Saturday, May 27, 2017

Making America Great Again . . .

By bringing in a LOT of coal.

At least that's what happened with tonight's session of Ticket to Ride, 10th anniversary edition. Mu wife chose the black coal trains and then proceeded to blanket the USA.

She scored more points for routes, more bonus points, and she got the bonus for longest route. The picture above shows the glaring disparity in the score (approximately a 40 point difference).

And here is the resident miner, obviously covered in soot :), as he watches the trains expand the coal empire.
Actually Onyx our black cat

Six by Six Challenge 6-3 complete

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dirk's Patrol

After his run-in with the squadron's CO, Dirk stomps off in a huff. His plane is in for repairs so he borrows one of the squadron's Goshawk fighters and sets off by himself.

For my next experiment with Spandau and Lewis I want to see what happens when an ace faces a superior plane with an inferior pilot. In the first encounter a Goshawk (aka a Nieuport 11) faces a Raptor (aka an Albatross). I messed up a bit though. Both planes have an agility of B so I bumped one to an A. Unfortunately, I bumped up the Goshawk by mistake, giving Dirk an extra advantage.

Encounter 1
Dirk, in a blue and yellow Goshawk, spots a crimson EIF (Empire of the Iron Fist) Raptor fighter.

Note that I have some new toys. The Goshawk is actually an American P-26 while the Raptor is portrayed by a Russian I-16. Both came from the O8 range stocked by PicoArmor.

The enemies approach and trade long-range shots. Dirk scores a hit!

Game Note: In S&L forward firing guns have a 45 degree arc of fire.

They circle, looking for an opening.

Dirk takes advantage of a mistake by the inexperienced Raptor pilot. Dirk swoops in on the enemy's flank, his machine guns chattering away. Bullets rip into the Raptor's fuselage.

Now damaged, the Raptor tries to escape. Dirk gets on its tail, but his shots miss!

With its superior speed, the Raptor begins to pull away.

Game Note: In this turn, the Raptor won initiative. Dirk had to slow down to prevent zooming past and letting the Raptor get on his tail. The Raptor took advantage by throttling to full speed.

Seconds later, the Raptor ducks into a cloud bank (i.e. makes it off the board) and escapes.

Encounter 2
Dirk continues his patrol. He spots another lone Raptor, this one heading back home.

The Raptor also spots Dirk. They rush at one another, trading head-on shots. Each takes minor damage.

The inexperienced Raptor pilot has difficulty turning his craft.

Dirk takes advantage and is able to line up a shot. The Raptor takes more damage.

He heads for the clouds. Dirk pursues.

Hoping to shake off the pursuit, the Raptor makes a 90 degree turn in the cloud. Dirk is not fooled, and pounces on him when he flies out of the cloud, Dirk's bullets rip into the Raptor.

Panicking now, the Raptor makes a beeline for home. Dirk stays on his tail and shoots him down.

Dirk continues his patrol but finds no more enemies. As the light fades he turns back home, pleased with his successes.

Final Thoughts
  • In addition to new planes, I also tried some Litko clear acrylic bases. I am very pleased with them. It is nice not having to paint bases. I may have to try them with some of my land forces. For my planes, I used the 3mm thick bases (I wanted to lift the planes off the board a little bit) but I would likely try the thinner 1.5mm ones for my 2-3mm ground forces.
  • These encounters (especially the last) really highlight the importance of pilot experience. The Raptor was faster (speed 6 vs 5) and more maneuverable (agility A vs. B) and had greater firepower (2 machines guns vs. 1). But Dirk's ace status trumped all that. Dirk usually won initiative, making it easier for him to get in a good position,
  • 6 x 6 Challenge: For the challenge, I am counting the 2 encounters as 1 game. I was going to run a third encounter but ran out of time. Still, I think this was sufficient to count as a game.
  • Next up: Dirk will tackle a zeppelin! I whipped up a stylized marker, I intend to scratch build a proper zeppelin but haven't had the time to get the materials. In the interim, I'll be using this marker make from a craft stick. I haven't figured out all the rules yet, but I may borrow some ideas from Junior General.

Dirk Daring Says

Even though Dirk Daring has been busy fighting Imperial stooges, he has joined the fight for another cause - Buster's treatment.

I have mentioned over the past few weeks that one of our cats, Buster, has been diagnosed with cancer. He has started chemotherapy, and has been making progress. We want to continue helping him but our finances our tight, so my wife set up a Go Fund Me page. If you can spare a few dollars to help, please consider making a donation.

Pardon the plug. Now back to our regularly scheduled program. I will have another Dirk Daring dogfight soon. By the way, the image I used for Dirk came from a set of Disposable Heroes paper miniatures.

I had originally intended to use it for a pulp Four Against Darkness variant, but never made much progress.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

I Guess Training Is Not His Forte

Life has been settling down a little bit. The vet confirmed that Buster has a lymphoma and he will be starting chemotherapy. His first session is Friday. In the interim he has been taking medication which has improved his health. We are enjoying his rebound.

Weather has been great this weekend. Usually, South Florida is already blistering hot at this time of year, but we had a cool front come through. The high was a mere 80 degrees, and not a cloud in the sky! Elizabeth and I had lunch in the park yesterday.

I've been having fun with S&L so I decided to try another game this morning. Instead of using cards to keep track of initiative I made markers for each plane. I then stacked them in order as I rolled. I also made a ruler out of a craft stick. I actually reduced the movement distances; each space is 3/4 of an inch. I think it works a little better on my small board.

The Dogfight
With Pip's plane out of commission, Dirk was out one wingman. The Squadron CO asked Dirk to take Walt Mahoney, one of the new pilots, out on a training flight.

"Keep a close eye on him." The CO commanded.

Dirk and Walt set out on a patrol over Lucranian airspace when they notice a flight of three enemy Raptors approaching.

Game Note - Once again, the Raptors use Albatross stats. One of the pilots is experienced while the other 2 are inexperienced. Dirk's Peregrine uses Sopwith Camel stats. Poor Walt, an inexperienced pilot, is saddled with an aging Goshawk fighter (a Nieuport 11).

The two enemy flights approach. Dirk and Walt are bottom left (gray)

Head-to head confrontations ensue. All those involved take damage!

The duelists circle one another. One of the Raptor pilots was so shaken by the head-on pass that he failed to maneuver!
Game Note - that plane rolled a modified 0 for maneuver, which meant that he had to fly straight.

Dirk circles around a cloud, trying to get onto the rear of the enemy. But then he spots the shaken Raptor all by itself.

Dirk forgets about his trainee to pursue the lone Raptor. Unfortunately, this leaves Walt at the mercy of the enemy.

Walt cannot shake the enemy leader. His plane goes down in flames. Fortunately, Walt is able to bail out.
Game Note: Since this scenario is set in a pseudo-1930s world, I assume they have parachutes. I gave Walt a 50% chance to bail out successfully.

Meanwhile, Dirk is damaged by a head-on pass. However, he has riddled his opponent.

The enemy leader flies to the rescue of his errant subordinate.

But Dirk targets the lone Raptor.

And it goes down in flames!
What a bad photo! Must have hit a pocket of turbulence

The remaining Raptors try to corral Dirk.

But his superior speed pays off. Dirk soon leaves them behind and flies for safety!
Game Note: Now I'm glad that damaged aircraft don't lose speed, otherwise Dirk might not have escaped.

Dirk makes it back to report his victory. When the CO asks about Walt, Dirk mumbles something about losing him in a cloud. The CO gives him a dressing down, and when Walt makes it back to Squadron, the CO vows that Dirk will never again fly with another novice pilot!


  • Once again, S&L provides an enjoyable game. Alas, this time Dirk's side did not fare so well. Both sides lost one plane and had one plane damaged; however the Imperials controlled the skies at the end. An Imperial victory for certain.
  • And once again, I did not bother with the Power rules. I think the game plays well enough without them. The differences in Speed and Agility provide plenty of differentiation, as demonstrated by Dirk's escape. He was able to out turn and then outrun the enemy.
  • Until I get dice to mark initiative, the markers worked fine. I'm thinking of making a track with boxes from 1 to 6. I can then put the tokens on their respective initiative score.

6 x 6 Challenge: Game 3.2 complete!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Dirk Downs a Bomber

It's been a couple of weeks since my experiment with Spandau and Lewis. Kaptain Kobold kindly sent me an updated version of the rules but I have not had time to peruse them so I am still using the version on his blog.

As I mentioned previously, I wanted to try a larger game with some bombers in the mix. I don't have any WW1 bombers so I substituted with some generic WW2 miniatures from Irregular. I set the scenario in my imaginary world of Aetheria so the aircraft are fictional. However, I used WW1 plane stats provided in the rules.
  • The Lucranians (gray) feature advanced Peregrine fighters (use Sopwith Camel stats)
  • The Empire (green) sends 2 Condor bombers (Gothas) with a single Raptor escort (an Albatross)
One Lucranian pilot (Dirk Daring) is a Veteran while all other pilots are Experienced.

During the Lucranian War, the dashing hero Dirk Daring takes to the skies as a volunteer for the Lucranian Air Corps. In this account of his adventures, the Empire launches an air raid against Lucranian cities. Dirk and his wingman Pip Paddington scramble to intercept the raid.

Game Note: The Imperials are trying to fly from one corner to the other of the battle board. If they fly off the board at the far corner, then they can commence their bombing run.

Spotting the raiding force, Dirk and Pip throttle up and engage the enemy escort. Shots are fired but there are no hits.

Our heroes swoop by the escort. Dirk flies between two of the Condors while Pip gets behind the enemy. Their shots lash one of the bombers, although Dirk takes some damage.

The escort has difficulty getting into the fray, allowing the defenders to rake a bomber and send it down in flames (Dirk will get credit for the kill).

Game Note: The Raptor kept rolling horrendously for maneuvering so it had trouble turning back into the dogfight.

As Pip circles around, he engages the enemy Raptor but takes some damage. Meanwhile, Dirk is on the other bomber's tail, wreaking more havoc.

The Raptor zooms by Pip and takes a long shot at Dirk. Pip takes advantage, swings behind the Raptor's tail and hits. Dirk remains on the bomber's tail.

The bomber makes it to the bombing zone. The fighters break off as flak begins bursting in the sky. Dirk gets on the retreating Raptor's tail.

Game Note: The remaining bomber made it off the table. It was heavily damage so it might not survive AA gunnery!

Due to damage to his craft, Pip heads for home but Dirk chases the Raptor. He loses it in the clouds.

Game Note: Even though the Raptor was only partially in the clouds, I allowed him to have cover.

And then Dirk realizes he missed him.

Game Note: Dirk rolled poorly on his maneuver roll.

Dirk re-acquires his target and tries a long-range shot, alas to no avail. The Raptor escapes, albeit heavily damaged.

Overall, it was a successful outing for Dirk and Pip. They shot down one of the big bombers and heavily damaged a bomber and a fighter. Dirk only suffered minor damage. Pip took heavy damage but was able to limp back home.

Game Note: Because the bombers could take a lot of hits, I did not expect Dirk and Pip to destroy them both. I even considered changing the scenario to have only one bomber. I decided to go big and see how the defenders could do. Given the challenge, I'd say they did quite well.

  • For my second run-through of Spandau and Lewis, I played it pretty vanilla - no spotting, no power, etc. My main focus was to test the scale-ability of the rules. How well would they work playing solo when there were more planes on the board?
    • Overall, I was pleased. Even with 5 planes, I was able to play the game fairly rapidly (I did not keep track of time but I did not get bored or grow tired. If I didn't have a write-up to do I probably would have played another scenario!).
    • The biggest issue was rolling and tracking initiative. Part of the problem was that I only had 2 dice so I could not roll everyone at once and I could not use dice for tracking. My alternative, having cards for each plane and ordering them anew every turn, was a bit clunky. Lesson learned - get more dice!
    • I'm also thinking of 1 die for initiative per formation (or at least bomber formation). Thus, bombers in formation would all move at the same time. This would also speed up play.
  • After rolling three 6s in one attack, I began checking for critical hits. I never succeeded in getting one. Which brings me to another idea. Currently, as I read it, a plane's maximum speed will only drop due to a critical. As the bombers took damage during the scenario, I thought they should move slower. I'm wondering if there should be a rule decreasing maximum speed for damaged aircraft.
  • Scenario note: Each side began near opposite corners. This meant that they did not come into contact until the middle of the board. It made it easier for the bombers to get across. Lesson learned - start the defenders near the middle of the board to get into action quicker and to make life more interesting for the bombers!
Overall it was another successful experiment. S&L gives a fast-paced, exciting game! I am looking forward to more air battles (I think the next game will be a furball with 3-4 fighters per side).

6 x 6 Challenge - Game 3.1 complete!

Monday, May 1, 2017

April Update

This month's theme is "bad news, good news"

Bad News
I only completed 2 games towards the 6 by 6 challenge for a total of 15 games this year (the Stronghold Rebuilt has the up-to-date list). I am still slightly ahead of pace. Can I get back into the groove or am I fading fast?

There have been a lot of distractions that have limited my gaming. Here is one:

This is one of our cats, Buster. Here he is helping me with a portable wargame. A few days after this picture was taken he was diagnosed as having a tumor, possibly cancer. Multiple vet visits have kept me from gaming. We're still waiting for a complete diagnosis and I'm praying for his recovery.

Good News
Even though I haven't played many games this month, I am out of the doldrums that I suffered in March. The remedy was a new craze - aerial combat.

I spent a bit of time researching rules to find one that fits my needs. I settled on Kaptain Kobold's Spandau and Lewis and will make it part of the 6 by 6 challenge.

I decided to move my campaign up twenty years with a 1930s style campaign. I ordered some 1/600 scale planes (including P-26s) from PicoArmor.

Due to this new craze, I hope May will see a spike in games played.

Ace of Aces Lite

Before I settled on Spandau and Lewis for my 6 by 6 Challenge, I ran an game using a maneuver template. The game was based on some air combat rules I experimented with a while back.

I had some concerns about using the template on an 8 x 8 portable wargame board. I worried that the move distances would allow the planes to fly off the board too easily. It recently dawned on me that I could adopt the A&A approach whereby a slow maneuver moves 0 spaces, a cruise moves 1, and a fast moves 2 (instead of 1, 2, and 3). While it seems weird that a plane can move 0 spaces, I explain it on the grounds that the plane models are actually oversized with respect to the ground scale. Therefore, when a plane moves 0 it is actually flying very slowly through the space and did not exit during the turn.

This experiment was run on an 8 by 8 board gridded with offset squares. The template was greatly simplified:

The simpler template made automating the enemy a lot simpler. I also added a feature where the planes can make a pilot check to add an extra space on a fast move or turn an extra side.

Combat was similar to my WISER rules - roll a certain number of D6s (depending on the situation) with hits on a 4+. The target gets to make saving rolls. Three hits will destroy a plane.

Game Report
An SE-5a spots a Fokker in the distance.

The Fokker is unaware of its impending doom.

It sees the enemy and turns. Too late! The SE-5a riddles the Fokker and damages it.

Yet the Fokker manages to outmaneuver the Brit and get in a shot. It misses.

The SE-5a flies into a cloud as the Fokker zooms past.

The SE-5a pursues.

The Fokker turns upon its pursuer.

And gets the better of the confrontation.

The Fokker now tries to line up a shot.

But the Brit pulls away.

And turns back into the fray.

 The SE-5a gets on the Fokker's tail.

But the Fokker manages to escape.

I felt that the rules generally worked well for my purposes. Maneuvering was simple and quick. The pilot rolls added a great deal of flexibility to movement. They also added uncertainty, which is great for solo gaming! I think I still need to fiddle with the combat rules, especially how many dice the planes get.

Despite being pleased with this experiment, these rules will go on hold for now. I really enjoyed Spandau and Lewis and plan to give those rules a thorough trial.