Museum of Flight 2018

Today was the annual NHMGS day at the Museum of Flight.  Today’s event was a little different in several ways.  First it was hobby day at the Museum and we shared space with the are RC Modelling and IPMS groups.  I didn’t make it around to the RC guys, but I did get photos of some of the fine modelling examples on display.

I’m not sure I was thrilled with the outcome.  I proposed sharing, but our half of the sharing was certainly the lame half.  The IPMS guys got all the tables around the SR-71, which we’ve held as our space for the past decade or so.  We were kind of out of the way, which I wasn’t wild about.  Not much walk through came our way.

Unfortunately, I also suffered a domestic crisis when the morning session was over, and I had to dash home to solve it.  Lorri and I were car shopping yesterday, and when the dealership borrowed her keys to do a walk through of our Crosstrek, they neglected to return her keys.  It was critical, with Thanksgiving at Maison de Smyth on Thursday that she get out for errands, so I had to connect the missing keys with my desperate wife.

Dave and I re-ran our President’s Day game with seven anxious players. The cannon-armed Hurricane IIc’s were flown by Gary, Tom and Bill.  The German escorts, Me-110’s were fun by Scott and David.  The Italian Cicogna bombers were run by Al, Arthur and myself.

We actually had a pre-game conference.  I persuaded my colleagues to fly up the left side of the map to attack the strategic floating dry dock.  They would get the fighter escorts.  I would fly up the right side, hoping to draw off  at least some of the interceptors. Well, at least it was a plan.

Things didn’t turn out quite as I envisioned, as all six of the Hurricanes were on my buddies like nobody’s business.  But cannon-armed or not, the head on pass is just not a high percentage action.  Even so the Hurricanes and Me110’s took it leading to some quick damage.  One of Gary’s caught fire-never a good thing in a mostly wood and fabric airplane. Even as the opening moves moved on, with fighters blasting away at each other,  the bombers lumbered on rather effortlessly toward their target.

In the next few turns things got wild.  A few of the British fighters tried some special maneuvers that left them far in excess of their max speeds, leaving them open to damage.  Unfortunately one Hurricane had its wings torn off and things began to look questionable.  Another Hurricane took a batch of light machine gun fire from a bomber group suffering engine damage and oil spray on the windscreen.  The defenders were rolling slovenly dice and suffering considerable damage.

Malta 6

Meanwhile, Smyth’s trio of BR 20’s were strolling toward their objectives.  The chianti was shared around and there was commentary on the pretty, but ineffective flak bursts, but I was unhindered in the empty skies over Valletta.

On the left side of the board, the skies were a little more crowded.  With the six bombers, several with a little damage, approached their target, Bill’s lone Hurricane caught up to the attackers.  Two of Arthur’s planes were forced to jettison their bombs. But Al’s planes led the way to the drydock.  Each plane rolled two dice for bomb hits.  They needed four hits to inflict minor damage to the structure.  Unfortunate they only got two.  Boo. Hiss!! Even so lots of Hurricane damage as a trade for a little scare on the dry dock.

My three bombers choogled quietly over their target and dropped their loads.  I also needed four hits to inflict minor damage on the supply dump that was their target.  I got three, so close but no cigar.

Ours was not the only game at the Museum.  Damond Crump ran a very cool looking game of Thuds Over Hanoi using the AirWar C21 rules. I was especially impressed with Damond’s jungle canopy.  With Vietnam on my radar, I definitely took note of the canopy on legs effect.

Tom Condon hosted a Wings of War game.  It always attracts drop-in players including some of the Museum visitors.


Jeroen Koopman hosted an really interesting looking micro-armor game that featured a Soviet air drop.  Looks pretty impressive to me.


I’m hoping the rest of the day went as well as the morning seemed to.  I had a good time, and can’t wait for next year.





Monday’s raid on Malta

Hey it’s November 12th.  That means Veteran’s Day holiday for all us public employees.  And no better way to spend a spare Monday than playing games.

November 18th is also the annual Museum of Flight game day, so Dave and I agreed we needed an opportunity run our Wings Over Malta game through with friends who might cut us some slack. So we put the word out we wanted to run a game at The Game Matrix and crossed our fingers for players.

The premise of the game was pretty straightforward. Nine Br. 20 bombers, escorted by four Me. 110s would be intercepted by six Hurrican IIc’s.  Dave was interested to see how the heavier German fighters would perform against the cannon armed Brits.  We figured we needed five Axis players and three British players.  We also figured we could run the bombers on auto-pilot if we had fewer players.

Danged if we didn’t have eight takers.  More actually, but we filled the game. Dean, Jim and Scott A. took the bombers.  Scott M. and Gene ran the Messerschmidts.  They were intercepted by Dave, Al and Gary flying for the RAF.

We laid out the Valetta map and marked three target sites for the bombers.  They could hit one or all of them. The Hurricanes would approach from the west and we’d see how it worked out.

Malta 5

View of Axis entering the board from the view of intercepting Hurricane Mk IIc’s.

The Italians split into two groups with six bombers heading up the east or right side of the board, while three headed west for the important dry dock. The escorts searched for targets while the Hurricanes turned their attention to the Cicognas. The bombers immediately came under largely ineffective AA fire, but seemed to trundle along.

Malta 8

Another view of Axis entering the south board edge.

Scott A’s came under immediate fire from Dave’s Hurricanes, as he made a head-on pass, plugging one bomber with some cannon rounds, but receiving an unlikely critical hit from bomber defensive fire, putting one of his planes temporarily out of action.  Al’s interceptors overshot the bombers, and would take some time get back in the action.

In the middle of the table Gene’s Me 110’s and Gary’s failed special maneuver left the other Hurricane’s badly out of position and running for his life.  As Dave’s veteran pilot flew through Scott’s bombers and line up Jim’s Cicogna’s perfectly, he was blown out of the sky by Scott M’s Me 110’s.  No parachute was seen to open.

With no opposition left to face them, Dean and Jim choogled on toward their target, with only occasional bursts of flak to annoy them.

On the left (west) side of the table Al’s Hurricanes slowly overtook Scott’s bombers as they reached the drydock.  He poured sustained bursts into the two trailing bombers, damaging their bomb releases and holing their fuel tanks.  The lead plane, damaged previously by Dave, dropped his bombs, doing slight damage to the dry dock and saving the British from catastrophe. Out of ammunition, Al’s planes returned to Hal Far.

Malta 12

Al’s Hurricanes pour cannon fire into Scott A’s BR 20’s.  His attack forced the trailing bombers to leave with their bombloads and streaming fuel. 

With Gary’s Hurricanes and the Messerschmidt escorts badly out of position, the remaining bombers flew on.  But not scot-free.  Dave’s remaining fighter eventually caught up to Jim’s bombers.  He shot up the trailer and forced him to jettison his bomb-load. The remaining five however scored four hits on their target, inflicting heavy damage on the warehouses and their stores, earning the Axis a minor victory.

Malta 1

Despite a ferocious attack by Dave’s remaining Hurricane, Dean and Jim’s bombers close on their target.

The score was one British Hurricane shot down, with two BR 20’s unable to return to Sicily and other two other bombers damaged. We learned a lot from the game.  The Me 110’s can be nasty, but they maneuver poorly.  The Hurricane IIc’s were a revelation compared to the eight-gun fighters used in previous games.  However, they are very ammunition restricted.  Despite getting a lot of hits, they never destroyed an Italian plane.

The game was played on my Valetta mat, by Tinymats.  The planes were a mix Scotia, Heroics and Ros, MSD and an unidentifiable manufacturer.  Rules were Airwar 1940 by David Manley.




Blue Blenheims

The Bristol Blenheim is one of my least favorite planes of WWII.  An late 30’s addition to the RAF, the Blenheim showed its mettle by participating in the first raid on Germany Sept. 4, 1939.  Of the fifteen included in the attack, five failed to find the target and five were shot down by anti-aircraft fire.  Three bombs struck the cruiser Emden, but failed to detonate.  This is the Blenheim’s legacy.

Perhaps it’s the plane’s lines, which seem a bit like a panel truck.  Not nearly so ridiculous as the Amiot 143 which looks like a moving van with with wings.


But there’s something ungainly about the plane that lacks the charm of a Wellesley, a Wellington, and a Hampden or the masculine ferocity of a Beaufighter.

But, they’re integral to the Malta campaign.  Their participation in attacks on Italian airbases on Sicily and raids on trans-Mediterranean convoys to supply the Axis forces in North Africa were more than just nuisances.  They drew the attention of Italian and German air forces that ultimately led to the two year siege of the little island.

I’ve painted eight fabulous Blenheims for my Malta campaign.  I only meant to do six, but as I went through the treasures of Dave’s bounty I realized there were two Blenheim Mk 1’s and two Blenheim Mk. IV’s.  The latter were used widely in the Mediterranean, the stubby Mk. 1’s not so much.

Never one to ignore a challenge, painted the Mk 1’s and ordered two Scotia Mk. IV’s and later, realizing I was two plane short, I added a pair of Raiden Mk. IV’s

The Mk. 1’s are painted Middlestone and Earth, the go to colors for the RAF.  The undersides are painted black.  Both planes are fully prepared to go drop their duds on the Scheer and Emden.


What to do with the remaining six?  We usually play our bombers in groups of three, so the answer was easy.  Some bombers based in Egypt, that also made their way to Malta were painted blue.  Not a ton of photos of Blenheims in this configuration.  I used a base coat of Vallejo IDF Blue with markings in Vallejo Dark Mediterranean Blue.  It’s a pretty striking combo, that appears sort of green in the lousy light of my dining room. Undersides in Vallejo Sky Blue.

The remaining three planes were done in Middlestone and Vallejo Dark Green.  They also have the sky blue undersides. But just a little more about these fellows.  Two of these were Raiden planes and one was Scotia.

The Raiden Blenheims are among the finest 1/300 miniatures I’ve ever seen.  The scribing top and bottom across the the entire wing is simply gorgeous.  The canopy panels are superb, just great stuff. I thought it would be equivalent to the Scotia plane, but simply a quantum better.

What’s Next

Lots of projects competing for my time at this writing.  I have a two-thirds completed Philippine Republican unit on my painting desk that needs completing.  The Patriots and Rebels rules come out in January and I’ve agreed to work on an Enfilade project for those rules with David Sullivan.

But I have six Wellington bombers on my desk that need work, and the Malta project just needs completion, and it will take my time until it is finished. There are 42 planes to go, plus I’ve ordered a handful of 1/700 scale cargo vessels for convoy raids.   I’m also committed to working on a Vietnam project, so I think for the next few months planes will be what I’m focused on.


Shapeways Skywarriors


I spend lots of times perusing the Shapeways dealers.  I don’t often buy, but I often wish I did.  One of my favorite dealers is Prairiehawkgamer.  He sells lots of interesting 1/300 scale planes, including a Tu-95 Bear bomber for a mere $43.  Let’s just say it’s on my list. It has interception scenario all over it.

Last winter, I took a flyer on a wild hair.  After Malta is complete–not that far away–I want to work on scenarios for Operation Rolling Thunder.  One of the useful, but unheralded, planes for that campaign is the EA-3 Skywarrior, and it’s AirForce similarity cousin, the RB-66 Destroyer.  Though originally built as nuclear bombers, with age they took on such tasks as electronic warfare, reconnaissance, and in-flight tankers. Over North Vietnam, they mostly played an ECM role.

Of course, nobody makes one in metal.  So, back to Shapeways.  Last spring I ordered a pair of the Prairiehawkgamer’s Skywarriors, along with a pair of very enticing Eurofighter Typhoon II’s (with ordinance!!  It’s so cool!!)  I’ve been focused on other stuff pretty hard core for a while, and these have just been sitting on my painting table So I decided to go for it..

These models have the grainy surface that prevents many of us from investing heavily in the plastic models.  I hand primed it twice with Vallejo primer.  Still rough.  Oh well, goes with the territory.  I decided to put one in Navy colors as an EA-6, the other in Vietnam-era colors.


For the Air Force plane I used a modellers example of BAT-21, a B-66.  To paint I used colors from the Vallejo Vietnam collection-US Brown, Forest Green, U.S. Green, and USAAF Light Gray.  I cleverly reversed the Forest Green and U.S. Green in the picture, but I’m counting on my readers not to rat me out.


For the Navy version I used Testor’s light Gull Gray over all the upper surfaces and the fuselage.  I tried to use the regulation Testor’s Gloss white on the under surfaces and control surfaces, but while glossy, it just didn’t cover well. I switched over to Vallejo White-gloss be damned. A lot of the photos of Skywarriors show the rear half of engine nacelles in as natural aluminum, so I went with that.

Shapeways is great at providing the basic plane, but if you want detail, you’ll have to paint it in yourself. I started with the canopy.  No mine aren’t blue they are in ivory.  Get over it. Then I painted in the framing as best I could.  Got the lines a little thin for BAT 21.  Then it was on to painting in the control surfaces.  Again, this is on the best you can do basis.  Dark Gull Gray for Navy, Burnt Umber for Air Force.

Last but not least it’s time for markings.  Because the planes are secretive in nature, markings are at a minimum.  The Air Force plane has no national markings and I chose not to paint in unit insignia.  The Navy plane got national markings as well as its NAVY identification, but none of the elaborate ship and squadron markings common from this tiem.   And we’re done.

The planes are spendy at $12 a pop, but I only needed a couple.  I really enjoyed painting them.  Now how many Bear bombers would I need . . .



Rayadillo, Rain on Me

I’ve finally begun painting figures for my Philippine project.  I’ve finished the Tiger Miniatures Philippine scouts.  More about them later.  But that brought me to the first of my non American units.  Should I choose something easy like your basic bolo-armed melee troops, or try something more difficult?

The unfortunate Spanish troops  who unwittingly were swept up in John Hay’s “splendid little war” were clothed in rayadillo.  It is a pin-striped cotton garment, well suited in its light weight for the tropics of Cuba and the Philippines. It also has a certain camouflage quality as the stripes just fade into the background. Many of Emilio Aguinaldo’s troops in the army of the Philippine Republic likewise wore these as they looted Spanish supply depots and armories around Manila when the the Spanish happily capitulated to American troops in 1899. I will have about 60 figures to paint in this pin striped garment.

My first unit is of Spanish infantry.  There were many Spaniards that guarded Manila until the Treaty of Paris was ratified and the commander of Spanish troops made an implicit “deal” with General Wesley Merritt in charge of American forces in the Philippines. With a nod and a wink, after a brief bombardment by U.S. naval vessels, the Spanish withdrew from fortifications guarding the city.  The Philippine forces nominally allied to the American forces, feeling betrayed, looted the Spanish supply depots, taking Mauser rifles, ammunition and many of the interesting Spanish uniforms.

I have no intention of painting the Spanish army of 1898 or 1899.  However, there is a suggestion in my reading that some Spanish troops may have joined the Republican forces as well-paid mercenaries or as prisoners fighting for the Republic..

Ugh.  Thankfully the Miniaturas 1898 website has some useful painting guides for their excellent figures, including one just devoted to the rayadillo.

I set out trying to paint my several hundred figures for this project using the recommendations offered Javier Gomez “El Mercenario,” the featured artist on the 1898 Miniaturas website.  Look, the guy is better than me, a lot better. Not only that but we paint using different styles, beginning with the fact that he is a black primer with highlights kind of guy, while I am a white primers with one highlight and washes kind of guy.  Even so I gave it a try. The pictures begin with the figures in process and the completed unit. Here are some of my observations

The Good:

  • Even though I work differently than the method suggested, it went fairly well.  The highlighting suggested was interesting, and I could see it working as I was painting.
  • The Rayodillo creates a kind of illusion.  There is no way anybody can paint tiny little pin stripes that stay straight  on a dozen 28mm figures without going blind or jumping off a bridge.  You’re only painting groups of partial stripes on the areas where the uniform is stretched tightest–knees and elbows, the skirts of jackets, etc.
  • It went pretty fast.  I did 11 figures-still need to do the officer-during the Husky game on Saturday I completed all the pin-striping.
  • The 1898 figures are a joy to paint.  Beautifully cast, well proportioned, crisp detail, but not over-detailed.

The Advice

  • Gomez offered three different combinations for painting and highlighting.  I chose the darkest version (Vallejo gray-blue + cork brown, lightened with white in highlights.) I ended up with uniforms that were much darker than I intended.  Certainly there are illustrations of this uniform that seems quite gray, but it feels too dark to me.
  • I tried to paint the entire unit of twelve at once.  I usually paint small units all at once.  Just force of habit.  My next rayodillo unit I will paint six at a time. I kept worrying about running out of the highlighted colors, and especially when I was painting the stripes (the third highlight.) That also allows me to try to mix two of the different paint formulas for the uniform.
  • The pin striping is a challenge.  You have to use a tiny brush, and honestly there isn’t a tiny brush tiny enough.  You also have to stay on the point of the brush, and that’s very difficult given the angles I found myself holding my brush at times.  I feel like my guys often look like they are in prison uniforms.
  • Clean your brush regularly.  The paint tends to cake at the tip.  Thin your paint so it flows more easily off your tip.

This is my first try.  It is my only Spanish unit, but I expect to do four units of Philippine infantry in rayadillo as well.  I may just stick with it until they are done.  Certainly my next unit will be in the pin stripes.  We’ll see about the rest. Regardless, I’ll be painting more in my own style for most of the figure, except for the major uniform pieces, ie, pants and shirt and hat.  The rest will be all Kevin, for better or worse.

Tiger Miniatures:  Philippine Scouts

I wrote about these guys a little bit.  They are finished, but I’m pretty non-plused by the outcome.  To start with, they just aren’t great figures.  The hat is too small.  Heck the figures are too small, and the American officers I used are too large. Lots of fiddly detail that is really hard to pick out very well.  The good thing about them is they are sort of representative of a valuable unit type.

I started with these guys, and used the Pedro Gomez method.  I wasn’t very happy with the outcome.  The highlighting over the Dark Prussian Blue just didn’t cgme out very well.  I don’t think I was liberal enough with the highlights and the amount of lighter paint–and it just didn’t work that well with the castings.

Best part about these figures was the rifles.  Worst part about these figures were the faces.  No eyes on these guys. Maybe it’s just my advanced age, but combined with the castings, I just played it safe.

Hal Far Airfield done

I mentioned, a while back, that I ordered the RAF airfield miniatures from Pico Armor.  They are by Brigade Miniatures, and they join just a bucket of great 3mm terrain offerings from that British company.  There are times I just want to order some of their goodies because they’re so cool. Right, I need another project like a hole in the head.

Just to add to what seems like desolate terrain, I’ll distribute some of the terrain bits I used for my Sluys game back in the day.  It would be cool to have some 1/600 scale planes in the hard stands, but I just can’t go there.  My wife would kill me.  Hell, I’d kill myself.

On the Painting Table

On the Table

I am preparing a dozen British bombers for their Malta home.  There are some great scenarios to use them in, whether it is attacking airfields in Sicily, or giving the Axis a taste of their own medicine with attacks on their convoys. But right now I have my first Philippine unit on the painting table as well as a pair of Vietnam-era electronic warfare planes.  These are a pair of Shapeways A-3 Skywarriors, which is very similar to the Air Force B-66 Destroyer.  Originally intended to deliver nuclear weapons, they gradually were relegated accompanied bombing missions over North Vietnam while trying to fool  Hanoi’s radars.

A Terrific September

Still a week to go in the month of September.  It was weird, wild and woolly with the, thankfully, short teacher’s strike, the beginning of the school year, and last week’s always wonderful Fix Bayonets.

It’s really been a wonderful month in terms of getting stuff done.  In fact August and September together were pretty great. In many ways it was about progressing on some old projects, advancing on something current-Malta, always Malta, and preparing for something new-the Philippines.

I’ve been able to paint quite a bit

  • 24 Woodland Indians for America Rampant that sat on my painting table for ten months
  • 12 Fiat BR 20 Cicogna bombers
  • 8 Hurricane IIc fighters
  • 6 Beaufighter I bombers

Old Glory Woodland Indians. I’ve had these for many years, and I still have many more to paint. Finished off these guys because they were cluttering up my painting desk, taking up room that could be better used. Finished all their basing tonight.

Right now I have a few more items I hope to wrap up in this final week of the month.  I have six more MC 200 fighters that are about half. done.  Shooting for Wednesday. I also have two big resin BTC ploughed fields.  I like these a lot but they were hidden away in my garage for ages.  I’ve gotten a good start on the, and painted the base colors.  It’s time to move on to details.


These are teeny-tiny MC-200 fighters for my Malta project. They started out as a base Luftwaffe Camouflage Green, and have since been covered with those Desert Yellow irregular shapes, one at a time. These are nice 1/300 scale miniatures by Scotia Grendel.

Waiting in the wings are the Brigade RAF airfield buildings and Tiger Miniatures Philippine Scouts.  Actually Philippine Constabulary, but I’m using them as the scouts, with American officers.  Can’t wait to get started


Tiger Philippine Constabulary figures. They are kinda big. They’re primed and ready to go. An undercoat for their faces is as far as I’ve gotten, but I expect to be a lot farther by the end of the week.

Music to Paint By

Sticky Fingers

With the Mariners season winding down (sigh) there will be more time for listening to music.  I’ve fired up one of my favorite records recently, just for fun. Polydor re-mastered and re-pressed the 1971 Rolling Stones classic Sticky Fingers a few years ago, and it is simply a terrific record.  The album is riddled with drug-laden lyrics and blues and country-influenced lyrics.  “Sway” and “Bitch” are my two favorites, but there are no weak tracks.  The music is driven by 22-year old Mick Taylor on lead guitar.  A passing listen will impress you.  A careful one will take your breath away.  After Let It Bleed, this is my favorite Stones record during their most fertile period.

Hal Far Airfield WIP


In my last post I shared ideas for moving Malta toward completion.  Among those is having two game mats for our campaign.  The Valetta Grand Harbor mat is done thanks to Tiny Wargames, but the airfield mat I’ll have to make myself.

Neither mat will be a one off.  Both will appear in numerous campaign actions.  They are really just background to target throughout the campaign.

I decided to model the airfield mat on Hal Far airfield.  It is one of several RAF air bases that defended island fortress.  There are some useful maps, photos and diagrams of the airfield and vicinity.  It remained in service as a RAF base until 1967 when Malta achieved independence.

There isn’t a lot to making Hal Far.  It’s basically an X representing the two runways.  One of the strips is 6,000 feet.  The other is 4,800 feet. I threw out the idea of trying to scale out the facility exactly right.  I figured straight lines in approximate proportion would do.


I began laying out the main runway with a 24″ X 3″ sheet of bass wood. So far, so good.

My felt is 9′ X 6′ to fit an 8′ X 6′ table.  It’s a nice mottled brown.  I got it at Joann Fabrics on sale for $3.99 a yard.  A good deal.  I decided to put the airfield in the middle of the felt.  The long runway is about 36″ X 2″, broadening out to 3″.  The short runway is about 30″ by 2″. There were lots of roadways connecting the two runways, as well as taxiways and roads to the various hangars, armories and buildings that housed flying and maintenance crews.  I showed a tiny portion of these.

I started with the long runway first.  Used a straight edge to help me measure and keep things fairly straight.  I painted using Ceramcoat Trail Tan.  I used a large inexpensive brush and pretty much tried to blot my way from end to end and then pushed it across to the other side.  Not difficult, just tedious.  Then I did the same with the other runway.


I may add another road or two, but for the time being, I think it’s good. It takes up a lot of my 70″ X 42″ dining room table.

I didn’t get it right.  The runways aren’t at a large enough angle, so they end up too close together.  Even so, it’s just a target.  Add the Pico buildings, and it will do. The most important thing is it pretty much done and ready to go at a relatively minimal cost.  The Felt was twelve bucks and the Pico buildings and flak cost about 20 dollars.