'Algernon Pulls It Off' is a fun set of WW1 aerial rules by Too Fat Lardies, which is currently unavailable and awaiting a revised version.  It has been a
favourite of our gaming group though we haven't played it for a couple of years.  It uses hex based movement and card activation (though we use poker
chips) and seems to really capture the up close and personal nature of air fighting during the Great War.  Algy also provides a great narrative and story
which many wargamers, our group included,  find the key to an enjoyable wargaming experience.  I'm making the promotion of Algy my wargaming
mission in 2013.

Fairly recently the new Wings of Glory Gothas and the Wings of War early fighters releases encouraged me to dig out my planes and try a few solo games
to 'get my eye back in'.  I managed to pick up some F Toys WW1 planes from their biplane collection and I also discovered
Shapeways planes.  These are
3D printed models that come in a variety of materials.  With some preparation to seal and smooth the surfaces they can look really nice.  They also do a
large, and constantly growing, collection of 1/144th planes many of which are so unusual to be unlikely to ever be made by Wings of Glory or anyone else
for that matter.  The Shapeways kits need virtually no assembly and so the old days of fiddly and badly made 1/144th metal kits are long gone for at least
one wargamer.

I ran a successful 'Bag The Hun' game recently at the Saturday session of the
Wessex Wagaming Society Southampton, and decided to put on an Algy
game on 24th November 2012.  The WWS are a large, really friendly and well run club of many years with real heritage being Don Featherstone's old club
and founded 45 years ago. They have excellent facilities and offer mid-week gaming on a Wednesday evening.   However the real joy is that they offer
Saturday meets which alternate between 1-6pm or 10-6pm sessions.  This is nice as it means you can organise large or longer games than normally you'd
be able to participate in a typical evening's gaming session.

Plus from my personal situation, being a house-husband and painter, its nice to get away from the kids for a few hours, and to let the missus have some
time alone with them.  Weekends are usually a problem for the rest of my gaming group so we are occassional attendees though my intention now is to
attend at least once a month.  Our gaming group of six are not usual club animals but the welcome we've received from the chaps at WSS has been so
positive that we now try to get along when we can to play longer games.

Anyhow, I posted an invite to the game on the WWS forum and two members, Graham and Steve responded.  Checking with our gaming group only Nigel
was available.  So now time to think of a scenario.

When I ran a 'Bag The Hun' game at the club recently I adopted a layered approach to the starting with just a couple of planes per side to allow players to
get the feel of the unfamiliar rules and 'get their eye in'.  Once they were a little more comfortable then the goalposts moved and more planes would arrive
on the scene and the whole dynamics would shift.  

I decided on adopting this successful approach again.  I determined the action was set on the Western Front during
'Bloody April' 1917, above the British
Army's offensive at Arras.  This became known as 'Bloody April' because in just four weeks the RFC lost 245 planes, with 211 air crew killed or wounded
and a further 108 as prisoners of war.  As comparison, the Germans lost just 66 planes.  89 of the RFC planes lost were shot down by Manfred von
Richthofen's JagdStaffeln (Jasta) 11.   Having recently purchased five of Wings of War Airco DH2 fighters, and not having used them before,  I wanted to
see how effective they were.  Also I have recently finished five Shapeways Bristol Fighter F2's and Albatros D. I and D.II's.

Before I start properly, a quick word on my cloth.  I use a 2" hex European Fields Hotzmat.  A couple of weeks ago I decided to take a massive risk and
spray the mat.  These mats are a quality product and are not cheap so it was a big decision on my part and one not to be taken lightly.  

I decided to lightly overspray a 'no man's land' first running diagonally from corner to corner across the table using a black spray.  Next I used a light grey
spray over the black, and then a light brown over this.  The light brown was made to look patchy and delivered in places quite close to the cloth making
crater like patterns.  I also ensured that where the trenches were to run was also more brown to show where they had been dug.  Do all this outside on a
sunny day, or at least a dry one and within an hour its dried.  

Once dried the next step is to get a black permanent marker pen and draw on the trenches making sure that they run in the areas which are more brown
sprayed.  WW1 trenches run in zig zag or ninety degree turns to stop an explosion running along the trench and/or making them hard to roll up for raiding
parties.  Its also useful to mark in rear areas and communication trenches running perpendicularly between the front and rear trenches.  I also marked in
positions for batteries in the rear and or MG/Observation posts and occasional marks in amongst no man's land for the odd deep crater.  I next took a
brown permanent marker and marked some roads on area which hadn't been oversprayed, marking the occasional route of a road which runs through no
man's land more lightly.  Going back to the black I marked on lots of rectangular and square marks to simulate buildings.  Some we along the roads as
farms or houses then closely packed at road junctions for villages.  Finally, taking a dark green permanent marker I marked on hedges adjacent to the
roads, field boundaries and closely packed areas of circles for trees.  The overall effect belies the simplicity of the process.  It looks surprisingly good
especially as the whole thing took perhaps an hour.  I keep adding the odd bit here and there but it was very easy to do.  Whilst abstract, it does make you
feel like your little planes are actually over the lines of the trenches.

A quick word on the difference in ethos between the Leftsreitkrafte and RFC.  Prior to the rapid expansion of their air service in 1918 most German scout
pilots had learned to fly and served, often for many months previously, in two-seaters on a variety of reconnaissance and/or bombing and escort
missions.   They were often already accomplished pilots and all had some combat experience.  British Scout pilots were often straight from flight school
with no combat experience and little flying time on their particular plane.  Most of the casualties incurred by the RFC, particularly during ‘Bloody April’
(April 1917), were such pilots.  Those who survived the baptism of fire often turned out to become what we would call in Algy Junior Aces.  Many German
scout pilots therefore often became minor Aces by culling the Sprog British pilots, with a few notable Aces reaching the heights of the Top Ace such as
Manfred von Richthofen, and Werner Voss.

Being much more experienced I decided that Nigel and me would play the Germans with Steve and Graham the RFC.  Nige and me have played Algy a lot
in the past but not again until fairly recently.  Graham took part in the 'Bag The Hun' game I ran recently so is reasonably confident with the system of
manoeuvring and spotting.  Steve hasn't played Algy before and is quite new to Lard.  I decided to give the British  players RFC ace pilot and air tactician
Edward 'Mick' Mannock's rules for engaging the enemy, putting into practice the TFL catch line 'Play the period, not the rules'.  What you need to really
understand in Algy is the execution of air combat, not where you get pluses and minuses, as the rules reward historical tactics.  Obviously you need to
know how the rules allow you to do this but I'm sure you get my point.  

Algy is typical of most rule sets in that to get the best out of it you need to set the scene and set the game within a context.  You can just have a free for all
but I think its much more fun with objectives, as players can grade their own performance and that of the enemy.  Granted after a couple of turns, the card
activation system breathes life into the game and it seems to take on a direction of its own.    Its important to realise that card activation does not mean
randomness. I get really upset with people who argue that Lard rules are random.  The cards influence what happens, and when, and the nature of the
cards are dependent upon pilot ability and situation and historical context.  Sounds complicated, but in practice it isn't really.

To start with I set the scene with an LFG Roland C.II 'Walfisch' (Whale) with a Veteran crew on a photo shoot over the British trenches.   Using ideas from
'Algernon and the Brown Hatta Jasta, Chapter 6 - England Expects' from the
TFL Summer Special of 2007.  The area needing photographing is marked on
a map or in this case on table with a marker.  In order to get effective photographs pilots need to fly at altitude 3 or 4.  A ‘Snap’ card is included in the deck.  
Whenever it is drawn that hex in which the plane is located is considered to have been effectively photographed.  The observer must be doing no other
tasks but manning the camera, so spotting and firing its parabellum is not an option.

I gave the British the following briefing.

“Carpet-Byrnes, a damned Hun two-seater has strayed over the lines on a photographing mission near Arras. Er, take B flight up and send him westwards
will you, what? There's a good chap. Oh and take that new chap Whatsisname with you to give him a tour of the lines. Oh and tell him to watch for the Hun
in the sun, you know what happened with old Whowasit".

“I forgot to mention old bean there’s some 48 Sqdn ‘Biffs’ on a trench raid.  Keep an eye out there’s a good chap.  Napoo”

Next, I told Graham that his five Bristol Fighter F2's ('Biff's') were on a trench bombing mission/strafing mission and marked seven area of trenches with a
Litko STRAFE marker as their target hexes.  Scout planes with bombs, move at half distance in the move of their bombing run (after adjusting modifiers)
and must finish at altitude 1 or 2.  Strafing must be conducted from altitude 1 or 2 only.  Altitude 1 counts as Dead Close, altitude 2 as Close.  Maximum
burst is limited to four seconds.  Target size varies according to target but generally aircraft could be 1+, buildings 3+ etc.  Target rolls no saves.  Umpire
should allot a number of hits that a target hex can endure before it is destroyed with 10 being a good number to start from.  ((Adapted from ‘Algernon Flies
East’, Ch 2 - Budyenny's Red Cossacks).  Steve was told his planes would arrive later with the job of shooting down the enemy recce plane and providing
a loos escort for the Biffs.  

To add another dimension I placed a German Observation Balloon in one corner of the table well behind the German lines.  Balloons in Algy start at
altitude band 6 and are winched down as soon as enemy approach within 3 hexes.  They drop one height band every other turn as soon as enemy planes
are in range.

The RFC players were told they could have a go at the balloon if they fancied too.  The whole point of the balloon was to distract the British from
supporting one another and to  help spread the action across the table.

Algy assumes pilots are of five levels.  There is the TOP ACE "the natural hunter of the skies" who receives +2 on all luck throws, the JUNIOR ACE are
'Veteran pilots with a killer edge' who receive +1 on their luck throws, the VETERAN "...an excellent flyer, but without the combat kills and sixth sense that
turns veteran pilots into Aces' who gets +1 on luck for tests involving flying skill, the REGULAR "knows a few manoeuvres, and is more than capable of
bagging a few kills given the opportunity" but has no luck modifiers, and finally the SPROG '..the new boy to the squadron. With only a few flying hours
under his belt.." who receives-1 on all luck throws.  The manoeuvres that the planes can make are found in 'Algernon's Patent Manoeuvres Handbook' in
the rules.  Manoeuvres are rated as Hard, Tricky or Easy.  The success of various manoeuvres are dependent on the pilots ability.  Veterans and above
can make all the manoeuvres but Regulars must test hard manoeuvres and Sprog's all except easy manoeuvres.

I gave Graham a mixture of abilities to illustrate all the rules - A Junior Ace, two Veterans, a Regular and a Sprog.

Action in air games is often extremely difficult to narrate, and more open to argument as opposing sides see things from a very different perspective.  
Read accounts of air warfare of any period and you'll understand this.  We all took a lot of pictures so I'll try and let the pictures describe the fun though
interspersing bits about how the rules work.

Bristol Fighters arrive on the scene with the sun behind them and flying on altitude 6 which was diced for

Algy uses 12 bands of altitude.  These flying stands are by Litko with gimbal mounts and ball bearings
available from
Wings of Glory Aerodrome.

These are great for making the action look a lot more aesthetically pleasing.

With 'Archie' bursting (Litko again) the Biffs quickly moved to target the German Roland flown by the Veteran
Kurt Manners, with Observer Hermann Boering.

However, the Walfisch easily gives most of them the slip with the exception of one plucky chap who follows.

But fails miserably to pass a 'getting on the tail test' and the Roland escapes.

Two more Biffs peel off and drop down low over the enemy trenches.  Scout planes carrying bombs have
reduced speed and manoeuvrability until they drop their 'eggs'.  Scout planes drop their bombs as part of
their 'Move' card and make their bombing run at half speed.  They must end their move at altitude 1 or 2.

"I think its four enemy planes up top Sir!" shouts Observer Dick Mussel to his pilot Roger Roughshaft.  

Turn 3 and I rolled the five or six required for four Hun 'Bogeys' to appear.  
Their height (D6+2) and their table edge diced for randomly

One eye on the enemy planes the Biffs begin their approach led by R.G Bargy with his Observer Devlin

Archie busts ineffectually all around them.  Archie is layered in Algy.  Roll 2D6 per plane
Light Archie 10-12 to hit (MGs and rifle fire) occurrs at altitude 1-3,
Medium 11 or 12 to hit (Pomm-Pomm and 'Flaming Onions') at altitude 3-6,
and Heavy 12 to hit (3"/75mm etc) at altitude 5-9

Enemy spotted two Albatros D.II.  Its Hun ace Max von Schortarsen (Junior Ace) and a Sprog

With their bombs successfully dropped the attention of the Biffs shifts to the Albatri.  
The Walfisch tries again to take pics of the target, albeit unsuccessfully.

Help arrives.  No, not the hand of God (or it that Gott?) its five Airco DH2 under Steve's control.
As with Graham Steve has a Junior Ace, two Veterans, a Regular and a Sprog.

Algernon Carpet-Byrnes leads the way.

An airplanes speed in Algy is rated from 1-8 which is the number of hexes that can be moved.  
A D4 throttle dice may also be thrown and added to the score.  
Essentially, the better a pilot is the better his use of throttle is.  

An Albatros D.II moves at 6 and its rate of climb is two altitude levels per turn.
An Airco DH2 moves at only 4 hexes and can only climb one level of altitude.

Albatros D.II ceiling is altitude 10.  A DH2 ceiling is only altitude 8.  Altitude is often king in aerial gaming.

Max von Schortharsen climbs above the DH2's using his superior climb rate, no doubt to zoom on them.
Suddenly four more unidentified enemy planes arrive at altitude 5

The Biffs decide to have a turn at the balloon and so abandon the DH2's

Archie is heavy, but ineffectual

Carpet-Byrnes snap turns his radially powered DH2 to face the unidentified planes and strains his eyes....
"More Hun Albatri.  Damn it."  Its the evil Gotthard Rimstinger (Veteran) with a fellow Staffelhund (Regular)

However its first blood to the RFC.  R.G Bargy fires a five second burst into Max von Schortarsen damaging
his plane.

The neat smoke effect is a pipecleaner.  These are great as you can fold them over wings and engine
cowlings to indicate damage and they look pukka.

In a daring dive and zoom Rimstinger's wingman fires a full burst into a DH2 causing serious damage.
Whilst the DH2 is armed with a Lewis gun on a forward firing fixed mount the Albatros D.II has two forward
firing Spandaus synchronised to fire through the propeller.

Hits in Algy are determined by length of burst factor + armament factor + modifiers for range, size of target

The Albatros pilot has a five second burst (+2), gun 4 (+4), firing dead close (+3) on a size 4 DH2 (+3) a total of
12 dice to roll.  Any 5 or 6 will register as a hit.

The DH2 rolls to save.  Its manoeuvrability rating is 3 (+3), range is 1 hex (+1) only four dice to roll needing a
5 or 6 to register as a save.

The total of hits and saves are compared, and the difference between the two is cross referenced according
to the robustness of a plane.  A DH2 rates as a robustness of 3.  

2D6 are rolled to determine the damage.

The DH2's try to manoeuvre but are so slow compared to the fast diving  Albatros.
Rimstinger lines up the Sprog and fires from close range.  

"It's hit, it's hit!" he cries, no doubt punching the air.

Whilst the four Albatri are carving the DH2's to pieces the Biffs are off for a spot of balloon busting don't you

This balloon is a Wings of War one, and rather nice.  

Not having incendiary ammunition the balloon is holed as it is winched down.  It'll need some patching up.  
Better get your sewing needles out Hans.

Graham's Biff's guns now begin to jam.  How much bad luck are the RFC boys going to get today?

Surely at some point its going to change?

Enjoying the view of the French countryside Graham?  Peaceful isn't it?

Not over the trenches it ain't chum.  Its bloody murder.  

The faster Albatri are massacring Steve's DH2's.  
Send the women and children to bed this is getting ugly.

Its von Schortarsen behind a DH2.  

He needs to pass a getting on the tail test and score 4 or more however he's adding +2 for a Junior Ace.  
Two or more required.  He's on the tail.

DAKKA...DAKKA...DAKKA....an eight second burst into Les Been's DH2 from point blank range

KA-BOOM!  Les Been's plane disintegrates in a fearful explosion sending von Schortarsen's Albatros into a
spin.  Can he pull it up in time?

"Can't...get...control" gasps the Hun Ace fighting his damaged plane.   

"Mother! Aaaaaargh"


Vengeance is sweet and fortune is fickle.  Les Been is revenged.

The Walfisch of Kurt Manners turns and gets in on the action even.  Another damaged DH2.

It's like kicking a kitten for the Hun pilots.

Rimstinger lines up a Biff and I roll a handful of D6...Eight Hits!
Graham rolls to save...one save.
Seven net hits, robustness 4, roll 2D6 and cross reference..





Gothard Rimstinger's after another.  He turns, he turns....

He's on the tail!

DAKKA...DAKKA..DAKKA...Another damaged DH2.

To add further insult to injury even the Archie manages to shoot down a DH2.

There is just nothing going for the RFC today.

With one DH2 shot down by von Schortarsen, and another by Archie, with two damaged DH2 limping for
home, and a Biff shot down by Rimstinger, we called it a day.  At least Algernon Carpet-Byrnes managed to
land safely back at his aerodrome in the only undamaged DH2
'Bloody April'
April 1917
The RFC chaps, particularly Steve, took it all very well.  I have seldom seen suck bad luck, bad rolling and lousy runs of the poker chips in a

They couldn't spot until it was almost too late.  Every time they needed to take a getting on the tail test they failed miserably.  When hit they
rolled really badly for saves and when trying to hit they also rolled low. They then even jammed when shooting up the balloon.  It was nothing
short of amazing bad luck.  Yet, credit to them, they still they kept trying hoping that the low scores would average out.  They didn't.

I wanted the game to capture the feel of April 1917 with a largely outnumbered German air force on the defensive against larger numbers of the
enemy.  In the end there were ten planes of the RFC versus five of the German airforce.  The Biffs were faster than the Albatros, very rugged
and with a rear gunner could've proved a handful.   A better strategy would perhaps have been to send the DH2's against the balloon with the
Bristol Fighters doing what they did best

The DH2 whilst proving to be the master of the Fokker Scourge's Eindecker was woeful against the faster, better armed and faster climbing
Albatros.  They just tore them to pieces.  I used Albatros D.II models but to be honest I could and probably should have used D.III's which were
more manoeuvrable and with a higher ceiling.

Nige was pleased he had got a kill but our gaming group's 'Shit Magnet' lived up to his reputation by following his victim to the deck.  Better
luck next time Nigel.

One of the things I would have changed was splitting the Biff's and DH2's between the players.  Poor Steve didn't come on table for an hour.  
Then got massacred, largely not of his own doing.  I had hoped he would have time to get his head round things but instead he played a very
passive role when I should have got him involved.  For that Steve I apologise wholeheartedly, and I promise I won't do that again should you
wish for a rematch using maybe Camels and SE5a instead of perhaps DH2's.  Maybe I was a little over ambitious in giving both RFC players
five planes to use, then again they didn't have five each for long.  :-)

A lovely days gaming though at a very friendly welcoming club.  If you're in Hampshire check them out for weekend fun.

In closing I'll just say that my new T-shirt must have had a role to play in our good fortune.

My 'sadness' knows no bounds.

You can view my RFC collection HERE and my Luftsreitkrafte HERE