Monday 29 April 2024

No Mans Land

All quiet on the Western Front - note the scarred landscape and the beginning of the ‘Green Fields Beyond’

One of the four gaming mats that I won for Wings of War/Glory is a stylised representation of that most typical feature of WW1 - the shell cratered, mud churned and trench riddled terrain known as ‘No Mans Land’. This could equally be used for pretty much any sector of the Western Front and so is a really useful and atmospheric mat to use. Given that war in the air often operated over such terrain - reconnaissance flights, aerial observation and so forth, not to mention tactical bombing etc - I am expecting to be using this mat a lot once I can take to the air with my collection.

On the subject of getting some games in my plan is make use of the upcoming back holiday weekend to give the game a spin - nothing fancy, probably just a ‘one on one’ duel - as I ease my way back into the system.

In the meanwhile the search for other aircraft continues and as mentioned - I am only looking at around half a dozen models or so.

In other news….

I have had my third consultation interview at work for the potential redundancy and should nothing positive turn up this week (I am interviewing for three roles internally) then ‘Der Tag’ is scheduled to be on or around the 7th of May. 

We shall see what happens.

Thursday 25 April 2024

Farewell to Shogun

I am unsure what the Japanese for ‘a bit like the curate’s egg’ is but the good parts were very good indeed!

A day later than usual I managed to watch the series finale of Shogun - the ten part mini series based on the novel of the same name by James Clavell.

My feelings about this production have probably been influenced by having read the novel umpteen times - almost to the point that I can quote vast chinks of the dialogue and text etc from memory! 

I enjoyed it for what it was - a bold and beautiful production that was visually stunning to look at and with a real feel for the subject matter but all the while ‘based upon’ the novel, which in turn was a fictionalisation of the actual historical events of the period.

For me, therein lay the problem. Without giving too much away the production played fast and loose with the events in the novel - certain incidents were out of sequence and others were changed entirely - which personally I found to be a little on the irritating side. If I were a purist I would say ‘butchered’ would be a more accurate description, perhaps with a more surgical degree of precision but chopped about all the same. I realise that adapting a book to the screen requires certain changes but I am not convinced this was for the better. Again, I blame my familiarity with the novel for this apparent ‘nit picking’. 

I also felt as though the pacing was a little uneven although trying to condense the story into ten hours of screen time was never going to be easy. In many ways it felt rather like watching an extended highlights series with the highlights sometimes in the wrong order. 

One of my tests of the value of watching something on the screen usually runs along the lines of ‘is there a game in that?’ Absolutely - my enthusiasm for all things Samurai remains as high as ever and indeed, revisiting my project for the period in some way will definitely be on the cards at some point so Shogun served its purpose in that respect.

So in conclusion I can safely say that I enjoyed it for it was but the 1980 series was closer to the book and so I shall make a point of revisiting it in due course.

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Latest Acquisitions for Wings of War/Glory

Probably the most famous aircraft of the First World War on the left whilst on the right, the mount of an equally famous pilot but for all the wrong reasons….

I spent a very pleasant couple of hours or so yesterday evening with the redoubtable Mr Fox at his home, discussing matters of great import - well great to us anyway - and transacting some business. Essentially it was a swap deal - my excess Wings of War/Glory WW1 aircraft (20 in all) for a whole pile of Aeronautica Imperialis goodies - details of which will feature in a later post.

Anyways, as part of the horse trading (no actual horses of course, unless you count those of the engine power variety which, given the subject matter was WW1 aircraft would be kind of appropriate….) I took delivery of the models you see above.

The Triplane needs little introduction (that is the third ‘Red Baron’ I have in his triplane guise) but the Fokker D7 may be a bit of a surprise. It was the mount of one Hermann Goering who finished the Great War as a holder of the Pour La Mérite - the famous ‘Blue Max’- and the commander of Jagdgeschwader 1, the unit previously commanded by Baron Von Richthofen. 

I shall be repainting two of the Fokker DR1s I have - I rather fancy an all black version - but will probably leave the D7 as is.

The SE5 of Canada’s leading fighter ace - Billy Bishop

I also acquired a British SE5a but in the colours of the Canadian fighter ace, Billy Bishop. By a strange coincidence my wife’s late brother, Gordie the former paratrooper, who lived in Vancouver, was a member of the Canadian Legion - affiliated with the British Legion and providing a similar function for ex servicemen. The coincidence part is that the branch of the Canadian Legion Gordie belonged to used to meet at a local pub called, you’ve guessed it, the Billy Bishop.

I am really pleased to have these models in my collection and so would like to thank Mr Fox for making them available.

He really is a thoroughly decent fellow!

Sunday 21 April 2024

Wings of War and Glory - The Aircraft

Now this is the moment I have been waiting for! The collection has been sorted and is now ready to use although as mentioned previously, I will need to add a few more models - not many mind, around 3 or 4 - and also invest in another couple of the rather useful storage trays the bulk of the collection is in.

So without further ado:

First up are four Albatross DVas (left) and a pair of Sopwith Camels and RE8s (right).

A pair of Sopwith Snipes and a pair of DH4s (left), one of which is in US colours. Four SPAD 13s - two French and two American (right).

A Fokker DR1 along with a German badged Sopwith Camel and a pair of Rolands (left). Two Fokker DR1s and a pair of Hannovers (right). 

Each of these two trays has a pair of DVa and there are a pair of Rumplers on the left and Halberstadts on the right.

Not pictured above - mainly as I do not have anymore of those very useful blue foam storage trays - are the four (soon to be five) SE5As, another Sopwith Camel and a Snipe. I shall soon be collecting a Fokker D7 and am keen to get some more of these if I can, ideally another pair.

I also have an observation balloon so ‘balloon busting’ will feature at some point alongside the usual dogfights.

This is going to be a whole heap of fun!

Friday 19 April 2024

A Wings of Glory Mat

Measuring 39’ by 27” the above depicts a town built around a river. The mat itself is neoprene so it rolls up nicely and stays flat when deployed on the table. Needless to say I have plans other than pure aerial actions for this!

I have been sorting through the final part of my recently acquired Wings of War/Glory collection - the aircraft are nearly ready to be photographed - and so in the meantime I wanted to share a picture of one of the ‘official’ gaming mats.

I am quite taken by the mats, especially as they can be used in quite a compact space. the one you see above could readily be used for a game with half a dozen or so aircraft, a size that suits me splendidly!

Wednesday 17 April 2024

More on Wings of War and Glory

Rules and the scenario book - I will be collecting a rather better copy of both shortly - as well some of the Litko flame and fire markers. These are not included in the game but came with the bulk of the collection. They are safely tucked away in a polythene bag.

After a hectic session of wheeling and dealing my collection of models etc for Wings of Glory is pretty much where I want it to be. For sure there are a couple of holes - I would love to get a further brace of Fokker D7s as well as a pair of Bristol Fighters - but I have sufficient models for a variety of actions.

I shall be doing a photoshoot once all is organised but to give you a taster of what to expect the collection looks something like this:


4 x SE5a, 4 x SPAD 13, 4 x Sopwith Camel, 4 x Sopwith Snipe, 2 x DH4 and 2 x RE8


7 x Albatross DVa, 1 x German badged Sopwith Camel*, 4 x Fokker DR1, 2 x Fokker D7, 2 x Roland, 2 x Rumpler, 2 x Halbastadt and 2 x Hannover.

I also have an observation balloon.

All of the models are stored in bespoke blue foam trays and the entire collection lives in a box roughy the size of two standard shoe boxes. 

I have four of the gaming mats. These are as follows: East and West sectors, No Mans Land and Countryside. Each mat is roughly 3ft by 2ft and are of the neoprene variety.

Some of the models will be getting some minor paintwork or insignia changes but nothing as drastic as full on repainting. There is no real hurry to do this but it will be fun to personalise the collection. Naturally my thoughts are not limited to solely using the Wings of Glory system - I have plenty of other sets of rules to play around with, some free table based, others on hexagonal grids - but for now the key thing is having the models ready to use at the drop of a hat. In many respects aerial games are not unlike naval in that one usually does not require little or anything by way of terrain. It is also as compact for storage.

* Otto Kissenberth flew a captured Sopwith Camel in combat and scored his 20th aerial victory (a SE5a) whilst doing so. The Camel bit him back shortly after though, as he crashed after the engine stalled shortly after taking off. A heavy impact crashing from some 40 metres seriously injured the German flyer and ended his war for him.

In Other News….

I have been told that my current position is at risk of redundancy and so I am currently going through the consultation process. The company is looking at other alternatives for me across the group and of course I am looking at other options out in the world. To be honest if all goes to hell in a hand basket it would not be the end of the world as I am due to retire in 2026 in any event. It would be nice though, to have the choice as to when I retire!

Sunday 14 April 2024

Wings of War and Glory

Using pre-painted 1/144th scale models and a card driven system for moving and adjudicating damage, Wings of Glory (originally Wings of War) is a hugely popular system for gaming WW1 aerial battles

I have always enjoyed WW1 aerial games going back to playing Avalon Hill’s Richthofen’s War in the late 70s/early 80s at Newham Wargames Club. This then evolved into Wings - the S Craig Taylor designed  game published by Yaquinto - along with Aces High/Blue Max. At the time I never considered using models although I do remember building some 1/72nd aircraft ‘back in the day’. 

Fast forward to the around 2004 when a game called Wings of War was launched that used 1/144th scale models that were ready painted to use straight out of the box on the tabletop (or one of the official gaming mats). The game really took off (pardon the pun like comment!) and numerous expansions and extra aircraft were made available. I bought into the system but for reasons lost in the mists of time I passed the collection on to Mr Fox some years ago who regularly takes the game to the club on Wednesday evenings. 

The game itself is quite simple to play and makes use of manoeuvre cards graded by type - the more manoeuvrable the aircraft the more cards it has - and a deck of damage cards for use when firing. It is easy to pick up and a popular choice for club nights.

I wanted to get back into the game (and WW1 aerial as a whole) but at present the range of aircraft that is available is quite modest and as a result tends to be eye-wateringly expensive. A new version is currently in pre-production which should ease the supply situation somewhat. However, by virtue of some selective acquisitions I now have the makings of a pretty good set up for use with the original game and for the several other rules sets I have for the period. I have around amassed around 40 or so models along with four of the ‘official’ gaming mats and assorted other bits and pieces which is probably about as much as I will need for the foreseeable. Most of the ‘official’ scenarios use a modest number of aircraft so the need for a massive collection is not so imperative - half a dozen or so models a side would be a fair sized action.

The collection covers a variety of the main types in action but at present there are few notable exceptions to the set up - which is based on the 1917/18 period - but the usual suspects are there - SE5a, Sopwith Camel and Snipe, DH4, RE8, Albatross DVa, Fokker DR1 and D7, Roland, Rumpler, Halberstadt, Hannover and SPAD 13, along with a balloon - so the scope for a variety of actions is certainly broad enough. I would have loved to have gotten a couple of Bristol Fighters but that would be for another day methinks. As mentioned there will be a certain number of paint conversions but nothing too drastic - one can only have a single all red Fokker DR1 after all!

The Reason Why

As my recent flurry of ‘retirement front loading wheeling and dealing’ draws to a close - there are a couple of  pieces of the puzzle outstanding which be addressed shortly - I have to say that I am overall very pleased with how it has played out. I have  acquired a good selection of quality material which will give me an endless variety of games to enjoy both cheaply and efficiently and more importantly will range across my myriad historical periods of interest. Although the emphasis has been more towards board games, I shall still use model ships and aircraft and even dabble occasionally in the odd skirmish style set up. For now though, and for the foreseeable future, using pre-painted models represents a massive time saver for me which is particularly handy given my current domestic circumstances.

Time is (as ever) my greatest adversary….

Monday 8 April 2024

More on Flat Top - and a surprise!

Exactly how I remember it from first buying a copy way back in 1978. A simple but striking box cover.

My enduring obsession with the board game Flat Top has reached its climax - and in a very unexpected but welcome fashion!

I have two copies of the Battleline version of Flat Top - one consists solely of the contents as the box had disintegrated beyond the point of salvaging whilst the other is rather grubby around the edges - and three of the Avalon Hill version. One copy is in pretty good condition whilst the other two are box weary to lesser or greater degree. All five copies are complete and indeed, the Avalon Hill versions are unpunched.

I really wanted to get a decent copy of the Battleline version - the striking box cover is pretty faded on the one box I have - simply because on balance I prefer it to the later version. Now I was not seriously looking for a copy until a casual trawl through evil bay revealed a chap in the US that was selling a batch of Battleline Games that had belonged to his late father. These were found in an attic and for the most part the collection (there were thirteen games in all) was still in shrink wrap and with only minimal storage wear. A copy of Flat Top, along with Air Force and Dauntless were amongst the items on the listing so I dropped the seller a line to see if these three could be sold off separately. The answer was an emphatic yes and with each game costing a mere USD 30 a title I immediately ‘pulled the trigger’.

The package arrived this morning and whilst Air Force and Dauntless will feature in a later post (there is a good reason for this), my attention was focussed on Flat Top. It is absolutely pristine and even has that wonderful ‘new board game smell’ about it. For no obvious reason I turned the box over to see how the underside had fared over the 47 years since it was produced when I found the following.

After years of singing the praises of Flat Top and pretty much all of S. Craig Taylor’s games - including the Air Force trilogy, Wooden Ships and Iron Men (and Ship ‘O the Line), Wings and the Avalon Hill Smithsonian series - I now have a signed copy of one of my all time favourite games, by probably my all time favourite designer!

I am really pleased with this and you can rest assured that if I ever had to dispose of everything else in my collection this would be the one thing I would keep!

Now it could be thought to be a tad on the excessive side having essentially six copies of the same game, albeit in two sets of three - the Battleline and Avalon Hill versions. I would certainly agree with this but there is a kind of method in the madness. For more years than I can remember I have really wanted to play Flat Top on a Kriegspiel basis. In other words, each side has their own copy of the game with the third being held by the umpire. This would be the ultimate version of the game and to be honest trying to organise it would present some challenges in terms of organising players etc but boy oh boy, it would be a rollicking, rip-roaring and nerve-shredding experience!

I am dead chuffed.

Sunday 7 April 2024

Thoughts on the American Civil War

Not seen this for a long while - a brigade level tactical board game covering the American Civil War and published by Yaquinto. My curiosity was sufficiently aroused so that once again the wallet fell open….

Although my interest in the American Civil War has been primarily directed at the naval side I have not been averse to fighting the odd land battle or two. In recent years this has been via Battle Cry - the Command and Colours game designed by Richard Borg - or more usually a variant of Bob Cordery’s Portable Wargame. I have an unused 18mm WoFun collection for the period - these are the original WoFun release and not the later Peter Dennis penned versions - that I had half an idea of using with either of the above mentioned rules in support of my naval endeavours but as yet have not done anything tangible about it. 

Battles and Leaders is a tactical ACW boardgame set at brigade level that was published by Yaquinto back in the very early 1980s. It is scaled at 50 metres per hex and a unit counter represents around 200 men. There are separate counters for leaders and skirmishers and the former have a rating for charisma - as well as a rather evocative ‘leader injury’ table.

This is a board game that is very much of its era - lots of charts and tables - but beneath it all there is an interesting system that offers a little more ‘meat’ in terms of detail compared to, for example, Battle Cry.

I will take this game as it is although the potential for using the WoFun collection is certainly there. 

Something to think about anyway.

In other news, the final phase of my recent bout of ‘wheeling and dealing’ is coming to an end. I have a few surprises to unleash - actually not really that much of a surprise overall - but regular readers of the blog will recognise the inspiration behind them!

Thursday 4 April 2024

Taking to the Air

Different eras but using similar systems - plane to plane combat old school style with hexes and counters! Naturally models can be used.

My ongoing mission to stock up with some selected boardgames continues apace and boy oh boy did I score big time! 

The backs of the boxes. Yes, you can fly a Zeppelin in Wings, along with the giant bomber of the same name!

Wings is an S Craig Taylor designed game of aerial combat during the Great War produced by Yaquinto Games, way back in 1981. The system is essentially a development of that used in Air Force and Dauntless which cover WW2.

My copy of the game is unpunched and one of the big advantages of Yaquinto was that their counters were nice and thick and cut out easily (I never punch counters out - I always use a scalpel to free them). A number of large sized reference sheets, two counter sheets, three map boards, some terrain overlays, fifty aircraft data cards, the rule book and even the original d6 are in the box, the lid of which has some minor storage wear. I could not be more pleased to have this game as the acquisition of it coincides with something else currently underway - details of which will posted in due course.

Spitfire, produced by 3W Games, uses a similar system to Aces High which started out as a magazine game, supplemented by an expansion called Blue Max. As I recall the two were then combined in a boxed version. This is rather niche in a way in that it focuses very much on the Blitzkrieg era of WW2 including Poland, France, the Battle Of Britain and some of the early air battles over the Balkans. It is good to see coverage of the Polish and French air forces (the latter appear in the Air Force expansion kit) and an expanded early war orbat for the RAF and Luftwaffe. Due to the similarity between this system and that of Air Force it would not be difficult to adapt them to Air Force.

I rather fancy the idea of using Defiants!

There is one missing link in all this retro aerial goodness and I am hoping to be able to rectify this shortly….

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Planning for Lissa

A very useful title - especially the overview of the technological evolution that culminated in the Battle of Lissa. This is one of a number of references I shall be using.

Firstly, I hope everyone enjoyed the long Easter weekend and managed to keep the chocolate consumption to a reasonable level! Seriously though, I hope the break was a good one, however you celebrated it.

One of my jobs over the weekend - which turned out to be a rather busy one - was to punch out the counters from my newly acquired copies of Ironclads and the Ironclads expansion set. The former was completely unpunched and the ship data cards needed separating. The latter was partially punched and so I spent an hour or so armed with a scalpel and cutting mat along with a stack of grip top polythene bags. Both boxes have now been properly sorted out and are ready to play - the only thing missing was a pair of D6 - one red and one white.

As the Expansion set includes European vessels of the period this was going to be my first port of call in terms of the ships involved in the scenario for Lissa. 

I plan to include a battle report based on the famous sea fight of 1866 but on a slightly reduced basis. The action will feature the leading formations of both the Austrian and Italian fleets as these were the only ones engaged. It will also reduce the number of model required although this still stands at twenty four all told. Inevitably this will impose a minor delay in the publication of the revised edition of the Portable ironclads Wargame but I reckon it will be worth the wait.

This will be the largest action fought using the Portable Ironclads Wargame and is rather different from usual coastal or inland waterway type of action and I am really looking forward to it!

For of all though, it is the model making and so having learned an awful lot during the ACW build I am confident that I have the basic construction technique ‘dialled in’. I even have the flags in readiness!