The first quarter of the campaign, January-March 1917 was a resounding victory for the Germans with a campaign score of 12-2 in their favour and the allied side having lost a large number of planes. This mission sums the experience up nicely: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/595527/bring-the-picture…
We have been slacking on our last session reports from the ongoing 1917-1918 campaign. This text is a combined write-up that sums up the action since the April 1917 AAR from Løffe (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/607624/april-1917-quotbl…)
Alongside that April mission Thomas Greve and I played a simultaneous April mission (seen in the blurry background in the above AAR).
Unfortunately there is no pics from this combat, so you will have to make do with a short report from this rather eventless combat:
April mission II
The mission was a basic head to head mission where two equally sized groups of fighters met at equal terms.
On the British side I rolled up (from my squadron roster) a weak group consisting of 3 old FE8 pushers and got lucky and got a brand new SPAD S.VII (150hp) which I gave to Griffin, a talented new pilot.
The Germans got a group of the usual suspects: 2 Albatros D.II and two Albatros D.IIIs
The combat had few surprises: The FE8´s could outmaneuver the Albatrosses, but doing so meant sacrificing speed and with their small rotary engines and ridiculous amounts of drag from the tailgirders they quickly were forced to dive to keep a decent dogfighting speed. Their agility got them into a couple of good shooting positions but as they had only 1 Lewis with a 97 shot drum magazine (before going through a tedious reloading process) they did not achieve much apart from some structural damage on one of the DII´s. Thomas on the other hand damaged one of the Fee´s but nothing came of it. A defensive circling dogfight ensued.
At some point of the game Thomas blundered and Griffin in the S.VII got of a shot at one of the Albatross D.II´s slightly damaging the structure. The Albatros dove away, Griffin not being able to keep the German plane in the firing zone. But the turn after that saw the German plane take a hard tight turn to the left in order to get on the tail of Griffin but in the process the damaged Albatros broke up in the air. Griffin being the last person to shoot at the Albatross and having hit the plane within to turns of its destruction could then claim the kill (“I shot at EA which was the seen to break up in the air short thereafter”.) This ended the game with the first (but not very glorious) allied victory in the whole campaign, which had until this point consisted of getting spanked by powerful Albatrosses while flying in outdated equipment. Fortunately the French had decent planes – Spad VII´s and Nieuport 17´s and had had some “highlights” in the form of tied games.
May, 1917 also saw two parallel missions: The British intercepting one of the first Gotha raids returning from England and a double artillery spotting mission over Hill 100 in the French Aisne sector, with both sides attempting to range their artillery on the enemy troops.
May mission 1: The Englandgeswader
In May 1917 the Germans started operation Türkenkreutz, the “the first battle of England”, a bomber offensive against strategic targets in England, including London. In this mission two Gotha G. IV heavy bombers was returning from a daylight bombing raid over England and was escorted the last stint to their bases in occupied Belgium by a fighter complement from the Marine Jastas.
A combined force of RNAS and RFC aircraft intercepted the bombers and their escorts over the English canal.
Pic: The Allied formation from the left FE8, SPAD S.VII (diving toward the bombers), Triplane, Pup
Forces: In the campaign each player rolls up planes from a date specific list that introduces new planes as they become available – modifications are given for squadron reputation. The motley assembly that was the British formation consisted of four different plane types: An outdated FE8 pusher with the novice pilot Lt. Saunders-Roe, a single SPAD S.VII with the promising Lt. Griffin (with 1 kill from the previous mission) at the controls, a Sopwith Pup with the aggressive Lt. Libby known from the March AAR and then I got lucky and as the month saw the DH-2 being phased out I got to roll up a new aircraft and got a spiffy new, and very rare Sopwith Triplane in which I placed my best pilot, the untested Capt. Undertaker.
The German formation consisted (from the left) of two Albatros DII – Junker (wing crosses on white square) and Geier (White fuselage band) and a Albatros D.III (Beltzer) as well as the two Gotha bombers.
The engagement started with the bombers diving away from the British formation in order to buy some time for the German fighters to engage the incoming British planes. Griffin in the fast and sturdy SPAD dived down in order to intercept the bombers while the remaining more nimble British planes engaged the three German fighters. The bombers flew in a tight formation just over the wave tops in order to prevent the incoming attacker from getting into the blind spot behind and below the tail.
Pic: In the middle of the arena a confused dogfight began with Geir diving after Griffin but not being able to catch the fast SPAD. At the same time Junker tried to make an immelmann reversement to get on the tail of Libby but failed his piloting roll and ended up in a stall.
Griffin in the beige took a wide turn onto the tail of the right hand Gotha. Griffin hit the big plane in the wings and fuselage but the sturdy bomber continued unhindered. Unfortunately the SPAD came in from behind at a low deflection angle and the very able Gotha rear gunner hit Griffins plane in the engine. The Hispano engine started sputtering and running badly and Griffin pulled quickly away from the bombers, his only option to pull out of the engagement and limb home.
Pic: Griffins attack run…
In the middle of the board The Pup and the Triplane engaged the three German planes in an even match while the inexperienced Lt. Leister Saunders-Roe in the old FE8 saw an opportunity to try his luck at the Gothas.
He attacked the left hand Gotha and knocked out the left engine, but as the Gotha did not carry any bombs it could keep a level flight on one engine and limbed on. The combined return fire from the rear gunners hit the magazine on the Lewis MG on the FE8, The ammunition cooked off into the face of poor Lt Roe wounding him severely and forcing him to withdraw from the combat as well.
Pic: FE8 versus Gotha.
The mission was now un-winnable for the British: The SPAD was limping home with a damaged engine and the FE8 was withdrawing as well, gun destroyed and pilot wounded. This left the Pup and the Tripe to engage the three Albatros and the bombers. Furthermore the bombers were getting away fast with no chance for the British take the long dive without getting pounced by the German fighters.
As the Brits tried to disengage I made a bad error of judgment allowing Juncker to get on the tail of the slowly retreating SPAD without giving proper protection from the two, still functional, Sopwiths. Juncker duly did his work and flamed poor Griffins SPAD – A loss for my squadron. That seriously was the death knell, as I was already pulling out and Thomas won the mission 5-0 (1 point for each Gotha that got away, 1 point for the FE8 that was driven home and 2 for downing the SPAD.
Pic: Griffin going down in flames, In the blurry background: On the left the FE8 and at the corner of the gameboards the two Gothas are getting away.
May Mission 2: The Cauldron at Hill 100
This mission took place on May 5., 1917 during the French Aisne offensive. The French was pushing forward and had broken through the German lines at Hill 100. The German 187th Infantry regiment was retreating and on the verge of breaking into a rout. Both sides called in two-seater spotter aircraft in order to provide artillery support for their troops.
In this parallel mission the French Aviatión Militaire and the German Lufstreitkräfte both intend to provide support as they meet in the skies over Hill 100.
The objective of the mission was to destroy as many enemy ground troops as possible. Each destroyed troop stand representing ½ Victory point – As compared to 2 point for a downed plane. A surplus of 2 point in the final 10th Turn would denote a victory.
The Germans – Mike (BGG: Ztiletto) and guest star Morten (BGG: LeZerp)
3 Albatros DIII (Zu Hürst, Wurgel, Gaisser).
1 Albatros DII. (Siegler)
1 DFW C.V – Two seater. (Günzel)
Ground forces: 8 Infantry stands and 2 MG stands
The French (Andreas (BGG: Abbadon_1) and Jakob
2 Spad S.VII (Brioche, Dupont)
2 Nieuport 17 (LeBeuf, Comté)
1 Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter – Two seater (Chanterain)
Ground forces: 8 Infantry stands and 2 MG stands
Pic: Zu Hürst and Würgel in their Albatros D.III (OAW) flown by Mortens ErsatzStaffelEinz.
The sides were rather evenly matched with some rather average and untried pilot material, with the exeption of working class hero Brioche, who alone over 7 turns fought three albatrosses with superior pilots in the January mission, downing two of them and the excellent Comté who got a kill on a Albatros D.II (Fuchs) in the otherwise allied failure that was the March recon mission – http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/595527/bring-the-picture…
Both sides had good planes – The German planes were good all-rounders with double MGs. All the French planes had only one MG, but the Niuport 17s had a maneuverability advantage and the SPAD S.VII being rugged, very fast and a good energy fighter.
The mission was a symmetric mission. The ground forces setting up in the middle just besides each other. The French planes setting up at 4, French troops at 1. The German planes setting up at 3 and the German troops setting up at 2.
Calling in the heavies…
The artillery system in the game calls for the players to first denote at target point. Then the artillery barage is called down. The deviation point for the barrage, is estimated by rolling 6d10 and adding that as the deviation distance in a random direction. The artillery barrage of 4 artillery templates will hit in a random pattern around the deviation point.
Each turn the observer in the spotter plane is available for artillery direction work (e.i not busy defending the plane) he can roll an successful Observer check against his reaction in order to see if he can permanently remove 1 or more dice from the 6d10 scatter dice pool. This observer check, is modified by the distance to the target area.
Pic: Comté in his silvery Nieuport 17 providing room to work for the Sopwith two-seater.
The game opened up with both sides from the start using their two-seaters to call down artillery fire on the ground troops and both barrages scattered wide. The escorts fanned wide and met each other head on. The Germans used their most experienced pilots: Gaisser and Ziegler as close escorts for the DFW two-seater while Zu Hürst and Würgler made a wide turn on the left flank in order to find an opening in the defence of the French spotter plane.
This plan quickly changed as in turn two, Zu Hürst opted to sacrifice himself by placing himself between one of the Spads (Brioche) and the DFW two-seater. This caused the Spad to attack Zu Hürst being the closer target. This manoeuvre allowed for Würgler to attack and wound Brioche.
Pic: Meet and greet. One of the SPAD VII – Sous-lieutenant Brioche shoots at Zu Hürst and gets shot at by Würgler wounding Brioche
A fierce circling dogfight broke out just over the land battle. Each turn the sides were forced to consider if they could risk getting their recon planes closer to the target area in order to get a better spotting roll. And at the same time the recon planes could also be used in a fighter role if the opportunity should arise.
Pic: Comté trying a close range shot at Siegler but misses.
Pic: Furball… The two opposing recon planes can be seen in the lower left corner. Elements of the retreating German 187th Infantry regiment can be seen in the lower middle of the pic just above the road (1/350 scale troop bases are small!).
Pic: Turn four. Comté is pondering his options. Going after the tail of the Albatros (Gaisser) and risk getting the oncoming DFW C.V two-seater on the tail?
Pic: Turn four. Men at work – Both two-seaters circling low in order to direct the artillery fire. In the front Gaisser is seen from another angle.
Pic: In turn five, the two two-seaters came face to face – Chaterain in the Sopwith Strutter placed himself out of the fire arc of the German observer. The French observer then opened up at the German plane and wounded the pilot Günzel. Günzel missed the ensuing courage check against his remaining Macho and turned home – This gave one point to the allies for a driven home. Fortunately for the German side the observer passed his check and was able to keep directing the artillery as the DWF turned home.
Turn six saw the artillery beginning to hit home – both sides scoring hits on the enemy ranks and thus scoring victory points – The French troops were hit the hardest as they received some friendly fire as well. But as the German recon was forced to withdraw the Germans were pressed. The dogfight went into a stalemate and not much happened in terms of damage to the involved aircraft even though a lot of shots were fired from long distances and difficult deflection angles.
Pic: Having stakled the two-seater the aggressive Comté is trying his luck at the retreating DFW.
The game ended with the allied artillery hitting two enemy ground units in the tenth and last game turn. An allied victory with the score of 4-2, a surplus of 2 points needed for a win. Combined with the German victory in the simultaneous Gotha mission, the campaign score for the day ended in a 1-1 point draw. The overall campaign score for the second quarter then also stood at a draw provided that the Germans could keep on to their ownership of the bonus victory condition: Having the most kills among the pilots still alive. This meant that the victor of the last mission of the quarter: “The balloons at Messines” would also win the campaign quarter.
June 1917 Mission: “The balloons at Messines”
The 7 of June 1917 saw the opening of the British attack on Messines Ridge. The British opened up the attack by detonating 600 tonnes of explosives buried in mines under the German lines and followed by a massive artillery hindering the Germans in moving reserves forward into the lines. In this mission the Germans are attacking the British balloon line near Messines Ridge in order to limit the effectiveness of the massive British artillery barrage.
The mission and set-up
The German objective obviously was to destroy both the British observation balloons. The allied objective was to prevent this from happening.
Pic: The allied side sets up to the left, behind the red line. The Germans sets up afterwards in either of the two half-circles in areas C. The 2 balloons start at 20 altitude units and are hauled towards the earth with 20 km/h equalling to 2 Altitude units per turn.
A battery of two AA guns firing a barrage of shells, two 37 mm revolver cannons and 4 AA-MG protected the balloons.
The combat area seen from the British balloon line.
Pic: the attacking German force. The top row flown by Thomas Greve (from the left): Albatros DII (Adler), Halberstadt D.II (Kalb) and Albatros D.III (Belzer). At the bottom of the picture: Two Albatros D.IIIs flown by Thomas Løfgreen – Loeffe. To the left with the red stripe again the infamous Von Glück who had been very effective during the whole campaign. Glücks wingman this day was Fürtzenfeldt (green and mauve wings).
The German pilots were apart from the elite Von Glück of average quality. The inept Konrad Kalb in the old Halberstadt, was despite his lack of talent, a veteran in the campaign with two previous flown missions and a war wound on his track record.
The allied formation
Pic: The allied air formation consisted of a very varied mix of planes:
Andreas – (BGG:Abbadon_1) had a Nieuport 17 (Roquefort) and a new Nieuport 24 (Montraché), Lars had a Sopwith 1 ½ strutter (Blair + a Gunner) and I had a Sopwith Pup (the very average veteran Libby) and a very nice Sopwith Triplane (Undertaker).
Both my pilots had underperformed massively in the previous Gotha mission although Libby earlier had put up a good fight in the otherwise disastrous March mission.
The allied side as a whole had good pilots as Undertaker, Blair and Montraché all was of a above average quality.
The game opened up in turn 2 with a flurry of passing shots.
The masterful Von Glück (D.III) wounded Libby (Pup) slightly, allowing Libby to stay in the battle. The Germans came out worse as Roquefort hit Adlers D.II resulting in both MGs being out of the action – And Adler no more being a threat.
Pic: Libby getting a grazing wound from Von Glück.
After that the game became a violent furball over the front.
Montraché (Nieuport 24) took a very aggressive stance attacked and nearly collided with Kalb in the old Halberstadt. Montraché wounded Kalb, but the inexperienced pilot grit his teet and stayed in the combat. Fürstenfeld (D.III) tried to help his comrade by attacking Montrachet but missed his frontal shot at the Nieuport 24.
At the same time Roquefort in the silvery Nieuport 17 got a rear shot at the already beleaguered Adler wounding the Adler – but he also made his macho check and stayed in the combat.
Pic: Libby missing a high deflection potshot at Fürstenfeldt
The allied did a tactical blunder by committing all the planes to the dogfight allowing Von Glück to stay above in a beneficial situation tactically: He posed a threat to the planes fighting below and he could go for the British balloon line.
Pic: Furball At the top – von Glück high above the battle. Libby (left) is seen shooting at Fürstenfeldt. In the background: Undertaker following Glück towards the balloon line.
Turn 4 saw both Blair in the two seater Sopwith Strutter and Montraché firing at Belzer – the first, with a rear shot, damaging the main spar severely and the second from the side hitting the engine which stopped immediately, forcing Belzer to break off the combat and try to glide over the lines.
Belzer did not get far as in turn 5 Montraché swooped around for a perfect rear shot causing Belzers D.III to break up in the air. The score now stood at 2 points for the allied side. The Germans now left with only 2 undamaged planes.
Pic: Turn 5: Falling Albatros. Montrachet gets his first kill – Belzers D.III breaking up in the air.
Pic: turn 5. Same situation as above seen over the shoulder of Blair in the Sopwith Strutter two-seater.
The battle slowly moved down towards the balloons as Adler in the weaponless Albatros D.II got hit and was forced out of the combat. This gave 1 more points to the allied. The Germans now had a tough fight with only Von Glück and Fürstenfeldt (both D.IIIs) fully able to fight, the inexperienced and wounded Kalb in the old Halberstad being of little use.
In the meantime Von Glück, who had stayed out of the combat below, circled above the balloons, now covered by Undertaker (Sopwith Triplane) and Libby (Pup). Von Glück found a hole ad dived down at high speed and attacked one of the balloons – But alas the balloon got a lot of holes but no flame, despite the fact that Von Glück was using incendiary ammo. The air defenses opened up with all they had but failed to hit the red striped Albatros.
Libby and Undertaker went after Von Glück as he turned for another try at the next balloon which he attacked and set on fire.
Pic: Von Glück setting the second balloon on fire while Libby and Undertaker mills confused about.
The two British planes failed to get in a firing position on Glück as Fürstenfeldt swooped down and took a shoot at the first balloon, but only managed to damage the balloon envelope, thus making a follow up attack easier. In the process Fürstenfeld was hit by defensive ground fire, but his plane held together.
Pic: Füstenfeld shoting at the balloon. Note AA-MGs in the field below the balloon.
Meanwhile over the front, Roguefort in the Nieuport 17 had pulled out of the combat, as he was damaged, low on altitude and low on ammo.
Montraché (Nieuport 24) and and Blair (Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter) had at this point made a tactical blunder: They had allowed Fürstenfeld to get away and attack the balloons. Instead they went for Kalb in the Halberstadt, seemingly being easy meat. Kalb managed to fly defensively and avoided further damage, holding up two planes that ought to be defending the balloons.
Pic: Blair and Montraché in a “kurvenkampf” with Kalb
The 10th and last turn saw von Glück coming around again attacking the remaining balloon, which exploded in a massive blast nearly damaging the attacking Albatross and, as the balloon was now hauled almost down ground level, causing the AA gunners below to run, thus saving Von Glück from close range ground fire.
Pic: The last balloon, nearly winched down, falling in flames on its own Balloon train.
That ended the combat and the last mission in the second quarter of the campaign. The score stood at a draw: The Germans had destroyed both the targeted balloons (2 points each) but at a too high cost having lost an aircraft (2 points) and gotten another driven home (1 point) with a wounded pilot. Von Glück, who once again stood out as the hero of the day, had saved a mission that had started out as a disaster for the Germans.
I personally was not satisfied with my tactical dispositions, committing all my planes in a lower lever dogfight while no one stayed at high level to check Von Glück. And I was disappointed by the performance of my pilots – Undertaker, my best pilot in my best plane; the Tripe had again achieved nothing at all. The good work once more being done by the excellent French pilots flown by Andreas.
And again we saw Thomas Greve (the Germans), the other designer got whipped from a combination of bad luck, bad decisions and some rather inept pilots. He ended up having lost one plane, gotten another forced home and having his last pilot Kalb wounded. This was the second time Kalb was wounded and this time Thomas missed Kalbs “Recovering from wounds” roll and poor Kalb ended up with Nerves causing him to get minuses on the roll the next time Kalb is forced to roll a Courage check.
A short reflection on the attritions rates of squadrons after the six first months of 1917:
The German pilots has 9 kills among them.
The Allied pilost has 6 kills among them.
This is not counting planes that had to make emergency landings outside the game area or planes that had to pull out of the combat due to damage or a wounded pilot – “Driven down, Out of Control” in historical terms.
As the most of the combats are over German held territory this means that damaged Allied planes are often lost:
The Germans has lost 7 planes in total
The Allies has lost 15 planes in total
These numbers includes af few planes written of at the home aerodrome due to extensive combat damage.
Of the crews and pilots who flew the two January 1917 missions, 6 fighter pilots and 4 two seater crews only one French pilot – Brioche (wounded in the May artillery mission)and a German two seater crew is still alive.
The campaign is now entering the third quarter of 1917. This period will see action over Ypres and the birth of close air support as German Halberstadt CL planes will provide cover for German ground units under suppressive fire.
The RFC will also see a marked change in terms of aircraft quality: The pushers will be gone forever, the fragile, nimble Pups and Nieuport 17´s will slowly dissapear, and instead we will see rapidly rising numbers of aggressive Camels, fast Se5a´s and well armed Bristol Fighters. All the while the Germans only will see gradual improvements of their prevalent Albatros D.II and D.III in the form of large numbers of the slightly improved D.V and the rugged, but somewhat sluggish Pfalz D.IIIa. In the end month of the quarter the Germans may be lucky to get their hands on one of the famed Fokker Dr.I.
The French will end the third quarter with the introduction of a few of the powerful, well armed and very fast SPAD.XIII.