Thursday, 19 April 2018

Wings at War Scramble for Britain

Just over a year ago I won an eBay bid on a big stash of Tumbling Dice models and loads of extra bits, for the Wings at War Battle of Britain rules, 'Scramble for Britain'. I spotted another auction on eBay this week so made an offer well under the asking price and won it. This time it's just the rules and a limited starter set of 1/600th scale Tumbling Dice planes but it also included three sheets of Dom's Decals Luftwaffe and RAF insignia. This made it a well worth the overall cost as they are currently out of production. I've added the planes to my already bulging box of lead and now have a second (third?) set of rules for an opponent to refer to, when I get round to this as another 1/600th scale project. Tally Ho!

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Target Locked On Evasive Manoeuvres

This is the system for evasive manoeuvres in Target Locked On:

Evasive manoeuvring can also be used to avoid incoming missiles. 

(this is separate from using chaff or flares, as there's a different system for that)

This type of manoeuvre may be carried out once a missile has been fired. A pilot skill check must be passed. If the skill check is failed the aircraft does not carry out any manoeuvre. If the check is passed the aircraft can carry out any manoeuvre type it wishes.

Once the manoeuvre has been carried out roll 1d6. The target score equals 3 plus the weapons EW characteristic. If the roll is successful the missile misses and causes no damage.

Note that this manoeuvre still has a fuel consumption and speed reduction effect; these are applied during the aircraft’s next activation.

This all makes perfect sense to me but I can't help feeling that there's a bit of book keeping to do at the end, with fuel and speed reduction to take into account possibly several phases later. I was wondering if an alternative would be to take the hit for speed and fuel at the point of the manoeuvre, regardless of whether the aircraft has moved already or not?

This would obviously impact on the subsequent movement and could even lead to an involuntary stall, if the numbers were tight. I'm not sure how this would affect the flow of the game but it would avoid having to remember the fuel and speed reductions later in the game. I also thought that an evasive manoeuvre could be made at the expense of the free manoeuvre in the next turn of the game, perhaps even instead of the fuel and speed hit, although that would be a bit unrealistic.

I may try these ideas out and see if they work or are just unnecessary fiddles that aren't really worth bothering with?

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Hands to Flying Stations

This is brilliant! I remember going on board HMS Ark Royal on a navy day in Devonport way back in the mid '70's. This reminds me of the Flashpoint: Fleet Air Arm project for Target Locked On! that I was thinking about a few months ago. I really should do something with that, now that I have a good grasp of the rules. 

Desert Spitfires RAF 'What If?'

It's a bit early to start mucking about with the Desert Spitfires rules but, in a moment of reckless abandon, I thought I'd get some Bristol Brigands to add to the RAF ranks. These were just being introduced into service in 1948 and could, theoretically, have made an appearance over the front lines during the war. In fact, from early 1949 onward No.84 Squadron operated the type from RAF Habbiniya in Iraq, where PR Mosquito reconnaissance aircraft often re-fuelled for flights over Israel.

Tumbling Dice Bristol Brigand (ISA609)

However, for most of the first half of 1949 only a handful of aircraft were serviceable and there were numerous problems with spare parts, ammunition and even cannon being in short supply, not to mention enough trained aircrew. The aircraft also had a reputation for serious mechanical  issues and going u/s due to 'wrinkling' of the wings! Even so, despite it's terrible reputation, I quite like the stubby look of this light attack bomber and so will paint some up for the game, even if I can't think of a good reason for them to be directly involved or even operational by the end of the war?

Monday, 16 April 2018

Desert Spitfires Web Research

I've been reading all about the air campaign in the 1948-49 War of Independence and have uncovered a number of really fascinating websites, each of which adds something more to the story. I've taught the causes and consequences of the Arab Israeli conflict many times but haven't really looked into the aerial side of things before. I started out with a focus in the RAF involvement but this soon expanded to take in the Israelis and Egyptians, with even the Syrians getting involved despite having no air force to speak of. The involvement of numerous foreign and often non-Jewish 'volunteers' is particularly interesting, the collective title of Machal being given to the foreign pilots who flew for the IAF. 

Anyway, here's the links to some of the most useful and interesting pages:

All well worth a look!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Desert Spitfires: The RAF

I have magnet based and undercoated the RAF aircraft for Desert Spitfires today.

These include four Spitfire FR18's, six Hawker Tempest MkVI, two PR.34 DH Mosquitos and a single C-47 Dakota. The latter doesn't actually play a role in the game but I had one spare so thought, why not? The Mossies are unarmed photo recce aircraft and have to make it across the length of the table to win VP's in the game, whilst the fighters are there to protect them and to shoot down the Israelis and Egyptians if they try to get in the way.

I don't know what I'll do with the Dakota but I'm sure I can fit it in somehow, perhaps with a similar mission objective to the Mossies? This is about the maximum size for each of the forces in the game, much less than I've done for each side in MiG Alley, which means I should be able to get the Israelis, Egyptians and British sorted out sharpish. I'll start painting the RAF planes over the next week or so, although I'm back at work tomorrow so will have less time to spare. 

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Desert Spitfires Project Planning

I've dug out the books that I have on the 1948 War of Independence air campaign and have sorted out what I have in the 1/600th scale lead pile that can be used for the three sides. I have some spare Seafires that can stand in as Spitfire FR18's plus some Hawker Tempests and Mosquitoes for the RAF. The Israelis have three B-17's, a couple of C-47's, some Spitfire IX's, P-51 Mustangs and a couple of Beaufighters. I also have some leftover Stinson Sentinels and T-6 Texans for light aircraft, but will order some Dragon Rapides from Tumbling Dice as well.

The Egyptians also get some Spitfire IX's and C-47's but I'll need to get some Macchi Mc202's to fill in the blanks. I have nearly all I need already but one thing I don't have are any Egyptian decals in 1/600th scale, which is a bit of a problem as Dom's Decals is still out of action as far as I know? Never mind, as I can crack on with the Israelis and RAF in the meantime, while I try to find some roundels that are small enough for the Egyptian fighters. I think this project will be taking up most of my time instead of the naval things I had planned to do after Easter but those can wait until later in the year.

Bag the MiG Bases in the Blue

I got home from Brittany late yesterday, so this morning I thought I'd waste no time and finish off the home made bases for Bag the MiG, Bag the Hun and other similar hex based rules like Air War:C21 or CY6. This was an easy matter of spray painting them with an appropriate sky themed shade, in this case Halfords Rover Henley Blue over a basecoat of Halfords Matt Grey primer. To take off  a bit of the shine I then over sprayed the whole lot in Army Painter matt varnish. There's no reason why you couldn't spray them in any other suitable colour or even paint them in a terrain themed shade of sand, grass green, snow or whatever, which is what I will definitely do for my Wings at War scratch built bases, when I get round to actually scratch building them of course!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Codename Snake's Eye

I found this 1960's Royal Navy public information documentary film yesterday, while looking for info on the Royal Marines in Aden. It's very cheesy but there are some useful details in there including commando assault tactics, uniforms and equipment. I particularly like the bit with the ground attack rocket strike on an 'enemy' airstrip by Sea Venoms. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Desert Sand Spray Paint

We went to get new tyres fitted yesterday, as it is cheaper to do this in France than back on the UK. I spotted a rack of spray paints in the tyre fitting shop and so took a closer look. I use the Halfords aerosol paints a lot, especially the ultra Matt camouflage ones, so I was chuffed to find a whole range of similar shades from a Dutch manufacturer called Motip. 

The one that stood out for me was a desert sand colour, which is a match for RAL 1001, whatever that means. I bought a couple of cans to use for some new desert terrain and possibly as an undercoat for AFV's, if it is any good. I want to make some modular terrain tiles for 15mm skirmish games but I'm a bit bored of Halfords khaki. They weren't' very expensive either, so I may well get some more when I'm back over here in a couple of months.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Target Locked On Mission Three Debrief

I set up another Patrol scenario this morning, with an experienced Soviet MiG-21 pilot against an experienced RAF Lightning F-2 pilot, which is an unlikely encounter but offered a roughly equal set up to try out the modified pilot skill check base chance of (3+). I rolled for altitude and the Lightning began ALT 3 with the MiG on ALT 4, both at speed 30 to give some room for manoeuvre. The MiG rolled a 1/2 and the Lighning a 1/1 for initiative in the opening moves.

In Turn 1 the MiG-21 moved forward 30cm and rolled for a successful partial Lock On to the Lightning. The Lightning pilot barrel rolled for his free manoeuvre but failed to throw off the missile lock, then moved forward 26cm and finished the activation with an unsuccessful Lock On attempt on the Soviet fighter. Not to be put off, he then attempted to fire a Firestreak AAM but failed the pilot skill check, rolling a useless 1 when he needed a 4+, having already barrel rolled and having a -1 modifier to his 3+ base chance as a result.

In Turn 2 the MiG-21 pilot won the initiative again and immediately barrel rolled left to line up on the Lightning. He then attempted to decelerate with a successful pilot skill check roll of 4, requiring a 4+ to slow down by 8cm to a new lower speed of 18cm. He could have made a gun attack at this point but I have decided that aircraft have to be at the same altitude to do this, so there was no other option but to attempt a Lock On, which duly failed. The two aircraft were now going past each other at arms length but in opposite directions.

The initiative now passed to the Lightning pilot who moved forward 15cm, pulled an Immelmann using his free manoeuvre and climbed up to ALT 4 in the process. This placed the RAF fighter right behind the MiG-21 and, with a final 3cm forward move, inside cannon range but just too close for missiles. An attempt at a Lock On failed, so he followed on to make a gun attack but failed the pilot skill check as well, rolling a 2 when he needed a 4+ having already manoeuvred once in the activation.

In Turn 3 the Lightning pilot won the initiative, rolling a 5/6 against the MiG-21 pilot's 3/3 on 2D6. The Lightning achieved a Partial Lock On for the first action of the turn, rolling 4-1 = 3 and needing a 3+ to be successful. He was still too close to launch an Firestreak AAM, so chose to attack with guns instead. He passed the pilot skill check (3+) with a high roll of 6, so opened fire with both ADEN cannons.

He rolled To Hit twice as the Lightning has two ADEN cannons. The first To Hit roll was 5 on 1D6 with +3 modifiers for close range (+1), rear target aspect (+1) and slow speed (+1), for a total score of 8. The other To Hit roll for the second gun resulted in a 3 on 1D6 and +3 modifiers, for a second successful hit of 6. I had added these positive modifiers to the gun 'To Hit' factors to see if they would make it easier to make a successful guns only attack. They clearly worked!

The modifiers pushed the chances a bit high but, given the RAF pilot's relative position and the advantages it gave him, the end result was not a surprise or unrealistic. In both cases the target roll was the MiG-21's TARGET factor of 5+, so the RAF pilot only just scraped the second To Hit roll. Each gun now rolled 2D6 for damage effect. The first roll of 2/2 did no damage at all but the second of 1/5 inflicted a single point of damage on the MiG-21. The Lightning pilot now made his free manoeuvre, curving away to the left to get out of the MiG-21's way.

The MiG-21 pilot now used his free manoeuvre to pull a wide turn to the left, failing to break the missile lock. This was followed up by an attempt to Lock On to the Lighting but this also failed. In desperation, the MiG pilot decided to fire an AA-8 Aphid AAM without any lock and, much to his surprise pulled off a successful pilot skill check roll of 5, requiring at least a 4+ having already gained a -1 modifier for his prior manoeuvre. If I had not lifted the pilot skill factor to 3+ from 4+ he would only just have scraped this roll.

He now rolled to hit with a single missile against the Lightning's ECM of 3+ but with a +1 EW factor for the AA-8 missile guidance system. The base roll of 5 (+1 for EW) was modified down for having no lock (-1) and having made one prior manoeuvre (-1) to give a final To Hit result of 4. A hit! The AA-8 has 4 damage dice, which were rolled to give 4/6/6/2 which meant three points of damage including two potential critical hits.

In the end, only one of these converted into a critical effect, knocking out one cannon. However, the Lightning was now within one point of being shot down, suffering Major Damage which meant no high G manoeuvres, MAN reduced to 3 per activation, no radar, no ECM and no weapons in operable condition, so a damaged cannon ammunition feed was the last thing on the RAF pilot's mind in the circumstances! I had also forgotten that he could have tried an evasive manoeuvre at this point but I doubt it would have worked anyway?

To cut a long story short, in Turn 4 the MiG-21 won the initiative, pulled round in a wide turn to try to get guns on the Lightning but just couldn't quite get there, then moved forward for the remainder of the activation and flew off the edge of the airspace. The very relieved Lightning pilot decided to follow the MiG-21's example and limped back to RAF Gutersloh at close to stall speed, having failed his morale roll. I decided to see if he made it, by rolling a D6 for a successful crash landing, using the eject roll of 4+ as a base chance. Luckily he rolled a 6 so made a perfect wheels down landing with no need to eject.

The MiG-21 pilot won a second VP and probably some sort of medal!


I really enjoyed this game, which zipped along at a fair pace and was finished in about 45 minutes, playing solo. If two players with some rules experience were playing this would have been no more than half an hour or so of game time. The result was fair although the cumulative +1 modifiers for gunfire at close range, rear target aspect and slow target speed made it a bit too easy to hit. I may well ditch the slow target speed modifier as a result. However, the damage dice rolls evened this out and gave a sensible result in the end. The rules tweak to only allow gun attacks at the same altitude was also effective, as it resulted in more realistic 'dogfighting' tactics.

I was much happier with the revised pilot skill factors which I think gave an overall better game with more action but still a level of difficulty that challenged manoeuvres  and attacks. I will be keeping this modified base chances for future games, at least one of which will feature pilots of different skill levels i.e. conscript or rookie* = (4+) / Experienced = (3+) / Ace = (2+). I think this works much better than the original system and prevents repeated failed pilot skill checks which kill the action and end up being frustrating. It still needs more playtesting to make sure it doesn't make it too easy for Aces.

A good game and a solid, fast play set of rules!

(* I have re-named this skill level as 'Trained' because rookie sounded too cheesy)

Monday, 9 April 2018

Atlantic Wall Treguennec Part Three

We went back to Treguennec yesterday as it was lovely weather. There's been quite a lot of dune erosion over the winter and this has exposed some more of the tetrahedral beach obstacles that were cleared after the war and dumped at the back of the beach. Some of these are in really good condition, having been covered in sand for eighty years or so, while others have suffered quite a lot of damage from the weather, corrosion and vandalism.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Wings At War Desert Spitfires

Something that I have been thinking about, as a way to learn the Wings At War rules system, is to start with a mini-project rather than diving straight in with MiG Alley. There is a free version of the rules which is based on the 1948 War of Independence between Israel and the Arab States, so I thought I might start out with that. 

The rules are called Desert Spitfires and feature a three way split between the Israelis, Egyptians and RAF, the latter very much stuck in the middle. The good thing about this is that there are a lot of unusual and interesting aircraft but all in small numbers, so only a few packs of Tumbling Dice models are required, especially as I already have some suitable bits and bobs. 

I'll have to give this some serious thought as it would be a quick, cheap and enjoyable way to get my head around the Wings At War rules:

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Target Locked On Mission Two Debrief

I played another Patrol meeting engagement scenario this afternoon, this time with an experienced Soviet MiG-21 Fishbed pilot against a similarly experienced USAF F-104 Starfighter pilot, the former aircraft flown by the sprog with muggins flying the latter. We began by rolling for altitude, with the F-104 hedge hopping at Level 1 and the MiG-21 at Level 3, both flying at Speed 30. I was hoping that some gunnery would be involved in order to test run the +1 modifiers that I have added to the To Hit roll.

In Turn 1 the Starfighter pulled up to Altitude 2 and then moved forward 26cm, rolling successfully for a Partial Lock On to the MiG. The MiG dropped down to Level 2, picking up speed then moved forward 34cm, but failing his Lock On roll.

In Turn 2 the Starfighter won the initiative again, barrel rolled then moved forward 22cm. An attempt at a Full Lock On was unsuccessful. The MiG-21 pilot also barrel rolled to try to break the partial Lock On but failed his roll. He then attempted a Lock On to the F-104 but failed this too. Not discouraged by this he then moved forward 30cm, as required by the failed barrel roll manoeuvre.

In Turn 3, the MiG pilot won the initiative, pulled off a hard turn for his free manoeuvre but failed to throw off the Starfighter's missile lock. However, he followed this with a successful Partial Lock On. To finish his activation, he attempted to fire his cannons just outside close range, passing the Pilot Skill check but failing his D6 'To Hit' roll (4-1 = 3 needing a 5+), none of the +1 modifiers coming into play.

Now in front of the F-104, the MiG pilot attempted to barrel roll out of the way but failed (again) leading to a forward move of 28cm and a potential head on collision!

The F-104 Starfighter pilot rolled a successful Pilot Skill check to avoid a smash up, which was just as well as the MiG-21 pilot failed his, followed by a tight left turn in an attempt to get behind the MiG. This dropped the F-104's speed down to within one point of a stall, so the pilot attempted to accelerate to gain some energy but failed his Skill Check and flew straight ahead 16cm instead.

In Turn 4 the MiG-21 pilot won the initiative again, pulled off a nifty Immelmann then failed to follow up with a tight left turn, resulting in a forward move of 22cm. The Immelmann also failed to break the  Partial Lock On, although this wasn't too significant as the F-104 was heading the wrong way to fire anyway.

The F-104 pilot accelerated for his free manoeuvre but then failed his Pilot Skill check for a three point left turn, which then forced him to fly off the edge of the table! There were only a couple of turns of fuel left in his tanks anyway, after the various climbs and turns he managed to pull off, so it was not a surprise that he scarpered before Bingo!

An easy one point victory for the MiG-21!

''Da Da Da! Check out the funky moves, Comrades''


This was another good game and the sprog really enjoyed beating his dad (again). He's sharp at maths so quickly spotted the difficult gunnery numbers, although he only failed to hit by a couple of pips. He suggested, off his own bat, that there should be a +1 modifier for attacking a slow moving target, which I thought was a good idea. I suggested that anything flying at less than 15cm would be about right, only to realise that this was about stall speed for bog standard fighters anyway!

I thought that the high number of failed Pilot Skill checks killed the action in some turns and prevented the game from progressing in a realistic way, given that both pilots were experienced and should have been able to manage better. I suggested that the Pilot Skill rolls could be adjusted by one pip, which would still give even experienced pilots a challenge, once -1 modifiers for successive manoeuvring are taken into account.

As it stands, an experienced (4+) pilot has a 50% chance of not screwing things up, which in most cases is dropped to 33% due to a manoeuvre of some sort. For a Rookie or Conscript (5+) this means a base chance of 33% dropping down to 20% if they manoeuvre more than the one 'free' attempt, let alone when they try to shoot something. This seems a bit tight even for inexperienced pilots and would make it very frustrating for the players concerned.

So, here are a couple of suggested, tentative rules tweak that I will try out in the re-match against the sprog tomorrow;

1. +1 for gun attacks against slower targets (less than or equal to half maximum speed)

2. Adjusted Pilot Skill: Conscript / Rookie (4+), Experienced (3+), Ace (2+)

I don't think this will unbalance things too much and may well make the game flow a bit better?

Red Vectors 15mm Afghan / African Market

There are some really nice Red Vectors 15mm Afghan (Arabian) / African laser cut mdf buildings now available via Minibits. I have ordered the set of two market square type buildings and a pack of the market stalls, to use alongside the 15mm Blotz North African houses that I already have, although I did think about getting the Red Vectors pack of four houses as well. I've been thinking about using all of these to do some terrain tiles and scenery features for post-war / modern skirmish games, as I need a break from painting tiny aircraft. A bit of 'slap it on' scenery modelling might be just the ticket!

Il-28 Beagle for Target Locked On

As promised, here are the numbers for the Il-28 Beagle medium bomber, which also work for the Chinese knock off version the Harbin H-5, which is still in use with the North Korean Air Force. I worked out these ratings using the revised formula for the Size Factor which has been given the green light by the rules designer:

MAN (11904 / 18400 = 0.64) x 5 = 3.2 = 3

SIZE FACTOR (SF)  (17.65 + 21.45 + 6.70) / 100 = 0.45 = 0.4

HITS (0.4 x 10) + 1 = 5

TARGET 0.4 = 4+

FUEL = 20

RADAR = -1

ECM = 3+

SPEED 902 km/h = MAX 34 / MIN 9

ARMAMENT  4 x NR-23 (2 nose / 2 tail)
                        8 x FAB-250 or 4 x FAB-500

POINTS = 100

There are no points values for tactical bombers, so I have decided to replace the 'Fighter Bomber' aircraft points rating with Tactical Bomber @ 100 points per aircraft. This would apply to similar medium bomber aircraft including the B57 / Canberra or the Vautour (for actual 'Fighter Bombers' I will just use the bog standard points values for fighter jets).


1. Photo Reconnaissance (no bombs, one front gun, + 8 fuel, camera @ 115 points)

2. ECM (no bombs, 2 x ECM pods = ECM 5+ @ 120 points)

Friday, 6 April 2018

Gunnery in Target Locked On

I've been thinking of how to fix the impossible gunnery problem in Target Locked On, where the modifiers to hit are all negative (-1) with the targets mostly requiring a base chance of 4+ or 5+ to hit, making it a pointless exercise if only two modifiers are applied. As one of these is the attacking aircraft having performed a manoeuvre and another is having a target at 30+ speed, you really have very little chance, if any, of even scoring a hit.

While this is fair enough in high speed modern dogfighting and explains why guns are rarely used, it doesn't make for a very rewarding gaming experience. To even the chances a little bit, I will be trying out a couple of positive modifiers which I think are realistic and justifiable both in game terms and in real life. These include:

+1 for being at close range (equal or less then 10cm)

+1 for being 'on the tail' (determined using the Forward / Rear fire template, placed on the back end of the targeted aircraft, with a line traced back to the attacking aircraft)

I am also wondering about leaving out the -1 for being at a different altitude, as I would have thought gun attacks would have to be made at the same relative height, unlike missile attacks? I'll try these adjustments out tomorrow, when I'm hoping to run at least a couple of games using my newly acquired Cold War card aircraft counters.

Incidentally, I've worked out the stats for the Il-28 Beagle, which has highlighted a problem with the points values in the Aircraft Builder system, as there are no points listed for medium 'tactical' bombers. The points values also seem a bit wonky for fighter bombers (whatever they represent?) and don't match up with those included for some of the aircraft in the lists, which is a real headache and slightly weird.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Target Locked On Tweaks

I didn't get round to playing any further Target Locked On! games today, as the weather was really good for a change and we went out rather than being stuck indoors. However, I did find some much better card counters to use for the next few scenarios, a printed out sheet of which I had stashed in the back of the rules folder bundled up with some other stuff.

I can't remember where or when I originally downloaded them but they were definitely a freebie from some website or other, featuring Korean War and Cold War aircraft including Starfighters, Lightnings, Hunters, a Canberra, MiG 17's, 19's and 21's. These are some of my favourite fighter aircraft and the counters are much more attractive than the utilitarian Paper Forge ones that I have been using over the holidays.

I'm going to use these for some Cold War era scenarios, which should be helpful in gaining some more experience with the gunnery rules and with less capable but still formidable aircraft. After a helpful email from Rory Crabb, in which he was really positive about many of my suggestions, I will be using the failed attack variation that I thought up i.e. allowing further manoeuvres but no further attacks. This should fix the flying in a straight line issue that I came across in the last two games.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Magasin de Presse

It's the habitual haul today, with a copy of Vae Victis and a copy of Air Fan, a magazine that I don't usually grab but which has a couple of interesting and very well illustrated articles. The one that stood out for me is all about the Su-22 Fitters that the Polish Air Force have retained for ground attack and close support, alongside their MiG-29's and F-16's. There's also a really good article on the Belgian F-16's that have recently been deployed on the Baltic Air Policing mission. The photos in this section are particularly stunning.

Target Locked On Mission Debrief


I played a couple of games of Target Locked On yesterday, each with a single F-16 armed with four AIM-9 Sidewinders against a single MiG-29 with two AA-9's and two AA-11's, so that I could try out the missile rules for IR and R weapon systems. In both games, I set up the basic Patrol scenario from the rules, the objective being to shoot down the opposing fighter or to force it from the airspace. I don't have any miniatures with me at the moment as I'm away on holiday, so I used cardboard counters from Paper Forge which did the job effectively. I also pinched some of my daughters little ceramic craft tiles to track the speed and fuel.

In the first game I made the mistake of starting the aircraft at half speed, which meant that they struggled to gain enough energy to make manoeuvres without falling into a stall. They also burned up tank loads of fuel in acceleration moves and in tight turns to get on each others tails. The F-16, call sign Canine Two, was rated as an Ace so had the edge in reaction and skill checks, managing to get within gun range on a couple of occasions, but with impossible odds for a shot due to the negative modifiers. In the end the MiG-29 pilot, rated as experienced, ran out of fuel and was forced off the table without having fired a shot.

In the second game the Soviet MiG-29 pilot, call sign Alpha One, managed to shoot down the F-16 after a twisting dogfight using a single AA-9 at near to minimum range. I started this scenario with both aircraft at higher speeds so that there was more energy to manoeuvre and also less change of burning up too much fuel. The F-16 did get a partial target lock on the MiG-29 but yet again failed a skill check to fire any AIM-9's, subsequently overshooting the MiG to offer up an easy target. The MiG converted a partial lock to a full lock and fired, achieving a hit and three damage dice including a critical, so the F-16 didn't stand a chance despite some last minute evasive actions. The pilot also failed his eject roll so his day didn't end very well.


The rules worked well and the games were really good fun but there are a couple of things that stood out as problems. I really liked the fuel management system and the speed tracker on the aircraft record sheets. I also thought the initiative system was very effective, giving a clear and logical result. The templates for movement also worked well and made tracking speed loss and fuel usage very straightforward. However....

1. Guns are useless against anything with a more than average TARGET rating. This is fair enough as I'm sure it's very difficult to hit a MiG-29 in a turning dogfight at high speed.

2. To make an Attack you need  pilot skill check but, if you fail that, then the activation is over straight away, leaving you to complete any remaining movement points in a straight line.

This means that you can attack at the start of an activation, fail, and then have to fly in a straight line right into your enemy's gun sights.

3. You get a free first move each turn, which doesn't need a skill check, but every manoeuvre afterwards gets a -1 dice modifier. However, it is not clear if the free move includes attack rolls?

4. Is a straight and level forward move (Level Flight)  a manoeuvre?. It's not listed as such in the Manoeuvre Types table, so does it count as a manoeuvre for the free manoeuvre rule or not?

The biggest issue I have is with the failed attack roll and subsequent straight and level flight.

I think I will EITHER remove the requirement for a Pilot Skill check for attacks OR more likely, remove the 'activation ends' rule, replacing it with 'attack ends' so that no more attacks can be made that turn but manoeuvres can still continue to be made up to the current speed rate.

This would fix the flying in a straight line thing, which reminds me of the Sprog failed manoeuvre rule in Bag the Hun, but which only applies to manoeuvres in those rules and not firing. I will run a few more games to see if this modification fixes things or just makes the rules too wonky. I don't like fiddling with rules mechanisms but this one really stands out as not making sense, given the skill levels and training of the pilots and the illogical outcome of straight, level flight after a failed missile launch or gun run. It's the last thing I'd do if I screwed up in a high speed dogfight.

Monday, 2 April 2018

War of the Pacific 1879

I've just downloaded two new Long Face Games publications that have recently arrived at Wargame Vault, both of which fit in very nicely with my naval wargaming plans for the Summer. The first is a set of fast play ACW ironclad rules, Dahlgren and Columbiad, which are a more detailed version of David Manley's existing rules, Broadside and Ram.

I'm not that interested in the ACW theme, at least not in scales below 1/600th, but I am very intrigued by the companion campaign rules for the Pacific War of 1879, which is right up my street.

Although I am already tied up with the 1864 Schleswig War project in 1/2400th scale, once that's finished I could easily branch out in this direction as Tumbling Dice have most of the ships available in 1/2400th scale including Huascar, Almirante Cochrane, Blanco Encalada and Independencia.


Target Locked On Number Crunching

I tried to use the system in the Target Locked On aircraft building section to create stats for the JAS-39 Gripen yesterday, but ran into a problem. The MAN rating is easy to work out, based on the Thrust to Weight ratio x 5, which for the Gripen works out at 0.97 x 5 = 4.85, rounded up to 5. However, when calculating HITS the formula doesn't work, giving a Size Factor number that is way off the mark.

HITS are based on the Size Factor (SF) of the aircraft, which is worked out using this formula:

Length (M) + Wingspan (M) + Height (M) / 3

The HITS value is then worked out using the following calculation:

Size Factor x 10 + 1 (the end result should be a number between 0 and 1)

So, for the JAS-39C Gripen, based on the aircraft's dimensions, the numbers crunch like this:

Size Factor: 14.1 + 8.4 + 4.5 = 27 / 3 = 9

HITS: 9 x 10 + 1 = 91

This is obviously not the right answer and, therefore, screws up the other aircraft stats which are also based on the Size Factor including TARGET and FUEL. So, I played around with the formula to see if I could make it work and fit with the existing aircraft stats provided in the rules. The obvious thing to do is this:

Size Factor =  Length (M) + Wingspan (M) + Height (M) / 100 (not 3)

This gives the Gripen the following SF and HITS values:

14.1 + 8.4 + 4.5 = 27 / 100 = 0.27 (rounded down to) 0.2

HITS = 0.2 x 10 + 1 = 3

The TARGET and FUEL factors then work out as 5+ and 18 respectively, using the tables in the rules to calculate the numbers based on the Size Factor (SF). If I rounded the SF up to 0.3 the Gripen ends up the same size as an F-15 or F-4, which are larger and more powerful aircraft by far.

This gives the Gripen the same HITS, TARGET and almost the same FUEL factors as an F-16, which is the closest equivalent multi-role fighter aircraft. If the FUEL factor is fudged to a round 20, in line with all of the other aircraft in the lists, then it's spot on in comparison.

To double check, I used the same method to calculate the various stats for the Eurofighter Typhoon, which also worked out spot on apart from the FUEL rating of 18 not 20. Again, as all fighter aircraft in the listings have a FUEL rating of 20, this is easily sorted out by just rounding it up in line with all the other planes.

I will drop an email to Rory Crabb to see what he thinks about this and to check that I'm not barking up the wrong tree!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Galactic Heroes Play Through

A really straightforward run through by the game designer of the turn sequence, shooting and close combat mechanisms for Galactic Heroes. This shows how the Fistful of Lead system works and some of the modifications for sci-fi that the Galactic Heroes version features. It's really interesting and well worth your time to watch it if you are wondering what all the fuss is about?

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Testing Target Locked On!

I'm in France on holiday for a few days so I thought I'd use the time away from the workbench to give Target Locked On! a thorough play testing, having not managed to get round to it yet despite having a copy of the rules for months. I printed off the latest edition of the rules before I left and also laminted and cut out the counters, templates and cheat sheets, so that side of things is sorted. As I'm not at home, I've also printed and card backed a set of Modern Soviet and USAF aircraft counters from Paperforge, which will do the job in place of 1/600th scale models for the moment.

Speaking of which, I have ordered some more Oddzial Ozmy 1/600th scale planes from Fighting 15's for the Flashpoint: Baltic project including some ground attack USMC AV8-B's and VVS Su-25's, as I didn't have any dedicated tank busting aircraft and wanted some Harriers anyway. I also bundled in some Tornado ADV's, Su-22's and some more Saab JAS-39 Gripens, which I can use for Czech and Hungarian aircraft in addition to the Swedish ones I already have. They're really nice models, so I couldn't resist getting far more than I could realistically need. I'll just have to re-equip the Baltic States with them!


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