Saturday, 5 April 2014

Spandau And Lewis - The Early Years

'Spandau and Lewis' are my simple WW1 air-combat rules. I wanted a game which reflected the style of those offered by GDW's 'Aces High' boardgame, which didn't just concentrate on one-to-one dogfights, but looked at the missions planes were flying that brought them into contact in the first place. I wanted each player to be able to control several planes, some on missions, some protecting them and others trying to stop them. However I also wanted something that gave a quick and simple game, without too may peripherals or special tools. So I wanted to avoid the card decks of 'Wings of War' or the specialist flight-stands of other rules. I also wanted to avoid using a hex-grid and excessive bookkeeping, including plotted moves.

The inspiration for the game came from the movie 'Flyboys', which we bought on a bargain DVD stall at the local market not long after we first moved to Australia. This was an odd time for us; we had a house, but virtually all of our stuff, including pretty well all of my wargames stuff, was still in transit from the UK. I was at a loose end in gaming terms. 'Flyboys' fired up my imagination, and I decided that I wanted to play some WW1 air games. My criteria are described above. And this is how I went about it ...

The original rules (which were provisionally titled 'Flyboys' - 'Spandau and Lewis' was a later addition) were written on a couple of sheets from a notepad. They were designed in my head on the long walks we used to take each morning, then scribbled down when I got home.

Of course having a set of rules wasn't enough - I needed some planes. I wasn't really in a position to order any and, anyway, I wanted to get on with trying the rules as quickly as possible. So I improvised. I bought a fine black marker pen, acquired some thin card, and made my own. A sensible person would have just used counters. I used top-down flats, mounted on flying stands made from small pieces of macaroni. And here they are:

I'm not kidding about the macaroni:

The top-downs are roughly 1/300th scale, based on dimensions gleaned from Wikipedia. The British planes are based on the Sopwith Camel, the RE8 and the DH2. I forget what I used for the Germans.

At the time I took a set of photos as I made them, which you can click through to on Flickr:

26/11/2008 (Day 2.331) - Paper Planes

You'll notice the sophisticated tools; scrap card, a wooden school ruler and the scissors on my Swiss army-knife.

Anyway, here's the reason I was prompted to write this post - I found the original scribbled rules this evening. So, for your edification, here's the original, pre-draft 'Spandau and Lewis':

Turn Sequence

1. Roll Initiative
2. Move planes(low score first)
3. Perform Actions - firing (high score first)


Roll a D6
Alert pilot +1 Novice pilot -1 In enemy front arc at 12" or less -1
Roll off ties to create a sequence . No modifiers on rolloffs.


Move between 4" and maximum speed. Lowest initiative first.
Choose maneuver

6+ to succeed on 2D6
-2 Hard maneuver
-1 Novice pilot
+1 Skilled pilot
-1 50% damage or more
-1 Crate
+2 No enemy plane within 12"
+1 Agile
+1 Easy maneuver


Highest initiative first
Is target in sights? First must be in arc and within 12"
Roll a D6 - need a 3+ to get target in sights. 6 - automatically in sights, 1 - No shot
Long range -1
Novice -1
Skilled +1
Friendly plane close and in same arc -1
Deflection head on -1
Deflection tailing +1
Target dodged -1

Deflection only applies to fixed forward guns


Defensive pivot gun - 1 red D6
Offensive gun - 1 red D6, 1 white
Twin offensive - 1 red D6, 2 white

Long burst (belt guns only) +1 red dice
Close range (6" or less) +1 white dice
Guns have 8 shots. Long burst uses 2, others 1
5-6 scores hit. For each 6 reroll, 6 scores a hit and another reroll.
A 1 on the red dice means guns jam. 4-6 in action phase to clear
Roll a D6. Less than damage inflicted, instant kill


Move 1/2 speed then maneuver

Turn - Turn up to 90 degrees (Up to 45 degrees is easy)
Slip - Move 2" left or right (1" is easy)
Dive - +2" move (Hard)
Dodge - No firing, -1 to be targetted
Flip - Turn over 90 degrees (Hard)

A plane which does not maneuver may clear a jam or perform observer actions


And that was it. There's a lot of stuff that was obviously in my head at the time, including the stats for the planes. 'Crates' would be unwieldy aircraft, whilst 'agile' planes would be things like the Camel and Dr1. Whilst I had a concept of novice pilots, those with experience had two or three levels - the bonus for being alert (which gives you an edge in initiative) is not the same as being skilled (which makes you better at flying the plane and shooting). I think I may have even had the bonus for maneuver as a separate on from the bonus for targeting enemy planes. So a pilot could just be a good shot, and otherwise no better than the average. I did try one game where I pitted a pilot with the full set of skills against four enemy aircraft flown by novices. He shot all four of them down.

Anyway, after our stuff arrived and we settled into our new life, the rules got forgotten. A few years later I thought I'd try them out again, and couldn't find them. So I tried to reconstruct them from memory, and the game that grew out of that is the 'Spandau and Lewis' you can download from this blog - still in draft form after nearly six years. I see I have simplified a lot of the game, which I feel is generally a good thing. It's always best to pare a game down to the bare minimum at first, and then add things in later, something I am doing with the current version. But there's a couple of bits in the original that I'd forgotten, and which may work their way into the current incarnation - I like the maneuver roll bonus for being away from enemy planes, for example; it's something that has proved to be an issue in games we've played, where planes consistently refuse to turn, even in non-combat situations. I have cut down the ground-scale as well, halving movement distances and ranges - a function of me using 1/600th scale models for my games. We have played with 1/300th planes, and not changed anything, however, so they do work.

I hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane.


  1. Macaroni! Brilliant idea. The challenge with air games is to show altitude and without being flippant you could invest in different grades of pasta. Of course, perfect for an Italian airforce too :-) In theme so to speak.

    Paper planes too, awesome! I currently have a paper boat on the go for Sails of Glory. I'm experimenting with cutting up CD cases for the basing, but perhaps I should be looking at using biscuits? Milk Coffee biscuits have those nice edges (painted white could double as smoke) and the rough texture of a Scotch Finger biscuit would be perfect for rough seas. LOL the possibilities are endless. Have to look out for the ants though and mice could be a problem...

    Great blog. Always an enjoyable read and source of ideas and inspiration.

    1. The challenge with air games is to make one that's fun and playable *without* altitude. Part of my design decision was to avoid altitude rules; If I ever introduce them then they will be simple, and very abstract indeed.

      The macaroni got used because it was all I really had to hand - I tried paper stands, but they weren't robust enough. At the time we had a house but were really living out of suitcases; it was an imaginative solution, all things considered :)

    2. I agree with you on altitude. We have used it a few times in Wings of Glory, but most of the time it is best to be at the same level as the enemy, unless you are trying to get away. The only other time I see it being used is in scenario set up - diving out of the sun or climbing to reach the pesky bombers or such.

      Back on the subject of pasta, I have seen it used as modelling material - kind of cheap substitute for plasticard. Great for making down-pipes on buildings for example using Angel hair pasta and brittleness is not an issue as it is fully secured to the walls.

  2. I was cooking pasta last night and spilled some on the floor while measuring it out. I did think about making some alien scenery with it.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...