Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Power Of Spandau And Lewis

Aside from an aborted walk on the beach in the pouring rain, and some HOTT which will be reported here in due course, I spent a lot of today looking for some bases. I am incredibly disorganised, and also very untidy, so I tend to lose things very easy in the piles of what I shall call 'crap' with which I clutter every part of our house. Last year I bought 100 x 20mm clear plastic bases for my WW1 aircraft. You'll have seen them in recent posts, but I hadn't actually based all of my planes on them. Today I thought I'd finish them off. Could I find the bases? Of course I couldn't.

Well, not immediately, anyway. I didn't find them before the walk, and I played HOTT in part to distract me from looking for them. In the end I resorted to desperate measures - I tidied our office, which is where my painting and modelling desk is, and the last known location of the small plastic bag in which I knew the bases were to be found (plus the 25mm ones, which I could find). Of course I found them in the end, after a serious tidy-up; they were still in their plastic bag, which was in the small white packing box Litko sent them in. Which was on a shelf with lots of similar boxes. In plain sight. All day. Shades of Poe there ...

This is really a long-winded way to say that I finished basing all of my WW1 planes on Litko clear bases today. You can see some of them above - Handley-Page bombers on the 25mm bases I could find, plus Fokker DVIIs on the elusive 20mm bases. All from Tumbling Dice, of course.

As you can see, I have also put some labels on the some of the bases, although I'm still experimenting with layout and design for those. A number would probably suffice for a lot of planes but, quite frankly, at 1/600th scale some of the aircraft are tricky to distinguish in the heat of a game - an SE5a and a Camel are both pretty distinctive, but at that scale the rotary engine or the top-wing Lewis aren't always obvious.

Whilst rummaging for the bases I have been formulating a few rules changes and adjustments as well.

Firstly Power. I mentioned this in yesterday's post, but I'll outline it again. The idea is to give all aircraft a Power rating, which will range from 0 to 4*. A plane can spend these points during the course of a game, but cannot regain them. When a plane declares its move it also declares expenditure of any Power. One point of Power may be expended during a turn to increase the plane's speed by one for that turn only. One point of Power may be expended during a turn to add one to any Maneuver Roll the plane makes. A plane may spend points to increase speed and maneuver on the same turn (expending two points, of course).

Power should help differentiate aircraft types a little more, as well as giving certain types more of an edge, whilst being relatively simple to run, adding only a small amount of bookkeeping to a game not really overloaded with it. I had originally thought of allowing a plane to accumulate Power during the course of the game, the ease at which it did so being based on its rating, but that was more fiddly, and added an extra process. True, making it a finite resource is less ideal, but it's simpler to run, and a few basic test games have shown that it can make a difference if used carefully - it adds another decision for players to make, which is always a good thing.

Here's some sample Power ratings:

BE2 - 1
DH2 - 1
RE8 - 1
Bristol Fighter - 2
Albatros DIII - 3
Fokker DVII - 3
SE5A - 3
Sopwith Camel - 3
Fokker Dr1 - 4

There's still scope for tweaking the numbers, but I think I'm about there.

Secondly I have been looking at game length. A game of 'Spandau and Lewis' seems to last about 12-15 turns before a decisive result is reached. I give all guns 10 rounds of ammo. Given that some of the game involves the planes closing to range, really they get one shot for every turn they are in contact, and rarely, if ever, run out of ammo. I am considering reducing the number of shots each gun can make, to make firing more of a decision, and ammo a more precious resource. I have considered either 6 or 8 as suitable values, the former making things very tight indeed. With less firing the game should speed up a little as well. As an aside I also need to write into the rules that, since firing is simultaneous, all targets must be declared before any dice are rolled.

Whilst writing this another addition to firing has occurred to me, which is to mark all planes which are fired on by shots which have a chance of inflicting damage, and penalising such aircraft with a -1 to their next maneuver roll. However the overall effect on the game may not be worth the effort of recording the fact that planes have been fired on.

*I derived the numbers from the Climb and Power ratings in the 'Aces High' boardgame, and ran them through a secret formula which took those numbers and forced them into a range of 0-4. Using Excel, of course; I couldn't be doing with working it out on paper. One plane managed to break the system; the Siemens-Schuckert DIV came out with a Power of 5, mostly due to its exceptional rate of climb.


  1. Looks like you are off to a good start. Will you be looking at doing reloads for the machine gun ammunition?

    1. The number of shots is for the whole game. Belt-fed guns weren't reloaded. And the rules just assume that drum-fed guns are being reloaded as part of the firing process.

  2. You could allow for Long burst for shots made from a rear (tailing) aspect - representing the tailing pilot firing the full turn and not only a brief deflection burst. Giving a damage/hit bonus but doubling the ammo expenditure

    1. There's already a bonus on how many dice you roll for being in a tailing position, so I have that covered - in the game one expended burst can roll between 1 and 6 dice for potential hits, depending on skill, position and range.

      For example - A Fokker Dr1 tailing an RE8 at close range would get a basic 2D6, plus one each for close range and the tail - a total of 4D6. Each dice scores a hit on a 4+ because the Dr1 has twin-guns. The RE8's rear gun also gets 2D6, plus one for close range but minus 1 for firing into own rear arc (because the field of fire is restricted by the tail). A total of 2D6, hitting on a 5+ because it's only a single gun. So for one expended burst the Dr1 gets an average of 2 hits, whilst the RE8 only gets 0.7 hits.

      Essentially firing is about maximising how many dice you get for each expended burst.

      I did try long-bursts as an option once - spend two bursts to get a bonus dice, but people just used them for every shot, going for quick kills. In the end I just reworked the numbers on firing to just assume they were happening anyway.


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