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