Friday, March 15, 2013

The Last 10 Planes, Wealth Inequality

Hi there! Thanks for dropping by, and welcome back if you’re a return customer. Every couple of weeks I sit down and bang out a thousand words or so on things that interest me in the gaming world, politics and current events, and the finer things in life. If you’re enjoying my blog, don’t be afraid to share! I enjoy my little soapbox, and as Oscar Wilde once remarked, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

This week’s topics: The planes still to be done for Axis & Allies Air Force Miniatures, some thoughts about Wealth Inequality in America (the video!), and cherry trees.

Gaming: A post or two back I mentioned that, after the second set of Axis & Allies Air Force Miniatures, I felt that the game needed about ten or so miniatures before it would represent a reasonably complete survey of the warplanes of WW2. Well, in this post, I’m going to take a shot at nailing down ten pieces that would “finish” the game for me. I have no idea if Wizards of the Coast will ever produce a third set for the game, but if they do, these are the new models I’d want to see.
First: I’d like each major power to have its own dedicated dive bomber or ground attack plane. The Germans have their Stuka and the Russians have their Il-2; ideally the US, British, Japanese, and Italians would get attack planes too. That’s a big commitment of my 10 hypothetical models, so let me see what economies I can come up with right up front. I sort of feel that the Typhoon is pretty iconic as a British ground attack plane, and the Italians can fall back on the Ju-87 Stuka since they don’t really have a better choice. For the Japanese and Americans, I’m inclined to look for naval attack aircraft. It might be fun to look at torpedo bombers and invent a new SA for them, although most torpedo bombers could double as level bombers for land attack. However, I think I’d rather go with the Douglas SBD Dauntless and the Aichi D3A “Val.” They’re a little smaller than the torpedo bombers, and probably a little more feasible in production. Plus, you can play out the big carrier battles of 1942 with these planes, and that’s pretty awesome. Two down, eight to go.

Okay, on to Allied fighters. Let’s assume we’ve got four slots left. I’d love to start with a mid- or late-model P-40, say a P-40E, since so many P-40s were produced and Lend-Leased to a variety of different Allied powers… but there are two major US fighters we haven’t seen in any version yet, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the Grumman F6F Hellcat. The game simply wouldn’t complete without the Hellcat or the Jug. The P-47 comes in two different-looking versions, the earlier razorback and the later bubble bubble canopy, but for my money, the bubble canopy is the more iconic version. So the Jug comes out in its late-war P-47D configuration.
Two slots left for the British, French, and Russians—not enough, not enough! The Russians absolutely need another plane, and there are three good candidates: LaGG 3, MiG 3, and Yak 3. I really want to give the Russians a MiG because its performance in 1941 is really interesting, but the Yak 3 was the best Russian fighter of the war, so the Yakovlev Yak-3 gets the nod. For my last Allied pick, I’ll reluctantly leave the French as a two-plane power, and go back for the best British plane we haven’t done. This has to be one of later Spitfire models. I could see going with the Seafire (and giving the Brits a naval fighter) or the Spitfire XIV, maybe one of the cut-down models with the clear-around canopy. I’ll give the nod to the Supermarine Spitfire F Mk XIV, since the British might eventually borrow a Martlet or Corsair from the US models for their carrier planes.

Now for the Axis fighters. With regrets, I inform the Regia Aeronautica that they’re done—I need all those slots for Germans and Japanese planes. To start with, the Germans absolutely need a late-model Bf109, possibly a late G or a K. The G-6 is visibly different from the early G models represented in the game already, and has significantly better armament. Since the Germans produced something like 12,000 of them, I’ll go with the Messerschmitt Bf109G-6. For the last German, I think it’s time for the big gun, the game-breaker, the most advanced fighter of the war: the Me 262. Yes, jets are challenging in this game engine, but I think they’re do-able. My basic approach to the 262 would be simple: It always flies at High Speed, and its speed range is say, 5-9. In an AAAFM game it’ll go like hell in straight lines and climb great, but if you play on a big map, it should work okay.
Two slots left! The Japanese have a half-dozen fighters that *could* appear, but first, I think you have to make sure the Japanese Navy is equipped with the fighters that were on its aircraft carriers in the big battles of 1944, and that means the Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero. Unfortunately, that’s just different enough from the A6M2 and A6M3 in preceding sets to require a new sculpt. I hate to give up a slot for the third iteration of a Zero, but the A6M5 was produced in huge numbers, and the Imperial Navy never found another plane to fly off their carriers. Fortunately, the A6M5 is significantly different from the earlier models in performance, so there’s a reason to make that plane. For the last slot, the Japanese have three very good advanced fighters all jostling for space: the George, the Frank, and the Raiden. Since we gave the Navy their last Zero, I think we go with the Army fighter here, and give our last slot to the Nakajima Ki-84 “Frank.” The Japanese built 3500 of these (a lot more than the George or the Jack), and they saw a lot of service in 1944 and 1945.

So, there you go: Ten planes to finish the Axis & Allies Air Force Miniatures game. There are a dozen more I wish I could include—the late-model P-40, a P-36, a MiG-3, a Mosquito, the Gloster Gladiator, and so on—but that’s what happens when you make a list. Have some fun, and see if you can come up with a better list than mine!
Politics/Current Events: There’s a short, thought-provoking video making the Internet rounds these days called Wealth Inequality in America. It takes a hard look at just how much wealth is in the hands of the top 1 percent. Here’s a link, if you care to watch it:

Now, here’s the thing: There is a crucial piece of the puzzle you aren’t seeing when you watch this video. I don’t argue with the numbers, but it’s not an accurate picture. “So what?” you might ask. “This is terrible! What could possibly dilute the sheer injustice of this situation?”

The answers, dear reader, are TIME and INDIVIDUAL PERSPECTIVE. While the video presents an excellent snapshot of conditions as they exist this at very moment, or really at any given moment, it doesn’t tell the story of what happens to the typical individual over the course of a lifetime. A great number of people begin their working careers dirt poor; they struggle to get ahead; over time they succeed in paying off houses and accumulating 401k’s or IRAs; and by the time they’re in their 60s and 70s, they’ve accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets. This is income mobility--you might not ever reach the 1 percent, but a LOT of us join the top 20 percent or so by the time we retire.
It’s true that a lot of people don’t progress very far out of the left-hand side of that chart, and could use help. It’s true that we hit bumps along the way and experience setbacks. And it is certainly true that a CEO earning 380 times their average employee’s salary is simply sickening. But hammering folks making, say, $250,000 with punitive income taxes because they’re in the top X percent of wage-earners won’t fix those problems. The CEOs we want to chastise make tens of millions, not a couple hundred k. More importantly, we want to ENCOURAGE income mobility over time for as many people as possible. That’s how people get rich.

The Finer Things: Spring. The cherry trees are beginning to blossom out here in Western Washington, our surest harbinger of the end of winter. As it turns out, cherry trees are all over the place in the Seattle area, seemingly everywhere you look. We have spectacular displays of pink trees coming up in just another couple of weeks, and let me tell you, it’s a show everybody should see.