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  • in reply to: Pre-emptive NATO air strikes? #156305
    John D Salt
    Participant

    On the topic of WARPAC nations joining in or not joining in, SPI’s 1976 folio “Revolt in the East” is a splendid little game that covers the well-worn central front area at a very broad level of detail, with numerous options for WARPAC members going rogue that make a nice change from the traditional Soviet steamroller heading west.

    it’s highly implausible that, in the event of a TTW situation, NATO might decide ‘bugger it’ and chuck some airpower at East Germany, not with the Pact air defence network intact, and cruise missiles would look too much like a nuclear launch.

    This raises another point I was vaguely intending to mention but didn’t — most NATO analysts lived in mortal fear of WARPAC air defences. I recall at least one ground attack planning tool that relied on routing raids around the engagement envelopes of WARPAC groud-based air defence (GBAD), it being considered that entering them was equivalent to losing aircraft. In retrospect, this seems to suffer from a remarkable lack of justification. GBAD generally does not perform well in live operations — look at the ropey performance of British GBAD in the Falklands, and the massive exagerration of Patriot performance in the Gulf. Soviet-supplied (and to some extent Soviet-manned) GBAD did not do well in Viet Nam; admittedly they may have accumulated a lot of kills, but over a period of many years, many thousands of engagements, with the expenditure of something like fifty SAMs per kill, and without ever once preventing the US from hitting a target if they wanted it hit. Whenever US air has decided to wade in at medium attitude and take on the SAMs toe-to-toe, it is the blokes on the ground who have come off worse. Non-US NATO air forces, not being able to afford elaborate EW/SEAD support to strike packages, trained to go in very, very low indeed. Jaguar may not seem a very high-tech aircraft, but at four hundred knots on the deck in claggy met, it’s effectively impossible to intercept. Granted that air attacks also tend to be less accurate and less effective than expected on real operations, there is still a lot of truth to Stanley Baldwin’s 1932 apothegm, “the bomber will always get through”. As for Soviet fighter defence — their historical record seems to consist largely of bagging a couple of stray Korean Jumbos, and completely missing Mathias Rust’s Cessna, which succeeded in penetrating all the way to Red Square.

    It occurs to me ask what, as far as the air aspect is concerned, the difference would be between a NATO air attack (“strike” specifically meant nukes in NATO at the time) half an hour after, or half an hour before, the Red hordes rolled over the IGB. Is the assumption of NATO agression actually necessary?

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Old Man Yells At Rules #156296
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I once read a complete article in Slingshot. It was three or four pages long. It was about how to get the best out of ARMY ‘A’ in the rules – and it went on and on…. slowly it dawned on me that nowhere in the article, the title or anywhere else in the Magazine was the name of the set of rules in question mentioned. Because there was only one set of Ancient Rules in the late 90’s apparently.

    This caused me to recall, with a shudder, an incident that occurred shortly after I joined Exeter University Wargames Club in, oooh, 1978.

    As a youthful fresher I had already got seven years of wargaming under my belt, so, when I was introduced to an existing member of the club, I expected to idle away a little time asking: do you do boardgames or just figures, ever tried D&D, done any naval, what’s your period, how did you get started in the hobby, that sort of thing. Not a bit of it. The established member — a second-year lawyer, as I recall — smiled and fixed me with eyes in which I think I detected the first glimmerings of insanity, then demanded “What 5,000-point army do you recommend to beat Seleucids?”

    Didn’t even bother to specify fourth or fifth edition.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Pre-emptive NATO air strikes? #156291
    John D Salt
    Participant

    The scenario I’m writing theorises that GSFG are plainly ready to jump off, and NATO decides to try and blunt them while they can.

    The trouble with this is, the Sovs planned — and rehearsed — moving into combat straight out of barracks, giving no warning at all.

    None of the NATO nations did anything of the kind, except for ACE Mobile Force’s spearhead battalion. Nor did NATO have the same sort of authoritarian centralism in their command and control system that WARPAC did, which would have enabled the big chief to say “Go! Go! Go!” on an impulse and expect anyone to react with something other than puzzled confusion, embittered references to the current notice to move, and queries as to when they could expect their war establishment reinforcements and war emergency spares packs.

    Things may have changed in the late 1980s but as far as I can recall, NATO always reserved the right to strike first, including the use of nuclear weapons. The entire premise of WW3 in “The War Game” was a NATO attack into the DDR to relieve Berlin.

    I’d bet quite a lot of my own money that you can’t find any NATO statement to that effect, or even implying it, from any time during the Cold War. NATO always refused to renounce the first use of nuclear weapons, because this was part of the flexible response policy that had been in place since the early 60s. The Russians would occasionally enjoy baiting NATO about this, but NATO’s position was that it didn’t intend to attack anyone, there would be no use of nukes unless someone else had made first use of conventional weapons, and so there’s no need to worry yourself, Niki/Leo/Yuri/Konnie.

    The relief of Berlin is clearly a response to an attack on it; the Berlin garrison was a tripwire force to make it clear who the aggressors are when things kick off, just like NP8901 in the Falklands.

    So I think that, in a time like the 80s where there was more willingness to take a hard line with the Soviet (people like Mitterand, Thatcher and Reagan), some kind of major provocation might have gotten the Quint to push for a preemptive action.

    Remember, those three were all old enough to have lived through WW2, and Mitterand fought in it. I strongly doubt that even Reagan would have had the cavalier attitude to starting wars that became popular in the West when we started getting government cabinets with nobody in them with any experience of uniformed service.

    Even if those in charge had thought it would be a jolly jape to give the Reds a biffing, I think their military leaders would have disabused them in short order. Anyone who lived through the Cold War will recall all those maps showing three Russian tanks to every NATO one, and the idea of attempting a re-run of Barbarossa was so very remote from contemporary military thinking that, as well as lacking the force elements and the logistics to do it, we wouldn’t have had the doctrine. You may recall that when a British armoured division was shipped to Kuwait (and all the other divisions ransacked for kit and spares to get it there) one of the problems was the lack of an offensive doctrine — fortunately, everyone in BAOR had spent so long studying Russian offensive doctrine, they just nicked that, rather than attempt to create one of their own.

    What’s more, don’t forget the Bundeswehr’s emphasis on “Innere Fuhrung”. If given an order to engage in what is pretty clearly a war of aggression, German commanders were trained to refuse to obey, and I’m sure a very large number of them would, not just those with family in the East. As for the Germans in the East, and the other WARPAC minor nations — the Cold War saw rebellions against the Russian occupiers from East Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, and Poles. There was always a good chance that they would not have been too enthusiastic in their support for a Soviet drive to the Channel Ports — why on Earth would NATO attack their countries and make determined enemies of them?

    As has been said, it’s anyone’s right as a wargamer to invent scenarios of whatever level of improbability they wish. However, a NATO pre-emptive attack on WARPAC strikes me as being of the same order of never-going-to-happenness as all those “Operation Sealion” games that rely on the RAF getting thrashed, the English Channel staying a flat calm for weeks, and the Royal Navy undergoing spontaneous evaporation from a mass infestation of anti-shipping pixies.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Unbelievably Crass and Rude #155605
    John D Salt
    Participant

    There is of course a difference between criticism and mere abuse, as described here
    https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/how-to-disagree-well-7-of-the-best-and-worst-ways-to-argue

    I recall Larry Wall’s apothegm that “The social dynamics of the net are a direct consequence of the fact that nobody has yet developed a Remote Strangulation Protocol.”

    All the best,

    John.

    John D Salt
    Participant

    AIUI there was also an improved understanding of the effect of cold and wet on lookout vigilance. It seems obvious that a lookout should be able to see better if they don’t have to look through glass, but once you factor in the loss of performance from being exposed to the elements it’s not so straighforward.

    Another illustration of the importance attached to visibility — you’ll notice that the enclosed bridge design introduced on Type 15s and Whitbys (Type 12s) had overhanging glass panes, to reduce internal reflections at night.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Looking at 4 ACW rule sets #155253
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Thanks for that.

    Brownie points to the designer of “Two Flags — One Nation” for bothering to state game scales, I think!

    Interesting that although all sets are pitched at the same organizational level, the maximum firing range varies between threeish and oneish times the standard movement rate. I take this to mean that no set allows people to leap through the enemy’s zone of fire unscathed, which would be unreasonable, you might only resolve firing once before the attackers get into contact.

    My understanding of the period (based entirely on Paddy Griifith’s “Battle in the American Civil War”) is that infantry attacks often tended to stall and result in ineffectual “bickering” between opposing firing lines. My reading of your trial plays is that the first three all had the confederates decisively repulsed, whereas “Two Flags — One Nation” produced a result more like the stalling and bickering that I would expect to be typical. Was that part of the design intention? While it would obviously be a good deal of effort to do more replays, did you get a feel of how likely such a result would be under the other rules?

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Looking at 4 ACW rule sets #155251
    John D Salt
    Participant

    This is really interesting. ACW not my period, but I tip my hat to the rule designer who named the morale test on first contact the “see the elephant” test.

    Obviously one can’t draw definitive conclusions from just one play per rule set, but the results seemed sufficiently similar, and sufficiently believable, to provisionally decide that none of the rule sets are obviously barking mad when it comes to representing the balance between fire and movement.

    The idea of a pre-generated random number stream helps to make the results that much more comparable, and is in fact what is done in serious computer simulations, so well done if you invented the idea independently.

    One thing I would like to know for purposes of the comparison, what where the troop and time scales for each set of rules?

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Need suggestions on how to make town walls. #155244
    John D Salt
    Participant

    If cocktail sticks and toothpicks are too fat, it probably needs a specialist dowel:

    AM2525/01 Ramin Wood Dowel 1mm

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Battleship Command #155157
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I suspected it wasn’t this:

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: paratroopers radio info #155003
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I can’t definitively say yes, not being familiar with US jump procedures, but I can find no reference to any specific kit bag or jump container for SINCGARS, so imagine that would be how they do it.

    According to the Vietnam Studies series book on divisional comms (available at https://history.army.mil/html/books/090/90-11/CMH_Pub_90-11.pdf ) for operation Junction City (1967) comms kit was included in an initial heavy equipment drop, and additional equipment was flown in by helicopter. This would have been in the days of the AN/PRC-25, so still with a few valves to worry about, and so more delicate kit.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: M,m,m, mm, mmm, monster! #154983
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Nice.

    In a creepy warty-clawed tentacular death horror sort of way.

    All the best,

    John.

    John D Salt
    Participant

    Lancashire? Or Leicester?

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: paratroopers radio info #154914
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Two answers from me.

    First, the AN/PRC-77 was an entirely solid-state radio; its predecessor, the AN/PRC-25, had reduced the use of valves to a single one. Solid-state radios made to military specifications are pretty robust. Clansman, a radio system of about the same generation as this (it came in 8 years later) was the kind of thing I used in the UOTC in the early 1980s. One of the demonstrations to new cadets in the signals wing was to present the tiniest of the Clansman range, the PRC-349, and point out that it cost the British taxpayer something like £2,000 a copy. The Squadron Sergeant Major then grasped the radio by the whip antenna, and beat it three times very hard against the table. “How much do you think it’s worth now?” he asked. The cadets’ glum estimates that the set should be considered 100% amortised were all shown to be quite wrong by demonstrating that the set still functioned perfectly.

    Second, since WW2, things dropped by parachute have typically been packed in drop containers such as the British CLE (Container, Light Equipment) series. These are designed with a crush pad on the landing end to absorb the impact of landing. Demonstrations of equipment-dropping containers using similar crush pads from the old Lysander army co-operation aircraft during WW2 showed that it was possible to drop boxes of eggs intact.

    The hardest impact anything is likely to suffer is if dropped in a leg-bag, and these at least have padded bottoms. I imagine that the only problem arises if the leg-bag becomes detached from the jumper, as has been known to happen.

    TL:DR: Radio’s aren’t that fragile, and paradrop landings aren’t that hard.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Old Man Yells At Rules #154421
    John D Salt
    Participant

    It’s entirely crackpot, agreed, but probably a not-very-evitable consequence of the GW authoritarian greedhead marketing model of insisting on “official” models. The same sort of exploitative crackpottery has given us collectible gamelike things with “rares”, and “limited edition” tomfoolery. Perhaps young people these days (furtively checks for kids on the lawn) are gullible enough to fall for this sort of nonsense. It’s never going to work on wrinklebonced greybeards who remember when you could spend a few shillings on a couple of boxes of Airfix infantry, a pack of lichen, some Merit trees, and the world was your lobster, at least, after you had scrounged some empty wheatie boxes to cut up and make your own buildings. And nicked some bits of foam ballast underlay from the Hornby train set to use uʍop ǝpᴉsdn for roads.

    A similar gobbet of imbecility that offends my tired old eyes is the claim that a set of rules can be used with any scale models (yes, I do know people who have done 54mm naval wargaming). Back in the old timey times, before the Dead Sea reported sick, no great mathematical mystery attached to the dark art of embiggening (or contratriwise ensmallening) numbers in proportion to each other, and the skilled number-wrangler could even perform such embiggenment without the assistance of an electronic calculator.

    This latter point is one reason for my very strong preference for rules to give distances in real-world units (metres, paces, cables, whatever is appropriate) instead of in inches or centimetres on the table; the other reason is that, to my ear, shooting at a tank 16 inches away sounds very silly.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Trademark Infringement by Games Workshop #154371
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I’m quite sorry to discover that GW is doing this, particularly given their aggressive pursuit of IP infringement. I’d be willing to kick in a few dollars towards legal fees, should you choose to pursue this with a crowdfunding effort.

    Agreed, with considerable asperity.

    I’ll put $100 towards the fighting fund if it comes to it.

    It’s not as if they could not equally well have chosen “fighting patrol” or “battle patrol” instead of “combat patrol”.

    Meanwhile, people might like to send polite notices drawing attention to their disapproval of GW’s behaviour to their IP infringement people at [email protected]

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Japanese artillery tactics — deception #154238
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Excellent stuff as always!

    Cough *blush*.

    Re the different-coloured smoke – a couple of accounts from Burma mention the unusual thick black smoke created by 50mm ‘knee-mortar’ rounds, which tended to suggested that it was different to British mortars. Out of curiosity, I’ve just asked an ex-RAF EOD mate of mine on Facebook and he says that Amatol creates a white smoke cloud, whereas most other HE such as TNT and PE creates black smoke.

    The only information I have in knee-mortar fillings says the Type 89 bomb was filled with TNT. From what I recall most 2-in HE rounds were filled with baratol.

    Thinking back to the times I have seen field artillery HE bursts, I’d say that most of them were mud-coloured, but then Larkhill tends towards the dry and dusty in the tourist season.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Japanese artillery tactics — deception #154130
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I vaguely seem to recall that there was a case in which the Germans were accused of using a similar trick, but I cannot at the moment recall any detail.

    Of course it is a very sensible tactic if fighting against an enemy with massive artillery superiority — use the enemy’s strength against themself.

    One of the things that comes out of the reports I posted is just how poor non-experts could be at telling friendly and enemy artillery apart. I remember this question came up at COW years ago during a play of John Armatys and Martin Rapier’s “Battle Group” WW2 rules, when a confused situation meant one company could not be sure whether the fire falling on them was friendly or enemy. Presumably the question depends mainly on the fillings used, which I imagine would determine the smoke colour and the detonation velocity (and so the sound signature). As both British and German shells were often filled with Amatol, I would have thought it quite hard to tell the difference. We decided, on the basis of no information beyond an old Monty Python sketch, that German shells should make a nasty tinny-sounding foreign bang, and British ones should make a comforting, woody sort of crump.

    There just aren’t enough artillery filling nerds, that’s the trouble.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Alien Blobs #153947
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I’m far from being the world’s greatest fan of F&SF gaming, but these are absolutely superb. Imaginative use of materials, and a result that is powerfully evocative of tacky 1950s Sci-Fi/Horror monster effects. The dendritic structure of the red veining gives them a more natural look than the pulp magazine cover illustrations manage.

    Recalling Robert Heinlein’s “The Puppet Masters”, I’m wondering if you could make a translucent parasitic Titanian slug with a couple of hooky pseudopodia so you could hang it over the shoulders of a figure under the puppet master’s control.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: How would you rate WWII fighters? #153800
    John D Salt
    Participant

    This fits my need very well since the bottom bad is filled with aircraft I don’t have minis for.

    An excellent reason for discarding the bottom band!

    I was going to suggest that, if you really needed five bands, then you would need to conduct the exercise of deciding what speeds the breaks should fall at — it’s a bit of luck that neat 50 km/h slices do rather a good job, but there’s no reason you can’t pick different boundaries to produce the bands you want.

    An alternative, based on the idea proposed by Nathaniel Weber, would be to use a sliding window of five bands superimposed on a total collection of seven or eight, according to time period. “World War Two” encompasses a terrific range of aircraft technological development, from fabric-covered biplanes to the first jets (I didn’t include jets in my initial effort because power to weight ratio was inapplicable, but having converted it to thrust-to-weight ratio there’s no reason not to, and of course top speed is easier yet as the standard of comparison). It’s all a bit much to cram the lot into five categories covering the whole war; but what’s the point of having more bands than you will ever get on the table at once? I don’t think there are going to be any scenarios where Gloster Gladiators meet Dora-9s, or P-51Ds take on CR-32s, so the five-band window can move along with time as the bottom class becomes obsolete.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: How would you rate WWII fighters? #153789
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Looking at that last performance chart, the only ones I think I really want to put a performance down-shift on are the 110, 210, 410; the Defiant; and maybe the CR4 & the I-153 too. All for one reason or other design dead-ends for piston-engined air superiority fighters.

    Looking at your boundary cases, I could do nothing with my square-of-speed rule to get things as you wanted. However, looking at the boundary speeds your marginal cases need to be the other side of, I was struck by the fact that you can produce a really good classification — into six categories, not five, but I’m just going to treat it as a very large value of five — by awarding a point to start with, then one point for being able to make 500 km/h, and another point for every 50 km/h after that.

    Yes, of course there’s another table:

           Br            Fr            Ge            It            Jp            SU            US
    6  Spitfire 24                 Fw 190D-9                                              P-51C/D/H Mustang
       Spitfire XIV                                                                       F4U Corsair
       Tempest V                                                                                                
    
    5  Typhoon IB                  Bf 109F                      Ki-84 Hayate   La-7       P-47 Thunderbolt        
       Spitfire IX                 Fw 190A                      N1K-J Shiden              P-38 Lightning
                                                                                          P-63A Kingcobra
    
    4  Spitfire XII                Bf 109G       Macchi 205     Ki-44 Shoki    La-5       P-51A Mustang I
                                   Me 410        Re 2005                       MiG-3      P-39Q Airacobra
                                                 Fiat G55                      MiG-1      F65 Hellcat 
                                                                               Yak-3  
                                                                               Yak-9
                                                                               LaGG-1
                                                                                 
    3  Spitfire I-V     D.520      Bf 109E       Fiat G55       A6M5 Zero      Yak-1      P-39D Airacobra
       Hurricane IIC               Me 210        Macchi 205V    Ki-100-I       Yak-7   
       Whirlwind I                                              Ki-61 Hien     LaGG-3      
       Mosquito FB VI                                            
                                                                                                                            
    2  Hurricane I      MB.152     Bf 110C       Macchi 200     A6M2 Zero      I-16       P-40E Warhawk
       Beaufighter X    MS.406                                  Ki-43 Hayabusa            F4F Wildcat
       Firefly I                                                                          F2A Buffalo
    
    1  Defiant I                                 Fiat G50       A5M4           I-153      
       Gladiator I                               Fiat CR42      Ki-27
       Fulmar II                                 Fiat CR32                            
       Skua II
    

    That, I think, will match a remarkably wide variety of informed opinion on the relative merits of WW2 fighters, and all from a rule even simpler than my original square rule. As a Mustang fan, I like the fact that it shows the P-51D a grade higher than the P-47; it better discriminates the progress of American types; and I think it is more believable to make the P-40 and Wildcat equivalent to the Hurricane, rather than the Spitfire. The Bf-109F seems over-rated, but there were pilots who considered it a better flying machine than the Bf-109G, and a scheme based purely on speed cannot allow for the drawback that the Bf 109F’s armament was crap. Really, I’m surprised at how good a classification such an absurdly oversimplified rule gives, although it’s a bit disappointing I didn’t see it earlier.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: How would you rate WWII fighters? #153773
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Somewhere I have some WW2 fighter armament spreadsheets, so brace yourself for more incoming drivel.

    Found ’em.

    Below is a table summarising the relative values of different air weapons following Tony Williams’ methods, allowing for weight of filling, and so emphasising cannon armament more than Emmanual Gustin’s method of just considering kinetic energy.

           Br           Fr         Ge         It           Jp A         Jp N         SU            US
    1   Brwng .303   MAC 1934    MG 17      7.7 Breda    7.7 type 89  7.7 type 97  7.62 ShKAS   Brwng .30
    2                            MG 131     12.7 Breda   12.7 Ho-103
    3   Brwng .500                                                                              Brwng .50
    5                            MG 151                  20 Ho-5                   12.7 UB
                                 MG 204                  37 Ho-203
    6                20 HS9      MG-FF                   20 Ho-1, 2   20 type 99   
    7                                                    20 Ho-5                   20 Berezin
                                                                                   20 ShVAK
    8                                                                                           37 M4
    10  20 Hispano I             MG 151/20               30 Ho-155-II                           20 M2
                                                         40 Ho-301
                                                         57 Ho-401
    12  20 Hispano V                                     30 Ho-155-I  30 type 5    VYa-23 
    17                                                   30 Ho-204
    20                                                                30 type 3
    21                                                                             NS-37
    29                           MK 108                                            NS-45
    35                           MK 103                                               
    

    As I hope should be obvious, where an entry begins with a number, that is the calibre of the weapon in mm. I did not want to write “mm” after every such number, as it would have widened the table annoyingly, especially as I have listed the Japanese Army and Japanese Navy as separate “nationalities”.

    The ratings represent how many .300″ or .303″ Brownings a gun is worth, and are based on the product of rate of fire and a “punch” score as calculated by Tony Williams (and if anyone knows more about heavy automatic weapons than Tony Williams, I’d be surprised — he literally wrote the book on the subject).

    Notice how the best 0.5″/12.7mm HMGs are about as good as the worst 20mm cannon. The best 20mm cannon are as good as the worst 30mm cannon, but the best 30mm cannon are screamingly good (these are the late-war German jobbies the very succesful post-war Aden and DEFA were based on). There is a horrific amount of variability in the performance of 30, 37, 40, 45 and 57mm cannon, and taking just the calibre is no sort of guide to the ordering of performance. Fortunately a lot of these can be ignored, as they are late-war Japanese Army efforts, desperately seeking a weapon that can knock down a B-29 if you can even catch it.

    I have made no attempt to modify the figures for the reduction in rate of fire caused by using synchronisation gear.

    If you want to be really niminy-piminy, the rifle-calibre MGs all rated as 1 should really be 0.75 for the Italians and Japanese and 1.5 for the Russians; but I wouldn’t worry too much about what the Russians called “paint-scratchers”. Likewise, I rounded the Hispano V down from 12.5 rather than up; I reckon it’s good enough already. Probably the Tempest armament of 4 fast-firing Hispano Vs, with a gyro gunsight, was the ideal WW2 all-purpose fighter armament, and similar to the kind of armament sported by many post-war jets.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: How would you rate WWII fighters? #153768
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Given your criteria, I would start from speed and then modify, usually downwards, if there is a specific reason to do so.

    As an exercise in brutal simplification, I tried bunching my spreadsheet entries using the single criterion of top speed.

    Here’s another slab of tabulated drivel:

           Br            Fr            Ge            It            Jp            SU            US
    5  Spitfire 24                 Fw 190D-9                                              P-51H Mustang
       Spitfire XIV                                                                       F4U Corsair                          
    
    4  Tempest V                   Bf 109F-G     Macchi 205N    Ki-84 Hayate   La-7       P-51 Mustang           
       Typhoon IB                  Fw 190A       Re 2005        N1K-J Shiden   La-5       P-47 Thunderbolt
       Spitfire IX                 Me 410                                      Yak-3      P-63A Kingcobra               
       Spitfire XII                                                            MiG-3      P-38 Lightning
                                                                               MiG-1      P-39Q Airacobra
                                                                                          F65 Hellcat
    
    3  Spitfire I-V     D.520       Me 210       Fiat G55       Ki-44 Shoki    Yak-9      P-39D Airacobra
       Hurricane IIC                Bf 109E      Macchi 205V    Ki-61 Hien     Yak-7      P-40E Warhawk
       Whirlwind I                  Bf 110C                     Ki-45 Toryu    Yak-1      F4F Wildcat
       Mosquito FB VI                                           Ki-43 Hayabusa LaGG-3     
                                                                Ki-100-I       LaGG-1
                                                                A6M2-5 Zero
    
    2  Hurricane I      MB.152                   Macchi 200     Ki-27          I-16       F2A Buffalo
       Defiant I        MS.406                   Fiat G50       A5M4           I-153
       Fulmar II                                 Fiat CR42
       Beaufighter X
    
    1  Gladiator I                               Fiat CR32
       Skua II
    

    That, I reckon, is quite a bit less head-burningly stupid than the previous slab of tab blab. Although I am not delighted that the Fiat CR42 comes out a whole category better than the Gloster Gladiator, that’s arguably less daft that classing the Gladiator as equal to the Hurricane, as in the previous effort. Making the CR42 equal to the Hurricane is admittedly silly, but I understand the Falchi weren’t such pushovers as some Hurri pilots had initially believed.

    Even without any modification based on other factors, the categories are not madly different from the Whirlwind-proposed ones, and they don’t show the consistent prejudice against American designs evident in the previous effort (or, if you prefer, they comply better with the Western prejudice that the Japanese and Russians can’t design really good aircraft).

    This still takes no account of armament and protection. Indeed, it takes account of almost nothing — top speed, and that’s it. In deference to Thomaston’s desire for five categories (an “augmented Goldilocks” scale, as I call it) lumping the Spitfires I, II and V together seems the least objectionable distortion. The immensely unsophisticated algorithm I used to determine what category an aircraft falls into is to round off the square of the top speed, in km/h, divided by 111111.

    cat = round((speed^2)/111111)

    This should be comprehensible with very little effort to even the most determined mathophobe. The Salt Constant of 111111 was determined by an intense programme of stochastic iteration (random guessing) lasting for a period of several minutes.

    Did you take Drag as 0? if not how did you derived it?

    Assuming a square law for drag, I took the square root of the top speed, divided by the power loading. I did the same thing when I tried to convert power loading to thrust-to-weight ratio. Assuming propeller efficiencies of 75% for variable-speed, and 55% for constant-speed propellers (of which few remain in this period) it seems that WW2 fighters had thrust-to-weight ratios in the range from 0.130 to 0.346. I’d be interested to know to what extent people with real aerodynamics knowledge would consider such an estimate to be piffle.

    I think power-weight ratio might be the most important thing. At the very least it affects how long a plane can sustain a turn or regain speed form a maneuver.

    I certainly thought so, and it seems Boyd and Christie partially agree. However for WW2 fighters I’m now thinking that it looks as if speed is the dominating factor. I wish I could remember which fighter ace said that speed was the main attribute of a fighter aircraft.

    At the risk of over complicating the formula. What do you think of adding firepower and durability? Firepower could be weight of a 3s burst, but protection will be pretty subjective.

    Throw weight is fairly traditional, but something related to muzzle energy seems more reasonable, and it would be good to find some way of allowing for the explosive effect of cannon shell. Tony Williams has an excellent piece on WW2 fighter armament at https://www.quarryhs.co.uk/WW2guneffect.htm and there used to be a similar discussion on Emmanual Gustin’s pages. I cannot find that again, but his new web site at http://users.telenet.be/Emmanuel.Gustin/ seems to contain lots of interest. Apologies if it makes you buy books. There seems to be a piece on aircraft armour that I shall read, but until that makes me change my mind I reckon that weight is a pretty good first-order SWAG for vulnerability — presumably empty weight, as adding fuel and munitions to an aircraft can hardly be expected to make an aircraft less vulnerable. Knowing the weight of armour carried would be interesting, but I have only been able to find very patchy data on that. And don’t forget the massive effect of having gyro sights, which historically seemed to double your probability of success.

    Somewhere I have some WW2 fighter armament spreadsheets, so brace yourself for more incoming drivel.

    I feel like in order to produce this list of highly abstracted performance value I’ll have to do some deep research. Starting with finding engine envelope charts for every engines used on WWII fighters so I can have accurate output at the chosen altitude range.

    Just in case you haven’t met them, I recommend

    http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/

    http://kurfurst.org/

    Allowing for different engine performance at different altitudes is one of the trickier aspects of characterising fighter capabilities. Taking an average over altitudes seems unsatisfactory, as it fails to show the tactical preference forces will have for fighting at high or low altitudes. And for the purposes of squashing things into five categories, it might be tempting to stick with the absurdly simple cat = round((speed^2)/111111).

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: How would you rate WWII fighters? #153739
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Ps magic algebra.
    I’ve used the one for Fox Two Reheat years ago but despite the complexity I didn’t like the results much

    That’s vastly more intricate than the Boyd and Christie formula.

    It was also difficult tracking down loaded weight for aircraft of some countries that only list empth and MTOW.

    Annoying, isn’t it? What I do in that case is take the mid-point between empty and maximum weights. Of course in real life the weight of an aircraft is constantly changing as it burns fuel and expends ordnance, just as the power/thrust is constantly changing as it changes altitude, so it is futile to worry too much about the precision of a number that wobbles about anyway.

    I promised more drivel, and now that I have restored the work I lost and punched in rather more aircraft details than I originally meant to, I can present another set of results you won’t like very much. I used googled numbers, mostly from Wikipedia pages or Air Vectors, and applied the Boyd/Christie formula using power instead of thrust.

           Br            Fr            Ge            It            Jp            SU            US
    5  Spitfire 24                 Fw 190D-9                   N1K-J Shiden   Yak-3       
       Spitfire XIV                                            Ki-84 Hayate   La-7        
       Spitfire IX                                                            La-5
       Spitfire XII
       Tempest V
    4  Spitfire V                  Fw 190A       Macchi 205 V  Ki-44 Shoki    Yak-1       P-51H Mustang
       Typhoon IB                  Bf 109G                     A6M5 Zero      LaGG-3      P-51D Mustang
                                   Bf 109F                                                P-63A Kingcobra
                                   Me 410                                                 P-39Q Airacobra
       	                                                                              P-38L Lightning
                                                                                          F4U Corsair
    3  Mosquito FB VI  MB 152      Bf 109E       Re 2005       Ki-43 Hayabusa Yak-9       P-38J Lightning
       Whirlwind I     D 520       Me 210        Macchi 205 N  A6M2 Zero      MiG-1       P-51B Mustang
       Spitfire IIA                Bf 110C       Fiat G55      Ki-61 Hien     MiG-3       P-39D Airacobra
       Spitfire IA                               Macchi 200    A5M4           I-16        P-51A Mustang
                                                 Fiat G50      Ki-27          Yak-7A      P-47D Thunderbolt
                                                                                          F6F-5 Hellcat
                                                                                          F2A-2 Buffalo
    2  Beaufighter X   MS 406                    Fiat CR 42    Ki-45 Toryu    I-153       F4F-3 Wildcat
       Hurricane IIC                                                                      P40E Warhawk
       Hurricane I
       Gladiator I
       Firefly I 
       Fulmar II
       Defiant I   
    1  Skua II                                   Fiat CR 32 
    

    The two good things that can be said about that categorisation are that 1. it is based on an objective criterion, and 2. it is slightly less stupid than some other possible categorisations.

    A lot of the band splits one can readily agree with, especially within nationalities. However some things are obviously stupid. No top-category aircraft for the Americans? Really? Buffalo better than a Wildcat? What craziness is this? The method seems to systematically discriminate against American aircraft, and in favour of Russian and Japanese ones.

    I think there are three things that might rescue this kind of procedure:

    1. Do something to reduce the weighting given to power-to-weight ratio. As things stand, the performance of high power-to-weight machines is overstated, doubtless because using power where the formula wants thrust misses out the reduction caused by including propeller efficiency. In the absence of any data on that, picking a believable global fudge-factor to apply across all aircraft is the best we can do. Anyone have an idea of a hand-wavingly global number for propeller efficiency?

    2. Add a factor to incorporate the value of armament and protection. American aircraft, being typically well armed and well protected, should profit.

    3. Try to estimate the benefits of servo-assisted controls and g-suits. The reason that Thunderbolts could massacre Bf-109Gs was not so much that the Jug was hugely superior in numerical measures of flying characteristics (it’s got a higher top end, but worse power loading and wing loading) as the fact that the 109s, lacking servo-assitance, had flight controls that became impossibly heavy to move at very high speeds. Similarly, the fabled agility of Japanese fighters became unusable at high speeds, for the same reason.

    Finally, I’m tempted to suggest that six categories might ultimately enable a less daft categorisation than is possible in five. Consider RAF fighters; it seems clear to me that the Hurricane is an improvement on the Gladiator, the Spitfire I is an improvement on the Hurricane, the Spitfire V is an improvement on the Spitfire I, the Spit IX on the V, and the XIV on the IX. But to show all those differences you need 6 categories. Is there a particular reason to want 5?

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: How would you rate WWII fighters? #153714
    John D Salt
    Participant

    If only to console Thomaston that he is not a lone voice barking in the wilderness when it comes to melting aircraft performance down into a single number, I refer everyone to the Ps number developed by Boyd (yes, that Boyd, the bloke with the loop) and Christie (no, not tank suspension Christie, another one). This is calulated as Ps = speed x ((thrust – drag) / weight). Apologies for not mentioning it earlier, I had forgotten all about it until I stumbled across a reference to it in an old spreadsheet. The relevant Wikipedia article is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy%E2%80%93maneuverability_theory

    I like the Thrust/Weight ratio idea

    Boyd uses thrust-to-weight, because he’s talking jets. I said power-to-weight, because that’s the number I have used to date, and it’s the one you are usually given for propeller-driven aircraft. It would be nice to be able to covert to thrust-to-weight, first, because of the intuitive meaning of a thrust-to-weight ratio of 1.0, and because this would then include the effects of propeller efficiency, which can make an appreciable difference to performance (consider, for example, the Thunderbolt before and after fitting the paddle-bladed prop). Unfortunately, the only maths I have been able to find so far that deals with propeller efficiency is, or produces, useless glurge.

    In WWII, I’m convinced that roll rate is far more important than turn rate, and much of the time, more important than speed or rate of climb, and any of these characteristics are relative to whether you are focused on the attack or defense.

    Indeed. On the basis of combat reputation, I’d say that the P-47, the Fw-190 and the F4U Corsair were aircraft of otherwise fairly undistinguished characteristics (though the Corsair did have a beast of an engine) that had a high rate of roll. Also, it’s easy to see that the effect of turn rate must be severely limited by the onset of GLOC (G-induced Loss Of Consciousness, or “blacking out”). A few calculations of turn rates well within the abilities of WW2 fighters show how quickly G limits are reached, and I suspect that there must have been a lot more blacking-out than one might think from reading accounts of air combat. No surprise if it’s badly under-reported: first, pilots suffering episodes of GLOC are known to fail to recollect them afterwards, and, second, suffering a temporary loss of consciousness in the middle of a dogfight can easily lead to a permanent loss of consciousness through being dead. This is why the possession of G-suits matters. People who enjoy extreme equipment-centric technerdery can try to quantify the effect of seat positioning on onset of GLOC; people who prefer squishy human factors can point out that there is a massive variation between individuals in resistance to blacking-out when squished, and training can help (learn to grunt).

    Battleline/Avalon Hill’s ‘Air Force and its expansion ‘Dauntless’ is the ne plus ultra of the genre. The aircraft characteristic cards are a thing of beauty and genius. Detailed, playable and fun.

    Detailed, certainly. It is however one of the two air wargames in my collection I do not enjoy playing (apart from “Birds of Prey” which I have not yet been brave enough to try, but which makes “Air War” look like a folio game). The other is “Mustangs”, which is so beautifully produced that I desperately want to like it. Unfortunately it has the same designer as “Air Force”, and for some reason — I think it’s the charts — I have never liked any game designed by S Craig Taylor, with the sole exception of “Machiavelli”, which is brilliant, but doesn’t help much with WW2 fighters. “Mustangs” is probably easier than “Air Force” to ransack for performance details, because each aircraft type is rated for looping, rolling, and turning ability, as well as speed, power, gunnery, ceiling, and possession of a bubble canopy. A horrifically complete listing of “Mustangs” ratings for fighters of various kinds is given in “The General”, vol. 30, no.5, available Harry Freeman’s here: https://www.vftt.co.uk/files/AH%20The%20General/The%20General%20Vol%2030%20No%205.pdf

    It might also be worth pointing out the miniatures rules, with the odd title “Air Pirates”, that are derived from “Mustangs”: http://www.warflag.com/mustangs/rules.html

    The ultritude of “Air Force” may have been unplussable circa 1978, but since 1993 I think most air wargamers would acknowledge the superiority of Jim Webster’s “Fighting Wings” series.

    I was rather hoping to post the results of some spreadsheet number-crunching using my own half-arsed version of Boyd’s Ps number, but my MacBook Air seems to have entered a terminal sulk this morning, so I have lost a bit of work, and the numbers are all Wikipedia stuff because my 3-vol set of Mondey’s WW2 aircraft books is hiding from me.

    Expect more drivel from me later.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: How would you rate WWII fighters? #153642
    John D Salt
    Participant

    If you could only use a single number from 1-5 to rate fighters what aspect of the aircraft would you use to rank them.

    Examples of some I have been playing with.
    Performance
    The single number represent speed-maneuverability relatinship, the higher the number means faster, lower numbers means more agile, a rating of 3 represent a balanced fighter. Far from perfect and I’ve found a lot of exceptions.

    I’m not wholly clear what you’re proposing — you use the word “rank”, but the example suggests a categorisation where class 1 has less speed, but more maneouvrability, than class 5. Choosing five categories of fighter (say “Butterfly”, “Dogfighter”, “Hotrod”, “Powerhouse”, and “Heavyweight” (or “Outhouse”)) is much easier, and probably a better reflection of reality, than a monotonic linear scale.

    Assuming that it’s a monotonic scale we want, I’d suggest the factors that dominate fighter performance are, in order of importance:

    1. Pilot quality. Having extensive areas with good weather and no enemy interference for young pilots to be trained in will help.
    2. Power to weight ratio. This directly affects acceleration, but will also tend to be associated with high speed, good rate of climb, and sustained turn performance. Access to 100 octane aviation spirit will help.
    3. Punch. Cannon are better than heavy MGs are better than rifle-calibre MGs, the more weapons the merrier, and so much the better if they can be mounted close to the centreline and not firing through the airscrew. Probably more important is the ability to score hits, which depends largely on gunsights; computing sights are best, twice as good as reflecting sights, and ring-and-bead sights are worst.
    4. Protection. This encompasses both structural strength and armour.
    5. Nimbleness. This includes attained rate of turn and roll rate. Fowler flaps will help, but probably more important are servo-assisted controls and G-suits.
    6. Fenestration. Field of vision is aided by a bubble canopy with minimal framing.

    Note how the Western allies would score well because of the availability of extensive safe training areas in the USA and Canada, US production of 100 octane fuel, and the late-war presence of computing gunsights and G-suits.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Decorative Dinosaurs #153397
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I am fairly sure I will be sticking to that decision (It’s a damn sight easier, too) but are the bright modern Dinsoaur colours ‘right’ ? I am aware that SOME dinosaurs were colourful – but is that ‘assumed’ to be the case for all of the blighters, or is it just The Fashion?

    I think the difference is because when you and I were sproglets, back in the Paleowilsonian Era, dinosaurs weren’t known to have feathers. Since flowers had already invented bright colours for purposes of sexual attraction by the time the dinos came along, I’m sure they could have done the same. Then again, if you want to either sneak up on lunch or avoid being lunch, there’s the question of camouflage, even though we weren’t to borrow the word from the French for a couple of hundred million years. You can always use that to justify dullness, or I suppose dazzle patterns.

    Probably not – as far as I can tell dino nerds and toy soldier nerds are all unreconstructed weirdos, and many probably do both. The only palaeontologist I have known was an obsessive D&D player.

    Hey — any academic discipline that adopts “the thagomizer” from a Gary Larson cartoon is one I want to go drinking with.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: A look at Victrix 12mm WWII #151174
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Temptingly interesting stuff. The very few 1/144 scale figures I’ve seen before (beautiful things from Pegasus Hobbies) were eye-wateringly expensive, and the tank kits (from some Japanese manufacturer, also beautiful) a strangely limited selectin of German things.

    The thing that has driven Mr. Picky to, if not incandescent rage, at least a moderately severe bout of tutting, is Victrix’s claim that their boxes contain sufficient for a company at 1 man:1figure, and yet they only seem to provide eight LMGs.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Game / Battle Reports #151142
    John D Salt
    Participant

    For my Conan style games I did comic book style reports, but they took forever and I am not sure that style suits WFB.

    What do like / dislike in a battle report?

    I usually line up with the folks who don’t like battle reports, but I really liked the comic book format.

    What would you like to see in a Warhammer fantasy report?

    Brevity. Word count no greater than a dozen, say.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Soviet artillery data preparation time #150436
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I hope peeps won’t mind if I briefly resurrect this thread to mention that I have tripped over another arty timing snippet, again of Soviet vintage, in FM-100-2-1. I’ve had an electric copy of FM-100-2-1 for donkey’s years, but my defective memory didn’t recall this snippet, which I discovered using my usual research method of looking for something completely different.

    These are the average artillery fire response times, from fire orders to first splash, taken from FM100-2-1, “The Soviet Army: Operations and Tactics”, Dept of the Army, Washingtom DC, 16 Jul 84, pages 9-16:

    Mortar battery        1 to 1.5 minutes
    Artillery battalion   2 to 3 minutes
    MRL battery                4 minutes
    RAG                        4 minutes
    DAG                        5 minutes
    
    The standard reaction time for shifting fire is 2 minutes.
    

    Looks to me as if things didn’t get much faster between 1934 and 1984.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Casualty rates vs combat experience? #150387
    John D Salt
    Participant

    The Dupuy Institute have a couple of short but data-packed pieces on British (Evett’s tables) and American (Love’s tables) attempts at establishing expected casualty rates in ground operations.

    ‘Evett’s Rates’: British War Office Wastage Tables

    ‘Love’s Tables’: U.S. War Department Casualty Estimation in World War II

    Doubtless the Sovs also established some casualty norms, but I’ve not met them.

    One thing always to bear in mind is that percentages of loss are not distributed evenly about the levels of organisation. If an infantry battalion suffers 10% casualties, that might correspond to more like 20% casualties in the rifle sections, while the parent division might show less than 1% casualties.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Invasion of Germany, 1939? #150280
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I’ve never attempted this sort of thing intentionally.

    Hoever, many years ago, I had something odd happen in a game of Avalon Hill’s “Third Reich” — first edition rules, it wouldn’t be allowed now. A fellow student had been pestering me to play a game, and ignoring my suggestions that we try something simpler, as “Third Reich” is famously unforgiving, and not much fun unless all players have achieved a certain basic level of competence that means they can’t be knocked out of the game in a single turn — one unit one hex out of place is often all it takes. He ignored my advice, and went on pestering, so I gave in, and took him on in a two-player game, with him as the Germans. It wasn’t a very good game; never mind one unit one hex out of place, the man was a dangerous nutter, drove westwards bald-headed from turn 1 leaving inadequate forces to attack Poland. He had no concept of security, hadn’t checked the CRT odds, and had failed to internalise any of the dire warnings about the dangers of a turn flip-flop. On the bright side, it wasn’t a very long game, either. When I had the Polish Army sitting in Berlin in early 1940, he finally took the point about trying something simpler. Steve Jackson’s “Raid on Iran”, I think it was.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Need Help with Mission Types #150138
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Another idea, eminently suitable for solitaire play, and seldom the topic of wargames, would be second-echelon “mopping up” work. The concentration of massed fire have fallen, the armoured spearheads have rolled through, resistance has been broken, and the victorious army has continued on its glorious combat path to plunge a dagger of righteous fury into the enemy’s blah blah wibble.
    Then come the moppers-up, on their own flat feet, from a unit that has been rotated out of the front line after too long at the sharp end. They have been instructed to secure an area; what will they find in it? There might be a small knot of fanatics, determined to fight to the last despite being cut off. But it’s not all that likely. There might be enemy stragglers, alone or in small groups, happy to surrender after token or no resistance. There might be friendly wounded to be recovered. There might be friendly skulkers hoping to dodge the column and make their desertion permanent. There might be civilians emerging from the cellars, surveying the wreckage of their homes; they might need feeding or medical attention. There might be unexploded ordnance, uncleared mines, or booby traps. If the enemy is a real bastard, some of the friendly or enemy wounded might be booby-trapped. There might be chickens in need of liberating, there might be booze, there might be valuable loot. Some of the valuable loot might be booby-trapped. There might be finds of interest to technical intelligence. There might be a box of Panzerfausts the platoon would find useful later on. There might be an abandoned bank, with the doors blown in, papers all over the floor, and a picture of Kilroy with the message “Up Yours, Baby” drawn on the back wall.
    Essentially, it’s dungeons and dragons for the 20th century, with its own set of treasures, traps and wandering monsters.

    in reply to: Need Help with Mission Types #150137
    John D Salt
    Participant

    The prisoner snatch raid is a fun one, but requires rules to cover the effect of surprise on the defenders. Having a few intermediate obstacles to deal with, like a wire obstacle to be crossed, or a trip flare with an MG DF on it, will add to the tension for the attacker, but not so much for the defender, and maybe this is one best played solitaire against a “clockwork mouse” defender who then won’t mind if they don’t get to shoot back until the last couple of turns.

    The reserve demolition/demolition guard is fun, too, and if you want to add complication throw in a reverse passage of lines — not only must you blow the bridge if the baddies get too close, there is a recce patrol out that will be withdrawing over this bridge, and you must see them safely across. Try not to shoot the recce patrol when they approach your position — you’ll need some target acquisition rules that make blue-on-blue possible.

    A situation I like to play is an escort patrol. This would be a platoon task, and attached to the platoon would be a specialist officer from another branch who is conducting a specialist recce mission of some kind. It might be an engineer officer going to assess the banks of a river prior to a tactical bridging task; an armour officer assessing the going along a vital stretch of a planned route; a gunner officer going to conduct a shoot on a particularly annoying target from a hazardously advanced OP; a REME officer going to assess whether an abandoned tank is recoverable; or an intelligence officer attending a prearranged rendezvous with a member of the local resistance who is believed to have information of interest. Some sort of scheme would have to be devised to determine the specialist officer’s preferred course of action, which might not match that of his escort. Again, target acquisition rules will matter a lot, because this sort of mission is best accomplished by stealth, and often conducted at night.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: What You Look Like #150135
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Now that I have discovered the “visual” tab (thanks for the help, Mike and willz) here is a piccy from years ago and La Gleize.

    I am the one with the beard.

    Also in the picture are six other wargamers, four other old boys of Collyers school, and four other Queensmen. Three of us are all three.

    All the best,

    John.

    Dollinger's Koenigstiger at La Gleize

    in reply to: Song of the Onion #149987
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I’m familiar with the song, although I associate it more with the Napoleonic era; but what absolutely splendid coloured moving pictures. Thanks for posting them. You can practically smell the onions.

    It occurs to me that foodie things make a lesser contribution to soldiers’ songs, compared to songs about the girl he left behind him (or indeed other girls; think “Tipperary”, “Goodbye Dolly Gray”, “Sarie Marais”, “Katyusha”, “Lilli Marleen”, “Lore Lore Lore”, “Madelon”). Thinking of “Le Boudin” makes me wonder if the French specialise in denying their yummy cuisine to selected foreigners — no onions for the Austrians, no black pudding for the Belgians, ce sont des tireurs au cul. Other nations seem not to be so keen on their food — I’m thinking of “What do we want with eggs and ham/When we’ve got plum and apple jam?” from “Oh, it’s a lovely war”, and the profane reference to army stew in the largely profane “Puckapunyal”. If “Morgen marschieren wir” is any guide, the Germans prefer a drink.

    Now, how many wargames rules incorporate the idea from “Asterix the Legionary” that the stronger the army, the worse the food? How many wargames rules include food at all?

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: Anyone Making Sand Dunes? If So, HOW? #149758
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Surely the best method would be to take a bunch of dry sand, and sculpt the dune shapes with a leaf-blower?

    For some very small value of “best”.

    All the sand,

    John.

    in reply to: ‘Film set’ style scenery, 28mm #149737
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Clever use of materials, and some very impressive results. I especially care for the palazzo front.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: US Companies not selling to the UK #149629
    John D Salt
    Participant

    “The changes will not apply to consignments of goods containing excise goods”

    Presumably people who prefer to stick to the old scheme, whatever it was, can do so by including a miniature bottle of booze in each consignment.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: War Chess – or, The Game of Battle #148552
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I love the look of the game. I can really imagine a marquetry game board based on the design in the rulebook. I’m not sure I understand the rules though. The first line left me scratching my head:

    “Light Infantry moves one, two, or three squares, at the discretion of the player, directly forward, right or left obliquely, and one or two squares in any other direction”

    Does that mean they can move five squares in total but only three can be forward or obliquely (which I assume means diagonally in a forward direction?) and the other two have to be sideways or backwards?

    I assume that it means what it says. The LI piece moves three squares, not five. The first square must be the square to the front, or to the left or right of the square to the front. The next two can be in any diection, including diagonals.

    By my reckoning this means the LI can reach anywhere in a seven wide by five deep box, centred around the square directly in front if them.

    All the best,

    John.

    in reply to: howitzers long and short – technical question #148299
    John D Salt
    Participant

    As a Kibologist of long standing, I always like to check my facts before posting drivel to the internet.

    Having had a quick flonk around with google, as this isn’t my period, I have concluded that the Russian “gun-howitzers” Jonathan refers to must be edinorogi, “unicorns” in English but usually referred to a “licornes”, which is French (because, hey, it’s Napoleon’s period, isn’t it?) These were designed by Pyotr Ivanovich Shuvalov (1711-1762) in the 1750s; he was also responsible for more outlandish designs such as the grapeshot-firing “secret howitzer” and multi-bore designs, but the edinorog seems to be the most useful and enduring of them. Up to 1805, such pieces were decorated with figures of unicorns (a creature featured in the Shuvalov coat of arms) on the cascabel (knobby bit at the end, “vingrad” in Russian if it comes up) and dolphins (lifting handles).

    According to an article in the Russian edition of Popular Mechanics, and repeated in various other English and Russian sources about the place including Wikipedia, the distinguishing feature of an edinorog was its conical chamber. It is stated that guns had no chamber, the barrel ending either flat or rounded, and howitzers had a cylindrical chamber. The chamber was where the propelling charge was placed, and apparently the short length of howitzers permitted them to be placed in the chamber by hand, the length of the barrel not exceeding the length of a man’s arm. It is claimed (often in suspiciously similar terms) that the conical chamber made it easier to place the propelling charge securely, and that the rate of fire was increased, although how on earth chamber shape can influence rate of fire is something that escapes me. More convincing arguments in favour of the edinorog are that it can fire the full variety of ammunition natures — roundshot, shell, or canister — whereas howitzers cannot fire roundshot and classic guns cannot fire shell. It is also claimed that the more curved trajectory of the edinorog enabled it to conduct overhead fire in situations a gun couldn’t.

    Therefore you either used a full charge in a short tube to pop the shell forward, or a longer barrel with a reduced charge to give it a longer, slower push. The latter should result in a higher muzzle velocity, with more accuracy and a flatter trajectory, at the expense of a heavier piece.

    This isn’t right; howitzers had much smaller propelling charges than guns of comparable calibre, with edinorogi falling somewhere in between. AIUI there is very little designers could do with black powder to control the burn rate other than to control the grain size (which is why artillery powder is corned into large grains, and small-arms powder is much finer). It was not until 1850 that Rodman came up with the idea of using grain shape to control how burn-rate changed, and nitrocellulose propellants appeared about a decade later. Nitrocellulose-based propellants are vastly preferable to black powder for all sorts of reasons, including safety and smokiness, but they also offered much more favourable burn-rates. Black powder cannot take advantage of really long barrels, because it transforms itself into gases so quickly that beyond a fairly short distance the barrel is adding nothing but friction.

    If this is correct, it would explain the appeal of the gun-howitzer, used by the Russians and later adopted by everyone.

    I don’t think everyone adopted the gun-how in response to Shuvalov’s invention, though. The edinorog does not seem to have caught on outside Russia, and when the rest of the world started copying Gribeauval’s systematization of artillery, long-barrelled guns and short-barrelled howitzers seem to have remained the rule for most powers. As far as I can tell, the Russians carried on using edinorogi in place of short-barrelled howitzers. Doubteless somewhere there is an authoritative account in a book by Shirokorad (the Russian equivalent of Ian Hogg).

    The 12-pounder Napoleon of American Civil War fame, of which I recall owning a beautiful model made by Wm. Britain’s, was, I gather, technically a gun-howitzer, but I don’t recall anyone ever calling it that. In any case, by the time of the ACW it represented an obsolescent style of weapon.

    Whether one calls something a gun-howitzer (French “canon-obusier”) or a shell-gun, there seems to me no obvious reason why a gun cannot fire shell, and this idea became widespread in naval warfare in the epoch of the ironclads. This also saw the development of full-length brass cartridge cases, rifled barrels, efficient breech loading, conoidal shells, high explosives, and all sorts of other improvements that led, between 1850 and 1900, to the development of recognisably modern artillery.

    These days the principal distinguishing feature of a howitzer is, disregarding all definitions based on calibre length or ability to fire in the upper register, the use of a charge system. This is such an obviously useful feature that one really is getting the best of both worlds, and practically all current designs of tube artillery are really gun-howitzers, regardless of official designation.

    Napoleonics is not my period, so I expect this is all pretty well-known already to proper Sicilian Ogreheads, but at least now you know the Russian for cascabel.

    All the best,

    John.

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