Battleshed Diaries

Wednesday 4 May 2016

A long range bombing behemoth

Back to gaming after a week shut away in a Highland loch-side cabin focusing entirely on my writing project. Cabin fever, a spooky near deserted local village and an Arctic blast of unseasonable weather ensured the word-count was remarkably high, even for me. But that's another story!

Wings of Glory at my gaming club was the first aerodrome of call after my self-inflicted solitary confinement. I was raring to go. And this time I got to play with a huge bomber.

This was a scheduled game as club member, JP, was eager to get his latest acquisition into the air - a huge WW1 German bomber called the Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI. My word, it was a big one! With a 30cm wing span this 1/144 scale model loomed over the regular fighters I'm so used to and was bristling with guns.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI
JP graciously let me have first go. I must admit, I was like a kid in the sweet shop again. Or in my case, a model shop. We chose one of the pre-supplied missions from the Staaken pack which had this four engine bi-plane on a long range operation to bomb the British capital. After fishing out a couple of the Wings of Glory gaming mats from the club's extensive store and sorting all the cards and tokens we were soon on mission.

Given the regular flow of curious eyes from fellow club members, the Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI. model sure made an impression on the gaming table. This was reputedly the largest wood and canvas aircraft ever built, a strategic bomber that emerged from the Zeppelin sheds of the Berlin suburb of Staaken in 1916 with a bomb load of up to 4400 lbs. 

We played a variant of the scenario, using the Standard Rules without Altitude, whilst we got to grips with this behemoth on the board. For the first part of the mission, all I had to do was get the bomber from one end of the table to the other - representing the long, dangerous flight towards the British capital. Luckily, I had two escort fighters at this stage in the form of a Fokker DR.1 and an Albatros D.VA. 

As the Zeppelin-Staaken slowly lumbered along, my two little buddy-escorts were soon zooming away to intercept JP's British scout fighters - a Sopwith Camel and a Spad XIII. As expected, the bomber wasn't exactly manoeuvrable. I did try a little experimenting but my attempts to fly it like a fighter were laughably quashed. It truly was a bomber. Just keep straight on target and let its arsenal of wing, nose and dorsal mounted 7.92 mm (0.312 in) Parabellum MG14 machine guns deal with any enemy pilots mad enough to venture too close.

Whilst I mucked about , mischievously searching through the bomber's manoeuvre deck to see if there was an Immelman Turn card (of course their bloody wasn't!), the bullet-riddled British fighters did manage to slip behind the Staaken on a couple of occasions, more reminiscent of future Kamikaze tactics in their desperation to stop the beast. Instead of a withering hail of machine gun fire the German gunners seemed to be having a lot of trouble with their equipment. The guns jammed with alarming regularity.

However, having miraculously survived a close call with the Riesenflugzeug, the British fighters were efficiently picked off by the waiting German escorts. The Zeppelin-Staaken continued on with only a couple of holes decorating its fuselage and it's mechanics furiously working to service the guns.

With the two British fighters downed, the second part of our mission had the bomber nearing its destination - alone, without fighter escort. The German fighters had reached the limit of their range and had reluctantly departed. All that stood between the Zeppelin-Staaken and the British capital was whatever the British could get into the air. 

In the supplied scenario two 'B' firing (damage deck) fighters should be used - we just re-used the British Sopwith and Spad again, swapping out their A damage deck for the B. Two target cards were placed on the Entente side of the table. The bomber had two payloads so potentially could hit both targets. Yeah, right! I had enough trouble aligning on one target. In fact, the target card was rather too well blended into the intricate gaming mats. With no escort, I was reliant on my arsenal of dodgy machine guns. I was at the mercy of the British fighters all the way to the target.

Fire!Fire! No...we're on fire!

This was a nervy part of the game. For me at least. The British fighters soon learned that the German engineers had completed their repairs though. The bomber's guns were blazing away with JP's fighters seemingly fixated chasing the bomber rather than strafing it from the front and peeling away. Nevertheless the Spad managed a critical hit, which took away half of the bomber's 34 hit points! Not to be outdone, the Sopwith managed a hit which had the German engineers busy again, this time desperately trying to put out a fire! Out came one of JP's extensive range of fancy custom markers!

With the damage cards piling up on both sides, the bomber eventually approached the target site and delivered its first payload. The bombs partially hit the target and it was considered destroyed. Unknown to JP, the Zeppelin-Staaken only had 4 damage points left. So I decided to bug out rather than risk a dangerous manoeuvre amongst the buzzing British fighters to hit the second target. However, just as the bomber made its final move off the table it was caught again by the Spad and this time the behemoth was stopped. It violently spiralled down in a maelstrom of flame and sooty black smoke.

Although the bomber was eventually destroyed it was a victory for the Germans, having successfully bombed one of the targets and taken out two British fighters. I thoroughly enjoyed (thanks JP!) commanding this lovely miniature. Yes, I'm seriously considering adding it to my Wings of War aerodrome. Its part of Ares Games Giants of the Sky Kickstarter range.  

The bomber comes with its own manoeuvre deck, airplane card, crew management card, damage counters, new rules, and the special gaming base. 

The crew management rules representing the Zeppelin-Staaken 's 7 crew of a commander, pilot, co-pilot, radio operator, fuel attendant in the cockpit and a mechanic in each engine nacelle! I was having enough trouble interpreting the firing arcs for all the guns on the airplane card!

All in all a damn fine game! I think its probably best played with the Altitude rules in place, as the British fighters would have been very early prey if it weren't for the bomber's trouble with jammed guns. Interestingly, JP has also been trying out a set of solo rules from Tyneside Wargames Club for Wing of War. There are also rules for other systems from the club available on their site. Definitely worth checking out.

More posts incoming with my gaming calendar fairly busy again. The Battleshed is currently reeking of paint and glue from a terrain project (!), I'm busy organising a SAGA Age of the Wolf campaign and also have Frostgrave mini-campaign starting on Wednesday. Friday evening and all day Saturday will see me 'on duty' for my club preparing and hosting Carronade 2016. Oh, and a return to Alien V Predator next Monday!  Tis' tough being a gamer!

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