Biggles Gets the Bird

Christmas Game 2007

The Turkey

 This tale is based, as Hollywood says, on a “true” story.  Well the Biggles stories are real aren’t they?  The story that inspired this little wargame for 3 players can be found in “The Turkey” one of the short stories in “Biggles of 266” and was also published in two chapters (16 & 17) in “Biggles in France” – “Turkey Hunting” and “Biggles Gets the Bird”.

 The Background

It is Christmas Eve December 1917 and the Officers of 266 Squadron are lamenting the fact that they have no turkey for Christmas Day lunch.   The Mess caterer has scoured the countryside in the Crossley Tender.  No turkeys can be found for sale.  Biggles takes up the challenge with the words “Look here, if I get the bird – will somebody do my dawn patrols for a week?”

There was silence for a moment.

“Yes, I will,” declared Mahoney.

“Good! You can be getting a stock of combat reports ready,” declared Biggles, turning towards the door.

 Meanwhile, Eugene Frickenbakker of the 666th Pursuit Squadron AEF is on the same mission.  Both of these illustrious pilots had spotted the farm earlier in the month with its turkey houses and pens full of turkeys. 

The Weather

The weather is overcast, the ground is firm and frozen.  Once airborne the ground is difficult to see.  Equally, once in the clouds small arms and Archie are no longer a threat.

The Ground

 The table is set with a reasonably large Belgian farm in the centre.  The farmhouse is a substantial building with outhouses and, about a hundred yards away, a compound containing the turkey coops.  These are of wooden construction.  The compound is bounded by hedges.  It is not particularly strong but forcing it will make a lot of noise.  Surrounding the farm are large fields bounded by low walls or hedges.  These should be high enough to partly shelter the aircraft once they land but not high enough to stop movement.  A quarter mile away is a village.

Game Mechanics

This game is intended as being light hearted and free flowing wit the use of skirmish rules with the firing effects for the Huns reduced to reflect the inebriation if the German infantry and the effect of the cold on the pilots.

Algy & Eugene were added to the scenario to allow three players to take part and any can be dropped from the game if necessary or his identity changed to suit your collection.  For example if you have 2 Camels then perhaps one of the other flight leaders is competing – McLaren perhaps?  Likewise the farmer would normally be played by the umpire but could, with his family, be played, though they do not have much on an active part.  If you have the planes it should be possible to increase the number of pilots up to 4 and have the Germans controlled by the umpire.

Story line

The pilots land a short distance from the farm so that the noise of the engines does not immediately alert the Germans or the farmer.  Yes I know that this is a bit far fetched but it happens in the book.  After a safe landing they turn their planes around to face the open fields for take off.  The pilots then have to stalk the turkey which is standing in the farmyard.  They need to use both hands to subdue the bird.  One arm holding the wings and the other hand grasping the neck.

Once a pilot has the turkey, the farmer will emerge from the nearest poultry house to him.  He is a Belgian and will tell the pilot that the bird is destined for the German Officers in the village. 

The pilots may offer to buy the turkey and should give him the money that they have in their pockets in recompense.  If they do not make the offer the farmer will accuse them as being as bad as the Boches who just take without paying.  Once paid, and if the Huns are not firing at him he will help kill the bird.

The pilot then tries to escape.  The Germans try to stop him.  The farmer ducks out of sight.  The pilot will be encumbered with either a dead bird or one that is trying to escape. In either case he will lose some speed especially if running and with a chance of falling.  If he falls he may let go of the bird or land on it.  The former is the least likely since he will be holding on like grim death.  If he falls on the bird there is a chance that he will kill it by landing on it. 

When he reaches his plane he can get in using half a move.  He must decide what to do with the bird.  In the story Biggles sits on the live bird and takes off.  If the Germans fire at the plane and hit it then there is a good chance that they will hit the turkey as happened in the story (though it was a fighter in the original).

The engine will still be ticking over – so it is just a case of getting out of rifle range to escape. 

Extra equipment

The pilots may, if they think of it, take with them a bag of breadcrumbs, grain or similar to lure the bird.  Also they may want cord, string or twine to truss it up.  If they ask for anything that the umpire thinks might be easily available on a front line aerodrome then he may allow then to stuff it in their pockets.

Capturing the turkey

When the pilot is within 2” of the turkey he may attempt a capture.  Roll a d10 and apply the factors below needing 5+ to capture it.

Add 1 to the roll for each of these:

If he fails then the bird moves off d6-1 inches in a random direction. 

Crossing hedges

The hedges are no great impediment to the pilots except when carrying the turkey.  To negotiate the hedge successfully and safely with the turkey roll a d10 and apply the factors below needing 5+ to be successful.

Add 1 to the roll for each of these:

Deduct 1 from the die roll for each of these:

If he falls he rolls a d6:

1 the turkey escapes

2 the turkey is killed

3-4 the turkey is stunned and counts as “dead” until it is in the plane.

5-6 the turkey is unharmed.

The pilot gets up next turn and may continue.

Take off:  The camel needs 18” clear run to take off with the Agent on board, 14” without.  The high hedges mean that the Camel must finish its run 4” before reaching them.  If the Camel is within 4” then roll a d10

1.      Catastrophe – undercarriage hits hedge Camel crashlands d10” into next field.

2.      Bounces d10” into field roll on table above at -1 on d6

3.      Bounces d6” into field roll on table above

4.      Minor damage lands rolls d10” and takes off (if there is space)

5+  OK


Taxiing:  Roll a d10 each turn the Camel moves more than 8” on the ground – a roll of 0 means that the Camel has suffered damage.  If the damage is suffered roll a d6:

1.      Catastrophe – undercarriage collapses and Camel stops. 

2.      Light damage – Camel pulls to left 4”

3.      Light damage – Camel pulls to right 4”

4.      Minor damage – Camel loses 4” this turn.

5.      OK

6.      OK


If the Camel is hit by rifle fire roll d6 for each 3 hits scored:

1 Pilot (counts as being in soft cover) – roll again 1-2 pilot hit, 3+ turkey

2 Engine – roll again 1-2 fuel line hit engine stops 3+ engine runs rough deduct 1 from take off die roll

3+ fuselage and wings – no effect.


Victory conditions:

British victory – British escape with turkey

British minor victory – British escape without turkey with no losses

German victory – Germans keep or recapture turkey

German minor victory – Shoot down or kill enemy pilot but lose turkey

Draw – turkey lost to both sides.

And now ... On with the Game

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