Saturday, February 24, 2007

Fighter tactics

I'm still flying Pacific Fighters whenever I have the opportunity. I guess I've averaged around an hour a day over the last couple of weeks. It is a very difficult game to master on anything beyond 'basic' level. I haven't even mastered the simple missions I have set up for training purposes.

At present I have flown a selection of missions over the 'Pacific Islands' map. Each mission involves me flying a lone P40E RAAF Kittyhawk against some marauding jap bombers; 'Bettys', 'Vals' and 'Kates'. I generally set the bombers as a pair to come in and am flying out to meet them at about 1500m at scenario start.

Although I haven't set the game to disallow outside-of-cockpit views, I don't use them as a matter of discipline (with the exception of checking to check the extent of damage to my plane). As a consequence, in about 1/3 of my missions I lose the opposition and can't find them again.

In the remaining two thirds of games I generally damage or shoot down at least one of the bombers, sometimes both of them. Despite the fact that my reading tells me that the rear gunners on the Kates and Vals shouldn't be a problem, I find them as destructive as the rear cannon of the Bettys. I must be staying relatively stationary for too long.

Rarely I've shot down both the opposition and survived myself. Twice, without incurring damage.

Once I've upped the odds further, a slow process, I'll start taking on fighters. Once I can consistently knock them out of the sky, I'll be ready for online combat. I think that's still a while away.

At present I am tying together basic control of my plane with the plans necessary to put my guns onto the enemy for long enough to do him serious damage. Thus, situational awareness (not that good, as reflected by fact that I lose opposition about a third of the time) ties together with knowledge of my plane's capabilities relative to opponents, and the skills necessary to co-ordinate tasks so as to combine these elements of knowldege to put me there more often than he can cope with. This is tactics. In the fluid environment of real time air wargre, where the action happens in intense periods lasting no more than three seconds interspersed with maneuvering against a maneuvering enemy, tactics are bloody hard to master.

Just as well I enjoy it!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Painting Philosophy

When painting c20th figures, I have avoided getting too specific with the historically correct paintjobs. The reason is simple. I like to choose my figures so that I can play the widest variety of scenarios possible. Thus, I paint my units so that they 'appear' okay, have a certain level of uniformity, and contain information which is useable in different ways in the scenario.

Thus, for my spanish civil war militia, I have painted them in 'sets' of company sized units. Each 'set' of a certain type (eg. forage cap uniform) is distinct from similar sets, and as a group they are distinguishable from other collections of sets (ie I can make up a battalion of companies that are each distinct from each other, yet all the battalion's units areidentifiable as such). I do this through judicious use of colour selection and coding. Thus, B Company will share the chocolate brown colour with other units of the same battalion but will have it only on their trousers while A Company might only have it on their blouses, and C Company on their helmets. If no other battalion uses chocolate brown in its paintscheme beyond the incidental, the colour identifies the battalion, where it is painted identifies the company. Yet I can call them nationalist, basque, communist or italian for any particular game.

The game is the thing.

It takes a bit of forethought but if properly done allows you to have games set in a large variety of scenarios with at least vaguely correct looking units, without having to paint up more than is needed.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tigers by the Tale

Who hasn't heard of the Tiger tank? Rushed into service in 1942, it saw action on all fronts from the deserts of Africa, the scrub of Tunisia, the snow of the eastern front, the orchards and urbanity of Western Europe. Heavily armoured and equipped with the feared 88mm gun, Tiger tanks could and did shoot it out with whole formations of lighter allied vehicles.

As a kid, when we gamed with 1/72 scale figures and Charles Grant's rules, the Tiger tank always brought a shudder to the opposition on its arrival. Playing 6mm WWII with friends in my twenties, same result. Playing Squad Leader on the board, or East Front II on the computer, same result.

Overly heavy in weight because of its thick armour, overly high profile, underpowered, the vehicle was plagued by breakdown and poor performance in all areas except that which really counted in tactical engagement (firepower and armour protection).

Simon of Iron Mitten wonders what paint job his (presumably Western Europe front) tigers should get. I believe that a basic olive green, with disruptive markings in red brown should do the trick. Late in the war, dark grey also used for disruptive colours. Should it be the same pattern as other vehicles in the collection? A matter of taste in my belief - historically units were painted with what was on issue at the time they got (re)painted. Thus, I'd paint with different but related scheme to (say) the Mk IV company or the Jagdpanzer platoon. Less monotonous to the eye in the long run, allow for easier identification if using a smaller scale.

Hope that helps (another weekend here of 40'C plus)...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pacific Fighter Fun

I've been spending a bit of time with the WWII flightsim 'Pacific Fighter' recently. This is the game that was lost but then was found (in an odd box in an odd place where it rested since we moved six months ago). My goal is to become a competent enough flier to make the most of it when I finally (hopefully) work out how to play realtime online.

At the moment this little project of mine thus proceeds on two fronts, off and on line. Offline, I have put in about 7 hours of actual 'flying time' this past week, videoing as I go. Haven't even progressed to simple dogfights yet, have occupied myself flying Kittyhawks on simple bomb and strafe runs to get the hang of the plane with the full flight model the system uses. Not easy. Love it.

Online, I have downloaded all of the various patches to make sure my copy of this 2004 game is fully up to date, and then tried to locate a server that plays Pacific Fighters. Seems that there are aussie flight communities that play with the next in line game of this 'IL2' series of simulations (IL '46), but that requires a DVD drive which our computer doesn't have. Maybe time to upgrade?

More on it later, time for another bomb run!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Playing Pacific Fighter while we swelter

It hit 42'C again today, hot enough that there's little to do but keep having a quick dip between breaks. In the last 24 hours we've had ten people jump in, all of whom would normally be in for at least a simple game (eg. Pass the Bomb, Guillotine, cards). But it's just been too goddam hot. How much worse will it get if global warming gets away from us, which is what the UN scientists think it has already done?

So I've got some flying hours up on Pacific Fighter, though must say it's still a bit of hit and miss for me. It would be good to join a squadron and fly online sometime. Sadly, neither my pilot nor computer skills are quite up to the challenge yet. So I'll return to all those online flight manuals, get my skills up offline while I work out exactly what I'll need to do to play online.

Ye old miniatures look like they'll have to wait the passing of this other fad before they get the attention they deserve.