Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Somewhere Over the Bekaa Valley, 1982


Well, I was able to get a second modern playtest of the new aerial combat rules in this weekend, and it was fun once again.  This time we've got Israeli F-16s up against Syrian MiG-23s, but it's more than that: the Israeli pilots are aces, but their are only two of them, while the Syrians are rookies, and there are four of them.

Even so, I was a little worried about the numbers advantage, so I started the Israelis off on their board edge, in a trailing position, on the Syrian flight's rear left quarter, and I gave the Israelis the advantages of altitude and the fact they had already 'spotted' the Syrians, who would go first each turn, but would have to roll to spot the Israelis.  It turned out the spotting issue wasn't much of an advantage, as the Syrians got in a lucky roll early on and were able to quickly to turn into their attackers.

Anywhoo, let's get this thing under way.

The board, north is up, Israelis at far left (west) and Syrians at bottom (south).

The Israelis: two F-16s, Dagger 1 and Dagger 2, both at altitude 6.  Both pilots are rated as Aces.

The Syrians on the southern board edge, heading northwest.  From right to left we have Rogue 1 and 2, both at alt three, then Rogue 3 and 4, both at alt four.  All four pilots are rated as Rookies.

Fight's on!  As the Israelis are not yet spotted I gave them the choice of going first or allowing the Syrian to go first; they (I) decided to have the Syrians go first, which was probably a mistake, as the Syrians would get two attempts to spot the Israeli aircraft each turn (one try for each pair of planes).

R1 and 2 (far right) move straight and level, then fail their spotting attempt.

R3 and 4 do the same.

While the Israelis (far left) begin looping right to come in behind the Syrians.

R1 and 2 (far right) again move straight and level, then fail their spotting roll.

For some reason I let R3 and 4 try to spot before they moved (the spotting rules still need to be hammered out), and disaster strikes!  They get a lucky roll and spot the enemy, turning into them and climbing (far left).

The Israelis (bottom left) keep coming.  You can see R1 and 2 continuing northwest, while R3 and R4 have turned to face the Israelis.

The Syrians roll the equivalent of a 'scurry' (we need a cool aviation term for this; I've been calling it the unwieldy "Where'd he go?  Where'd who gooooo?").  R3 and 4 (center) continue their left turn, nosing over in front of the Israelis (top left), and climb (R1 and 2 at bottom right).

R1 and 2 (bottom right) climb to alt 5 and come left, looking to get in behind the Israelis (top left).

The Israelis (bottom left) stick to their guns and continue on their path to take R3 and 4 (center right) head on, rather than split between the two Syrian pairs.  But their getting dangerously close the their enemy...

And so R3 and 4 close the gap, with R3 firing a missile at Dagger 1, who deploys countermeasures (CM).  The Syrian rolls up a kill!  So Dagger 1 has him do the CM re-roll...

Which results in Dagger 1 taking evasive action; the die roll calls for D1 to make a hard right turn (bottom left, facing bottom left corner), which turns his tail to R3 and 4 (far right)...

The only good news is this: Normal and Rookie pilots must make a straight and level move after taking an Evasive move, but Veteran and Ace pilots can move in accordance with their activation roll.

R1 and 2 (bottom right) hang back.  Initially their plan was to hang back for a second, then dart in to take the Israelis' tail.  But it's not firming up that way for them, so they go to Plan B: they decide to take advantage of their numbers and go head on with the Israelis.  So R3 and 4 (center left) will go in and light the Israelis up with their missiles, then R1 and 2 will come on their heals to do the same thing.

The Syrians are very wary of the Israeli advantage in quality, and they know it will be very difficult to pass a tail test, so they'll take their head-on attacks and see how it goes.  If it goes bad they'll simply disengage by flying off the board edge.

Dagger 2 turns head on and fires a missile at R3, who deploys CM.  D2 rolls two 6's, a kill!  But the CM re-roll happens and it's a straight up miss...

Meanwhile, Dagger 1 (bottom left) is undaunted and remains aggressive.  He dives to the deck and comes around right, turning his tail to R3 and 4 (top right), but turning into R1 and 2 (off camera to top).

The Syrians roll up a 'normal' activation, and decide to go for the gusto.  This is usually used to allow half your force's aircraft to maneuver as you wish, and the other half to maintain formation as their wingmen.  But in this case they decide to have R3 and 4 close on Dagger 2, and both aircraft fire on Dagger 2.

The first missile misses...

And the second one causes Dagger 2 to roll right.  Whew!

But since R3 and 4 (bottom center) used up all their side's activations, R1 and 2 (top right) make a mandatory straight and level move.

Dagger 2 keeps it slow and takes a shot at Rogue 4, who deploys CM.

Dagger 2's (top left) roll causes Rogue 4 (bottom center) to take evasive action, making a hard left turn.  Of course R4 is able to make D2 conduct a re-roll, but the Syrian pilot feels lucky to 'only' get an evasive and doesn't force a re-roll.

Dagger 1 (far left) stays on the deck and continues his turn right into R1 and 2 (top right).

Rogue 3 (red base at center) drops down and comes right to get on Dagger 1's tail (far left).  R4 (bottom right) continues straight and level, trying to get out of Dagger 2's (center, blue base) line of sight.

R1 and 2 (bottom right) drop down and split the difference between Dagger 1 (top left) and Dagger 2 (bottom left).

Dagger 2 (center) comes around behind R4 and tests to get on his tail.

The test is successful: Dagger 2 is locked on, and fires.  R4 desperately deploys countermeasures.  The first roll is a kill, so the CM re-roll is made...

Splash one bogey; the pilot got out.

Dagger 1 (far left, with Dagger 2 at bottom right) yanks hard right, hoping to strike before R1 and 2 (top right) can get in the game.  D1 makes a snapshot, launching a missile on a bad deflection shot.  Rogue 3 has one CM left, and decides, owing to the bad shot, to hold onto it.

But Dagger 1 manages a hit (6 on 1D6), and plane comes apart.

The fight is now 2 vs 2.

The Syrians roll a 'Furball' (equivalent of a firefight, allow every aircraft to move and shoot or shoot and move).  The Syrians split up (quite possibly a mistake, it will make it even easier for the Israeli's to get on their tails), with Rogue 1 (top right) heads for Dagger 1 (top left), while Rogue 2 (center right) heads for Dagger 2 (bottom center).

But neither can fire: R1 is out of range, and R2 is below his target (have to be on the same altitude level).

Dagger 1 (far left) turns in and fires on Rogue 1 (center right), who sure as hell deploys his CM.  The first roll is 'evasive,' but the Syrian pushes his luck and calls for a re-roll...

And the Rogue 1 goes down, while the pilot bails out.

Dagger 2 (bottom right, with Dagger 1 at far left) dives and cuts hard left to come around on Rogue 2 (top center).

Rogue 2 is desperate; he closes with Dagger 2 and takes a very bad shot.  D2 deploys CM nevertheless.  First roll is 'damaged,' re-roll  is a miss.

Dagger 1 is impatient and decides to take his own bad shot, looking for his third kill.  Rogue 2 fires off CM.  The shot misses (no re-roll, obviously).

Then Dagger 2 turns head-on and fires.  Rogue 2 deploys his last CM.  The first roll is 'damaged,' so the re-roll is made, and...

And 'damaged' is rolled again.  Now Rogue 2's only option is to head for the board edge.

Rogue 2 dives to the deck, passing Dagger 2 on his way to the exit.

Dagger 1 comes down and takes a shot, but misses (R2 is out of CM).

Dagger 2 (bottom right) turns out, trying to come back around to the right on Rogue 2.

Rogue 2 (bottom left) is almost there (the board edge is just visible at bottom left).

But Dagger 1 moves in, locks on (pretty much automatic pass), and finishes him, which is kill number three for the Israeli Ace.

The fight was fun, but still took an hour and fifteen minutes...  I was real nervous about the numbers difference, and, to tell you the truth, I wouldn't run a 'real' game 2 vs 4.  I could see doing 3 vs 6, 4 vs 6 or 8, etc..., but 2 vs 4 leaves you too susceptible to one wacky roll (which isn't unrealistic, it's just not very much fun as a game).  Which is a perfect segue for me to confess my sin: I did, indeed experience one of those wacky rolls.  At the very beginning, the very first shot, R3 fired a missile at long range: the first roll was a kill, so I did the CM re-roll, and I'll be damned if another 6 didn't come up (on the one kill dice).

So, I figured the fight wouldn't be very much fun, nor would the test provide much data, if the Israelis were 1 vs 4 right off the bat.  So I had Dagger 1 take an evasive action and I continued the fight.

So far, the only benefits to being a Vet/Ace are 1) big modifiers for the tail test, and 2) not being restricted to 'straight and level' after being forced to make an evasive action (due to enemy fire).

The rules 'feel' right to me; there's nothing strange about them (to me), there's no weird result (so far).  I'll say the rules aren't the coolest thing ever, and there's nothing all that sexy about them, but they are giving a fast and fun game that feels (to me) like a dramatized dogfight.

I do want to play some bigger fights, maybe 8 vs 8, or 6 vs 8, but I'm a little scared due to the time it's taking so far; I really want a game in an hour, though I suppose I should be happy with an hour and a half.  Maybe this weekend, though I really need to get Brigade Commander on the table (too?).



  1. Most people would consider a full game under 2 hours to be a pretty good pace :-)

    Glad to see they are coming together nicely.

    1. 1. I'm not most people. I'm not unhappy, just a little worried, as I intend to go bigger, with 8 to 12 planes per side.

      2. They are indeed. Do you see any issues, any weirdness, is anything looking counter to 'real life'?


    2. Yeah, I have a feeling you might see some slow-down at that point, since there's a lot to keep track of.
      Maybe it won't be too bad?

      The results seem pretty reasonable. I'd love to see some Guns based dogfights (ww2 eh?) with more planes on each side.

  2. Another great report. This has rekindled my interest in aerial combat wargaming. I'm thinking of using Bag the Hun to recreate some Battle of Britain dogfights...

    1. Thanks Gaz. My aerial gaming interest waxes and wanes, but when I want it I want a game that's quick, relatively simple, is all about dogfighting, matches what I think that looks/feels like, and I don't have to do much prep work for.

      I'm a big fan of Bag the Hun, and to be honest, these rules are similar, with an approach of simplifying and streamlining some of BTH's aspects.

      I will be moving to BoB soon. At first I was thinking I'd move to BoB next, but I want to do BoB with fighters and bombers on the table, and I want to do my first WWII game with fighters only. So I may go to the Solomon first for some 'fighter only' action between the USN and IJN, then come back to BoB for fighters and bombers.

      Either way BoB will happen in the next two weeks.


  3. Are these rules your own, or ones that you are play testing for someone else?

  4. Chris,

    It's a little known fact that I'm covertly the head of a very powerful, international wargames rules consortium, with our tentacles into a little of everything, really. The regular fare: drugs, weapons, overthrowing small(ish) countries...

    Of course, with these particular rules, these are just something a couple of us threw together. I'm currently working out kinks, probably another two games, then it will be opened up to playtesting if you're interested.

    Just need a handful of planes per side and a hex or square mat (as I'm sure you can tell, both mine are homemade), and your solemn swear on your honor/life/soul/firstborn to actually play at least one game and provide feedback.