Wednesday, October 2, 2013

And Now, for Something a Little Different


For all of you bored with my WWII battle reports, today I managed to get into something different.  Off we go to the stinking jungles of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, October 1943.  Coastwatchers report a couple Betty's with 4 Zeros in escort coming down the Slot, so the raggedy-a$$ Marine aviators scramble six of the rugged F4F Wildcats to intercept them and keep them off their ground-pounding brethren.

 The opposing forces: The Japanese have two G4M "Betty" Bombers (callsigns G1 and G2), and four A6M "Zeroes" (callsigns JR1, JR2, JR3, and JR4).  The Marines put up six Wildcats against them: AB 1 through 3 and AR1 through 3.  Don't ask me why I have the Japanese operating in pairs and the Marines operating in threes; I was in a hurry and just wanted to test out the rules.

 A closer look at the Marine Wildcats.  All callsigns are based on the base color and, if you look closely on the back edge of the base, you can see a number.  It works for me.

 The Japanese Zeroes.  I did not listen to Mr. Dom (of Dom's Decals) and paid for it.  He says in his directions that you need to put a sealant on the models after putting on the decals; I didn't, and not being careful, I rubbed one of the danged meatballs off (not pictured).

 Gray 1 and Gray 2, the point of this whole endeavor.  The Japanese mission is to exit these two bad boys off the Marine baseline, and the Marines' mission is to stop them.

 Initial set up, with Japanese on the left and Marines on the right.  The bombers are starting off at altitude 4, while all the fighters are higher.

 The Japanese start positions.  The red dice show altitude.  Yes, my playing surface is nasty (a blue sheet with a Sharpie grid put on by yours truly).

 The US baseline.

Tally Ho!  Both sides are starting the fight as spotted.  The two bombers are in formation but still have the lowest initiative and so they have to move first.  They both decide to head for the deck to make it harder for the US fighters to get to them, as well as to pick up speed.  The overall plan is to have the Betty's haul butt for the exit and let the Zeroes try to hold the Wildcats off.

JR3, on the right, dives a level and sprints ahead.  His partner JR4 does the same, but holds at alt 4.  Opposite them, AR1 and AR3 dive a level, cut left, then turn back straight, jockeying for position on the Japanese fighters.  AR2, in the center, heads straight at the bombers, staying at alt 5 to keep up his initiative.  AB3, also in the center, does the same.  On the US right, AB1 and AB2 stay at alt 6, cutting out to the right a bit before squaring off.  On the Japanese left, JR1 and JR2 hold straight and level, looking to cut between AB1 and 2 (on the one hand) and AB3 and AR2 (on the other).

 Behind Japanese after Turn 1.

 Behind US after Turn 1.

A good time to explain a little bit about the rules.  The turn starts with an admin phase to add up each aircraft's initiative to see what order they will move.  Then all aircraft move; there is no pre-plotted movement, so the later you move the better as you get to see where the enemy went and go where you want to go.  Once all aircraft have moved, all aircraft that are eligible fire.  This is considered simultaneous, so that even aircraft that get destroyed in this phase get to fire before being removed.

The rules are home-made, borrowing mostly from the Lardies' "Bag the Hun."

 Here's how the initiative/admin phase works.  I use a wipeboard as it needs to be done each turn.  On the left you have the callsigned.  Then the following factors are taken into account: the pilot's skill (rookie, regular, veteran, Jr Ace, Top Ace), the type of aircraft (multi-engine, torp bomber, dive bomber, fighter), altitude (1-6), +3 if 'tailing' an enemy (0 if not), +3 if in a formation (0 if not), and -1 for each point of damage (each type of aircraft can take 'x' points of damage; the Zero 4, the Wildcat 5, the Betty 8).  You add all those up, then rack and stack them, with the lowest point total going first and the highest last.  What this means is the bomber with the regular pilot in formation at alt 4 will be force to move before the fighter with the regular pilot in formation at alt 4 (in this case, the fighter is worth 4 points for initiative while the bomber is worth 0).  A multi-engine bomber will find it almost impossible move after a fighter; maybe if the fighter is damaged and at low altitude.  However, between fighters the margin is razor thin.

This probably seems pretty complex/time consuming for the self-proclaimed King of Simple Rules, but it's really not that big a deal and only takes a minute.  The reason I like it is it seems to me the best way to model the characteristics that determine initiative in WWII fighter combat (as I understand them).  If you look, it's all the same concepts as Bag the Hun, just without the randomness (that so many people love, but I find a bit too random).

Turn 2: The Betty's are up first again (of course), and drop all the way to the deck, charging ahead.  JR3 cuts right, drops to alt 2 (the bombers are at 1 and the Wildcats will have be at the same alt to attack them), then darts back in to the center to set up to get on the tail of the Wildcats he knows will soon be coming for the bombers.  JR4 follows the same pattern, but only drops to alt 3 (and might get caught out of position.  Being higher helps with initiative, but will there be time/space to drop two levels to get at the US fighters?).  AR2 cuts left, drops from alt 5 to alt 1, then cuts right back towards the bombers.  It's setting him up for a long shot at G2, but also is exposing his tail to JR3 and 4 (though neither will be able to engage this turn because of the alt difference).  AB3 follows suit, also lining up a long shot, though a bit better than AR2's.

On the far left, AR3 pulls a great maneuver to get behind JR3, lining up for a shot.  JR1 drops down and tries to jockey in behind AR3 but can't get a shot lined up.  JR2 also drops down and crosses the nose of the bombers, but is unable to get lined up for a shot this turn.  AB1 drops to alt 2, looks to get on JR1's tail next turn.  AB2 stays to the right, holding a little higher to keep initiative in order to jump on G1 next turn.

Now the shooting: AR2 took it's long shot with poor deflection angle (only two firing dice) and got no hits.  AB3 also fired on G2, but head-on (not a great shot, but better than AR2's being on the nose quarter) and racked up 3 hits on the bomber (these will effect initiative, slow movement, and negatively impact shooting).  AR3 had a short range shot from the rear quarter and got 3 hits on JR3, seriously damaging it (1 more will do it).
 Overview after Turn 2.

 G1 and G2 on left (the green dice is hits/damage received), with AB3 in the head-on position and JR2 maneuvering but unable to get a shot in this turn.

 Bottom right is AR3 firing up JR3.  JR4, at left, as predicted, couldn't engage as it got caught too high (alt 3 while AR2 is at alt 1).

Turn 3: G2 plowed straight ahead (not getting all that far with its damage), while G1 turns 45 deg left to try to get away from the furball.  The Zero JR3 is all shot up and so is next in the initiative line; it turns left as hard as it can, trying to make for home.  JR2 climbed and moved into position to try to cover JR3's escape.  AR2 slid easily over behind G1, while AB2 found itself overshooting the action and banking to come back around.  JR1 pulled around but could only manage to line up a very poor shot on AR2, while AR3 stuck with JR3, intent on finishing the job.

AB2 made a great move to kick around behind the bombers, but had to settle for a poorly lined up shot in order to not mask his buddy, AR2.  AB1 fell easily onto the tail of JR1, intent on putting him out of business, but JR4 managed to dive and pounce right on AR2's tail.  Lastly, AR1 managed only to line up a shot on G1's flank (bad deflection shot).

The shooting: Both bombers got their tail gunners into action, with G1 getting a hit on AB2 but G2 missing AR2.  Meanwhile, AR2 took it's bad deflection shot on G1 and got only one hit, though AB2 took a similar shot at G1 and got 4 hits.  JR1 looked to smite AR2 from the sky, but a twitchy trigger finger (bad dice rolling) meant only 2 hits.  This was particularly bad for the Japanese as immediately following this AR3 spit a long burst at JR3 that finished him off.  Splash one for the good guys.  AB1 then lined up JR1 and put three hits on him.  But the Japanese struck back when JR4 added 4 more hits to the 2 JR2 already had, splashing him.

 A look after Turn 3.  It seems we're missing a couple airplanes...  (1 each, so far)

Turn 4: The Japanese are down a fighter, another is badly damaged, and the bombers are racking up hits as well, but they had a good initiative roll (when the score is tied and all other factors are equal it's settled by die roll), which should help.

The bombers claw their way forward, both belching smoke.  The crippled JR1 turns right, trying to drag AB1 in front of his buddies guns.  AR2 nurses his damaged aircraft in behind G1, lining up for a pretty solid shot.  AR1 swings his plane around, looking to get back in the fight (but not helped by having to move so early in the round).  JR4 does too, and lines up a real long-range shot on AR2, while AR1 stays hot on JR1's tail to finish the job.  AB3 pulls around and tails G2, looking to put her out of business, while JR2 does the same to AB3.  There's no way AB1 can get there to save AB3, so he lines up a head-on (quarter) pass on JR4.

The shooting: Both bombers again open up on US fighters, but the damage they've taken really gives them almost no chance to hit anything.  So AR2 lights into G1, getting another 4 hits and sending it down into the swells of the Pacific.  JR4 takes its long shot on AR2, but only manages one hit.  Immediately following this the Marines clean their clocks, with AR3 finishing JR1 (with a whopping 5 more hits!) and AB3 getting five hits on the helpless G2, splashing it.  JR2 managed to put 4 hits on AB3, crippling it, but AB1 turned right around and put 3 hits on JR4.

Look at the action after Turn 4.  The Japanese have lost both bombers (the key to the fight) and two fighters, and have another one pretty beat up (JR4 at top right), while the Marines lost only 1 fighter, but AR2 (top right) has three hits and AB3 (bottom right) has 4 hits.

I don't have a Force Morale mechanism yet, but I figured this was a good spot for each side to decide to break off the action without further loss.

I'm pretty happy with the rules.  Still room to make a few tweaks, but it went good, it went quick, and could probably handle another 3 or 4 aircraft per side.


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