Sunday, June 26, 2016

Tinkering With Air Combat Rules

For many years, I've wanted to play a detailed modern (jet age with some missiles) air combat dogfighting game, and have tried a few air combat games with jets at conventions, some quite enjoyable, but none providing the same level of enjoyment for me as Mustangs & Messerschmitts WWII dogfight rules.

I had played the Korean era game once at a convention, but never managed to get the Korean supplement for M&M before Rocky Russo passed.  Guess I realized that as I aged, my knees just weren't up to the up-and-down action required by playing the game on the floor.  Rocky of coarse, never added a missile era supplement for M&M, Vietnam and the Cold War gone hot were never an option with that system.

Some years ago, I created a very simple air combat resolution system (simple in presentation, probably over detailed in content), to support tabletop land battles.  But the system dispassionately dispenses with any real playing of the dogfights or engagements.  Once the interaction is generated through a 2-D map, the dogfight can be resolved in 2-3 consecutive die-rolls. Mostly a statistical way to generate air superiority for close air support on the table top.

Anyway, during my downtime over the last few weeks (been sidelined with a series of ailments), I've started hammering out numbers, mechanics, and bits for a modern air combat game that will allow players to actually maneuver their aircraft.  As I've gotten into this, I've realized that it may simply be too complex to present accurately as a table top miniatures game, but computer simulation just doesn't do it for me, and reducing air combat to three four or five values on the table top doesn't do it for me either. 

At this point, I've worked out scale, some mechanics for flight and maneuver, and basic stats (about 20 numbers for a given jet) for about 10 aircraft, consisting of post Korean era 1950s and 1960s designs used in my imagi-nation Mugabia-Uwanda war.

This is for the tabletop, requiring a 5'x6' or larger (6'x10-12' would be more ideal), using 1/285 and 1/300 scale models on small flight stands.  The stands currently feature a two inch base with an 18" tall post, and the plane is mounted on the post with a clip that permits depiction of angle and orientation of flight.  It is similar, but much smaller than the clips from M&M or Fighter Pilot. 

The system will allow for AAMs, but is intended to focus on dogfighting and short range missiles.  Longer range missile engagements can be resolved, but such battles will probably take the shape of WWII carrier duels at sea, with volleys of missiles resolved with one side's aircraft "fleet", and then the opposite, potentially with both sides aircraft never being on the same table or "battlefield" at the same time.

In this first iteration, turns and movement will be controlled via small templates.  I expect that this will work fine for 1 on 1 and even 2 on 2 battles, though I wonder if larger battles with maybe 6-12 aircraft will be too cramped for space to accommodate the templates.  I have an alternative base design that will involve a single movement point roller and turn mode markings to eliminate the templates, but hope to find that the more complex bases are not needed.  The base size is targeted at a 2" square.  

I've already accepted that there will be some loss of detail and accuracy with respect to specific aircraft advantages in specific altitude bands, and that there will be some ignoring of speed/energy issues impacting performance, I just haven't hammered out how much inaccuracy is required to result in a playable game.  In the end, it will be a compromise to make a playable game that still captures the flavor of the dogfight.

Once I get the basics worked out, and if they are workable, I will expand the stats for Korea through at least the early 1970s and hope to make the rules available as a free PDF.

Hopefully, it will work out.


  1. By total coincidence, I've been looking in this sort of gaming direction just recently! By a series of google searches and link following, I eventually ended up here:

    I've only read it through, but its a simple set of rules that covers all/most of the bases you talk about in this post.

    I'm going to use 1/600 for my games, and ditch the hexes for inches and turns measured in degrees (probably in multiples of 30 to keep it simple) but otherwise use those Air Wars rules pretty much as is.

    I used to have the old GDW "Air Superiority" and "Air Strike" games, but could never get anyone to play them - so many rules and counters! Maybe I'll have better luck with this!

    1. Interesting, I'll give that a read through, may save me the time of re-inventing the wheel. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Have you tried Airwar C:21? I like them though a lot of people don't due to the lack of altitude in the game.

    Keep us posted on your progress. I am also searching for some rules to use along with my fictional world.


    1. Yes, I've tried it, and found it to be enjoyable. It is one of my two back-up plans, if this doesn't work out.