Saturday, 13 November 2021

Battle of Midway Starter Set in depth

So let's start with the box. Artwork is nice - better than the old Battle of Britain version in my opinion. The actual box itself is a bit flimsy - the old one was a fairly heavy duty affair that has continued to serve me well for over three years. This one is much more akin to the regular boxes Warlord use for their plastic kits and starter sets. I think this is a case of Warlord accepting the dream that BRS would appear on the shelves of game stores, rather than wargames stores, is unrealistic at this time. There has always been a suggestion that BRS was originally aimed at a more mainstream \ main street market, which may account for the higher quality of the old BoB box. This seems to be in the standard Warlord starter set material. My experience \ expectation is most players will bin it within a day anyway, so it's not much of a problem. I'm going to hang on to the old one as long as it holds together.

My veteran Battle of Britain box, with the new upstart Midway one

Taking the lid off and I have to say I'm impressed. They've avoided the "clipped in" model tray which many suspected caused some problems with the old BoB set and the notorious wing bending. This layout looks packed, clean and purposeful. 

Being a gamer I grabbed the models first. You get six Wildcats and six A6M2 Zeroes. The models are in a new version of "Warlord Resin". This material is a plastic \ resin but is a big step forward over that used on the earlier models, not so much "bendy" as a bit flexible. It reminds me quite a bit of the plastic used by Reaper on their "Bones" range. It's a pity these were not made in true hard plastic - in fact I suspect this is a decision Warlord may look back on with regret if the game continues to prove popular. I'll do a deeper delve into the models at another point, but for now I think they look good.

The Wildcats are already coloured blue, the Zeroes off white. This mirrors what they did with the old set, the idea being you could open the box and play straight away. More on that in a bit, but one side effect is that it's a bugger to get pics of the raw models that show the detail.  The models are overall good.  They don't have much flash at all and detail is excellent. The panel lining is clear and these should be easy and fun to paint. My Wildcats did have a problem getting to fit on the stands, but a very quick run with an exacto knife around the triangle mounting point fixed that, taking no time at all. The Zeros are the opposite, slightly loose. I don't think they will fall off in play, but they do wobble a bit.  I suspect that will change when you apply a coat of paint. I will let you know.

The set includes decals and self adhesive stickers. The decals are for the serious players but the stickers add to the ability to play out of the box with minimum prep, which is always  nice. As to be expected the decals are far more detailed and include markings for both plane types on the same sheet, including two named Aces. This is a good idea for the starter set but it does make me wonder how Warlord are going to deal with selling the models separate to the starter set - will they include the relevant decals from this sheet and if so, how??  Back to the self adhesive stickers. These are better thought out than the old BoB set, being scaled to the models and not "cartoony". They're just national cockades, and while I would not use them, I can see how they will work with the pre coloured models if you were in a rush to play or were new to the whole painting thing. 

I was pleasantly surprised at the rules pamphlet. I saw the contents as a pdf a while ago but this was the first time I have actually held a "real" copy. It feels much better and more substantial than the old three part one in the BoB. Content is different too, as in addition to the rules there are some nice sections on the historical background and orders of battle - mostly by Roger Gerrish, though I did make some contribution. 

The rules themselves are at heart the same as the BoB set and Airstrike, with some minor clarifications on wording here and there. The redoubtable Andy Chambers has done a good job with the game engine, and BRS plays fast and smooth. 

The question has already come up "are these a version 2?" and the answer is "No". This is a starter set themed around the Battle of Midway NOT a full set of rules, so the rules for multi engine planes and attacking ground targets is not included. You will need Air Strike for that, but I should stress the rules ARE complete as far as they go - there are scenarios and rules for attacking ships as well as the usual dogfights etc.

The new punch board for the targets, clouds and bomber markers are good quality heavy duty affairs in the same vein as the BoB set ones. Having the reverse side of the clouds as islands is a really nice touch. The inclusion of the bomber tokens (six Vals or SBD Dauntless) means you can get all the scenarios in the starter set on table without buying anything else, though of course models for the bombers are sold separately. There are also eighteen ship counters to use as target markers. I have to point out someone at Warlord dropped a bit of a clanger here as instead of a Japanese Battleship they put an Italian in there. Some things never change! The ship target markers are a bit of a missed opportunity as they're two sided, but the sides are the same. If they had IJN on one side and USN on the other it would have been so much better and we could have had either a larger fleet or more options. Scale wise these look to be about the same size as my old 1:3000 Davco models, but that is almost certainly pure coincidence. I think the images used are actually from Warlord's own Victory at Sea range, which raises the question, why not do them at 1:1800 so you could cross promote the VAS models as target markers for BRS?  OK you would have to have fewer ships on the card due to size, but I'm not sure that's really a problem. Also did I mention the Italian?......

Skill discs, Boom Chits and Zoom (activation) markers

The wandering Italian Battleship 

The plastic measuring tool and associated markers is a big advance on the old card one. I'm sticking with my third party ones but these are perfectly serviceable and look the part. It will be interesting to see if players paint them up or leave them as they are. The High Cover (arrows) and Laden (bombs) are particularly nice.

You also get a pair of quick play sheets. These are in a very similar format to the old BoB ones and this is good. The old sheets were brilliant, clear and easy to follow. I've used them to teach the rules to total novices and within five minutes. The fronts have the rules and the backs some diagrams showing the measuring tools etc in use. 

Also included are the game cards. Here you get a set of aircraft Data, Traits, Doctrines and Theatre Cards. It's not a full set of every card available, but it does cover all you will need for Midway and similar carrier battles. Hopefully a complete set will one day be released. There's a minor typo on the Kate but nothing earth shattering.

Lastly there are a dozen special dice. My experience is these are universally hated by BRS players - nothing to do with the design, just they never seem to roll sixes :-) 

So that's about it. There's a lot in there , and aside from a couple of minor typo issues this looks like a great starter for players who are looking to get started in BRS, or an existing player who wants to move into the Pacific theatre.


Blood Red Skies - New format Squadron Boxes

There is another change in Blood Red Skies with the new Midway starter set. The Squadron boxes being released with the starter set are in a new small box format. I thought it would be worth a look at what has changed.

Old format on the left, new compact on the right.

The short answer is, not a lot. Or at least not that much. The box itself has superb artwork similar to the later releases. Contents wise you still get the six models, bases, Trait and Doctrine cards as before. The only real change apart from the box size is the punch board with the Pilot Skill disks and other counters. In the old boxes (and the new starter set) this is a sturdy heavy duty affair. In the new small box format this has been replaced by a much thinner sheet of similar thickness to the ones in the newer Ace boxes. The layout has changed to get it to fit the new box. There are only four Boom chits, and no range ruler or High Cover markers, but most of us will already have so many boom chits this will hardly matter, and if you have the new starter set that comes with cool plastic range markers and High Cover markers anyway. In fact this is probably a better layout as it will mean you have fewer duplicated counters, but it is a pity about the quality of the card. 

It's hard to see this as anything other than a downgrade, and I sometimes wish Warlord would be a bit more consistent. At the moment the wave 1 Aces, starter sets and old style big Squadron boxes have the heavy duty card punch board, but the new Aces and Squadrons have the thinner ones. I don't know how much this is saving them on production costs, but it feels like a false economy for me the punter. 

Enough of the peripheral stuff, most of which is just packaging, what about the models?? Here it is all good news. The new models are in the new recipe "Warlord Resin" which is an improvement over the older version, and the ones I have seen so far are new sculpts with enhanced details and panel lines. They should be a joy to paint. I should add the last iteration of the old resin was perfectly acceptable, the new one is just better.

One last point of note. The new box has quite a handy painting guide on the back. Nothing too detailed, but more than enough to give you an idea of where to start.  

All in all except for the punchboard I think this is a good change. I'm assuming this will be the format going forward, but I don't know if they're going to retro fit the older squadron boxes into this style.

Friday, 12 November 2021

Battle of Midway Starter Set - Overview

 A little while ago I did a "preview" of the new Blood Red Skies Battle of Midway Starter Set - it goes into some detail  here if you are interested.

Today the postie delivered the real thing, so here is my first impression \ unboxing. I started to write an in depth and "warts and all" review, but realised to do it any justice I will have to split it into several parts, so this is just going to be a quick overview of the contents.

And there's quite a lot in this box.........

You get 12 model fighters - six each of A6M2 Zeroes and F4F Wildcats, plus associated "Advantage Bases " (stands for the uninitiated).

A rules booklet

A set of plastic measuring implements and game markers

2 Quick Reference sheets

6 Aircraft stat cards - Zero, Kate, Val, Wildcat, Dauntless & Devastator

15 Trait cards

17 Doctrine cards

19 Theatre cards

12 Dice

Three punchboards of ship target markers, pilot skill disks, clouds, game tokens etc

All in all a pretty decent starter set for Blood Red Skies, which I have to say is still my favourite WW2 dogfight game. 

If you fancy getting in to Blood Red Skies, or want to expand your collection into the Pacific, this really is an auto buy.

Anyway that will do as an overview. The Midway starter set should be available in shops from today at an rrp of £56.00, or direct from the warlord website.


Monday, 8 November 2021

What can you get for the price of a pint of milk nowadays? How abought a F4U Chance-Vought Corsair?

It has been a strange day at work - hanging around twiddling thumbs waiting to get a call out. In the meantime I decided to work out how much it cost to print a 1:200 scale model for Blood Red Skies*.

The answer is 52p in resin and electricity. About 12p of that is the supports which are discarded once the print is done. I'm printing the models in pairs which so far has meant no fails, but it does take longer to get a "squadron" of six printed - nearly seven hours a pair. I've printed in larger batches before, up to six at a time with smaller models (no Chance with the Corsair - geddit!), but that seems to lead to a higher change of a failed print, and I'm in no rush.

Just out of the printer

The file I'm using is from Roman Troyan's "Plane Printer" Patreon scheme - link below. This costs $7 a month. In the last month he released eleven models, though to be fair this is exceptional and normally it would be something like one or two a fortnight or so. You have to take pot luck here as he releases stuff on a whim - some of the releases this month are a Fw190A and a Nieuport Delange NiD-52 (I had to Google it!).

You still need to do some work on the file, add supports and check the mounting slot is ok. This can take a couple of tries to get it correct - or get someone else to do it if you don't have the "skilz". Then you need to clean up the model before painting, but that part at least is not much different to any other model. 

Ready for clean up

Obviously the printer, wash and cure station, isopropyl alcohol to clean up, gloves and the like, my time etc isn't factored in. Nor is the inconvenience (and smell).

3d printing isn't for everyone, and will never be. Overall it is still a bit hit and miss, but I have to say it is revolutionising the way I think of my hobby.

Link to Plane Printer

* Other WW2 dogfight games exist, they're just not as good.

Friday, 10 September 2021

Stupidity and persistence have a power all of their own. Update on Brewster Buffalo in Blood Red Skies

As regular readers may know, I am preternaturally indisposed towards the Brewster Buffalo, and said it, quite a bit. Also here

It is therefore with some reluctance I have to admit defeat. In the two and a half years since that Blog post the "Community" have done their best to harry producers to the extent that ALL the Buffalo versions are now available in one form or another. Put that into context, only three or four Bf109 marks are readily available, with a production run of a dozen or so short of 34,000, but the Buffalo, which topped off around 500?? 

US F2A2\3

RocWorks , PlanePrinterArmaments in Miniature

British Buffalo Mk I

RocWorks , Armaments in Miniature

Dutch B339c\d 


Finnish B239

RocWorks , Armaments in Miniature

Actually I love this. It shows that third party producers can see a demand and are prepared to fill it, even when large sales are not guaranteed. It means that when "The Community" ask for models, these guys are prepared to delve into the less glamourous, less successful and frankly obscure corners of aviation history and produce models for us. It means we can, if we want, fight more obscure but interesting theatres of war, such as China, or the early Blitzkrieg, or, well, just about anything. To be honest I never heard of a Curtis Wright CW-21 Demon before a couple of months ago - but now I think I fancy doing a Squadron. And I can get one. Or a Fokker DXXI in Dutch or Finnish versions, or a ............ you get the drift. 

Well done guys, thanks, and take a bow.

Of course I want a Fokker T.V. from someone either UK based or a .stl so I can print one, because, well ok they only made a dozen, and they lasted about 24 hours in combat, and were unsuccessful by any measure, but.........

Oh and rumour has it Warlord are planning at least one set of Buffalos. There, that is my cup running over :-)



Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Blood Red Skies Midway Starter - NOT an unboxing 'cos I don't have a box yet, but...........

Hi everyone. Had a bit of time spare so I've had a closer look at what we know is in the Battle of Midway Starter set for Blood Red Skies, now on pre order (see the link above) and compared it to what was in the original Battle of Britain one, which is now out of print. This is based just on info from old youtube unboxings, pics shown on line, information passed to me by Bothans etc etc. I should stress I have not seen the "real" thing so there may well be some errors here. Don't shoot me

The main components are the same - 12 planes, six a side, with bases and pilot discs, though of course the planes are different - Zeros and Wildcats instead of Spitfires and Me109s. The models are also a different material, with "Warlord Resin" replacing "bendy" soft-ish plastic. Like the original release these are pre coloured, this time blue and white, so in theory you can play out of the box with your 11 year old, if you have one. We've not seen the models in the flesh yet but first pics look promising so I'm calling that an upgrade. 

The original card markers and measuring tools are replaced with plastic ones which we've already seen in the Airfix version of the game. Given the questionable value of the original measuring stick, this is certainly another upgrade.

The card punchboards for clouds etc are there - at least as far as can be seen from the pics we've seen, and instead of the three double sided twin engine card bomber markers in the BoB set we now get six single engine ones, a change needed due to the nature of the Battle of Midway. Looking at the pictures there are also some card ships which I am presuming are for use as target markers - something missing from the BoB starter set. 

The dice also look to be the same as in the BoB set, though this time you get twelve instead of the ten?? (cant remember) in the BoB set. Twelve is actually the maximum number of dice you will roll if you are playing Midway - dodging a deflection shot with an Ace in a Zero, so it makes some sense and if so shows a nice understanding of the rules mechanisms. 

The play sheet also looks to be the same , which is good as the original is brilliant and easy to follow. The packaging pics suggests you get two, though the component list on the website says one. I would guess the website is wrong here.  

Another "upgrade" is the aircraft data cards. In the BoB set you got three - one each of Spitfire II and Me109E and then a double sided one with a Blenheim on one side and a Do17Z on the other. In the new Midway set there are six cards covering F4F, SBD and TBD, and A6M2, B5N and D3A. 

The rulebooks are similar but not identical - there are no major rule changes however the wording has been clarified in a couple of places, and the three BoB booklets has been combined into one more substantial book. The section on multi engine planes seems to have been removed, but for Midway that mostly makes a lot of sense. The scenarios are different however. Both still have 5 scenarios and the first three are pretty much reskins of ones that appeared in the BoB rules. This is a good idea as the scenarios are really teaching tools to set players up. The difference is in the last two scenarios in the Midway booklet which both have strikes against ship targets, plus some basic rules to handle attacking ships and AA. It should be noted these are NOT the same rules as in Air Strike, but rather a simplified set to allow players to try it out - if you want the full Air Strike package, you will need to buy Air Strike. I suppose the same applies if you want to use multi engine planes, though there are none in the Midway scenarios. The Midway booklet has a lot more background and historical information too, which is welcome. 

Theatre Cards. For the established players this is where it gets interesting. In the BoB set we got nine different Theatre Cards. Midway gives us twice as many (18). I've done a lot of sleuthing and staring at blown up pics of the set and I think we have seven that appear in the BoB set and ten (10) new ones. OK I've not checked but some of these may have appeared in Squadron sets , but it is certainly ten more than in the BoB set. I'm not sure but it looks like Home Advantage is NOT in the Midway set - which makes perfect sense. I'm assuming Numbers is in there too but don't know. I'm classing this as a big upgrade

Doctrine Cards. Again in a similar manner to Theatre Cards, we are seeing a bunch of new cards. The BoB starter set had seven Doctrines. Midway has seventeen (17). Only five of these seem to be common to both sets, leaving twelve "new" doctrines in Midway. Defensive Tactics and Low Altitude Performance seem to be absent as far as I can tell. Again, I think this is a big upgrade.

Ace Skill Cards. Something had to give. I'm not seeing any Ace skill cards in the Midway set. There were seven in the BoB set. How much of a loss is this is really up to you and if you play un-named or home brewed Aces.

Lastly - stickers. Yup the bloody useless sticker sheet makes a return. I know this does make sense if you are expecting to play with your 11 year old but it was one of the less welcome components of the old set. However Warlord also include waterslide decals, so those of us who want to paint our models can use them too. Another bonus.

So looking at all that how do I feel about the Starter Set? To some extent it depends on how long you have been in the game.

If you are just looking to start or don't have the old BoB starter this really is a no brainer - get it!

For completists and tournament players who want every Theatre and Doctrine card, again, it looks good.

If you already have all the Wildcats and A6M2s you need, or are not interested in the slightest in the Pacific then it is less of a gimme, but I still think an attractive package and I will be getting one.

Street Date is said to be late October - whispers about the 23rd





Tuesday, 15 June 2021

The Rotterdam Project Part 6 - Armour

Zombie Blog Post Alert!

Way back in the far lost mists of time - or just over a year ago, I was working on some Dutch Marines for a 1940 Chain of Command force. 

At the time there was an excellent range of figures and some support weapons from May 1940 Miniatures - based unsurprisingly in the Netherlands. The range was missing vehicles and some of the larger support weapons such as field artillery. This was before I acquired a 3d printer, but Paul D kindly printed a Pantserwagen M38 for me. It was a scaled up model from 1:144 so details were a bit fuzzy, and Paul had struggled with the print so it was warped, but beggars cant be choosers etc, so I put it together and painted it.

Covid and Brexit have made our planned Blitzkrieg campaign get delayed, but recently I saw a designer had released 1:56 (ie 28mm) stls for both the M38 and M39 Pantserwagens. They were not cheap by .stl standards, but I thought "why not?"

The M38 is the biggest model I have ever printed, and to be honest there are some issues with my print (not the stl which is superb), however it was declared "good enough for Government Work". Similarly the M39 with hindsight could have been printed at a better angle to avoid some of the obvious stepping, however on the whole I am very happy with the way these turned out. They're both hollow so are reasonably light, and I learned a lot from printing them that I'm sure will hold me in good stead for the future.

A basic paint job and here they are.

That should put Herr Hitler off should he decide to cause trouble!