Stephen Wins 6th Annual Whosyercon Open
The 2019 Whosyercon Open set plenty of new records, but they were record lows. This year's event was one of the shortest tournament games in Indy Squadron history. It produced the lowest winning score of any Indy tournament in the modern era (since the adoption of the current scoring system in 1994), even surpassing last year's then-record low score set by 2018 champ Rick Lacy.
Five players gathered on March 23, 2019 at the Whosyercon gaming convention in the Wyndham West Indianapolis for the sixth edition of Indy's Whosyercon Open, tying the 2017 event for the lowest attendance on record. Every airplane in the scenario was outstanding, which probably contributed to the brevity of the game as it eventually played out (con't below).
Bob Meister, Fokker DVII 200 hp
George Henion, Pfalz DXII
Stephen Skinner, Junkers DI
Ethan Skinner, French SPAD XIII
Rick Lacy, British Sopwith Camel 150 hp
Tailed by Bob's DVII and Stephen's Junkers fighter, Ethan rolled high and did the only reasonable thing. He opened the throttle on his badly damaged SPAD and climbed away. Bob and Stephen tried to follow but fell 250 feet behind and missed both of their shots.
Rick, meanwhile, had placed his Sopwith Camel squarely on the tail of George's Pfalz. He successfully tailed George into Turn 4, and his Camel had the edge in both turn speed and climb. But Rick unexpectedly veered away at the last minute, allowing George's Pfalz to break away safely. It was a surprise move to everyone who didn't realize that Rick had jammed his machine gun. Rather than continue to pursue George with only one gun, Rick chose to break free and try to unjam it and fly closer to Ethan, his damaged wingman. The move was strategically sound and a wise maneuver for his team, but in the end it probably cost Rick the title.
Ethan's fortunes didn't change much the following turn. Both Bob and Stephen remained on the tail of his SPAD, and both managed to score tail hits from 300-350 feet (4 hit factors from Bob, 5 from Stephen). Those two shots destroyed any chance that Ethan might turn his SPAD back toward the fight and lengthen the game to favor the Allies. With 8 hits in his right wing, 10 more in the left, two critical hits and no right turns, his SPAD could do nothing but head home at 130 mph.
Bob and Stephen both fired again from long range but missed. Ethan's 5-mission pilot escaped and landed safely at his home field. Now outnumbered three to one, Rick's only option was to fly away while he was still able and hope that his heavy scoring in the early turns would hold up and earn him his second consecutive Whosyercon Open title.
As it turned out, Turn 3 was the decisive moment of the game. From that point on, Ethan's SPAD was hit hard, Rick was hampered with gun jams and the Allied team never recovered. If he had scored just three more hit factors Rick would have earned a share of the championship, so clearly gun jams were a major element in the outcome.
The game ended with no kills credited and the lowest winning score of any Indy Squadron tournament since Jason Meador's 52-point performance in the 1993 Armistice Day Fits Tournament. Stephen has now earned his third title in the six-year history of the event.
- Stephen Skinner, Junkers DI 53 points
- Rick Lacy, Sopwith Camel 150 hp 47
- Bob Meister, Fokker DVII 200 hp 39
- George Henion, Pfalz DXII 25
- Ethan Skinner, SPAD XIII 15
by Rick Lacy
WhosyerCon (a local Indianapolis gaming convention, free to attendees) was held over the March 22-24, 2019 weekend. As is the Indy Squadron's tradition, we came to support the Con by running DawnPatrol gaming for any interested players. The turnout this year was down slightly, but we managed 8 games in two days, which is actually slightly better than normal. Five events were pickup games, while three were part of the official Whosyercon game schedule. The first two of those games are described below. The third was the Indy Squadron Whosyercon Open, described in the lead article of this issue.
"The Dawn Patrol"
Western Front, September 22, 1916
In this mission, we had a flight of two British Morane Saulnier N's (George Henion, Ethan Skinner) run into a flight of two Fokker D-II machines (Rick Lacy, Stephen Skinner).
The game started off with a bang when Rick’s Fokker hit George’s Morane pilot with a light wound. George bravely stayed in the fight as long as he could, but eventually dove for the deck and escaped. Ethan stayed around briefly to distract us from his wingman’s escape, but then used his superior speed and climb to pull away. No aerial victories were awarded. Scores for this mission were:
"The Americans Show Up"
Western Front, March 22, 1918
In this mission, we had two new players attend, which allowed three players per team. In the American Nieuport 28 flight were Stephen, Ethan, and new player Chris. The mixed German flight included Rick in a Pfalz DrI, George in a Fokker DVII 160 and Shane in a Fokker DrI.
The game turned out to be remarkably even, as the DrI's could not outclimb their DVII brother without leaving him hanging, while the Americans could not focus effectively and stayed scattered for the most part.
The game essentially came down to newcomer Chris tailing Rick for several consecutive turns, giving him three wing critical hits and almost sawing off his left wing. When Rick finally shook Chris, Stephen vultured in to claim the kill and Rick cut to glide, taking his plane down behind his own lines (crashed while landing and died in the crash).
George's Fokker DVII took off at an opportune moment also, leaving Shane in his DrI to face the Americans alone. Shane rose to the challenge and mounted a serious attack, but eventually opted to go away before the Americans could converge on him. Scores for this mission were:
by Rick Lacy
One of the fun things about a con is trying new games. George brought a copy of a game called ‘Wings for the Baron’ and George, Bob Meister, and Rick Lacy were able to scrape up two other players for a five-man game. I had been wanting to play this one for awhile, and it was actually quite fun.
The mechanics are broken down into distinct phases where one of the 5 German fleugwerks (aircraft factories) try to research, design, build and steal other players' technical research in order to bank the most money. George ran the Halberstadt factory, Rick ran the Pfalz factory, Bob had the Roland factory and our other two players had Fokker and Albatros. The game ran for about 3 hours, with Fokker jumping out to the expected early lead in tech and Albatros in build capacity.
However, Rick managed to maneuver Pfalz into a solid competition with Fokker, even surpassing both Fokker and the Allies in fighter quality by the end of the war. George was lining up to make Halberstadt a player but a timely play by Rick killed his chances at that so he concentrated on two seater aircraft tech and eventually fell so far behind the Allies in fighter tech he could no longer accept fighter contracts.
By the end of the game, Albatros and Halberstadt were the clear leaders in two seat tech while Pfalz and Fokker were tops in fighters. Roland was making money by building everyone else’s designs. The final winner (determined by the amount of gold a company banks in Switzerland) was Albatros by a single million over Fokker. Pfalz had not built enough factories to make enough money to keep up, and Halberstadt/Roland were essentially fighting for last place by building two seaters. Overall, quite a good game. Recommended for FitS players everywhere.
We are fairly certain that some non-combat footage has been inserted into this short film reel, but overall it is one of the best representations of what aerial fighting was really like in the First World War.
Book Review: "Italian Aces of World War I"
Roberto Gentilli, Antonio Iozzi, Paolo Varriale
Rating: 5/5 stars
The Indy Squadron has been reviewing World War I books for over thirty years. It is rare that ISD can say that a book is the "final word" on a topic, but Schiffer's "Italian Aces" may be the exception. On par with "Air Aces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire" and Schiffer Publishing's "THE STAND: The Final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke, Jr.," this book might well be the end of the subject.
"Italian Aces" begins with six chapters that introduce the reader to the Italian air service in the First World War, the nation's involvement in the conflict and a review and history of each fighter squadron.
The following 42 chapters are dedicated individually to each Italian fighter ace of the war. Some of the biographies are necessarily brief due to the scarcity of information on particular pilots, but most of them are extensive and detailed. The chapter on 30-victory ace Silvio Scaroni is a good example. Fully sixteen pages long with fourteen photos and a charted account of each confirmed aerial victory, this chapter reads like a small, self-contained book.
The photo reproductions are excellent and it must have taken years for the authors to collect them. Many photos are blown up to fill two pages for viewing with the book fully open. The reader can get lost in studying just one of these stunning photos.
The book ends with color profiles of each known aircraft for every Italian ace of World War I. The profiles are expertly done, with great detail and an individual description of the markings on each airplane.
Be aware that English is clearly not the native language of the authors. They are Italian, and it took an Italian team working in Europe to collect this data and create such an amazing volume. But the English reader will notice that the language is a bit strained and doesn't flow quite as well as if it were written by a native English speaker. This is a very minor issue and the reader will fully understand the entire book, but it is worthy of note nonetheless.
At nearly 500 pages, the book is also rather intimidating. It is large, heavy and a bit cumbersome as a travel companion. But again, this is a small price to pay for the volume of information contained therein.
After reviewing scores of books for thirty years, the Indy Squadron Dispatch can truly say that this is an epic work. If you own "Italian Aces of World War I" from Schiffer Publishing, you have everything you need to understand the topic. And you probably have the finest and most aggressive work that is possible at this date, some 100 years after the fact.
ISD is pleased to give "Italian Aces" it's highest rating of five stars.
Pen & Sword Publishing
Captain Alan Bott
Rating: 4/5 stars
This is just the kind of book that ISD enjoys most. "My War in the Air" is a personal memoir from Captain Alan Bott of the Royal Flying Corps in 1916. Previously released as "An Airmen's Outing," the book was thankfully left mostly unedited from its original form. It still contains odd, turn of the century English spellings and terminology such as "to-day" and "the big push." Rather than an annoyance, I found this charming and was glad to see the original text left intact.
Bott's memories comprise a largely believable tome from an era of vast embellishment. The manuscript appears to date to perhaps the 1920's when Bott's memory was still fresh and the day-to-day activities at his squadron could be accurately recounted from his own collection of war letters. Some of those philosophically toned letters are reprinted as appendices at the end of the book.
"My War in the Air" suffers from a complete absence of photographs, for which ISD deducts one star from its rating. The only image we have of the author himself is from the rear overleaf of the book jacket. Otherwise, one is left entirely to his imagination to recreate the airplanes, scenes and personnel mentioned in an otherwise excellent and readable book.
Still, the benefits remain. This is a book that otherwise may never have been resurrected from the dreaded, "out of print" category. With 148 pages and a relatively large font, it is easily and quickly read. Its size make it handy for travel and a perfect briefcase companion.
For $25 US, the reader gets a piece of history unavailable anywhere else with an intimate, personal look inside the life of an unknown two-seater pilot from a century-old war. And that makes it priceless.