Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Phantom Leader

This is going to be a slightly more rambling post than usual, for which I won't bother apologising. I note for starters that my pictures in the recent couple of posts, while appearing initially, have now vanished. I'm trying to find out why, and if anyone can advise, I'm all ears. In the meantime, I'm exploring other options and it is possible that some battle reports which require pictures - i.e. mainly for miniatures games - will migrate over to WordPress. I'll keep you posted when this happens, as I'm prepping my games hut for some Battleground WW2.

I've been re-reading BG WW2 as it is thus far the only set of WW2 platoon level rules that I've come across that would allow an umpire to run a game as one side, with the players taking on the roles of individual squad commanders on the other. The first chapter is entirely about spotting - you have to try to spot troops before you can fire on them. Troops in hidden ambush positions will be even harder to discover. It makes interesting reading, and I may still give it a go, having already set up a German platoon (the Russians are still in the warm, but I'll be getting them out soon). I will look at creating a WordPress site to publish more pictures and commentary on this as and when I have the time.

I downloaded Phantom Leader from the iStore for use on the iPad this week. It usually retails at over £50 as a board game, and is designed to be played solo. It covers small air campaigns during the Vietnam War. At £10 on the iStore, it is a bit of a steal. I set up a small two day campaign last night, and drew a couple of missions. I sent my seasoned pilots, with two Phantoms and two F-105s on a mission against a tunnel complex in Laos that did not turn out well, as I failed to arm the jets with any rockets to suppress air defences, leaving the Vietnamese to pick two planes (call signs Irish and Boomer) out of the sky with relative ease (they did have about six emplaced AA guns, including one right on the target). One pilot was rescued (Boomer), Irish is MIA, and the third pilot too traumatised to fly the next day (pronounced unfit to fly by the base doctor - sheesh!).

Day two left me with two green Phantom pilots to throw against a bridge in North Vietnam. They managed to hit it but not destroy it and one of them was shot down by random AA on the way back to South Vietnam, and got captured. Overall, really good fun, maybe not so for the pilots however. I'm making some school boy errors, but closer reading of the rules will help rectify those. I'm going to continue to dabble with early war USAF missions in 1965/66 before I try some of the bigger, more complex raids against Hanoi and Haiphong.

The F4 Phantom - one of the work horses of the Vietnam air war.

It is good that the game has a significant level of challenge at first play. I would also note that, like Titan, Imperial or Lords of Waterdeep, the game plays fast on the iPad. I flew two Phantom Leader missions in the space of an hour, possibly less. The game would likely take much longer if you were using the cardboard version. Hence, I doubt now I would ever buy the original. This presents an interesting questions for board game designers, considering launching an app, as apps bring with them the additional benefits of an AI, faster playing time, less book keeping, and they're compact and can be played anywhere. Plus they cost less, as iPad apps seem to be coming from a lower cost base anyway.

Continuing the Vietnam theme, I also took delivery of Fire in the Lake, the fourth in the counter-insurgency series from GMT Games. This one covers the war in IndoChina; previous games looked at Colombia in the 1990s, the revolution in Cuba, and the recent war in Afghanistan. All are sadly now out of print and sell for silly money on eBay. Hence, I decided to jump on Fire before it disappears off shelves too! It looks as if the next game in the series will go back 2000 years to the Gaulish revolt against Roman rule in the 1st century BC, which marks somewhat of a departure from form. I've literally only cracked open the box for FITL, and will provide further feedback on this as soon as opportunity allows.

Finally, rounding things off, at half term I got to work on a zombie miniatures horde with a view to finally doing some zombie gaming. My daughter built an entire box of zombies from Wargames Factory, and I have to say they are a marked improvement on WF's plastic 28mm Zulus, which I'm in the process of building. These guys really look like zombies, and are easier to build than the Zulus (who come with separate spears, shields, rifles, powder horns, etc). They are very much intended for modern zombie games, not fantasy games - they would look odd in a dungeon, if you get my drift. I've supplemented them with some metal castings from West Wind's post-apocalypse range, but the Wargames Factory plastics simply look more like shambling undead, while the West Wind models are more akin to angry tramps. You have more control over the poses, and I feel my daughter has done a smashing job here. We're in the process of basing them up, and hopefully will prime them in the next couple of days.

That's it from me  - apologies for the slightly rambling style of this post. I'll be back with further news on Battleground WW2 and WordPress as and when I have it.

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