Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Dawn Patrol

A couple of months ago I posted some reports of games of galleys & Galleons where I used a system of random threat generation to determine opponents for a single ship. It was based on a system shared by Elenderil in THIS post.

The blog post described how he'd adapted it for WW1 air-combat (the original magazine article used it for land warfare), so tonight I thought I'd revisit it and use it in the way it was intended by trying it out in the skies over the Western Front.

It's May 1916 and a couple of DH2s are out on patrol. 

They quickly spot an Aviatik two-seater and an escorting Halberstadt single-seater.

(I actually used a different direction indicator to that in Elenderil's post; I couldn't handle the slightly uneven number distribution of his. This one still weights encounters to appearing in front of the aircraft, but the number spread is even on both sides. Also it ties in better with my 45 degree arc game system in 'Spandau and Lewis'. Oh, and I had encounters appear 3D6" away, because it was a better fit for my board.)

The Germans were unaware of the British aircraft, but were turning towards them. One DH2 dived into the attack, but shot wide of the Aviatik. Unfortunately this also alerted the German planes to the presence of the British.

A second Aviatik appeared. as the first broke away and made a run for safety, the two DH2s stalked it, aware that the Halberstadt was turning towards them.

But the British were canny. As the Halberstadt closed in o them, one of the pilots threw his plane around in a tight turn, and raked it with fire, inflicting some damage.

But there were more Germans in the skies. A third Aviatik and second Halberstadt entered the fray. The Aviatik ran for safety, whilst the German scout and a DH2 exchanged fire in a head-on pass.

The two-seaters were now breaking away from the fight, whilst the DH2s were prevented from pursuing them by the attacks of their escorts.

The Germans pressed their attacks very closely indeed.

One of the DH2s had swung out of the action, but returned with a vengeance, getting in behind a Halberstadt.

A burst of fire saw the German plane's wings detach and it plummeted to the trenches below.

The remaining Halberstadt was now in trouble, hemmed in by both British aircraft.

But Lady Luck was not with the British. A third Halberstadt dropped into the fight, rescuing the other plane, and leaving the British planes, which were both damaged, with no sensible option but to make a run for home.

The Germans pursued ruthlessly. A DH2 exploded into a ball of fire.

The other was pressed hard, all the way t the British baseline, but escaped, despite the Germans getting in two final bursts of fire and it dived to safety.

So the encounter was something of a draw, with both sides losing one plane each. The British were very unlucky with their encounters. The system can generate between one and four of them, each of one or two planes, and they got all four of them. In addition the German scout options were either Halberstadt DIIs or Fokker EIIIs, the second being an inferior plane to the DH2. But all three scout encounters came out as the DIIs, which are a better-performing aircraft.

The system worked really well. I created 'rules of engagement' for the threats as they appeared, based on those in the original article. Germans that had not spotted a British plane would fly towards the furthest board-edge until they did, turning as necessary to get there. Single scouts would patrol; they would fly around until they were pointing towards the centre of the board, fly to the centre, and then circle there. If I was uncertain what to do, I rolled dice. Once they'd spotted the British the two-seaters would do all they could to get to their target edge and leave the board, whilst the scouts would engage the DH2s to the best of their ability. Scouts could flee of their home edge if the going got tough.

Anyway, I may try it the other way around sometime, and see what a single EIII can get up to.

Bombers In The Evening

We watched a couple of episodes of the 1976 BBC TV series 'Wings' last night, which is a drama about members of the RFC in 1915/16. So far we've just had the recruitment and training episodes, but they had a boxkite, BE2 and Avro 504 on screen, and they were all lovely. As I recall some of the later flying sequences were done with radio-controlled models where they couldn't get actual aircraft; no CGI in those days, kids. Anyway, we might watch a few more episodes and see how it goes; it's OK in a plodding BBC Sunday evening drama kind of way.

Afterwards I still found time to play a game of 'Spandau and Lewis'. This time I got ot the bombers; a trio of Friedrichshafen G.IIIs, escorted by a couple of Halberstadt CLII two-seaters.

The RFC bounced them with a couple of SE5s and a couple of Camels. The SE5s came in first, dropping out of nowhere (I kind of randomised the British start positions).

They swept past the escorts, exchanging shots as they did so, then latched onto the bombers, flying into a hail of fire from their defensive guns.

In the distance you can see the Camels moving around to intercept the bombers.

The Halberstadts had been caught flat-footed, and spent a couple of turns trying to turn back into the fight, whilst the bombers tried to fend off the British attack. The Camels  were ahead of them, but one took damage from the Friedrichshafen gunners.

The SE5s concentrated their fire on the lead bomber.

Their shooting scored hits, but wasn't outstanding. And soon the SE5s were low on ammunition. They broke off ro allow the Camels a go, turning to use their remaining ammo in keeping the Halberstadts at bay.

The lead SE5 inflicted some serious damage on one of the escorts.

Meanwhile the Camels kept up the attack. Two of the bombers were seriously damaged

But the Halberstadts were keeping up some steady defensive fire, whilst the SE5s had trouble keeping them away, and both Camels had soon taken more damage.

The rear-gunner of one of the bombers finished off the lead Camel. The other Camel flew through a storm of fire to escape, with just one hit left.

Two bombers were very seriously damaged now, though, and one more concerted attack might finish them off. The SE5s had a little ammo left and dived in for one last attack. A bomber fell from the sky.

Another was hit, but not badly.

The lead bomber was on its last hits, and an SE5 closed in with its remaining rounds, but couldn't finish it off. With the escorts coming up in support, and the SE5s out of ammunition, the British broke off the attack.

I used a 'rolling road' board for this game. When a plane exited off the target edge I moved everything back half a board, and did this twice to essentially double the length of the table. If anything was displaced off the back I counted them as having left the table and diced for their return on subsequent moves.

The changes to how observer guns fire worked quite well, with fire from the bombers less deadly than it's been in the past. A plane can risk a pass, but if they hang around too many bombers for any length of time then small accumulated hits will be a problem. The bombers are a pretty static target though. If a plane can get on their tail, it's hard to shake it off, so using the escorts effectively is essential (or bringing in support fire from other bombers). I assumed that the bombers were on a deadline, though, so they didn't manoeuvre that much; some of my issues may simply be scenario design ones.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

HOTT 52 - Week 32 - Eldar vs Khorne

 For this week's HOTT game I decided to get out my Epic 40K armies again, and fight a battle between some Eldar and  the Chaos army of Khorne.

The Eldar defended with grav-tanks and bikes (riders) on their left, their infantry (hordes) and some Dreadnaughts (blades) in the centre and their Avatar and some Aspect Warriors (behemoth and warband) on the right. They were commanded by a Warlock (magician).

Khorne's left consisted of Bloodletters and Chaos-Hounds in the woods on their left, cultists sneaking past the volcano on their right and their Demon Prince commander (hero) leading Land-Raiders and a war-engine in the centre (knights and behemoth). Off table a powerful demon waited to be summoned (god).
Khorne advanced, looking to clear the terrain and then halt before their demon arrived. But the Eldar went for an active, aggressive defence, pushing forward their grav tanks and bikes to threaten the right flank. Their warlock stepped forward to concentrate her psychic attacks on the Khorne commander and encourage an advance.
The mighty Tower of Skulls drove off an attack by Falcon grav-tanks.
Khorne drove forward in the centre. The Eldar Warlock destroyed a Land-Raider.
As the Bloodletters and Chaos Hounds emerged from the woods, the Eldar advanced off their hill to attack them.
Meanwhile their Dreadnoughts faced the surviving Land-Raider.
The Dreadnoughts lost. 

Throughout this time the Warlock was attempting psychic attacks on the Chaos commander, but to no avail.
The surviving Dreadnoughts destroyed the second Land-Raider ...
... but were in turn destroyed by the Demon Prince.
On the Eldar right the Aspect Warriors and Avatar attacked the Bloodletters ...
... flanked them, and destroyed them. All three elements of Khorne troops.
This left Khorne only 2AP from breaking, although the Eldar army was close to a morale collapse as well. With the odds slightly in his favour the Demon Prince attacked the Warlock; a win would give Khorne the victory, whilst a loss would only hasten what was increasingly looking like the inevitable.
The inevitable was hastened, as the combat odds were not reflected in the die rolls.
So the Eldar picked upa win in what was a close game; the Eldar were only a couple of elements from breaking themselves, having suffered losses early in the game. Khore were unlucky with the collapse of the troops on their right, and also in not getting their god onto the table. When they did roll a '6' they were already too committed to spend the PIPs on anything other than keeping up the momentum of their attack..

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Saturday Afternoon Dogfight

 With more time to spare, it being the weekend and all, I set up a larger game of  'Spandau and Lewis' in order to see how my small changes to the gunnery system worked, and was more than pleased by the results. This game saw eight planes on the table - four Bristol F2Bs, against three Albatros DIIIs and a single Fokker Triplane. I gave both side one ace and one novice pilot/crew.

Two F2bs started in the centre of the table, with the other aircraft appearing in pairs at random points around the edge.

In fact the four German planes came in from roughly the same point.
Both groups of planes swung around to the left, looking for an opening.

(Apologies for the quality of some of these early photos; I had the wrong lens on)
(Mind you. It takes great close-ups)

(Really nice)
As they circled the rear-gunner in the lead F2b scored a lucky hit on an Albatros and saw it drop out of the fight, its engine on fire.
Only a couple of turn in, and the Germans were on the back-foot and a plane down.
The British made the most of the numerical advantage, hemming in German planes where they could. The Germans struggled to bring their guns to bear without exposing themselves to fire.
The German ace locked onto the tail of his British counterpart, but failed to score any significant damage before the British crew shook him off.
The Fokker Dr1 was suffering especially badly, having taken damage from an early burst. The British pilots kept it sorely pressed, despite its significant advantage in mobility.
A reversal of fortunes saw the British ace crew tail the German ace, but again little significant damage occurred.
The Dr1 fought desperately in an attempt to break free of the British around it.
The German ace found himself sorely pressed as well.
A head-on pass saw the German ace's guns jam. In fact there were several gun jams in the game, but with two seperate guns on their planes the British could, with a little manoeuvre, keep fighting with one whilst they cleared the jam in the other.
The German's novice pilot had fought well early in the action, but damage to his plane left him disorientated. He departed the fight and disappeared somewhere over no-man's land. The wreckage was never found.
At the same time the rear-gunner on an F2b finally finished off the Triplane.
The Germans now had one plane left - their ace - and he had four Bristol Fighters gunning for him and a gun-jam to clear. The position was hopeless so he made a run for home, closely followed by the British. He managed to clear the jam as the British closed in, and opted to turn and fight his way off rather than simply be shot down from the rear as he ran for it. A burst damaged the British aces' plane, but a shot from another F2b ended the German's career.

The British had shot down three German planes, each of three F2bs accounting for one. Only the novice crew failed to score a kill, but it was, in fact, their dogged pursuit of the German novice that had contributed to his leaving the fight, so they could almost claim him. The Germans had scored a few decent hits on one British plane, but otherwise the F2bs were relatively unharmed, aside from some jammed guns. 

I felt that the gunnery factors worked quite well, but will try some more tests. I may simplify gun jams as well. At the moment clearing a jam requires remembering what a plane did earlier in the turn, and I have to confess I couldn't always remember. I may scrap the idea of it being a roll to repair and simply assume it knocks out the gun for one turn but with a test to see if the jam is permanent.

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