Sunday 30 April 2023

Mustangs in the Avalon Hill General

The first of two issues of the General featuring Mustangs

This edition certainly packs a lot of Mustangs related goodies!

Gamers of a certain vintage will no doubt be familiar with the house magazine of the Avalon Hill Game Company - the General. Over the course of some thirty plus volumes the General covered all things Avalon Hill related - optional and additional rules, scenarios, analysis and turn by turn refights. 

When I acquired my copy of Mustangs initially I had not thought about the General but thanks to the Aerial Wargames and the Avalon Hill groups on Facebook I was introduced to the following website:

View From The Trenches - Britain’s Premier ASL Journal

Although designed for gamers of Advanced Squad Leader it also has the complete back catalogue of the General in PDF format.

David Manley messaged me and very kindly emailed two key editions of the General that have really expanded the base game beyond recognition. There are scenarios and a whole raft of additional aircraft types which are really going to give me plenty of variety. Needless to say my reading list has increased significantly but that is not a problem as I am still waiting for my additional aircraft to arrive from Heroics and Ros.

I would certainly recommend the above website whatever Avalon Hill games you play - I am sure that there is something for everybody!

Thursday 27 April 2023

Naval Warfare Under Oars

The seminal work on the subject. First published in 1974 and then slightly revised and updated in the edition above from 2003. A true classic.

Following on from my recent acquisition of the Lepanto 1571by Nic Fields - so far a very good read - I naturally turned my thoughts to getting some ‘nuts and bolts’ background on the ships of the period. In truth this is not a new area for me as I dabbled in the period some years ago but did not really pursue it. This is a shame really as the period offers plenty of potential in terms of being quite transitional in many respects as well as offering two very different types of ships each with their own strengths and weaknesses - sails versus oars 

I am very much enjoying this although there are plenty of other books about the battle available.

There are a numerous models available in various scales for the period but should I opt to tackle it then I will naturally be making my own. For the record I have similar ideas about ancient galley warfare - think Salamis and similar - and these are along the lines of making a generic galley for each period that can up or downscaled as required. I will keep it fairly tight in terms of variety of models so that mass production will be easier.

A new project(s)? Maybe, but for the moment it is just a little light reading.

He said, tongue firmly in cheek….

Wednesday 26 April 2023

Mustangs Field of Battle

The Mustangs game board. 21 x 15 hexes, each of 1” across the flat sides.

The game board that is supplied with Mustangs features a bird’s eye view of a generic piece of European (?) real estate which personally I am not a huge fan of. I like my aerial games to look as though they are in the sky so found the plain blue map sheets in the original version of Air Force to work better. Naturally if ground targets etc are featuring then terrain is needed but for me blue is the colour.

The hex grid you see in the picture above features hexes that are 1” across the flat sides. This is fine for the game counters but is a little on the small side for models. Overhanging wing tips, engines and tails are a potential problem when you get up close and personal - when tailing for example - so ultimately I will need to think about a larger hexed playing area. I am thinking about using hexes that are 2” across the flat sides. This will leave some elbow room within the occupied hex so a tailing aircraft or one flying in close formation (in each case I am of course referring to an adjacent hex) will not be in danger of physical contact. This does raise another issue though.

The various manoeuvre counters are the standard board game 1/2” variety which look fine on the board but would certainly be a little lost within a 2” hex. Even before realising this I had already thought about getting some bespoke counters cut from MDF. These would be of the ‘arrow’ variety with the various manoeuvres indicated by the shape of the marker i.e. a normal turn would be shallower than a tighter version. I need to think about this but am satisfied this will be the way forwards (or turning, or whatever manoeuvre was being planned….).

On another note I was checking out the full list of aircraft available and there are a few others that may make into my late war over the Reich set up - mainly for the Luftwaffe - which could be fun. Before I get to them though I will of course need to think about the RAF - late Spitfires, Typhoons and Tempests.

Monday 24 April 2023

Solving an Aerial Mystery

US aircraft in 1:300th correctly identified as Heroics and Ros. P47Ds on top with the P51Ds at the bottom. The size of the P47 can be seen here to good effect!

For the Luftwaffe we currently have a trio of FW190Ds and a pair of Me262s

Thanks to Heroics and Ros being at Salute I was able to identify the manufacturer of the models included with my recently acquired copy of Mustangs. I suspected they were Heroics and Ros so was relieved to have been right as well the fact that the castings are still of the same standard meaning that I can round up the flights to four models apiece.

To be honest the castings are pretty basic but as representative pieces they are ideal and are recognisable for what they are supposed to be.

I was also pleased to find out that not only Heroics and Ros carry the range I-94 decals but that Pendraken do as well (thanks to Jim Jackaman for the heads up on this). I did not buy any from either as I needed to check out what was required for the models first of all.

At this stage the plan is very modest. I shall round out the aircraft above to flights of 4 and will add to the line up four P38s for the Americans whilst the Germans will gain four Me109Gs and four FW190As. I will think about the RAF in due course and of naturally there will be the Pacific and Eastern Front to think of in due course.

I am currently undecided about basing but am thinking about using magnets rather than having the aircraft fixed. As projects go this ticks pretty much all of the boxes. It is a gaming genre and period I have a long time interest in, the system was designed by my favourite game designer - the late S. Craig Taylor and the amount of models required is very modest. It will be fun sorting out some colour schemes for the models and taking to the skies once again.

Methinks this may well be a rather long but certainly enjoyable rabbit hole!

Sunday 23 April 2023

Salute 50: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Go….

The celebratory programme. Fifty years is a magnificent achievement and the Warlords are to be congratulated for this.

It was everything Salute should be - huge, packed, games of the highest quality, plenty of trade (with a couple of notable omissions), an opportunity to catch with friends old and new, spend some money and above all else, to be inspired. It succeeded on every level.

It was overwhelming, an assault on the senses that left the unprepared dazed at the sheer spectacle of all. Many of the games featured frankly outrageous numbers of figures and terrain of the highest order. I did not take many pictures - I only took my phone which - but to be honest getting good shots seemed to be challenge - at least for me anyway.

There will be far more pictures posted on various blogs so there will be no shortage of ‘eye candy’. 

The highlights for me were of a more personal nature. The bloggers meet up was huge fun albeit quite brief and as mentioned it was an opportunity to meet in the flesh many of those ‘virtual friends’. It was a real pleasure to meet up with Ken, the ‘Yarkshire’ gamer and to discuss his current project - WW2 naval gaming in 1:600th. It was great catching up with Tamsin and her 3D printing adventures, Big Lee, David from Suffolk and of course Bob Cordery. David Manley was also at the show taking part in a Wings of Glory game so it was great meeting up with and the loan of the hand trolley was especially welcome!

I bumped into Mr Fox, Mr Roche, Mr Kightly and Mr Slater from SEEMS as well as Mr Hardman and Derek Oram who was taking part in an ‘O’ Group game, along with some other old Newham chaps - Graham Hill and Steve ‘Lance with assault breaker’ Mansfield - who I have not seen for some thirty five years!

On the subject of old friends I also met up with Jon Sutherland and his wife Diane. I knew John along with Dave Ryan and the late Joe Dever from their Games Centre Days back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Jon has recently acquired a selection of ACW ironclads and so is going to run a game using my rules and will also write it up for Miniature Wargames - I was really chuffed with this!

As is my usual modus operandi at these events I looked and occasionally questioned - probably more looking if truth be told - and so I managed to have a chat with a very nice American gentlemen from the University of Wolverhampton that was running grid 1:600th ACW naval game covering the Battle of Mobile Bay with a twist. The twist being the presence of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus. A further item of interest was the fact that the rules used an Octagonal grid…. I will be getting a copy of these.

Now that is a great picture!

Note the cutaway model of the C.S.S. Tennessee and the Nautilus. The Octopus added to the atmosphere!

I was really intrigued by the square grid - used on an octagonal basis.

I visited Warbases to give Martin a copy of the The Portable Ironclads Wargame - thanks Martin for all your help and support - and also stopped by at the Baccus stand to collect a preorder - the new edition of Pony Wars: B Troop ain’t coming back. We had a chat about the game and moves are afoot for a cunning plan….

Talking of which, I paid a visit to the Heroics and Ros stand and whilst I did not buy anything - only because they did not have what I wanted on the stall - I was able to identify the aircraft I acquired with the Mustangs board game. The current versions are still the same so I am getting an order together to round out the 1944 ‘Over the Reich’ collection AND they also sell the marvellous I-94 decals (as do Pendraken).

Is there a cunning plan? You may think that….I couldn’t possibly comment…

Aside from the aforementioned Pony Wars the only other thing I picked was the book you see above. No prizes for guessing where my thoughts have been flitting about…

So why mad, bad and dangerous to go? Well, it was a wonderful mad experience with games and traders selling just about everything you probably didn’t need but purchased anyway! Bad and dangerous because it could have very well been the catalyst for all manner of new and shiny projects - meaning that the wallet could potentially be hammered.

As for go? Well, If you go then you should be prepared for the smorgasbord of just about everything the gamer could look for - which is what Salute is all about and how fortunate we are it is still going strong!

The last part of the day was my customary helping Dave Lanchester pack up his stall. Forty plus 32 litre plastic storage boxes, two 64 litre boxes, a handful of 16 litre boxes, a dozen open topped plastic boxes, a dozen cardboard boxes, two tables, seven book cases, eight table covers and a fold up sign all laboriously packed and placed in the van.

No wonder everything aches today BUT, Salute was absolutely worth it.

Friday 21 April 2023

More on Mustangs and Salute 50

“Red Tails in the sunset…” The legendary P51 Mustang

I seem to have opened a veritable Pandora’s Box of goodies in my search for material for the board game Mustangs, recently acquired from my good friend Mr Fox.

The WarFlag website has a dedicated Mustangs page which you can take a look at here. There is free stuff aplenty and so I spent some time happily downloading bits and pieces that take the game to, if you will pardon the play on words, new heights….

The base game is pitched very much at the 1944 plus years of the war - the age of the ‘power’ aircraft - which means that early war types are very pedestrian by comparison. There is an optional rule adjustment that essentially substitutes MPH for KPH when calculating speeds meaning that the slower early war types have a higher movement allowance. This obviously makes for a faster game but as mentioned, is entirely optional - a nice idea though.

There are period specific variants available covering WW1, Korea and Vietnam using the core system so I downloaded the first three as definitely being of interest. There are aircraft specification cards for a huge number of aircraft types and variants and, of crucial importance for the ‘all round air combat experience’, rules for using bombers and anti aircraft.

My plans are simple and are certainly helped by the fact that the game in its base form recommends no more than four aircraft a side, flown as two pairs. This keeps the model count down. I am thinking 1:300th  as being the scale of choice although using larger models would certainly be an option. I am also thinking along the lines of having custom tokens and control cards fashioned although this is not essential, just a piece of chrome really.

Looking closely at the rules I can see signs of their Air Force roots - unsurprising really given that both games were by the same designer - and although we will never know for sure (unless someone does of course, which is entirely possible) I like to think that the late S. Craig Taylor had this system in mind as a successor to his original game and that given time he would have developed it further. I like to think so anyway!

Salute 50

This is tomorrow and I am looking forward to going. It will be great to catch up with old friends and of course the Bloggers meet up will feature - another great reason to go! As usual I shall be helping Dave Lanchester close down his stall at the end of the day but for me seeing what is about, soaking up the inspiration and talking to gamers and traders and indulging in a little retail therapy is what it is all about.

To those going tomorrow I hope to see you there!

Thursday 20 April 2023

I Mustang Around in the Sky

I recall being interested in this game when it was released in the 1990s but believe it or not was put off by the limited range of aircraft featured….How times have changed!

The underside of the box

I was always a huge fan of the board game Air Force designed by the late S. Craig Taylor. Air Force, along with the standalone Pacific theatre game Dauntless and the expansion kit that rounded out the existing nationalities as well as introducing the Russian, French and Italian air forces, were a constant part of my gaming during the the late 1970s and early 1980s. Unfortunately the rules for these required written turns for each aircraft which made solo games a little tricky. Systems wise they were very much of their time but I really enjoyed using them.

Anyways, in the early 1990s, Avalon Hill launched a series of games in what was known as their Smithsonian range. One of the range was the game to see above. Mustangs. Now this is game of fighter combat designed for up to four aircraft a side and was designed by none other than the aforementioned S. Craig Taylor.

This game is air combat stripped back to the bone. Fighter combat only - none of that bomber interception or ground attack malarkey - this is plane to plane, mano a mano. In other words, probably what most aerial gamers enjoy the most! 

One of the game counters - in this case a German FW190 A-8. Coincidentally this is my preferred fighter when flying for the Luftwaffe….

When I say stripped back I mean it is very light on aircraft types - the RAF do not feature in the base game - and does not feature written orders of any kind. All the aircraft information features on the counter and each aircraft has a control card for recording hits, altitude etc (of which there are only 6 levels). A closer look at the aircraft counter kind of reveals the links back to Air Force but this is a whole new and much faster game. 

The counter contains everything you need to know about the aircraft but it would easy enough to transfer this information into a spreadsheet if using models rather than the counters provided. There is a whole raft of order counters which again, could be readily produced in something rather more durable than those provided with the game.

A selection of 1944 aircraft, European theatre.

The copy I have acquired came to me courtesy of Mr Fox who now’s of my weakness for his type of game. He acquired t from a bring and buy some years back. An additional bonus was that contained in the box is a selection on unpainted 1:300th scale aircraft, presumably the original owner planned to use these instead of the counters, and these include three Mustangs, three P47 Thunderbolts (both of these the later version ‘bubble’ canopy), a pair of Me 262s and three FW190s. I have no idea who these were produced by and they are a little on the crude side to be honest. I am thinking possibly early Heroic and Ros but who knows?

My thanks to Mr Fox for allowing me to take this off this hands!

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Gaming the Old West: A Personal History

A classic game and with figures!

The board, figures and rules.

Aside from watching the TV series the Virginian and the High Chaparral, as well the inevitable John Wayne films - the Spaghetti Westerns came much later - my earliest gaming experience of the Old West was via, you’ve guessed it, a board game. In this case it was The Battle of the Little Big Horn produced by Waddingtons. I can remember playing this game loads of times in the very early 1970s along with Campaign from the same publisher. I never really took this any further but the next step was a fairly big one when a gaming friend of mind acquired the original Old West Skirmish rules which introduced us to such exotic things as decimal dice. We gamed in 54mm and I have fond memories of painting and converting Timpo figures for use with the rules. All good fun but again, I never really pursued it with any degree of conviction.

When I moved to London in 1978 and started attending the Newham Wargames Club based at Eric Knowles’s shop in Manor Park, East London I took part in a number of games which were all highly entertaining and then a new set of rules came out that kind of took the edge off the genre for me. These were called Once Upon A Time in the West and seemed by comparison to be rather more complex than the original Old West Skirmish rules. This was the time when ever more complex rules seemed to be the way forwards but were inevitably at the cost of playability. As a result my interest withered on the vine somewhat although I did rather enjoy anything US Cavalry related - Pony Wars or B Troop Ain’t coming back were a club favourite and I am pleased that a new version has recently been released by Baccus, the 6mm people.

The latest version of Pony Wars in hardback

My recent and rather splendid acquisition of a complete 26 volume set of the Time Life series The Old West has certainly given me plenty of material to think about. There are now vast ranges of Old West figures depicting all manner of types from the period and in a variety of scales. Whilst it does not necessarily mean I shall be reaching for figure catalogues, a few figures for a skirmish style game would certainly not be a problem. 

Time to watch some old Westerns again methinks - perhaps the Cavalry trilogy along with Rio Bravo and of course, the Spaghetti sequence.

Purely for research of course….

Friday 14 April 2023

An ‘Old West’ Result

Buffalo Bill and his Wild West show

Freecycle - at least the Rayleigh chapter - is proving to be a real success for me! Laurel was checking her emails and saw a full set of the the above being given away. Was I interested? Absolutely! An enthusiastic nod of the head from me, a quick exchange of emails and a ten minute car drive later - I became the proud owner of a complete set of the Time Life series ‘The Old West’! There was even the introductory free poster neatly folded inside one of the volumes!

It was free - that’s right - free!

“Gonna need a bigger bookcase!”

This was very much a target of opportunity and certainly was not something I was looking out for but, when life gives you lemons and all that! Seriously though, this is a cracking set and will give plenty of inspiration for not only Western gunfights but also such things as US Cavalry actions as well as Guerrilla style combat during the American Civil War, even the Mexican War. 

The set consists of 26 volumes and the titles of these are as follows:

The Pioneers
The Gamblers
The Railroaders
The Gunfighters
The Texans
The Frontiersmen
The Rivermen
The Forty-Niners
The Cowboys
The Mexican War
The Alaskans
The Loggers
The Ranchers
The Townsmen
The Miners
The Chroniclers
The Scouts
The Soldiers
The Women
The Great Chiefs
The Indians
The Expressmen
The Trailblazers
The Canadians
The Spanish West
The End and the Myth

The above two volumes are duplicates so should anyone want them - The Indians and The Great Chiefs - let me know. I do not want anything for them, just cover any shipping.

You may recall mentioning that I had previously missed out on a full set of the American Civil War series a couple of years ago from the same source. Whilst this is no substitute it certainly a great collection to own and one that I am sure I will make use of.

Now to source a couple of dozen gunfight figures - luckily I have rules aplenty to choose from!

Tuesday 11 April 2023

Korean War and ACW Ironclads?

A little dated now (published in 1998) but covers all the aerial combat I am likely to be interested in!  A great primer on the subject.

I hope everyone had a good Easter!

Indulge me, it is a moment of whimsy to be sure, but a welcome one! As part of my recent haul of aviation books offered up on Freecycle there was one in particular that caught my eye, the title you see above by Ivan Rendall. I have mentioned before that I have played a lot of aerial games although these have mostly been of the board variety and even then the palette is rather modest. For jet combat my experience was solely down to the SPI game Air War which was complex but a lot of fun at the time - especially as most of our early games involved non missile carrying types and so inevitably the Korean War featured.

I never really studied the war in great detail but the chapter devoted to Korea has been something of a revelation. Plenty of late WW2 propeller driven types and a basket of early jets makes for a truly diverse range of match ups, all of which means some interesting games. A mixture of old and new technology with the older stuff being very much at the pinnacle of piston engined aircraft development.

Rather like the naval side of the American Civil War….

There you had sailing ships that were pretty much at the technological summit of their development mixing it with steam power and those newfangled ironclads. The two struck me as having this in common!

Essential research material and there are few other titles produced by Osprey that would be handy to add to the collection

Anyways, enthused by the revelations of the Rendall book - incidentally I should mention that this title is by no means the definitive word on the subject, as some of the more pithier reviews on Amazon pointed out - and remembering that the well known aerial gamer, blogger and prince of the project list, Jim Jackaman, had covered this particular war using 1:600th Tumbling Dice models and the Mig Alley rules, I decide to take a further look. Naturally this involved a modest degree of expenditure in terms of research but it will be fulfilling a need I didn’t know I had - actually that is not entirely accurate, I had planned a small aerial project but had gotten no further than the Battle of Britain. The first step was to secure a copy of the rather timely written book you see above.

In an exchange with the aforementioned Mr Jackaman he suggested that the Mig Alley pack plus a couple of extra packs would be more than sufficient for a nifty little set up which will be fun to do. 

Anyhow, planning for this and the various other bits and pieces I have on the go will keep me occupied whilst Laurel and I both deal with the bout of Covid we now have - her first and my second!

Thursday 6 April 2023

Samurai Cavalry

Zvezda Samurai Cavalry looking suitably ferocious and soon to be joining the contents of the Shogun board game 

The relentless domestic round continues this week but the end is in sight. Essentially we had our downstairs cloakroom refurbished to make it more accessible for Laurel. Aside from the physical work required in the cloakroom itself we also decided to decorate the utility room which involved new flooring, new sockets and switches (luckily my son is a ‘sparky’) and lots of white paint as well as a new washing machine and freezer (7 and 18 years old respectively). In both cases it meant much moving of ‘stuff’ around the house and a tip run. I have also given the lawn its first mow of the year and have jet washed the patio.

Anyways, enough of my labours and on with the good stuff!

Aside from finishing the four ironclads I have also been thinking about the Samurai project and so took the plunge and have ordered two boxes of the above which will give me 34 cavalry - more than enough for my needs. Once they arrive I will post some pictures but I already have it on very good authority that they fit in well with the Shogun board game figures.

I also need to finish the write up for my refight of Operation Market Garden which was a lot of fun to do and has given me a few other things to think about.

Like I need anything else to do….. :-)

Wednesday 5 April 2023

Updating Ironclads….Finished!


The refurbished ‘fab four’. C.S.S. Georgia (top), C.S.S. Huntsville (left), C.S.S.  Raleigh (right) and the C.S.S. Tuscaloosa (bottom).

A top down view of the Tuscaloosa (left) and the Raleigh (right) showing the offset gun ports on either beam of the casemate.

I am pleased to have gotten these four up to the current build standard and am greatly indebted to John Wallis for his help in identifying those ironclads that my original generic models could be most readily converted to. The Confederates will get a further pair of ironclads - the C.S.S. Tennessee and the C.S.S. Baltic.

The models above are not quite as ‘sleek’ in terms of finish as the others but given that three of them have been tweaked on a couple of occasions it is hardly surprising. Still the slightly ‘worked’ look is probably in keeping with the historical originals so I shall not worry too much.

For now though, it is back to the gunboats!

Monday 3 April 2023

Updating Ironclads….Part 3

The next stage. The new, smaller gun ports are now in place, duly sealed and ready to paint. 

Despite a busy day today I managed to get the new gun ports added to the four ironclads currently being updated. I wanted to show the difference the smaller size of port makes and I think you can see what an improvement they make over the original, larger version.

All being well I should have these finished in the next day or so and then I can crack on with the half completed models I have on the workbench.

Moving along nicely methinks!