Tuesday 9 October 2018

Grey Seas, Blue Skies and the Green Fields beyond....

I know I have used this picture previously but I wanted to share the image again - everything the budding Bismarck captain would need (especially if you use the Graf Zeppelin option!).

My second copy of Bismarck by Avalon Hill has arrived and as mentioned previously it is in far better condition than the first version which will be used for spares. I must confess to thinking that it was quite indulgent of me having two copies of the same game but looking at the collections being offloaded in various Facebook groups that I belong to it appears that owning multiple copies seems to be quite common with our friends across the pond. It also appears to me that military boardgames are far more popular in the US than over here. I can offer no explanation for this and stand to be corrected but for sure it seems like there is a far bigger choice available Stateside than in the UK.

The plan with this boardgame is to use it to support the 1:4800th scale warships I have for some operational level games set in the North Atlantic during 1941 and as a ‘campaign management system’ it is perfect for my needs. This is a project I have had in mind going back to the early 1980s and so I am pleased to be finally tackling this in the way I wanted to. I successfully ran a mini campaign using Axis and Allies: War at Sea at the club a few years ago which was very well received but to run it as a solo effort has long been an ambition of mine. The Avalon Hill board game has given me the tools to do this.

The classic game of WW1 aerial combat

I was very much into board games in the late 1970s and early 1980s – primarily because they meant that I could fight a military game easily and without the need to paint hundreds of figures - and in truth would still be. I owned and played many at the time, mostly from Avalon Hill with a smattering of SPI, Battleline, GDW and Yaquinto. One of my favourite games early on was Richthofen’s War by Avalon Hill. This was a tactical plane to plane combat game set over the Western Front during World War 1 and whilst simpler than many of todays offerings was enormous fun. It was a firm favourite in the cellar of the New Model Army Limited wargames shop where Eric Knowles was the proprietor. It was already popular when I took my copy along for some games one Saturday afternoon in around 1978 or so. I took an Albatross DVa and was quietly circling in the corner of the mapboard gaining height when a Bristol Fighter – mounting a pair of Lewis guns in the rear seat rather than the usual single and flown by an experienced player of the game – bounced me, opened fire with the aforementioned twin Lewis machine guns and left me within a single point of destruction. This was on game turn 2…. I can also recall another World war game – this time Aces High – when I was shot down whilst flying a Sopwith Camel by the rear gunner of a Hannover flown by none other than Eric Knowles. It took a long while to live that down I can tell you as Eric did not as a rule play board games.

The box contents....

....and the all important (and very nice) map board.

I really enjoyed the game but several others came along during the early 1980s which consigned it to the back of the cupboard as being more ‘advanced’ and therefore more 'realistic. Amongst these was  such titles as Aces High with the Blue Max supplement and Wings – published by Yaquinto and based on the Air Force/Dauntless system devised by the late S. Craig Taylor. Nowadays of course there is Wings of Glory, a card based game – at least for movement and damage resolution - using some quite superb (and expensive) 1:144th scale models of which Mr Fox has a huge selection.

For my purposes these days I would look to make use of the very nice range of 1:600th models available from Tumbling Dice for my WW1 fix – there are some very nice rule sets around although for me using models with Richthofens War would be fine. Having said that there are some very nice full coloured counters designed as replacements for the Avalon Hill game available from Upton games – where I obtained my Jutland counters – which would add a little colour to the games. Another option would be to use the models in conjunction with my Heroscape tiles. By virtue of the old Avalon Hill General magazine there is an awful lot of additional material available for Richthofen's War by virtue of extra scenarios and optional rules, all of which will serve to extend the shelf life of the original game.

A close up example of the replacement counters available from Upton Games....

....as well as the 'auxiliary' aircraft produced in support of specific scenarios.

I have mentioned Richthofen's War as quite by chance I have secured a near mint and unpunched copy of the game for a very modest price and so I am looking forward to once again taking to the skies over the Western Front with it. Who knows? I may even go as far as replacing the counters with models but that is for another day methinks.


Jim Jackaman said...

That brings back some memories. I hAve a copy of Richtofen's War in a cupboard somewhere too, along with Squad Leader, Panzer Leader, Gettysburg etc etc....pure '80's nostalgia but great fun back in the day.

'Lee. said...

This is something else we have in common David as I also enjoyed WW1 aerial combat games. What I do remember - and you might too - was an article in one of the early wargaming publications describing how to build wooden stands for use with Airfix kits. I was still at school then and was able to build several stands in woodwork, cutting out the circular bases and gluing in the dowel rods that were marked off in 1" sections representing height. A drilled out wooden collar then fitted the rod with an attached thin wooden arm that held the model aircraft. Wish I could find the article again as I did find a copy of the rules some time ago and actually posted on my blog that I intended to have another crack at it! I'll send you the link via email to see if you can remember them?

Regards, Lee.

David Crook said...

Hi J,

I always like the production quality of the old Avalon Hill games - especially the mounted mapboards I really enjoyed Squad Leader but never got into the advanced version. In fact I never really got past the Cross of Iron expansion. Panzerblitz, Panzer Leader and Arab Israeli Wars were all great fun as was Russian campaign.

I am going to rebuild my collection of these over time but only as and when I see a bargain.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi 'Lee,

I would be very interested to see that for sure! With the price of the Wings of Glory models being so high using 1:72nd models is probably not a bad idea - plus you have the fun of building them!

I am looking forward to running a couple of solo games when RW arrives - as I recall there is a good balloon busting scenario to get you in the mood.

Let me know what you can find - I would be very interested to see what there is.

All the best,


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Two of my most favoured "fringe" periods
WWII Naval and WWI Air!
Those games do "carry" in time and are still good to play

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

Back in the day I used to play a lot of aerial board games and to be honest I really miss it. Air Force/Dauntless (plus the expansion kit) and Air War were very popular although the latter was not for the faint-hearted.

I think for me the main reason for enjoying these games (naval and aerial) was because you did not need a lot of material to be able to have a good game and set up and clearing up times were minimal. the same is also true for games using models in these environments.

All the best,


Jonathan Freitag said...

My copy of RW has seen much wear over the decades. For WWI aerial combat with miniatures, I prefer Canvas Eagles and 1/72 aircraft on telescoping flight stands. Great fun and Canvas Eagles is available as a free download along with all of the aircraft stat sheets.

David Crook said...

Hi Jonathan,

I took a look at Canvas Eagles and it looks like a lot of fun. I have fought WW1 aerial games using 1:144th scale models but not any larger although there is no reason why not. Space may be an issue as well as assembling the telescoping flight stands but there are plenty of kits around for the main types.

Something else to think about.

All the best,