Thursday, April 4, 2013

First Flight

The camo actually worked.
My cup of flying enthusiasm overflowed yesterday so I broke out the painter's tape and spray cans and got started on the Axis plane.  In retrospect I should have left the area immediately around the cockpit the base dark grey primer so the cockpit itself doesn't stick out so much.  I'll have to put that into practice if I go in for a second plane.  The base and flight stand are very frustrating but I have some ideas for them.  In general the model has grown on me a bit but it's still far from attractive.  There may be a bit of an Axis painting push for Saturday since there's plenty of stuff, mostly soldier 3 units, that are ready for washing and final details.  I'd like to field a fully painted army for the batch of regionals, but that's probably not going to happen.  It would also require me to have a list in mind to play.  I had hoped that the plane would take my pants off and demand a permanent place in all lists going forward, but the results were less than hoped for.

Before going into my actual play experience with (one version of) the Axis jet, a bit of Dustheory.  Theoryfare?  Number crunching.  I'm doing this at a handicap because I'm too lazy to actually get the Icarus book to refer to, but broad strokes were always my intention.  Both versions of the Fledermaus come with the same nose gun, which is roughly as effective as a Luther against infantry and has some (limited) anti-tank capability.  It's not a bad gun, but (stop me if this sounds familiar) it's not as good as the Allied one and not as numerous as the SSU guns.  What makes the two different is the other armament, either a rack of six bombs or a more dedicated AT gun.  The bombs are roughly as effective as the nose gun, are dropped as part of movement, negate cover, and can be dropped in pairs to effectively become a sustained attack.  They're a neat idea that I think has potential since you can drop multiple bombs on multiple targets in a single turn.  The only issue I have with them is that you can never use them with the guns since bombs go out the back while the guns shoot to the front.  They also don't have enough hitting power to reliably wipe out anything more than a team of snipers.  The AT gun has an extra bit of range (24 vs 16), rolls a bit more dice against armor than the nose gun, and most importantly has Penetrator.  The result is that this variant is definitely made to hunt light to medium vehicles and I think it'll serve this role fairly well.  You can double up on a single target to roll a respectable number of dice but lose the ability to drop bombs along your opponent's lines.  The planes also look like they can't hover, despite many implications to the contrary, so you'll have to plan your routes ahead of time and won't be able to attack the same target two turns in a row (unless your opponent helps you out with positioning).

Wrong Fledermaus.
Fliers in general are a tough nut to crack since AA options are not plentiful, which allows your planes (or choppers) to operate wherever they want to without (much) fear of retribution.  This is a good thing because the Fledermaus doesn't excel at killing anything much past vehicle 4, which is my biggest beef with it.  The Axis is already filled to bursting with AT for light to medium vehicles (4-5 and below).  Every unit of infantry, with the exception of snipers and spotters and perhaps the Sturmgrenadiere command squad, can damage at least light vehicles and most can go hunting for medium and heavy vehicles as well (not that they should).  Adding another option to the already long list doesn't do anything of note except reinforce Axis' strength against lesser vehicles...which don't seem to be too prevalent among armies.  I had hoped for an infantry clearer, but now it's time to pin that hope on whatever the next release is.  That said the planes are better at clearing infantry (if only by a slight margin) than the walkers in the same point slot (~45), so you're not really losing out by taking a plane over something like a Ludwig.  Of course the walkers can sit still and shoot the same target over and over while the plane has to keep moving, and quickly, around the table, but the walkers are vulnerable to far more weapons than the planes are.  Tradeoffs are everywhere.

Not this one either, though entertaining.
With all the theory in place now is the time for some impression from my first game with the plane.  I went with the bomb option as it seemed like the more versatile choice.  The possibility of dropping bombs on two different units, once during compulsory move and again during the regular move, was very appealing.  I'll note here that I haven't dug into any internet thought about the new planes (though I'll be reading this post over on Dust War once I'm done writing this one) and didn't really build a list around it but instead swapped an AT walker for the plane.  It was a lot of fun to zip it around the table (I made a full loop by the end of the game, finishing perhaps 4" from where I started) and didn't really have any problems keeping it on the table, only have to fry some brain cells on a single turn to make sure I avoided relative disaster.  I was facing off against a dedicated AA walker (Rattler) and made no real attempt to avoid it.  Instead I fly more or less directly at the walkers (there was also a Cobra) with the idea that I'd drop bombs on the snipers I'd be flying over en route, then blow up one or two of the walkers before taking a loop to make another run on whatever targets remained.  I took two points of damage over the entire game, though I had some hot armor dice for the plane, but didn't do much damage in return.  I did a point on one walker and two on another, plus blew up a couple infantry models, but overall the plane didn't do a lot of damage.  Granted I only got a pair of bombs and one round of shooting against each walker, but the return on what sure looks like an AT piece trying to take out walkers was disappointing.  Next time I'll try out the other version (with the gun instead of the bombs) which should do better against vehicles thanks to extra dice and Penetrator.  In the end I'd hoped for a game changer with the Axis planes but came up with another AT tool to add to the pile, albeit a much faster and more entertaining one.

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