GRUNTZ

GRUNTZ
.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Bag the Blenheims: No229 Squadron RAF


The third element of the Operation Crusader Bag the Hun scenario is No229 Squadron RAF, which provided the top cover for the bombing mission by No14 Squadron. The Operational Record Book of No14 Squadron noted that the top cover was engaged in a dogfight with enemy fighters during the attack, with one Bf109F shot down for the loss of two Hurricanes. These were apparently two of the eleven Hurricane II's of No229 Squadron, which were escorting the Blenheim IV's on the 31st December.

I've tried really hard to find more information about No229 Squadron but have drawn a bit of a blank. I have two conflicting sources, one of which states that they were equipped with Hurricane IIb's and another which suggests that they had been allocated Hurricane IIc's by December 1941. I have decided to use the former in the scenario, as I already have them painted and based, albeit as No185 Squadron aircraft. I've also decided to scale back the numbers to a more manageable eight aircraft in two flights of four, which would give a better balance for the scenario.

The pilots will be a mixture of Veterans and Regulars, with a couple of Sprogs thrown in to make things interesting. In fact, the squadron had only been re-formed in September 1941, having initially been split up to reinforce other units, before being re-united as a squadron in it's own right when the Squadron Leader made an official complaint. It would seem reasonable that some novice pilots would have been used to fill any gaps at this point. Unfortunately, I have also been unable to identify any of the pilots by name, so the flight leaders will have to be anonymous, which is a bit of a shame.

The Hurricane II's will be flying at Altitude Level 5 and will enter the table behind and above the bombers, probably on Turn Two from the same short table edge. They will not be using bogey markers, however, as I'm going to reserve those for the pilots of Stab III./JG27, who will be attacking out of the sun from the next level higher up. This should reflect the superior experience of the Luftwaffe pilots and their tactical use of the sun to bounce the RAF fighters. I think this should give them the edge, at least to start with, and force the RAF players to over estimate the threat.

Tally Ho!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Bag the Blenheims: No14 Squadron RAF

Wing Commander J.K. Buchanan DFC and crew

The mission objective for the British players in the Operation Crusader scenario will be to bomb a convoy of Axis vehicles whilst not getting shot down by either the enemy flak or fighters. The bombing itself is the job of six Blenheim IV's of No14 Squadron, flying in tight formation at 6000 feet, each dropping four 250lb bombs fitted with daisy cutter rods to ensure that they didn't just bury themselves in the sand. This was the standard operating procedure at the time. In the actual mission there were six more Blenheims of the Free French Lorraine Squadron following on behind, forming what was described as a 'Buchanan Party', but I've decided to leave these out to keep the scenario manageable.

In Bag the Hun terms they will be flying at Altitude Level 3 for the full length of the table, using Level Bombing against a vehicle target which will be represented by twelve individual model bases in a continuous line, each occupying a single target hex. The convoy will be defended by flak but, to keep things simple, I'll use the rules for Flak - The Simple Way (p42) or Joe Legan's Lazy Anti Aircraft Formula, with the convoy itself chucking light flak at the bombers  rather than having specific flak units. There will instead be a flak zone through which the bombers and any escorting or enemy fighters will be forced to fly!

Wing Commander J.K. 'Buck' Buchanan DFC

The pilots of No14 Squadron were all highly experienced light bomber crew and so will be rated as Veterans. There will be a Top Ace leading the formation, however, in the form of Wing Commander J.K. 'Buck' Buchanan DFC, who was described by some of his squadron as '..an outstanding pilot, madly brave' and '..a pilot's pilot if ever there was one. He was utterly fearless and flew with tremendous skill'. Apparently, he was so keen on close formation tactics that pilots would end up with blistered hands from gripping their control columns so tightly!

In addition to Top Ace status, W/Cdr.Buchanan will also be allocated a character card to reflect his coolness under fire and evident skill as a bomber pilot. This will allow the formation to gain a valuable additional move in addition to its Formation Bonus and Formation Move cards. I will also let it be used to give an additional fire option to his aircraft, reflecting his tactical instructions via the W/T to the rear gunner. This will help to add some extra weight to the firepower of the formation, which otherwise will only get two Air Gunner Fire cards.

Bombs Gone!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Bag the Blenheims: Stab III./JG27

Hauptmann Erhard 'Jack' Braune (far left)

I've been tracking down some more information on the characters that will feature in the up and coming Bag the Hun Operation Crusader scenario. These will add a bit of colour to the game and give the Luftwaffe and RAF some extra flexibility, which the latter will need to complete the mission and the former to deal with being outnumbered. This is the real trick with scenarios and doesn't always work according to best laid plans, so I've had to put some additional thought into balancing the capabilities of both sides.

The Luftwaffe element will consist of four Bf 109F4's of Stab III./JG27, the head quarters flight (schwarm) of the fighter wing (gruppe). These would have been highly experienced, veteran pilots who fought through both the Battle of Britain and Operation Barbarossa. I have decided to rate all of these pilots as Veterans, which in Bag the Hun terms means that they will find it easy to perform manoeuvres as they gain a +1 bonus for pilot skill. It's been impossible to track down any names for these pilots but that isn't essential.

The schwarm leader, however, needs to be a bit special, so I've decided to use the Gruppe commander, Hauptmann Erhard 'Jack' Braune, to fill this role. On the 31st December 1941, Braune shot down a Hurricane East of Agedabia, which corresponds exactly to the engagement that I'm trying to replicate in the scenario, so it would seem entirely realistic to feature him in the line up. With twelve kills to his name to date, he will be rated as a Junior Ace which gives him a +1 Luck rating and a Junior Ace bonus card, allowing him an extra schwarm move and move/fire option.

He will also get a Character Card to reflect his status as a highly experienced leader and fighter tactician. The Character Card will, in effect, allow the Luftwaffe to make up to three potential moves in a turn and gain additional opportunities to fire, assuming the cards play out in a convenient order. I think this will more than make up for their numerical inferiority but they will still need to work hard to hit both the bombers and the fighter escort, even if they split the schwarm into two rotte or pairs.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Malayan Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation


I went back to the Eden Project with the kids today, having originally visited just after it opened. It's only about forty minutes from my folks and, as it was a wet and windy day, it seemed like a good idea to visit something tropical.


Inside the very impressive rainforest biome there's a replica Malaysian jungle hut, which reminded me of the Malayan Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation project that I was tinkering with last year. 

I would like to get this going again, probably in 15mm but I have other things to do first, so it will have to wait a bit longer. I have a lot of the figures and vehicles I need in the AK47 leftovers, so it is definitely on the 'to do' list.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Destroyers: An Illustrated History


I found this today in a second hand charity bookshop for only three quid. On first impressions, it didn't look like much and I just assumed it was one of those typical 1980's style re-hash books, all dodgy exploded diagrams and not much substance. 

After a closer look, however, it turned out to be not too bad. All in all, there's a pretty comprehensive coverage of destroyer development and usage from 1900 to the 1970's, with particular emphasis on the Second World War. A decent reference book for modelling and wargaming, if not for the specialist. 


It makes me think of what could be done with all those old 1/700 plastic waterline destroyer kits by Fujimi, Tamiya, Skywave, Matchbox and Hasegawa, perhaps with a naval 'skirmish' approach and some simple, fast play destroyer action rules of some sort. 

I quite like the idea of a Narvik style scenario or perhaps some night action off Guadalcanal, all in a scale where the destroyer models are big enough to look impressive but small enough to still have realistic engagement distances.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Bag the Blenheims Research


It's a bit clunky as a working title but the latest Bag the Hun 2 scenario is now in the research and development stage. I've narrowed the set up down to the following, based half on the actual historical events and half on the models I have ready to deploy:

6 x Blenheim IV's (14 Squadron)

8 x Hurricane II's (229 Squadron)*

4 x Bf 109 F's (Stab III/JG27)

This would seem a little unbalanced but will be weighted in the Luftwaffe's favour by assigning high ratings for the very experienced pilots of III/JG27 including the junior ace Oblt Erhard Braune, who already had twelve confirmed kills to his name by this time. The Axis players will also get a fair amount of nasty light flak to throw at the bombers as they make their attack run..

The RAF by comparison will be relatively inexperienced, with 229 Squadron in particular, being re-formed as a full unit only in September 1941. I will have some regular and veteran flight commanders but there will also be a sprinkling of sprogs making up the two flights of Hurricanes, which were also far less than an equal match for the Bf109F. 

The only exception to this will be the 14 Squadron C/O, Wing Commander J K 'Buck' Buchanan DFC, who will definitely be getting his own character card and possibly a 'special' card of some kind to represent his skill, experience and leadership. This would give the Blenheim formation a bit of an edge, even if their top cover lets them down.

It's already shaping up to be a really interesting scenario and should be a challenge for both the RAF and the Luftwaffe for different reasons. I'm hoping to get the scenario briefing sketched out over the next couple of days. In the meantime it's back to the books to fill in some missing details.

*these were possibly cannon armed IIC's but I will be using IIB's instead, as I have a reference that refers to a 229 Squadron IIB being shot down a few days earlier

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Scramble for Britain



My foray into 1/600th scale naval and aerial wargaming continues with a successful eBay bid on a couple of starter packs of Tumbling Dice aircraft and a (second) copy of the starter set for Scramble for Britain, the Battle of Britain rules in the Wings at War series. This lot put me back about a fiver less than the full asking price, so not a massive saving but still worth it, especially as I already have quite a few packs of German and British aircraft set aside to add to the respective air fleets. This means that I now have more than enough planes and rules to set up a respectable Battle of Britain Wings at War project at some point, as an adjunct to my existing efforts in 1/285th scale using Bag the Hun. Tally Ho!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Bag the Blenheim




I've been thinking of a Plan B scenario for the club Bag the Hun multiplayer game in a few weeks time. This will  now probably be a North Africa scenario in December 1941, based on an article from the superb Crusader Project website:

https://rommelsriposte.com

The good thing about this historical scenario is that is almost tailor made for the 1/285th scale aircraft that I've already got including the Blenheim IV's of 14 Squadron, Hurricane II's of 229 Squadron and Bf 109F's of III/JG27. There's also some flak to make things interesting!

I'll run up a scenario outline as soon as I can find the time.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces



I've assembled and undercoated the last models for the moment including two Raumboote and an M35 class minesweeper. The R boats are the old Skytrex models which I think are supposed to represent the torpedo equipped R301-312 series boats. I decided to turn mine into less heavily armed early model R boats but without removing the torpedo tubes as this was a bit fiddly. I may well cut them off and sand them down before I paint them up.

The M35 class minesweeper was one I assembled a while back but I didn't do a great job of it so have tidied it up and re-undercoated it instead. I'm hoping to actually start painting some of the models I've prepared over the next few weeks but half term is approaching, so I won't be around for much of the rest of the month. I will also be having a crack at another game of Schnell Rules for Schnellboote! when I get the chance.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Combat Machines B-17G Flying Fortress


A fortuitous find in WH Smiths today in the form of a reference guide to the B-17G, with loads of operational information, photographs and colour profiles. Although I already have plenty of references for this sort of thing in the library, not to mention online, it's a very welcome addition and will prove very useful when I work out the group and squadron markings for my 1/300th scale Scotia Collectair models. The plan is to paint them up in late war overall aluminium in order to speed up the finish but I may well have a couple with some residual olive drab to add a bit of variety. It would be nice to have a splash of colour too!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Bagging the B17



It's been a toss up between the B-26 Marauders and the B-17 Flying Fortresses but I've decided that the focus of my next Bag the Hun 2 game will be a mass attack by late war Luftwaffe fighters on a combat box of B-17G's. The Scotia Collectair B-26 is a nice model but I only have five of them, the sixth having been badly miscast, which I didn't spot until I took a close up look at the wing leading edge. The B-17's are, however, a bit more robust and should clean up nicely, once I've removed all the lumps and bumps. It's a bit of a shame not to use the Marauders, as I've found what could be a really good historical scenario based around a mission to bomb the rail bridge at Mayen on 23rd December 1944. I guess I'll just have to save that one for another time, having just put in an order for some replacement Marauders to make up the numbers.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Bag the Hun Game Plan


I've promised to run a multiplayer game of Bag the Hun 2 at the club at some point next month as it's always good fun and I haven't played a game for nearly a year. I have half a dozen Scotia Collectair B-17G's and B-26's that I bought last year to add to my late war Defence of the Reich aircraft, so I may well dig some of them out, paint them up and write a mission based around daylight bombing over NW Europe in 1944-45. If I don't find the time to do that, I'll fall back on something that I already have ready to go, so either the Defence of Malta or the Battle of Britain. Tally Ho!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Knights of the Sky 1917 Game




       








The 1917 Knights of the Sky multiplayer club game this evening was a lot of fun, with plenty of action and some very funny moments. The RFC managed to complete two circuits of the target area for their artillery spotting mission but the Re8 was shot down as it began the third and final turn. The Germans lost one aircraft but so did the French, while the RFC lost both the Re8 and a DH2 to the guns of Jasta 2's Albatros scouts. I think we all had a really good game, despite lots of gun jams and a bit of a pile up in the middle of the table at times. I really should set up another game for later this year, especially as the centenary of Bloody April isn't that far away.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Knights of the Sky Flight Stands



I couldn't find my hex based flight stands for the Knights of the Sky club game tomorrow, so I had to very swiftly make some new ones so that there are enough to go round. I did locate the telescopic magnetic pick up tools for the stand part but not the mdf hexagon bases themselves. Luckily, I know a very nice bloke with an industrial laser cutter, so one bottle of wine later and I had four perfectly cut 100mm hex bases that just needed to be drilled for a bolt and washer. I counter sunk the bolt heads and glued the bolts and washers to the hex bases with superglue to make them a bit more robust. It's all a bit rushed but at least there will be four pilots with flight stands to fly their aircraft on.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Knights of the Sky Scenario



Here's the scenario outline and briefing for the players involved in the club multiplayer WW1 game on Tuesday. It's an historical scenario, at least as far as the events of the 7th February 1917 on the ground are concerned, but the artillery spotting mission it revolves around is entirely made up. That's not to say the RFC weren't active over Grandcourt on the day of the battle but, given the late hour and the terrible winter weather, it seems pretty unlikely. It is, however, typical of the sort of mission that Re8 crews would have been tasked with, the DH2s of 29 Squadron were there and Jasta 2 was active in the area, albeit flying Albatros DII's. That's good enough for me!

Poundland Terrain Board Ideas


I bought a shed load of 30cm x 30cm x 5mm mdf squares from Poundland in their sale a few weeks ago, for the bargain price of 50p each. They have a couple of holes in them where the string was attached and a cheesy motto on the front but otherwise they're perfect as modular terrain boards. A fellow history teacher and keen wargamer, Mark Backhouse, the mastermind behind the excellent ECW Siege of Portsmouth show participation game, has already turned one of his into a prototype terrain board for 3mm games and it looks really, really good:


I plan to use mine for 1/600th scale stackable modular terrain for WW1 and modern air wargaming, with a section of the Western Front being the first idea. This would be used with Tumbling Dice aircraft and the Wings at War rules for the First World War, Duel of Aces. The other plan is to do some modern terrain for the Flashpoint Baltic Target Locked On! project. I'm sure there are many other uses that I could put them to as well including 3mm micro-armour terrain or 15mm off world sci-fi terrain, for example. 


One idea that I had while doing the ironing this morning was to scale up the old Games Workshop board game Battlecars to 20mm and use converted Hot Wheels cars instead of the cardboard counters and game components. This is something I've long been thinking of doing but, now I have some mdf square terrain boards, it is now a feasible project rather than just an idea. As you can see, the boards would divide up into four adjacent 15cm x 15cm squares, with the diagonal lines used for movement and shooting, as in the original rules (I didn't quite get the marking up right but you get the idea).


I also thought about using 28mm figures and 1/43rd scale die cast cars but, as I already have some converted Matchbox scale post-apocalyptic vehicles, I might as well stick with 20mm. The terrain squares and dropped weapons templates would be made from laser cut mdf shapes, with structures, wreckage, trees and scrub modelled on top. I would probably cover the top of the boards with a layer of card or even sandpaper, as the mdf soaks up paint like a sponge, with the movement lines marked on in pen or paint.


Another idea would be to do a naval version of Battlecars, along the lines of that terrible film with what's his name in it, set in a post-apocalyptic Mad Max at sea setting. I have some of the super little 15mm swamp boats from The Scene, that I can use for this, as well as scratch building some craft out of bits and bobs. I could add terrain templates to represent rocks, shoals and islands as well as making some junk platforms for the boats to manoeuvre around. I think this would look great and it wouldn't be difficult to modify the rules to a nautical theme.

...all a bit theoretical so I'd better get back to the ironing!

Saturday, 4 February 2017

East Coast Convoy Tanker




I've been running about all over the place today so only had time to assemble a Skytrex / Heroics and Ros 3000 ton coastal tanker for the Schnell Rules for Schnellboote project. This monster dwarfs the rest of the merchant shipping that I've collected together and I had to glue two laser cut mdf bases back to back to put it on, neatly making the joint at the half way turning point. I also replaced the stern mounted deck gun with one from the Tumbling Dice range. This looks a bit less miniscule and a little more like a proper DEMS 4'' gun, so much more scary for any 'have a go' torpedo boat commander. At some point soon, I'm hoping to start painting this lot up but who knows when that will be?

Thursday, 2 February 2017

GZG SWAT



You know when you see something and then just have to have it, even if you're not sure exactly what you need it for? Here's the new range of Sci-Fi / Near Future SWAT troopers from GZG, which are some of the most detailed figures I've seen in 15mm. I had a 15% off voucher from the GZG sale, so have decided that I need a selection of these packs, together with some of the security bots and drones, for an as yet to be determined crime busting scenario on some futuristic off world outpost. I'm saving the pennies at the moment but this didn't break the bank, so I thought 'why not?' No vehicles though, as I'll use some die cast Matchbox toys for the SWAT armoured transport. I love this sci-fi stuff!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Air War over the 38th Parallel


I found this glossy magazine in WH Smiths this afternoon, had a brief flick through and then decided it was pretty good for £6.99, so bought a copy for the reference library. It's packed with photographs and historical articles on the course of the conflict and, in particular, on the aircraft, air combat and pilots of the Korean War. There's loads of useful stuff here and plenty to keep me enthused about the MiG Alley and Bag the MiG projects that I have ticking away in the background.