A Portrait of the Blogger as a Young B-29 Flight Engineer

Once upon a time, museums were much less formal affairs, such that a young lad could sit down at the flight engineer’s station in a partially restored B-29 Superfortress and play with the throttle controls:

Off we go, into the wild blue yonder . . .

The time? The mid-1970’s. The place? The National Museum of the United States Air Force, in Dayton, Ohio.

The Air Force Museum has a walk-through B-29 fuselage on display currently, painted in the likeness of the Korean War-era “Command Decision”. I would imagine this display to be the same one I sat in some thirty-five years ago, though at present the fuselage is completely restored, the various crew stations sealed off with plexiglass.

Our flight engineer on flickr.com by Gary Minnis via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-Share Alike license.If you note the “Larry + Cathy” graffiti scratched into the paint just above our intrepid and amazed youth, I suppose you can see why they had to seal it off, but there’s something lasting about actually sitting in that seat, moving the throttle and mixture controls, that conveys a sense of history as a living entity, rather than a dusty display. I doubt my lasting fascination with all things aero would be quite so potent had I not had the moment happily captured above.

I’m sure, at that moment, I imagined myself to be not unlike this gentleman, an actual B-29 Flight Engineer.

Oh, to slip the surly bonds of earth…

(Image courtesy of Gary Minnis via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-Share Alike license.)

Single Player: B-29 Superfortress

It’s something of Air Combat Week here at Movement Point, as we take a first look at Khyber Pass Games‘ newly published solitaire wargame, B-29 Superfortress: Bombers over Japan, 1944-1945 (2008).

Following solidly in the footsteps (airstream?) of Avalon Hill’s B-17: Queen of the Skies (1983; originally from On Target Games, 1981) solitaire game of bomber missions over Axis-occupied Europe, KPG’s B-29 challenges the solo gamer with the task of shepherding a Superfortress and its crew on 35 missions against Imperial Japanese targets in the Pacific. And just as the B-29 was a far more complex beast than the B-17, so too does this new game add to the complexities of its antecedent. The chart and tables book comes in at forty pages, covering such minutia as celestial navigation and engineer instrument damage tables. B-17, by contrast, contains fewer than ten pages of charts and tables.

Cross-reference, check, roll, apply, and move on.

Complexity in a wargame can be a double-edged sword. There are people who live for chrome in their rules, but quite often, games that add layer upon layer of complexity wind up as “shelf queens,” destined to gather dust and the occasional comment from a visiting gamer friend to the effect of, “Oh, yeah, I have that game, too. Never did play it. Looks cool, though!”

However, in a solitaire game, complexity can often mask, or at least minimize, the sense that you’re merely rolling dice to see what happens. One of the real knocks against B-17 is that the limited number of decision points the solo player encounters reduce the game to a dice rolling exercise—you might as well just roll the dice once: 2-6, you win; 7-9, you draw; 10-12 you lose.

Read more