Sharing the joy...

Discussion around the Second World War.
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Phil_Gray_260
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Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:30 pm

Sharing the joy...

Post by Phil_Gray_260 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:53 pm

… of recent GMT boardgame releases aimed at air gamers.

First up is Lee Brimmicombe-Wood’s Wing Leader:

http://www.airbattle.co.uk/

The site above introduces the concept – as the name implies this is not a flight-sim game. Counters usually represent squadrons, which may or may not be formed into wings, or they may, sometimes, represent flights. Air combat doctrine, the presence or absence of radio nets and GCI radar, squadron training levels and expert pilots are all represented, as are the gamut of things you can stick on a plane (Air to Air rockets, Air to Ground Rockets, Gun pods, heavy cannon, gyroscopic gunsights etc.)

The game models situational awareness, units are either alerted to the presence of the enemy or not – those that are not alerted are more likely to be bounced by the enemy – with a Tally system, each unit can attempt to achieve a tally on an enemy (things like range, radios, position to the sun, experience, weather and such have an impact on the chance of success). Each unit can hold only one tally at at a time.

Air combats tend to be fairly quick, not because the participants are shot down but because (especially with fighters) they cease to act as a formation and so become ineffective in their attacks – losing my cohesion is the usual reason why my fighters leave for home. Sure, you may lose one or two planes (whether as stragglers or actual losses) on the way but after two combats your normal pilots are left wondering where the rest of the squadron got to… Bomber formations are less susceptible to this, tending to plod on regardless as their comrades fall out of formation or disappear from view, but become less effective in their mission when they do.

The core game is split into Early WW2 (Victories) and Late (Supremacy) with common rules, and distinct but compatible Aircraft Data Cards and counters, with an early war expansion (Blitz) released (with a Barbarossa Kiev campaign built in), a late war expansion (Eagles) on pre-order (with a Rabaul campaign planned) and a third early war expansion on the cards.

Those with long memories will remember Mike Spick’s approach to air games, where the game surface was a cross-section of airspace – planes (he used 1/72 scale models) were depicted in side view and movement on one axis was vertical the other horizontal? Well the game board for Wing Leader does exactly that.

The counter mix includes weather elements (cloud, rain, haze, contrails) as well as surface targets (flak, logistics, troops, buildings, various ship types). There a slew of scenarios available and I’ve barely scratched their surface so far but am looking forward to delving deeper soon.



Also from GMT is Skies Above The Reich

https://www.gmtgames.com/p-571-skies-ab ... reich.aspx

This pits the player(s)* as the Luftwaffe fighter staffeln against the gathering strength of the 8th Air Force. A sort of B17-Queen of the Skies in reverse. If you’ve ever wondered what it might have been like to be on the other side in that, or while watching Memphis Belle (or Twelve O’Clock High) then this game is definitely for you.

You’re a Staffelkapitan assigning pilots to missions against the Amis, using whatever resources are at hand to try and put holes in those bomber formations.

You can play as stand-alone games, selecting the period you’re fighting in (late 1942 to early 1945), which in turn influences the nature of the bomber formation you’re up against, as well as its fighter escort (if any) and the nature of the units and equipment available to support your core force of 109s (like aerial bombing, gun pods, rockets, FW190s, Zerstorer, 262s).

You have a pool of Tactical Points you can expend to help improve your situation (get to a better position faster say) and you have a time limit to work too as well. While this is all randomly determined if you have enough experience on hand you can choose to expend that to ‘fix’ random results to be the one you want.

So once you’re on the game board its up to you to select the approach vectors your pilots will take (low, level, high – nose, tail or flank) and try to knock the Amis out of the sky. Each pilot can choose to be press their attack or peel off early (which affects how quickly you can get back in the fight), you select your break away manouevre as you approach the formation and hope that your momentum puts you on the fringe of the enemy fire curtain when you’re done. The attacking pass is a mutual affair, either the bomber, fighter neither or both can take hits, and then the fighter may be subject to continuing fire as it passes through the rest of the bombers.

The escorts, when present, appear on the board and then act to block approaches to the bombers – if your pilots get too close to the escorts then the escorts will take an active interest in them and this, while not always actively unhealthy for your pilots, usually results in their being left too far behind the bombers to get back in the game.

The basic game measures victory by knocking B17s out of formation or destroying them, and pilot experience by the same or by taking down escorts or surviving critical damage to their fighter) – pilots can use experience to lose bad habits learned in training and acquire better ones.

The advanced game measures victory solely by destroyed B17s, and allows your pilots to pursue stragglers.

The games I’ve played so far of Skies, even when we’ve put up a maximum effort, have been chaotic – escorts sitting in the most profitable spots to attack from, frustrating – having a Schwarm bounced and taken out of the game, reducing your force by half is not fun, and intensely exciting – the final pair of fighters zeroing in on the tail end charlie, already ragged from previous passes but somehow still in formation, and finally watching him drop back and down… and the missions in between where the staffel made no headway but still lost pilots..

* co-operative play allows for two Staffel Kapitanen to take part, but in the event of a loss the lower scoring Kapitan is demoted, in the event of a win only the higher scoring one is recognised and rewarded

panzerman47
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Re: Sharing the joy...

Post by panzerman47 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:46 pm

I’m old enough to remember Mike Spick.... ;)

Phil_Gray_260
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Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:30 pm

Re: Sharing the joy...

Post by Phil_Gray_260 » Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:52 am

Wing Leader:

Using the side aspect also means you get some very nice profiles as images on the aircraft counters, which are rectangular, rather than square.

The scenarios (and so the aircraft mix) cover China-Burma-India, South Pacific, Mongolia-Manchuria,France 1940 (Fall Gelb, Fall Rot), Battle of Britain, NW Europe, Western Desert, and the Eastern Front.

LBWs airbattle site has a bunch of downloads available (aircraft data cards, scenarios and such) for existing game materials and potential new ones.

MrCreak
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Location: Scunthorpe, UK

Re: Sharing the joy...

Post by MrCreak » Fri Aug 17, 2018 2:02 am

panzerman47 wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:46 pm
I’m old enough to remember Mike Spick.... ;)
I'm old enough to remember Mike Spick before he became Mike Spick - just the odd letter published in Battle for Wargamers, long before he started writing rules/ books. :shock:

panzerman47
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Re: Sharing the joy...

Post by panzerman47 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:19 am

MrCreak wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 2:02 am
panzerman47 wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:46 pm
I’m old enough to remember Mike Spick.... ;)
I'm old enough to remember Mike Spick before he became Mike Spick - just the odd letter published in Battle for Wargamers, long before he started writing rules/ books. :shock:
Back in the day eh!... ;)

bannockburn bhoy
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Re: Sharing the joy...

Post by bannockburn bhoy » Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:25 pm

I remember ploughtering through Mick,s first book, I cherry picked what I could grasp from it ,mostly the tabulated info, the side elevation 1/72 scale concept didn't really work for me. :)

panzerman47
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Re: Sharing the joy...

Post by panzerman47 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 6:47 am

bannockburn bhoy wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:25 pm
I remember ploughtering through Mick,s first book, I cherry picked what I could grasp from it ,mostly the tabulated info, the side elevation 1/72 scale concept didn't really work for me. :)
I didn’t take to that either. For me I preferred something like Blue Max, where it’s hex based with limited vertical representation.

Seret
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Re: Sharing the joy...

Post by Seret » Thu Aug 23, 2018 11:22 am

Too be honest I think all 2D representations struggle to depict a 3D battle. I think there are some niches where tabletop air games work: WW1 where the limited power-to-weight ratios meant the vertical component was limited, and higher level games (an element as a flight or squadron) where it can be abstracted away.

Anything lower level than that needs a 3D space, which generally means a computer.
Last edited by Seret on Sat Aug 25, 2018 8:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

Phil_Gray_260
Posts: 24
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:30 pm

Re: Sharing the joy...

Post by Phil_Gray_260 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 3:28 pm

And that's why I like Wing Leader.

It is unashamedly not a flight-sim, fighter combat is not to the "last plane" but is decided when one side or both is so scattered that they are unable to continue.

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