Friday, August 31, 2007

Ogame 7 Renaissance 4

In my online Ogame I have risen to Rank 3207, with 1645 points. I have over a thousand players in cohort above me now, and about half that below. Met 14 - Cry 13 - Deut 12 - Sol 17 - Fus 4 - Rob 7 - Ship 5 - Res 7 - Missile silo 3.

I am consolidating on Cruiser level technology and taken a bit of an aggressive turn. I have pounded my system neighbor's fleet and turned his planet into a farmyard for me. He is part of an alliance, but my research leads me to think that they're a bit ameture, so I'm willing to take the chance. I did feel that I'd ruined his day, however, just before my first strike fleet struck.

I have my first colony set up about 50 planetary systems away. It is on a huge planet, which I intend to develop eventually into shipyard with attached mines. Should be massive!

Have had another RL friend, Dave, start up in this universe. Welcome to Ogame, Dave!

In my Renaissance Kingdoms game I have finally accumulated 3 trust points. Of interest, only one of these came from a fellow Newbie, and even he sounds like an interesting dude in RL. The other two points came from one of the original players of the game (great privelege!) and the other from one of the more interactive middle class players of Whithorn (the weaver, actually).

Whithorn has undergone a bit of a bread shortage recently, following the impostion of suggested price ceilings by the newly elected Mayor. Bread seems to be coming on the market at the moment, so things are picking up. A lot of the poor must have thrown themselves on charity of the church to avoid starvation however. I was lucky, I'd a couple extra bread loaves hidden in my hut and so was able to keep on earning by working in the mines.

I get to go up to level 1 shortly, will need to go to the church for a retreat for a couple nights first and then head to the county offices of the chancellor for my title deed to my block of land. What do I want to be when I grow up?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ogame 6 - Poaching Gazeteer

This morning my Ogame stats were as follows: Rank 3679 - 615 points - Cohort above 761 players - Cohort below 368 players - Met 14 - Cry 11 - Deut 11 - Solar 15 - Fusion 4 - Rob 6 - Yard 4 - Res 6.

Having made my leap to the stars, I sent out my probes to nearby planetary systems and started looking for potential threats and juicy targets. I have mapped out about 50 such systems in the form of a 'gazeteer', though only really taking note of either those players in my cohort (ie No more than five times and no less than one fifth my point total, thus being able to attack, and be attacked by, me), and those who are 'inactive' (haven't been online for seven days).

I have noted where active players are (there are maybe a couple dozen nearby who fit the bill). At this stage, this is so that I can best avoid them. If patterns of their play become evident through my broad survey (such as one fellow who is colonising his own and a neighboring planetary system, farming a couple of 'inactives' into the ground), I make a note of that also. My aim here is to have an idea of who is around so that I can advantageously position myself in relation to them, primarily by the art of avoidance.

At present all similarly ranked players in the neighborhood seem to be concentrating upon a less 'aggressive' activity than outright war - the ancient art of 'farming'. In the lexicon of Ogame 'farming' and 'raiding' are two accepted ways of feeding one's empire. 'Farmers' harvest the planets of inactive players around, 'raiders' take out other player's resource colonies (or homeworlds if able). I see 'poaching' as the 'third way' of Ogame foraging, utilising the fact that we in Australia are playing while europe works, means that we can go on anonymous night raids upon inactive planets which are being farmed by others through the day. The trick is to do it only to the extent that they either don't notice at all or they aren't inconvenienced to the extent that they devote resources to catching me.

The tricky thing about doing all of this is that it is pretty labour intensive, even when systemised. It is all very interesting, but map information is dating from the moment in Realtime that you obtain it. My 'map' is really more of a 'scan', because each spy mission to a planet records a different moment in time. Thus the map is more of a 'thinking aid' than an answer to the problems of the poacher, and I rely as much on wit and intuition as I do upon logic and planning.

All this will change as the population of my cohort grows and the reach of my empire expands. I will keep you updated.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Renaissance 3

I have continued my participation in the online world of Renaissance Kingdoms. My character is still clad in loincloth and working in the mines (albeit, did a bit of labour for other players on their farms). I have saved a few pounds and gained a couple reputation points from the trust bestowed upon me by two other more experienced players.

Besides the day to day mundanities of eating and signing up for work, I have sussed out the world around a little. Certainly, since the election for mayor was conclusively decided in the first round (Karelian became mayor), things have become a little more involved, with a minimum wage being instituted, milita recruited and the general argy bargy of political economy kicking off.

Significantly, there is now a Whithorn Forum in operation, where players in the game engage in yet another layer of discourse in their shared creation of a living online experience. Most of what is discussed there, and of what goes on in the town, is way over my head (being a newbie peasant). But I have worked out that there are potential fracture lines throughout (worker/owner, scott/english, Clan Campbell/Clan Stuart, etc). There is also poetry and visual artwork starting to be created.

I think that over time this bucolic universe might become very involved!

Ogame Update 6

As of this morning, I am ranked 3934 with 268 points. My upper and lower cohorts continue to expand (503 and 291 players respectively). The main significance of this statistic (beyond any potential ego factor) lies in the increasing number of players in the cohorts who I can both attack and be attacked by. In the earliest days of my stellar adventure I would have to travel a long way (way beyond my ability) to located a world occupied by an active player who was potentially an opponent (they must be no more than five times or no less than one fifth my point total to fit the bill (as long as I am under 5000 pts)). Thus the scope for interactivity and engagement increases as I progress. And also the risks.

Till now I have been able to ignore potential opponents because our still low point totals mean that we don't really have the capacity for fleet destroying activity. That is beginning to change now, as players above me will certainly have the ability to destroy my fleets, swarm over my defences and plunder my hoarded resources.

I suspect the only way to save my resources is to spend them on-planet (buildings, research). This is because opponents, while they can destroy your fleet and steal your resources, cannot degrade your on-planet development. Thus, they can only hold you down, not kill you.


Building Development: Met 13 - Cry 8 - Deut 8 - Solar 13 - Fusion 3 - Rob 5 - Ship 4 - Res 4. I am not showing my research levels etc nor noting stages of major technological development at this point. That is because, at this time, that would be to potentially give away information to opponents that they wouldn't otherwise be able to get. Eventually I will be able to cover this aspect of the game on this blog because I will be able to safely assume that espionage is being conducted against myself.

Notable moments: Raiding, fleet destruction, arms race. Gazetteer, espionage probes, fusion power mgt.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ogame Update 5

At start of tonight's session I was randked 4198, with 77 points to my name. There are 223 in my 'upper cohort' and 176 in my lower cohort (until I reach 5000pts I can only attack or be attacked by players who's victory points are no less than a fifth, or no more than five times, mine).

My stats are:

Metal 10 - Crystal 8 - Deuterium 7 - Solar 11 - Robotics 4 - Shipyard 3 - Research 2

I have passed a couple of milestones in the game.

Firstly, I launched my first space vehicle (a small freighter) on my first raid. I picked a nearby inactive player whose rank was significantly below mine, and sent my freighter on an 'attack' mission to it. A couple hours, my freighter returned from the undefended planet with a few hundred resource units. Encouraged, I picked a slightly further opponent and repeated the mission. Hours later, my ship returned laden with valuable resources.

Secondly, I have now got a bit of a convoy route going to a couple of planets, to harvest their production. Just to shake things up a bit and keep me a bit unpredictable, I have also built a light fighter which also runs on the routes. It should be able to handle likely opposition if I pick my targets carefully.

Finally, 'Drayzzok' (Robbo in RL) has established contact. I gather he is sending me a 'welcome gift' of valuable resources from his own well stocked reserves. Had a bit of a chat with him while I wait for the loot. It's funny, but I understood 90% of what he had to say about the game. I week ago, 90% of it went over my head.

Must be learning!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ogame update 4

At start of my evening's play on Ogame
Rank 4307 - 41 Points - 267 in cohort above and 48 below
Met 9 - Cry 8 - Deu 7 - Pow 11 - Rob 3 - Shp 2 - Res 2.

Quick MMPORG Update

My two online campaign games were going as follows as of end of day 2:

Ogame: I entered the space age! I launched a solar satellite to supplement my solar power plant. Energy needs are a continuing challenge as my mines and production facilities expand to keep up with demand. I continued my planetary development, the aim being to be able to be in position to build and launch proper space vessels at the end of the following day.

Rank 4388
Points 25
Cohort 164

Metal 9 - Crystal 8 - Deut 5 - Solar 10 - Robotics 2 - Shipyard 2 - Research 2

Renaissance Kingdoms: I took up alternative payment away from the mine, ploughing Tobi Von Helmut's fields for him. The pay rate is the same. Other than that, a meal of bread and veges (increasing my charisma) and a beer, reading a few letters (mainly with directions and encouragement from more senior players), and a building resolve to buy decent clothes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Renaissance 2

In Rennaisance Kingdoms, I continue to work at the mines and buy my food at the market. I was enviously eyeing off a shirt at the market earlier, but it is presently way above my means. I have, however, decided I trust the fellow that sells me bread. I have decided to talk to him about us organising a block peasant vote for the upcoming elections, and then seeing what we can get out the bargaining power that that gives us. IF the candidates hear of my little tilt at subterranean power, at least I'm not 'agin any of them (yet). That should at least save my head. I hope ...

Postscript : I spent far too much money in the pub, talking to a couple friendly helpful citizens. For some reason, I then went and gave yet more money to the church to distribute to the poor. Had interesting chat in the tavern with Rubywax, similar interests in this historical era in RL. Ruby raises sheep for a living and is becoming part of the establishment in the village.

This is an interesting multiverse, there appears to be no combat in it. Although it may also be the type of society I live in and its peripheral nature to the heart of things. At least I have worked out how to go up a level. All have to do is do it.

Oh well, off to the mines we go!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ogame Update 2

I am keeping on with my recent MMPORG games. As with most 'developmental' games, a lot potentially rests upon how the initial period of the game is played out.

In Ogame, I regard the approaching advent of spacetravel from my home world as being an epochal marker. The game 'character' of my little enterprise will be derived from the terms upon which I set forth, the peculiar mix of technologies and developments (themselves a product of my decisions about when to produce/create what). In this way the game mechanic seems to be along the lines of Hearts of Iron and Civillisation (both the Sid Meyer computer game and the Avalon Hill classic boardgame). I suspect the combat will be a ramped up version of that which graced my previous games of Medieval Diplomacy. It will be interesting to see what online interactivity adds to the mix.

It's a pretty inward game for me at present, I don't know enough about things to want to give away my ignorance by engaging with those around. Although at least in the local system of my own world all other players present (each with one or more planets of the system under their control) are so far ranked above me and have so many points, that I am beneath their notice and they can't attack me.

Ogame has a great 'newbie' rule. One can only attack or be attacked by someone who is within five times your own point value. Thus, I have 9 points as I write this. Only those with 45 or less can attack me. There are 150 players who have between 9 and 45 points (there are thousands below). This is my cohort.

Postscript At the end of the night's session I am ranked 4461 and have 17 points. I think my 'cohort' now numbers 161 players who have higher scores. My State of development is as follows:

Metal 7
Crystal 7
Dueterium 5
Solar Plant 8
Robotics Factory 2
Shipyard 1
Research Laboratory 1

Ogame - Day 1

Just for the record's sake, at the end of the first 24 hour period of my Ogame (Universe 31) I have the following buildings at the given level of development:

Metal Mine: 7
Crystal Mine: 4
Dueterium Synthesizer: 3
Solar Plant: 6
Robotics Factory: 1

Rank: 4571
Points: 6

On reflection, the Robotics Factory was probably a mistake this early.

Bored barrister has fun!

Entrepeneur magazine has published this article about a board game store owner. I've known a few stores that sell games to close over the years. This is devestating if they are the ony such store within hundreds of miles (as will often be the case in regional australia).

I also find it amusing that here's a live example of a couple lawyers turning their lives over to the power which traditional gaming still has to entertain. Inspirational!

Again, thanks to Yehuda of Jersualem Games for the Link.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

MMPORG Resources

This post will be another work-in-progress collection of handy links, accessible from the side bar.

edit - Feb 2010

Guild Wars

Guild Wars Portal Official Stuff

Mount & Blade

Mount & Blade download the client and play

O Game

Ogame site - sign up and play
FAQ Beginner index forum page #1 helpful discourses
FAQ Beginner index forum page #2 helpful discourses
Speed Sim combat simulator

Renaissance Kingdoms (RK)

RK site - sign up and play
Whithorn Forum Town news politics gossip and cartoons (seriously!)
Rules Official (pdf file)
LFA's Economics Tutorial Forum post containing handy links
Legal Corpus Constitution and laws of County Galloway and the Town of Withorn
Hypno's Guide Index to the most important game guides on the forums
Map of England and Scotland Baiboe's map from the forum
CBox on MacTavish Blog admin and stuff
Online Image Editor So you don't have to go offline!

Last edited 19 Oct 2007

Blog Index

Beneath is a list of the categories ('tags') I have used to index my blog. Click on the link to display all posts with that tag. This list is a work in progress and will be updated accordingly. I will put a link to this post on my sidebar to the left.

Computer Games
East Front II

Game Sessions

IL 2 Sturmovik
Medieval Diplomacy
My Gaming History

Off Topic

Real Life
Rennaisance Kingdoms

Tribal Nations

Online Campaigns

Having so much enjoyed the online dimension of my favorite WWII flight simulator, IL 46, I have finally dipped into the world of serious MMPORGS (mega multi player organised rampaging gaming scenarios).

I have joined two games, Rennaissance Kingdoms (medieval role play) and Ogame (space empire building). They both allow one to join and play for free, although both offer further advantages to players who contribute real dosh to the moderators. As I don't like paying for anything online (the internet wants to be free!), we'll see how it goes.

In honour of the occassion I have created a new collection of links on the sidebar to the left. I will now have to think a bit about my 'category' tags for my posts as, till now, I have been using 'online' as a tag for my flight sims only.

Ogame: My friend, Robbo, put me onto this game. He has been playing it for many many months now. It is a huge intergalactic strategic empire building game, subdivided into a number of 'universes'. Each universe is a discreet game, composed of thousands of players partaking in the struggle for supremacy. It is run from germany, I think, and has a huge following of german players.

I have just started my tilt at the iridium throne and at am present busy developing the planet Aardv Ark to the point where it can build space ships and reach for the stars. Aardv Aark is a fairly innocious planet, the tenth in System 494 in Universe 31. At present I am juggling the development of Metal and crystal mines, deuterium ('deut') production facilities and solar power plants. The accumulation of resources happens slowly over 'realtime', and one can only build or upgrade one facility at a time.

To build anything but basic production facilities (eg level 1 metal mine, basic research facilities) requires you to have built certain other buildings first. At the moment I don't have to worry about that too much, as the only requirement I have for all buildings of immediate interest is the accumulation of sufficient metal, crystals and deut. So I'm presently operating at a fairly base level of resource production and accumulation. There's a world of scientific advances, space travel, intestellar trade and combat and the intercinine politics of alliances and war to navigate in the future. I'll let you know how it goes.

Rennaissance Kingdoms: I came across this whilst surfing, on my second wave of search results into the shores of realtime reality. I've always been interested in medieval and rennaissance history, and I've been a role play gameer for decades. In my rpgs, I've had a particular intertest in low level adventures and adventurers, and the mundanities of my characters' everyday lives. If you take the 'tour' fromthe homepage I've provided a link for, you can see why it is , therefore that I was drawn to give this particular game a go.

This game originates in france and, although not as big as Ogame, still seems to always have at least several hundred players online at any particualar time. It is a bit more commerically oriented I suspect, but we will see how it goes.

For the moment, I am a loinclothed Scottish lad working for my keep in the mines near the new village of Whithorn in the County of Galloway. The only noteable I have ever seen is a candidate for the village mayorship who always seems to be in the tavern where I go with my uncouth accent to purchase bread. My present goals are to earn enough to stay well fed, become properly clothed, seek absolution and venture forth towards the distant centre of civilisation (I am thinking Edinburgh).

IL46: I have flown about five more sorties in the last two nights (realtime). All have occurred in daylight. All ended in grief as I wheeled once too often for one too many attacking dives against targets against which I'd not cleaned up efficiently on my previous runs. In all of them I sustained too much damage from AA fire to do anything but crash. Only twice did I manage to safely bail out (albeit, into captivity). My next step advance in this game will be psychological, knowing when to say 'enough is enough'.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Genova at Night

General Situation: The front has continued to advance in the allies favour to the west of Palermo, on the south coast of Bay of Naples. The allies have captured Monte Cassino.

My squadron of P38s has moved to the southern airstrip on the island of sicily (?). Its first mission is to locate and destroy reported vehicle concentration to the immediate west of the port city of Genoa. The airfields near Naples are a reserve target, in case for some reason we can't find the first.

Genova: I take off on a solo run a couple hours before midnight (server time, that is, (it's late afternoon in realtime)). The silver light of the moon adds a porcelain sheen to the mediteranean ocean, and there is still a faint mustard coloured glow on the western horizon. The diffusion of gold and silver lights in the cloud layers betwen green mountains is beauftiful.

Laden with a dozen rockets, I climb to altitude of 11000 feet for the crossing of the ocean. I am thus able to see the coast from a long way away, orienting myself by the distant docks of Genova. Descending at first to about 6000 feet, I quarter the area in which was reported the enemy trucks. Not seeing them, I descendto 1000 feet and repeat the exercise. The broken clouds above seem to loom threatingly over the hills and mountains, creating dangerous hazards in the diffuse light caused by the hazy conditions. Wind and rain buffet the plane a bit, together with the everpresent black puffs of AA fire, making my fruitless search moderately hazardous.

I lose my orientation once, and have to sudenly pull out of an unintended dive through blinding clouds, only several hundred feet above a rocky mountain ridge rushing towards me out of the haze. I decide to abandon this target. I gather my bearings and head off towards my secondary target, further round the bay, at an altitude of about 4000 feet.

Naples: Seeing Naples from maybe ten miles away, I swoop over it at about 400 mph, looking for any likely ground targets. Not seeing any in the gloom, I bank up and dive towards where my map tells me an enemy airstrip is. Sure enough, I am greeted by small caliber AA fire as I pull my plane's nose around the last few degrees in its diving flight, pushing well over 400 mph as I peer through my gunsight for the telltale flashes of the AA guns. I see it as a useful duty I can do my allied comrades if I take out AA obstacles to their daylight bombing runs. I get to learn to fly my plane at low altitudes, they get a safer run in on their targets.

In this instance I could see the flashes of maybe four separate AA emplacements, clustered around one end of the airfield complex. As I choose one to be my target I notice that there are quite a few undamaged aircraft sheds nearby, and quite a few camoflaged dispersal bays scattered around. In my brief glimpse away from the AA gun in my sights I don't, however, notice any enemy planes on the ground.

I unleash three pairs of 4.5" rockets, about half a second apart, as I swoop over the target gun. One of the last pair of rockets has a direct hit on the emplacement, destroying it in a bright fireball just as I fly over. I am minorly buffetted by the explosion, but suffer no damage. The other nearby guns are meanwhile pouring fire in my direction. I take several hits in my fuel tanks, causing a leak, but the plane is otherwise untouched.

I fly north for about half a minute, steadying both my plane and my nerves, before looping upwards into a diving attack run on another of the gun emplacements. Selecting my target from a distance, I am again buffetted by nearby AA bursts as I approach at 400mph. Again, I unleash six rockets. This time the middle pair of rockets hit.

I immediately start a climbing course for home, kicking my rudder as I go to make me a harder target. I am uncomfortably near Naples. A lot of shells from heavy AA guns explode around me. I am maybe a couple miles out over the Bay, just starting to think I might be able to get my way home, when one of the larger shells gets lucky.

All of a sudden the plane starts a steep dive towards the left, almost immediately commencing to rapidly spin. I have about a second to check if any of my controls work. They don't. Making a snap decision, I hit the eject button.

Falling out my cockpit I have a glimpse of the damage suffered by my plane, most noticably by my left wing. Half of it is missing. Less than a minute later I watch my plane crash into the ocean beneath.

I float down beneath the silence of my parachute canopy. The guns are quiet. I survive the dip in the ocean and am captured. Total time, about 35 min.

Duel with Heinz

Two missions. Daylight. Clear. High scattered clouds. Flying a P38 'Lightning' with rockets on seek/destroy ground attack missions over Italy.

Morning: Skies to myself. Flew up to about 8000 feet over Bay of Naples on direct route to what is reported as an active enemy airfield a few miles east of Limone. Spot it from far away, enter controlled descent to attack run. Airfield appears pretty well wrecked by previous raids against it by others. I fly towards largest group of enemy plane silhouettes, and unload all twelve rockets over it in one attack run. Do a hammerhead turn nearby, returning with to strafe with cannons as i head south towards home. Throughout, notice several AA explosions in the sky, none of them near enough my looping diving plane to cause any worry. I fly a beeline to Palermo, use that as a IP for final turn into descent towards home base in long approach glide. Land in regulation fashion. Mission over in less than half an hour.

Early Afternoon: After checking the squadron notice board I observe that the enemy is destroying more ground targets than we are. So I decide to fly back to Venosa to try my luck again at finding the alleged vehicular targets in the vicinity. After a fairly thorough but frutitless search of the area, I enter a long climbing turn towards Limone.

As I do so I am sent a report of Enemy bomber heading off from either Naples of Milan, heading South. I know that I won't be able to intercept it before it strikes its target, but I might be able to catch it on its return journey if I am canny. I set up a patrol across what I believe will be its return route, flying large circles around an island out of AA range of Naples, covering the seaward approaches of the bomber to its base.

Within five minutes my plan pays off. In the distance I can just make out the black speck of the enemy plane as it returns from its mission. I am flying at maybe 6000 feet (above clouds), roughly level with the enemy. As he approaches, I climb and fly on a course that will bring me onto his tail. I come in from a highish angle, opening fire at a couple hundred metres. Streams of tracer pour out of his tail gun. One of his shells causes a minor fuel leak in my plane. I don't think I hit him.

He continues towards his base. I loop around and try again, braving the fire of his tail gunner. This causes me some more structural damage. Angered at this, I unleash six rockets in his direction, again from about 200-300 metres. They all miss. Taking hits all the time, I close on his rear, pouring MG and cannon fire into his right wing area. And see debris fly off but no smoke. I loop around for another attack run, noting that my fuel leak has grown worse. I am now pouring out a trail of fuel vapour, making me easily visible against the white clouds. I note he is diving away for cloud cover, so I pursue.

Spotting him a couple kilometres away and a thousand feet below, I try for a boom and zoom attack, diving beneath him and pulling up into his belly. Realising what I am upto, the German pilot slips down and into my turn, as I pull up beneath, exposing me to another of his gunners. More hits in my fuel tanks. Some minor damage to him.

I am considering whether to call it quits at this time and head for home while I still have some fuel and altitude (I am still 50 miles over enemy territory) when my plane decides for me. My right engine starts making terrible grating noises. I decide to try and get home.

I peel off from my present attack run and set course for home. Curious, I look behind. There in the distance is my friend Heinz, following me from a safe distance. I am wondering why he doesn't either attack me or fly home when my right engine gives up entirely. I am now flying on one engine.

Throttling down, I take my bearings on the coast and divide my concentration between making an approach run for home and where Heinz is. He seems to be content hovering a few hundred feet above, about half a mile behind. So, nursing my sole straining engine, I enter approach run towards runway.

I have committed myself for a landing and am only a couple dozen feet off the ground when I hear Heinz fly directly over me. Looking up, I watch him pull up his nose so that his tail gunner can hose me with fire. In dodging out from his bullets I lose my alignment with the ground and am forced to retract my undercarriage and pour on the throttle. Thinking 'bugger it,' I start climbing towards his own lumbering machine.

Sadly, I forgot that I had slowed right down to land, and thus find my airspeed less than is needed. Stalling my plane at only a couple hundred feet above the ground, I lose control and crash my machine with fatal results. It is cold comfort that Heinz crashes a couple minutes later, victim of a late arriving spitfire. This mission took about an hour to fly.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Remember Zork? Then look at this!

Zork was one of the first computer 'adventure games'. It was text based, with simple geometric graphics of landscape (if my memory serves me right, though that might have been another game called 'Adventure'). It was played on the old green screen CRT. A combination of mapping issues, tricks, puzzles, riddles and such like problems, it was great fun and highly addictive.

It looks like it has generated a minor academic history (as I guess does the early days of personal computing generally). Here, for example, is a recent accademic paper on it. It's a guide to caves upon which the game's map was based. I haven't read it all, but the pictures are amazing!

Thanks to Yehuda for the link.

Lightning tour - Venosa and Limone (long post)

I flew only one long sortie tonight, about an hour and a half in a P38 lightning, loaded up with a dozen wing mounted rockets. Server time was early arvo, bright sun but hazy and turbulent beneath the scattered clouds at 1500 m. There were no other pilots online over Italy.

I took off from my squadron's base at Tripadi. The spitfires formerly also based here have moved North to near Mesina, a small coastal village twenty miles to the east of Palermo harbour. The front line has moved since last I flew over Italy. Then, there had been german fighters based at Mesina. I suspect they are now based near Limone. This is the Dynamic Campaign Generator at work.

Venosa: Having visited recent pilot logs (available on server) I knew that the red team (allies) hadn't hit many ground targets on the current map. So I obtained a list of target locations and flew towards the nearest - reported transport assets near the village of Venosa, a few miles inland of the the Bay of Naples' most easterly coast.

I used roads, railways and the occasional village to check on my navigation. Took awhile, the patchwork of fields beneath often serving to conceal the landmarks I was looking for. Eventually I located the target area, in a pass between coastal range and the high barren mountains which form Italy's spine.

Circling in at about 1800 feet, I knew there was opposition because there was the occasional burst of heavy AA guns nearby. I, however, couldn't see either the gun(s) or what it/they were protecting. Beneath me was a gentle rural scene, with a small village (Venosa) and many fields. I had about a 10 sqare mile area in which the target was supposedly located. I quartered the valley looking for my prey. To no avail.

On about my third pass over the village, nestled into the western slopes of the coastal range, I spotted what I thought looked like an 88mm AA gun set up near what looked like a school. I loosed off two pairs of rockets from under my wings on my fourth pass. Missing the gun, I rubbled the buildings to either side. Shame,' I thought to myself, and immediately began calculating my next attack run. I realised then how 'disconnected' an act is that of bombing from the air. On my fifth pass I destroyed the gun.

By this time, there was a growing amount of AA bursts and tracer filling the sky around. I made one more diving pass, failing again to spot any targets despite their firing at me. This area was too hot for me now, so I left. Maybe I'll return some day. Waving farewell to Venosa, I flew towards the bay to my west.

Limone: Following the coastline at maybe 2000 feet, its sandy beaches curving towards the Northwest, I observed the occasional village or river mouth pass beneath. Checking these against my map, I eventually turned out over the bay to prepare for an attack run on the port city of Limone.

I still had half my load of rockets. As a secondary target, if necessary, I knew there was a german airstrip to the north of the city. I suspected that Limones might be heavily defended, so I didn't plan to tarry as long as I had over Venosa.

I came in over the ocean at something around 350 mph at 500 feet, finding it relatively easy to study the harbour facilities and look for likely targets. I couldn't see any ships in harbour. Before long, the odd black burst of AA exploded nearby. I watched them impassively, clinically realising that if one hit me that would be my end, and even a close miss would probably irretrievably damage my plane, miles over hostile territory.

I sighted the flash of one of the heavy AA guns by its muzzle flash. It was almost at harbour edge. It looked like its landward aspect was concealed by the large industrial complex behind it.

I sent four rockets into the industrial backdrop, causing a satisfying explosion as I swooped over the still firing gun at high speed. Rubble from the factory was still in the air around as I jinked my plane (to make me a difficult shot to the AA) towards the secondary target.

A couple minutes later I swooped low over the airfield, identifying no assets worth my final rocket munitions. The field appeared abandoned. So I gained a bit of altiuted in a climbing turn back towards Limone. I reached about 2000 feet as I brought my nose onto a bearing towards the 88mm at the distant wharf.

I dived in at high speed, loosing my rockets whilst still at a 45 degree angle to target. I had a clear shot because the factory was no longer shielding the gun from this landward direction. I was bang on target, and was already pouring on the the power in a steep turning climb to get me away from the harbour and on course for home when my rockets destroyed the gun and all around.

I noted that my plane had been more stable aerodynamically at high speed close to sea level than it had been thousands of feet up. But that accords with what I know of compressibility, as the speed of sound is greater at sea level than at altitude (due the greater density of air). Big tick to the Flight Model of IL46.

The return journey over the sea was uneventful. I crossed the south coast of the bay to the west of Palermo, where I had planned, and was able to come in for a three point landing on my initial approach. I switched my engines off about an hour and a half after I'd turned them on.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Over Italy with an Italian

My Polish squadron having transferred from Scotland to Traperi in Southern Italy, I have been enjoying the sunny climes of the mediterranean skies recently. Tonight I flew a P38 lightning, and several spitfires. Not a lot of success with either.

Lightnings are difficult planes to fly. They are also, in their own way, a pleasure. These are the allied heavy fighters which had a twin engine setup, with the pilot inbetween in a fusealge which rests upon the single big wing. There is a twin tail type configuration also. Perhaps I need to get a photo of it? Anyway...

I've been reading a book about the history of this type of plane. It speaks of an early problem which earned it the reputation of being a 'pilot killer'. The problem is called compressibility, and it occurs in very high speed dives. Apparently, some of the air flowing over the flight surfaces cracks the sound barrier (though the plane never does), creating situation where airflow over the wings alters in its characteristics with a consequent almost total loss of lift. Thus the plane goes down. At same time, the consequent effect of the altered airflow over wings leads to almost total loss of tailplane (elevator). Thus one can't pull out of the dive.

I'd wondered whether compressibility was simulated in IL 46. I learnt that it is. Long steep dive into a vertical meeting with the ground was the result. At least there was Adzel in the air nearby in a Machi fighter to get a laugh out of it.

Flight two and three were in spitfires. Adzel shot out my controls on the second mission. I was able to bail out just before my left wing broke off. I watched the wreckage plummet to the earth beneath.

Flight three was an attempted tutorial with Adzel in a spit also, him trying to get me to fly formation. No chance, I'm only just getting to the stage where I can learn basic maneuvers, and probably need to put a bit of effort into learning to see the skies around a lot better. I seem to be losing other planes visually too often for comfort. I put the plane into a pancake landing before exiting.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Farewell Norway

I flew three flights over Norwegian seas yesterday afternoon. 'Taj' (Tajfl, actually, but I just call him 'Taj') from Slovenia was airborne in a german fighter. So I had some real opposition as I flew my beaufighter in from the sunset and declining light of dusk towards whatever naval targets were available. Realising my crate would be no match for Taj's FW190, I resolved to keep my eyes peeled for him and try and stay invisible.

Sunset: I took off in the last fiery rays of the sun, setting over the Scottish landmass. I headed into hotile waters at under 200 feet in clear skies, hoping to not reveal my plane to any enemy on high flying patrol. I also flew on a course a bit south of the direct path. As I approached the Norwegian coast I caught sight of my opponent far far away and several thousand feet above, to my North. He didn't seem to react to me at all. Splitting my attention between the sea while I looked for targets and the sky while I watched Taj fly away, I began to turn towards the north so I could follow the coast. Almost straight away I saw a freighter in the distance. Using trim controls, I maneuvered into an attack run at about 100 feet, all the time looking to my West as Taj vanished into the fiery bloom of sunset.

I dropped the torpedo from a long way away, and was had flown in a long curve north and west before it struck the target. I was nowhere near it, and racing for home on a path to the North of the direct route. Before I reached base, I learnt that Taj had been shot down by naval AA fire. My landing was regulation in its perfection.

Dusk: Confident in my invisibility I tried to repeat my previous mission. The air was full of the red light of sunset. Beautiful. As the Norwegian coastline came into view, I still hadn't spotted Taj. I thought nothing of it. Near where I'd spotted the tanker I came under fire from a motorboat. Circling back towards it I felt some of its shells striking home. More than I'd hoped for. To this day, I don't know if there was another boat in the vicinity or not.

Anyway, I muffed my torpedo run. As I came out of my tight turn to come onto the boat I was approaching from the wrong angle, and my wings were still banked as the ship rushed towards me. Hurriedly I dropped the torpedo, knowing as I did so that I was too fast, too close, too high, too banked to have any chance of hitting him. Not wanting to tarry, knowing that the AA fire would be visible for many miles and draw Taj in his FW 190 like a moth to a flame, I skedaddled for home.

Before long, I realised I had a problem. Although both engines were ticking over nicely I was only managing to go slightly quicker than stall speed, with a huge yaw to the right which kept making the plane wanting to point its nose groundwards in that direction. I was spending most of my concentration on trying to keep plane in the air and flying towards home. I suspect I'd lost most of my tail and possible the rear bits of at least one wing. Not good when you're flying alone over the North Sea with a hostile fighter in the area.

Sure enough, in sight of the green lands of Scotland, I heard the sound of several shells striking my plane from behind. I heard five 'clunks'. Then his shells found my cockpit and the world turned black.

Evening: I can't recall much of this flight. It didn't last long. I flew a Mustang (single seater long range fighter) in the growing dusk towards the target area with a couple of medium sized bombs beneath me, but don't think I'd crossed the front line, when Taj warned me that he was behind me with some bullets flying past my left wing. I immediately dropped my bombs (they slow you down significantly) and threw my plane into gyrations trying to get back over friendly fleet AA guns.

No luck. Taj locked onto my rear and took out my engine. Stranded, I started a long glide towards friendly lines (I had gained a lot of altitude during the chase). Taj was having nothing of this tactic, and put a few more shells into my plane. I had no choice but to bail out, and watched my plane tilt at an increasing angle into a nasty crash in the ocean. Taj waggled his wings on his return journey past me in midair. My pilot was captured.

I did not know it then, but this was my final flight over Norway for forseeable future. The squadron has moved to Southern Italy to participate in the next campaign on the Norwegian Server.

Tale of the bung VDU

I have been out of action with the computer I use for blogging (and gaming [gulp]) for about 24 hr because the widescreen monitor crapped out on us and it took about that long to get replacement in place. Needless to say, no retailer selling faulty merchandise stood much of a chance against the 'Lead Negotiator'.

It's a minorly interesting tale in itself, that of the bung vdu.

I had finally managed to have about three hours free with no likelihood of interuption on sunday evening. I sat down and got onto hyperlobby before chosing my poison. The screen seemed to ratchet up in brightness. I didn't think anything of it. Then it did it again. About a minute later it went blank. Not good.

Like the well trained geek-illiterati--but-knows-it that I am, I checked all the connections, checked with other users of the machine whether they'd changed settings or had any anomalies. They hadn't, and all the connections were okay. Puzzled I switched screen off, then on again. Clear picture - no problems. My eyes no doubt gleamed with the light of hope.

Alas! About two minutes later, the brighten, brighten, blank out phenomena repeated itself. This time I go to our older computer, access the manual etc on the disk that came with the vdu. No answers there. I check forums online. No luck there. I'm not impressed.

I switch the monitor off and on again. Again, the screen goes active for a couple minutes. Goes blank. Hope begins to sink. I idly sit there switching things off and on again, booting and rebooting, disconnecting and connecting, until all hope is dead.

Now is time to see whether problem is with screen or computer. Maybe it's the legendary 'driver' that all geeks refer to when things break down. I put the suspect vdu onto our older computer. The screen goes blank. It is definitely the screen which is the cause of my sadness.

Now we have had it replaced. The resident geek where I work (like, manage computer systems of hundreds of users across the state type geek) was highly puzzled. As were those at the store where we bought the screen (some 'computer wharehouse/recycle store' near corner Payneham Rd and Steven Tce, if you know Adelaide). To their credit, they replaced it with another. I note that this screen, while having same model number, had different but similar packaging, user booklet, chords. Wonder why?

Anyway, I'm happier now.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Puerto Rico and Billionaire

Tonight we had a bit of a gaming session. Started with eight player Billionaire. Then five player Puerto Rico.

Billionaire, as always, was a noisy and fun game, with lots of minor subplots as people traded pairs back and forth and tried to keep track of the taxman. Wayne was pretty chuffed to have an eight player game.

Nancy won, followed by Paul, Wayne and Jess (tied for third), Me, Jarrod, Shaun and Marko.

Paul, Marko, Wayne, Shaun and myself then played a game of Puerto Rico. This was the first time we've played this five players, and the first time Wayne and Shaun had played it. They both picked up the mechanics pretty quick. The Game took a bit over two hours, ending when victory point counters and colonisists both ran out on the same turn.

Shaun won with 64 points, having chased the money early and had the coffee market to himself for awhile. I came a narrow second (62), having used a customs house to magnify the VP bonus I'd derived from moderate but constant volumes of produce going through my harbour for almost the entire game. Paul and Marko came next (50 and 49 respectively), with Wayne (36) bringing up the rear in an honourable late recovery following about three turns where nothing went his way.

Good clean fun game, but might have to try something else next time to let the lessons settle in.


Billionaire is a simple card game characterised by much shouting and bidding and trading of sets of cards as players race ahead in a mad free for all to complete a card set of one of the market 'suits'. The player who manages to do this first in a hand will have managed to collect in their hand either a full and complete set of one of the commodity suits (filling their whole hand), or possibly the 'Billionaire' card instead of one of the cards of the suit.

Besides the suit cards, the deck contains two cards that are 'wild' in trading, the Billionaire and the taxman. In each hand, one player will end up with the Billionaire card in their hand. If they were the players to 'go out', it doubles their score for that hand. If they are stuck with it in their hand when another goes out, they are penalised. Similarly, there is a 'taxman' card, and whoever ends up with it in their hand at the end of a hand is penalised.

The player who 'goes out' in a hand scores the value of the suit they collected, (doubled if they have billionaire card). Those who hold the Taxman (and Bllionaire, if someone other than the person who 'went out' has it in their hand) are penalised. Scores are recorded. The next hand is dealt. This continues until someone reaches the score agreed on to be the winning score (a billion, obviously, if you have time, less if you don't). That person wins.

The heart of the game is its trading session. The idea is that a person swaps one or more cards with another. They announce how many cards are in the set they are offering to trade by calling (shouting) out the number. Another player may match this number of cards, and the sets are then exchanged. Taxman and Billionaire get passed around as wild cards as players choose. This continues until someone goes out by shouting "Billionaire!"

A noisy and interactive card game that has lots of non hostile shouting. At about $10 AU, good to have around. Also, we've played it with upto 8 players which is pretty handy at times (took aobut an hour and a half with eight players upto 200,000,000).

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Xenophon was one of the first historians. He was also a soldier. He marched in the invasion of Persia by the 10000. This is he.

I found this picture on Wikipedia. I am uploading it as my 'avatar' on various forums where I'm known by my flight name, 'Xenophonic'.

Not that I chose the name because of the man. It was an invented word when I came up with it. But I'm getting sick of people thinking its some cute variation of 'zenophobic'.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

5 flights 4 strikes 3 landings 2 tankers 1 mboat

I flew for about three hours tonight (realtime). Almost the whole time I was accompanied online over the North Sea by 'Wolf', a far more experienced pilot than myself. He lives on the East Coast. Flight time started about midnight (server time) and I disconnected when the first solid glow is visible in the East. Weather again is fine (although Wolf reported fog over the the Northern part of the map around Gossen).

Mission 1: Flew at 10000 feet in semi-formation with Wolf, he bombed and we both returned to base (myself via a pancake landing).

Mission 2: Torpedo flight to strike targets due East about 50 miles. Wolf followed me in at low altidtude to enemy motor boat. I was at wave top height when AA bursted around me, flipping my plane around in sky too much for me to control and I crashed in the sea. Wolf continued the attack, sunk the boat and returned to base.

Mission 3: Torpedo flight, Wolf following, over tankers to East of Oygarden. He peeled off behind me as I entered attack run at about 200 feet, and we struck neighboring ships. We kept up our low altitude run, sweeping onto a course over Herdla field which we strafed with our cannons. We made three passes. I didn't hit anything. The AA fire I drew, however, got me and I crashed in the bay with fatal results.

Mission 4: Lone torpedo flight towards Oygarden whilst Wolf flew north towards Gossen on a bombing raid. I braved some AA to home in on a lone Motor boat protecting the seaward entrance to the inner sea channel near Herdla. Dropping torpedo from about half a mile, the ship had blown up by the time I had set course for base.

I carefully listened to the reports Wolf was sending from Gossen. Heavy and high AA, submarines on direct bearing between our base and the target, very big german warship in bay on Norwegian East coast.

Mission 5: I set off with torpedo to hunt reported subs on bearing of 35'. I don't find any, so head east at 300 feet until I hit the main enemy island chain and then head towards where the enemy battleship was reported. I don't find any battleship, but do spot a tanker to the North East in the large bay to Gossen's South. With all the time in the world, I excute a long sweeping curve to release torpedo a couple hundred metres from target, and then sweep on up and over it and to home.

At different times during the evening there were various other pilots up in german planes. Not too many of these pilots were able to cope with the combination of full real and night time. Natal was up for about an hour in a FW 190, raiding our field at Peterhead. I never saw him, however. Phew!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Predawn Duty

Flew two online sorties before dawn (server time) in beaufighter. No other pilots share the skies with me (the flightsim world generally appears a bit quiet tonight).Usual drill: try to find and torpedo enemy shipping close into the Norwegian Coast from my base in North Scotland, and return without being shot down by enemy AA fire. As usual, weather was fine and predawn light quite sufficient for flying 400 feet over the ocean at 280 mph by compass bearing.

Sortie 1: light is still relatively dim, although brightening as flight continues. I think I'll get one more flight in before the fog closes in around the airfields. Turning my mind to the task at hand, I locate the southern end of Norway's seaward island chain. About 10 miles to its west lies an enemy tanker. It appears to be on its own. I take advantage of the fact, sweeping around in a long descending circle, using this as a chance to recce the nearby southern entrance to the channel which forms Norway's inner sea. I see no other targets there, so return concentration to my target tanker as my turning flight brings it onto my forward horizon.

I am flying about 100 feet above ocean now and the plane feels as steady as a rock, both engines humming nicely. I throttle up to maximum as I release my torpedo from probably 3 or 4 miles' range. This is a long shot! I enter a slow spiralling climb, watching the wake of my torpedo over my right wing. Eventually I see it get close to the tanker. I am about 2000 feet above when I realise that it looks very much like missing the bow of the ship by bare yards. Gritting my teeth, I continue my circling, willing the torpedo to not miss. It doesn't. The tanker explodes with a satisfying bloom of flame. I turn for home. Less than half an hour after I departed I return, bringing my crate home in a safe but spectacular pancake landing.

Sortie 2: This time I fly due east towards Norway. The sun is getting close to rising in the middle of the bright horizon ahead. The clouds are taking on a slight pinkish tinge as I cross into enemy waters at about 500 feet altitude. I know from past experience I will need to be fairly quick or I will have to land in the fog which will soon be rising. Dropping closer to the ocean, I search for a target.

Out of the corner of my eye as I examine the seas over my right wing I spot an enemy boat. I can't identify its type, but can see the bright orange streams of its tracer bullets heading towards me. I am end-on to the ship. I throttle up, and begin slowly weaving up and down as I enter a circling path that should lead me onto the target for a torpedo run at a reasonable range, without giving him any clean shots.

Half way through the maneuver, however, I spot an easier target. Freighter, dead ahead! Range, under a mile! I drop the nose of my plane, level out at about 100 feet, dropping the torpedo from a couple hundred yards. Dead meat, the ship explodes seconds after I have passed over it. Staying low, I make a beeline for home trying to beat the fog.

I sweep in over the Scottish coast at about 600 feet, complete a half circuit of the airfield to calm my nerves, and make a regulation landing after dropping out of a gentle curve under full flaps onto the centre of the runway.

I call it night. Both because of the time in realworld (have to work tomorrow morn) and on the server (fog will be rising).

Monday, August 06, 2007

The waters off Oygarden

I flew three missions tonight (local time). On Norwegian server my first flight occurred at night, my second just as the predawn glow begins to dominate the Eastern horizon, and the third occurred just as the the light level began noticeably improving, clouds started turning rose coloured, and I could switch off my cockpit lights.

There was always at least one german plane flying while I was in the air. At one point there were six pilots, four germans (FW 190 (fighter), He 111 (bomber) and two Me 110s (heavy night fighter)) and two allied (beaufighters). At no stage did I see any other fighter, though I heard them take off from my dispersal area and saw the explosion as one of them crashed. Certainly changed the dynamic of the game though!

Sortie 1: I head ESE to check out the extremity of the island chain. I fly at about 700 feet above the ocean, eyes peeled to the likely route of enemy aircraft to my North. Eventually I wheel up into the channel between the outer islands and the coast proper, and immediately spot a missile boat. I have dropped into my approach runbefore he starts to fire at me. My torpedo has thudded home and I am pulling up and away back to the Northwest before any of his bullets strike. I feel smug as I pull out of effective range before he is blown up by the torpedo.

I shouldn't have smiled, because I was immediately flying through a constant flak barrage for the next several minutes. I threw the plane around the sky a bit to avoid the worst of it, but still emerged at about 1000 feet without any rudder. Could be worse. I fly home, but find it difficult in the dark to properly locate myself for the perfect approach run that would be required to land safely without rudder. I am close, but not close enough, and flip my plane on landing into a nasty burning wreck.

Sortie 2: This time I strike at the Northern end of Oygarden Island, roughly 60 miles ENE of my airfield at Peterhead. This time I enter enemy territory at about 600 feet, and drop down to 400 on trim controls as I start searching for prey. From a distance of several miles I spot a tanker in the bay I had been attacking last night. I swoop in unnoticed, and am able to confidently drop my torpedo from a distance of a couple of miles. I sweep back out over the ocean in a level bank and am long gone when the exploding ship lights up the predawn darkness with an early orange sunrise. I again take a slight deviation for my trip home at under 500 feet so that I'm not entirely predictable to any FW 190s that might be drawn to the recent explosion in an attempt to get me. I make a regulation landing on my field.

Sortie 3: The sky is as bright as it's going to be for several hours. From past experience I know that this is likely to be the last sortie before the fog rises and makes flying too dangerous. There are also four german planes in the air somewhere, so it is going to be quite a challenge to get in under their noses and wipe out another of their ships. I take heart, however, that my low level flying seemed to make me pretty invisible to flak as long as I didn't fly right over it.

This time I head out to the North East, turning out at sea to sweep into the bay (at the mouth of which I'd got my tanker) from the North, crossing Oygarden Island at only a couple hundred feet above its fields and villages. I rely upon my speed to protect me, but spot nothing of interest on the island nor, for several minutes, in the waters to either side of the island chain. Eventually I notice a fishing vessel in the channel to my left, and wheel in and take it out with my torpedo. I think briefly of using my cannons and continuing on to find a juicier target for my torpedo. I reject the idea upon consdering the beacon effect my cannon fire would have upon any enemy fighters that might be in the area (I am flying offshore of Herdla airfield at this point). So, I loose my torpedo and wheel around for home long before anyone has noticed my presence. The fishing boat blows up several minutes after my departure. I am not shot at at all for the whole trip.

For some reason I don't understand I fudged the landing, found myself bouncing almost out of control towards a line of parked planes. Not wanting to destroy them with my crashing wreck, I force my bouncing plane in the other direction. I snap my undercarriage, and slide out of control into a parked truck. We catch fire, and the plane explodes before I can scramble out.

The Strategic Dimension

Norwegian Server's Norwegian map has renewed itself, with a new set of targets and defences. Each 'map' seems to stay online for about 60 hours before renewing itself, the set up on the new map being partly influenced by player actions on the old. To affect the ground war, and hence the front line, becomes a strategic goal of one's air actions. Bombers (including torpedo bombers) take on their historical war winning role.

Fighter aircraft too find their role being expanded to cover more of the historical 'types' of aerial warfare than the traditional dogfight map allows for. Interdiction, air defence, denial of territory, ground attack, combat air patrol, intrusion, recce, sweep - all of these types of sortie become relevant in game terms, no longer relying upon the good will of players and their willing suspension of disbelief - a pre-requirement for many single scenarios to 'work'.

This is one of the reasons I like campaigns so much, I enjoy the strategic dimension.

The downside (if you can call it that) is that a lot of players want a 'quick fix' and thus head to the popular dogfight channels in preference to the long navigational flights, counterpoised with brief moments of surprised terroror, which is typical of the campaign experience.

In my mind, the time invested to derive the benefit is well worth the payoff in terms of enjoyment.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Towards a Political Economy of Gaming

This blog post from RS Dancy on the Web is an analysis of the gaming industry as viewed by that author at the start of this year. It makes for interesting reading, as do the comments which follow it. I'd have to think a bit about the subject before putting myself forward to say much on the topic.

Thanks, Yehuda (of Jerusalem Games), for the link.

Dawn scurry

Flew two beafighter missions in the immediate pre-dawn air over North Sea. Took off on similar bearing to previous flight, aiming to sweep across one of the main approach routes up the Fjord system to Herdla and try and clear any picket subs or patrol boats from the area.

Sortie 1: Air clear and crisp, visibility good. Fog not yet risen. Navigate off compass and map for 20 min, including dogleg section and descent to 1000 feet as I enter target area from the North. Targets should be well lit and the sun not directly in my eyes. Soon, I am engaged with what appears to be a sub beneath me, its AA clustering around me but failing to hit. I am a bit rattled, never the less, and muff the approach run. I can't even remember the release of the torpedo, but know it missed.

As I swept up and away out of the danger zone I am braced by AA hits, losing my right engine and feeling as though there's been some damage to the tail. I limp back towards base, relying on my one engine and the heavy use of all control surfaces to make up for my damage. My speed and altitude both slowly decline, and the challenge is on. My plane keeps wanting to veer off to the right, which makes it a constant struggle to keep any kind of bearing. Eventually, at half the speed and altitude I had had upon departure, I limp back to my base. At low altitude and with flaps the irregularities in the planes control surfaces magnifies itself. Sadly, I only work this out virtually as my wheels touch the ground. Struggle as I might to hold down the front down I can't and I am bouncing out of control down the runway. I dimly realise that this isn't my home field, a neighboring one, as my plane spins out of control across the ground, eventually coming to rest upright in the centre of the field.

Sortie 2: There is just the faintest trace of whisps of low level cloud beginning to form as I repeat my course for a final attempt to clear the seaward approach to Herdla before the fog comes in and makes low altitude flying too dangerous. Without incident I locate my previous antagonist, which I this time positively identify as another U-Boat. Failing to line it up properly the first time I see it, I fly a circuit, dropping in height at the same time as his gunners close in on me. Panicking at the last moments of my perilous corkscrew descent to attack run, I drop the torpedo too soon.

Pissed off, I see it flash harmlessly past the submarine's bow as I dive in on the boat with my cannons. I make a total of three cannon runs, and see lots of strikes. At the same time, I am aware that I am losing fuel out of my right wing, and that the fog is noticeably thickening around me. It will be worse by the time I get home. So, reluctuantly, I leave the sub behind and return to base, leaving a trail of smoke behind.

The fog thickens as I approach home, crossing the coast about 5 miles north and at 700 feet (necessary, because of the fog's increasing affect upon visibility). I circle into an immediate approach run. Perhaps a trifle steep, I manage to land safely on runway 1. My engine is smoking heavily as I taxi to a halt, waving my fist and cursing the wily sub commander who now has his chance to vanish in the morning mist.

Coastline at Mignight (long post)

I have just flown three online torpedo missions over Norwegian Sea. It is mid afternoon local time, midnight on the server. Thus all three flights took place in the dark of night. The moon rose over the period of the three sorties.

Thanks to Wandalen's Dynamic Campaign Generator (DCG), the flights I make on Norwegian server form part of a larger picture, with the results of any particular mission having an effect on what is there for the remainder of the time for which that particular 'map' is up on the server. I haven't yet found the DCG on any other server. The best one can usually hope for on a well managed server are well designed time limited scenarios (which are enjoyable for their own sake, but which also foreshorten , to my mind, the strategic dimension of game playing). Anyone who knows me well knows I like a good campaign!

My slow campaign against german shipping is reducing the number of available targets in future missions, as well as disabling the irritating naval AA screen of fire of german warships (which both poses a direct threat, as well as providing a visual early warning beacon (when they fire tracer, it can be seen for miles) against incoming raiders for any german fighter looking for some action).

What I'm actually trying to do (besides sink shipping for the sake of it) is clear a passage through to the coastal and esturine facilities for the daylight bombers which will no doubt be flying later in the day on the server. Hopefully they'll be better able to make successful raids against Herdla airfield and the associated harbour facility.

Anyay, back to my sorties...

Before Midnight: I took off from Peterhead airbase at about 11:30 pm, intending to sweep the southern seaward side of the Norwegian Island chain. I cruise in at around 2000 feet, dropping down to 1500 feet as I take a long curving turn to end up flying North, parallel to the island chain several miles off my right wing. I can see the glow of moonrise to the East over my right wing, the reflection on the sea beneath lighting up my view consdierably in that direction. As that's where I expect to see any shipping, that's where the majority of my attention is focused.

I quickly realised however that I was taking AA fire from the North, in front of me and fairly close. I drop my nose straight into a power dive, scanning the sealine above my gunsights for the source of fire. I only see the waves rushing towards me, so level out of my dive at about 500 feet. With a burst of orange lights, the enemy vessel opens up again. I can get a clear fix on his location now. Straight ahead. I drop to wave top and steady my sights on him, using my rudder to make increasingly fine adjustments to my course. Once I have him steady in my sights, I release the fish and pull up and away to port. Rapidly gaining height, I kick the rudder to slew my plane around along its course, making me a harder target for the AA which is still following me.

Satisfied with my distance, I bank to the vertical on my left wing and swing around to the south. This allows me to watch over my left shoulder the track of torpedo and the subsequent explosion as it strikes the enemy patrol boat. Satisfied, I head home. I eventually land safely, but only after having to abort three faulty landing approaches. Not sure what was wrong but I was always too fast or too high until my fourth attempt, and even then I crunched my undercarriage and ruined my propellors as I slid across the verge of the runway (thank heavens this occurred away from the dispersal areas of the numerous stationary planes based at the field).

Midnight: I return to the site of my most recent sinking, and take up the hunt to the hunt to the North. This time I scour the oceans to the immediate East of the coastal islands at an altitude of only about 1000 feet, trusting to my undivided attention and methodical manner to ensure I don't provide an unwitting target at point blank range for Kriegsmarine mariners.

I am rewarded after several minutes of anxious peering into the night when I see a freighter dead ahead. I descend steadily to torpedo altitude, and release the fish only about a half mile from the target. It has blown up by the time I am able to bank around for a look. With only a spreading oil slick to mark my passage, I return home and make a reasonably regulation landing.

Moonrise: My final midnight sortie is a bit more cunning than the previous two. The fact that I flew so far before sighting the tanker on the previous flight indicated to me that other pilots have recently been busy in the area. Therefore, probably not worth my while returning there. That's when I decided to instead look at the seaward opening of the complex of fjords that lead to Herdla and Bergen as they exit the island chain into the North Sea proper.

So I fly on a direct bearing for this target area, sweeping north before I arrive at it so that I can circle in and make my approach run through the bay in a southerly direction (allowing potential targets to be lit up by the moon, low on the horizon). I have just commenced this maneuver when I observe AA guns being fired from a ship at about 10 o'clock. Too far to be too effective, I am flying fast enough that I immediatly have to decide whether or not to attack.

I take a punt, and convert my navigational turn into a diving attack run. I kick the rudders several times (metaphorically speaking) slewing my plane back and forth along its flight path to put off the enemy's aim. Tracer flies past to left and right, seemingly missing me by inches each time. My luck holds, and I am now close enough to identify the target as a Type VIII U-boat. Nasty.

I release my deadly load at close range, swooping up and over the boat. It continues to fire at me throughout, shooting a hole in my right fuel tank. My plane is shuddering a bit at the explosions around and things don't seem that good when my torp strikes home behind me, sinking my opponent as I fly away. I don't have time to breathe a sigh of relief however, as my path is taking me over the mouth of the bay. Where there's one u-boat, there's often more.

If there was another u-boat, I saw nor felt nothing of it, and was able to bring my plane onto course for home without further incident. My right wing is leaking a stream of fuel into the night. I hope the engine keeps turning until I land.

It does. I navigate across 70 miles of ocean to within a kilometre of where I want to be, and am able to put my wounded plane onto the ground in one gently sweeping landing approach.

A good night's hunt.

Midocean at Midday

Flew two brief missions in beaufighter over North Sea at around 3 am local time. Server time was 1130 roughly. There were two other pilots initially, a mosquito flying from Peterhead and a Me 110 from Helda. They seemed to be involved in variously attacking shipping and each other down near the german base.

Sortie 1: I fly due north past the tip of scotland, locating myself over map (roughly) by flying at a steady speed for a certain time on a given bearing. I turn East, hoping to come in towards where I suspect some tankers might present juicy targets. Instead I bump into a submarine, first noticing its AA fire from about 1500 feet. I have to do a 180' circuit to circle in onto its beam at several miles. Too long and too predictable, he has me in his sights as I start my low approach (under 500 feet). Rattled, I take too long to line him up from too far away and are knocked out of the sky by his defensive fire destroying my controls. I note with grim satisfaction that the grid reference of my demise is that which I had intended to be in at the time.

Sortie 2: The lone german pilot has switched to a FW 109 fighter plane. I believe he is about to try and hunt down our bombers. He knows where it was I was last shot down. He might decide to patrol the approaches to that spot. He might, on the otherhand, patrol the seas near our airfield, or the target area of my comrade in the mosquito. I therefore opt to fly further north, and come in towards the same location I had last time on a bearing of SSE rather than E (as previously). Coming in like this would allow me far better observation of likely paths of approach of any FW 190 intent on 'ambushing' me.

All theory, however, because while flying in a straight line and working it all out at only 1000 feet, I flew directly over a sub I hadn't noticed. I was shot out of the sky, again losing various of my controls to their accurate fire, before I'd realised what was happening. I guess at that range, they couldn't miss.

Perhaps I'm fatigued after a pleasantly busy day. Who knows. In any event, I'm off to bed.

Puerto Rico - Robbo wins!

We played another game of Puerto Rico tonight. Same four of us who played it last time, but the game progressed quite differently to the first time. This time around, the game went for a shade over two hours (including a break in the middle), ending when Mark Robbo completed his building program with a second major building. He won, with a score of 38 pts, then came Paul (35), myself (31) and Nancy (26). Fun time by all. Rules continue to deal with contingencies as they arise without giving rise to argument.

The fact that the scores are much closer, and that the winner is only in the thirties this time, arose from the fact that no-one who had a major building (where large bonuses of victory points arise at game end) had colonists on them (required to activate their special bonuses). Mark won because he integrated his economy a bit better than anyone, and because no-one chose the role of 'Mayor' in the final turn (allowing all players the chance of placing colonists on their major buildings). Paul had his chance to, but didn't. He seemed to keep chosing the role of 'builder' during the game - a bit inflexible as a strategy once others realise it, I think. Nancy never seemed to get off the ground in adding value to her produce. Similarly with me, except I managed to produce a lot more stuff for overseas consumption generally than she did and scored slightly higher accordingly in the end.

I think we all played the game better than the first time, and probably got a bit more anticipatory joy out of the playing. It didn't seem so intuitive, but that's to be expected as we play with the possibilities within the rules over our next few contests.

We played a game of Farkel afterwards, to wind down a bit.


'Farkel' is a cute portable dice game that comes in a container that is like the little plastic canisters you (used to) buy film in. Nancy bought Farkel the same time we got Puerto Rico, and keeps it in her handbag for those odd moments. Ten out of ten for practicality (both wife and game). It only cost about $6AU. Good value.

Very simple game, really. The idea is to be the first to 10000 points. You accumulate points by taking it in turns to roll the dice. Each player starts their turn by rolling six dice. '1's and '5's count as 100 and 50 respectively, while triples, quadruples, quintuples, six of a kinds, pairs of triples, triplets of pairs and straights all count for various amounts of points. After each roll the player makes sure that of the dice they rolled they can get some score. They set the dice aside that they wish to score, and then decide whether to re-roll the dice that weren't aren't aside. The process continues, until the player either rolls dice that have no score (they 'bust') or they have set aside all six dice with which they started. If they have so scored all six of the dice, they have the choice to start the process of rolling again, adding the score to that which they did the first time through. If a player busts, they don't score any points from the dice they've set aside (if any) previously through that turn. A player must be able to score at least 500 points from the dice in one turn before they are allowed to decline the option to reroll remaining dice (ie to get on the board takes a minimum of 500 points).

The art is knowing when to add the total of points scored from dice you've set aside, and when to keep on rolling.

It's not a heavy game, and is nice to play after a more intense game just to wind everyone down in a games evening. We played a four player game after a game of Puerto Rico. The Farkel game went about 40 min. I won with score of 11000 odd, Paul next, then Mark Robbo, then Nancy. Even though my logical brain tells me that it was mere 'luck' that led to my victory, it still feels like something to be a bit chuffed about.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Predawn (Norway)

I've just flown a couple missions in the afternoon (real time) - which is night time over Norway. Wandalen has jigged his server a bit and it is again updating its stats pages in realtime. Sadly, however, while he was out boating for a few days (possibly in the very same seas I was flying over in the virtual world), his sever didn't capture my great victories of recent days. Let's see I can keep it up now that the eye of the server is again upon me!

Night: Flew East with a torpedo, believing that there might likely be more target ships in the area. I was right, spotting a couple of submarines. I circled in to have a go at one once I realised which way it was facing so that I could come in on its beam. I think I completed one circuit of the target too many, however, as I gave it and its companion too much time to fire too many shells at me. Inevitable some of them hit, and I lost control in my attack run to crash in the sea nearby.

First Eastern Glow: Returning to the area as soon as I could (about 15 min later), I approached more cautiously from further south towards where I had roughly fixed the location of the U Boat. I overflew a freighter entering the channels between the islands at about 2000 feet, mentally marking its location for my future attention. I steadily descended to be about 1000 ft by the point where I expected to be able to fix target location visually. Imagine my surprise when, as I spot the U-boat in the distance, I am opened up on by a surface ship directly ahead of me, midway between myself and the U-boat.

Making a snap decision, I decide to attack the more immediate threat and increase my rate of descent to several hundred feet per minute. I level out about half a mile from the ship, coming in on it's stern. This is a difficult shot, not much of the ship presents itself to me. Thus, I have to fly far closer than I usually would. luckily, because I am coming in on the stern, not all of the ship's guns can shoot at me as I approach at point blank range. I release the torp from a couple hundred metres, and zoom up and out of there at full throttle. I hear the sound of the explosion of my missile destroying the motor boat as I straighten out on a bearing that will take me home. Landing is a bit hairy as my tailwheel is locked when I touch down, but I come to rest safely on the verge of the field.

Moonrise: The moon is rising, casting light sufficient to conceal the faint sun sign on eastern horizon. I head back on an almost identical course as previously to attack the tanker I'd seen. This time, I keep to below 1500 feet, and curl effortlessly into attack run at wave level. I release the torpedo about a mile from the target, a nice fat tanker! This gives me enough time to bank up and away, watching the silver track of my torpedo in the moonlight and the bright orange explosion as it buries itself in the enemy ship. Not wishing to prolong my good fortune, I return to base and make a regulation landing - cross coast at 1000 feet, reduce throttle and altitude as I turn onto runway approach, cross the runway line at about 100 feet, 15% throttle, drop flaps and roll to a halt just near where the turnoff to my dispersal point is.

I seem to have got the hang of landing the beaufighter, flying by instruments, trimming the aircraft to fly where I want it to with minimal effort. These are all good skills which I hope to translate onto the dogfight channels in not too distant future.

Predawn (Realtime)

I fell asleep early last night and thus awoke at around 3 am. What else should I have done but hopped into my online cockpit and gone for a flight in my Beaufighter over Norway?

I must have been in a bit of a daze because, as I write this, the details aren't too clear in my mind. So this will be very brief mission report. Both sorties occurred in mid afternoon (server time), only light broken cloud at about 4000 feet and otherwise a clear sky.

Sortie 1: I was only pilot in sky, and went for a recce with rockets. I unleashed them at a freighter which had made its way into the channel I had been attacking in before dawn, to no effect. I then overflew Herdla airfield, checking out how I would mount an attack on next flight. Return to base was uneventful, the seas pretty cleaned out of enemy shipping in the area.

Sortie 2: I was joined in the air by Sandy from Norway. He was flying a FW 190 from Herdla airfield. He took off just before I did.

With an enemy fighter in the air I didn't take the direct route to target, but instead flew north aways and then turned east, swinging in to attack my target from the (hopefully) unexpected direction of the North East. I managed to avoid the fighter on my way over, but again got confused in the clouds of flak exploding around me as I passed over the nearby port facility. I did however notice a particular cluster of AA guns on a point of land jutting into the channel as they peppered my plane with shells. I disposed of one with my own cannon before being riddled with shells myself. Fuel pissing out, elevators gone, fire in my starboard motor, I crashed into the South side of the bay.

I hope these fighter pilots don't expect this bomber pilot to try and make it easy for them to find or get me!

What is this blog really about?

Adelaide Gamer is my web log about my gaming existence. As such, it documents games I play and have played, people I've played with or just met, and of course the usual thematically connected random thoughts that all bloggers blog and all gamers have.

At the time of blogging this post, for example I'm four or so months into a stretch of posts primarily about my playing online computer game - a WWII flight simulator by the name of Il '46. I've been posting up reports on many of my missions, and it seems some people at least are enjoying reading my work so I keep on going in this vein. All writers like positive feedback (whether personal, or in the 'comments')!

Tonight some friends and I will play a boargame, Puerto Rico. I'll no doubt blog the experience.

I've covered books, gamers, internet gaming, computer games, boardgames, cardgames, wargames, miniatures, terrain building, clubs, modelling, and various other topics over the years (how they fly!). All depends upon what I'm doing at the time.

Just thought I'd make that all clear.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The smell of cordite in the cockpit

This evening I've flown online over the south norwegian coastline in my beaufighter for several hours. I flew five sorties, starting from almost totally dark, with only moon and very small glow on Eastern horizon, and finishing when the mist was just starting to rise through the clear still morn.

Night: Torpedo armed, went out towards Norwegian coast and coasted up seaward of the isle of Oygarden. Spotting a freighter in the channel between Oygarden and Haldra I dropped from my cruise height of about 2000 ft, but didn't have time to level up properly at altitude, and dropped the tin fish late and wide. Resisting the urge to take out my frustration by finding the source of the light AA which was coming my way and destroy it with my cannons, I returned to base - navigating sure and landing firm.

Stupid: Rearmed, I return to my freighter in the channel. Taking a better (less hurried) look from a distance, I notice that there are actually two freighters there, maybe a mile or two apart. I circle in and attack the first, come in low over the island, drop to sea level and release the torp a nice safe mile or two from the target ship. I give it a few rounds with my cannon just before rising above it, loop around in a tight curve to catch the nearby freighter with cannon. My torpedo looks to be bang on target.

Then, in the space of a few seconds, a lot of things happen. I open fire, pointing my ship at the target. On high magnification I rake it with fire and it sprouts flames. I notice the ship's rigging is higher than I thought, and that I am lower than I thought. A couple lucky AA rounds puncture a fuel tank from the rear. I belly graze the ocean to avoid the stream of shells passing over me. I plummet into the target ship, bouncing off of its rigging in a flaming wreck in the ocean. Almost simultaneously, my torpedo strikes home nearby. The ship I collided with remains afloat. The harbour is lit up briefly by all the flames.

Strike 1: Reloading, I venture out for the third time in the predawn, navigating direct to where the unsunk ship was last seen. It hasn't moved far (if at all). I line myself up by steering a particular visual bearing once I have passed my Initial Point (a particularly distinctive island formation). I drop in low over the island, and again drop further once I reach the coast. With loads of time to steady myself, I release the torp from a couple miles' distance. I circle up and away without drawing fire, observe my missile strike. Deciding to take the opportunity to see if there are any more boats in the channel I follow it south for about thirty miles. Eventually spotting another freighter, I fix its location and return to base.

Strike 2: I return, once rearmed, to the steamer I had recently located. The light is now clear enough that I don't need to have my cockpit light on. I again come in low and fast over the island, this time using a small town as my visual IP from which to set final bearing to target. Releasing the torpedo from about a mile's range, I follow the chain of islands back to the North to get another look at Herdla airfield approach decide what I'll use as my visual IP (the junction of two outer islands). Satisfied that there's time for one more mission before the fog comes in, I return to base.

Strike 3 and Out: Arming myself with rockets, I approach my target (Herdla airfield), crossing IP at 3000 feet and diving to target. Don't see anything on airflield because dazzled by lights, but unloose 8 rockets into a ship in a harbour in the town. It explodes and sinks. Before I realise this, I am being pounded by AA fire from all around. I dodge and weave, believing I might have come across a u-boat facility, when I have my elevators shot out and my engine gushing smoke. Flying too low to bail, I can't get my nose up in time to crash land in the sea and, instead, I explode on the shore.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

North Sea Fog

This evening (real time) I have spent about two hours flying three missions over the North Sea in my Beaufighter. In server time, these hours were just after sun rise. Fog was quite thick in first flight, but seemed to be lifting towards the end of it. Second flight, Fog kept lower and less thick. Third flight, had reduced to a light haze.

Thick fog: I thought I'd go hunting for the german u-boat base, reportedly at Bergen. To do so, I first had to find out where Bergen is, as the briefing map that opens a mission didn't have it on it. That done, I took off, Planning to fly South of it, coming in up a fjord. I didn't count on the fog being so thick, nor the larger islands of Norway being so featureless. In other words, I got seriously lost. Eventually I decided to head home by heading due West.

I'd thought I'd navigated to a point over the North Sea from which I could set my homing bearings when I realised that I was surrounded by AA bursts. I had probably only now found Bergen! Not waiting to find out, having already used about 40min fuel I couldn't afford to have a fuel tank punctured, I set course for home. Through the fog I again found myself navigating on instruments, and came onto the Scottish coastline right where I wanted. I banked down into approach and landed in the fog. Although no points after an hours flying time, about half of that in the fog layer to avoid a FW 190 that was presumably hunting me, a good deal of satisfaction upon landing.

Ambushed: An FW190 was prowling the North Sea when I took off for my second mission. I didn't know much about where it was, so took a gamble on being invisible if I again stayed in the fog, relying on max speed in flying due East to target area. I was about to cross the midpoint of the transit when there was a worrying thump - thump - thump sound. I was being hit by bullets. I counted five strikes by ear as I jammed on the rudder and flipped up my right wing. At that moment I lost my rudder, aerlions and got a fuel leak, plane went 'mushy' in midair, heeled over and dived into the sea. Considering I was at less than a thousand feet, no chance to bail and me and observer died suddenly.

Hazed: Third flight of the morning was as the sun rose above the fog, degrading it into a light haze. As I entered the cockpit of beafighter there were air raid sirens and my own flak guns going off all around. An F190 was dropping bombs, one of which landed a few score metres from my plane (doing it no damage luckily). I waited in the cockpit until I heard that the AA had shot down the intruder. Only then did I feel safe enough to take off.

In the better visibility I felt more confident, and cruised east at about 3000 feet, able to see the ocean pretty clear. Having crossed what I believed to be the midpoint I had passed a couple fishing boats and the usual hospital ship when another grey shape caught my eye. Circling down I was able to clearly identify it as a civilian ship red smokestack. This matched intelligence reports of enemy shipping. I circled in too steeply and too quickly, dropping my torpedo too late and suffering the consequences of being not far from an exploding torp at only a few metres altitude - I got knocked out of the sky and into the ocean by the concussion. Not before I realised I'd somehow sunk another friendly ship, however. Very dissappointing. Looks like I'll need to make sure I can see the coast before attacking ships.