Regarding the dogfighting rules, I had a monster of a game today (last Sunday, actually), RAF vs Luftwaffe over the Channel, 1940. It was a lot of fun, mostly; that is, I played 8 on 8 (all fighters), and it lasted almost four hours. The first three hours and fifteen minutes were fantastic, the issue in doubt the entire time, but the last (almost) hour got a bit tedious. One, I was wearing down (as a solo player that has to do all the thinking and moving for both sides, a real issue), and two, the combat was decided, there was simply still a lot to do (i.e., it took a long time for the victors to finish off the vanquished).
I think I've got the solution(s) though: 1) play on a smaller table, and 2) have a 'force morale' type mechanism so that the loser throws in the towel and disengages, rather than fights to the last plane. You read about this all the time (from WWI to present), but in our games we tend to fight to the finish (just like land combat games, I think). The problem is the losers certainly would have thrown in the towel, but the winner gets 'kill happy' and wants to chase down every last enemy aircraft trying to limp home.
Also, it's occurring to me that I may actually want two sets of rules, rather than one: this set, for dogfighting with up to eight or ten per side (~squadron level), and one for larger engagements (~wing level), with simplified mechanics to get three to six squadrons (per side) on the table, for big European bomber raids, and carrier vs carrier in the Pacific.
Read on at your own peril (there are a whopping 109 pictures!)...
I rolled to see which side would go first, and the Germans won then elected to the let the Brits go first. The first problem is this: the Brits are supposed to be at a disadvantage, that is, they have just scrambled and are hurrying to intercept the Germans, who have a height advantage. But my table is too big, so the Brits have plenty of time to climb and meet the Germans on equal terms...
Blau 4 takes the tailing test and passes, so he is now 'locked on' to the tail of Rabble 3. This means Blau 4 will get to fire during the Brit turn, and if Rabble 3 survives, he may take evasive action to try to 'shake' Blau 4 (force him to take another tailing test).
**It was also at this point that I realized I've been screwing the rules up: I had forgotten all about reaction fire. I will finish this turn without it (not fair to let the Brits go without reaction fire, but subject the Germans to it), but will start once we've gotten to a new turn.
Rabble 1 and 2 (bottom left center) drop down a level to avoid react fire from Blau 1 (top left), then climb and cut in front of Rabble 4 (just left of Rabble 1) to get at Rot 3 and 4 (bottom center right).
Rabble 1 is a Veteran, so he can take the tail test prior to firing (which gets you +2 kill dice for being at close range and being locked in); he tests and can only fail on a 1, which he rolls, but so does the German, so it's a success!
The Germans have five planes left, but only one pair, with three not in formation. So the Germans can maneuver three aircraft (half of five, rounded up), but only one is in position to make a move as a wingman. For example, the Germans can maneuver the pair leader (1 activation), then move his wingman for free. Then maneuver two more individual fighters (2nd and 3rd activations), but the fifth fighter has to make a mandatory 'straight and level' as there are no activations left.
Blau 1 and 2 move up alongside Rabble 4, knowing his next move is a mandatory straight and level (because he was forced into evasive action last turn) which will carry him straight into the Germans' path.
Because Blau 1 is an Ace, he will not be forced into a mandatory straight and level following his evasive action.
Rabble 1 and 2 (far right, heading right) do nothing, as they are already on the tail of a German. This kind of doesn't seem right; on the one hand, the benefit of being on the tail is that you don't move during your turn, you simply follow the enemy during his turn, after you get your chance to shoot him down. But not moving during your turn also (currently) means you don't shoot during your turn; I wonder if I should keep the 'don't move during your turn' part, but change it to your firing happening during your turn.
And now the Germans roll a 6 for their activation.
Blau 4's shells miss Bevy 3.
A '6' was also rolled on the shock dice, meaning a German plane is going to have to take evasive action. I roll to see who...
On a side note, we're a long way from done, but it was about at this point that I felt the fight was finished, that the Germans would have broken off and headed home with their tails between their legs, and the Brits, bloodied themselves, would have let them. But I played on, and it wasn't much fun. Really it was just the Germans' attempt to escape with the Brits chasing them, which was pretty dull, actually...
This is the official point in which all drama and fun left the game. Up to this point it was at least interesting to see what damage Blau 4 might do, or if he would get away. But now all the Germans have are two badly damaged fighters limping for home, with a slew of Brits circling like buzzards...
From here on out it's nothing but hot dogs fighting each other to get a kill...
Off camera, Rabble 1 and Bevy 4 make mandatory straight and level moves.
So, as I previously stated, it was an incredibly fun fight most of the way, but then I carried on when I should have had the Germans disengage. That would have had the Germans finish the game with three aircraft (two damaged), rather than one, but it would have saved almost an hour of playing time and a whole lot of typing time.
For those keeping score, both side's Aces were KIA, the Brits got 7 kills, the Germans got 3 kills, and no one had more than two kills (the Brits had three pilots, Bevy 2, Bevy 3, and Rabble 3, with two kills each).
I've learned my lesson, and have a few more things to think about regarding the rules, but overall they're working like a champ, and almost ready for playtesting.