Friday 25 January 2013

Alternate Aeronef VSF Rules: Coaling Stations Mod

I found a lot of interesting ideas in the pre-dreadnought game Coaling Stations and I think the core rules would transplant well to VSF, giving us better rules than the current contenders (Aeronef and Airships & Sky Pirates). Whilst trying to keep additions to a minimum, here are the changes I would add:

Added to the current orders are
"Dive" - reduce altitude by 1 level
"Climb" increase altitude by 1 level

Cloud is treated as "heavy fog" to see into/out of at a particular level.

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.  Airships could move at 100-120kph (60 knots) so you could simply double (or even triple) usual ship class speeds.

Altitude is divided into 6 bands with a micro d6.  If we assume say a 18,000 ft ceiling, each band would be 3,000 feet (half a mile) or 2.5cm/1" in game terms.  This means if a ship is firing at a target 2 levels below it, 5cm is added to the horizontal range.  Climbing or diving one level would not impact speed. 

 I mostly have "digs" or dirgibles which I wanted for a sky pirate game.  On order are 2 fleets of nefs...

Ships that are crippled have their maximum altitude reduced to level 4; sinking ships have a maximum altitude of level 2. Ships who are higher than the maximum will sink each turn until they reach their permitted level.  A crippled or sinking ship cannot climb but can maintain altitude or dive.

I'm not a fan of the Coaling Stations shooting mechanic - which makes bigger guns more likely to hit, but do the same damage as rapid fire small guns.  This would make big 12"+ guns the best weapons for taking out destroyers when in reality they are too slow to traverse and unable to fire rapidly enough at a fast moving, small target.   I've banned heavy batteries from firing at destroyers at all; with light calibre hand-loaded "quickfirers" having the best chance to hit and damage.

With regards to "3D' aerial combat, there would be a "dead zone" above and below ships where the guns cannot elevate or depress far enough.  Pre-dreadnought weapons had about +/- 13-17 degrees, which had improved to +/- 40 degrees by the end of WW1. If you assume +/- 22.5 degrees, then each level below adds 5cm (1 nm) to the "dead zone."  So a ship who wants to fire at another ship 3 levels below must be at least 3nm (15cm) away or its guns cannot depress far enough to hit....

I've ordered some Austrian warships to stand in as my "Germans" the official "German" nefs look the the bastard offspring of a landing barge, a river dredge and a paddle wheeler...
Shooting Modifiers
+1 if firing into/out of cloud (as per smoke)
+1 Any gun over 4.1" firing at destroyer or torpedo-boat sized vessel*
*Only secondary batteries and primary batteries under 6" can engage destroyers. Only quickfiring guns of 4.1" or less can engage them without penalty
Modify rule:  "Evasive Action" - +1 to enemy (and own) firing if protected cruiser or smaller, 4+ save against torpedo hits
I've tried to make destroyers and torpedo boats a little more survivable... For example at one stage in Jutland 12 destroyers closed to point blank (under 3000m) of 10-20 battleships and battlecruisers and only 2 were sunk - due to secondary battery fire. Under most modern rules, you'd be lucky to have two destroyers survive...


  1. I see that I'm going to have to get a copy of Coaling Stations!

    I like the Austrians and dislike the Nef Germans too. I did make up a German Dig Fleet though, with one more Big Dig in progress

    And my French are their sparring partners:

    Though I have about 60 other nefs in the box too! Mostly unpainted though

    1. Do like your nefs. I do possess the German digs (indeed, most of the digs of all nationalities). I bought them for a sky pirates game where each dig could launch 3-6 biplanes - mixing dogfighting and big ship duels - kinda like Battlestar Galactica 1900... However the only decent aerial rules that aren't a "guessing game" is Algy which has such chaotic rule design it is hard to graft on airship rules or get any balance....

  2. What I really want to do though is do Sea-air coop games, where Surface ships have the advantages of being more survivable - they can float instead of crash, and can have heavy guns the 'nefs cant have (too heavy), though they cant elevate much. Throw in some Nemoesque submersibles and that sounds like a lot of fun!

    1. Sounds like you're talking about Dystopian Wars. They have air and naval fleets. I've spectated a few games. I am not a huge fan due to the bland-ness of the Spartan game mechanics.

      The pre-dreadnaught era has many wacky weapons and differences between ships and the rules should reflect this.

      Compare this to WW2 ships where most ship classes are pretty similar between nationalities with standardised guns, speed and displacement. Even nowdays - the average ship has 1-2 dual purpose guns, 1-2 SAM/SSM launchers, 1-2 CIWS, 2 torpedo racks. Except for some interesting exceptions like Russian hybrid cruisers this describes 80% of warships....

  3. @evilleMonkeigh;

    I'm encountering these very same thoughts as I go over @Eric Farrington's "Castles in the Sky" design.

    One of the interesting things is that as weapon ranges increase for naval gunnery, the shells will experiencing a sharp elevation drop causing what I think is known as "plunging fire". These tended to attack the thinner ship decks instead of the thicker main armor belt.

    So, an attack from an aeronef at high elevation towards a much lower target of any sort would - if my reasoning is correct - nearly always have a marked increase in causing the "plunging fire" effect. And so could cause more internals or at the very least experience less armor to deflect or ablate the attack.

    1. I think my homebrew rules (still in alpha, awaiting proper testing in a week or so when I get my hols) have a +1 to penetration from vertical attacks.

      Whilst 2D is attractive for simplicity, various effects must be in place for "vertical tactics" or it simply becomes a WW1-WW2 naval game.