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Subject: Is it too hard to kill air units? rss

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Michael Sommers
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It seem to me that it is awfully hard to kill air units in this game. You need a +4 differential to get even a 1 in 6 chance of a kill. Given the real-life disparity in the quality of the air forces involved, this doesn't seem right.
 
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Lance McMillan
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I suspect the air combat model for this 1975 game was based on the results of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In that conflict the Israelis fielded roughly 450 aircraft against a combined Arab force of around 900 aircraft (550 Egyptian and 350 Syrian aircraft). In nineteen days of intense fighting both sides lost approximately half their starting complement of air frames (250 Israeli versus 400-500 Arab). A high proportion of the losses, particularly on the Israeli side, were due to SAM and AAA fire, while a significant portion of the Arab losses were suffered on the ground (e.g. due to Israeli strikes on Arab air bases).

By comparison, 'Oil War' represents a significantly smaller conflict, both in terms of duration (just sixteen days) and total numbers (the combined Arab/Persian air forces represent only around 280 total aircraft, while the combined US/Israelis have about 320). In a typical game you'll see the Arab/Persian air forces almost entirely obliterated (somewhere between 90%-100% losses), while the US/Israeli side will lose maybe a half dozen or so of their air units (roughly 20-25% losses). Given the qualitative disparity between the Arab/Persian and US/Israeli air forces that the game seems to assume, I don't think these loss rates are unreasonable.

However, what I do think is flawed isn't the loss percentages (or, if you prefer, how hard it is to kill air units), but rather how those losses are inflicted. The game has no provision for SAM/AAA fire eliminating air units, and while it is possible to conduct base strikes (albeit in a somewhat an abstract manner), it's not a particularly effective tactic and you normally only see it used by the US/Israeli player after he's already severely attritioned the Arab/Persian air forces down to a point where they no longer pose a significant threat.

Creating a "house rule" to cover SAM/AAA fire would be a fairly simple proposition (but would tend to disproportionately impact the US/Israeli player, since he commonly conducts the bulk of ground attack missions during the course of the game). However, creating a more realistic base strike system presents a considerable challenge as it would probably require a major overhaul of the game's air combat rules.
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Michael Sommers
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I suppose I should have waited until at least the third turn before asking this question. By turn 7 I managed to obliterate all but 2 Arab/Iranian air units, while losing 3 A-6s.

Still, getting +20 differentials was the only reliable way to destroy Arab air units; any less and I was guaranteed to roll a 6.

Also, I guess I was thinking more of '67 and '91 than of '73. On the other hand, in '73, at least on the Egyptian front, the SAMs were quite concentrated, much more than they could be in the Oil War theater. And most of the the US pilots and aviators would have had extensive experience with SAMs in Vietnam.
 
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Lance McMillan
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tms2 wrote:
I suppose I should have waited until at least the third turn before asking this question. By turn 7 I managed to obliterate all but 2 Arab/Iranian air units, while losing 3 A-6s.


That's actually a little later than I've seen it happen -- most games I've played the Arab/Persian air forces are rendered impotent by about turn 5 or 6. However, handled aggressively early on they can inflict some fairly significant losses to US air units with a little luck.

tms2 wrote:
Still, getting +20 differentials was the only reliable way to destroy Arab air units; any less and I was guaranteed to roll a 6.


No way to account for bad die rolling, and overall I think that's appropriate (both from an "accuracy" standpoint as well as game balance).
 
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Michael Sommers
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Lancer4321 wrote:
tms2 wrote:
I suppose I should have waited until at least the third turn before asking this question. By turn 7 I managed to obliterate all but 2 Arab/Iranian air units, while losing 3 A-6s.

That's actually a little later than I've seen it happen -- most games I've played the Arab/Persian air forces are rendered impotent by about turn 5 or 6. However, handled aggressively early on they can inflict some fairly significant losses to US air units with a little luck.

I probably should have been more aggressive as the Arab player. On the other hand, I'm thinking that maybe less aggression was called for with the ground units. As it was, they appeared in dribs and drabs, and were beaten in detail. Perhaps they should have held up around Kuwait until the bulk of the Iranians could arrive, and then advance in force. Or not.

Quote:
tms2 wrote:
Still, getting +20 differentials was the only reliable way to destroy Arab air units; any less and I was guaranteed to roll a 6.

No way to account for bad die rolling, ...

Obviously the gods have it in for me.

Quote:
... and overall I think that's appropriate (both from an "accuracy" standpoint as well as game balance).

For balance, probably, but in reality I'm not so sure; it seems excessive. But I have no real evidence.
 
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Charles Neal
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The high differential required to kill air units certainly takes getting used to, especially if one is used to other games.
 
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Lance McMillan
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cgneal wrote:
The high differential required to kill air units certainly takes getting used to...


I'd go even further than that -- the air system in general takes getting used to because it doesn't represent anything even remotely resembling actual air operations (even though it oddly still manages to produce somewhat believeable results in the long run). I think that what's necessary is to appreciate the very high level of abstraction involved in what's going on with the air game, that what the players seem to be doing with their air units on the map isn't really what would be happening "in real life."

For example, take the craptastic Iraqi Su-7s (arguably the worst air unit in the game). One of the best uses the Arab player can often find for these pathetic clunkers is put one atop a stack of two strong Arab ground units which are advancing towards the front to prevent the US player from hitting them with a F-111 "death ray;" yes, the Su-7 will probably be eliminated, but in return the Arabs gain a turn of safety for two powerful ground units (since the F-111s can't "advance after combat" after the Su-7 is destroyed to conduct an attack on the now exposed ground units). But does it make any sense for the Arab player to be using a squadron of ground attack planes to provide CAP for a column of tanks? Of course not.

This is where the abstraction comes in: I think it's safe to assume that Dunnigan didn't mean that those Su-7s were actually flying a CAP mission, instead they're being used somewhere else (trying to bomb some US base or ground unit), and the aircraft the US player later uses to shoot down the Su-7s are being drawn away from hitting that column of Arab armor to protect the US base or ground unit. In other words, what you're seeing play out on the map is not actually what's happening "in the air," it's meant to abstractly represent the larger air campaign in aggregate.

Now, that said, even though the system produces reasonable overall results, I still find the air game in Oil War vaguely unsatisfying. I'd have preferred to have an air system which gave a better feel for actual air operations, but I also appreciate that back in the mid-'70s when the game was first released this was about the extent of how game design captured this aspect of warfare. What's curious to me is that when the successor game to Oil War, Arabian Nightmare: The Kuwait War, was released nearly 20 years later they used essentially the same air system for that game as well. I'd like to see someone come up with a systemic retrofit to this game (using the same counters, but possibly a new CRT for the air side of the game) to make the air war feel a bit more realistic, but given the age of the game and its low popularity I doubt that'll ever happen.
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