Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bringing an Old Project Back to Life

Ten years ago I played a lot of air miniatures.  Our rules was Avalon Hill's Mustangs, a board gameUnlike many board games, they weren't overly technical, in which players captured two minutes of real time in four hours of play.  They were more like a chess match in which players planned their maneuvers ahead of time to set up their best shot.    Though I was almost notoriously bad at Mustangs, I enjoyed planning for projects and all the fun that went into them.

They were fun and interesting and for Paul Hannah, Dave Schueler, Phil Bardsley and a few others, they became what we did.  I painted up some random planes and developed a few projects that weren't random at all. My biggest projects were the 45+ planes I painted up for a jet version of Mustangs.  Based on an encounter in the Taiwan Straits between elements of the Taiwan Self Defense Force, the Peoples Liberation Air Force and elements of the U.S. Navy, I put together a sizable number of planes for an Enfilade game.

My second big air project was a WWII game based on the effort to sink the Tirpitz at anchor in Norway.  Based on a Royal Navy operation, the Brits actually flew a great many American naval fighters in Fleet Air Arm colors.  So I painted about 36 planes in FAA Duck Egg Green camouflage, about two thirds of them included Hellcats, Martlets, and Corsairs to fly against German Me-109's and Focke Wolfes.  It was an interesting game and I enjoyed it a great deal.

It's been six or seven years since I last pulled my planes out their tubs in the garage.  Paul Hannah was our spiritual leader, and he's moved on to DBA.  Paul and Daveshoe are great friends to have because they are superb at seeing the possibilities in a project. Dave is the best scenario designer I've ever known because he is so good at providing choices to the players that will inevitably destroy them.  Paul is simply genius.  He brings energy and creativity to a genre and rules set that should inspire yawns, but Paul makes them new and fresh.  He did it with Mustangs and continues to do that with DBA.  When he took up DBA, however, Paul just walked away from the planes--mystery of mysteries.   Without Paul's leadership, and formidable collection of planes, the game just sort of died.  Sad, really.

Airplane games just sort of languished until a couple of years ago when Check Your 6 was published.  I've stayed away from CY6  for two reasons.  I've had lots of other irons in the fire and have been too busy to head down that road.  The rules, supplements and mats would be costly and a distraction from investments I've really wanted to make in the Hundred Years War and AWI.  My other reason is because CY6 seems to have attracted players with a certain intensity that I just don't share in air gaming.  I loved Mustangs because it was laid back, the experience was more important than winning, and it gave me an excuse to paint airplanes. 

Last weekend I broke down and tried Check Your 6-Jets.  When Chris Rivers offered to put on an Israeli/Syrian air combat, I jumped on it. At the Museum of Flight Daveshoe and I talked about the Wessex Rules for modern air combat he had, and this gave me an opportunity to compare the two.  The big stretch for me is that Chris's planes are all 1/600, and mine are 1/300.  In any case I looked forward to trying out one of the two sets of rules.

Arrived on Saturday morning ready to play, and we ran a four Syrian Su22 fighter bombers and four MiG-23's against two Israeli F-15A's and four F-4E's in fighter bomber mode.  Each side had the same objectives--destroy ground targets while protecting the ground attack planes.  It was fun.  Reminded me a bit of my experiences with Blue Max or even Wings of War in which the speed determines which maneuvers you can do.  The mechanics were easy, though it would take some playing to implant all of the choices in my memory.  The rules were fun, and I had a good time.

The outcome of the game isn't important (it rarely is with me,) but it turned out as you might expect.  F-15's had planes falling out of the sky all over the place.  I ran the Syrian bombers and I actually did do damage to the Israeli ground targets, but none of my planes returned to base to share the story with my comrades.  Of course, they were all dead, so, no matter.  The MiG's managed to plague the Phantoms, but the Eagles shot all of them down too. 

Due to the cost of all the goodies, I'll probably go with the Wessex AirWar: C21 rules.  I can use a standard mat without hexes and I can use my 1/300 planes with my Mustangs altitude sticks.  I downloaded the C21 rules from Wargames Vault including the data annex for less than fifteen bucks.  The base rules for CY6 Jets is $30, plus all the other stuff I'd need, so there is a practicality issue for me. That said, I may purchase a few 1/600 planes I can play with when we get together.  They are very cheap and easy to paint, though selection remains pretty limited at the present time.  Don't know quite what to do about my WW II planes though--I'll have to figure that out.


David Sullivan said...

You were never notoriously bad at Mustangs. Rather, you were celebrated for your spectacular crashes.

Dave S. said...

I always liked Mustangs, but was only moderately successful at it.

I think the Taiwan Straits game was one of the first ones we did for Phantoms. I still have the Taiwanese frigate (target) on my shelf.

David Sullivan said...

I recall Paul running "Contrails over Kashmir" using Phantoms back when we were still having quarterly meetings at the Bear Room.