Friday, 12 January 2018

World War 1955: The Space War

Space Nazis has a certain ring to it, right?

In the dying days of the Reich, as Allied forces drove  hard through the heartland, a brilliant halo appeared high above the Bavarian mountains.  Operation Sternsprung had succeeded in opening a warp gate: taking the cream of their scientists and technology, die hard forces of the Reich boarded jets, flew through and disappeared.

The victorious Allies and Soviets quickly entered a new arms race; to exploit these rifts which were appearing in the skies in a range of locations.  The Cold War became a space war.  Within months, both sides had heavily modified their jets to operate in vacuum, and were exploring our Solar system, laying claim to rich mineral asteroids.

In the vastness of space, far from the eye of the public, Soviet and Allied forces clashed in small skirmishes, as the power blocs sought to assert sovereignty over valuable chunks of rock. Space bases were built.  Soon, big corporations moved in. Protected by their own national governments and increasingly, hiring private mercenary air forces using surplus jets, the asteroid belt quickly became a "wild west" where disputes were settled with jets and cannons. 

...and increasingly, outposts and bases have been destroyed with no survivors. Tensions between superpowers escalate, but - has the Reich returned from the depths of space? The last Nazi outpost in Antarctica fell in 1947, but there is speculation it was in contact with other German forces through the Argentinian rift...

Modified Vampires clash with Horten Ho.229s around an asteroid belt.

The planets and asteroids were simply styfoam balls, dipped in a water+PVA mix, then sprinkled with sand and spraypainted.  They took about an hour to make, even with frequent interruptions by my kids...

American forces; radar-equipped Sabres and Thunderjets armed with rockets; including "rock cracker" asteroid-killing nukes. Many older model jets have been sold off to private contractors.

Soviet jets not only equip their own vast space armadas, but have increasingly found their way into the hands of satellite nations and rogue states. The Communist threat has spread to the stars!

Meteors and Vampires were amongst the first jets to be modified for space use; with advanced life support and thrust-vectoring nozzles among key changes. 

The menacing Horten flying wings battle alongside the Ta.183s who replaced the Me.262. These models are Raiden, and they are much finer cast models. Sadly, they are inferior to the chunky robust detail of Tumbling Dice and I prefer the latter, both to paint and at tabletop distances.

These models and asteroids will serve to test my "Vector Strike" homebrew rules.  Sadly there are no actual modern jet rules I like. Check Your Six is too fiddly (and screw written orders!), Bag the Hun is too jumbled (I swear it uses 100 different game mechanics); neither allow me to use 4-8 planes per side.  Hmm - might be a good game design article: "genres that defy good rules" - (aerial rules and age of sail spring to mind - I've never found a good set and the subject matter seems to defy ease of play) as opposed to genres saturated with decent rules (platoon level WW2-modern-sci fi, for example.)


  1. Very cool idea, I have often thought about some diesel-punk/ Atomic sci-fi in the stars. Of course My ideas is to have my French indo-china French and USMC fighting Nazis and their allies on life baring Mars, Venus, the moon and other such locations.
    Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.
    Hell you can even see about making carriers and other ships in this setting.

    1. I do have some Bandai Space Battleship Yamato carriers on hand, but I'll add them after I've playtested the base fighter rules a few times first...

    2. Might work, of course lets see what you accomplish just using the jet fighters.

    3. also what scale are your aircraft?

    4. Tumbling Dice 1:600. Very cheap. Highly recommend. They are about 50c each. Bases are from EM4 with a 3mm magnet on both base and jet.

      1:600 is great for jets, but terrible for WW2 and earlier; WW1 just look like blobs of metal as they are so tiny - WW2 prop fighters are twice as small as modern jets (a 1:600 F-14 fighter is about as big as a 1:300 B-25 or Betty bomber).

      Actually I just compared a 1:300 Bf109 to a 1:600 F15 - they're about the same length.

  2. I'm only going to say one word: YES!!!

    1. I had you at "space Nazis?"

      VSF is old hat, Dieselpunk is what the cool kids are doing nowadays ;-)

      That said, I've been steamlining my aeronef rules a bit(they're based on Warmachine and have 4 hull levels - so no recording bar some coloured damage counters, along with "orders" - score above a TN on 2d6 to get orders to change course, open fire etc)

    2. Have you visited Martin's Sternkrieg website?

      The 4 damage levels sound good and easy to track.
      Looking forward to hearing more

  3. I would encourage you to look at Aeronautica Imperialis.

    The Cleansing of Grex Silex campaign maybe if interest to you. :)

    1. I deeply regret not getting models (and the rules) when they were selling them out at 50% off; now the planes are probably 50$ each...

      I do I think have a rules pdf someone "donated" into my inbox.

      *looks around for GW stormtroopers, nervously bolts door*

  4. Excellent! Nothing better than nuclear-armed F-84s fighting space Communists

    I've been working on a sort of dieselpunk aerial wargame inspired by your earlier posts on the subject. As with many of my projects, it has taken a stupid amount of number-crunching in Excel to take raw aircraft specifications and performance data, and spit out ingame numbers that are correct at least in relation to each other. I guess this is what happens when engineers attempt to create games...I promise there will be workable rules, someday! I'm going for minimal record keeping - just speed and ammunition grease-penciled onto a laminated record sheet, along with a D10 for altitude - and quick-and-dirty shooting and maneuver rules. Really ninety percent of the effort has been computational; I've got an Excel program set up with drop-down payload selections that will then automatically recalculate aircraft performance based on payload weight, and stick payload stats and ammunition counter boxes onto the record sheet.

    The end goal is a simple set of rules with a lot of tactical depth, that will allow 2-8 aircraft per side, including airborne aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered flying battleships, one-offs and insane prototypes, and a whole lot of polished aluminum, air-to-air unguided rockets, and general madness. Models will be scratchbuilt in 1/144; I have no issue dedicating my entire living room floor to games if need be!

    1. I've largely given up on aerial rules as a genre; it just seems impossible to get a good wargame.

      I feel the crux of it is energy management - or trading height for speed/positioning over your opponent. Pilot skill should be huge, probably focussing on activation/initiative.

      So you need to track "energy" and "altitude" (although it may be possible to remove altitude and retain the correct feel - it just seems wrong.

      Accordingly, I find most air wargames play faaar too slowly or with limited number of craft. Playing a 2v2 game seems more like a boardgame or cardgame than a wargame.

      I'd love to play an aerial game that captures the feel of aerial combat without bogging down; but I don't feel it exists.

      I'll do a post on it sometimes; I feel aerial wargames haven't evolved much since the 70s.

    2. For activation, I've had good results activating in ascending pilot skill order like X-Wing, allowing pilots to "react" to the actions of less-skilled pilots.

      Aerial wargaming is far more technical than ground or even space games (assuming we discount the effects of gravity wells. I wrote a successful set of rules entirely built on orbital maneuvering, but that's a different story). Nothing else behaves quite like an aircraft maneuvering in atmosphere, and it is difficult to streamline this behavior down into playable form without sacrificing detail. I have not been able to find any way to get away from tracking speed and altitude at a minimum.

      I do wonder about card games, especially with smaller numbers of aircraft present. Those engagements lend themselves well to abstraction.

    3. --"For activation, I've had good results activating in ascending pilot skill order like X-Wing, allowing pilots to "react" to the actions of less-skilled pilots."

      ^^Problem with this solution, though simple (and commonly used) is its predictability allows you to "game" the system, planning moves ahead of time/micromanage in a way totally unlike a dogfight. (Sometimes it even makes tactics prescriptive or "gamey" - i.e. kill all rookie pilots with your elites ASAP then use your numerical advantage vs other elites)

      You are both squadron leader AND individual pilot - covering many command levels which is unrealistic, having predictable move sequences exacerbates this.

    4. I've continued to develop the rules, and moved away from pilot skill activation, and will be giving card-draw activation a try. Aircraft with radar have the ability to 'reserve' activation until any point in the turn, basically a form of overwatch to represent their ability to pick and choose engagements. I'm now trying to think of a way to incorporate pilot skill; it will probably involve tweaks to the dogfight system. That system involves a simple dice-pool minigame revolving around using aerodynamic maneuverability versus burning energy and flying on pure thrust. Sort of a gamble between playing the long game and keeping energy up, versus going for a quick kill that will leave your aircraft in a bad spot if unsuccessful.

      I realized that a 1/144 B-36 will have a 19-inch wingspan. I expect to go through a lot of pine and balsa wood, and possibly shift games to the backyard with models mounted on telescoping radio antennas to facilitate visual altitude tracking without needing to swap stems of varying heights. It's a bit unseasonably cold for Missouri at the moment, so outdoor gaming will have to wait.

    5. Bear in mind 1:600 aircraft are very cheap...

    6. I have a decent number 1/600 aircraft, but was very disappointed in their small size. I can see how they would be useful for some game types, but they did nothing for me.

    7. 1/600 moderns and jets are fine. However WW2/WW1 ARE far too small (a modern F14 in 1:600 = WW2 Bf109 in 1:300)