Saturday, September 26, 2015

Battle of Osmar Mountain

Battle 1 of the Lucranian Campaign

The scourge of Aetheria, the brutal Empire of the Iron Fist, is once again flexing its might. It has in its sights the independent nation of Lucrania, which sits upon the Empire's northwest border. Steep, cloud-enshrouded mountains divide the two nations. Fearful of Imperial intentions, the Lucranians have purchased some advanced aircraft from the Confederation and are constructing anti-aircraft batteries upon strategic mountaintops.

One morning, the Lucranian lookouts could hear the drone of engines. An invasion force was on the way! The Lucranian Air Force scrambled its defenses to stop the Imperial assault.

For my Aetheria air battle scale games, I will be adapting scenarios for Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames. For this game, I am using scenario 11 - Surprise Attack.

Note: Here is my list of completed OHW scenarios.

In Thomas's scenario, there is impassible terrain on the right with woods, passable by infantry, on the left. This creates a defensible corridor. The objective is a crossroads near the defender's baseline.

For my version, the crossroads is replaced by a mountaintop battery. The attacking Imperials must destroy the battery by the end of turn 15.

The impassible terrain has become cloud-enshrouded mountains. These mountains are too lofty to fly over, so are impassible. The other "terrain" are clouds; I planned to make the passable by pursuit aircraft only, but they never really came into play anyway.

Opposing Forces:

Empire of the Iron Fist (Red) - 4 pursuit squadrons, 1 attack squadron, and 1 bomber squadron.
Lucrania (Blue) - start - 2 pursuit squadrons, turn 3 - ground battery and a pursuit squadron, turn 5 - pursuit squadron and an attack squadron.

Because this is a high-level (no pun intended) scenario, with each unit representing a squadron, I don't get into nitty-gritty maneuvering. Thus, I'm using a tailored version of my Song of Blades and Heroes / Memoir '44 rules. If a squadron fails to activate, I am assuming that it is circling in a particular area, looking for targets of opportunity. An exception is bombers, which I allow to move 1 space per turn automatically.

I never got around to gridding my board yet. Instead, I just used the fields as spaces. As wacky as this idea seems, it worked

Battle Report
As the Imperial invasion force nears the border, 2 Lucranian pursuit squadrons scramble.
Opening positions
The Imperial target - Osmar Battery - is at the top
 One of the defending squadrons engages its counterparts while the other bounces enemy bombers.

A huge "furball" ensues, while one Imperial squadron flies around the flank.

As planes go down in flames, the Imperial bombers make it through the mountain pass and approach their target on Mount Osmar.

The defenders pounce on the bombers,

And the bombers go down.

 Dogfights rage around the mountain.

Although weakened, the invaders press on. The defenders lose another squadron.

Another Lucranian squadron is lost!

And an Imperial pursuit squadron strafes the AA battery.

Another defender is lost!

Time out for a cat attack

The Imperials press their attack on Mount Osmar's battery.

 Just before the invaders need to turn back, a lucky shot hits the magazine. The battery goes up in smoke!

With the destruction of the Mount Osmar battery, the air lanes are open for a full scale invasion of Lucrania.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Rolling Off the Assembly Line

My air forces are about ready to go.

In a comment to a previous post, Kaptain Kobold described by bases as "counters." I rather like the term because that encapsulates my intent. They are 3-D counters for wargaming. For these counters, I painted random fields like my board then painted scattered cloud cover. I thought about using little bits of wood to raise the planes slightly above the base but simplicity (or laziness if you prefer) prevailed.

These forces will be used for air battle scale games. My next step in the Aetheria project is to grid my battle board. Now I am planning to use 1.5" offset squares. I started to use dots of white (clouds) at the corners, but it looked too regular. I'm going to paint over the dots and try using brown marker.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Building the Air Forces

Yesterday I received my order of Aeronef aircraft from Brigade Models. Here's a shot of the air forces in progress.

I am building 2 main air forces: the Empire of the Iron Fist flies the red aircraft while the Confederation flies blue. I have an odd number of bomber units. They are unpainted in this picture but will be purple (red + blue). They will represent minor allies and can fly with either side as the scenario dictates. The dirigibles and the ground batteries are silver and the dirigibles will receive either blue or red tail fins.

These planes will be used for my air battle scale rules. My current basing plan is:

  • pursuit (fighters) - 3 planes to a large circular base. 1 base per squadron
  • attack (light bombers) - 1 plane to a small circular base. 2 bases per squadron
  • (heavy) bombers - 1 plane to a large circular base. 1 base per squadron
  • dirigibles - 1 airship to a rectangular base. 1 base per squadron.
  • ground batteries - 3 turrets to a rectangular base. 1 base per battery.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Thunderbolts from the Sky

This morning I tried out another dogfight using my experimental dogfight rules. This time, 2 P-47 Thunderbolts were pitted against 2 ME-109s. I intended to give them different ratings. The P-47s were supposed to have better defense (greater chance to succeed on saving rolls) while the 109s were going to be more nimble (more on that in a bit). As it turns out, I forgot to apply these rules.

Anyway, here is the initial set-up.

And here is my revised movement template, made from a piece of cardstock. I decided not to use the Ace of Aces template (my version is here but there is a really nice one on boardgamegeek). This template features 3 speeds (slow, medium, fast) and 5 maneuvers (straight, slip, lazy turn, hard turn, or bank). I took inspiration from Crimson Skies and allow planes to attempt an even tighter turn. They need to make on a Quality roll with success allowing the plane to turn an extra 60 degrees. The Me-109s were supposed to have better Quality, permitting them to turn better.

Throughout the game, I rolled very poorly for both sides, as shown in this attack by one of the 109s.

 A swirling air battle ensued. I chose the maneuvers for the Americans and then randomly rolled the speed for the Germans. Based on that speed, I would pick the most logical maneuver. If multiple maneuvers were possible, I rolled randomly to pick. This process generally worked well, although on one occasion, one of the 109s (bottom) made a verrrry wide turn. This allowed one of the P-47s to get on the tail of the other 109.

Finally a hit!

But the 109 turned the tide with a tight turn and some good gunnery.

The damaged American tried to flee, pursued by the enemy. The other American came to the rescue.

The damaged Thunderbolt made it off the board (I assumed he escaped into some clouds). The second American has a bead on a 109 but the other has made it back!

The damaged 109 makes a spiffy tight turn to shake the pursuit.

But the American pulls an Immelman. Both 109s turn on him, rake him with shot, and send him down in flames. However, he responds by destroying the damaged German.


  • Germans lose 1 fighter.
  • Americans lose 1 fighter and have 1 damaged fighter flee the dogfight.
Overall German victory as a P-47 Thunderbolt fell from the sky. 

In addition, it was an enjoyable game. For me, picking maneuvers from a template provides a nice feel for aerial combat. I've tried more abstract rules or rules that involved alternate movement with each plane having x number of movement points. Neither felt right to me. For solo play, I always shied away from simultaneous movement based on maneuver selections because I assumed it could not be done properly with random movement. I think that my experiments have proved my assumption wrong so I will continue on this path.

The major "flaw" with these solo rules is that I don't think I can run battles with a lot of aircraft. 2 vs. 2 works fine but I don't know if I can handle more planes by myself. That, however, is why I am planning an air battle scale rules set, where 2-3 planes will represent a squadron.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Air Combat Rules Links

I've been looking into other rules for aircraft maneuver templates. I found a couple of useful ones posted online

I also found and downloaded the entire Crimson Skies rulebook but now I can't find the site.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dogfight Rules - Proof of Concept

Now that my battle board is done, I wanted to give it a spin. I've been thinking of using an Ace of Aces style maneuver template as the basis of the rules. It struck me that instead of gridding the board into hexes, I could create a card template (sort of what Wings of War/Glory does with its maneuver cards). I decided to test the concept so I ginned up a simple template.

My quicky template
I then pulled out some of my scratch-built 1/300 scale WW1 aircraft, and chocks away!

Starting positions,
Upper left - Germans
Lower right - Allies
 Here are some shots of the dogfight:
A head-on encounter damages both sides

The Albatross lines up a shot but misses

But this time he scores a hit!

Death from the clouds.
I allowed the Camel to fire from the cloud at reduced odds.
He still hit.

The Albatross goes down

The Fokker tries to escape

But the Allies are hot on his trail

And he goes down!
Despite the very simple movement template, it was a surprisingly enjoyable game.


  • The board itself tends to slip and spin on the table. I need to add something on the bottom to give it traction so it will stay in place.
  • Likewise, the clouds don't stay in place. One nice thing about a felt battle board is that the terrain pieces tend to stick like velcro. If I were enterprising, I would cut out fields from scraps of different colored felt and glue them to the board. However, I'm not that enterprising.
  • These planes provide a good example of the benefit of flight stands. Up close, you can see that their tails drag on the ground, making it look like they are taxiing across the board.
  • Camouflage paint schemes don't make for good pictures. Fortunately, the aircraft of Aetheria will prefer garish colors.
  • I think black pipe cleaners would look better as damage markers. I just have a bunch of red pipe cleaners lying around,
  • The maneuver template worked well. I may not even need to grid the board for my dogfight games, although I think it will be best for air battle scale games.
  • I do need to add more tight turns in order to make it easier to turn around. The dogfight nearly flew off the end of the board.
  • I used dice rolls to randomize the German movement while I played the Allies. First, I chose the Allies' maneuvers. Then I rolled to determine the Germans' speed ( from 1 to 3). If there was a most logical move for them I would take it. If multiple maneuvers seemed plausible, I made another roll to select one. The system worked surprisingly well.
  • In this game, I did not make any allowances for differences among the planes. Something to do when I make my final templates.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Aetheria Plots and Thoughts

My Aetheria project is coming along. I just received notice that my order from Brigade Models has shipped. I am so looking forward to receiving these figures. I have also made progress on my battle board, and also made some clouds using white felt.

The big question remains the rules. Now I am actually thinking a using 2 different sets of rules for 2 scales. They are:
  • Air battle scale – I discussed this concept on a previous update. It is designed for larger air battles. I’ll base 2-3 of the 1/1200 fighters or light bombers on a single stand representing a squadron (heavy bombers and dirigibles will be singly based). The rules will essentially use my Song of Blade and Heroes / Memoir ’44 inspired set. Taking inspiration from One Hour Wargames, each air force will consist of 6 squadrons with each squadron able to take 3-4 hits.
  • Dogfight scale – I’ve been mulling this over in my head during the past week. I would also like to be able to zoom in on the action and play dogfights between flights of 2-3 aircraft per side. I’ve been considering a bunch of rules that will allow me to play solo actions but nothing really grabbed my interest. My favorite dogfight game of all time is Ace of Aces but I have always rejected it for solo play because it involves secretly picking maneuvers. Kind of hard to do secretly when you are your own opponent. I noticed, however, that someone created random maneuver selections for Wings of War/Glory. Now I’m wondering if I can do the same.

I have one other quandary – how to grid my battle board. Initially, I planned to use squares, like my board for ground games. This is because I was thinking of using the new board for multiple purposes – air and ground battles. For ground battles (especially horse and musket and earlier eras) I prefer squares, but I think hexes will work better for dogfight scale air battles. I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Laboring on Labor Day

Laboring in a good way, however.

I still have some unused horse and musket miniatures so I started work on a 3rd army for Francesia - the Imperials.
Magister Militum 3mm tricorn-y figures
One of the (many) reasons why I have not played any horse & musket games lately is that I decided that I would run the Tweenwater War as two campaigns - in the north the Bluderians will challenge the Redgravians (unsuccessfully so far) while the Imperials would attack Redgravian forces in the south. I wanted to alternate campaigns, but unfortunately I don't have an Imperial Army, yet.

I paid a visit to Hobby Lobby today and picked up a bulletin board to use as a battle board for air combat games. I've seen pictures of mats used for air wargames where patchwork fields are represented. I think it creates the illusions of flying high above the terrain below so I decided to emulate it. It's still a work in progress but here is how it looks so far.

I am a little disappointed by the size of the board, however. It was listed as 17" x 23" which would be 8 x 11 squares, an upgrade over my current 6 x 9 board. However, the listed dimensions include the wooden frame. The actual usable space is around 15" x 21" (7 x 10 squares) - not as much of an increase as I hoped.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Air Combat Rules

Last week I experimented with a set of home-brew air combat rules using my Tumbling Dice 1/600 scale WW2 miniatures (P-51 Mustangs vs. FW 190s)  Here are a few snapshots.

Set up - Each side had 6 planes in flights of 2. I used the Song of Blades and Heroes-style activation system, with each flight (rather than each aircraft) rolling for activation.

The battle ensues - I used wads of rolled-up tissue as damage markers. Each plane could take 3 hits.

A Furball in the center.

An American goes down - I whipped up a quick marker to show downed aircraft.

Followed by a bunch of Germans

The last German (center) flees.

I want to run fairly large air battles rather than smaller dogfights so my rules are fairly abstract: IGOUGO, SBH activation, move 2 spaces per activation with an additional space per activation point spent, and turn 90 degrees per space moved. Combat was like Memoir '44, rolling 3 dice, looking for a 4-6 to hit. Modifiers altered the number of dice thrown. I added a saving throw, to give the planes more survivability.

The game created the swirling, chaotic furball that I wanted. However, it seemed to move slower than my typical games. I think the saving rolls slowed things down to much. I was thinking of removing them, but now I'm pondering an entirely different approach. With the 1/1200 miniatures I ordered, individual basing probably won't work. Because I plan to put 3 planes to a base, I think I'm going to move to an even higher level of game. Each base will be a unit and will represent a squadron. Movement will be more fluid; I'm going to allow squadrons to turn any number of sides - essentially I am assuming a larger ground scale so that a squadron can turn 180 degrees within a square. I'll have to play out a battle with my new rules to see how they work.

I am also toying with working up rules for smaller scale dogfights (1-2 planes per side) and getting some 1/600 or even 1/300 miniatures. That may be a later sub-project.

On Aerial Basing

As you can probably tell from these pictures

I am not particularly fond of flight stands. Being rather clumsy, I have a tendency to knock them over. Furthermore, I never particularly liked the appearance. Many pictures I’ve seen on the internet look like the planes have crashed into a bunch of trees. Clear poles can alleviate the look issue, but I still knock them over.

I also think that there are many cases where it is not necessary to elevate the vessels above the mat. For example, I think  that flight stands are particularly silly for space games. The game mat is usually black, representing space. One doesn’t need to have spaceships hovering above space. That’s why I mounted by spaceships directly onto the base. 

As you can see, I did a similar thing for my WW2 fighters. The rationale is that I was planning dogfights high up in the atmosphere. Ground forces were not going to appear so I didn’t need to raise the planes above the surface of the game mat. Instead, I made the bases look like sky with wisps of clouds. The intention was to make the planes appear like they are flying. I’m not particularly happy about how they look on a green mat, though, and am thinking about other basing options. For now, though, I will still eschew flight stands.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Aetheria Update

I decided to try a slightly different tack with regard to my Aetheria project, Rather than small dogfights with individually mounted aircraft, I want larger air battles. So I'm going to start the project with 1/1200 miniatures with 2-3 figures mounted together. Each base will represent a squadron. Because I'm going with a larger scale of battle, I can simplify moving. I may even use the system I developed for space battles.

Why 1/1200 scale? I wanted to include dirigibles in my battles, and I found that Brigade Models has some nice ones in their Aeronef range. They also have some generic, fixed-wing craft at very low prices. Even though they are not the 30s-style I wanted, I decided to go with them. Here are some examples from the Brigade Models web page.