Welcome to Platoon Forward!

Welcome to the site where the story of the battle is as important as the battle itself. Here we will focus on men thrust into extraordinary situations of life and death. They must lead other men with duty and honor to meet their countries objectives. Some will be blessed with great skill, some will carry great shortcomings. No matter what nation, no matter what war, no matter what theater, they are all called to move their Platoon or Squadron forward!

These are their individual stories as played out using my various campaign rules . Hopefully these stories will entertain and inspire you to use your own troops, airmen and sailors to accomplish your own great heroics.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

The kicking mules and Fighter Pilot

 I suspect many people are getting tired of aerial game reports but I am really digging this game.  It really shows the differences of plane types and better pilots do perform better.  I think it is going to be a winner.  I have decided not to call it What a Fighter though. What a Tanker is a beer and pretzel game while this really isn't.  Other than you roll 6 dice to determine your hand there really isn't any relation to WAT.  The dice are different and I have opposed rolls, skill dice, trading out dice and area movement; none of which is remotely like WAT.  I am still looking around for a name but might go with Fighter Pilot

The game plays in about 70 minutes but I wanted to stretch it and see how it plays with alot of toys on the table.  So we turn to my P-38 squadron in Tunisia, the Kicking Mules to escort B-17s to bomb Sicily.   I want it big so the Mules are going to take 6 fighters and fight against 6 Germans.  [ I didn't roll scenario or # of opposing fighters.]  I chose the P-38 as I want the game to show the P-38J and L were good fighters up at high altitude.  [ Before the J they hadn't got the super charger right so it was decent up high but I wouldn't call it good.  One of my main goals of the game is the P-38E will fly different than the G than the J than the L but not be complicated like Fighting Wings. ]  The germans will have ME 109Gs and 2 FW 190s.  [ I know the FW 190s were out of theater by this time but I need to show the FW 190 wasn't all that good a fighter at high altitude.  This will be a good test']  

The Mules have had 6 other missions and are mediocre.  They just haven't scored a lot of victories.  There last mission I posted about them was their 5th and can be found on Jan 30 2020.

The pilots are:

Capt Zap McGruder                    Avg

  wing  2Lt Bill Wright            Avg     former NCO

Lt Lewis                                     Vet               1 kill

   wing  2Lt Bing Foster          Green      well liked in the sq

2Lt Chuck Carls                        Vet                3 kills

   wing   2Lt Glenn Schlick       Avg

B-17s on their way!  Where is our escort??@##

Unfortunately,  McGruder makes a navigational error and misses the rendezvous with the bombers!  This will allow the 2 FWs a turn to attack the B-17s unmolested.   

As they near the island Folke Wulfes attack.  Bomber #2 sustains a fuel leak.   For now they can continue.  

Bomber #4 attempts to fend of an abeam attack...

It fails.  6 parachutes are seen out of the burning plane.  

Turn 2  [ each turn is between 1-3 minutes ]

Look who shows up!  McGruder feels bad and embarrassed.  The squadron knows and Maj Bunker will not be pleased.    [ Lewis' element top.  McGruder center and Carls bottom.]

4 ME 109s show up and a ranging air battle brews. 

 Lt Lewis gets in trouble with an element of ME 109s [left] while 2Lt Carls manages a quick shot at one Messerschmidt. [ below center].  Capt McGuire goes after the FW 190s [ center above] 

Turn 3

Capt McGruder gets on the FW 190's tail [ P-38J has better performance and same maneuverability up high] and sees hits on the wing.  The FWs maneuverability drops by 1. [ counter on stand.]

The second FW knocks a B-17 out of formation.  She will be easier prey now.

Meanwhile 2Lt Carls uses a combo of speed and maneuverability [ helps to be a veteran going against an average pilot] to get on the tail of a ME 109G.  He sees hits and flame from the engine....

Carls has his 4th kill!

End of turn 3.  Lt Lewis has a ME 109 on his tail now and is starting to take hits. [ center left]  Carls free after his kill [center below].  McGruder on a FW's tail [ center above].  1 FW 190 still loose on the bombers [ center right just in front of the bombers]

Turn 4

The FW veteran activates first with a P-38 on his tail.  His ailerons are damage but his mount can dive fast.  He pushes down on the stick and goes into a split S.   Capt McGruder sees the damaged FW head for the deck.  While his Lightning likes the high altitude he can keep pace with any german plane in a dive. Somehow this pilot pulls off a slick split S that McGruder can't follow.  Worse, as the P-38 starts to wallow in the thicker air the Folk Wolfe spins around and manages a snap shot...   

flames erupt from the stricken fighter.    Was it electrical? Fuel?  Zap didn't know but the fighter...

started to plunge to earth as if turned by the invisible hand of gravity.  He knew he should bail out but he hated the thought of being in the mediterainean.    He decided to dive to put out the flames like he had seen in his childhood comic books.  20,000ft,... 10,000ft... things looked grim but at 4,000ft the flames extinguished!  It had worked.  He righted the craft and set a course for dry land.  [ a "6" extinguishes the flames a "1" blows up the plane every 10,000 ft.] 

 Meanwhile things aren't looking much better for Lt Lewis.  He has a ME 109 on his tail apparently flown by a good pilot because all his tricks aren't working.  His wingman, 2Lt Foster, is a rookie and hasn't been much help.  Foster barrels in [top left] to try to clear Lewis' tail but the German also has a wingman. 

Foster fires at the annoying but effective wingman...


And smoke streams from his engine!  More importantly he moves away leaving his leader unprotected. He will attempt to head for home with a damaged engine.

While all this is happening 2Lt Carls is attempting to maneuver against another ME 109 hoping to get that all important 5th kill.  All he manages is a quick snap shot which misses.

At the end of turn 4 we see the german wingman trying to head for home [ top left].  2Lt Wright facing off against a FW 190 at medium altitude [center top]. Lt Lewis finally manages to shake his german pursuer [ center]. 2Lt Carls skirmishing with a ME 109 [bottom right] and the other lone FW still running amok among the bombers but not doing much damage.

Turn 5

The FWs leave having spent their fuel.  This leaves 3 ME 109s.   The first with the damaged engine leaves the area.  The second, flown by a veteran, ignores the P-38s and goes after the straggling B-17. 

He fires and sends it into the sea.  

The third ME 109 makes a head on pass and does no damage.

2Lt Carls does get one more shot at a fleeing messerschmidt and sees hits to the wings but it does not go down.


So 2 bombers lost and 2 bombers/ 1 P-38 damaged for 1 ME 109 downed and 2 ME 109s plus 1 FW 190 damaged. One more story to play out; Zap has to land.  He nurses the fighter back to the strip but crashes it upon landing and is WIA.  Not a good day for Zap!  I will call this one a draw as 2 bombers went down.  the squadron looses a cool point so they are now at -1 and are becoming the loosers on base. Maj Bunker is furious with Capt McGruder and throws him under the bus before the Colonel.  He decides to make McGruder his "project" to prove what a good leader he is.  2Lt Carls gets promoted to 1Lt and will functionally take Zaps job during this project time.  2Lt Foster looses his rookie status.  A replacement pilot due in 3 missions ago arrive, 2Lt Zaney Swobe fresh from school.  He has a haughty air about him so is rapidly becoming unpopular.  

Regarding Fighter Pilot I liked how the P-38 was modeled as well as the FW 190.  I think head on attacks against bombers need to be beefed up. Overall I am pleased with the system.  Just need to ensure the rules are clear and people understand the system as it has several new concepts.  Hope to be demo ing it at Waterloo games in Richmond, VA in Nov.  




Friday, October 6, 2023

What a Fighter with the Cactus Air Force

 Continue to work on What a Fighter [WAF].  Think I have initiative worked out and changing altitude as well as the traits great climbing and great diving.    Though the wildcat fighter wasn't a great diving aircraft the zero was a slow diving aircraft which functionally works out to the same thing for WAF.  So what better time to bring out my Cactus Air Force squadron and take to the skies.  This squadron is a mixed bag.  They do have a positive kill ratio but they don't win a lot of missions and their reputation is even.  Worse the Group commander isn't fond of them so they are the last folks to get spare parts.  they are down to 5 ready wildcats with 2 more in the job.

Maj Gunderson led the last mission so Capt Bill Sharp is sitting in the ready room when word comes down that planes have been spotted in the slot- Vals with a Zero escort.  Up and away boys! 

All 5 wildcats at contact.  

Capt Sharp will go solo.  He is scholarly Veteran.  

The first pair of wildcats are:

      Lt Dunning             avg

                 2LT   Compton     rookie 

2nd pair:

     2Lt Thompkins       avg         1kill

                  2Lt Rumford        avg great flying skill

The wildcats see the Japanese first.  Capt Sharp moves his fighters around to their 9 o clock before they are seen.  Here is where the action starts and where we start our story.

Capt Sharp and the team coming to grips with 3 Zeros and 9 Vals.  [ only have 3 Vals painted up how embarrassing.]     

Capt Sharp decides to send one element against the Zeros while he and the second element go after the Vals.  He radios Thompkins to go after the Zeros as they are the most experienced. 

Capt Sharp moves and gets behind a Val.  Moments later fire erupts from the Val; one down!

Lt Dunning fails to score.


 Neophyte 2Lt Compton also gets behind a val and snaps it's wing off; two down.

Lt Thompkins comes in after the Zeros.  All he can get is a snap shot at a Zero which does no damage.

The zero pilot is good [veteran] and manages to weave abeam of Thompkins.  It is only through the efforts of his wingman Rumford that the zero does not get on Thompkins tail.  Fortunately the grumman is tough and nothing important is hit by the japanese fire. 

Unfortunately while 2Lt Rumford is watching his leader's six another zero manages a pass at him.  Again the Grumman proves tough!

 The third zero, with no opponents nearby, goes to protect the vals and attempts to maneuver against Lt Dunning who has just finished his pass through the vals.  With excellent flying Dunning is able to keep the zero at bay. [ helps that the zero has a rookie pilot].

After 1 turn it is marines 2 IJN 0 but the US has lost the element of surprise.  The wildcat is slower and less maneuverable than the zero.  It's only hope is teamwork.  Element 1 needs to get back together and element 2 needs to stay together.  On that note while Rumsford was avoiding the zero shooting at him he managed [33% chance] to lose Thompkins his leader.  They will have to fight separately this turn.  Not good. 

My playtest initiative track.  Veteran pilots tend to go first, go figure.   Thompkins [2] and Rumsford [5] are average.  

 The veteran zero pilot pounces on the lone wildcat [Rumsford] and gets on his tail.  So far the wildcat is taking a beating but nothing important hit yet. 

Meanwhile, Lt Dunning manages to maneuver his wildcat abeam of the zero and fires.  He is rewarded by light smoke from the engine.  [ moderate engine damage]


Despite his damaged craft the zero stays to finish this individual combat.  He shakes Dunning off but can't himself gain an advantage.  [ being a rookie pilot is a problem here. Lt Dunning thinks he is just that good!] 

Lt Thompkins continues to take fire from the trailing zero.  He also is not taking damage.  He is so busy twisting and turning he does not dive.  [ bad dice].

Lt Rumsford rolls over and dives to low altitude.  The faster wildcat manages to break the tail of the zero.

Capt Sharp does an ineffective pass on the Vals.   

2Lt Compton, flush with his victory over a val hears Dunning battling a zero and moves over to rejoin his leader as a wingman. 

End of turn 2.  Rumsford neutral to a veteran zero bottom left.  Thompkins in trouble upper left.  Dunning/Compton center and Sharp again circling the vals.  

Lt Thompkins radios he is in trouble.  His wingman, Rumford, is busy with his own Zero.  Capt Sharp realizes his top cover needs help and leaves the vals to go help Thompkins.  [ Sharp, as a veteran activated first.]

This presents an interesting dilemma for the veteran zero pilot.  Without a wingman to protect him the wildcat easily gets on his 3 o'clock position.  If he maneuvers he looses Thompkins.  He decides to let it ride.  But now the wildcat proceeds to maneuver onto his tail.  In a frail zero he can't allow this and is forced to break off and deal with this newcomer.  

Sharp is surprised the zero is so intent on Thompkins that he is able to sneak up on him.  It isn't until he is almost on his tail that the zero reacts.  By then...


it is too late.  Splash one zero and a second kill for Sharp!

While this is occurring, Rumford is having his own problems...

which do not end well!   Fortunately he bails out unharmed if wet.  

 With his wingman backing him up, Lt Dunning goes after the crippled zero fighter.  Unfortunately, Dunning's skills as well as the wildcat's lack of maneuverability finally show and all he is able to go is get a quick shot from 10 o'clock...

he sees hits on the engine but the zero keeps flying.  Is that one made by grumman?  

2Lt Thompkins doesn't have time to think about his downed wingman.  Free at the moment, he goes after the vals and damages one.

Towards the end of the turn.  Sharp shooting down a zero top left.  A free zero after downing Rumford bottom left.  Dunning/Compton engaging a zero center and Thompkins finishing his pass through the vals.

Lt Dunning gets the initiative and finishes off the valiant but crippled zero.  

2 Lt Thompkins makes another unhindered pass and this times takes down a val!

However, the veteran zero pilot climbs up to avenge his squadron mate and latches on to Capt Sharp's tail.  Sharp's rudder and horizontal stabilizers and damaged but he manages to break free.    With that the fighters break off.  A huge victory for the marines!  2 Zeros/3 Vals for 1 Wildcat and 1 damaged.

6 Vals approach henderson which looks like an island after a morning shower. : )

Flak is ineffective.  The damage?  2 bombs strike the runway, one wildcat destroyed and one building damaged.  

A big win for the squadron.  Their cool goes up by one.  The commanding general wants to meet the officer who led the defense so Sharp gets to meet him.  He tells the general what they need are spare parts.  The general promises them a new plane and any parts he can get them.  Magically 2 of their damaged planes sitting around get the parts they need and are fixed plus a plane "from reserve" is transfered to them.  They now have gone from 5 planes to 7 plus Sharp's in the shop.  Thompkins becomes a veteran and Compton looses his rookie status.

WAF played well.  It shows that teamwork is important which is one of my biases.  The altitude rules and speed rules worked well.  I will talk to Rich and Nick about it before the end of the year and hopefully you will see it in the spring.