Tuesday 12 January 2016

Pulp Jets

I'm fiddling around with house rules based on the "principles" of CY6 sans the written orders, probably with a d10 mechanic instead of the 2d6/bucket of dice used by most other aerial games.

I'm going to use a alternate-pulp-history.  I'm focusing on early jets before the advent of air-to-air missiles.  I.e. 1945-1955. The weird and wacky designs of a "transitional period" are more interesting than the more streamlined, copy+paste planes of today, and have less "historical" connection than iconic 60s and 70s designs like Phantoms, MiG21s, Mirages etc.   I really like "just strap wings and a bunch of cannons to a rocket" design philosophy in an era when a "special gunsight" could still be chewing gum stuck to the canopy.   The metallic paint and colourful paint schemes are attractive as a modeller.  

Each aircraft will have a special rule to give it unique flavour, and be "somewhat" based on its historical counterpart.   This is pulp, after all. There will be handwavium, aliens and flying carriers.  However I want the flight model/basic mechanics to be as realistic and straightforward as possible, so I can transfer it to other periods (i.e. 1960s-70s jet warfare in Middle East/African Imagi-nation, maybe 1930s prop fighters).

The P-80 - American's primary post-war fighter, just screams "pulp."  Just the sort of thing to dogfight flying saucers....

Warning: Rambling fluff ahead
I don't want to be stuck with straight Luft '46.  So I'll give a nod to history without outright committing to it:

It is years after the Global War, where the unimaginable power of the Vengeance weapons tore rifts in the fabric of reality.  The world is a very different place.

Wormholes created by the devices gape menacingly the skies above, creating tunnels to alternate universes.   Humanity is fleeing our devastated planet, to the world beyond.  However not all these worlds are unoccupied....  ...and the War may be over, but it is not forgotten.

Human Forces
The Fourth Empire
They unleashed the apocalypse, and are now evacuating the ruins of their nation to the worlds beyond.  The first to develop jet tech, they rely on modifications to older designs due to the strain on their industrial capacity.
Fighters: Ta183, Me262, Ho229, He162, Me163
Bombers: E55, Ar234

 Of course, Horten flying wings need make an appearance...

The Collective
V-weapons left half their nation scorched and ruined.  However resilient, numerous and hardy, they are rebuilding.  They are convinced that the peace with the Empire will not last.  This time, they will be ready.
Aircraft: Yak 23, MiG9, MiG15, MiG17 (MiG19, Yak25)
Bombers: IL-28, Tu16, Tu14

The Yak-23 exemplifies the "jet engine with wings added" approach of the 40s and 50s.

Commonwealth of Albion
After their island nation was destroyed, the survivors spread out to their Colonies.  Like the Legion, they are bitter about the perceived "betrayal" by the Federation and the truce with the Empire. 
Fighters: Vampire, Venom, (Hunter), Meteor;  Sea Hawk, Sea Vixen, Sea Venom
Bombers: Canberra

 The quirky twin-boom Vampire is one of my favourites. 

Legion Lafayette
Once fighting to free their nation from the clutches of the Empire, the Legion has evolved into a mercenary force of considerable strike power.
Fighters: Mystere, Ouragan (Super Mystere)
Bomber: Vautour

I always preferred the look of F9F Panthers over the more famous Sabre.

Relatively untouched by the Global War, the Vengeance weapons brought home the horror of war.  The Federation remains riven; many want the Federation to assume its place as a global superpower, the current policy is isolationism, rebuilding and avoiding conflict. An unusually high number of "volunteer" units explore the galaxy, and the Federation's flying carriers can project power to counter alien incursions.
Fighters: P-80, F-84E, F-86E, F94B, (F100);  F9F, F4J Fury, F3D, F2H
Bomber: B-47, B-52, B-57

The Aliens
The Scythe
This AI force has sophisticated hacking, stealth and EW which is relatively useless against the human's analogue/mechanical computers.  Blazingly fast, their supersonic fighters struggle in atmosphere. 
Fighters: Studio Bergstrom Scythe Fighter
Bomber: Studio Bergstrom Scythe Transport

These are close human cousins, perhaps spacefaring humans from the era of the Pyramids. They would like to "destroy all humans" (or at least rule them) but find themselves vastly outnumbered by humanity.  Not at all inspired by Buck Rogers. Possibly lead by a megalomaniac ruler with a wispy goatee or hot exotic woman wearing lots of leather.
 Fighters: Studio Bergstrom independent factions (not-Wing Commander ships)

These classic aliens fly saucer fighters. Our first contact with other races, in 1947.  Crashed saucers gave humans their first antigrav designs which inspired the flying aircraft carriers.  Originally a slave race of the Reptilians, they will work with humans. Manipulative, though physically weak. They seek human genetic material to revitalize their dying race.
Fighters: War Rocket Zenithians (Type 1)

Because everyone needs shape-shifting, blood-drinking reptiles as enemies.   These are relatively long lived but few in number, and try to rule by manipulation and deception.
Fighters: Undecided   (any suggestions?)

So this is pretty much a Buck Rogers-Weird War III-Stargate mashup, using generic tropes?
Yup.  The theory is that there is a sort of Cold War state of affairs - everyone is still reeling from the devastation of the Global War, with old alliances split, and sides both hindering and helping each other covertly.  There is a new age of exploration, spearheaded by aerial forces (due to the airborne wormholes) and fighting tends to be small scale - the larger nations are afraid of igniting a major conflict, and private "air forces" of a dozen or so planes are used to "protect" expeditions by private companies and even religious groups against aliens and each other.

The alien races tend to be vastly outnumbered by humanity, but they may be simply small reconnaissance forces themselves....  .....and all are in diplomatic contact, trying to manipulate the human governments for their own ends. 

In short, a setting where human forces can fight against and alongside each other (and aliens) with an emphasis on small-scale jet combat. 


  1. Nice ideas, I have been trying to figure out what to do with my dust tactics jets and I am also thinking post war imagination pulp jets.

  2. Nice setting, I would play that!

    'Private "air forces" of a dozen or so planes'... You might had Crimson Skies and 'Hammer's Slammers with jets instead of tanks' to that 'pretty much a Buck Rogers-Weird War III-Stargate mashup, using generic tropes'!

    1. Crimson Skies is for my 1:300 WW2 planes - I have weird ones like Do335 Pfeils and Westland Whirlwinds and not a Spitfire in sight... but that setting is pretty much already sorted. I have a Hindenberg Revell kit to serve as a flying mothership....

  3. Some good ideas here! I have two of quirky twin-boom Vampires....love um!

  4. Interesting idea. May I recommend the film "The Bridges at Toko Ri" as a source of inspiration? A tiny bit late for your period but the special effects are spectacular in a Thunderbirds way.

    1. Heh. Did you see the source of the last video clip? :-)

  5. Historical factoid: the humble, ugly duckling P80 (later F80) was responsible for a landmark in aerial warfare during the Korean War, when a single MiG 15 which had streamed through a formation of Shooting Stars failed to join its brethren in climbing out of the danger area and continued its dive, whereupon a US pilot followed it, got on its tail, and claimed the first kill in a jet on jet combat.

    This is the kind of inter-action we all want to see easily replicated in air war mechanics....how is another matter.

  6. "...ugly duckling P80...."

    Wash your mouth out! The P80 is pure pulp awesomeness! Buck Rogers would have been proud to fly it....

  7. As I pointed out, it was perfectly capable of shooting down a MiG 15, in the right circumstances, even without swept wings, unlike the Meteor of similar vintage, in service with the RAAF, which had to be relegated to second line duties due to being hopelessly outclassed. Admittedly the MiG pilot in the engagement in question only had himself to blame; perhaps he was so stunned by the sheer pulp awesomeness of the F80s in formation that he thought to himself, "Wonder what one of those looks like on my tail...oh wow!" Sadly, we shall never know.

  8. If you doubt my sincerity over the P80 / F80, I'm now watching a 1/72 kit on eBay, and may well add a 1/48 one (which, oddly, is only slightly more expensive). I'm not in a kit buying phase at the moment, though. I was actually looking for 1/144 painted & sort-of-ready-built ones (F-Toys, etc) to go with the oddments I'm in the process of ordering, but the unloved Shooting Star seems to have flown under the radar of the manufacturers so far. Pulp awesomeness clearly isn't their thing.

  9. Once again synchronicity strikes...I was just taking pics of early model jet aircraft in a military museum two weeks ago and considering a pulp approach to gaming with them.

    Always loved Bridges at Toko-Ri - good book too

    1. Here is the book, by James Mitchener


    2. "I always preferred the look of F9F Panthers over the more famous Sabre" - 7 years on and I still couldn't agree more! Have now played a couple of games of Blood Red Skies with my mate and much prefer the early "Mig Alley" period over the more commonplace WW2 aerial scraps

      PS In addition to their MiG-15s, F86F Sabres and F9F Panthers, Warlord games now also make F-80C Shooting Stars . All 1/200 scale

  10. I'm not aware of the book of Toko-Ri - come to think of it, I'm not entirely sure I've seen the film - but can thoroughly recommend The Hunters by James Salter, who flew in Korea. It's told from the perspective of a fighter pilot (almost certainly of an F86, though I don't believe this is specified). There is a film of this, too, though I understand it is not impressive.