Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A Letter from S/Ldr Johnny Danger

Dearest Majorie,

You will by now hopefully have received word that your husband and my dearest friend, Ronnie, is a POW in Italy, and I thought I might write you these lines so that you may understand a little more about the sequence of events that led up to his capture.

Thoughout the past months we Malta based Spitfires have had a rough time of it I can tell you, and hence have been keen to take any opportunity of putting one back on the nose of the Hun. So it was that I applied to the WingCo for permission to take a few chaps over to Sicily early one morning and drop a couple of bombs on the blighters whilst they were having their morning sausage. The Winco agreed, and I called for volunteers to go with me. Ronnie was among those who came and I was delighted to have him flying as my wingman, along with Harry Deadwood, whilst Sgt Barnes (you remember him from our days at Biggin Hill, he was the Barbadian chap that got the DFM in June 1940) and Teddy Cross-Batter tooled up with 500lb bombs with which to awaken the Boche. We took off at 0430 and made landfall in good time for daylight, but some miles further up the coast than I would have liked. We’d agreed previously that Sgt Barnes section would run in low and deliver the wake up call whilst Ronnie, Harry and I waited up sun to keep an eye out for any early risers. Lo and behold, just as the other pair made their run into camp I noticed the sun glinting off metal at 12 o’clock low, and spotted a group of four Me109’s at about 20,000 feet. I called Tally Ho and as we moved in towards them Ronnie called in that he could see another group moving round behind us from our 9 o’clock. I told him to keep an eye on them whilst we drew towards the first group. We held the altitude advantage and, as we were coming out of the sun it seemed likely that the Jerries had not seen us. We pushed over to make a diving run but they must have seen us, for they quickly pulled up and our two formations zoomed through each other. The closing speeds were so quick that I had scarely had a chane to switch off the safety on my guns, let alone perchance a shot. I ordered a hard break to the right and was relived to see both Ronnie and Harry were still with me. A glimpse over my shoulder showed that the first groups of Me109’s had broken into pairs and were manoeuvring back round behind us. Further below them I could see the other section coming round also. Over the R/T I could hear that Sgt Barnes had started his run over the airfield – in the face of some pretty fearsome flak to boot - and out of the corner of my eye I saw the smoke that was climbing skyward from a building that looked like it might have been a mess hall – Good old Barnes, looked like he’d been right on the button. I pulled the spit into a hard turn and saw Ronnie do the same. After a series of twists and turns I managed to get lined up on one of the second bunch of Me109s – This was one of the newer F, or “friedrich” variants that the Huns are using these days. I gave him a six second squirt and saw my tracer curve into his wing root. I felt sure I had got him when suddenly he exploded in a mighty ball of flame (when I arrived back at Takali I found a piece of his fuselage had embedded itself in my engine cowling!). The hun inside didn’t stand a chance, poor blighter. Sweating, I hauled the Spit back level to take a look around me.

Then a warning call from Ronnie alerted me that a Hun was on his tail. I had been so busy concentrating on my own target that I had not been able to help my wingman. In a flash I swung the Spit round and tried to line up on the Jerry but it was obvious from his manoeuvring that he was a crack pilot. I told Ronnie to break left so I could get a clear shot at the Hun but as I did so I saw tracer fly past my cockpit. In an instant I felt my aircraft shudder and had a feeling in my shoulder as though someone had walloped me with a cricket bat. One of the other Jerries had obviously lined up on me whilst I was about the pop the chap on Ronnie’s tail. This unfortunately threw me off my mark and the Hun behind Ronnie hit him with a long burst. Ronnie’s engine immediately gave up the ghost and his Spit performed a long, slow roll to port and began to loose altitude. A long trail of white smoke began to tail behind him as he descended. Quickly I pulled myself back together, and squeezed off a burst at the Hun, enough at least to send him scurrying out of the fight, gloating no doubt over his victory. I watched Ronnie’s aircraft as it descended about 10,000feet, willing him all the while to bail out. But he’s a strong fighter that husband of yours, I could see he was wrestling with the controls of his Spit right to the end, and as I swooped back low to evade the by now circling gaggle of Me109’s behind me, I saw Ronnie execute a textbook belly up landing in a vineyard – luck blighter. Risking all, I circled the field but could not find a landing site, and even if I had I am sure the Huns would have bagged me too. I saw Ronnie scramble out of the wreckage and wave me away as I opened up the throttle and headed for the coast. To my right I could see some buildings on the apron of the airfield were a smoking ruin and ahead of my I could see the rest of the flight as they tore off home at zero feet and at high speed. We all made it back to Takali, where I was able to get my wounded shoulder looked by a lovely Maltese nurse.

Later that day one of our photo reconnaissance Marylands flew over the airfield and got some great shots of the damage Sgt Barnes and Teddy had done with their five-hundred pounders. Ronnie would have been proud.

Yours as ever,

Squadron Leader Johnny Danger

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Where are we?

Have had to spend time reducing the physical size of the rules because there are simply too many pages to balance the finances when we go to print, so at the moment I'm reformatting to fit a quart into a pint pot. Rich is sending me through the last of the artwork today - so we're nearly done.

I will post latest aircraft data table to playtesters group and welcome feedback - especially re: duration of fire in seconds.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2009


Looking for something to do on the 11th hour of the 11th month? Spend two minutes planting a virtual poppy on the Royal British Legion Web page. Zoom in to an exact spot anywhere in the world.

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Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Battle of the Lard Sea

Worked up a final playtest this week that was played at Lard Island. It was a bit experimental because I wanted to know how big a game we could squeeze into a two hour slot. The game was set against the background of the Coral Sea campaign, and pitched a Japanese air strike against a US Yorktown class carrier, with a weakened escort of just four destroyers. The bulk of the US air strength was off on a simultaneous raid on the IJN fleet so the US players were left with a relatively light CAP. The relative strengths were as follows:

IJN Soryu attack force:
9 x Zero fighters
18 x Val dive bombers
6 x Kate Torpedo planes

USS Numnutz force
4 x Douglas SBD Dauntless on anti-torpedo plane patrol
4 x F4F-3 wildcats airborne on combat air patrol.
USS Numnutz
4 x large escort destroyers.
8 x F4F-3 on deck scramble.

The Japanese plan of attack was to split their dive bombers into two groups of 9. The first group was briefed to attack the destroyer escorts and suppress flak whilst the second group went for the carrier. The overall commander would come in last with the torpedo bomberts to deliver the coup de grace. The three shotai of zeros were to fly top cover.

Using radar, the USS Numnutz directed the patrolling aircraft onto the incoming japs, and the game started with the dauntlesses spotting the dive bombers. The SBD's, deployed in two pairs, climbed boldly to the rescue, but before they were able to make an impact the zeros, boasting three junior aces in the 9 aircraft deployed, exerted their superior influence and two of the scout planes were taken out (one exploding and the other suffering catastrophic structural failure from which the crew were unable to bail out.

Making use of whatever bonus cards they could, the Vals closed in on the closest escort destroyer, and although one was lost to flak, the ship suffered a near miss which proved sufficient to buckle her hull and she was forced to come to a halt.

In the meantime the Numnutz had put her head to the wind and launched 8 wildcats into the fray. These began mixing it with the Vals, but the interfering zeros protected the dive bombers well. Another destroyer was attacked by the Vals, but without effect and flak claimed another victim.

By now the skies were a swirling melee. The mainly veteran japanese crews holding their formations well amidst US attempts to break them up.

At this point time caught up with us and we ended the game. Reading back it may seem that we didn't get that far, but considering we spent time explaining various aspects of the new rules the consensus was that we had achieved a good deal.

So now it's final edits, adding examples, final artwork and we're done.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Lab rats to your positions!

At last the playtest version has gone out to that carefully selected bunch of guinea pigs who, even now, are in their sealed cages connecting crocodile clips to their nipples ready to record their findings!

We now have a window of 4 to 5 weeks to refine and get the document print ready, and hope to have a first print run complete and ready to take to the Crisis show in Antwerp in early November.

I am hugely relieved to have got this far but am rather nervous about what our lab rats will come up with over the next few weeks.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Cricket stops play

On friday I was handed two Grandstand tickets for the England vs Australia game at Lords - an offer too good to resist, hence there will be a further one day delay to the issuing of the playtest release. However, had I known that England were going to chuck it away like they did I'd have not bothered going.
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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Malta Convoy Playtest

Just completed another playtest game involving an attack on a Malta convoy by 9 Italian SM79s and 6 Macchi200 in a fighter bomber role. In addition to a Belfast class cruiser and a destroyer the merchantmen (a tanker and an oiler) were protected by 5 spitfire V from Takali. All went well - especially on the bombing and torpedo results. However I am still frustrated at the flak mechanism which, although OK from a results point of view is still unnecessarily complex and time consuming. Working today on fixing that!

Oh, and for the record the Spits did a good job - claiming 1 macchi confirmed and seen to crash and 2 SM79s as 'probable' after breaking off with damage. No ships were hit, mainly due to poor tactics and co-ordination from the Italians.
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Saturday, 29 August 2009

Playtesting draft

OK. With holiday silly season behind us, the cricket season winding down and the procession of family events that all combine to make the summer so busy finally winding down my attention has again been allowed to shift back to getting BTH2 out for playtesting. The main body of text and rules is complete, and I am now just tidying up formations and reformatting the aircraft stats into something that makes best use of the page layout. Atop that, Clarkey has a booked the print run time so we are now on our final approach.

Sub Strike

Our most recent BTH2 playtest involved a strike by coastal command on a crippled submarine limping its way home along the coast of Norway. It may have sounded like a walk in the park for the guys of the Strike Wing but they hadn't reckoned on the Norwegian based Bf-109s that were able to give the Beaufighters a pretty hairy time.

Initially the beaufighters attention was drawn to a surface ship. It was definitely a minesweeper or sloop of some kind but was it the RN speeding in to finish off the sub or the Kreigsmarine hurrying to the aid of their stricken chum? An overfly soon drew a barrage of flak that convinced the fliers that this ship was no chum of theirs. The flak activity drew in the 109's and soon most of the beaufighters were tangling with the nasty little fellows, and only some terrible shooting by the Jerries saved them from what could have been a nasty mauling. Luckiest of all was Wing Commander 'Winko' White who twice found himself squarely in the sights of Ace Otto Plebb only to have the Luftwaffe man roll so bad that all Winko got was a cracked windscreen.

Meanwhile, a section of Beaufighters that had become detached from the main group sighted something in the water off to the south - the sub! Heaving round in a steady turn that kept them out of the melee further north, Basher Bishop and his four rocket armed beaufighters piled in on the flak firing sub and piled on the damage. A good fun game and a very pleasing playtest.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Sturmgruppen Playtesting

The cricket season is reducing the amount of time available for playtesting at the moment, but as England's Ashes hopes begin to dwindle after only two days, the prospects for more BTH2 work are brightening. In the couple of tests we've managed this week we've gone back to fighting late war actions with Luftwaffe Sturmgruppen versus the combat box B-17s with fighter escort.

With Tail Gunner cards aplenty the Combat Box is something to be reckoned with
Round One
In the first game, (March 1945) escorting Mustangs put in a great show and tussled really effectively with the Germans and tested just about all the available new manoeuvres on the way. But they were unable to stop a group of Me-262 who made it through for a stern attack with rockets. The R4M rockets are tested in a fashion akin to the old Donald Featherstone 'canister cone' method, with rolls made for all targets in the zone. The attack had some success, taking down one of the giants and forcing another out of formation. We made some tweaks to the procedure - and that's all part of the playtesting.
Round Two

In the second outing the Jagdfleiger did even better. Led by Top Ace Otto Plebb the germans, waiting at high altitude, were able to bounce Bob Uppendown's escorting Mustangs, taking down two before Bob knew what had hit them, but Bob recovered well against the bogey attack (the Fw190's had not been spotted which made Bob's life really tricky), and through some fancy flying was able to provide an effective defense, despite his reduced numbers, and bagged a hun in the process.
Not looking good for this big fella!

The fighter duel enabled some Fw190 Sturmbock armed with WfGr21 rockets to break through and unleash their deadly load , although they obtained no hits, they forced one B17 out of formation where it became the focus of attention for the surrounding hounds. Luckily for the Big Boys Bob Uppendown had shaken himself free from the fighter tussle and raced to the rescue, taking down an Fw190 that was closing in on the by now wounded B17.

Back to the text this week with a dedicated effort to get a draft out to the playtesters.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Wargaming and saving the planet all in one!

A great idea came to me the other day, quite literally in a flash. I was at a kids birthday party (well, I don't get out much) and the kids had indoor sparklers. Jolly fun and cheap as chips. Mrs Pitts was just about to throw out the left over sparkler sticks when I realised they were just perfect for smoke trails for damaged aircraft. Just snip off the excess wire, twist the end into a hook and they fit beautifully on 1/600th aircraft. Don't believe me? See the pics. You could even get away without painting them but they are a tad brittle so a PVA coating will firm them up and a white drybrush highlights them to perfection.

Just one pack of sparklers gives enough smoke trails for most games and the fact that you are throwing hardly anything away means less landfill and saves the planet. Hurrah.

PS: Don't snatch sparklers away from your kids until they've gone out. It really upsets them.

Summer Special

If you haven't see it, the TFL Summer Special includes a preview of BTH2 as well as an article on the Winter War of 1939/40. (great new website too btw)

Playtests of BTH2 have been going well but I would like to hear from guys prepared to playtest some of the new concepts before we get to the final published version.

Also got some great new drawings today from Clarkey - good enough to truly whet the appetite.

Next week at Lard Island we'll be testing Luftwaffe Sturmgruppen versus the 8th Air Force...should be a good one!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

The Perils of Word

Well, if it ain't our old friend the corrupt file. BTH seems to be plagues with this. An article I wrote a few years ago on Hurricanes in Russia became corrupted when it was alost complete and I had to rewrite the whole blooming thing. This time, my BTH2 file has become corrupted. Lucky I learnt my lesson last time and so have a backup copy saved, but even so I have lost some sections on Bombing, weather and clouds which will have to be rewritten.
Could be worse.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces

A ha! Another goodie from the postman this morning from Amazon.

Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces is the latest offering from Osprey and is a must have for anyone intending to game the actions of the Coastal Command Strike Wings, or indeed any air games on German Coastal forces. The book provides limited - but sufficient - detail for the wargamer who wishes to include flakships, raumboote, minesweepers and the like in his games. Includes reasonable detail on AA capability and deployments, as well as helpful illustrations for seeing inspiration for a quality paint job.

Well worth a few quid.