Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Table Air Combat: Bf-109E vs Spitfire MkI Dogfight

I re-played the basic dogfight scenario this evening, with a flight of Spitfire MkI's intercepting a Schwarm of Bf-109E's somewhere over the English Channel. I wanted to try out the deflection shooting rules again and also a new playing area that I made by cutting out then gluing together two blue cardboard folders from the local supermarket. This neatly folds in half and fits inside my Table Air Combat folder, so is eminently portable and perfect for an ad-hoc game as and when required.

This time the dogfight lasted for nearly twenty turns, with neither side managing to inflict much damage despite getting some good gun dice on several occasions. I was using the simplified 'one point of energy per Immelmann / Wingover' rule, which worked well, especially as only one such manoeuvre was allowed per turn. This meant that the dogfight was a real twisting and turning effort for both sides, just like the real thing in many respects.

In the end, the RAF managed to shoot down three of the Luftwaffe fighters for the loss of one of their own, the surviving pilot making a last minute run for home as his fuel must have been getting really low. I think the little red light must have been blinking away for most of the latter half of the scenario. In fact, I might include this 'No Fuel to Duel' twist to the scenario in the future, borrowing the fuel limit countdown from Too Fat Lardies excellent Bag the Hun miniatures rules.

I really enjoyed the game and will be running another one soon, this time with some bombers for the RAF to shoot down and the Luftwaffe to protect as close escorts rather then top cover. I also want to cut out and assemble the counters for the Bf-110, which with their heavy cannon and rear gunners should make things a bit more uncomfortable for the RAF Brylcreem Boys. It's just a shame there isn't a Boulton Paul Defiant or Bristol Blenheim Mk I set to provide some target practice!

Table Air Combat: Heinkel III

I've assembled the counters and templates for the Table Air Combat Heinkel He-III medium bomber, although I forgot to print more than one copy of the sheets, so only have a single flight of four aircraft and two counters. This makes it a bit tricky when choosing scenarios to play but, with a little bit of adaptation I will be able to set up at least two from the Table Air Combat 'official' scenario selection.

I can also easily devise some of my own including an arctic convoy anti-shipping strike by torpedo armed Heinkel He-III H6 of I./KG 26, which would be a bit different for a start. In the meantime, I'll adapt both the Straggler scenario from the B-17 set and the Scramble! scenario from the Spitfire II set, using the Heinkel He-III in place of the bombers in both games. In the meantime, here's the usual background video to set the scene:

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Table Air Combat: Chain Home

I played the Chain Home scenario this evening, with the sprog flying for the Luftwaffe and myself for the RAF. The mission involved a kette of Ju-87B Stukas, escorted by a schwarm of Bf-109E's attacking a radar station, while the RAF attempted to shoot them down with a flight of Spitfire II's. I didn't plot the moves this time round to speed up the game and we also moved the counters as elements, which is suggested in the scenario briefing for the same reason.

The game was pretty fast moving with the Luftwaffe losing two Stukas early in the game but things evened out half way through, with the German fighter pilots co-ordinating their fire with that of the Stuka rear gunners, to shoot down five of the Spitfires for the loss of only one more Stuka. It was game over for the British when the lone surviving Stuka successfully blew the radar station to smithereens with two direct hits. The unscathed Luftwaffe fighters then made a quick getaway, turning a marginal win into a total victory!

Both of us really enjoyed the game, even if it was interrupted half way through and literally blown away a couple of times by the wind. I used the simplified 'one energy point for special manoeuvres' rule change, which worked well and didn't unbalance the scenario, so I'll be adopting the same approach from now on. I think we'll do a fighter vs fighter game next time round, followed by another bombing mission when the sprog's had a dogfight to practice his skills, not that he needs to at this rate!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

International Naval Wargaming Day: Sails and Powder Playtest

I set up a game of Sails and Powder this morning, both to playtest the rules and for International Naval Wargaming Day, with a blockade break out scenario set during the Napoleonic Wars. The scenario featured a squadron of French 74's attempting a dawn escape from Brest through a cordon of Royal Navy men of war including two 74's and a 36 gun frigate. I set up the French warships in line astern at one end of the playing area with the Royal Navy blockading force sailing at right angles across their path. As there is no clear initiative system in Sails and Powder, I decided that each turn both sides would roll a D6 to see who went first, then the ships would move in descending order of priority from 1st rates down to 5th rates.

Turn 1

In Turn 1 the French commander won the initiative so moved first, with a maximum forward move of 5 in a straight line. The Royal Navy moved second, with the both the 74's and the frigate turning 90 degrees and advancing to meet the French warships. There was no firing as the two sides were still well out of range. This was all allowed as there is no consideration of wind or wind direction in the rules, which seems a bit odd for an Age of Sail game?

Turn 2

In Turn 2, the Royal Navy won the initiative, with the 74's advancing forward to intercept the French warships, while the frigate turned to cross their path. The French 74's responded by sailing through the gap between the frigate and one of the 74's before it could close, leaving one 74 to turn away in the opposite direction as it couldn't move far enough to get through the gap. As I mentioned before, there are no rules for wind in Sails and Powder, which meant some unrealistic manoeuvres were made by the French, which really shouldn't have been so easy or even possible.

In the combat phase, HMS Phoenix fired on the French 74 Scipion, with a counter broadside by the French 3rd rate in return. This was at long range, so both sides had a +1 dice roll modifier to their 'armour' test (armour representing a saving roll for hull protection). The result of the engagement was that Scipion was damaged, with its counter flipped over, while HMS Phoenix escaped any damage despite being hit due to a successful armour penetration roll.  It's not clear in the rules how the modifier should be applied but I just added it to the dice roll to reflect the lower chances of penetration at longer ranges.

The other combat in Turn 2, between the 3rd rate HMS Caesar and Duguay Trouin, was inconclusive, despite being at close range with a +1 modifier to the shooting roll (the roll to hit). In fact, Duguay Trouin was raked by HMS Caesar so was unable to fire back, as her broadside couldn't bear on the English warship. Despite this and despite achieving two hits on the French 74, the English gun crews failed to penetrate the hull of the French warship due to some really poor dice rolls. This seemed to be a bit dodgy to say the least.

Turn 3

The French lost the initiative in Turn 3, so the Royal Navy moved first, although by now I was thinking that the winner should get to choose the order of movement. Anyway, the two Royal Navy 74's attempted the nautical equivalent of a hand brake turn in order to chase after the French 74's, which is allowed in the rules but with a penalty to movement in the next turn. I really didn't like this mechanism, which seemed more appropriate for MTB's than wooden walls, but I stuck with it. In the meantime the frigate HMS Phoenix turned to block the escape of the now straggling Scipion. The French 74's responded by setting their top gallants and sailing at full speed ahead toward the open sea, leaving the Scipion to her fate.

In the combat phase, Scipion opened fire on HMS Phoenix which had inadvertently placed herself to be raked by the French 74, hence my second thoughts about gaining the initiative. Unfortunately, this broadside achieved very little, partly due to some poor dice rolling but also due to the damage effects of the previous turn on Scipion's ability to fire at full effect. There was no possible firing by the Royal Navy as they were either out of range or in the wrong position. I was unhappy with the way both movement and firing worked again but think this could be fixed with a bit of modification.

Turn 4

Once again the Royal Navy won the initiative, so were able to move first, despite my earlier doubts about this being a good idea. The two 74's moved to cut off the French 74's while HMS Phoenix decided to ram and board the struggling Scipion, rather than see her sail further away. Why there are rules for ramming I really don't understand, made even less explicable by the outcome, which saw the 36 gun frigate ramming and sinking the French 74 (!) with no reciprocal damage at all. This was completely bonkers, so I re-interpreted the ramming roll as a successful grappling manoeuvre, followed by a boarding roll to capture the Scipion. This made a lot more sense and was a success for the Phoenix, with the Scipion striking her colours and surrendering. Huzzah!

Turn 5 and Turn 6

In both of these turns, the remaining 74's chased each other off the table, firing ineffective long range broadsides at each other before the French made good their escape. The raking rules came up again but I decided that you shouldn't be able to rake at more than regular or even close range, so discounted this rules for the last two turns. In the end, the French escaped with two 74's undamaged and one captured but in a pretty desperate state, probably requiring extensive repairs before it could be commissioned as HMS Scipio.



Nice counters and easy to use movement template.

Simple mechanisms for firing and damage.

A not historically unrealistic outcome?

I enjoyed the game!


There are no rules for initiative - easily fixed.

Turning is too easy - over 90 degrees should be penalised by no further turning or movement, then a single forward move next turn, to represent tacking. This would still be pretty unrealistic but would be better than the rules as they are. 

There are no rules for wind making movement far too straightforward.

Gunnery is a bit of a mess and doesn't really fit the period - armour rolls? malfunction rolls? - again this could be fixed without too much fuss, especially raking which shouldn't be possible unless at close range or possibly regular gunnery range.

Ramming is nonsense but can be fixed by turning it into grappling, then using the boarding rules as they are, which seemed to work in the game if you ignored the outcome of the ramming attack.

Overall this is a very cheap but rather unrealistic and sketchy set of rules but worth it for the counters alone, even if they are all identical as far as the ship image is concerned. I could fix the them but I think I'll be looking for another set of simple 'beer and pretzel' rules to use for Age of Sail games but still using the counters, which for the asking price are pretty good value for money.

I wonder if Long Face Games has any plans for Napoleonics?

Friday, 4 August 2017

Table Air Combat: Kanalkampf Convoy

I thought I'd have a go at modifying some of the merchant ship counters from the Table Air Combat B-25J set to use as targets for the Stukas in Battle of Britain convoy attack scenarios. I grabbed a screenshot, exported it into MS Paint then modified the flags, before exporting the finished image as a JPEG. It's not a fantastic effort but they will do as a coastal convoy for the Kanalkampf.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Airfix Battles: Scenario 1 - Allied Breakthrough!

I had a very bored sprog to deal with this afternoon, having confiscated his I-Pad and phone due to excessive use of the internet, so we decided to crack open the Airfix Battles box and playtest the introductory scenario, Link Up with HQ! / Halt the Allied Breakthrough!. This was a change of plan but worked out really well in the end, as we both really enjoyed the game, even if we had to pack it up half way through due to dinner time.

The sprog took the Wehrmacht and I took the Yanks, with the scenario giving us even forces of a captain, a four man veteran squad and two regular rifle squads of ten men each. The aim of the scenario was to inflict three points of damage on the enemy, which equated to the captain or a couple of squads. This seemed to be pretty straightforward, or so I thought. However, I hadn't taken account of the way the rules actually work, using card play to add a real twist to the game.

The really neat thing about this game is the use of Command Cards to issue orders and to interrupt or disrupt the enemy, throwing a card shaped spanner into the works when they least expect it. I thought this was a brilliant element of the system and happily stonked the Krauts with artillery and then assaulted their shell shocked infantry unit using my hand of special cards in Turn 2. This was rather effective and the US commander was very pleased with himself as a result.

However, the cards work both ways and the sprog used his to great effect to both neutralise the impact of my bombardment and repel my assault, with disastrous consequences for the morale of the US infantry unit involved, which ended up retreating at high speed to the rear. By the end of the game, I had taken loads of casualties while the sprog had taken only a handful, so it was a definite win for the Wehrmacht, even if the game was called off due to spaghetti. 

We have agreed that a re-match is required but this time we are going to use the armour rules and play out the third scenario instead of number one or two. This will be an interesting game, as we both have a grasp of the basic mechanics and the importance of playing your cards right, but still have some room for further practice. I'll post an after action report when the dust has settled, with the Yanks keen to even the score, this time from the turret of a Sherman!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

International Naval Wargaming Day 2017

I will be joining in the first International Naval Wargaming Day on Sunday, with something off the cuff as I'm on holiday and can't tap into my collection of naval board games, rules or miniatures. If I was at home I would have dug out my old copy of Avalon Hill's Wooden Ships and Iron Men as a board game option but I'm sure I can come up with something appropriate while I'm here. Full Steam ahead and Damn the Torpedoes!