In Part #2 of revisiting aerial wargames, I'd like to make sure I stay focussed on my manifesto:
-Energy management (potential vs kinetic vs position to foe)
- Pilot skill
The game should be fast, with no token clutter and recording. It should be about zooming planes around the table and tossing dice to pew pew, not plotting turns or consulting movement templates or special custom dials. I want all my toys on the table in a cool spectacle, not just a 1v1 duel. Skirmish wargames seem to manage this, so we will borrow from them. It should look more like Infinity or Mordhiem than a rehash of some 1970s Blue Max air rules or something X-Wing-y with special move rulers or dials.
Currently the movement rules play like a melee game where you spend stamina to melee, change direction or boost speed, with some sort of involved melee mechanics.
I feel there is quite a bit to tidy up from last post, unanswered questions like..
How do you regain an energy level? Perhaps if you are making a normal move, roll equal or below your Thrust on a d10 i.e. if your Thrust is 6"; you regain an energy level on a 6 or below.
What if there are multiple planes in a dogfight? I.e. 2v1, 3v1? Maybe just a +2 bonus each extra plane; but only one plane can attack. Planes pair off where possible. This will need a bit of playtesting.
Can planes lose control /spin? Probably only a very stressed pilot doing complex/tricky maneuvers (reversals. dogfights etc), so not a test to do frequently (we want to minimise needless dice rolls), but it should probably be possible.
Any other glaring questions I've missed? Obviously activation, detection and pilot skills have not really been addressed.
Detection (ok, finally to the topic)
This is important in air warfare; but I don't want it to be the main focus.
I'm not going to faff around with 'blinds' and tokens and hidden movement like this is some sort of submarine game. Neither do I want constantly rolling for detection to interrupt the flow of the game - the movement and pew-pew. We're here to dogfight, pew-pew and shoot missiles, and we can assume ground control have made either or both sides at least aware of the possibility of hostiles. I.e. surprise should be an important advantage - a "first shot"/ambush bonus, or activation/initiative advantage - but it's not the "main game."
So to minimize unecessary dice rolling, we'll set out a few simple rules. (I kinda have Infinity in mind here). You can use visual OR radar, but not both. (Unless maybe two seaters?) You need to choose if you are peering at the radar screen or scanning the sky around you.
Also, in my campaign against extra measuring or special dials, I want to make it so you can eyeball most situations, so I'm going to have just 2 'arcs' - the front (180) and the back (180). You can look to the front or the back, but not both.
Yes, radars, guns and missiles might have much narrower arcs, but remember - simplicity - and we can presume the pilot can move the nose of the plane around and make commonsense adjustments. In Infinity facing matters, so 180 arcs should be good enough for us and dispense with the need for special protractor-ish devices.
Now I'm not exactly sure what max air-to-air visibility is, but I'm going to ballpark ~10km or so. I don't have (or want!) a precise scale, but I want to have a rough idea vs weapon ranges. If dogfight range is 1-2", then I'm going to say visibility is 6-10" or so. Perhaps it is equal to pilot skill - a 6 skill pilot sees 6"?
This would fit with my 'pilot skill matters' key concept. The ranges can be tweaked after playtesting. Remember movement is like a 40K or skirmish melee game - in the 4-8" range.
Maybe a pilot makes a single roll for EVERYTHING in either the front or rear (not both) and if he passes he spots EVERYTHING in that 180. A bit crude - but we want it to be fast. Rolling for each target would be unbearably fiddly.
A few logical modifiers; poor visibility or night would halve the maximum range, and targets in the rear 180 may have a penalty of -2 to the spotting roll (or -4 if poor rearward visibility like a MiG-23), maybe +1/-1 for big/small planes.
While radar arcs vary, we'll say radar works for everything in the front 180 only. Just like visual spotting, you make a single roll (this time, vs a radar stat rather than pilot skill?) and anything that passes is spotted.
Again, a very few logical modifiers; +1/-1 for big and small, -4 for targets which are 'on the deck', and maybe -1/-2/-3 for varying levels of stealth or hostile EW.
K.I.S.S. - are the detection simple/minimal/unobtrusive enough?
+ We use just 2 arcs, front and rear, which can just be 'eyeballed'
+ A single roll is made for each plane (of a single type - radar OR visual) in a single arc
+ Anything outside visual range in rear 180 arc can be ignored
+ Few modifiers and things to remember
- We'll probably need a token (table clutter) to denote undetected aircraft
I've introduced two new stats here - Pilot Skill and Radar. Radar will be a number and a range i.e. Radar 5/24". So a plane might be Thrust 6", Sprint 10", Agility 7 with a Radar of 5/36." These are core stats. It's no worse than a unit from a 40K army list. I think it's still simple enough. I don't want it to bog down with 101 stats and rolls. Basically, my benchmark is: would this rule/level of detail be fine in a Necromunda/Infinity level skirmish game? Can I play a game with 6-12 aircraft per side in an hour?
BENEFITS OF BEING UNDETECTED
Now, what benefit does being undetected be? How do we track it?
Ugh, probably will need a token - a Black Token next to an undetected jet. Which hopefully means we can remove them once the shooting starts. Token/table clutter is a concern. I'm looking at you, X-Wing.
Probably undetected jets get a significant 'to hit bonus' - i.e. +2-3 to initial Dogfight rolls etc. Like a charge bonus in an infantry wargame, or an unopposed action in Infinity. Maybe also include some sort of activation or initiative advantage; undetected models can move out of sequence before/after detected models. So undetected aircraft, if not truly invisible on the tabletop, can 'dictate the fight' to a degree.
We seem to be heading into discussing initiative (and activation/actions/reactions) which are probably food for another post, and probably need to consider weapon range vs detection range vs movement range which may be yet another topic.