Storage box

Storage is a key part of the usability of any wargaming setup – it has to be easy otherwise I’m not going to make much use of it.  For the 1:300 aircraft I have used closed cell foam floor mats stuck to card backing and stacked in a plastic storage box.

The foam was first cut to size so that it fitted into the box and then the individual aircraft shapes were cut out.  A sharp knife is needed and I made a paper template for each aircraft type as tracing round the actual models would inevitably lead to damage.

Once the aircraft shapes were cut out, and trimmed where necessary to get a good fit, the foam was glued to a cardboard backing with PVA glue.  After leaving them to set under a decent weight the card was trimmed to the edges of the foam.

1:300 aircraft storage trays

Whilst the FW 190s fitted nicely in the foam layer the B-17s have a high tail.  To get round this pieces of the foam I’d cut out of the aircraft holes were secured on top with a hot glue gun to provide some spacing.  The layers on top won’t be that heavy so the slight compressibility of the foam isn’t an issue.

B-17s in storage tray

Storage trays stacked in box

To make getting the layers out of the box easier one corner has been cut out to allow a finger to hook under a layer.

Corner cutout of storage trays

B-17 combat box

The B-17s are now painted, decals have been applied, exhaust tracks added and everything sealed with a coat of satin varnish.

1:300 B-17 combat box

From the 6 o’clock high position the different heights of the flights is easier to see.

1:300 B-17 combat box from 6 o'clock high

The stand mountings aren’t finalised yet but they’re off the painting table.

B-17 Squadron Heraldry

When initially looking at the heraldry I had left the B-17 numbering until later.  I couldn’t find any available transfers that would fit what I needed so I’ve got some transfer paper and made up my own sheet.

By the point in the war this scenario is set (11 September 1944) the majority of aircraft would have been silver (or natural metal finish as it’s sometimes known) so the markings would have been black. (There would have been a few olive drab aircraft sill in service but I’m going with 12 silver aircraft.)

The identification symbol for the 100th BG was a square with a D inside. This appeared on both sides of the tail and – in a slightly larger box – on the upper and lower surfaces of the wings.

The code for 351 squadron of 100th BG is EP and the aircraft have a single letter identification code. As for the Luftwaffe aircraft I’ve gone for an idealised/abstract sequence of A-M (missing I as it doesn’t look great). The squadron code appears on each side of the fuselage and, smaller, on both sides of the tail.

Finally there’s the individual aircraft’s serial number which appeared on both sides of the tail above its identification code. There are valid ranges for these but, for what I’m after, a set of random numbers in the 200,000 – 400,000 range is close enough.

With all that, a USAF lettering font, and some measuring of images from various sources and I’ve got enough to produce a vector image that I can print on the transfer paper:

1:300 fictional markings for 351 sqadron, 100 Bomb Group

Bag the Hun scenario cards

One of the reasons for choosing Bag the Hun (BtH) as the rule system is that it uses a card deck for turn sequence meaning it’s ideally suited to solo play.

In the case of the scenario of a attack on a combat box of B-17s there’s not much choice in terms of actions:

  • The B-17s will fly straight and level in formation and shoot at any available target that comes into range.
  • The FW 190s will close in on the B-17s and try and shoot at any available target once they are in range.

Given the very restricted nature of this scenario there will be a number of cards that are normally included that we can discount:

  • Bogeys: This encounter takes place between two large formations within visual range so there will be no unspotted aircraft to represent.
  • Altitude bonus: This encounter takes place within one altitude band so there will never be a formation at a higher altitude.
  • Bail out: This is a one-off encounter so there is no need to track crew survival.
  • The Blank card: The purpose of this card is to mark scenario specific events and, in this case, there are none.

In BtH cards for movement and shooting are allocated on a formation basis: one each for each formation.  Normally formations are considered to be in the region of three or four aircraft but in this scenario we have two special case formations – the B-17 combat box and the FW 190 Sturmgruppe – both of 12 aircraft.  Let’s look at these individually:

B-17 Combat Box

Whilst the combat box consists of four flights of three aircraft, the 12 aircraft formation is the be-all-and-end-all of the B-17s – so much so that forcing an aircraft out of formation (Herausschuss) was the primary goal of the FW 190s.  So, in this scenario, the box will never break down into individual flights meaning only one formation move card is needed.

When it comes to shooting, the B-17s don’t have any pilot controlled guns so they don’t need a formation shoot card.  The B-17s will therefore be entirely reliant on air gunner cards which are allocated at the rate of one per four aircraft (rounded up).  With a starting compliment of 12 aircraft that gives three air gunner cards.

Normally each side would receive a formation bonus move card but, as the B-17s are size six aircraft they cannot use this card so it won’t be included.

FW 190 Sturmgruppe

The Sturmgruppe would approach the combat box in a single line abreast formation before, as late as possible, breaking up to attack the individual flights of the combat box.  As the basic formation of the Luftwaffe was the four aircraft Schwarm three formation move cards are needed.  Following the formation rules in BtH this means the Sturmgruppe can move as a single formation on Schwarm one’s move card and ignore Schwarm two and three’s move cards until such time as they choose to break formation.  (This break formation could be handled with a scenario specific card but this keeps it simple and gives the FW 190s the edge in terms of tactical manoeuvrability which is appropriate.)

As the FW 190 has pilot controlled guns, each formation will need a shoot card meaning three formation shoot cards are needed – matching the move cards.

There will be one formation move card for the FW 190s.

Conclusion

Whilst this may well be adjusted later based on experience, the starting card deck will be:

  • B-17 combat box move
  • B-17 gunners fire
  • B-17 gunners fire
  • B-17 gunners fire
  • FW 190 Schwarm one move
  • FW 190 Schwarm one fire
  • FW 190 Schwarm two move
  • FW 190 Schwarm two fire
  • FW 190 Schwarm three move
  • FW 190 Schwarm three fire
  • FW 190 formation bonus move

As a thought exercise this seems right:  the FW 190s have the tactical advantage in terms of manoeuvrability but the B-17s will still get plenty of chances to return fire.  (The way the rules work, it will only be a shot at a single FW 190 with each card but, with the combined bonuses granted by the interlocking fields of fire of a combat box, it’s got a very good chance of doing serious damage.)

Flight stands

I have picked up some flight stands from Figures in Comfort, 25 with 50mm pegs and 10 extra 100mm pegs.

Litko flight stands

By cutting down pegs, this gives the ability to mount up to 10 aircraft on 50-100mm pegs and – as I have 24 aircraft in total – any number on 50mm or shorter pegs.  (In game mechanical terms the hight of the aircraft doesn’t make a difference, this is purely for visual effect on the table.)

As there are 12 FW 190s I’ll mount them on the stock 50mm pegs as that will save work.

The 12 aircraft B1-17 combat box consists of four flights of three, each at different heights (medium, high, low and low-low).   Discounting the 50mm height – as that’s been taken by the FW 190s – four equally spaced heights are now needed.

Taking 50mm as our mid point between the levels, a 10mm spacing would work (35mm, 45mm, 55mm, 65mm) but doens’t have much visual impact.  A 30mm spacing would still fit within our available range (5mm, 35mm, 65mm, 95mm) and provide a good visual impact but leaves the low-low flight on 5mm posts.  So I’ve settled on a 20mm spacing:

B-17 FW 190
80mm (high) 50mm
60mm (mid)
40mm (low)
20mm (low-low)

This gives the necessary flight levels for the B-17 combat box and also doesn’t line the FW 190s up on the level of one specific flight, which is something I was trying to avoid.

Flight stand pegs cut to length

Miniatures arrived

The full order of the other 11 aircraft of each type have arrived nearly two weeks after ordering them – what I learned from this is that Hermes are significantly slower than Royal Mail.

1:300 FW 190s and B-17s

Similarly to the test miniatures there’s a lot of flash on these that needs cleaning up and I’m going to need to fair over the gun ports on the noses of the FW 190s before they get painted.

More test minuatures

Whilst there was nothing wrong with the previous testers they seem to have been about the last of those lines in stock.  With no more stock coming in I’ve sourced alternatives.

These are from Scotia, they’re cheaper but the casts aren’t as good with quite a lot of flash.  Looks like they’ll clean up fine so and the detail is plenty good enough.  Time to order the rest of the squadrons – given I ordered these on Friday and they arrived on Monday shouldn’t have to wait long…

Squadron heraldry

To quickly identify aircraft it’s useful to have some form of markings – or, as I’m calling it, heraldry. Whilst the real aircraft have such markings they don’t quite match up to what I need for the tabletop so I’ve adapted markings I’ve found in the literature whilst doing my research to try and have something that looks as realistic as possible whilst also being practical.  [In reality aircraft would not conform to an idealised pattern like this, combat losses and serviceability would make it unfeasible.]

FW 190 Staffel

The Staffel (squadron) consists of 12 aircraft, a full compliment. This is organised into three Schwarme (flights) which are comprised of two Rotten (pairs).

For the formation rules of Bag The Hun it’s important to be able to identify the leader of each of these sub-groups. I’ve chosen to use white cowl rings for anyone who can potentially lead a formation, black engine farings for Schwarmführers and the Staffelführer has the black ‘eagle’ on the side of the nose covering the exhaust exits.  [Jagdgeschwader 4 are mentioned as using black and white on the engines and cowls and the ‘eagle’ marking is fairly common on FW 190s but doesn’t seem to convey any meaning.]

For individual identification each aircraft will be numbered, I’ve chosen yellow numbers for contrast which would mark this out as 3 Staffel (or 6, 9 or12). [Whilst yellow was the colour for the third Staffeln this wasn’t strictly adhered to and I’ve not read anything about the aircraft being sequentially numbered in the way I’ve chosen. Given that it’s not unusual to see aircraft numbered above 12 it’s improbable that aircraft were sequentially numbered.]

FW 190 Staffel heraldry

B-17 Squadron

B-17 squadrons and aircraft were identified by code letters on the fuselage which I have covered separately but I wanted something that shows up more clearly on the table so I’ve invented a completely custom scheme.; [Some of these markings were used on B-17s but not to convey this particular information.]

The combat box formation used by the USAF changed throughout the war but I’m going with four flights of three aircraft in a mid (centre), high (port), low (starboard) and low-low (centre) arrangement which, as far as I’ve read, is appropriate for late 1944.

From what I’ve found in my research, in September 1944 the 100th Bomb Group’s aircraft would have been bare metal with a white letter ‘D’ in a black box on the wing and tail – no other markings seem to be used. I’ve taken that black and used it as the basis for the flight markings:

  1. Mid Flight: no markings
  2. High Flight: wing tips
  3. Low Flight: chord-wise bars on each wing
  4. Low-low Flight: diagonal bar on the starboard wing

Within each flight the aircraft are designated by markings on the engines:

  1. Lead Aircraft: no markings
  2. Second (port) Aircraft: yellow cowl on number three engine
  3. Third (starboard) Aircraft: yellow cowl on number two engine

B17 squadron heraldry

BF 109 Staffel

Whilst I’m not including BF 109s in the initial game I’ve got plans for an expansion (which will probably never happen) to include the fighter escort battle between the BF 109s and the P-51s.  As I’ve got Luftwaffe markings in my mind I’ve outlined the heraldry for the BF 109 Staffel.

Following the same principle as the FW 190 Staffel I’ve marked the formation leaders with black spinners and the wingmen with white spinners.  [JG 4 used a black and white spiral spinner which – even with the large spinner on the BF 109G  – isn’t going to work at 1:300 scale so I’ve compromised and alternated black and white spinners throughout the Staffel.]

The Schwarmführers have white rudders.  [A different colour rudder is something that’s seen on BF 109s – and I don’t know what it signified – but mostly before 1944 so, whilst not accurate it’s appropriate.]

Finally the Staffelführer has a fully yellow nose.  [This was archetypical of the BF 109E during the Battle of Britain but doesn’t seem to appear much after 1942.  However, I like it and – having cut my aero modelling teeth on Battle of Britain aircraft – I’m using it.]

BF 109 Staffel heraldry