Session Report – Scenario 17.5 AAR – Two Viewpoints
AAR from Greg’s Point of View
J.D. had a day-long layover in Columbus on Monday, so he drove over to Dayton to visit the USAF Museum. Chuck Turner and Dave Harner took some time off work to tour the museum with J.D., and Russ Anderson and I caught up with them at dinner. Afterwards, we went to Dave's house to play one of the Buffalo Wings scenarios.
J.D. wanted to play Scenario 17.5, "Biplanes Pay the Price", which has 4 Russian I-15s bounced by 3 Finnish Fiat G.50s, the Fiats starting with positional, speed, and altitude advantages. To add to their potential misery, the Russians also were restricted to "Horizontal Fighting Tactics".
J.D. and Dave each took two I-15s, Chuck, Russ, and I each a single G.50. We used the Whistling Death full rules instead of the BW rules.
The initial bounce did no damage to the I-15s. The Finns overshot the Russians: I flew through their formation and came out facing NW, Russ went through and came out to the SW, while Chuck pulled out in a climb to the NE. J.D. and Dave split up, with J.D. following me and Dave going after Chuck, leaving Russ free.
I hadn't scrubbed off much speed in the initial bounce, and was able to use the G.50's top speed advantage over the I-15 to fly away from J.D. Chuck had scrubbed off enough speed that Dave was able to catch up to him and take a couple of shots. However, the bad armament of the I-15 (only 16 gun factors at range 0, a crit rating of 4, and a telescopic gun sight) meant that Dave needed good dice to be a threat, but he didn't get them. Eventually, Chuck was also able to use the Fiat's speed advantage to get to safety.
I turned and went after Dave, with J.D. following me, putting we three and Chuck in a horizontal turning battle. We took some shots, but didn't do any significant damage, save for a "plink" here and there, the shooters frustrated by the combination of Gs, weak armament, and bad dice.
Russ, meanwhile, had been left free to maneuver, and pulled over the top in a climbing reversal. He dove down into the furball with a positional and energy advantage and took advantage of that to get a couple of decent shots at the Russians, getting single crits on one of Dave's planes (damaged landing gear) and one of J.D.'s (fuel loss).
We ended after 15 game turns, which took about three hours to play, with the position neutralized and the Finns with a 2-0 points lead. Nine total shots, six of them long bursts, but resulting in only two crits, which shows just how weak the armament of these planes was.
The Fiat entered service at about the same time as the Hurricane I and 109E. Its ADC is dramatically inferior to theirs and at least somewhat inferior to many of its other monoplane contemporaries. But, it's relatively minor top speed advantage over the I-15 biplane (5.0 vs. 4.5) allowed the Finns to dictate the terms of the combat in this scenario, even though I don't think we played particularly well.
After the game was concluded, J.D. talked to us a bit about his research for WotM. He mentioned that the Russians had a first rate air force in the mid-1930s, with good equipment and the world's best pilot training program. But, in the late 30s, they shortened the training program and built lots of bad airplanes, trading quality for quantity in order to build up the size of the force. They ended up losing virtually all of these planes and pilots in the first couple of years of WW2. (There may be a lesson there.) Certainly, the Russian planes and pilots in these BW scenarios can be pretty bad, and it is easy to see how the Germans with 109s and 190s beat them so badly in 1941 and 1942. But, the Russians eventually reversed course and went back to their original policies, and were able to gain control of the air from 1943 onward.
I hadn't seen J.D. since Origins in 2006 or 2007, and hadn't played a larger FW scenario face-to-face since about the same time. It was nice to get everybody together and get this game in.
Greg Wurster (reprinted with permission)
AAR from J.D.’s point of view
After Dinner – the five of us retired to Dave’s house and began to set up in the kitchen for a game. We opted for the full rules and chose scenario 17.5 out of Buffalo Wings -“Biplanes pay the price”. What follows is a brief after action report. Everyone had some recent experience so the game moved along well.
The scenario begins with three Fiat G.50s diving in on top and to the side of four Russian I-15bis biplanes. “Fool” and myself “Pluto” each took a pair of Russians. “Underdog” was the Finnish leader with “Daffy” and “Homer” in trail as the wingmen. We played a full fifteen-turn game, with seven planes, accomplishing a total of 105 moves in close to three hours. This was a surprisingly brisk pace, given all the side chatter and jokes and distractions that were ongoing. This is just a little under a minute and a half per plane per move, including taking time out for resolving shots. I just mention it to show you what players familiar with the rules can manage.
The fight itself was neither bloody nor totally bloodless, as both of my planes were hit, as were one of “Fool’s” planes. No one was shot down and everyone more or less played tactically well. A fair number of shots were taken, though none by me. In the end, the Finnish squeaked a minor victory with two Vps for critical hits.
In the opening pass only “Underdog” got in a shot – diving in fast on my pair of biplanes. I should mention that the Russians were restricted to horizontal tactics per the period rules. I scissored to give “Underdog” a poor shot, which missed and then reversed bank direction, turning into “Underdog” and trying to force him out in front of me. Meanwhile, “Daffy” came in next, couldn’t get a shot and blew through pitching up into a high loop. Seeing the first two Fiats foiled by the quick turning biplanes, “Homer” opted to pull out of his dive early and camp high, turning left. As it turned out, “Fool” turned his pair of biplanes after “Homer” and rapidly climbed up after him. “Homer” was slow picking up on the threat and decided to run for it and climb when he started coming under fire. This allowed “Fool’s” planes to pursue him throughout the entire game. Meanwhile I tried to find angles on “Underdog’s” Fiat but he stayed fast in his dive and circled wide to the right staying just out of my gun range. With the four Russian biplanes thus preoccupied chasing “Homer” and stalking “Underdog”, Daffy managed a diving pass that took a shot or two at “Fool’s” planes and scored some hits before blowing outside and circling right.
I decided to abandon my chase of “Underdog” and climbed up after “Homer” cutting sharply across the fight circle to try to come to grips as “Homer” had been run down on energy dodging “Fool’s I-15s. This however took me across and in front of both “Underdog” and “Daffy’s” Fiats and they turned in after me. I easily dodged the first Fiat, but “Daffy got in a pass that scored good hits and another victory point for the Finnish before being spat off my tail when I circled my biplane extremely tightly. At this point, “Fool’s” biplanes had fallen out of range of “Homer’s” and both “Underdog” and “Daffy” elected to separate from us in dives.
All in all it was a very interesting fight, with veteran players looking for that edge. The Fiats start with height and speed and had little trouble keeping their speed up, which allowed them to be offensive for the most part. The biplanes were able to dodge passes or set up poor angles shots which kept them alive, but their lack of speed meant that counter-attacking was difficult. When we tallied the shots, the Finnish had taken a little more than twice as many shots as the Russians had (all by Dave’s pair). Lucky rolls in low odds, high modifier attacks provided the Vps to the Finnish.
Even though I got no shots in, I enjoyed the maneuverability of the I-15 and it was a challenge trying to corner Greg or anyone else for an attack. Every time it looked like I was close, I had to go on the defense from another Fiat swipe. Very tense and nerve wracking stuff. And – of course, fun. Especially playing with a good gang of friends and veteran players.