Messerschmitt ME 262 Schwalbe by Marek J. Murawski and Marek Rys  Incredible as it may seem, the earliest desig...

Messerschmitt ME 262 Schwalbe by Marek J. Murawski and Marek Rys Messerschmitt ME 262 Schwalbe by Marek J. Murawski and Marek Rys

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



by








 Incredible as it may seem, the earliest design for a jet engine was in 1863 in France. The first patent for a for a jet engine was issued in 1921 to another Frenchman. Frank Whittle took out a patent in 1930. However, the first operational jet engine was patented in Germany in 1935 by Hans Joachim Pabst Von Ohain. The first flight of an aircraft with jet engines took place on 8/27/1939. This was a Heinkel 178 flown by Erich Warsitz. The engineers at Junkers decided to start afresh because of the inherent problems with both Whittle's and Von Ohain's centrifugal designs. They came up with an Axial Turbo Jet engine, the Jumo 004, which is essentially what has been used in all jet aircraft since then.

 The authors start their book on the Me 262 Schwalbe (swallow), by going back in time to the beginning of jet engines. They then go into the thinking and design work that went into the Me 262. The Me 262 was probably the biggest milestone in flight since the Wright brothers. How would you feel, if you were an Allied pilot, to see a plane whiz past you at 100 miles per hour faster than you could fly? The Me 262's maiden flight was on March 29th 1942. The first Jumo motors weren't available until June 1st 1942. After Adolf Gallands first flight in a Me 262 he said "it was as if the angels were pushing you".

 The book continues with all of the design changes, tricycle landing gear, and all of the different armament configurations discussed. The idiotic Fuhrer directive about all aircraft being able to carry a bomb load is brought up. 

 The authors show that the main reason for the delay of the Me 262's deployment was because of the plane and engines being revolutionary. The plane itself was a marvel, but the engines were always its Achilles heel. Acceleration and deceleration had to be slowly and carefully applied or the engines would flame out. The engine's life span was only 10-25 hours. This was due to Germany not being able to produce the exotic alloys needed to deal with the intense heat of a jet engine.

  The book takes us back to Hitler with a very interesting conference about fighter production for the Luftwaffe on Mat 23rd 1944. Hitler wasn't apparently too interested until the Me 262 was mentioned. At that point he asked "how many of the Me 262s already manufactured could carry bombs". When Field Marshal Milch tells him "none" he explodes. Various figures at the meeting try to talk Hitler into the idea that the Me 262 is a fighter through and through. Hitler abuses Adolf Galland and Milch about it. Then Milch blurts out "mein fuhrer, the smallest infant can see that this is a fighter, not a bomber aircraft". I imagine you could hear a pin drop at that moment. 

 By this, the authors show that the Me 262 fighter version was in production, if haltingly, by May 1944. On August 17th 1944 an allied bombing raid on Regensburg caused serious damage to the Me 262 program. Four hundred staff were killed and the facilities were heavily damaged.

 The book continues with a listing of all production and experimental Me 262s. Then it continues with the complete history of all of the Me 262 sorties during this phase of the war. This part of the book takes up the first eighty pages.

 The twenty pages that follow are scaled drawings of every planned or flown Me 262. The next eighty pages are a modeller's and flight simmer's dream. These eighty pages are of computer generated detailed pictures of every single part of a Me 262, from tail to nose and everything in between. The next section is small at fifteen pages, but these are full of pictures of an actual restored Me 262. The last twenty pages are computer renderings of side or top and bottom views of all the different paint schemes, etc.

 Unbelievably, with everything else the book already provides, there are two separate fold out line drawings of the Me 262 one at 1:32 and the other at 1:48 scale. 

 This book is truly a wonder of prose and art. Any and every thing about the Schwalbe is here at the readers fingertips.


Robert


Publisher: Kagero
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Marlon Brando in all his glory I have the pleasure of reviewing The Godfather: Corleone's Empire which, at the time of writing is ...

The Godfather: Corleone's Empire The Godfather: Corleone's Empire

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Marlon Brando in all his glory
I have the pleasure of reviewing The Godfather: Corleone's Empire which, at the time of writing is Cool Mini or Not's latest 'hotness'. Unusually for a miniatures game, this title wasn't a Kickstarter and compared to CMON's other Kickstarter titles it shows. You're not getting hundreds of superfluous miniatures or any add-ons with this game. Instead, you get a game that has been designed to within an inch of its life and that is a good thing.

I suppose we should expect nothing less than a fantastic design when Eric Lang is at the wheel and he has delivered in spades. The top-notch design extends beyond the game play and components to include the box and the vac trays. When I was opening the box it felt like unwrapping a new electronic device whose boxes are notoriously designed to exude luxury and functionality. Godfather's vac trays are among the best I've ever seen in a game. Usually, I will ditch the vac tray and create a custom insert to hold game components, not this time.

The miniatures vac tray, note the horses head first player counter
Godfather's components also include a metal 'suitcase' for each player. I don't know why, but this addition tipped me over from curious to excited to play this game. You'll notice the base of the miniatures is either a square or circle; there are corresponding shapes on the game board which indicates the legal moves for each character. This aid helps to teach and play the game, there are other similar aids on the board to help the different setups at different player counts.

In the game, you control a family and thugs vying for supremacy of New York. The Godfather himself is a rather abstracted figure that only controls the game turns and some aspects of your hand management. Each family aside from the sculpts and names plays exactly the same. The miniatures themselves are, as you would expect from CMON, very well sculpted. But don't be disappointed by the lack of detail on them when compared to a typical fantasy figure; not many mobsters ran around New York bedecked in fur cloaks, leather pouches and scabbards!
A selection of the family figures
When I taught this game to not-my-normal group of players, none of whom would I describe as gamers, it took less than 15 minutes to explain and set-up all the components. (I had packed the game away to make sure setup would be quick but I can't see setup needing more than 10 minutes at the most)

As you can see the box art is sumptuous and evocative of the early 20th-century gangster theme. This immersive art design extends to both the board and the rule book. The rule book is a work of art in more ways than one. Let's be clear here, this is a simple game; if not a gateway game then a very solid next-step game. The rules could have been crammed onto 4 sides of paper. However here you get a lavishly illustrated rule book which introduces the game and explains concepts so clearly, it could be used as an example in rule-book writing.


Revenge is a dish best served cold - said the green player
On my first playthrough of the game, to make sure I knew the rules, I played with my 8-year-old son. For his benefit, I renamed the resource cards from narcotics, liquor, blood-money and weapons to a more palatable medicine, drink, money and guns. I think this may have sanitised my first play-through, a feeling which I haven't shaken on all subsequent plays. I would have liked the actions to feel a little more 'gangster' or brutal.

One of the most enjoyable actions involves taking-out other players figures. When this happens you get to put the proverbial 'concrete shoes' on them and 'give them an offer they can't refuse' and literally toss their miniatures in the Hudson River. The other core actions are spending your resources to complete jobs or shaking down businesses.

In order to maximise your turns, you need to manage your family. With no figures left you're not able to complete any of the ancillary actions open to you. This is a similar mechanic to managing your rage in Eric's previous Viking-themed game Blood Rage.

There are four turns to every game with five phases per turn. It scales well from 2 to 5 players. At 2 and 3 players, however, the board did feel quite barren until the 4th turn where you receive your full complement of miniatures. With 5 players the final turn felt inordinately longer than the preceding ones.

The final act of a 3 player game
Ultimately this is a worker placement game, with a side of card-drafting in an attempt to control Manhattan and Brooklyn. Where you place your pieces doesn't induce the same level of angst in the other players as do the likes of Caylus or Agricola. It felt like there was nearly always an okay, if not a good option left to take. However, for its audience, I think this is a design feature; very few players will find themselves alienated or picked on at any stage.

When I played the game with my slightly-more experienced group, they all agreed that it had become one of their favourite games and would look forward to playing it again. We rarely get the same games to the table but I think the Godfather will be a regular and welcome visitor to my gaming table now. This game feels a little light for my tastes but I still thoroughly enjoyed it and it was definitely a hit with my core gaming group. 

I would like to thank 365games for the copy of Godfather: Corleone's Empire they've provided for this review. RRP for this game is £79.99.


Another superb build by Mike! Yes a strange little beast for sure.

Mike Sandbagger Norris DFW T28 build! Mike Sandbagger Norris DFW T28 build!

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Another superb build by Mike!



Yes a strange little beast for sure.

The Sirdar and The Khalifa by   Mark Simner    'Khartoum', a big motion picture from Hollywood, was made in...

The Sirdar and The Khalifa by Mark Simner The Sirdar and The Khalifa by Mark Simner

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by
 





  'Khartoum', a big motion picture from Hollywood, was made in 1966. It starred Laurence Olivier as the 'Mahdi', and Charlton Heston as 'Chinese Gordon'. Like many movies, it plays with the actual history. However, unlike most it follows the historical narrative fairly closely. The movie deals with how England came to be entangled with Sudan. If you haven't seen it, take a gander. It is a perfect segue for this book.

 Like the movie, the author begins with the history of Sudan and the rise of Muhammad Ahmed as the 'Mahdi' the expected one of Islam. According to either Sunni or Shia beliefs and writings, the Mahdi will rule all of Islam before Jesus comes back for Judgement Day. The book takes us back to the early days of Muhammad Ahmed's life, and goes into the history of the Sudan, explaining that it was considered a part of Egypt at the time. Egypt was still considered a part of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century. Egypt was ruled by a 'Khedive', roughly a governor for the Ottoman Sultan. Egypt however, was only nominally under Turkish rule, and was greatly under English sway.

 The Khedive's armies were smashed by the Mahdist forces, so he asked England for help. The English prime minister refused to get involved other than to send General Gordon to supervise the removal of Egyptian citizens out of Sudan. Gordan had other ideas. He attempted to fight the Mahdists with the few troops on hand in Khartoum. Gordon and the troops were then besieged in Khartoum. At this time public opinion forced the English government to form a relief force to save him. The relief force was under Lord Wolsley. It was too little and too late. Gordon was killed with the relief force just days away. This was in 1885. This campaign was where Kipling came up with his poem 'Fuzzy Wuzzy'. This was an English term for the Sudanese warriors. Strangely, the poem praises the Sudanese warriors' valor and commends them on the fact that they 'broke a British square'.

 The above history takes up roughly the first third of the book, just so the reader can get a grasp of the history up to the main part of the book. British involvement continued to grow in Egypt, and in 1892 Lord Kitchener became the 'Sirdar' or Commander-in-chief of the Anglo-Egyptian army. 

 The Mahdi had died not too long after the fall of Khartoum to his forces. His Sudanese uprising continued under one of the three men he named as Khalipha (Caliph) Abdullahi Al-Taishi. The British press still campaigned for England to avenge Gordon. 

 The rest of the book covers the campaign of Kitchener to reconquer Sudan. The Anglo-Egyptian Army was now much better trained and armed. The battles of Omdurman and others are shown to the reader. These include some of the last successful cavalry charges in history, including none other than a young Winston Churchill with the 21st lancers at Omdurman. Omdurman was the last great battle between a European army and one of so called 'savages'. Although the Sudanese fought valiantly, the Anglo-Egyptian Army was even equipped with some early machine guns, so the issue was never really in doubt. 

 The author, Mark Simner, knows his history well, and writes engagingly about it. He even continues with the 'Fashoda Incident', which almost brought Britain and France to war in 1898.

 The book comes with five pages of maps. It also includes thirty-two pages of black and white photos of the campaign.


Robert


Book: The Sirdar And The Khalifa
Author: Mark Simner
Publisher: Fonthill Media
Distributor: Casemate Publishers



A year after the Battle of the Somme the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) were tasked with pushing through Ypres in Belgium and occupyi...

The Passchendaele Campaign 1917 by Andrew Rawson The Passchendaele Campaign 1917 by Andrew Rawson

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A year after the Battle of the Somme the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) were tasked with pushing through Ypres in Belgium and occupying the high ground and ridge-lines to the East. This battle now known as the Battle of Passchendaele or the Third Battle of Ypres is succinctly covered in Andrew Rawson's latest book in the BEF series from Pen & Sword Publishing.

The book starts, just as the battle did, with a series of explosions in mines sunk beneath the Allied trenches and tunnelled underneath German defensive positions. Although the Germans were listening for the tell-tale sounds of boring machinery, they couldn't hear it because the mines were so deep and machinery wasn't involved. The author tells us that humans, literally 'diggers' were quieter and quicker than any machinery of the time.

Initial successes literally became stuck in the mud as the Flanders coast saw unprecedented rainfall throughout August. This left each side not only fighting each other but also the quagmire in which they lived and died.

I was expecting this book to be a bit of a slog (no pun intended) but the way in which the author breaks down each battle with an accompanying map into Divisions and Brigade level really helped my comprehension of what was happening. The author states that his inspiration for this approach came from a book about the American Civil War, 'A Testing of Courage'. I've not read that volume but I think Andrew has achieved his aim of clearly explaining the force disposition, terrain and outcome into a coherent narrative.

I've long known about the terrific amount of ordnance fired by artillery pieces throughout WWI but I've never read an account of how precisely it was integrated into the whole offensive. Not only that but I was surprised at how 'joint' were the separate military outfits. The Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service, with the subterranean diggers, with the modern tank, alongside the ubiquitous infantryman all supported with artillery. The level of coordination between all of these services must have been immense and it was achieved primarily by runners and pigeons!

Passchendaele village before and after artillery barrage.
 A common artillery tactic mentioned frequently in the book was the artillery barrage. This served to soften up the German positions but scarily the infantry would hug the line of explosions and walk just behind the explosions in order to capitalise on the defenders turmoil. The numbers of shells fired, given by Mr Rawson are frankly terrifying to comprehend.

I found the prose to be rather terse as the author whips you through one Brigade of a Division then onto another very quickly. The briefest mentions of individual acts of bravery are given scant acknowledgement, with the oft repeated phrase '...for this he received the Victoria Cross'. I appreciated this style as it kept the book flowing along at a very steady clip. If nothing else, the book is a thorough account of the entire Flanders campaign in just over 200 pages.

Bovington Tank Museum diorama of combined arms during WWI
I would have liked more picture inserts as those that the author put in were just enough to whet my appetite. Their clarity was surprising and complemented the text very well.

If you're looking for a good introduction to the battles in and around Ypres then look no further.


Book: The Passchendaele Campaign 1917
Author: Andrew Rawson
Publisher: Pen & Sword Books

Warfare In New Kingdom Egypt By Paul Elliot  We have gazed in wonder at the treasures that were found in Tutankha...

Warfare In New Kingdom Egypt By Paul Elliot Warfare In New Kingdom Egypt By Paul Elliot

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



By








 We have gazed in wonder at the treasures that were found in Tutankhamun's burial chamber for almost one hundred years. In reality he was a boy king whose rule was very short, and his burial a hurried affair. What treasures or history would have been found in an intact tomb of Tuthmosis III or Rameses II? The ancient grave robbers stole from us more than gold and gems.

 Between the Middle and New Kingdoms Egypt was prostrate under the invaders we call the 'Hyksos'. Their names are Semitic in origin, so it is assumed that it was also their heritage. So the proud Egyptian people who built the pyramids etc. were beset, and half of their country was conquered by outsiders. The book starts with the Egyptian fight to regain control of the northern part of their country. Then it continues with the founding of the New Kingdom by the pharaoh Ahmose.

 The book itself is small at 140+ pages, but it is filled with all we know at present about warfare in that age. It comes with maps and illustrations, and fourteen pages of colored photos.

 This was an age where Egyptian armies strode over a large portion of the Middle East. The book also goes into the other Egyptian enemies: the Mitanni, Hittite, and the Sea Peoples. The New Kingdom seems to have been born and died under different foreign invaders.

 The campaigns of the 'Napoleon of Egypt' Tuthmosis III are gone into along with those of Rameses II and other pharaohs. The nuts and bolts of these campaigns are shown to the reader. The book also goes into the simple soldiers' lot in life, along with all of the different weaponry he used. The Egyptians had not known of the chariot before the Hyksos invasion. However, they quickly became masters of chariot warfare.

 Mr. Elliot has written an excellent primer on the warfare of the time. Hopefully the book will make the reader explore more of the history and personalities of the age.


 Robert

Book: Warfare In New Kingdom Egypt
Author: Paul Elliot
Publisher: Fonthill media
Distributor: Casemate Publishing



Fleet Commander Nimitz by Dan Verssen Games      Once again I have the pleasure of reviewing a Dan Verssen Game,  ...

Fleet Commander Nimitz by Dan Verssen Games Fleet Commander Nimitz by Dan Verssen Games

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Fleet Commander Nimitz


by



Dan Verssen Games




  
 Once again I have the pleasure of reviewing a Dan Verssen Game,  hereon known as DVG. This time it is World War II again. It is not just a single force campaign, but the entire Pacific War from an American standpoint. The campaigns come in full years of:

1942
1943
1944
1945
 A campaign can be played by playing all of the years separately and then adding the results. 




 You are playing solitaire against the might of the Japanese empire. After looking at the setup for the 1942 campaign, I wish I had picked 1943 or 1944. The Japanese navy and their stacks of ships look pretty imposing. 




 As usual, the components from DVG are very good. I believe some early games shipped out with some misprinted counters, but these were all fine. There are eight sheets of counters. They are marked by each separate year of the conflict. So there will be a Japanese 1942 and American 1942 pile of counters etc, along with numerous supply and movement and other counters. There are also separate counters for land and naval air forces. Each carrier is represented by its own counter, even CVLs and CVEs. Battleships and Cruisers are shown as two of each class to a counter, as in one counter is listed BB Yamato/Musashi and they have combined attack and defense numbers. Destroyers and submarines have counters that show groups of each warship.




 Sequence of play:

Advance Turn Counter
US Resupply
US Scouting
Movement
  US Movement
  Japanese Orders
  Japanese Movement Orders
 Battle
   Setup
   US Force Setup
   Japanese Force Setup
   Roll For Battle Turns
   Determine Japanese Battle Plans
   Select US Battle Plans
Combat
Post Battle
   Japanese reinforces
   Japanese Repair
   US Supply Check
 Defeat Check




 You play on a strategic map of the Pacific area. Battles are fought out on a generic 'Battle Sheet'.




 The rules are clear and well written. The last two pages of the rule book is an 'Extended Play Example'. This game, like most DVG games, has a player log that needs to be filled out. You can copy the one that comes with the game or download and print ones from their website.




 At the end of each turn is a 'Defeat check'. The player checks his currently held objectives against the campaign evaluation chart. If a player has only three or less objectives held at the end of a turn, he loses. A player can also lose if a Japanese force is in the Hawaiian Islands and the player is unable to destroy all of the Japanese forces on the first turn of battle.




 The counters come out of the sheets so easily and cleanly that most were already loose in the box on arrival. Luckily my daughter shares my OCD, so sorting counters for a game is like a fun family project. At times, the areas on the board get slightly stuffed with counters. This is totally understandable given the amount of counters you are given to play with. I think DVG hit the nail on the head with the right amount of counters. Having every ship from cruiser on up, as some games have, would make the game play unwieldy.




 Because the player is essentially playing both sides of the game (using die rolls to decide Japanese play), there is a lot to do on each turn. However, the flow of the sequence of play is well thought out and it is not hard to get into the swing of things. To me, the battle sheet being generic is not a minus. With land, air, and naval forces to control the game gives you enough variables to keep it fresh. The rule book says to start with the 1942 campaign and I concur, even though the Japanese might looks so imposing. It is much easier to learn the game with the smaller US forces in 1942. 

 The game was nominated for the 2014 'Golden Geek Best Solo Game', and I can see why. Like the other DVG solitaire games I have played it just seems right and plays well. This is coming from a wargamer who never really liked solitaire games before.

 One point that some people were not happy with was the lack of an actual full war campaign. You can play all four separate year campaigns and check your score against a chart in the rule book for a semi-campaign. While I can understand their view, in this day and age I am happy to get any wargaming in let alone game the entire Pacific War. Another point that some players do not like is the complete randomness of the game. Some feel the game is not historical enough because of the randomness, while  there are others who really like the game for this exact same reason. I am in the latter group. Yes, there is some distortion of history; there has to be to make it a solo game that you want to play through more than once. If all I wanted was history I would read a book instead of playing a game.

 There apparently has been some confusion as to when or how often submarines can attack. This is the DVG answer to the question:

 Subs only attack once each turn during the torpedo step.

 Another questionable tactic was that the player could 'pin' a Japanese fleet with a sacrifice cruiser or sub. This was a fix posted on BoardGameGeek:

 Sortie order:
Randomly select 3 ships and 2 infantry to move to the closest objective with at least 1 US force ASHORE. The poster believes this is how the game was played during beta testing and somehow was changed in the rules. The poster is Steve Malczak. Unfortunately I was not able to play using this change to the rules before posting this review.





Robert


















Order of Battle: Burma Road is the latest campaign add-on for the ever expanding Order of Battle family developed by The Aristocrats. Ear...

Order of Battle: Burma Road Order of Battle: Burma Road

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


Order of Battle: Burma Road is the latest campaign add-on for the ever expanding Order of Battle family developed by The Aristocrats. Earlier this year I reviewed OOB: Kriegsmarine, which saw the player take on another side of the war not seen too often in wargames. Although Kriegsmarine was forced by practicality to move from historical naval actions to fictional Nazi pipe-dreams rather quickly, this new DLC featuring the British Commonwealth forces is loaded to the brim with historical, yet often forgotten, battlefields. 

Although I consider myself a WW2 history buff, I must admit that this theater was one I knew almost nothing about going in. I knew the British had to fight throughout the region to defend India and other holdings, but I couldn't have named a single important battle. Imagine my surprise when halfway through the campaign I take a break from fighting off the Japanese to visit Bombay where I'm tasked with tracking down and arresting Ghandi! Not the kind of thing you expect to see in a wargame. However, I enjoyed the change of pace, and the history lesson attached.



Unlike some of the other campaigns, Burma Road doesn't seem to add many new features to the overall game structure. The only significant difference I noticed was a more extensive use of friendly AI units than I've seen in the other campaigns (though I haven't played them all just yet). This fits thematically, since the Commonwealth forces were made of units from many different nationalities. Your core of British regulars will often find themselves fighting alongside various colonial forces, sometimes under your direct control, and sometimes not.  You can also add some of the weaker colonial infantry to your core units at a cheap price, or get a nice splash of flavor by adding a unit of Gurkhas to your team. There are also SAS and SBS units to unlock, and all the British machines of war you know and love: Spitfires, Crusaders, and heavy artillery are all on tap.

While this campaign does not shake up the core gameplay much, the scenarios available should please any fans of previous OOB installments. The rough terrain of southeast Asia makes for a tricky battlefield where putting units in the right positions is key to making them useful. Jungles, swamps, and hills are prominent on many of the maps, which can make even a large battlefield feel rather cramped. Frontage becomes a critical issue and you will not always have the option to make a flanking maneuver, unless you are willing to send a unit through the jungle, which may reduce its cohesion. You can, and must, use this to your advantage as well. In many of the scenarios you facing an onslaught of Japanese units that outnumber your troops. Setting up a line of defense on tactically smart ground will keep your boys in the fight longer, and save resources for upgrades instead of replacements.


I found the actual objectives of the missions to be varied and interesting. Most missions will start you off with one objective, then throw some new twist at you midway through. Your decision will usually be to determine what share of your forces you want to dedicate to different sections of the battlefield. It's not uncommon to be defending in one area and attacking in another. Given the heavy amounts of jungle on most maps, you will also want to send out fighters and scout cars to do reconnaissance when you can spare them. Fighting every enemy unit is usually not necessary, and it can make more sense to maneuver around difficult spots to complete your goals with minimal losses.

This campaign is focused primarily on ground and air forces, with naval units only making occasional appearances. I found that ruling the skies was always very important, if not particularly challenging. The Japanese have some deadly tactical bombers that will inflict a lot of casualties on your forces if you don't take them down quickly. This is pretty easy to accomplish though, since your Spitfires and Hurricanes can make quick work of the Japanese fighters and then go after the bombers. You can also pick up some experienced squadrons by completing bonus objectives. One is the American Flying Tigers, which can be added to your force to make it even more culturally diverse. 



Overall, I found this to be a solid addition to the Order of Battle line up. While it doesn't shake things up too much, it takes a proven formula and uses it to explore a less well known section of the war. No one would have been shocked if The Aristocrats had visited the old standards like Normandy, Barbarossa, or Bastogne first, but I'm glad they are taking the road less traveled. This game play, if you are the type who enjoys it like me, is perfectly suited to tackling so many small and medium sized sections of the war. A North Africa and Mediterranean campaign would fit it like a glove, for example. Final verdict: keep the campaigns coming, I think this game still has a lot of room to grow.






This is the second book in Gordon Thorburn's 'Luck of a Lancaster' series. The first follows the fortunes of an single ai...

More Luck of a Lancaster by Gordon Thorburn More Luck of a Lancaster by Gordon Thorburn

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This is the second book in Gordon Thorburn's 'Luck of a Lancaster' series. The first follows the fortunes of an single aircraft that managed to return successfully from 107 sorties. This book copies that formula and recounts the sorties of tail number EE136 WS/R 'Spirit of Russia'. Interestingly both aircraft were from No. 9 Sqn, a unit which exists to this day. I have subsequently learnt that of the approximately 7,000 Lancasters built, there were just 36 that survived more than 100 operations.

First things first, I read this book in two sittings. It's not a particularly long book (147 pages) but what there is, is gripping, exciting and it receives, from me, a book-lovers highest recommendation, 'I couldn't put it down'. It is a rare non-fiction book where I find myself reading long into the small hours and wanting to find out how the crew fared on their next sortie.

Pen & Sword Publishing have this book in stock for £15.99. 

I suppose I should say that my review of this subject matter may be more subjective than most. I have served in a very similar professional role to those depicted in this book, albeit their circumstances and risks they were willing, and in some cases eager to take are, for me, beyond comprehension.

The author cites No. 9 Sqn's Operations Record Book (ORB) frequently throughout the text and rarely expands the abbreviations. A typical entry might read:

"Unidentified T/E A/C passed stern of Lancaster
 to port, same height. RG opened fire..."

This isn't a big problem as your brain has been frequently exposed to ORB excerpts that by the second or third chapter it automatically substitutes in the expansion. Just be prepared to read lots of abbreviated excerpts - that's exactly how they were and still are written.

  
Sometimes in reading the text I found myself wondering whether the author was playing a bit loose with the facts as I couldn't square their [the bomber crews] experiences to my own understanding. For example, the book opens with a sequence from a personal diary which states:

"There were ninety of us, flying in a gaggle at about
twenty feet around Lincoln, over the Wash..."

Today, 250 ft is a hard bottom for the UK's Low Flying System and 100 ft on some ranges. This separation is maintained in all aspects, and generally the aircraft fly either in pairs or more often as a single aircraft. To have 'a gaggle' of 90 large aircraft at 20 ft beggars belief. I suppose this claim and other similarly astonishing revelations on nearly every page made this book a page-turner.

I have to take issue with the author when he claims (cites?) aircraft flying at zero feet!!! Now call me pedantic if you will, but that is not possible. The account goes onto say that due to some jostling within this 'zero foot' bomber stream an aircraft had to roll 90 degrees and it's wing was 'almost' touching the water. With a wingspan of approximately 100 ft those Lancaster's must have been flying somewhere greater than 50 ft ... either way it's ludicrously low.

The book made me stop and think for a bit when the author states, when referring to the aircrew:

"...these men who, whenever they flew, had to
obliterate their most basic instinct, that of 
self-preservation, so they could do their work."

Another pause-for-thought moment came for me, when the author equates the damage of German Cities by Bomber Command to British Cities. The civilian death toll must have been horrendous. I would have liked to see some balance, i.e. from German squadron log books or civilian accounts of the bombing raids in which our heroine was present. 

I'm of the opinion that although it was deemed a necessary evil at the time, the carpet bombing of civilian populations should make us more than a little uncomfortable. Unfortunately the book doesn't provide any opinion on the matter. Neither good or bad, it just tells the facts - I suppose that is the safest way talk about a potentially contentious subject.

Hamburg after Bomber Command and US 8th Air Force visited
As we follow the air-frame I realised that the author had almost imbued a sense of personality into EE136 WS/R and I found myself rooting for her as much as I did her crews. Spoiler - she survives for 109 operations before being declared U/S. However when a Bomber Command tour was 30 missions and the average life expectancy for those aircrews was around 15 missions, we can start to appreciate just how fortunate WS/R was.

The are several photo pages wedged into the middle of the book and I was shocked and a little saddened to see faces of predominantly very young men looking back. There are numerous accounts of aircrew whilst on the 20th sortie being shot down and killed, yet still being 19 years. Captains of 20 years old, were not uncommon.

WWII was a very different time and I am always reminded how grateful I should be and in awe of those who served every time I read a book like this. I can recommend this book to everyone, military aviation nut or not and at 147 pages, anyone can finish this book.

The title of this book gives the impression that it covers the escape attempts of captured military personnel during WWI. A more acc...

Voices in Flight Escaping Soldiers and Airmen of World War I by Martin W. Bowman Voices in Flight Escaping Soldiers and Airmen of World War I by Martin W. Bowman

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The title of this book gives the impression that it covers the escape attempts of captured military personnel during WWI. A more accurate title would be "Airborne shenanigans during WWI", admittedly this is not as eye-catching a title; but what 'escaping' there is, is tucked up nicely in the last few chapters of the book. What you have to read to get to that point is however a fascinating insight into the personal exploits, predominantly of airmen - not soldiers, during the conflict. I enjoyed the entire book and was constantly struck by just how far we've come in 100 years of aviation [military] and in comparison what was considered acceptable then to today. For example during the first 5 days of the Battle of Arras, the author tells us that 75 aircraft were lost and 105 aircrew - a figure unthinkable today and sobering to consider.

When I opened this book my eyes felt assaulted by the walls of text on each page. This may sound like a silly criticism but the typesetting felt very cramped on the page. I'm sure the author is not to blame for this but it did look like someone had taken an un-formatted document file and bound it into a book. This did surprise me as no other book I have from Pen & Sword Publishing (P&S hereafter) has this style of typesetting. The publishing quality of my other P&S books is very high, maybe they had a page limit to fit this work into ...?

Each chapter opens with a short excerpt from a personal journal or what I assume to be official dispatches from the front or other such source. Then the author goes on to give the context and throughout each chapter reveals more of the personal account or event. I found this style of having two voices in a chapter engaging. The chapters finish with a note section, rather than at the end of the book which allows for much quicker lookup of the referenced material.

I am professionally aware of military aviation and have spent countless hours surrounded by pictures of old planes from the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. There were more than a few occasions throughout this book which jogged old memories of reading medal citations contained within squadron display cabinets. I was very grateful to the author in fleshing out each account and providing the sources and more of the back story as much as he did. There were still many stories of which I knew nothing and I was surprised at the seemingly, ubiquitous role the formative RAF had in WWI.

The focus of each chapter is a different individual and in its entirety this book comprises a who's who of aviation legends; Immelmann, Handley Page, Richtofen to name a few. One name that stood out to me for all the wrong reasons and which takes the best British military officer's name I've ever heard, was Sqn Cdr Joseph Ruscombe Wadham Smyth-Pigott. It feels slightly cheeky to say that the character of Blackadder's Lord Flashheart came to mind several times through reading this book...

One of the most poignant chapters involves the story of Reggie Marix, who after capturing a German cavalry captain and confiscating his sword, offered the POW his pistol in order to end the suffering of his stricken horse; an honour that Reggie thought the German should still have. The chapter goes on to relate how the confiscated sword found its way back to the German many years later and is quite touching. This example, and several others throughout the book, hark back to the days of chivalry and honour which arguably has disappeared from modern battlefields.

I think this book would be enjoyed by a relatively wide audience, although convincing the wider audience of that would be a challenge. If you're not interested in military history then nothing on the cover suggests that a person that only reads biographies would also enjoy it. The book's focus is on individuals and their personal stories in which they are, to me at least, doing amazing things. It's not a historic retelling of the tactics or strategies of WWI but focuses right down at the lowest, human level. In our time, these gentlemen would be celebrities in their own right and lauded for their courage, tenacity and skill. The reader is free to draw their own conclusions to how the majority of today's 'stars' stack up in comparison.

If you would like to pick up a copy of this title, P&S currently (Aug 2017) have a sale on it. However I will just link to their store page and the RRP of £25.00. I highly recommend this book.