of supporting a family and sustaining a hobby budget, but it is what it is. And as I set forth on the well-worn job-seeker path, at least I should have some time to update the blog. I hope.

For all was not barren in the realm of hobbies in 2017. There were minis painted, some games played. There was even a resurgence in board gaming. Perhaps more on that later.

For now, I leave you with a view of the painting desk as it stands now, and a promise to be more diligent with the updates.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Flintccon 2017

My second con in three weeks! Yes, a bit unfortunate they fell so close together, but it is what it is. And Flintcon is growing into a great con. I missed it last year because of a speedskating meet, but I'm glad I went this year.

I suppose by the letter of the law victory conditions, both games I played in ended in a draw. However, I think my side was doing well in both cases, and ultimately would have prevailed with more time.

Game one was a Peninsular Blackpowder game set up by erstwhile opponent Jon. My main objective was to redeem the performance of the Highlanders - who ran like scared little girls without firing a shot last time. They did OK this time - nothing that will go down in the annals of the regiment, but they held and gave as good as they got. On the other hand, the valiant sons of Portugal were great! Some skirmishers on the right just kept dishing it out and refused to run. Good stuff.

Game two I tried Bolt Action for the first time. The verdict is still out on these for me, but it was a gorgeous setup. Omaha Beach, D-Day. It went about like one would expect. The first few turns hitting the beach the Americans just got chewed up. But once the Rangers got up the cliff, and some armor go ashore, things began to turn. One of the best terrain tables I have ever played on.

Flintcon also featured a bunch of board games and RPGs. I didn't get any photos of those, but it looked like people were having a good time. Huzzah to the organizers!

It was a good day, until the drive home, when I hit a deer. Ugh. But that's another story.

Without further ado, the photos:

Deer 1, Car 0

The valiant Highlanders!

Viking raid - awesome table.

Rome vs. Carthage

ACW with Sharpe's Practice

D-Day - first session


Star Wars

The Crusades game I played in at Spartacon.

Sounds like it was a success again.


Pack in the Peninsula...

The skirmishers on the right were awesome.


Sudan - Sword and Flame, I think.


Weird War I

My turn for D-Day


Round 2 was very different

My favorite pic of the day