Thursday, 10 December 2015

Aeronef Ramblings Part 2

 EDIT: Note there is now a thread and rules on the google group

Well, here is my design manifesto.
#1.  No meaningless hitpoints.  All hits do something or we simply don't record them.
#2.  12" battleship guns do not accurately track small fast moving targets. That's why ships were equipped with quickfiring secondary or even tertiary guns (see rule #8.)
#3. Altitude is not an optional afterthought but integral to gameplay and tactics.
#4. Crew training is essential to gameplay, as are command skills
#5*. Movement and shooting ranges are low, and ratio between gun range/movement is 2:1 at most.
#6. Ships cannot teleport part each other unscathed.  Some sort of reaction fire mechanic?
#7. Terrain! Clouds, sky islands, weather, mountains, smoke screens. Maybe BFG-esque flak bursts?
#8**. Escorts are not #@$*ed over by the rules. Small ships actually have a purpose and a lifespan beyond the first game turn.

Within this framework, I have a lot of questions.  I'm going to toss out some directions the rules could go, and kinda question myself about them.  I'm documenting my mental thought processes.

ACTIVATION (see #6, #8, #4)
Where to go here?
I have a kinda hankering for a BFG vibe, so I'm thinking a Warmaster-ish sort of thing.  Maybe roll 2d6 against a crew stat, and when you fail, opponent gets initiative. Actually, I could modify some ideas off Delta Vector.
(a) 2d6 + commander rating. Winner can choose one of own or one of enemies ships/units to move. Can either hand over initiative or try to retain it by passing a 2d6 roll vs crew skill.
(b) However - any time a ship's move starts/ends within a set range (say 2 miles) of an opponent, said opponent can do a contested roll to try wrest the initiative off them

Whoa, I'm pretty much writing rules! Steady down. This is just supposed to narrowing them down. 

Not sure how reactions fit into this. (See #6). Maybe light guns can react to enemies sailing past, medium guns react with a -1 penalty, and heavy guns cannot fire in reaction at all. This shows how slowly big guns load and traverse, and give benefits to high RoF smaller weapons.  

I actually didn't consider the use of a hex grid like so many aerial/space games.  Too constricting....

MOVEMENT (see #3)
Okay, we need altitude. A micro d6 blu-tacked to the base takes care of recording, so not a big deal.  But how does it impact the game?  
(a)  Pre-dreadnought weapons had about +/- 13-17 degrees, which had improved to +/- 40 degrees by the end of WW1.  This would create a significant "dead zone" under/above the ship where guns cannot elevate or depress.  This would create new 3D tactics beside the usual naval "crossing the T."  Perhaps firing from different angles has different effects? (i.e. shoot from below at hull) Or too complex?
(b)  The maximum air crew can operate without oxygen is about 12,000 feet (2 nautical miles) and it was the average WW1 Zeppelin's ceiling. The Germans found operating over 15,000 feet for long periods caused nausea and blackouts. As WW1 went on Zepplins improved their ceilings to 18,000 and even 24,000 feet and started using compressed oxygen.  Diving helmets and rubber suits were invented in 1837 so you could arguably use higher altitudes.  Maybe penalties to crew checks over a certain altitude? How big is each range band - a nm (6000ft)? Or maybe half that - 1000 yards or so. (3000ft).
(c) Speed.  Airships could move at 100-120kph (60 knots+). Do we make aeronefs faster, slower, or about the same? Perhaps roughly double the "naval" speed i.e. a 20kt battleship = 40kt nef battleship, and a 35kt destroyer = a 70kt nef destroyer.   This will have a major impact on gunnery - big guns will have an even harder time tracking even faster targets.

DAMAGE (see #1, #2, #8)
I'm currently experimenting with a system for Delta Vector that may work - each hit rolls on a d6 for location. The first hit on said location damages it, the second destroys or neutralizes it.

1st hit on location
2nd hit on location
Main guns - halve main guns
Weapons inoperable. Risk of ammo explosion: 5-6 on d6.
Secondary guns/torpedoes - halve secondary guns, AA etc
Weapons inoperable.
Hull Breach - Cannot climb
Ship sinks 1 level per turn until repaired or crashes
Hull Fires - Cannot roll for other repairs until fire "repaired". If fail fire roll, take another 1 random damage
Test for explosion of handwavium generator.

Engines - halve speed
Ship can only change altitude, otherwise stuck in place
Critical hits - lots of interesting things on a sub-table - bridge, rudder
Simply more rolls on the sub-table.

...but I'm not sure that's how I'm going to go.  I mean, are we firing by salvoes or individual turrets? Do we use generic firing arcs (sensible) or use the actual whacky nef firing arcs (cool)

If I was to copy the rather broad damage effects in Aeronef and IS, I could use 4 hull boxes for all ships, i.e. ranked pristine 100%, damaged 75%, heavy damaged 50%, crippled 25% and destroyed *boom*.  Easy peasy! But is that a tad broad brush - do we need more detail?  Maybe a system damage track?

What about the damage systems from BFG or Man O' War? They are good models for buckets of dice (fun)  Or even the old favourite General Quarters - that worked pretty well with a salvo system (sensible?).

My only rule - it must all fit on (and be no more complex than) a Warmachine unit card.  A complete data-card-less game tends to attract too many tokens...

Should I use a d10 (which I'm fond of as you can radically change mechanics but keep the easy decimal math the same) or maybe use a 2d6 for firing (consistent mechanic, and fun probability curve, but PITA to balance). Not keen on the buckets of d6 used by Aeronef as there isn't enough "room on the dice" on d6 for modifiers like smokescreens, target speed/angle/size. That tends to preclude buckets of dice as most people don't have buckets of d10s.... (except those weird RPGers who insist on visiting this site from time to time ;-)

I'm thinking definitely two separate rolls - a roll to hit, and a roll to damage/saving throw. Combining them leads to issues like in Imperial Skies or Coaling Stations - a 12" gun does the same damage as a 4", but just more consistently, accurately, and to longer range - meaning escorts get chewed apart by big ships at range and struggle to hit each other bar random fluke.

SCALE (see #2, #8)
I'm going to fudge this a bit and say 1" = 1000 yards/km, and 1" speed = 10kts.  So I'm going to say for movement: 4" - battleship, 6" - cruiser, 8" - destroyer. I'm a bit concerned the movement is stupidly slow (like in Firestorm Armada where ships can't move their own length) but I really want room to maneuver on the board.  For gun ranges I'll say all weapons are most deadly inside, say 2000m (2")  but they have a maximum effective range of say 5000m (escort guns); 8000m (cruiser guns); and 12000m (battleship guns) i.e. 5", 8" and 12" respectively.  I have no idea if they are correct or not; I'm just interested in the ratio of gun range/movement.  A destroyer can move further than it can shoot; that emphasizes its mobility. Good. A battleship can shoot 3x further than it can move. Also good. That emphasizes its firepower.

I'm pretty keen to use flak bursts like Battlefleet Gothic.   Shots that hit (even unsuccessfully) against ships creates terrain with the smoke and explosions - perhaps giving a -1 to shots going through it including subsequent ones from the same firing enemy ship who caused them. This, actually, mimics the complaint crews had of predreadnoughts when they would confuse the shell splashes of 12", 8" and even 6" guns when spotting.  Easy to make with cotton wool balls on a stick. The problem - how do I quickly and easily track what height they drift at? 

Clouds give interesting abilities - feathery clouds might act to limit view range and/or give mild (-1) gunnery modifiers; whilst heavy pillar clouds might go through several altitude bands and block line of sight completely to anything not on the edge/within the cloud.  Flying under/over clouds and using them as cover sounds tactically interesting.  This could be an important part of the game. But.... how to implement clouds unless you use a completely flat table?

Maybe could be used to test for reactions, repairs, and even how many things the ship can do in its turn i.e. roll 2d6 and how many it beats the crew skill by - that shows how many orders you can give. like changing speed/altitude/heading or opening fire or plotting a torpedo attack, like in Coaling Stations.  Maybe have modes to switch between like in Battlefleet Gothic. 

I'm going to make them radically more agile, faster and better climbers - able to break engagement at will with battleships and play tag through cloud cover.  They can lay smoke to cover allies.  Maybe a special "evasive action" ability that gives them near-immunity to gunfire.  When they escort things they don't absorb hits aimed at their charge (**** that) but rather get automatic reactive fire to interdict enemies; or both they and their charge get a -1 to be hit.

Heavy guns, perhaps, cannot fire in reaction and get huge penalties against small, fast moving targets.  In fact they aren't even good at damaging them as massive AP shells go slap through small unarmoured targets Medium guns can fire in reaction at a -1 penalty. Light guns have unlimited reactions and have very little dead zone as they have special high elevation/depression mounts.  Also, the effective range differences isn't that huge, say 5000m (light) vs 10,000m (heavy) - maybe even less. 

 Torpedoes & Aircraft
 I  will make torpedoes shot ranged but deadly; but escorts able to dodge them with impunity. Unlike Imperial Skies, I will not make it so aircraft can only damage smaller vessels (thanks a lot - as if escorts don't have enough handicaps without an enemy exclusive to them - they really needed a hard counter they were so overpowered before) but instead, escorts are really hard to hit by aircraft. Aircraft are instead a counter to large, slow ships (*cough* battleships *cough*)

Well, I have more ideas, but I think I've adequately addressed the "manifesto" and I have another shed to clean so I can start the playtest phase of my to-do list.   

A set of draft rules should go up on the google group soon-ish.


  1. About altitude, why not using it also for damage control. If the aeronef is it and start losing altitude every turn (until crash), it would make sense to fight at higher altitude to give tine to damage aeronef to regain control of their flying capabilities.

    1. According to the draft damage grid in the example, it would work that way, yes. Apart from clouds at different levels, mountains might project into the bottom two range bands (presuming 3000ft/level).

  2. Must say I agree with just about all of that and will add my tweaking comments to the google group.

    I did have an idea about reactions though - assuming you split ships into capital/cruiser/escort/fighters (or something like that) what if a ship could react to the same or bigger one but not smaller. Imagine a Battlecruiser hauls out of the line to threaten a pair of cruisers closing from the flank - those cruisers could react to the move and try to scatter (at which time your movement/gun range ratios become important). Alternatively, if a pair of cruises dart out to attack a battleship, it cannot react to that movement, but its escorts could do so. Thus, the class sizes have some real impact on the way the fleet functions.

    Have you considered using AoE templates for light weapons?

    1. The AoE weapon idea sounds interesting but I think isn't really applicable except to AA vs aircraft (flak bursts, wall of flak like vs kamikazes 1945) - something that appears in Delta Vector the space game (stolen in turn from BSG).

      Salvoes from actual artillery (and "light" guns tend to mean 3"-4.7", for me i.e. escort weapons) tend to be aimed at a specific target.

      Lighter guns than that (MGs, through pom-poms etc) would simply be the ship's AA rating.

    2. I think your idea about reacting only to same or bigger is a good one that should be included

    3. Light guns (as you've defined them) were indeed fired at a specific target but in a very Quick Firing style, not deliberate aimed shots like the big guns.

      Personally, I think it would work well to have a 30-45deg cone AoE for light guns and a blanket umbrella all around for AA. Your different gun classes would then feel very different to play and employ - assuming you are doing salvo type effects

  3. What about using ships' classes in the turn sequence...

    During the "manoeuver" phase, bigger ship are moved first, then medium, then small, giving escort the opportunity to move in reaction to larger ships manoeuver.

    Firing phase the other way around. Smaller ships gets to fire first (smaller gun tracking faster).

  4. Also... Not quite sure on how to implement it (not familiar enough with the flying battleship genre) but I think that, beyond the size class issue you're adressing, airships, digs and planes should have "a different feel"... If similar sized aeronefs and digs have identical rules and similar capabilities, then I think you're missing some of of the genre specificity and it becomes "just" a (space)ships game with funny/retro looking ships.

    1. Sure. Digs and planes are very low on the priority list (for me anyway) and more the garnish to add to completed rules.

  5. I'm a bit concerned about the interaction altitude (although I agree it HAS to be implemented in such a game) and terrain...

    What if HMS Athena flies at Altitude 5 and fires on FS Bordeaux that flies at Altidude 2 and there is a Cloud in between them (but not exactly halfway between them) at Altidude 4...

    Something like this:



    Depending on your browser and the font you use, the Cloud might or not interupt the LOS.

    As the miniatures (and presumably the cloud) height doesn't model the ships altitudes you can't check actual LOS...

    Long story short: how do you figure it out?

    1. Blogger ate the extra spaces I used to "draw" the figure...


    2. An idea... Restict firing to ships within one altitude band of each other (HMS Athena at altitude 3 can only fire at ships at altitude 2, 3 or 4). Obstacles that interupt the LOS in the horizontale plane and are in the same altitude band than either the shooter or its target interupt LOS



      -> No LOS

    3. I've set interaction distance for 2"(2000m) and maybe 1 altitude level? Haven't fleshed out things yet, more put something up to inspire others.

  6. All good! Personally I think d10 is much better than 2d6 - much easier to keep adjustments fair and same impact.

    Crew check penalties for altitude is, I think, a non-starter. Your rationale for it is based on our world where powered flight was in its infancy, but in a flying-ships game (possibly with interplanetary travel, depending on the fluff) surely that's an issue that would have been solved? war is a great spur to fixing things, after all ...

    Paul's ideas on reactions are good, and I think Trojan's suggestion on the move/firing order complements that nicely!

    So move/firing is determined by 'size' category & within that by crew quality?

    One question - sorry if you've addressed already & I missed it - are these aimed at squadron or fleet engagements? i.e. how many 'units' a side?

    1. As a thought, have you looked at the "Iron Stars" rules by Majestic Twelve Games? they have some interesting ideas IMO; been toying with tweaking them for years ...

    2. "So move/firing is determined by 'size' category & within that by crew quality?"

      Doesn't that two factors (by size, then for a given size by crew quality) makes it too complicated?

      Solution: precalculate (and display on the unit card) a initiative value... E.g. assuming CQ as five possible value (1 to 5) and three size classes (Destroyer, Cruiser and Battleship), makes D initiative = CQ+10 (thus ranging from 11-15), the C initiative = CQ+5 (6-10) and B initiative = CQ (1-5)...

      This system can be used for a different effect: e.g. initiative is CQ+4 for D (5-9), CQ+2 for C (3-7) and CQ for B. That way, with similar crew (same CQ) ships will move in the desired "B->C->D" order and then fire in the reverse one. But very good and very bad crew could modify that order, e.g. an exptertly crewed B (CQ=5 -> I=5) would act simultaneously with a ineptly crewed D (CQ=1 -> I=5 too)...

    3. More around ~12 a side... but not the 30+ per side Aeronef aims at. I want it to be interesting with 2 v 1 fights as well, so more granulity involved.

      Could even do a fleet scale version.

    4. I have got Iron Stars, and the horrid miniatures that accompany them. I think it was the better ruleset (uses diffent dice sizes) of which I've got 3 besides Aeronef. Perhaps should do a joint review of all of them, but since the verdict is "nup" for all 3 it seems a bit like hard work....

  7. "Crew check penalties for altitude is, I think, a non-starter. Your rationale for it is based on our world where powered flight was in its infancy, but in a flying-ships game (possibly with interplanetary travel, depending on the fluff) surely that's an issue that would have been solved? war is a great spur to fixing things, after all ..."

    I don't know... Even if something is possible (and even routinely done) it doesn't mean that it won't be more difficult and avoided whenever possible.

    Think NBC environement. Gaz and gaz-masks have been around for a century, and modern military can fight a war in such conditions, it still remains a major PITA compared to "shirt sleeves" warfare and a major part of anti-NBC capabilities are dedicated to figuring if a high MOPP is really required or if you can reduce it (and thus restore an higher level of operationality).

    Or think buttoned-up/down tank. Sure it's safer (from bullets, explosion, NBC shit) to drive around with all hatches closed. But it's easier (and thus also safer from collision, holes, obstacles) to do so with the driver's and/or commander's heads sticking out.

    Most aeronef miniatures have upper-deck so I assume the crew is outside on a routine basis. Not being able(or having to wear some sort of BA) to do so should at least impact DC.

    If altitude is a advantage (shooting bonus, more time to try to repair when crashing), there should be a trade off to avoid everyone flying at the max altitude all the time.

    1. "If altitude is a advantage (shooting bonus, more time to try to repair when crashing), there should be a trade off to avoid everyone flying at the max altitude all the time."

      Speaking of which: what about giving ships at lower altitude (than their target) a shooting bonus? Looking at miniatures, one can imagine than guns can easily be elevated but depression is more an issue (that's what you get when having boats flying)...

      Then again, armour against attacks from below could be better (featurless hull) than against attacks from above (decks and superstructures). Wich would make sense if main weapons were limited to attack from below...

    2. My thougth so far...
      - Shooting restricted to targets within one altitude of you (if you're at altitude 3 you can shoot at targets at altitude 2, 3 or 4).
      - Some (the bigger) gun can only shoot horizontaly or up (target at same altitude or one above)
      - To hit roll is damage locatisation roll ("à la" Man O' War): bigger ships have more systems, thus more chance of being hit.
      - Different to hit/localisation chart for fire from above/same altitude and for fire from below: some location can only be it from either above/same altitude or below, other appears on both chart and can thus be hit from any angle.
      - Location that can only be hit from below have better armour save (hull)

    3. See the OP re: gun elevation depression and the "dead zone" theory (I haven't done the math, but let's say 1 level above/below creates a dead zone of 2", and it increases to 4" if you go down 2 levels, 6" at 3 levels etc... Guns with good elevation (medium and light ones) might have only a 1" dead zone per 1 level when firing up....

    4. You should also have rules for a specific Monitor design which has batteries which fire in an arc directly down, for bombarding targets. That would then have different issues with firing ahead or higher, but add to a bit of fun. I know you hate 'special rules' but it would work well for a specific design (like Fire Ships have a special rule).

      Brigade make a Monitor in their French fleet, the Suffren class monitor. I have one in my french fleet which you can see here:

  8. Anyways, I started some rough rukes in the Google group. Feel free to amend/repost them, or put up your own.

    (Personally, I prefer other people to make the rules, and tend to only house rule when driven to it due to paucity of commercial offerings...) i.e. laziness

  9. Liking this a lot. A couple of historical observations (and please excuse me if I am restating the obvious). Ranging in naval combat was a bitch. One could get a reasonable idea from the range finder, but it all came down to observing the fall of shot. This incidentally is one of the reasons behind the Dreadnough - no piddling guns to mess the observation of the shell splashes needed for ranging.

    So what does this mean in terms of aerial combat? No shell splashes to adjust on (and tracer wasn't invented until 1915) so shooting is going to be at point blank or bore sight ranges. Game effect: Shorter gun ranges open the table up for maneuver.

    Second point: Destroyers were originally "Torpedo boat destroyers". The French Jeune Ecole developed the idea of torpedo boats to the point the everyone else got busy developing escorts to defend against the PTs. Though short ranged 800-100 yards max, torpedoes packed enough punch to be a serious concern for capitols ships. The one thing that Aeronef got right was that ship removal did not take place until the end of the turn meaning obliterated torpedo boats still have their shots count. Possible game effects: Downside - torpedoes work but breaching the hull and letting the water in - much less of a concern for aerial combat. How I would do it: Make torpedo hits dependent on target target size and have them pack a good wallop at short to medium range. This gives the escorts they job of keeping the gnats away from the lumbering heavies. One could also take a piece from the Space 1889 rules and say that torpedoes cause stability criticals forcing the target to spend time getting back on an even keel before resuming fire and maneuver.

    1. Preaching to the choir there Pat! :-)