Monday, 28 April 2014

The Quirk

From "On A Wing And A Prayer", by Joshua Levine - a book about WW1 airmen told mostly in their own words.

"In Lewis Carroll's poem, Jabberwocky', a monster is slain by a boy in a strange and sinister world. In April 1917, an Albatros was destroyed by a BE2c (or 'Quirk'), in the skies above Arras. William Bond of 40 Squadron, a pilot and parodist, made the connection:

Twas brillig and the Slithy Quirk
Did drone and burble in the blue,
All floppy were his wing controls
(And his observer too)

'Beware the wicked Albatros',
The O.C. quirks' had told him flat;
'Beware the Hun-Hun bird and shun
The frumious Halberstadt'

But while through uffish bumps he ploughed,
The Albatros, with tail on high,
Came diving out the tulgey cloud
And let his bullets fly.

One, two; one, two, and through and through,
The Lewis gun went tick-a-tack,
The Hun was floored, the Quirk had scored,
And came 'split arsing' back.

'Oh hast thou slain the Albatros?
Split one, with me, my beamish boy, 
Our RAF-ish scout has found them out', 
The C.O. wept for joy.

Bond himself described the parody as 'cheap', but others disagreed - most notably Mick Mannock who pasted a copy of it inside his diary ... On 22nd July, Bond, a Daily Mail journalist in peacetime, was shot down and killed by a direct Archie hit."

A great parody, but a couple of things to ponder. Firstly it was the BE2e that was, as far as I know, called 'The Quirk', although it was certainly around when the poem was written. But, secondly, would there have been a reference to the RAF in 1917?

Anyway, I was very pleased the other day to read a comment that WW1 pilots considered 90 metres to be about the longest distance that it was worth firing on an enemy aircraft from (preferably much close). Out of interest I decided to work out what that was in 1/600th scale - it's 15cm or, near enough, 6". The range I assigned to firing in 'Spandau and Lewis'. I was quite pleased by this neat little coincidence until, on the train up to Sydney the other day, I decided to use the information to work out how long a 'Spandau and Lewis' turn was. Apparently it's 1.8 seconds. This means the average game represents an action that lasts about 20 seconds. I hadn't really intended it that way, wanting to include observer actions such as artillery spotting and photography in the action. So I'm going to quietly forget those numbers and state that 'Spanda and Lewis's time- and ground-scale is officially 'a bit abstract'.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Guilfoyle, Wackett and Turner

With our club night falling on the day before ANZAC Day, I thought I'd put together a small 'Spandau and Lewis' scenario featuring Australian airmen. I'm currently reading 'Fire in the Sky' by Michael Molkentin, which is a history of the Australian Flying Corps in WW1, and in it is a brief account of the Corps' first air-to-air fight, over Sinai in November 1916. So I set up that, reasoning that we could play it through more than once during the course of the evening.

And here it is.


ANZAC Day Scenario - Australia’s First Air Combat (11th November 1916)

From ‘Fire In The Sky’ by Michael Molkentin

On 8 November, A-Flight moved from Sherika to Kantara aerodrome, placing all four flights in the Sinai region for the first time.  The squadron was thus able to make more concerted efforts, the first of which came on 11 November when it mounted the largest bombing raid yet to be undertaken by British forces in the theatre.  Beersheba was the target, site of the Turkish Army headquarters and [German squadron] FA 300's main aerodrome.  At dawn, nine BE2cs and a Martinsyde flew from their aerodromes and assembled at Mustabig.  

Eight of the BE2cs carried only a pilot, so that they could take extra bombs and fuel. The Martinsyde and Wackett's BE2c escorted them.  The formation refuelled and set out at 8.30 a.m. Approaching Beersheba, they were greeted with heavy anti-aircraft fire, flying “through a flurry of white, black and green shell bursts.”

James Guilfoyle (who had replaced Oswald Watt as B-Flight's commander in October when Watt went to England to establish another Australian squadron) dropped a 100lb. bomb from the Martinsyde right in the middle of the German aerodrome, while others scored hits on tents, railway buildings and tracks.  

Two Fokker monoplanes took off and chased the Australians as they made for home. Wackett and Turner (as observer) lagged behind, and descended to the enemy's altitude to offer an appealing target.  Wackett kept their tail to the enemy, allowing Turner to stand up in the turret and fire as the Fokkers closed.  "The enemy plane,” wrote the satisfied inventor, “was completely surprised when his attack was met by a continuous fire from this new gun location and he retired immediately..."

This raid marked the beginning of Australia’s history of air-to-air combat.

This scenario covers Wacket, Turner and Guilfoyle’s fight against the two Fokker monoplanes (assumed to be Fokker EIIIs). The Australians are looking to drive them off, whilst the Fokkers are looking to chase down the eight unarmed BE2s that are assumed to be returning home off table after making sure that they themselves are not chased down.

Forces Involved


1 x BE2                                  Speed 4 Agility D Hits 7 Power 0 O 1xLA,RA,TA
1 x Martinsyde G100              Speed 5 Agility C Hits 9 Power 2 P 1xNA

Both crews are experienced


2 x Fokker EIII                        Speed 5 Agility C+ Hits 7 Power 1 1xNA

One pilot is experienced, the other is a novice.

Play Area

A board 2’ square is sufficient for this scenario. One edge is the Turkish edge. The opposite edge is that of the Australians. The Turks set up first, within 6” of their edge. The Australians set up second, anywhere within their own half of the board.

Game Length

The game lasts for at least ten turns or until one side achieves their victory condition. At the end of the tenth turn, and each subsequent turn, roll a D6. If the score is 5 or more then the game has ended.

Victory Conditions

The AFC win by shooting down at least one Turkish plane before the game ends.

The Turks win by shooting down at least one Australian plane, and exiting at least one aircraft off the Australian edge of the table before the game ends.

If both sides achieve their victory conditions in the same turn, or neither side achieves it before the end of the game, then the game is a draw.

Special Rules

The BE2 is armed with an experimental mount which enables it to fire LA, RA and TA. All arcs count as restricted (-1 dice).

On the turn after the BE2 fires on either Turkish plane, both Turkish planes suffer a -1 to their initiative roll. This represents the surprise at being fired on by a BE2.


Note that it uses the Power rules which I think I outlined in a previous post. Obviously it's easy enough to convert to other rules. Unlike the real action the Turks (who may have been Germans, and indeed probably were) stick around to fight rather than flying away at the first shot.

The planned games for the evening were this scenario, plus a couple of small, six-unit Black Powder games, with the idea being that people could move from table to table playing each game during the course of the evening. In fact I ended up playing or umpiring this scenario three times.

The first game saw four of us taking part (which wasn't really how I designed it, but there you go. Dave and I took the Aussies, whilst Caesar and Geoff took the Turks, with Geoff's consistently poor maneuver rolls seeing his novice pilot have a particularly frustrating game. Geoff has played Spandau and Lewis recently, Caesar not for a while and Dave never.

We piled into a dog-fight in the middle of the table, and lots of bullets flew around. Here's the first pass. Possibly not as attractive as it could be, with the initiative dice and lost Power marker on the table, but they keep the game running smoothly.

Dave took a structural critical on his BE2 early on, but continued to fly it aggressively, despite bits coming off it. Towards the end of the game the inevitable happened, and it was shot down. I told him he should have turned left instead of right.

Despite Geoff's bad luck with maneuver (which, it has to be said, also translated into lucky rolls for Power, as that mechanism rewards low rolls), he was able to get his plane off the table, giving the Turks a victory in 11 turns.

In the second game I played against Tim, who was up from Melbourne for the holidays. I took the Turks (or Germans), and he ran the Aussies. He went for an aggressive approach, and pushed the fight hard up against the Turkish baseline.

There was lots of shooting, of course, and chasing around, but none of it translated into kills. The Germans (or Turks) had a slight edge in the fight, but as time ran out it was obvious that even if they shot down an Aussie plane they were unlikely to get off the Australian edge before the end. The game ended in a draw after ten turns. Wacket and Turner in the BE2 had fired off every last round of ammo by the end.

I umpired the third game, as Ulli (AFC) took on Bryan (Turko-German). Bryan pretty much made a run for the Australian edge with his novice pilot, reasoning that he could take down an Aussie plane with his other pilot if he could keep them split up.

The novice EIII chased after the off-table BE2s.

Bryan couldn't get a clear shot at either Australian plane with his other EIII though - initiative rolls like this didn't help, and neither did abysmal shooting which saw no plane take any significant damage. The game ended in a draw.

The scenario played well, and was good fun despite the low casualty rate (one plane shot down over three games). In my three solo test games, honours were even; the Turks won the first, shooting down the BE2 and then pursuing the bombers, then the Australians won a quick victory in the second, with the first burst from the BE2's Lewis killing a German pilot. Finally the third game was a hard-fought draw. And how often do you see WW1 air games set away from the Western Front?

I only got a brief look at the Black Powder games. They involved generic armies, with six units a side in a 3-2-1 format (examples: 3 infantry, 2 cavalry and 1 artillery, or 3 cavalry, 2 artillery and a skirmisher unit) and were designed to offer interesting tactical puzzles and quick games, whilst allowing people to explore nuances of the rules.

This one involved one force ambusing a road column.

And this involved two forces fighting for control of a central building.

I think both scenarios were run at least a couple of times, including with new players, and worked well. There's a cavalry action one I'd like to try - of course.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Sundiata vs The Irish

A new army needs a debut game, and since Sundiata is now sharing a box with the Tuatha De Danaan, it seemed as sensible a game as any.

The Malians defended against an Irish invasion.

Sundiata had  1 x Hero General, 2 x Knights, 1 x Cleric, 2 x Riders, 2 x Spears, 2 x Shooters and 1 x Lurker

The Irish, under Lugh, had 1 x Hero General, 1 x Hero, 1 x Magician, 2 x Warband, 4 x Hordes

All of the bad going ended up on one side of the board (I used my randomised terrain placement), and the Irish opted to attack from the other edge, forcing Sundiata's heavily mounted force onto a narrow frontage that the Irish Heroes and Knights could exploit whilst avoiding being outflanked by the Riders.

Of course the Irish plan also required a rapid advance. Which they did.

First blood to the Malians, as their archers cut down an Irish Warband.

The Irish charge, their Heroes to the fore.

The Irish Magicians avenge the fallen Warband, destroying some of Sundiata's Shooters.

The Malians are pushed back by the furious persistence of the Irish assault.

The Magicians are ambushed by Lurkers ...

... and flee to the other end of the line.

The Irish press home their attack. Sundiata had chances to exploit their open right flank, but PIP rolls of 1 prevented it happening.

Some of Sundiata's horsemen are routed.

Sundiata himself enters the fray, against Irish Hordes. The Hordes actually represent good-quality warriors that could be healed or resurrected by means of a magic cauldron.

The Malian Spears are next to fall, to an Irish chariot attack.

Lugh destroys an element of Sundiata's Knights.

The Irish chariots pushed through the gap they had created, and kept up the attack.

Sundiata himself fell, forced to recoil into one of his own Rider elements.

The battlefield at the end. On the right the Magicians had worked their way back to the Lurkers, and forced them to flee.

Malian losses - Their Hero general, a Knight, a Rider, two Spears, a Shooter and a Lurker.

Irish losses were both of their Warband and a Horde.

Not a promising debut for Sundiata's army, but really it was down to two PIP rolls of '1' at key moments, preventing the chance to exploit weaknesses in the Irish position. The game was really a head-to-head slog, and the ability to exploit an opening when it appears is key in those kind of games.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Kalevala in 'Hordes of the Things'

Kalevala is an epic poem, compiled in the 19th century from the oral myths and folklore of Finland.

Most of Kalekava revolves around Väinämöinen, the 'eternal sage'. His search for a wife brings the land of Kaleva into friendly but later hostile contact with its dark and threatening neighbour in the north, Pohjola. Ilmarinen, the primeval smith, and Lemminkäinen, a stone age Don Juan, also seek wives from Pohjola, though with varying success, and large sections of Kalevala are devoted to the tasks they have to perform to acquire their wives. Ilmarinen forges the Sampo, a task set by the Mistress of Pohjola in return for her daughter's hand. The Sampo, a magic mill which ensures unending wealth for its owner, triggers the main sequence of events in the second half of Kalevala. It becomes the cause of strife between Pohjola and the land of Kaleva when Väinämöinen and his followers travel to Pohjola in an attempt to retrieve the Sampo forged by Ilmarinen. After a furious battle at sea the Sampo is smashed and lost overboard, although fragments washed ashore in the land of Kaleva bring Väinämöinen's people growth and prosperity. Towards the end of Kalevala, Väinämöinen has to defend his land from successive acts of destruction caused by the Mistress of Pohjola in revenge for the loss of her Sampo, culminating in him returning to Pohjola in order to restore the sun and the moon to their rightful places.

These lists are based on elements throughout the work, but concentrate on the section where the heroes travel to Pohjola to take the Sampo. Warriors of both sides are described as using broadswords, spears and axes. Large numbers of bowmen are mentioned as well, but there seems to be little use of them; most shooting in the epic is ambushing by crossbowmen.

Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen both exhibit behaviour that could classify them as hero or magician, but the classifications below represent a 'best fit' approach. Lemminkäinen is certainly a hero. All three characters could be depicted mounted in sleighs.Lesser heroes are summoned to take part in the capture of the Sampo; they are classified as blades in order to make them more powerful than the Pohjolan foot they would have opposed. Ilmarinen conjours an eagle in order to help him capture the great pike of the Tuonela River.

Stronghold: Beached ship or longhouse.

1 x Magician general (Väinämöinen, sage and songster) @ 4AP
1 x Hero (Ilmarinen, master smith) @ 4AP
1 x Hero (Lemminkäinen, adventurer and romancer) @ 4AP
6 x Blades (Kalevalan warriors) @ 2AP
Alternatives: Flyer (Ilmarinen's eagle) @ 2AP

Louhi is certainly a magician rather than a fighter, so her classification is obvious. The Lord of Pohjola appears briefly to be slain by Lemminkäinen in single combat, but is considered a better fighter than the rest of the Pohjolan foot. Väinämöinen has no trouble in defeating the warriors of Pohjola single-handed, so they are rated as hordes, but some lesser heroes can be assumed, hence the warband option. Louhi summons various things during the course of the epic; the Frost Fiend prevents one Kalevalan expedition from reaching her shores, and an array of terrible diseases are sent against Kalevala in revenge for the loss of the Sampo. Nasshut the shepherd ambushes and kills Lemminkäinen, although Lemminkäinen's mother resurrects him later. Vipers and adders feature throughout the epic, and Louhi sends all three heroes on quests involving the capture or killing of mighty beasts within Pohjola, as well as sending a bear to ravage Kalevala itself. Louhi's eagle form was made up of herself and a number of her warriors merged together, so if it is used the extra points should be achieved by reducing the number of hordes available. The Sampo is only described as a mill that produces wealth and as having a rainbow coloured lid. Make of it what you will.

Stronghold: A sealed cavern in a hill of rock, containing the Sampo

1 x Magician general (Louhi, the Lady of Pohjola) @ 4AP
1 x God (Louhi's summonings such as the Frost Fiend or the Disease Children of Lowyatar) @ 4AP
2 x Beasts (Pohjolan creatures, such as the flame stallion of Hisi, bears or wolves) @ 2AP
1 x Blade (The Lord of Pohjola) @ 2AP
8 x Hordes (Pohjolan warriors) @ 1AP
1 x Lurker (Nasshut the shepherd with crossbow or various poisonous snakes) @ 1AP
1 x Water Lurker (Giant pike) @ 1AP
Alternatives: Aerial hero general (Louhi in eagle form) @ 6AP, Warband (Pohjolan heroes) @ 2AP

In terms of figures the safest bet is probably Vikings or Rus, but the story is a lot older than they are. At least one hero travels around in a sled, so that would make a nice element, and prevent the army from looking too much like a generic Viking one. There have been companies that have done figures for Nordic/North European Bronze Age armies in the past, and these may be a useful source of troops as well. I won't insult you by suggesting sources for the various monsters; they're all pretty much standard fantasy/mythology fare and any HOTT player worthy of the name will have their own favourite sources for such things.

Monday, 21 April 2014

More Micro Planes - Part 3

The Nieuport 17s and Albatros two-seaters are finished, varnished and based.

Here's the Nieuports meeting up with some Albatros scouts.

And a size comparison with a big bomber.

Albatros CIIIs are stalked by an SE5A

I need to organise my plane box a little better. This is my complete collection at the moment, although I still have a few unpainted Tumbling Dice planes to do at some stage - the DH4s, DH5s and Hannover CLIIIs are probably next on the list. Maybe the Sopwith Triplanes.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Army Showcase - Sundiata

How long does it take to paint a HOTT army? Well, I've done it in a day, that's for sure. But the one I've just finished has taken me fourteen years.

I devised some lists for the Malian 'Epic of Sundiata' about that time, and posted the on The Stronghold. It seemed an easy enough army to produce from existing figures, so I bought all I needed to do both the army of Sundiata and that of his enemy, Sumangaru.

I mostly used 15mm figures from Irregular Miniatures medieval Arab and Turkish range, as they were cheap and easy to come by. I started painting Sundiata's army, got 90% into it and then the impetus died. That was fourteen years ago. Since then I have seen two children through full-time schooling and moved to another country.

The other day I found the figures, partially based, mostly painted and looking very forlorn at the bottom of a box. So I hauled them out and, yesterday evening, finished painting them. I based them this morning, and now they're ready to be presented to the world.

I give you ... The Long-Delayed Army of Sundiata

The army consists of the following:

1 Hero general @ 4AP (Sundiata, in white robes and turban)
1 Cleric @ 3AP (Sundjata's griot, Balla Fasseke)
2 Knights @ 2AP (Horsemen of Mema in quilted armour)
2 Riders @ 2AP (Horsemen of Wagadou with javelin)
2 Shooters @ 2AP (Archers of Do and Traore)
2 Spears @ 2AP (Spearmen of Kamara and Konate)
1 Lurker @ 1AP (Hunters)

Here's Sundiata, the Hero and Balla Fasseke, his griot, or personal bard. Balla Fasseke is classed as a Cleric because he does seem resistant to the magics of the evil Sumangaru, and also advises Sundiata as to how to avoid them.

Sundiata, and his standard bearer. I have left the standard as plain white for now. If I feel inspired I may paint some kind of design on it.

Balla Fasseke. Hanging from his saddle is a balafon, a kind of xylophone.

The Knights. Most of the heavy cavalry ride horses with quilted barding. There's a beautiful example of such armour, for both horse and man, in the British Museum in London.

The light cavalry, classed as Riders.

The Spears. I made one element look tribal, and the other closer to Berber styles.

The archers, classed as Shooters, of course.

Some hunters, classed as Lurkers.

Aside from the griot's balafon there was no conversion needed for this army; it was a simple base and paint job. That took fourteen years.

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