Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Australian Eastern Water Dragon

I saw a dragon on Monday. Well, an Australian Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus Iesueurii Iesueurii) to be exact. My wife and I were visiting a local plant nursery and noticed him lying in the shade under a table. I know he's a he because the males have the reddish-colouring in the throat region. He was almost 60cm (about 2 feet) in length from head to tail. He must have recently been going through the process of shedding his skin because you can see old patches of skin remaining on his back and tail regions.

You can click on the image for a closer view

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Flip Flap Flop

My wife had bought me several games at a garage sale on Saturday. One of the first things I did after opening the game boxes and checking out the components was to research the games on BoardGameGeek (BGG). As I was typing the game names into the BGG search engine I couldn't find a listing for one of them, a game called Flip Flap Flop.

BGG is a site that is heavily supported by the users, that is, the international board gaming community. It is the users who add the games, upload the images and write the reviews. As this game was not in the database I submitted it.

This morning I received an email notifying me that Flip Flap Flop had been accepted. It was the 27,771st game entered into the BGG database. I've been visiting BGG since 2003 and the sheer number of games in the database never ceases to amaze me.

Flip Flap Flop is a game for 2-4 players aged 7 and up. It was produced by Jumbo and printed in the Netherlands in 1988. It has 48 cards depicting faces with 8 different expressions. There are 6 cards of each different expression.

Note the subtle differences in expressions

Play begins by shuffling the deck and dealing the cards one at a time, face down, to each player. After all the cards have been dealt, each player stacks their cards, without looking, into a deck in front of them. Each player, clockwise in turn, takes the top card from their deck and places it face down in the centre of the table. The cards are then turned over simultaneously. Any player who sees three identical cards calls "Flip Flap Flop". If correct, that player takes the three cards and places them face down into a pile beside them. These cards are now that players cards and are out of the game.

The components of Flip Flap Flop

Any player who sees two identical cards calls "Flip Flap". If correct, that player takes the two identical cards and places them face up, one beside the other, in front of him. If later any player sees a third card the same, he calls "Flip Flap Flop" and takes all three cards. Any unclaimed cards are left on the table. Each round of play is started by the player who was second player in the previous round.

A call of "Flip Flap Flop" always takes precedence over a call of "Flip Flap". Where two or more players make the same call simultaneously, the turn player takes precedence, and after him the player on his left, and so on. A player who makes an incorrect call may not call on the following round but must play a card as usual.

When one player has six sets of Flip Flap Flop cards, the game ends. Players count their cards which include any pairs in front of them. Unplayed cards are disregarded. The player with the most cards wins.

I have not yet played this game but from reading the rules it looks like a fun family game. The pattern recognition mechanic should appeal to children so I'm looking forward to trying Flip Flap Flop with my elder daughter.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Painting Project - 15mm Dwarven HOTT Army - Part 2


The first thing I do when preparing a miniature for painting is have a close look at it. I check it for any flash (AKA flashing) which is any thin areas of metal that often form between the arm spaces or in between the legs of a miniatures. There are also mold lines which are thin seams that are formed from the pressure of the metal being forced into the mold. As well as that there may be long stringy bits that hang off the miniature which are called venting. I use a craft knife with a scalpel blade and small files called jeweller's or needle files to clean off all this mess.

These days, most manufacturers produce pretty good models with relatively little flash or mold lines. Most of the dwarves were fairly clean with only minor filing required. Below is an example of one of the worst. Note the flash between his arm and axe shaft and also around the top and bottom edges of the shield. I used a jeweller's file to clean this off.

After I've finished filing and cleaning the flash off the mini, I work on the bottom of the base. Miniatures rarely have smooth, flat, base bottoms. As I'll eventually be gluing the completed miniatures to a card base I want a nice flat surface. To achieve this I rub the base carefully across a sheet of sandpaper.

And there you have it. In the next entry I make some minor conversions.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Flea Market Finds - 28 Jan 07

My wife went to the local fleamarket this morning and picked up some books for me.

The German Navy 1939-1945 (Cajus Bekker, 1974 English translation) - AU$1.00
Hitler's Luftwaffe (Tony Wood & Bill Gunston, 1977) - AU$1.00
European Land Battles - 1939-1943 - The Military History of World War II - Vol 1 (Trevor Nevitt Dupuy, 1962) - AU$1.00
How Weapons Work (Christopher Chant, 1976) - AU$1.00
The Ultimate Weaponry (Paddy Griffith, 1991) - AU$1.00

I'll add these to my collection of military reference books. Over the years I've slowly been building up a small library of books, the majority of which are 2nd hand, on topics in which I am interested. Most of my books are on military history and I use them to research periods for wargaming purposes. They are also very helpful when painting uniforms or creating wargame scenarios.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Garage Sale Goodies - 27 Jan 07

My wife and I love going to Saturday morning garage sales. It's like a treasure hunt. Every now and then you'll find a treasure amongst all that trash (like the time my father-in-law bought a rare, old book for AU$0.20 and sold it a week later on eBay for AU$364.00!).

I mainly look for stuff that interests me; books, games and anything I can use for scratch-building miniature terrain for my wargames. You'll go for weeks without finding anything, and then one week you'll hit a jackpot. That's what I love about going to garage sales - the thrill of the hunt.

Since having kids my days of getting up at the crack of dawn have pretty much ended. It's no fun waking up a toddler in the early hours of the morning and then driving with them from house to house around the local suburbs looking for bargains. It's no fun for them and its no fun for mum and dad.

These days my wife still gets to go to the garage sales while I stay at home and look after the kids. I don't mind too much, as Grandma, my mum, usually visits on Saturday mornings and I get to play board games with her. Unfortunately Grandma couldn't make our regular gaming session this week, so I just babysat the kids whilst my wife and her dad went to the garage sales.

I always ask my wife to look out for stuff for me. When she arrives home I'll always ask her "Did you get anything for me?" Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10 she'll shake her head. Not today though. First thing she said to me when she got out of the car was "I have some things you may be interested in".

Here is what she bought.

Battle Masters by MB Games - Only 84 of the 100+ miniatures were present. Looks like the Ogre Champion, Mighty Cannon & Crew and all the horses and wolves are missing. The battle mat was still sealed in the plastic bag, the card deck was still sealed, the dice were still in a sealed packed, the cardboard pieces were unpunched and all the remaining miniatures were still on their sprues. Not bad for only AU$2.00!

Rack-O by Milton Bradley - AU$3.00

Rally by MB Spiele - A German game - AU$3.00

Flip Flap Flop by Jumbo - Made in Netherlands in 1988 - AU$3.00

Schnipp Schnapp by Ravensburger - A German game - AU$3.00

Packrossli by Carlit - Made in Switzerland in 1995 - AU$3.00

What a haul! I was particularly impressed with her luck in finding the European games. German/Euro boardgames are extremely rare in Australia. She bought them off a lady of Swiss heritage so that explains how they came to Australia. Now I'll just have to see if I can translate the rules for them.

Not only that but my wife also bought me Ned Kelly - A Pictorial History for only AU$0.50 for my growing collection of books on Australian bushrangers.

What a wife!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Painting Project - 15mm Dwarven HOTT Army - Part 1


In my opinion, Hordes of the Things (HOTT) is an excellent set of rules for fighting fantasy battles with miniatures. It doesn't require many miniatures, you can use any minatures you want, the rules are clear with a lot of supporting illustrations, and best of all it plays in under an hour. I've read the rules front to back numerous times, have visited just about every HOTT site on the internet, viewed scores of galleries of painted armies, devoured countless battle reports, subscribed to the HOTT mailing list, and spent many an hour just thinking about the rules. And you know what? I'll let you in on a little secret - I've never even played a game! Well, that's all going to change this year. My goal is that I'm going to paint myself a couple of armies and I'm going to play HOTT in 2007!

For me, I have to be in the right mood to paint miniatures. There must be an availability of time for me to sit down and actually paint and there must also be an enthusiasm for what I'm doing. Having just finished reading The Hobbit and now reading the Lord of the Rings, my enthusiasm for painting a fantasy army is at an all time high. Combine that with currently being on two weeks holidays means the time is right to start this project.

Some time last year I bought a bunch of 15mm dwarves on eBay. They appear to be a mixture of Grenadier, Ral Partha and perhaps some other company I'm not sure of. If anyone can identify them please let me know.

The first step for me was to think about the design of my dwarven HOTT army. The HOTT rules have an army list for a generic dwarf army. It consists of a Hero General (Dwarf King), 9 x Blades (dwarves with axe or warhammer) and 1 x Shooters (dwarves with bow or crossbow). I felt this was a fairly good representation of what I imagined a Tolkien or Dungeons & Dragons-inspired dwarven army would look like. I decided to go with this list but to add an extra Shooters element as an alternative for one of the Blade elements. I also decided to make one of the Blade elements an alternate general element. Here is the army all laid out into its various elements. You can click on the image for a closer view.

Here are some close up images of the actual elements. If anyone can tell me what company made the individual miniatures I'd really appreciate it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Happy 1st Birthday!

My younger daughter at her 1st birthday party. Wow, time is just flying by. It seems like only yesterday that we brought her home from the hospital...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Cardboard Hangar

I thought long and hard about how I was going to store my 1/300 scale miniature WWI aircraft. I wanted them to be protected in a box but not move around when the box was in transit. Here's how I solved the problem. You can see how I stored my miniatures in the picture below. I threaded some elastic material through the sides of the box close to the bottom and secured it so the elastic was taut. I can then slide my aircraft bases under the elastic material so that they remain in place due to the tension of the elastic. This system enables the miniatures to be easily stored and then removed when needed. The box also has room for a couple of different sized hex maps and a plastic ziplock bag containing my home-made damage counters. You can click on the image for a closer view.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Blue Max Battle Mat

After completing my 1/300 scale WWI aircraft I realised they needed a hex mat to battle over. I was originally going to spray paint one of our old white sheets with a green paint and then trace a hex pattern over it. Then, one day, as I was wandering through our local Spotlight store with my wife and kids, I noticed some curtain fabric on sale. It was just what I wanted to represent the countryside of France in WWI so I bought a couple of metres and brought it home with me.

My next task was to figure out how to put a hex grid pattern onto the mat. I found this site where you could create your own grided maps and download them in pdf format. I created a hex grid of the size I wanted and printed it out on A4 paper. I then copied the hex grid several times onto a larger sized A3 paper. Once I'd done that, I stuck a pin through all the points of the hexes to create tiny holes where the lines met. I then held the paper over the fabric and put a dot with a black pen through the holes in the paper. The paper was smaller than the battle mats so I carefully moved it once I'd made the dots, carefully lining it up so the hexes didn't drift. Once I had all the dots on the fabric I carefully drew the lines to create the hexes. Voila! It was a bit of a pain doing this so if you know an easier way let me know.

I make sure to store the battle mat crushed up in the box in which I store my aircraft. This gives it creases which gives the illusion of terrain undulations.

Monday, January 22, 2007

WWI Bristol F.2B - 1

This is a 1/300 scale Bristol F.2B that I use with the Blue Max rules. It is from Irregular Miniatures 6mm World War I Aircraft range and has the code GWP17. The model is only about 2.5cm (1 inch) in length. I painted it in generic colour schemes and markings.

The Bristol F.2 Fighter was a two-seat biplane fighter and reconnaissance aircraft of World War I flown by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). It is often simply called the Bristol Fighter or popularly the "Brisfit" of "Biff". Despite being a two-seater, the F.2B proved an agile aircraft that was able to hold its own against single-seat scouts.

Its armament consisted of a .303 forward-firing Vickers machine gun in the upper fuselage and two .303 Lewis guns in the observer's cockpit. The Bristol F.2A was employed by the RFC from September 1916 with the F.2B entering service in late 1917.

You can click on the image for a closer view.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

WWI RAF SE5a - 1 - 3

These are 1/300 scale Royal Aircraft Factory (RAF) SE5 aircraft that I use with the Blue Max rules. They are from Irregular Miniatures 6mm World War I Aircraft range and have the code GWP6. The models are only about 2.5cm (1 inch) in length. I painted my three SE5a's in generic colour schemes and markings. You can click on the image for a closer view.

The Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 was was one of the most important and influential aircraft of the war. The S.E.5 was instrumental in ensuring that the period of German dominance known as 'Bloody April' in 1917 was not repeated.

The S.E.5 had only one synchronised .303 Vickers machine gun mounted in front of the cockpit (unlike the Sopwith Camel's two). However it did have a wing-mounted Lewis machine gun, which enabled the pilot to fire at enemy aircraft from below.

Only 77 original S.E.5s (Scout Experimental 5) were built before the improved S.E.5a model took over. In total 5,205 S.E.5s were built by six manufacturers including Austin Motors and Vickers.

You can click on the image for a closer view.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 4

My mum, Grandma to our kids, arrived this morning for what is now becoming a regular weekly gaming session. Playing games together is also a great opportunity for Grandma to bond with her 5-year-old granddaughter.

Our first game was chosen by my elder daughter. We started playing games with her at around age 3 and now that she is 5 she always wants to be involved if there is a game to be played. Yep, it was the 'house game' first up.

For Sale is a quick card game of bidding on houses and then trying to sell them for the most cash. Once again my daughter did a lot of passing on her first or second turn. She didn't seem to really want to spend a lot of her money (I hope that lasts for when she's a teenager!) so she got a lot of low to mid-range valued properties.

Grandma and I attempted to outbid each other for the high value cards and ended up spending most of our starting money. Guess what the final scores were? Grandma first on $73K, my daughter second on $69K and me last on $65K! I think $11K of my daughter's final score was part of her initial cash allocation. I mentioned in a previous blog entry that I'd have to watch my daughter. Well, I was right!

Our second game was my choice. I pulled out Reiner Knizia's Ingenious from our game cabinet. I really like this game. There is no reading involved so it is a perfect game to play with children. As we started to play I reminded Grandma and my daughter to concentrate on the colours they had the least number of points in. At one point my daughter was actually winning. I noticed that her lowest scoring colour was purple so I went out of my way to cut her off from the only available purple tiles. As soon as I'd placed the tile which cut her off, she looked up at me with a squinty-eyed, scrunched-up-nose look of indignation. "You stopped me getting purple!" she exclaimed. "That's right, honey" I said with an evil grin, "Daddy wants to win". She took it pretty well as I knew she would. What impressed me the most was that she had been formulating a plan to score more purple points and immediately recognised I'd foiled her plan. I was so proud. I did go on to win with 13 points, my daughter second with 10 points and Grandma third on 8 points.

My daughter chose the next game. It was Enchanted Forest. As she was taking it from our game cabinet she said "I like this game because it is about princesses and fairy tales". Ah, I thought to myself, so theme is an important game criterion for her. Enchanted Forest is a roll and move memory game. The aging king of the land will hand over the key to his kingdom to the first person to correctly identify the location of three special items. The top card of a deck of cards located at the castle space determines which item everyone is looking for. So this game is all about moving around the game board memorising what items are located under which trees and then making your way to the castle to claim them. This can be a longish game and my daugher lost interest about half-way through. So Grandma and I were left to fight it out for control of the kingdom. I ended up winning with three items to Grandma's two.

After that Grandma and I sat down to a game of Scrabble. I haven't played Scrabble since I was a kid and my memory of it was that it was a pretty boring game. I wanted to try it now as an adult so that I could at least give it a fair chance. I was lucky to pick up the two blank tiles early on and for most of the game I led Grandma by at least 10-20 points. In one of the last turns Grandma dumped a couple of difficult letters, one of which, X, I ended up getting stuck with. It was on the third last turn that Grandma actually passed my score. I was sitting on 192 and she was on 194.

It was at this stage that Grandma pointed out the part of the rules which stated that you deduct the total of your remaining letters from your score. D'oh! I sat there and looked at that X. It was worth 8 points! I stared at the board and then a lightbulb went off in my head. I looked at the lower right corner of the board. I picked up an H tile, an E tile and the dreaded X tile and placed them so as not only to score the word HEX, but also to pick up points from turning EAR into HEAR and PAIN into PAINED (click on the image above for a closer view). I didn't place my three tiles on any bonus squares but those three words scored me 22 points just when I needed it the most! Grandma then used 2 of her remaining four letters to grab another 7 points before she could place no more. She had two tiles left.

I sat and stared at what I had left - V, O, J, O, P. Looking at the letters on the board that I had to work off, I realised I was left with a poor selection of letters. In other words - utter crap. Crap! Crap! Crap! Then it came to me - POO! I grabbed the three tiles which spelt POO and slid them up against the R in BARD in the top left corner of the board to make the word POOR. Poor (hah!) selection of letters indeed! Woohoo! 12 points on my last turn thanks to a double-word score!

Mum was left with a Q and a T which took off 11 points from her score leaving her with a final total of 190 points. I was left with a V and a J which took off 12 points from my score leaving me as the winner with 214 points! Looking back on today's gaming session as I type this entry, I realise that Scrabble, which has been much-maligned in my mind for years, was actually the game I enjoyed the most. Mum and I appeared to be fairly evenly matched as well, so we may make Scrabble a regular in our future gaming sessions.

Friday, January 19, 2007


This is a 1/300 scale SPAD that I use with the Blue Max rules. It is from Irregular Miniatures 6mm World War I Aircraft range and has the code GWP8. The model itself is only about 2.5cm (1 inch) in length. I painted it in the colour scheme of a SPAD XIII flown by Capt Eddie Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron in 1918. (source - Norman Franks, American Aces 1914 - 1918 - Osprey Aircraft of the Aces No. 55, 2001). The 94th were also known as the 'Hat in the Ring' squadron and sported the famous Uncle Sam's 'Hat-in-Ring' insignia on all their aircraft.

This particular aircraft was painted in a camouflaged pattern and was marked with a white '1' on the fuselage and upper wing. Rickenbacker's aircraft also had blue wheel covers with a white star and a red center circle. I did not have any American decals for the wings so used British roundels and painted over them in the American colours. This was quite difficult as the roundels are only about 4mm across. I didn't paint the 'Hat-in-Ring' insignia on this aircraft because at this scale it wasn't worth it.

Rickenbaker is credited with 26 victories and was the only US World War I fighter pilot to receive the Medal of Honor. He survived the war and returned to the USA to set up his own business in the motor industry and also to create an airline. He died on 27 July 1973 in Zurich, Switzerland.

You can click on the image for a closer view.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

WWI Sopwith Camel - 1 - 3

These are 1/300 scale Sopwith Camels that I use with the Blue Max rules. They are from Irregular Miniatures 6mm World War I Aircraft range and have the code GWP12. The models are only about 2.5cm (1 inch) in length. I painted my three Camels in generic colour schemes and markings. You can click on the image for a closer view.

Together with the SE5a, the Camel helped to wrest aerial superiority away from the German Albatros scouts. The Camel was credited with shooting down 1,294 enemy aircraft, more than any other Allied scout.

The Sopwith Camel was armed with two .303 in Vickers machine guns mounted in the cowl, firing forward through the propeller disc. A fairing surrounding the gun installation created a hump that led to the name Camel.

The Camel entered squadron service in June 1917 with No. 4 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service, near Dunkirk. The following month, it became operational with No. 70 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. By February 1918, 13 squadrons were fully equipped with the Camel. Approximately 5,500 were ultimately produced.

You can click on the image for a closer view.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

WWI Fokker Dr.I - 3

This is a 1/300 scale Fokker Dr.I triplane I use to play Blue Max. It is from Irregular Miniatures 6mm World War I Aircraft range and has the code GWP3. The model itself is only about 2.5cm (1 inch) in length. It is painted in the colour scheme of a Fokker Dr.I flown by Ernst Udet. The reference I'm using for the colour scheme is from a diecast model being sold on the internet. In this case I'm not certain of the historical accuracy but I like it nonetheless.

Ernst Udet was the second-highest scoring German flying ace of World War I. He was one of the youngest aces and was the highest scoring German ace to survive the war. He was 22 when the war ended. His 62 victories were second only to Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron), his commander in the Flying Circus.

The Fokker Dr.I was a single-seat fighter employed by the Germans in WWI from October of 1917. You can click on the image for a closer view.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

There And Back Again

One of my goals this year is to re-read The Hobbit and the Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I first read them back in 1981 and the impression these books made on my imagination proved a fertile soil for the seeds of fantasy role-playing to take root when I was first introduced to Dungeons & Dragons in 1982. Thus began my interest in role-playing games which would last for approximately the next 10 years.

So, with my reading goal set firmly in mind, I began the search for my paperback edition of The Hobbit (image above). I have a number of my favourite fiction paperbacks, the ones I haven’t been able to part with, stored in a cupboard in a room downstairs. These are the novels I have enjoyed in the past and wish to re-read again in the future. I knew The Hobbit was there, along with a three-book paperback edition of Lord of the Rings, and I soon located it.

I’ve only read The Hobbit three times in the last 25 years and the last reading would have been over 10 years ago. So the tale had faded somewhat in my memory, yet there remained recollections of high adventure that I was eager to once again explore in more detail. It was with a sense of excitement that I picked up The Hobbit early in the New Year and was once again transported to Middle-Earth to join a party of dwarves, a wizard, and a hobbit by the name of Mr Bilbo Baggins, in the search for a fabulous hoard of dwarven treasure guarded by a great and terrible dragon.

Page 104 of The Hobbit graphic novel illustrated by David Wenzel

You can click on the image for a closer view

With my busy life, balancing work, family and household commitments is a difficult task. The only guaranteed time I get a chance to read is for 20 minutes on the train ride to work, 20 minutes at lunch time and 20 minutes on the train ride home. When you add those together that is one hour per day. Multiply that by five working days gives me 5 hours a week to enjoy one of my favourite pastimes.

The adventure and story-telling were enhanced for me by reading The Hobbit in conjunction with the illustrated abridged-text version (graphic novel) of The Hobbit (image above). Every one of the 134 pages is packed full of beautiful illustrations by David Wenzel. I also consulted The Atlas of Tolkien's Middle-Earth (image below) by Karen Wynn Fonstad which allowed me to trace Bilbo’s journey across a number of very detailed maps. This really helped me to visualise the territory through which he travelled as well as appreciate the distances involved.

So over the last two weeks I’ve once again experienced Bilbo’s journey with the dwarves and Gandalf, his encounter with the trolls, capture by the goblins, riddles with Gollum, finding of the ring, rescue by the eagles, meeting with Beorn, fight with giant spiders, escape from the wood elves, conversation with Smaug and his role in the Battle of Five Armies. And so on Friday 12 January the first of my reading goals for 2007 was achieved with the completion of The Hobbit. Now, to start reading the Lord of the Rings again.

Monday, January 15, 2007

My First Trade

One of the cool features of the BoardGameGeek site is that it allows registered users to create a profile page and list and rate the games they own. Another feature is that you can identify which games you own that you would like to trade. I've recently listed a number of games I have for trade but have never actually done a trade - until today.

Friendless, an occasional gaming opponent of mine, has also recently put up a whole bunch of games for trade. I noticed his blog entry of 14 January 2007 had a link to his games for trade at his BoardGameGeek site so I had a look. I'm always on the lookout for games to play with my kids so when I saw that he had Chairs for trade I offered him a couple of games I was no longer interested in.

I agreed to trade him My Word and Word Tower for his Chairs. The trade couldn't have been easier as Friendless only works a block away from me in the city. Trading with someone local certainly saves the added time and expense of having to post your item.

Chairs is a stacking game where the pieces are miniature plastic chairs. One chair is placed on the table, then players take turns balancing chairs on the stack. I was pleasantly surprised to find my wife and elder daughter quite interested when I brought it home. My wife was that keen that she sat at the dining room table playing the game solo until she'd stacked all 24 chairs on top of each other. I look forward to trying the multi-player rules with her and our 5-year-old daughter.

Here's a pic of my wife's 24-chair stack balanced on only 1 chair at the bottom.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

WWI Fokker Dr.I - 2

This is a 1/300 scale Fokker Dr.I triplane I use to play Blue Max. It is from Irregular Miniatures 6mm World War I Aircraft range and has the code GWP3. The model itself is only about 2.5cm (1 inch) in length. I painted it in the colour scheme of a Fokker Dr.I flown by Ltn Lothar von Richthofen, of Jasta 11 in March 1918. (source - Norman Franks, Fokker DR.I Aces of World War 1 - Osprey Aircraft of the Aces No. 57, 2001).

Lothar von Richthofen is credited with 40 victories and was the younger brother of Manfred von Richthofen, the famous Red Baron. Unlike his older brother, Lothar survived the war, going on to fly as a commercial pilot. He died on 4 July 1922 in a passenger aircraft which crashed due to engine failure.

The Fokker Dr.I was a single-seat fighter employed by the Germans in WWI from October of 1917. You can click on the image for a closer view.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 3

My mum (Grandma to our kids) came over to our house today for her regular Saturday morning visit. After a cup of tea and a chat we decided to play some board games. My younger daughter was asleep in her cot, my elder daughter was in the lounge room giggling away at a Goodies DVD, and my wife was out shopping. So, grabbing this time, Grandma and I set up a game of Cartagena.

Cartagena takes as its theme the famous 1672 pirate-led jailbreak from the fortress of Cartagena. Each player has a group of six pirates and the objective is to have all six escape through the tortuous underground passage that connects the fortress to the port, where a boat is waiting for them. Each card bears one of six symbols (dagger, pirate hat, skull, pistol, bottle and key), and you move a pirate forward by playing a card and moving ahead to the matching symbol in the tunnel, leapfrogging over those where another pirate already stands, but the only way to get more cards is to move backwards. It is fun game and we both enjoy it.

We decided to play the Tortuga version where all cards are played face up and you select new cards from a line of 12. In this version you know exactly what cards your opponent has as well as what cards you will get if you move a pirate backwards. I went first in this game. I tried very hard to deny Grandma the opportunity to easily get more cards as well as looking ahead to see if I could grab certain upcoming cards from the line of 12. I ended up winning our first game by getting all of my six pirates in the boat first. Grandma only had three in the boat when we rowed away. Here’s a pic of the end game – I’m green and she’s yellow.

In our second game, again the Tortuga version, Grandma went first. I once again tried never to leave two pirates alone at the end of my turn, thus denying her easy card refills. I once again won with 6 pirates in the boat to one of hers (and we chucked him out of the boat after we'd left the harbour). Here’s a pic of the end game – I’m green and she’s yellow.

After that I pulled out Through the Desert. Through the Desert is designed by the prolific and talented Reiner Knizia. Each player attempts to score the most points by snaking caravan routes through the desert, trying to reach oases and blocking off sections of the desert. I won this game 108 points to 73. Tactics I used included cutting off her green camel caravan from an oasis as well as ensuring I always had the longest of at least 3 of the 5 caravans. Here's a pic of the end game - my caravan leaders are green and Grandma's are red.

By this time, my 11 month-old daughter had awoken from her nap. As she was now sitting on my lap we decided to have a couple of quick games of Hive. Hive, with it's gorgeous bakelite pieces, is virtually baby-proof and is one of my favourite abstracts, being easy to teach and quick to play. Grandma and I have played it before but as it was a while ago I had to explain the rules to her again.

With no setting up to do, the game begins when the first piece is placed down. As the subsequent pieces are placed this forms a pattern that becomes the playing surface (the pieces themselves become the board). Unlike other such games, the pieces are never eliminated and not all have to be played. The object of the game is to totally surround your opponent's queen, whilst at the same time trying to block your opponent from doing likewise to your queen. The player to totally surround his opponent's queen wins the game.

I think it took her a little while to get the hang of the strategy because I won the first game easily. Here's a pic of the end game - I'm black and she's white. The queens are the yellow pieces. As you can see from the photo I've totally surrounded her white queen while my black queen is safe and sound down the bottom of the hive.

Game two of Hive was much closer. I once again took black with Grandma taking white. Grandma had learnt from her previous game that pinning the opposing queen is vital to one's success. I also explained my thinking as I moved my pieces to give her a further insight into the strategy of Hive. I still won but, as you can see from the picture below, I was only just in front at the end.

And there endeth our morning of games. My wife had returned by this time and we all enjoyed a late morning tea of King Island 'Roaring Forties' Blue cheese with crackers. cheese.

Friday, January 12, 2007

WWI Fokker Dr.I - 1

This is a 1/300 scale Fokker Dr.I triplane I use to play Blue Max. It is from Irregular Miniatures 6mm World War I Aircraft range and has the code GWP3. The model itself is only about 2.5cm (1 inch) in length. It is painted in the colour scheme of a Fokker Dr.I flown by Ltn Werner Voss, of Jasta 10 in September 1917. (source - Norman Franks, Fokker DR.I Aces of World War 1 - Osprey Aircraft of the Aces No. 57, 2001). Werner Voss is credited with 48 victories.

Voss was killed during a legendary dogfight in which he single-handedly fought with seven RFC S.E.5as. During the dogfight, Voss drove two planes to the ground and damaged the rest before his Fokker Dr.I was finally shot down after an incredible ten minutes.

The Fokker Dr.I was a single-seat fighter employed by the Germans in WWI from October of 1917. You can click on the image for a closer view.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

WWI Pfalz DIII - 1

This is a 1/300 scale Albatros that I converted to a Pfalz DIII for use with the Blue Max rules. It is from Irregular Miniatures 6mm World War I Aircraft range and has the code GWP15. The model itself is only about 2.5cm (1 inch) in length. I had ordered three Albatri (which I understand is the correct plural form of the Albatros aircraft) and one of them had incorrect wings. So, making lemonade from lemons, I decided to see what other type of aircraft I could convert it to. The Pfalz DIII had a similar shaped fuselage to the Albatros so I decided to go with that.

I used a needle file, or jeweller's file, to change the shape of the wings and also to file down the tail plane elevators and replace them with card of the correct shape. After priming it in white I painted it in the colour scheme of a Pfalz DIII flown by Vfw Hecht of Jasta 10, September 1917. (source - Kenneth Munson, Fighters 1914-19 - Blandford Colour Series, 2nd edition 1976). This particular aircraft, piloted by Vfw Hecht, was downed by a Royal Flying Corps (RFC) two-seater flown by Lts. Hanna and Burnand on 27 December 1917. It musn't have suffered too much damage because the RFC later gave it British markings and flew it as an RFC aircraft. I am unsure of Hecht's fate.

Also of interest is that this aircraft, serial number 1370/17, had been flown by the famous ace, Werner Voss from July 1917 until his death in September 1917. Voss was killed in his other plane, a Fokker DR.I. Vfw Hecht must have then inherited this aircraft.

Although I like this colour scheme, further research on the internet suggests Vfw Hecht's Pfalz DIII, serial number 1370/17, actually had a green rudder, fin, elevator and tailplane instead of yellow. Also, there were black bands on either side of the large iron cross on the fuselage and not yellow as indicated in Fighters 1914-19. Once again, it was a black stripe, and not yellow, on top of the left upper wing halfway between aileron and wing root. There is often this type of confusion when attempting to confirm particular colours from black & white photos. It is an unusual trait of yellow in some early black & white photos that it shows up very dark, almost black.

I used 1/285 scale decals for the markings. On this particular aircraft I also had to draw in the tiny cross on the tail fin with a black micropen. I filed off the static propellers as I wanted to achieve an 'in flight' effect. To achieve this I punched out a small circle of clear plastic with a hole punch and attached it to the front of the plane with a cut-off pin head.

The Pfalz DIII was a single-seat fighter and entered service in August 1917, but was not considered a match for contemporary designs like the Albatros DV, and instead found a niche role in attacking observation balloons where it's high diving speed was a major advantage. You can click on the image for a closer view.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

WWI Albatros DVa - 1

This is a 1/300 scale Albatros. Irregular Miniatures only produce one type of Albatros model so the only reason why I differentiate between them is for gaming purposes and also colour scheme. Pretty much all the Albatros types in WWI looked very similar and at this scale no one is going to care. The DVa is a slightly modified version of the DV and was virtually identical in all respects. This model is from Irregular Miniatures 6mm World War I Aircraft range and has the code GWP15. The model itself is only about 2.5cm (1 inch) in length.

It is painted in the colour scheme of an Albatros DV flown by Vfw Otto Konnecke of Jasta 5 in 1917. (source - Norman Franks, Albatros Aces of World War 1 - Osprey Aircraft of the Aces No. 53, 2001). Konnecke's personal insignia was a black and white chequerboard, edged in red. He is credited with 33 victories. Otto Konnecke survived the war and died in Germany on 25 January 1956.

The Albatros DVa was a single-seat fighter employed by the Germans in WWI from about the late summer of 1917 (the DVs a couple of months earlier). You can click on the image for a closer view.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

WWI Albatros DIII - 2

This is a 1/300 scale Albatros DIII that I use for playing Blue Max . It is from Irregular Miniatures 6mm World War I Aircraft range and has the code GWP15. The model itself is only about 2.5cm (1 inch) in length. I painted it in the colour scheme of an Albatros DIII flown by Ltn Hermann Frommherz of Jasta 2 Boelcke in 1917. (source - Norman Franks, Albatros Aces of World War 1 - Osprey Aircraft of the Aces No. 53, 2001). He dubbed this aircraft Blaue Maus ('Blue Mouse'). Hermann Frommherz was credited with 32 victories. He survived the war and died in 1964.

Once again I used 1/285 scale decals. On this particular aircraft I also had to draw in the tiny cross on the tail fin with a black micropen.

I had to do a lot of preparation work prior to painting these miniature aircraft. Most of the surface area of the model was rough and irregular and needed filing with a needle file to smooth it down. I filed off the static propellers as I wanted to achieve an 'in flight' effect. To achieve this I punched out a small circle of clear plastic with a hole punch and attached it to the front of the plane with a cut-off pin head. The only other modification I made on the Albatross DIII was to to extend the elevators on the tail to the appropriate length and shape with Milliput.

The Albatros DIII was a single-seat fighter employed by the Germans in WWI from the spring of 1917. You can click on the image for a closer view.

Monday, January 08, 2007

An Arrival of Reinforcements

I arrived home this afternoon to find a parcel waiting for me. Don't you love it when that happens? It was a package of 53 x 15mm medieval English archers I'd won on eBay on Xmas Eve. Including postage, they only cost me AU$10.50 which works out to around AU$0.20 per miniature. This is less than a third of the price I'd have to pay if I bought them new, maybe a quarter of the price if you factor in postage as well.
So what project in 15mm scale am I working on that would require archers? Well, I've been thinking about using the BattleLore rules for a miniatures game in 15mm scale. I'm considering creating a hexed battlemat large enough for Epic adventures with 3d terrain instead of cardboard terrain tiles. I've got enough medieval knights and swordsmen in 15mm scale to produce a couple of BattleLore armies but I was short on archers. This package of reinforcements now solves that problem.
If I don't end up using them for this BattleLore project then they'll definitely find positions in a De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) medieval army. Or perhaps I may convert them into Elven archers for a Lord of the Rings, Hordes of the Things (HOTT) army (hmmm...that ryhmes!). Only time will tell.
Here is a picture of the miniatures. I'm not sure what company made them.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Friendless Gaming Sunday

Today wasn't as bad as the title suggests. I got together today for 7.5 hours of gaming with Friendless. Friendless is another Brisbane board gamer I met through BoardGameGeek and he owns literally hundreds of games.

First up we played BattleLore. I've been waiting to play this ever since I opened it on Xmas day. I was going to keep detailed battle notes but got carried away with all the action when the games commenced.

Game 1: We decided to start with the first introductory scenario, Adventure 1, Agincourt. I was the French led by Constable Charles d'Albret and Friendless was the English led by King Henry V. It didn't take Friendless long to bring his rear units up to form a solid line of archers and swordsmen. I knew enough about the historic battle of Agincourt to make the decision to keep my mounted units back and send in my foot troops first. I used a mixture of section and tactic cards to form a line of blue regular infantry in the center. Here is a pic of the board from my perspective just prior to sending four of my blue swordsmen units forward with a Foot Onslaught tactic card.

It was a fairly desperate battle with me eventually taking the win 4 banners to Friendless' 2 banners.

Game 2: We then decided to play an introductory Lore adventure. In this battle, Adventure 5, Wizards & Lore, we would each be aided by a Level 1 Wizard. Cool! I was playing the French led by Sire Bertrand Du Guesclin and Friendless was playing the English led by Sir Robert Knolles. Here's a pic of the board from my side at the commencement of the game.

We were both dealt 4 Lore cards at the beginning and allowed to keep one. I ended up getting Fireball (10 Lore cost) and Portal (7 Lore cost). I chose Portal as I thought it would come in more handy than the Fireball. Friendless once again kept good lines, this time moving some units from his right wing to beef up his center. Over the first few turns I moved my left wing forward and edged my center units over to support them. I was able to form up my right wing into line but they sat there for most of the battle. All this time both of us were busily building up our Lore supply.

I suddenly realised I only had one Lore card. At the end of my turn I chose 2 lore cards and of those kept Dispel Lore. That was really lucky because Friendless had been holding on to a 9 Lore Creeping Doom spell which he cast next turn. This would have potentially wreaked havoc amongst the forces of my tightly packed left wing and weakened them prior to my attack. Just before he cast Creeping Doom I pulled out the Dispel Lore card. Phew!

Battle commenced between my Left/Center and Friendless' Right/Center. It was a brutal affair. I'd made space for a blue cavalry unit to pass through my line and it did a lot of damage to Friendless' troops on his right wing, taking out 2 units. Friendless then played a Mass Might Lore card and destroyed 2 of my units. The battle surged back and forth until I played an Enchanted Mass Might spell which was very effective. I think I combined it with a center Advance card to bloody effect.

Friendless then attacked with a couple of blue cavalry units in the center and caused one of my blue infantry units to retreat 3 hexes to the back edge of my board. When you have nowhere to retreat, all flags rolled cause casualties, so having a unit on the back board edge can be an extremely dangerous position. Friendless took advantage of this situation and sent those two slightly wounded cavalry units behind my lines to kill my cowering infantry. He was quite unlucky with his rolls and my unit survived. My routed blue infantry unit must have rallied for, in the next turn with the aid of another infantry unit, it made a valiant counter attack which ended up destroying both of Friendless' cavalry units. I won this game 6 banners to Friendless' 2 banners. Here's a pic of the final moment.

Game 3: I next wanted to play a scenario with Goblinoids, Dwarves and Creatures so we chose Adventure 6, A Complex Web. In this adventure I was playing the French led by Owain the Red Hand against Friendless' English led by Edward of Woodstock. I had some Dwarves, a Giant Spider, and human foot and mounted. Friendless had Goblin foot and mounted as well as human foot and mounted.

I was planning on using my bold Dwarves to attack Friendless' Goblins but I just didn't have the cards. Instead I pushed forward where I had the cards - on my right wing. I brought my two blue cavalry units forward to devastating effect. I think I ended up combining a Mounted Charge tactic card with another Enchanted Mass Might spell. They were hitting on 4 of each of the 6 sides of every die they rolled. They clove through Friendless' troops like butter. I was lucky to get pursuits on most of my combats which just made that round even more deadly. I must have killed at least 3 units that round. Here's a pic of my valiant cavalry after their charge.

After that, some left wing cards started coming my way so I ended up getting my blue infantry and red heavy cavalry into the Goblins. Their frightened morale status causes them to retreat 2 hexes for every flag rolled which was very deadly when they were forced back into their own lines. I was able to destroy enough to take the win 6 banners to Friendless' 0 banners. And after all that I never got a chance to use my Dwarves or the Giant Spider!

Just like the recent Ashes test cricket series, the English weren't having any luck. The French won all three games. To be fair we should really swap sides and replay these particular adventures. I really enjoyed BattleLore. There seems to be a lot of possibilities. I really look forward to my next game.

We then played two games of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation. This is an incredibly tense, thematic, tactical and most of all, fun game. We each played as the Light side and also the Dark side. Friendless won both games. Here a pic of halfway through game 2 where I was playing the Dark side.

I almost won game 2, reducing the Fellowship down to only Frodo Baggins while I still had four characters left. It came down to the last card at the end. I sent my Flying Nazgul swooping down on the solitary Frodo thinking I had a 3 card left. Unfortunately all I had was a Retreat card. Doh! I had to retreat leaving Frodo to surge forward on Shadowfax to enter Mordor and win the game. Tricksy Baggins! I've now played a total of four games of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation and have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. I'm always amazed at how finely balanced it feels. It has now risen to the top of my wish-list of games to buy.

After that tense, brain-burning session, Friendless suggested a beer and a more relaxing sort of game. Out came Bamboleo, a German dexterity game where you have to remove oddly shaped objects from a finely-balanced board. Here's a pic of the game. Friendless is checking the rules.

We started outside on the table on the deck but a few gusts of wind forced us to move inside. I was hesitant to even breathe when around this teetering game. First person to collect 20 objects wins the game. Friendless won this with some well-calculated withdrawals that I was sure would cause the board to tip. The last round came down to him leaving me an impossible choice of two objects on either side of the board. Well played! Bamboleo would be a great game to play with children I suspect.

The final game of the day was Hamsterrolle, another dexterity game from Germany. Imagine a hamster’s exercise wheel, divided into numerous segments, separated by low fences. Each player receives several wooden pieces of different length and shape, which they aim to place (one per person per turn) within the wheel without any pieces falling out. Any pieces dislodged are taken back as a penalty and the first to get rid of their pieces wins.

This was a longer game than Bamboleo although still very enjoyable. I was ahead for most of the game and ended up winning despite Friendless' many cunning deployments.

An excellent day of gaming versus a worthy opponent. I look forward to our next gaming session.