Thursday, April 8, 2010

Balloon Busting

The Balloon Buster Expansion Set has recently been released for Wings of War miniatures. The set features a 1/144 Caquot balloon model (good for every European nation at war) and an Allied Nieuport 16 armed with Le Prieur air-to-air rockets. Two versions of the set are available, with different color schemes for both the balloon and for the Nieuport 16. Both include a decal sheet to customize the balloon models.

Frederick and I each picked up the yellow balloon, which set contained a French Air Force Nieuport 16. Kevin got the grey/brown balloon, with a Nieuport in the colours of the Lafayette Escadrille. The balloon models are very detailed. The many supporting cables are well represented. In the basket there's even an observer with binoculars.

The rulebook explains how to add balloons and Le Prieur rockets to WWI air battles, plus offers new missions. In the rules, balloons can take a lot more damage than a plane, and they are immune to many special damage effects. However, if a balloon is set on fire, the fire does not go out, and multiple fires may be set. So, balloons are particularly susceptible to munitions like incendiary bullets and rockets.

On Good Friday, Brian, Frederick and Kevin came over to push some planes around, and try to set some balloons on fire.

Scenario: Two Allied observation balloons are spotting for off-table artillery. Locating German scouts, they frantically signaled to be winched down to the ground by their support crews. The Germans had 12 turns to knock down the pair of balloons, which were defended by a flight of Sopwith Camels...

Frederick and Kevin can be seen below sitting behind the western table edge. Their 3 Sopwith Camels came in roughly from the northwest, trying to use their tight turning ability to get on the Germans' tails. The 2 German Albatrosses were run by Brian; they had incendiary ammo, and would try and take out the two Allied artillery observation balloons. They flew in from the southeast to try and take both balloons in succession. Flying the all-red Fokker Triplane, I flew to the north of the Albatrosses, and would try and keep the Camels busy.

(Click on the photos for larger images.)

Brian's Albatrosses line up on the southernmost balloon. Meanwhile, my Triplane mixed it up with the Camels.

Below, Brian contemplates his next move.

Brian's planes scored hits on the first balloon. The Camels have now abandoned their skirmishing, and can be seen flying over to come to grips with the Albatrosses.

A big dogfight ensued as both sides' forces converged on the same airspace.

Confused by the whirling melee, one of Brian's pilots accidentally flew off the western table edge. That pilot could look forward to the relative comforts of an Allied prison camp.

Since the Germans had lost half their incendiary firepower, I figured we had to turn to "Plan B." Accordingly, I kicked the Fokker around and attacked the already-damaged balloon. Through sheer luck, the Fokker managed to set it on fire.

Mmm, toasty.

Brian expended the last of his Albatross' ammo into the damaged southern balloon, then turned back east towards home. Meanwhile, my Fokker made an unsuccessful pass at the other balloon, closely pursued by Kevin's RAF Camel and Frederick's Belgian plane.

Performing an Immelmann, I set up the Fokker for another attack run on the balloon.

I managed one close-range burst on the balloon. However, the Allied pilots had correctly guessed my intentions. A no-deflection shot sent the Fokker down into the mud, and its pilot into the waiting arms of his Allied captors.

With the loss of two planes, and the balloons merely being damaged (albeit one was on fire), the scenario result was an Allied victory.

All in all, the game was tremendous fun. The on-fire balloon was within a single burst of being destroyed, and IIRC all the surviving planes were suffering from one sort of damage or another. I look forward to playing with the balloons again. Maybe three barrage balloons protecting a vital installation...

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