Sunday, 22 January 2023

LoTR: SBG - Wrapping up Rohan

 With these minis, I've kinda finished the main stage of my LoTR; to have ~6 heroes, ~12 "special" troops, monsters or cavalry and ~50 regulars for each faction.

There are a few things I'd like to finish - Treebeard and a Balrog - and some things I'd like to get - various special troops which will be fun mini-projects - but they are more aspirational than strictly necessary (well, as I define it). I could probably also start another orc faction as I have ~100 orcs beyond the 50 or so I planned to paint, but I can now field an interesting force for all the LoTR factions; at a guess I've probably got ~500 minis or so painted in total.

The 16 minis take my LoTR total to 26 for 2023.  I've always found them easy to paint; simplistic, realistic scale (no potato faces and giant fists) yet detailed enough to be interesting.  

The central three figures are not official LoTR, instead Helldorado(?) but I'm proxying him for the Golden King of Azkahuni or whatever with bodyguard, and the geni will serve as a locale-specific ringwraith. 

The Rohan heroes have been sitting on my workbench for quite a while. 

I decided I couldn't do them justice, so just focussed on making them table-ready. They could do with more shading and highlighting for sure...

I have several spare Eomers, so I modified one with a shield and a Gripping Beast viking axe. He'll serve as a generic captain of the Royal Guard.  A pity I don't live somewhere like UK as I reckon I could trade my spares to fill in gaps elsewhere. I don't think I've ever seen LoTR played locally and it has only recently appeared in the local games shop.

 My daughter also did a bit of painting - these are her first 28mm. She always loves 'girls' - and will dig through my boxes looking for female minis which are pretty under-represented, I do admit. I'd like to find some cheap female heads, as I'd prefer to convert normal male minis for her rather than have a constant stream of short skirts and chainmail bikinis which seems to be the majority of what is on offer. 

I've found some Privateer Press Warmahordes which will be my next project I think, but I'll be doing a deep dive into the unpainted lead mountain looking for interesting projects. My son is nudging me towards 1:2400 ships and I also have some pirates and French-Indian war troops laying out. But then there are Imperialis Aeronautica and Dropfleet vessels sitting looking reproachfully at me...

Sunday, 15 January 2023

Lord of the Rings + "Hogwarts"

My daughter and I spent an afternoon in the shed - she painting her toy Hogwarts into a medieval monastery, and I pottering around finding and painting some LoTR models - I found 9 Easterlings from 2022 which brings my total painted LoTR for the year to 344.

The Hogwarts may not win any modelling competitions but it's not bad for a 9-year-old occasionally assisted by dad. Here's what it originally looked like:


As part of the deal, she had to help me paint some barrels I found in a box before I helped her with the inside.

Conveniently, both my kids now can basecoat and drybrush competently. I may have had ulterior motives in training them...

Hogwarts before....

and after...

They aren't to scale at all, but it kinda looks OK from distance. Maybe a medieval inn or manor house?

Finally, I managed to paint some Rangers as "Blackroot Vale Archers" and Prince Imrahil and some random Fiefdoms dude who will be a captain for them. Along with 4 more Guards of the Fountain Court it brings my total of LoTR in 2023 to.... 10.

OK, just 335 more to go this year to beat my record...

In other news, my Battletech: Game of Armoured Combat arrived. The mecha minis are great but the rules are just as clunky and awful as I remember.  Back to scratch building my own rules I guess...

As I was disgusted with the $50+50 postage price of Spectre:Operations I decided to make my own game, and bought two rulesets with the money I saved. Since they were $40 and $45, I actually "earned" $5. Or that's how I explained it to my wife...

Both purchases somewhat have my kids in mind. As we are reading Redwall, Burrows and Badgers looks interesting. While my daughter likes the cute models she was asking about pirates (I do have some nice Black Scorpion metals) and my son was asking about sailing ships as we have been playing Sea of Thieves together on PC.  I've dug out a copy of Fighting Sail (the least clunky sailing rules I own) and some Tumbling Dice 1:2400 which haven't seen the light of day since 2018.

The second is I have been cleaning out old minis by the simple expedient of handing them to my son. Since we are reading Rosemary Sutcliffe's Beowulf he has come into possession of some PSC vikings with the warning I regard them as annoyingly breakable, so his viking dudes flimsy weapons may not survive long.  Thus I bought a copy of Ragnarok: Heavy Metal, a game which seems almost impossible to obtain a review or playtest (or perhaps my Google-Fu is weak). For a game with several follow-up expansion books, it seems pretty unknown. Like Burrows & Badgers, it is also a skirmish, narrative campaign system about vikings who collect and level up god powers after said powers were scattered about after Ragnarok. Hopefully they are winging on their way, and Australia Post doesn't lose them like my $90 skateboard trucks *shakes fist*.

Thursday, 12 January 2023

"Delta X" - Simple Modern Skirmish Rules (Two Hour Challenge)

 I went to buy a copy of Spectre:Operations to play with my kids but discovered it was $100AUD - and $50 of that was postage. Living in Australia makes wargaming a hobby of the rich. Annoyed, I decided to see if I could make my own modern rules set in two hours.

I admittedly recycled a few concepts from Middlehiem (my homebrew not-Mordhiem rules for a dinosaur-riding War of the Roses), but this was typed up as I went. Totally unplaytested, but I'm confident it is a reasonable alpha. May tweak some stats/% but with two hours I didn't have time to crunch the math.

I also thought I'd see what rules layout I naturally deferred to (curious due to a question from Ashley in the google group). 

Also, I often discuss homebrew rules but rarely post them. This will be a typical example - a quick set, made for myself, to fulfil a specific need I can't get from my (whole cupboard) collection of rules.

And... go!

#1. Aim: initiative is interesting while being simple enough to quickly learn.

I want some to-and-fro interaction without devolving into complex reaction mechanics.

Mechanics should be consistent to teach my kids and include basic math.

The aim is a game that works for gun-centric modern combat while allowing expansion to aliens/monsters/supernatural. Intended for 4-12 models or so per side (fire team->squad level), individually-moved skirmish game.

Ok here is my rationale - it keeps me focussed on what I want the game to be - how it should play, what I should keep/remove/focus on...

#2. Dice Rolling & Stats “Housekeeping”

 This is "housekeeping - what you need - and need to know - about playing.

How to roll: “Warmachine but d10”
Normal: Add stat + d10. If it equals the target number TN” (usually 10) it succeeds. It is a ‘critical’ if it passes by 5 or more.

Contested: Both sides roll stat + d10; highest successful roll wins. Active player wins ties. It is a ‘critical’ if it beats the opponent by 5 or more.

Never tell me the odds” – a natural 1 always fails and a natural 0 always succeeds, regardless of modifiers.
We use stats based on a decimal system.

Here is how the stat aligns with % chance to succeed, with stat+d10 vs TN10.

7 (80%) = heroic

6 (70%) = elite/very good

5 (60%) = regular/sound/trained

4 (50%) = rookie/meh/green

3 (40%) = untrained/bad

Most units will have stats of 4 or 5.

Modifiers tend to be +2 or -2 (noticeably more difficult) but can vary. The target number is modified, so a negative modifier is good. Think of it as “adding difficulty” or “removing difficulty”

Miniature Stats:

There are quite a few. But this is to allow weird aliens etc later. And more universal stats means LESS unique special rules.
Combat Skill (experience, cool-headedness, initiative, reactions)

Willpower (bravery)

Shooting (duh)

CQC (stabby fighty skills)

Physique (size, toughness, strength)

Agility (dodge/leap/climb)

Defence (combination of natural physique and armour)

Counters & Playing Pieces

I use an imperial measure for convenience. 4-5 10-sided dice.

Downed models are tipped on their side. Dead models are removed.

Suppressed models get a token: In my case, white

Fleeing models get a different token: I’m using yellow.

“Overwatch” models also get a token: I’m using green.

*You might also need a token to show which models have activated if you forget easily.

I am usually very interested in activation and initiative. Here I've picked a simple system as I don't want to confuse my kids. While reactions do well to simulate the quick exchanges of gunfire, often games with reactions can bog down.


Start of Game:
Leaders roll off with d10. The highest roll that succeeds has the initiative and chooses a model to go 1st.

Activation: Each model must roll a dice (activation roll) to activate. If model succeeds it activates and may move and shoot. The controlling player may then choose another model to make an activation roll. (Option: may adjust/move and go on overwatch)

If the model fails it activates but may only move or shoot. It loses the initiative. After the mini takes its action, play switches to the opponent who then may make an activation roll for a model of its choice.

Option: If a model is within 6” of a leader it may add -1 bonus to its activation roll TN. This allows natural squads to occur (counter: see 6” area fire). A model out of LoS to all friendlies is -1.

Option: “Sprint” – a model can move a second time, instead of shooting

Option: “Aimed fire” – if move 2” or less/pivoted, can fire a single shot at -1 TN bonus to hit (or re-roll a miss) or add -2 bonus to the damage roll TN.

Option:Man down!” If the active model is ‘downed’ or killed; initiative switches as if he had failed his activation roll.

Option: “The Flow of Battle” if you nominated a leader, instead of activating, your activation roll allows you to nominate any enemy model in the leader’s LoS (or the LoS of any within 6” of the leader). A failure means the enemy can choose the unit and initiative swaps like usual.


Horde of Rabble Rule: This rule is to prevent cheap horde armies outmanuevering elite troops with lots of unopposed movement or firing at the end of a turn.

If any models on one side are left AFTER all the opponent has activated, they may only make a single move or shoot like models if they pass their activation roll (kinda like if they failed it in normal circumstances).

If any of the remaining models fail their activation roll, all remaining minis yet to be activated may only adjust their position/facing 2” and may not take any action.



A model may reserve its fire for later. It may interrupt an active opponent. It is +1 penalty to shooting though as it is reacting to sudden action of the player with initiative.

Models on overwatch who did not shoot may attempt to remain on overwatch into next turn. In the clean up stage, pass a Combat Skill roll to retain the token.

Option: instead of shooting, overwatch can be movement (charging to CQC or fleeing) or shooting; just not both.

I'm sure I've forgotten stuff here - it makes sense in my head.... Lots of "Options" aka random ideas I am not sure will make the final cut.

TL:DR = Sequence of a turn: (just to be clear)

1) Leaders dice off, winner selects a model to activate

2) Winner has initiative and rolls activation roll. Can continue to choose minis to activate until a roll is failed; then opponent activates troops until he fails.

3) Once only one side has minis yet to be activated, “Horde Rule” applies

4) Clean up phase (test morale, remove suppression, test to remain on overwatch etc)

#4. Movement and Spotting

 This will not be tournament-proof but is more a set of guidelines as this stage - I'm also a little behind in my timeline having spent a lot of time on (overthinking?) the last section.


Models move = to their Move stat, usually 4-6”.

Tough going/climbing uses 2” of their move to travel 1”

Climb & Jump

Models can climb ladders and climb/jump down from obstacles of head height; just treat as “tough going.”

Models can jump 1”/base length gaps, but must test for each 1” beyond that (up to half move or half agility. Each 1” beyond the first triggers another agility test.

Test Agility = pass = can continue move after getting to the top or bottom; fail = move ends at top/bottom of obstacle


A model will not fall off a rope or ladder unless he is attacked; then test agility to see if he falls.

Models climbing a slippery surface with few handholds must test a second time if they fail an agility test; a second failure means they fall.

Falling Damage: while models can fall or jump their own height without risk, use agility to make a saving throw each 1”/model height beyond the first; i.e. falling 3x the models height would mean 2 saving rolls must be made or the model is downed - or killed if a critical.

Spotting, Facing & Flanking:
Miniatures only see in their front 180d arc, for purposes of triggering overwatch etc. They cannot attack enemies outside this arc. Any attack from their rear receives a bonus for flanking.

The combat/shooty mechanics were quick to do. I'm always pretty casual about this - it's just a means to generate a result and I often swap mechanics halfway through. Toyed with a "d10 Infinity" system but I kinda want my kids to do "10 combo" math with a TN of 10 and I like how this method can be used for pretty much every mechanic in the game. 

The "- is good,+ is bad" is a bit weird though.

#5. Combat – Shooting & Damage


Adjust your target number (10) up or down using modifiers. Roll d10+stat, compare to modifiers. A ‘critical’ (exceeds TN by 5+) rolls twice for damage.


Long range +2 TN penalty

“Suppressive fire” +2TN penalty

In hard cover +2TN penalty

“Aiming” = single aimed shot -1TN bonus (if did not move and only pivoted)

Enemy unaware/flanked -1TN bonus

(So most long-range suppressive fire against targets in cover will likely only hit on 10-20% chance)

Rapid/Area/Full-auto/Suppressive fire:

Full auto weapons with RoF3+ can spray bullets into a 6” diameter area. Any within the target area can be hit (up to RoF of weapon, allocate hits as you wish); the remainder cannot be harmed but all can still be suppressed.

Any within the 6” suppression zone must pass a Will check or are suppressed...

 Long range: All weapons must be stationary to fire suppressive at long range

Suppressive fire is an extra -2 penalty, so most long-range suppressive fire against targets in cover only hits on a lucky ‘0’; it is just keeping their heads down with Will checks etc

 #5A - Doing Damage

To wound:
For each hit, roll d10 + add the weapon’s Damage stat. Compare it to the target “Defence” (which is ‘10’ for a normal unarmoured human). If it equals or exceeds, the target is “downed”. If it exceeds TN by 5+, the target is obviously and instantly dead and is removed.

Downed vs Dead:

When an attack succeeds; models are downed and place on their side. They are ‘downed’.

In the clean up phase, roll to see their actual state.

123 = carry on, twas just a flesh wound

4567 = still downed, may crawl 2”; recheck status next clean up phase or if first aid etc

890 = “you’re dead” - remove mini

A second hit on a downed model (or two ‘downed’ results) kills the model outright with no further rolls. A critical wound roll always outright kills/removes the mini.

Coupe de grace: Any enemy in base contact with a downed mini automatically kills it.


#5B. Close Quarters Combat

If a model moves into contact, it is in melee. If a side loses melee (but hasn’t activated yet) it forfeits its activation.

Models make a contested roll; the highest success wins (active player wins ties). A critical success automatically kills the loser if using a melee weapon.


-2 TN bonus if attack from rear arc

+1 TN penalty if up stairs or slope

Weapons have TN modifiers based on their unwieldness in CQC.

-1 bonus if using katana, axe or specialist melee weapon

0 if using a 1H firearm/pistol or knife/bayonet/improvised melee weapon

+1 penalty if using a SMG or or short assault weapon

+2 penalty if using a full-size rifle or LMG

Multiple melee combat: Allies add an extra +1 dice (an extra d10, not a modifier to the roll) to resolve hits but do not strike themselves; the main fighter just chooses the best roll.

Pushback & Damage

Winner can choose to ‘push back’ the loser or remain ‘locked in combat’; and rolls to wound – using melee weapon bonus + physique or calibre of pistol/SMG for the Damage.

(I.e. a knife could by Physique 4 + 1 knife bonus = 5 damage; then add d10 and compare to TN like usual).

Pushback = loser is pushed back a base length/1”; winner can opt to fire weapon at full RoF BUT allows either fighter to flee if they are yet to activate.

Locked in combat” = winner follows up the pushback; both sides remained tied up in combat awaiting the next activation of either.

Ok that was fast. But the next section wasn't, as I struggled to work out weapon ranges that would give the right feel. It's not as important as the other bits, but probably ended up more complicated that I'd like...

#6. Weapons

The aim is to make a list of simple generic weapons and traits. Ranges and scale are not very ‘precise’ but I’m thinking 12” = ~100 yards or so? As long as weapons feel proportionate to each other, and to movement.


9mm pistol or SMG = 4

10mm, .45ACP, 5.56mm = 5

7.62mm = 6

.300, .308, .338 = 7

.50 cal = 8

Target number can be increased (penalty) or decreased (bonus)

Unarmoured human is 10TN

Light armour +1TN penalty (police vest)

Medium armour +2TN penalty (SWAT vest, neck protection etc)

Heavy armour +3TN penalty (specialist, encumbering, bomb disposal/riot squad type)

Aimed single shot -2TN bonus (careful aiming for head/weak point)






Pistol (9mm)





SMG/PDW (P90, MP5)


2/1 (3Auto)



Shotgun (Pump, semi)




7/3 damage depends on range

+2TN bonus due to spray




2/1 (3Auto)


DMR/Battle rifle















Sniper rifle .308





AM .50 Rifle





Size Traits

Bulky = +1TN penalty if move and fire, penalty in CQC

Heavy = may not move and fire, penalty in CQC, -1” move speed

Assault short, agile weapon with grips or tights red dot, means it is +1 to hit at close range (6”or less)

CQC – can be used without penalty in CQC

RoF Traits

Bolt action – can fire one shot maximum at any range, but +1TN penalty if moved

Pump – one shot maximum, but no movement penalty

Semiauto – can fire 2x rapid shots at effective range at targets within 6” of each other, or 1x shot at long range (2/1).
Auto (x) – can usually be used as (2/1) semi auto mode, as well as suppressive mode, ‘x’ is the number of to-hit rolls that can be allocated. There is a ‘to hit’ penalty due to spraying bursts of fire.

Attachment Traits
Sniper Scope – if fire a single shot, without moving, can reroll a miss at any range beyond 6”; makes weapon Bulky

4x/ACOG Scope – if fire single shot, without moving, can re-roll a miss beyond 6” to effective range – can use normally with no penalty

Bipod - if does not move, +1TN penalty at long range instead of usual +2TN penalty. Gives weapons Bulky if they do not have it elaready.

Oops I forgot something! Probably should be back in #5!

#5-ish! Suppression & Morale

If a model takes even a non-damaging hit; or is sprayed with suppressive full-auto fire, it must make a Will check; if it fails it is suppressed.


Suppression means a +2TN penalty to activation rolls and combat (shooting, CQC) rolls.

Suppressed models may not leave cover or (if in open) make any move that advances towards enemies unless it ends with them in cover.

Suppression removes ‘overwatch’ status.

To remove suppression,

Must pass a Will test in the ‘clean up’ stage of the turn or remains suppressed next turn. This retains the +2TN penalty.

Simple Morale

Each mini is worth 1pt. Leaders and special vehicles are worth 2pt.

Once half the force points is downed or dead, morale (Will) test each model at the clean up phase and each subsequent clean up phase when further injuries/deaths are sustained. If a model fails the test, retreat at maximum speed towards the end of the tabletop.

I often upbraid other rules authors for doing a belated job with morale... but I just ran out of time (and if I use this for STALKER/Alien rules, I'll tack on a much more robust system.)

Phew, done. Saved $100. Now to test it out...

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Cheap Spaceship Minis & Tanks (Repainted Toys)

Painting in the shed with my 7-year-old, I have been repurposing old toys (and even seeking them out in department stores and thrift shops).

They are (a) extremely cheap and (b) usually sturdier than 'proper' minis*

*While my son is not rough, there is a lot more swooping planes around with pew-pew noises than I would (or admit to), and parking tanks in precarious locations when they battle dinosaurs.

Especially in 15mm or mico-scale, there is quite a bit of stuff that is relevant. I used to carry a 15mm mini around with me, but now I can confidently 'eyeball' them.

These "Lightyear" minis are perfect for 15mm fighters or dropships - and about $10AUD at the moment. I only sprayed them, drybrushed grey and then washed them to "smooth out" the rough bits in a 10-min-each paint job. I'm kinda tempted to go back and add some highlights and detail though; some are quite nice...

The Lightyear ships also work as bigger ships when scaled against smaller spaceships. In this case, some random Matchbox, and a four Hotwheels Batwings from a more recent Batman movie. All the small ships were $2ea.

The only "miniatures" are the smallest - plastic EM4 which are usually available on Ebay - about a dozen for $10. They are knockoffs of Silent Death minis, and given how much I use them for playtesting rules, my best $value/use miniatures.

These were painted by my son - $1 not-Hotwheels tanks and part of a $10 box of plastic (15mm/1:100?) Vietcong from Toyworld. They will duel with each other and some savage dinosaurs on an urban table. I'm surprised a 7-year-old was patient enough to paint them all...

This "Thousand Hawk" freighter works decently with 15mm as well. I merely washed it to make it look less "plastic-y." We're going for speed over style in the painting department.

Obviously these could all come up much more impressively if details and highlighting was done - but it would defeat the purpose of making them quick, 'playable' models. So next time your family drags you out shopping - have a wander past the toy aisle...

..some of the 'toys' are model-grade quality once you get past the plastic-y bright paint jobs...

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

More Fast Cheap Terrain-from-Toys... "Wooden Block Cityscape"

 It's holidays. Mum is sick, so the kids and I camp out in the hobby shed, leaving her in peace.

Dad is cleaning, the kids are ferreting around in boxes messing stuff up discovering old toys, some of which I offer to 'spruce up.' So I get distracted too!

Here is a cityscape I made out of a box of blocks. We are going to use it for mecha, as my 7-year-old and I are enjoying playing Mechwarrior Online together. (I may do a post on this PC game, as I think there is a fair Venn diagram overlap between wargamers/old dads with bad reflexes/tinkerers/mecha nerds...)

This was maybe an hour with the spraypaint. I reckon Bunnings should sponsor me...
The original blocks...
A few more shots of the board in use...

You could see it would be easy enough to dab on windows with black paint...
Cheap and nasty, but it does the job. All it cost was $3 of grey spray paint, and hour of my time... ...and having to store a box of toys in my shed...
As my son and I have also been playing War Thunder together, we have bought from $1 Hot Wheels tanks to play a simple tank game I will invent. I'm going to see if the board will work in larger scales.

The kids tend to hand over stuff fast if I ask if they want me to 'do something with it.' I've even started to get requests! My daughter brought in her Hogwarts set and asked if I could help her "make it more real-looking.' I'll do before and after shots once we finish.

You can see a few toys in the early stages of being worked on... They don't necessarily use them for minis - they just want them to look less 'kiddy'
The city board was just the reverse of my son's "Ant Wars" MDF sheet - from what I can determine, his "Ant Wars" game bears a suspicious resemblance to Risk with a lot of cinematic creativity thrown in...

The "Ant Wars" side of the cityscape board. You can see I have been waging IRL 'ant wars' in my backyard between painting and cleaning!
Something I have noticed with my kids (age 7 and 9) is they like dice rolling but dislike measuring. They also tend to have a grasp of 'odds' -. when they make up their own games they tend to do 4+ on d6 to succeed, but may change it to 3+ if it's 'easier' or 5+ if it's 'harder' or '6' if it's 'really really hard' - which they tend to do organically by just eyeballing the situation. They also like 'saving throws' or 'extra chances' for favourite minis (heroes?). Might be food for a game design post...

Thursday, 29 December 2022

Cheap Wargames Terrain: Toy Medieval Castle Repaint

This was part of a $20 find at "Lifeline" - the secondhand charity shop.(There's more stuff but it has already been claimed for the sandpit!) 

I decided to only use cheap craft paint and old brushes; basically whatever I had lying around. My aim was also to make the toy castle look tabletop-worthy in 2hrs and not waste any of my good paints and brushes.

Kids toys are a great cheap source of wargaming gear. I used to carry around a 15mm and a 28mm mini in my glovebox but I am getting pretty good at eyeballing things now.  I notice the Buzz Lightyear space fighters will do well in 15mm scale I think; the included plastic pilots are very close to 15mm.... 

....anyway, back to the castle - some before-and-after photos.

I used only craft paint; I spraypainted black; then lightly with grey, then a VERY rough light grey drybrush. You can see some of the original 'minis' it came with besieging the front gate.

It looked pretty 'plastic-y' and not quite the right scale....  ...but because it is meant for younger kids it is very robust - good for gaming. 

You can see the men of Gondor don't look terribly out of place, and when I consider how much a terrain piece of this size would cost from GW, I am happy enough how it turned out. A fair return for $20 and 2 hrs, I reckon.  I have promised to play LOTR with my kids and I have sneakily been teaching my son the core rules through my home-made 'army man' game (we play at the beach with a dozen or so plastic army men each - last mission was for him to retrieve data from a downed fighter and escape - I control the opfor in a 'cinematic' manner...)

We've also been playing a lot of Mechwarrior:Online so I suspect mech-related wargames will emerge. More randomly, I'm thinking about inventing a rock-wars game (glue eyeballs on rocks and they have stats/combat values based on how shiny/how big/heavy/what colour etc)....  

...Anyway here are the 'after' shots....

Saturday, 10 December 2022

Revisiting Jet Wargames 2022 #5: Initiative & Taking Turns

This is kinda the flow of the gameplay. Who goes first? In what order? Can you interrupt an enemy turn?

Now if planes are undetected (or at least, not clearly tracked/acquired) or have a lot more energy (height/speed) they should be able to dictate the fight (aka the movement order) to some degree.

Some common methods of taking turns:

IGOUGO - you act with all your planes, then I act with all my planes - a la oldschool 40K

Youmove/Imove/Youshoot/Ishoot (a la LOTR:SBG) - you move all your planes, then I move all mine, then you shoot any missiles/guns, then I shoot any guns/missile

Alternate Move - You act with a single plane, I act with a single plane - taking turns until all move (probably the default system for most 'modern' games)

Random Draw - pull out a token, if it is your colour you choose a plane and act with it; if my colour I choose a plane and act with it (like alternate move but randomised - a la Bolt Action)

Reaction Mechanics - allow you move all your forces like IGOUGO, but I can interrupt by 'reacting' with my unit/s if certain triggers/criteria are met (a la Ambush Alley/Infinity)

What I am looking for:

Air combat is pretty chaotic once the fight is joined. You may be able to plot BVR engagements via AWACS and ground radar but once the furball is on, complex co-ordination is difficult. The activation system should reflect this: make it hard to reliably co-ordinate anything except wingmen (aka pairs of planes).

So I need for players to be able to co-ordinate wingmen (i.e. pairs of planes) but prevent complex combined moves with planes flanking, pincering, etc. No grand strategy bar pairs of planes co-ordinating. Randomness, chaos - but with sneaky or high energy planes being able to somewhat dictate matters.

So something like IGOUGO or LOTR-style is out. It allows too much co-ordination between all your planes. Vanilla random draw or alternate move does not allow faster or unobserved planes an advantage.  In fact, I am going to probably have to mash-up some system of my own.

I want the aircraft stats to be simple but give defined flavour,i.e. a MiG-25 may have great Sprint speed but poor agility and dogfighting; carry hard hitting, extreme ranged anti-bomber missiles but have difficulty hitting agile fighters...

Superior numbers does not mean superior tactics:

I also don't want a situation where the side superior numbers also gets to co-ordinate too easily. Imagine an alternate move situation where 2 "A" ace planes face 4 "B" rookie planes.

A1 acts, B1 acts, A2 acts, B2 acts, then B3 acts, then B4 acts. B jets 2-4 could co-ordinate rather easily to get perfect tailing shots or box in the enemies - even if the 'A' side had ace pilots with more energy.

Even if you made it A1, B1, B2, A2, B3, B4 - there is built in co-ordination for jets B1 & B2, and then B3 & B4. I don't want the side with superior numbers (but possibly worse pilots) to be able to rely on this. Even random draw (like Bolt Action) suffers from this to a degree even though it is allegedly random.

Whilst this is an issue in all wargames (i.e. the horde army should not automatically get good co-ordination just becaue it has lots of guys) I'm particularly touchy as I want ace pilots, energy and detection to matter as per my initial rationale.

Some ideas to negate the 'extra numbers = better tactics"...

1) Handicap the planes moving last. Remember the 'actions' we had? Well, any plane moving after the last enemy is limited to 1 action, not 2 actions, or has some other modifier handicap. So if we went

A1, B1, A2, B2, B3, B4 - B2-4 could only take 1 action, or perhaps have -1 to dice rolls, or be more likely to be stressed. So having lots of planes and moving them last would not be a 'gotcha' but mean the pilots acting last could not keep pace or react enough to the action.  Perhaps B2, B3 and B4 would have to pass a dice roll or they could only perform a 'normal move.'  So having a heap of planes go last would not be a good thing.

2) Allow better/higher energy pilots to force enemies to act. Perhaps each side picks a plane. A1 and say B3 make opposed rolls - d10+pilot skill+energy bonus+stealth bonus. The highest scorer can either act OR force an enemy plane to act. In fact, you could choose the specific enemy planes to act if you can track them. So A1 could duel B1 with an opposed roll. If he wins, he could choose any B-jet he can track to move, or allow any he cannot see to move or insist the duelling jet (B3) moves (whatever he prefers). If you gave say a +2 for energy advantage and +2 for untracked advantage (or even front angle vs enemy rear aka tailing) - then better pilots, up high, could dictate fights. Basically instead of acting yourself, you force the opponent to act.

^This is just an example, not set in concrete, of course.

Hmm, kinda interesting if you combine them. Say A1 and A2 are are better pilots with energy advantage; they could likely win all the dice duels and force the order say B3, B2, B4, B1... then go last... A1, A2...  ...but they could only do 1 action themselves.

This also might allow us to avoid reactions as the 'duel' roll is kinda a reaction/opposed roll.  Or we could combine them and allow a player winning a reaction roll to size the initiative somehow.

A concern would be one good pilot, up high, dictates the  flow of the entire fight - it might make an individual pilot too strong and completely control and choreograph the whole fight (which is what we were trying to avoid! - we were only allowing the precise co-ordinating of wingmen!)

How to fix?  ...Maybe we could scale back the energy and stealth bonuses to +1 instead of +2 (to make it more random) and make sure A1 MUST act before doing opposed rolls with any other A-jet, AND each subsequent duel with the same jet means it is -1 to the roll.

But who goes first? 

I kinda didn't answer that, but I'd say there is some sort of opposed roll, where pilot skill, + BVR capabilities (radar, AESA etc) + stealth or amount of planes + friendly support (home territory, ground radar, AWACS) modify the roll in some ways.

I kinda like the idea of opposed rolls, as it involves players and gives more of an aerial 'duel' feel but it does slightly slow things down and makes the math for balancing a bit trickier...

So - do you have initiative and taking turns worked out yet?

Not really. I think I'm clear what I want and don't want - just not the precise mechanics to get there... but I have a bit of a skeleton framework to work from (albeit one I can easily abandon if I think of something better...)

Initiative and activation sequence is a tough topic - far (imo) more complex than the dice mechanics used to resolve actions (such as in post #2) - and usually it would be the first thing I focus on - however I've kinda come into this backwards/painted myself into a corner as I identified movement mechanics as being the big  'problem' issue with aerial wargames so I started there...