fredag 27. januar 2012

Luftwaffe Combat Reports - edited by Bob Carruthers (Kindle edition)

This book is part of a series which presents primary sources from several different conflics throughout history. "Luftwaffe Combat Reports" contains a lot of documents detailing standard operating procedures, equipment and tactics. A large part of the book is devoted to interviews conducted by the Allies with senior officers of the Luftwaffe in the fall of 1945.

The book is necessarily quite technical and dry. Anyone waiting for exciting after action reports or personal accounts of battle will be sorely disappointed. The attraction of the book comes strictly from offering material that one would rarely come across in other places.

The majority of the book details late-war developments in either the ground attack arm of the Eastern Front, or the air war against the strategic day and night bombing over western Europe, although there are also some sobering assessments of the Luftwaffe's strengths and weaknesses for the war in general.

As whomever reccomended the book to me on the Too Fat Lardies Yahoo Group pointed out (thanks!), the book is a steal at 6 USD in the Kindle store. The book offers tantalizing behind-the-scenes glimpses of the Luftwaffe and is only brought down by the dry style of the primary sources. It would likely be very interesting for those gaming air combat over the Eastern front or daylight bombing over occupied Europe. All in all, I'd give this book a 4 out of 6 and reccomend it to particularily interested readers.

Leo McKinstry: Lancaster (Kindle edition)

Having previously read Leo McKinstry's book "Hurricane" and found it quite enjoyable, it was a small risk to purchase this book. Leo McKinstry writes very well in a flowing, colloquial manner that makes his books very easy reads. His research and presentation is exhaustive, and I have never found reason to question his sources or use of them.

The book covers, as the cover says, the story of the Lancaster - from the reasoning behind its design, the development process and personality of its chief designer, its service and its post-war use. A lot of anecdotes and technical details round out the picture, and a lot of space is devoted to the strategic night bombing of Germany and occupied Europe. Separate sections are devoted to numerous special assignments, including the very well known Dambuster raids.

If there is anything detracting from the book, it is the systematic trashing of the other heavy bombers used by the British. Although the Halifax and Stirling were demonstrably inferior machines - dropping far less tonnage and loosing far more lives per machine - McKinstry appears to have adopted "Bomber" Harris' vehement hatred for these aircraft, giving a distinctly subjective streak to a book that otherwise appears to be very balanced and objective.

This aside, I considered the book a very good read, excellent both in detail and scope. It gives a good understanding of the background, reasoning, logistics, technology, strategy and people involved in the British air war over Europe.

From a gamer perspective, there is not much to find here unless one has an interest in making night-fighting scenarios, in which case there is a lot! A forumite asked me whether I would game the Dambusters, though I found that there was virtually no air-to-air combat during this raid - all the downed aircraft were shot down by anti-aircraft artillery.

In summary, a very thorough book covering all aspects of the Lancaster history. With the exception of the hostility for the Halifax and Stirling, there is very little to detract from this impressive volume. Though it bears little relevance to most of the popular periods and modes of air combat gaming, I would still reccommend this to anyone fancying a good read. All in all I give it a score of 5 out of 6.

Forging ahead

So, after the previous day, I had a bowl full of Dorniers with magnets attached. The bowl is one of my trusty tools of the trade - I use it to store miniatures and bits during assembly.

 Step 5: Add water and a drop of dishwashing detergent. A quick scrub with an old toothbrush later, the planes no longer have that slightly oily feel to them any more, they feel smooth and dry.

 Step 6: Primer. Using the Vallejo 601 Grey Primer, I gave all the planes a quick coat on the belly. After finishing the last one, the first ones had dried and I could flip them over and paint the top on all as well. The rudders have not been painted, the result of experience from my prototype run - they will be used as handholds and only painted once the rest of the aircraft is completely done.

Close-up of the primer coat. The painting technique that I have adopted over the years uses a minimum of three coats - the primer, the base coat and the highlighting coat. Each coat is applied just once, and will not give a solid, uniform colour - yet the layers of this effect give a quite pleasant "weathering" in my opinion. Plus it goes fast!

Step 6: Colour re-enters the blog! Ah, so it's greyblue, what did you expect? Belly base coat, Vallejo 943 Grey Blue.

As you can see, the emphasis is on speed, not achieving a uniform coat. The final coat will combine with this one to give the desired effect.

That is it for today! Due to the number and size of the aircraft, each step takes a while to complete. In addition, I have started work on a side project to the Battle of Britain and keep photos of this filed - these will be posted later.

torsdag 26. januar 2012

Fallen off the face of the earth...

Good, old real life got me good and has kept me away from the keyboard for the past two weeks. First a bout of illness, then a business trip. The most sad result was that the scheduled game was cancelled due to illness, so no after action report for now - better luck next time!

With RL matters resolved, I finally got back on the horse over the past few days. Here is an update on progress on the Dorniers! The poor buggers have really been neglected lately, as most of my available time has been spent finishing the rules revision and preparing game aids.

Bagged: The Dorniners arrived from Museum Miniatures in individual ziplock bags, all contained in a single, large bag of the same kind. 

 Ziplock bags seems like an industry standard, and is all the protection the miniatures get. Or need, really.

 Step 1: After unpacking the beauts, they were brought over to a friend's house where the evening was spent watching Live at the Apollo stand-up comedy with some pals and removing molding lines with a file. The molding lines on these miniatures were very small and neat - still, the painter in me has to smooth them over. Molding lines showing through the paint of a finished model still gives me the creeps. Earlier in my modelling career, I used to trim off lines using a scalpel - some years ago I purchased a file to use instead and never looked back. A file is faster, cleaner and offers less risk of inadvertent bloodshed.

 Step 2: Drilling the guiding hole for the magnet, using a pin vise and a 1 mm drill bit. The magnets are 3 mm in diameter, and I have found that whenever drilling holes with a diameter over 1 mm a guiding hole is more or less required to avoid completely mangling the miniature or misaligning the hole.

 As I wrote previously, the center of gravity was smack bang in the middle of the bomb bay doors, so that's where the hole went. If nothing else, it made lining up the drill bit very easy.


 Step 3: Seriously! My decrepit Einhell of Bavaria fitted with a 3 mm drill bit may look more like a torture implement than a miniature tool, yet it gets the job done - quickly. The guide hole is absoultely essential to avoid the drill bit dancing all over the miniature, making horrible marks in the process (been there, done that, as it were). In later posts, you will invariably see me vainly referring to this yellow monstrosity as my "Dremel."

Step 4: A 3mm super magnet is superglued into the hole. These magnets are from Supermagneten and measure, if I recall correctly, 3 mm in diameter and 1 mm in height. They have enough power to keep at the least a Do17z attached to its flying base. After some mishaps using my standard, metal modelling tools when trying to fit these magnets, I finally started using the (wooden) handle of an old paint brush instead - which put an end to the annoyance of having tiny super magnets soaked with super glue flying out of their holes all the time.
Comments on Supermagneten will come in a later post, for now suffice to say that I am very pleased with both their products and service.

The most exciting bit (or terrifying) is ensuring that the magnets are all lined up correctly. These babies are small, and having the stack attached to an already correctly aligned magnet does wonders for my peace of mind. Still, I never quite trust that I got them right until I have tested the magnets once the glue has dried completely. One of these days, I will likely manage to glue a magnet in upside down, and I keep wondering what I will do to get it back out...

Imagine these puppies on flight stands bombing your dudes! Next step will be a quick rinse in soap water to remove mold release agents before undercoating.

A lot of grey pictures, which is precisely the reason why preparing the miniatures for painting is the part I enjoy the least about the hobby... Thankfully, I enjoy painting quite a bit, so finishing this stage is always rewarding.

onsdag 11. januar 2012

Gearing up!

As last week, blog-wise this has been a tranquil week. Behind the scenes, however, a storm is brewing as I am gearing up to have the first go with the revised Bag the Hun 2-rules I have been working on. Since Friday last week (and my last post) not a night has gone by without some time being spent printing, cutting and sleeving game aids - mainly the cards that constitute the aircraft records and damage effects.

Now, with the game aids sorted, I suddenly find myself short of time. Still remaining are:

  1. Assemble additional flight stands
  2. Prepare bogey markers
  3. Prepare tokens and markers, including pipe cleaner smoke trails and matched pairs of tailing markers
For the flight stands, all the material is available and assembly generally goes quickly. The bogey markers I plan to make out of a stack of old, disused poker chips collecting dust in the basement. Not only do they have the right size for the hex map, they are also red and blue and have an indentation in the middle where it would be ideal to attach a circular paper label with identification number and directional arrow. An idea is to label the white chips from the same set with numbers only, allowing them to be placed face down on the individual aircraft record cards - thus eliminating the need for a written record of the bogeys.

Hm, I might need more chips...

For the tokens, I have some gaming bits and pieces from discarded board games that I can label with matching numbers and other effects. Being an occasional pipe smoker, good-quality conical pipe cleaners is also something that is readily at hand. All I have to do now is secure some time to actually get these things ready - and time is getting short. The Luftwaffe are already over the Channel, and Hurricanes scramble from the green fields of Kent...

Before signing off, here is a peek at the cards I have made. Unfortuneately, the cards and other game aids contain rather a lot of gaming information, so I do not want to put them up for download before I have cleared that with the Lardies. Most of the cards assume BtH 2 Lite: BoB will be used, so the text is altered or incomplete compared to regular BtH 2 at any rate.

Regular deck: Fronts are standard printer paper, backs are some old, heavy, gloss photo paper selected to give the cards some substance. Cards are designed using Excel spreadsheet, images are collected using Google image search and decidedly used without permission. As you can see, I much prefer the original "Tally Ho!" and "Achtung Spitfire!" to the current generic bonus formation move card text...

Damage cards. Fronts are regular printing paper, back is 160 g card. Coloured differently to quickly separate them from the regular cards. Printing the fronts separately on inexpensive paper rather than costly card makes it far more affordable to reprint cards when necessary. The "Wing Damage" is a typical simplification made when I revised the BtH 2 rules into the "Lite" variant - the original text is "Aileron or wing damage".
Mulitples of each damage card have been made so that they can be placed with the aircraft record cards below as required.

Aircraft record cards: Although it is quite immodest, I will have to admit to liking these a lot! Each aircraft has a separate card. Identification panel is identical to the section move, fire and leader cards to aid in recognition. All aircraft stats and special rules are listed on the front. The reverse has a line drawing with fire arcs, on these cards straight ahead for the Hurricane, front and rear quarters for the Do17z. The Dornier, being a multi-engine design, also has numbered engine positions with two checkboxes on each to record damaged and destroyed engines. Pilot skill is recorded with a checkbox, and ammunition is also kept track of using boxes. The opportunity to record bogeys by placing a matched chip face down on each card I consider a bonus.

That is all for now. here is hoping the next update is an after action report...!

fredag 6. januar 2012

All quiet on the northern front...

Blog-wise, it has been a very quiet week (in case you did not notice). No painting. No modelling. No updates.
That does not mean I have been idle!

This week, I finished Leo McKinstry's impressive book on the Avro Lancaster, a review will likely be posted at some later date. Also, on the suggestion of a toofatlardies Yahoo group member who saw the "Stuka Pilot" review, I have gotten a hold of the very technical yet very interesting "Luftwaffe Combat Reports" and so far find it a very involving read. Well, I guess I must be something of a tech geek to be intrigued by this book - though I did find it interesting to get to know, amongst other things, that the Luftwaffe used either 84- or 100-octane aviation fuel. And that, no, they were not interchangeable. Again, a review is likely to follow once I'm done with the book.

When I posted last, I still had some work to do before being able to play:
  • Getting on tail and staying on tail tables, if possible reducing these to one table (chapter 10)
  • Cheat sheets covering deflection (chapter 10 end), firing (chapter 11), air gunner firing (chapter 12), crash landings (chapter 13 end)
  • Aircraft record sheets for Hurricane, Spitfire and Bf109E
  • Print and prep all game aids and cards
Since then, I have been able to finish the gettting on tail and staying on tail tables, and yes - they were reduced to one table. On the reverse side, I managed to squeeze in the entire shooting procedure on one page, which was no mean feat (if I may say so myself... Ah, modesty...)! Squeezing and shuffling the tables around, the page now holds - in sequence of use - a list of the firing procedure, fire arcs, deflection diagram, gunnery table (condensed into one table for both fighter aircraft and air gunners), dodge table, gun jams, ammunition depletion, and something I spent part of Christmas getting done: My one-column damage table, which is used by rolling 2d6 and adding modifiers from my revised hit effect table.

Last night, I wanted to make aircraft record diagrams yet ended up having trouble with the format. How does one conveniently squeeze in aircraft information and up to four fighters on a single A4-sheet, while having something that is still aesthetically pleasing? Finally, I got the idea to make aircraft record cards instead. After fiddling around with my standard format (using Excel), I wound up with the example below - and cannot say that I am displeased!

Feeling smug: Front and reverse of my first aircraft record card.
Feeling humbled: Well, blast, I just noticed that the pilot skill text boxes need adjustment, and I forgot to underline the MAN...

The card image and section identification is identical to the Section Move and Fire cards, making identification easier. There is no need to record damage on the card itself, as I have made cards for the damage effects that can be placed next to the record card. On multi-engine aircraft, the diagram will contain tick boxes over each engine to record damaged and destroyed engines, and on aircraft with gunners each fire arc will be drawn in with separate Fire Factors. My one sincere regret is that I did not get space to fit in a separate box detailing armaments - vain, I know, yet I already miss the line "Armament: 8 x .303 Browning MG in wings" on the card... Well, in my revised Bag the Hun 2, playablity always comes first - and anyone gaming with me will be only too familiar with the armament and other trivia of the involved aircraft by the time a game is done...

Tonight, if time allows (it's Friday after all), I will twiddle with the Excel format. I have found that I might be able to squeeze more cards onto a single A4 sheet, yet we shall see... I will also have to make cards for at the least two or three vics plus a schwarm or two before I can get gaming. Maybe I'll be able to print and cut out all the revised cards and material this weekend, and I could aim at getting a game in maybe this Sunday or next week!

Oh, and the crash landing rules? The reason I am working on my BtH2 Lite rules is that I want playability over details, so once I read over these rules a second time I realised that no, I really did not care whether Jonny managed to land his damaged and burning Hurricane safely in the field or not. As a result, these rules were dustbinned. At a later stage, I am considering typing up a table to determine what became of damaged and withdrawing fighters. For now, destroyed is destroyed, and that is that!

Have a nice week-end, or as the Lardies are fond of saying: Dakka, dakka, dakka...

mandag 2. januar 2012

Bag the Hun 2 revision status

Not quite there yet: A scrapped version of the "Out of Control" damage card.

Today's update is one I fear will be quite dreary for anyone but myself. Having started to prep the remaining Dorniers, I finally gave in to that nagging voice which has kept reminding me that I do in fact have everything I need to start playing BtH2, at the least when it comes to the miniatures. The flight stands are ready, game mat received and Hurricanes, Spitfires and Bf109Es are painted. All that remains is to finish revising the BtH2 rules and game aids.

The revision of the BtH2 rules is something I do with the intention of simplifying and speeding up gameplay. The "working title" for the project is Bag the Hun 2 Lite: Battle of Britain (BtH2 Lite: BoB in tags from now on) and contains simplified and streamlined tables, quick reference sheets and a dedicated card deck, as well as separate reference cards for damage effects. Most of the cards and game aids will be suitable for posting, although I will not post the quick reference sheets - they contain a condensed reference version of the game rules, which is hardly proper to distribute.

Anyway, last night I sat down and spent a while going over which elements were complete and which were missing before my revised BtH2 rules could be used to play. The goal is now to get gaming ASAP!

  • Card deck
  • Damage cards
  • Maneuver chart
  • Revised hit effect table
  • Cheat sheet 1: Bogeys, Spotting, Formation
  • Cheat sheet 2: Pre-game and Movement

Remaining before gaming:
  • Getting on tail and staying on tail tables, if possible reducing these to one table (chapter 10)
  • Cheat sheets covering deflection (chapter 10 end), firing (chapter 11), air gunner firing (chapter 12), crash landings (chapter 13 end)
  • Aircraft record sheets for Hurricane, Spitfire and Bf109E
  • Print and prep all game aids and cards

Additionally remaining:
  • Cheat sheets covering flak (chapter 15), ground targets, shipping, bombing and torpedoes (chapters 16-18)
  • Aircraft record sheets for Do17z and other aircraft as they become available
  • Assemble bomber flying stands
  • Transport and storage solution for miniatures and game mat

Well, there you have it. It was a rotten post, yet someone had to post it. What is this blog coming to..?