onsdag 11. april 2012

Easter Activities

Some while since the last post... It has been Easter, and little time for blogging - without further ado, here's the Easter in review!

First of all, a closer look at the Bf110c miniatures from Raiden. Though I might well be repeating myself here, it is no secret that Raiden is one of my favourite manufacturers due to their propensity for capturing the feel of an aircraft in 1/300, despite the occasional slight symmetry issue and other, detail-oriented concerns.

Nice lines!

The Bf110c was designed on theoretically sound principles that were learned during the first world war and reaffirmed during the the Spanish civil war - namely that in air superiority combat, maneuverability was subordinate to speed. The more nimble radial-engine biplane fighters of both WW1 and the Spanish civil war could easily out-maneuver more modern designs of both conflicts - though this helped little. The more powerful, modern designs of both conflicts were unable to out-turn the opposition, yet had enough engine power to pick their fights - and this proved a desicive advantage. If the situation was favourable, the faster fighters could "boom-and-zoom," diving down on the opposition, make a high speed attack and then use velocity gained in the dive to climb rapidly out of retaliation range to repeat as required. If the situation was unfavourable, the faster fighters could quite simply avoid combat altogether.

Symmetry issues - at the least to me, it appears like the wings are not quite alike. Never mind, it will never be noticed during a game...

The Bf110c was designed to both have long range and to use superior speed to win air engagements. The only problem was that, like for many other inter-war "fast" designs, aircraft design evolution overtook the 110 before the war broke out. Designs like the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire pushed the envelope on what was thought possible performance-wise, and heralded a new age of high-speed, single engine monoplane air superiority fighters. During the first year of world war 2, the concept of the "fast" multi-engine bombers and fighters was buried by the merciless evolution of powerful single engine fighters by all air forces.

Though the Hurricane and Spitfire fighters gave the 110s a run for their money over the Channel and England in 1940, I find it interesting to note that the design principle was proven very sound in other theatres where the opposition lacked high-speed fighters. On the eastern front, the 110 proved a fearsome opponent for the slower opposition.

Before and after images. Due to the size of the model no doubt, there are lumps of metal on both engine spinners and the nose, where the air has been allowed to escape the mould. It cleans up well, though I must say it was less than ideal to have this lump right below the finely detailed nose machine guns. Although the poor maneuverability of the 110 may make tailing the more nimble RAF fighters tricky, the four 7.92 mm MGs and two 20 mm cannon should have good effect in fly-by and boom-and-zoom attacks.
At any rate, early war + 20 mm cannon = win...

So, what can be said of the models themselves? Like all the Raiden sculpts I have received, they are fine models indeed. After making an effort to compare the sculpts to photographs of the aircraft, I am satisfied. Except for the less than optimal placement of the metal lump remaining from the casting right below the four nicely made 7.92 mm MGs, there is one other detail that bothers me - the etched lines on the canopy were quite subtle, meaning painting the multi-pane canopy will be a right bitch, pardon my french...
Due to these details, I'd rate this model as a 4 out of 5. A fine model that I am very much looking forward to painting up and gaming with.
As a side note, the Bf110c is a huge aircraft, nearly rivaling the Do17zs for size!

Coming soon to a fjord near you - undercoated Zerstörers ready for painting

Being at my father-in-law's cabin, I had brought only the Bf110cs for udnercoating. Having some available time later that week-end, I sat down with my children's crayons and paper to draw a little something for my office wall. As I have previously said, the Bf110c fascinates me no end. That being said, the nazi regime does not, so I was happy to find a photograph to draw after that had the swastika obscured due to exposure.

By clamping a straight piece of material onto the plywood, one can saw uncannily straight using just a normal hand saw.

Finally, I started work on a project that has been lying in my basement for ages - a full size gaming table, which will be required to get the gaming mat fully unfolded. The "table" will consist of a 4-by-8 foot plywood plate, cut in two, stiffened with wood beams and fitted with hinges and latches for stowage. Work was cut short when it started to snow like mad, preventing outdoor carpentry work.

The table will not have legs, instead I will stick on felt pads so it can rest on any smaller table without scratching it. Latches will secure it in a locked, unfolded position. It will likely be unpainted, as I intend to use felt mats whenever gaming on it, though I might paint it for some added durability, in that case in any neutral colour.

And that was that. Well, there was one other matter, though I'll return to that later...

mandag 26. mars 2012

Dorniers Done


This project started december 13th last year, with the painting of the prototype model. Since then, a lot has happened which has delayed the completion of these miniatures. Much time has been spent making quick reference charts for Bag the Hun 2 and designing cards for the game deck, damage and aircraft status. Some time has also been eaten up by the assembly of additional flight stands, the making of bogeys, as well as other gaming and storage aids. Last, but not least, the five Gloster Gladiators of Jagevingen took their sweet time to complete.

Last night only the rudders of the Dorniers, as well as varnishing, remained to do. The rudders have been used as hand-holds for the duration of painting, to ensure that paint was not rubbed off other parts of the miniatures prior to varnishing. Finishing these was quick and easy, and as the varnishing progressed (I use paint-on varnish) I realised that this was the night.

Admittedly, I stayed up far too late - though I thankfully could not tell today - yet after burning the midnight oil the last aircraft was done and I could look down on a squadron of twelve Do17zs, ready to cross the Channel!

After tidying up and introducing the Dorniers to their new abode, the storage box, and being the kind of bloke that I am, I immediately moseyed over to Raiden Miniatures to order the next project for the queue - twelve Junkers 87B 'Stukas'. The new(ish) Raiden Online Store impressed me with a very good and easy to use interface.

Though I intended to say that the Stukas are some of my favourite aircraft, I'll have to rephrase that - every time I start another project from this period, it seems like all of the aircraft I paint are some of my favourites! The aircraft designs of WW2 are all very fascinating to me, being in that border period between the historic and the modern where design was still a matter of experience and aesthetics more than equations and computer simulations. The early-war period fascinates me even more, as guesswork can be added as another desing factor, leading to some very interesting concepts being aloft for the initial battles...

Can you imagine why the Norwegian defenders 9th of April 1940 believed the Germans were deploying Do17zs to attack Oslo, when no such airplane was part of the main effort?

Afterwards, I laid out the next project - The Bf110c 'Zerstörers'. As these are really similar to the Dorniers, I will forego painting a prototye - they will even be using the same colour scheme. The four 110s on top have had their molding lines filed off. The next update on this project should hopefully contain some sort of review of these models.

Before I start painting these in earnest, though, I have to assemble bomber flight stands and make aircraft status cards for the Dorniers - I really can't wait to get in the first bomber-centric game!

lørdag 24. mars 2012

Nearly there!

For the last week, I have been able to get in a few hours of painting more or less every night. As a result, the Dorniers are nearly finished, which suits me fine in every respect:

- The next project is one of my favourite fighters, the Messerschmitt Bf110c. It will be good to get some variation in the fighters available for the Luftwaffe as well, and these can allow me to start playtesting the "Dogfight over Oslofjord"-scenario.

- As a result of long experience, I have to limit myself to having one set of miniatures in the painting queue. Finishing the Dorniers will allow me to place a new order (most likely for a batch of Raiden Stukas). More shiny toys! Me like!

- And, finally, I will have a full squadron of bombers, allowing some variation to our scenarios.

Well, that, and the fliegender Bleistift is a damn hot aeroplane to have in the collection too...

Picking up the action where I let off last time. At that time, the camouflage pattern was finished. The next step was to paint the cockpit canopies. This is a job that I detest, and as a result I like to do it as early as possible in the painting process to have it out of the way. On single engine fighters, the canopy will be finished as soon as the undercoat is done. For these aircraft, there is a lot of glass, separated by thin strips of the fuselage. When painting the prototype, one of the things I discovered was that it would be far easier to paint on the canopy after the camouflage was finished. Therefore, this was one of the last painting operations to be done on these particular aircraft.

Well, what do you know? These windows, which are only present on the right-hand side of the fuselage were overlooked when I painted the prototype, as I by chance have only seen pictures of the left side of the aircraft when working out the colour scheme!
Despite some web research, I have been unable to conclusively decide why the windows were positioned like this. However, I did find enough incidental evidence to make up my mind. The small bulge under the aircraft's nose is the bomb sight nacelle, and this was positioned offset to the right - placing it directly below these windows. To me it therefore seems overwhelmingly evident that these windows were for the benefit of the bomb aimer.

There, fixed it! 

Over the course of a few evenings, all the canopies were done. With the exception of the "hand-hold" rudders, the paint job was now complete, allowing me to move on to...

...decals! These are the 300-GE-1 High-visibilty and 300-GE-2 Low visibility Balkenkreuz from Dom's Decals. They are easy to work with and apply, and I think they look really good. Dom offered excellent service and quick delivery when I ordrered these.
The website does not appear to have been updated in quite a while, so I'll make sure to ask in the Toofatlardies-group if everything is ok - I expect it to be, as Dom is a frequent contributer there. The balkenkreuzes are starting to run out, and I will definitly be ordering from Dom the next time too.

 There was something strangely poetic in seeing two dozen balkenkreuzes floating around in a small, white bowl...

High-viz Balkenkreuz in their natural habitat. The brushes are used to apply the decals (as if you did not know already :)

To get the spacing more or less equal on all the aircraft, I use whatever suitable items I might have at hand - in this case, a square-nosed file (that hardly gets used for anything else, really).

Seeing as it had been a while since I finished the prototype, I had a bit of a puzzle to solve when it came to the low-viz Balkenkreuz on the top of the wings. By trying out various items from my paint brush storage cup I was finally able to determine that I had used the shaft of my scalpel!

 This is either how I kept track of my progress in applying the under-wing decals, or a new type of Othello with really fancy tokens...

All done! Only the rudders and varnish to go, and these puppies will be intruding an airspace near you!
As a side note, the shine of the decal film around the Balkenkreuz will disappear once the varnish is applied.

fredag 16. mars 2012

Quick, hide!

Last night, I was able to sit down and finish the camouflage pattern on my Dorniers:

Soon time to bomb Fighter Command - Soon time to order more planes!

Having always thought of camouflage in the sky as somewhat ridiculous - how do you propose to hide a multi-engined aircraft with several crew after all - I just had to mosey on over and see what Wikipedia had to say on the subject.

"Aircraft camouflage is the use of light and color patterns applied to military aircraft for the purpose of making an aircraft more difficult to see on the ground, in the air, or to make its speed, distance or attitude difficult to determine." (Wikipedia)

Fancy that.

Anyway, the article was fairly interesting and answered several questions I had regarding aircraft camouflage - like why the Americans thought shining metal and signal colours was a good way to hide in the sky towards the end of the war - and contained several interesting tidbits, like the fact that camouflage paint - being matte - could reduce the maximum airspeed of an aircraft considerably. Take a look if you are interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aircraft_camouflage

Well, time to get working on those canopies!

onsdag 14. mars 2012

Out-turning the opposition

When playing the Four-In-A -Day scenario in the last post, we tried out the new movement budget idea I have been thinking about. The goal is to eliminate the D4 from the rules - as part of BtH "Lite," I am looking to eliminate the oddly shaped dice (D10 and D4), and have a ruleset with exclusively D6. Originally, I intended to post this as part of the after action report, though it got completely out of hand, so here it is in a separate post...

Rather than roll D4 for movement budget, we rolled a D6 and interpreted the results as follows:
D6 roll

Add indicated value
Choose 1-4. Easy maneuvers only.
Add indicated value
Choose 1-4
Add UP TO indicated value
Choose 1-4
Choose 1-4
Choose 1-4

This allows the lower experience levels to choose their own speed more often than the standard rules, yet retains a marked difference between them and the higher experience ranks. Sprogs are in trouble if they fall out of formation - no longer being able to watch the formation leader, they are prone to taking less extreme maneuvers. This matches accounts of dogfights I have read well - the classic example is the Battle of Britain Hurri vs. Spit vs. Emil. There are examples of pilots in all these aircraft who claimed to be able to out-turn the other two types, despite the fact that the Hurricane is able to out-turn both the Spit and Emil under controlled conditions. The Spit, however, had its fabulous wing design that gave the pilot more warning when the aircraft was about to stall, and that made the Spit easier to recover. This likely made pilots more willing to push the Spitfire further than they would have done with a Hurri.
As for the Emils - well, the Me109 pilots had earned their wings over Spain, Poland and France... There are accounts of German pilots easily out-turning Spitfires, though this should theoretically not be possible. One theory is that green Spitfire pilots failed to tighten their turns sufficiently, stopping when the first vibrations set in whereas they could have pulled an even tighter turn without actually stalling. The other probable cause comes down to experience – by adjusting the position of the  attacking aircraft (rather than trying to stick on someone’s tail), an experienced pilot can maneuver to get a shot on an aircraft with a lower wing loading.

Point-in-case: Low Yo-Yo . By using the low and high yo-yo, even a P47 Thunderbolt could "out-turn" a Spitfire.

Late in the war, this was formalized in the "Energy Management" approach to dogfighting, which is still being taught to fighter pilots worldwide today - the first four minutes of the video below should be of interest to anyone gaming aerial combat, regardless of historical period of choice:

Early in the war, none of this was formalised and taught, which meant that the experienced pilots could appearantly out-turn less experienced opponents, regardless of the rate of roll and wing loading of the aircraft involved. It truly is the man, not the machine!

 At any rate, I feel this argument justifies giving Sprogs a 1-in-3 chance of performing Easy maneuvers only - once they are out of formation with the (hopefully) more experienced section leader!

Below are two more links to articles that should be of interest if you want to read more about the subject. The first is written for modern (jet) air combat simulators - yet the principles remain true for piston-engined fighters as well. The second article might be more accessible, though I feel the first article is wider in scope.

tirsdag 13. mars 2012


Last Sunday, I got together with Tor and decided to try out how well scenarios written for Check Your 6! would translate to Bag the Hun. The scenario chosen was "Four-In-A-Day" from the "Over the Channel" scenario book for the Battle of Britain. The scenario recreates a combat from August 18th 1940, where Oberleutnant Gerhard Schopfel's schwarm bounced a formation of Hurricanes of 501. Squadron. Schopfel shot down four of them within five minutes.

In hindsight, the choice was fortunate, as gaming space was limited - my experience is that once fighters have converged in a pure dogfight scenario, our combats have tended to evolve into twisting furballs that revolve slowly across the game mat. The one bomber chase we have done (http://persprojects.blogspot.com/2012/02/tally-ho.html) really stretched the game out.

This was also the first time we tried the altered movement budget that I have been thinking about. This sytem eliminates the last oddly shaped dice from the game, the D4 (the revised damage chart for BtH Lite already removed the D10). This is a subject that I will return to in my next post, as it threatened to de-rail this after action report completely.

Enough chatter, here's the report...

Initial set-up - forgot to take the picture! Schopfel was rated a Top Ace and led Gelb Rotte.

A while ago, I downloaded the free layout program Scribus (http://www.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus), with the intention to use it for redesigning my Bag the Hun Lite cards and tables. This is the first time that I used it for image annotation, and I though it worked very well!

As you can see, I have made the mistake of writing Schwarm in the images rather than Rotte - though that is a mistake I (and you) will have to live with :)

Hurricanes of Blue Section move to spot Gelb Rotte as the Luftwaffe fighters successfully spot all the RAF sections.

As I had managed to forget the bogey markers at home, we used flying stands for bogeys and placed wingmen as the bogeys became spotted. This worked well with our limited formations, and as Tor pointed out the 3D-feel became much better than when using bogey tokens on the game mat. This means I will have to move the new bogey counter project up to the head of the queue...

Sprogs coming through from two o'clock, and Jerry on the six!

The RAF dropped in altitude to get a spotting bonus against the high-flying Emils, a gamble that turned out well as the last bogeys were identified. The Luftwaffe, not having the "Vic" penalty of the RAF, had no problems spotting the English bogeys.
Schopfel now maneuvered in to get on the tail of Red Leader, the RAF's only Veteran Pilot in this scenario. Red Leader pulled a quick reversal to shake the Messerschmitts, yet failed against the massive bonuses of the German Ace Pilot. Both English and German wingmen were on the ball and managed to stay in formation during the difficult maneuver.
Meanwhile, Blue Leader pulled a hard turn to get behind Grün Rotte. The inexperienced wingmen failed to keep up, and moved straight ahead, plowing through Red Section - though no collisions occurred.
Note that there is a mistake on this image that was corrected later - Blue Leader should be 1 ALT up and is not tailing Grün Leader.

Red Leader desperately tries to shake Schopfel, who efforlessly remains on the RAF Veteran's tail. They obviously did not teach tight chandelles in flight school, however, as the Vic breaks up and Red 2 and 3 fail to stay in fomation.

Got you, Engländer!

A fortunate string of activation and bonus cards now came up that allowed the German Ace three rounds of shooting at the RAF fighter before it got to move again. The shooting was not exactly flawless, and the Hurricane's legendary robustness keeps it in the air for the first burst - though on the second and third attempts, the Emil's 20mm cannon made its presence felt. First, a shell smashed the Hurricane's instrumentation - though the RAF pilot barely had time to worry about this before his aircraft was blown out of the sky in the next salvo!

Grün Rotte swings around and latches on the tail of Red 3, who has barely gotten his wings. Easy prey...

Looking to claim his second victory of the day, Schopfel tails Red 2. The Hurricane pilot has other plans though, and the wily bugger exploits a rulebook definition to escape!

What happened was that according to the rules, when two aircraft end the movement in the same hex, a roll for collision is made - then the aircraft that moved last into the hex is moved one step forward. As Schopfel was in the hex immediately behind Red 2, he would have had to roll for collision with Grün Leader, then move forward, roll with Red 2, then move forward--- straight into the Hurri's sights! Needless to say, the Emil remained where it was.

In hindsight, "playing the period, not the rules," we might have moved Schopfel to the no. 3 hex hehind Red 2 and allowed him to stay on the tail, though at the moment we were both to amused at this obvious exploitation of the rules to worry about this!

Auf Wiedersehen! Grün Leader places an accurate burst onto the hapless Sprog, and the 20 mm cannon does the rest.

In my "Lite" version of BtH, I do not really worry about what becomes of an aircraft once it is no longer combat worthy. Finding out whether little Billy manages to crash-land his stricken machine and pop in for a pint at the local pub while waiting for a lift to the airfield is really not the kind of detail I require of my games! Therefore, in the "Lite" rules, the  "Engine Destroyed" for a single engine fighter is counted as a shot down aircraft, and the model is removed from the game mat. It was desicions like this that allowed me to condense the damage table down from six to one column.

Red 2 opens the distance to Grün Rotte. Schopfel moves onto Blue Leader's tail, as Gelb 2 gets on the tail of the last RAF Sprog, Blue 3. At this point, we called the game due to time.

An exciting scrap, although I felt somewhat bad for Tor - at the end of the game, the Hurricane gun ports were still all sealed! After the early demise of the only Veteran RAF pilot, the agile Me109Es flew in circles around their opponents, easily getting on and staying on the tail as required. On the one occasion where an RAF fighter found itself in a position to shoot, the fire card failed to materialize before the Luftwaffe Ace pilot had activated and moved off. While Schopfel's ammo was running low, the Luftwaffe still had plenty of ammunition to spare and the next turn would likely have seen one or more RAF fighters badly damaged or destroyed.

The BtH Lite rules are certainly offering the right balance of speed and detail for my taste, and now another period of consolidation will take place as I attempt to improve on the design and layout of my quick reference sheets using Scribus.

Another pleasant surprise was that the Over the Channel scenario seemed to translate really well to BtH, giving an entertaining game. Skirmish Campaigns offer well-written books, and I would reccomend them to anyone starting to game in a new theater, as they offer a good historical overview, supplies a list of relevant aircraft types and quantities - and detail scenarios that seem to easily translate into good Bag the Hun games.

Skirmish Campaigns:

fredag 9. mars 2012

Damned cowlings!

Managed to sneak in some painting the last two evenings, and used that time to complete the second layer of the Dornier's top coat- Vallejo 830 German Fieldgrey WWII. Painting the aircraft was certainly easier this time around compared to the prototype - I am wainting with the cockpit until the rest of the plane is finished, which means I do not have to worry about painting neatly around the windows for now. This was the first time I have had use for my own previous blog posts - I had managed to have two different tables listing the old and new second layer paint code side by side, and by looking up the blog post I made at that time it was easy to find which table was correct.

For some reason, I found that I strongly disliked painting the engine cowlings! Completely irrational, yet there it is. It might have been the need to turn the miniature ever which way to get everything covered. Most likely, I have just gotten spoiled painting single-engine fighters, where the entire painting surface is easily accessible! Most of my painting for the foreseeable future will involve twin-engined aircraft, however (well, apart from a dozen Stukas, some Defiants, Battles...), so I had better just stop whining...!

While I am devoting a lot of my available hobby time to gettting good game aids in place and working on BtH2 Lite, I really hope to get these aircraft finished soon. The cockpits will take some time (small area though very fiddly), yet the only other step remaining is the camo pattern which tends to go on fairly quickly, so there is hope. The after-action reports I have been reading on the web lately all seem to indicate that fighter-only games tend to end up in the swirling furballs of turning dogfights, whereas games involving bombers tend to have a wholly different dynamic with the entire game revolving around the bomber formation. Getting some bombers done should also give me something to do once I decide to umpire multiplayer games!