Saturday, June 8

"Firing into the Brown" #50 - Science Museum, "Corp makes a break for it", and stuff..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another update..

Most enjoyable trip to the smoke for the grandson during half term - his Mum had got tickets for the Science Museum and wondered if myself and the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer also fancied a trip - in the words of the immortal Fluff Freeman, "not 'arf!", we said.. ๐Ÿ˜€

To my immortal shame I've never previously been to the Science Museum, and I would say without a shadow of a doubt that's been a definite loss on my part, as the place is fascinating..  the museum is huge and comprises a loosely connected bunch of collections and exhibitions at the heart of which is their technological significance, so there are galleries on the steam engine (brilliant) and the birth of the industrial revolution, then computing, medicine, mathematics - stuffed full of original examples of the subject..  Babbage's Differential machine was amazing, as were some of the Boulton and Watt Steam engines, but the exhibition that got me most enthused was on the top floor where they had an exhibition on the development of flight - everything from Montgolfier to the Space Race..

In no specific order then, these caught my eye.. 

First ever Hawker Siddeley P1127 - following - this was the prototype/test bed plane for what later became the production Harrier Jump Jet - this specific one is serial # XP831 which was the first of the first of those prototypes (and amazingly is the actual plane, not a replica..  ๐Ÿ˜ฎ)

Lots more information on the plane, and the program, here [clicky] and here [clicky]

I was also interested enough to find out why there was an Ark Royal crest on the side, and found out this very plane was the first ever to make a vertical landing on an aircraft carrier - Ark Royal as it happens... 

Next..  the War Office gave this - following - to the museum in 1945 - it's a captured V1, which the museum first exhibited in 1946 as part of an exhibition of enemy technology..  apparently it was very popular.. this one they cut away the sides of, so that people could see how the thing worked more clearly..  the 'orange balls' b.t.w. are high pressure fuel tanks for the rocket engine..

 "Nicht auftreten" - "don't step here" ๐Ÿ˜

Following - no mistaking that barn door nose, and one of my favourite WW1 planes.. an SE5A scout in civilian colours. This one was built in 1917 and saw Royal Flying Corps service as ‘F937’ with 85 Sqn,  but after the war was sold privately, and was registered as ‘G-EBIB’ and modified for skywriting [clicky]. It then flew with the Savage Skywriting Company between 1922 and 1934.

Three legends in one shot - following - Supermarine Spitfire, Spitfire and Hurricane (bottom to top), all originals..

Mad as a bucketful of frogs..  a Messerschmitt Me-163B-1A Komet (following), Werknummer 191316, "Yellow 6" - one of 21 captured by the British at the end of the war and used for evaluation. They had a  stupidly small operational window, something like 10 minutes of fuel, but also 'exhilarating' to handle according to one of the RAF's top test pilots (Eric "Winkle" Brown)..  

"Brown recalled that the noise made by the Komet’s rocket motor was “absolutely thunderous… It was like being in charge of a runaway train; everything changed so rapidly and I really had to have my wits about me”. The fighter zoomed up to 32,800ft (10,000m) in 2.75 minutes at a 45° angle — “exhilarating”, according to Brown. Once the limiting Mach number of 0.82 was reached, the effects of compressibility became apparent: heavy buffeting and a strong nose-down trim change. Once the fuel was completely exhausted, Brown glided down to a “very comfortable” dead-stick landing".

They landed using that skid at the front - take off used a detachable trolley, that fell away once the plane was airborne..  madness...

Hurricane following - to be specific Hawker Hurricane Mk 1, serial no. L1592 / W/O 5422, possibly the only existing Hurricane to retain fabric covered wings. Built in 1938 by Hawker this one fought over Dunkirk and in the Battle of Britain, but was attacked by a Bf-109E in August 1940, and damaged in a forced landing near Croydon following the attack. She was repaired and served with the RAF until the end of the war. Her claim to fame though, is that she appeared in both the film "Angels One Five", and an episode of  Monty Python's Flying Circus, "The Light Entertainment War" ๐Ÿ˜

Following - Spitfire Mk1a P9444 - built in 1940 by Supermarine Aviation at the Wooston Works, Southampton, and fitted with a Merlin III engine. First flight was in April and it was then assigned to 72 Squadron in June. Flew in Battle of Britain but sustained serious damaged on landing, following P/O Elliott passing out due to lack of oxygen in the July of the same year. Although it was repaired it never again flew operationally. Eliott by the way survived, but had to bale out (safely) over Kent in September the same year when his (next) Spitfire was shot down over Hartfield, Sussex. Then he was wounded two days later following combat over the Thames Estuary. I was pleased to read he survived the war, won a DFC, married, had children and eventually died at a good age as a retired Air Vice Marshall.. ๐Ÿ˜Š More on him here [clicky]

Last of all - following - Supermarine Rolls Royce Seaplane, S.6.B. S.1595 (the actual plane, though it does have a dummy engine). This one was the winner of the Schneider Trophy in 1931, designed by Mitchell (he of Spitfire fame) it was powered by a supercharged Rolls-Royce 1900 hp engine. Two weeks after winning the trophy, this plane then set a world speed record of 407.5 mph - the fastest ever vehicle on earth at the time. So much of what would later become the Spitfire was owed to this machine - stunning plane..

...enough planes for now...


Prompted by a post on a fellow Bloggerati's site, I recently downloaded a copy of these:

Ruthless-Fastest-Rules-in-the-West-3.pdf ( 

..they're free gratis, and a quick read through prompted me to get some of the little metal men out and try a straight forward and simple man on man gunfight..  just to see how they work.. following shows some of the mechanics, and how it drives the narrative (and for me - with most of my wargaming being solo - the narrative is becoming more and more important, if the rules don't make a good narrative then I lose interest ๐Ÿ˜)

For this game then, our old 'friends' from Long Bute Farm [clicky] are reunited.. 

Following his capture (at the end of the game) Corp has been held by the Confederates in one of their cavalry encampments, but he manages to escape by overpowering the guard coming with his evening meal, and pausing only to take the guards carbine, is now making his way back to friendly (Union) lines. 

Unfortunately for him however, Zeke has been out foraging for something for the pot, and sees him moving quickly back towards Union lines. Suspecting the worst Zeke has gone in pursuit, but is unable to raise the alarm as the camp is too far away to hear him. As Corp crosses a small sandy clearing, Zeke shouts to him to stop, and knowing he can't escape without opening himself up to a clear shot, Corp dives for cover, loads his Sharps, and makes ready. On the other side of the clearing Zeke does the same..

Still unpainted..  for shame! Corp top left, Zeke bottom right..  all ground is open, bushes provide cover but do not block line of sight..

"Ruthless" is a card driven game and uses a standard card deck (minus Jokers)..  each side gets 5 cards and the side playing the highest from their set wins initiative and moves; normally each player would have 4 or 5 characters, but with one a side (as in this case) it moves quickly, each character then has two actions per turn (three if they have a seven card to play)

  • 1st Move: (C: 6 Clubs vs Z: 8 Clubs) Zeke wins the initiative, but both Aim (which is 1 action) and Fire (also 1 action) - both miss (short range, need a 6+ on a D10, there are some modifiers of which the important one for our two protagonists is that Zeke has rolled a sharpshooter character trait, giving him +1 on the roll)
  • 2nd Move: (9 Diamonds vs Ace Diamonds) Zeke wins again, both Reload (1 action) and Fire (1 action), Zeke misses, but Corp shooting second, hits, but only a graze. Zeke takes a 'toughness test' (think of it as a morale check) but fails and becomes 'Lily Livered' (in more usual terms, Zeke is Shaken/Disordered ๐Ÿ˜)
So in narrative terms this is what I see in my head so far (I blame too many episodes of "High Chaparral" ๐Ÿ˜)

Across the clearing in the lessening light of early evening, Zeke sees the dammed blue belly dive for cover behind some scrub following his shout.. how on earth did he manage to get away, anyway? Zeke pauses for thought, the camp is too far away to have any possibility of them providing support, and with the amount of shooting going on in the no man's land between the two armies no one will bat an eyelid at another few shots. Looks like it's down to him to bring the Yankee back. Raising his Sharps to his shoulder he thanks the fates he's loaded already, and taking aim he shoots but curses when he see's the bullet kick up dust at Corp's feet.. the Yankee is clearly made of stern stuff though and Zeke ducks involuntarily as a bullet zips past. Cracking open the carbines chamber Zeke reloads and quickly shoots, but again misses.. "dammit" he curses, but just then a second shot from the Yankee grazes his arm. Ducking down into cover, he gathers his wits, takes a deep breath and for the first time wonders if he's taken on too much?
  • 3rd Move: (6 Spades vs 7 Hearts) Zeke wins again and this time gets 3 actions (he played a 7 card), he takes a 'Get Your Courage Up' test (1 action) to remove the effect of being 'Lily Livered' which he passes (in the game they take this to be having a swig of whisky.. ๐Ÿ˜), then Reloads (1) and Fires (1) and hits Corp but again to no effect! Corp takes a toughness test for having been hit,  and passes then reloads, fires and misses. 
  • 4th Move: (3 Diamonds vs 5 Hearts), Zeke wins again (to account for playing solo, and being able to see both decks, I alternated who turned over a card and played first - Zeke had the better cards) he reloads and Fires and true to form, misses. Corp does the same and also misses but because he played a 3, it allows him to discard useless low level cards and replace them from the deck - a clever mechanic this, you have a to play a 3 (a low value card) so you know you're likely to lose the initiative in order to have the benefit of maybe getting better cards. Corp discards 3 cards.
Zeke sneaks a quick swig of the rot gut whiskey he bought from Charley, the quartermaster, that morning, and then splashes some of it on the wound before wrapping a neckerchief round it. Loading his carbine, he returns fire. It'll take more than some damned blue belly to stop him.. he fires, and is rewarded by hearing a grunt from the other side of the clearing, but also the sound of return fire - the Yankee was hit but clearly not badly. Zeke fires again without success..
  • 5th Move: (Q Diamonds vs 9 Hearts), Corp wins (finally picked up some good cards!), Reloads, Fires and Misses. Zeke does the same actions but hits. Corp takes a toughness test but this time fails and becomes Lily Livered.
  • 6th Move:  (Ace Clubs vs 8 Hearts), Corp wins and uses one of his mew cards, an Ace, to win the initiative, but it is also an automatic 'Get Your Courage Up', so he reloads and fires at full effect but misses - he clearly needs to do something different!  Zeke however, reloads and fires but hits (he threw a 10 on a D10, and added + 1 for that Sharpshooter trait), but after all that only grazes Corp. Despite that Corp still has to take a toughness test, and fails again - Lily Livered.
Zeke continues to exchange shots with the Yankee, the only good thing being that neither of them can shoot worth a damn he thinks sourly.. he shoots again though, and this time is again rewarded with a cry of pain from the other side of the clearing - has he done for the blue belly?

  • 7th Move: (Ace Spades vs 3 Hearts), Corp continues to mine those good cards he picked up a few moves prior, and wins - the Ace is an automatic 'Get Your Courage Up', so he reloads and fires at full effect and finally hits Zeke, wounding him in the leg. Zeke passes his toughness test and returns fire at full effect - reloads and fires but misses. As he has also played a 3, Zeke discards/replaces 2 cards

  • 8th Move: (King Spades vs Q Spades), Corp wins and changes tactics, he opts to move twice into base to base contact (he has a 'Skill with Bowie knife' character trait he hopes he can use!). Zeke attempts to shoot Corp as he advances (snapshot - what we'd call opportunity fire) but fails to get a shot off  (he needs a card in his deck higher in value than the King Corp played for initiative and didn't have one). The two men immediately engage in 'Fisticuffs' (hand to hand) - Corp plays a Q of Diamonds, but Zeke plays a 2 of the same suit - giving him a card driven benefit of "Low Blow" and automatically winning him the bout! Zeke inflicts a graze and a leg wound - Corp passes his toughness test to recover from the Lily Liver condition this caused..
Back comes the answer almost immediately, and Zeke feels a burning pain in his leg - dammit, leg wound! Ducking down into cover, he takes another swig of the rotgut and shoots back. Peering round the edge of the scrub he sees the Yankee running towards him across the clearing, raises his rifle to fire, but is too slow and the blue belly slams into him. As they circle each other in the growing gloom, Zeke lands a lucky kick, and the Yankee stumbles backwards, tripping on some rocks and falling badly, he's hurt bad but not done for yet, Zeke thinks.. 
  • 9th Move: (K Clubs vs Jack Hearts), Corp wins... moves into contact again for further fisticuffs. Zeke again attempts a snapshot (as his Sharp is still loaded) - both have Jack's but Zeke's takes precedence, so he shoots and hits Corp in the chest. Corp passes his toughness test, and batters Zeke causing damage to chest and arm. Using his 'Bowie Knife' trait Corp opts to make the chest wound a severe wound knocking Zeke unconscious. He moves forward, ties him up and takes him prisoner.
Corp battering Zeke..

The Yankee gets to his feet and comes at him again, this time with a wicked looking knife. Zeke fires wildly, and could have sworn he hit him, but a sudden blinding pain, and everything suddenly stops and goes dark. When he comes to, his face is dripping with what tastes like his whiskey, and struggling to stand he finds his arms tied, and the blue belly standing over him taking a swig from his canteen.. raising it in an ironic salute, the Yankee speaks.. "looks like the tables are turned, Reb"..

Game over! Well that was a lot of fun..  a simple but very clever set of rules giving huge amounts of narrative value, and playing well.. I mucked up the last snapshot test (I compared cards in the deck but what Zeke actually needed to do was beat Corps initiative card) but it didn't affect the outcome..

I'm not normally a card driven game fan - but there's something about a deck of cards that fits with a western skirmish game.. ๐Ÿ˜

Butchers bill... that chest wound for Zeke was upgraded to Severe, causing unconsciousness..

I really must get some paint on the lads..  I feel the need to have another go with these rules with a few more per side.

Corp and Zeke (and their lads) will march again!


Laters, as the young people are want to say...


  1. Thanks for the tour of the aircraft in the Science Museum. :-) Knowing that an aircraft was "really there" and saw action does always make them more exciting, of course. Must get there myself some day as I've never been either.

    The game sounds fun too, and I've downloaded the rules to have a look. Thanks!

    1. Cheers David, the museum was as enjoyable as it was unexpected - I had no idea that they had so many original exhibits. The rules were very refreshing.. I have some idea's to enhance solo play, and made me want to get some paint on Zeke, Cap and the boys to try them out, so it was a good result all round..

  2. Interesting trip Steve! I enjoyed the plane pics, especially the Hurricanes and Harrier - Hawker having been a big feature of the local economy round my neck of the woods. Just wished I'd moved to the area a few years earlier.

    1. Cheers Nundanket - the back stories to that exhibit and the whole story of how the plane came to be is fascinating, and not a little awe inspiring.. could you imagine the nerve required coming in for the first ever vertical landing on an air craft carrier.. anywhere.. in the world... stunning

  3. Well that's a trip to the Science Museum planned next time we're in London. I've had some fun with Ruthless, playing Wild East game (Russian v Chechens in the 19th century). They'd do for Afghanistan too.

    1. Morning CK - Science Museum very much recommended.. Flight exhibition of course, but I was also very much taken with the extensive collection of steam engines.. some of them still working..

  4. I must have been to the Science Museum as a kid, but that was 50-odd years ago and never been back.. seeing those aircraft, I will certainly go again soon. Thanks for the inspiration! Great narrative from a very simple game, too!

    1. Thanks David - thoughts already turning to the follow up!