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Subject: Helicopter transport rss

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Steve Norton
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8.2 says that crews can be transported by helicopter. I take this to mean that crews may use helicopters to get about the map (rather than just be inserted when the fire breaks out).

If this is correct, can crews board a helicopter in any hex? This feels wrong to me because I can't imagine a helicopter being able to land in dense forest. However, the rules do not allude to any such restrictions so I presume this is ok?

If my understanding is correct then I presume it would be considered good play to leave helicopters in a safe hex near to where crews are working on turns where they are not operational? This would obviously mean that crews have the option to bolt for the chopper if things turn bad.



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Ryan
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I'll try to keep this concise as I am liable to blather on and bore any and all to tears.

As I understand the rules.
I have also not read any language in the rules that would preclude a helicopter from landing on any hex that any ground resource can also occupy. The rules are specific in the case of being airborne, that air units may occupy any hex (see 8.1) while airborne. By my understanding of the rules, I have no problem with landing a helicopter in a forest hex, urban hex, etc. It's not specifically precluded so it must be valid. Thus a crew could board a helicopter in any hex.

My perspective based on real life in regard to helicopters landing in hexes.
Forests/wooded areas exist in a variety of densities or stocking levels. With each hex representing 1 hectare (or approximately 2.5 acres), it could be very likely that there is one small meadow or clearing in any given 1 hectare space. Of course, it could also be very likely depending on the forest type and history of disturbance that there is nowhere in that 1 hectare patch of timber for a helicopter to land. In the States, the required/accepted area to land a helicopter varies between a circle from 75' in diameter to 110' in diameter. See this link, page 49-50, if you want to reference the relevant pages of a pdf of our current pocket guide. This is an area of 4,417 square feet to 9,503 square feet. One hectare is 107,639 square feet. So a helicopter landing area would require 4.1% to 8.8% of the area in one hex. The vast majority of the time (in the States), it is the smaller helicopters performing troop shuttles, requiring only 75' or 90' circles.

If a helispot is needed and none are naturally present nearby, it is possible to construct one with chainsaws. Sometimes this might only require minimal work in the case of a few large trees that can be directionally fell away from the intended helispot, minimizing work. Or there may be smaller trees that can be dropped and hauled out of the way quickly. Of course, in a particularly dense stand of trees, it could take many people hours of work (or days as I've experienced) if the trees are dense and large. Anything that is dropped into the helispot must of course be cleared before the helispot can handle a helicopter. Big trees take a lot of work to move if they must be dropped where the helicopter will land.

Given that the unit of time used to resolve work in this game is one hour, it would easily be possible for a four man crew (depicted as a singular counter) to clear a helispot in a forested hex in one hour or even less. Of course, it could take more hours, or even into a second day if the area is particularly dense with large trees.

Unless my interpretation of the rules is incorrect (or I am corrected by Kerry), I think it entirely reasonable that a helicopter can land on any hex. Of course, if you wished to add a bit of "real world uncertainty" to the game, you could roll a die to determine if a particular hex had a viable helispot already present in a forested hex. You'd have to decide what the probability of such a roll would be, but it could really be anything. Or you could determine at the start of a given scenario whether the forest on the map was in general too thick to contain natural clearings within. Or perhaps it is a forest with meadows sprinkled about?

For reference, a single map is 31 hexes east/west (3.1 km or just shy of 2 miles) and 17 hexes north/south (1.7 km or just over 1 mile). Within an area of that size and small meadows (less than 1 hectare) not a part of the map, I assume it reasonable that small meadows, capable of facilitating transportation by helicopter, would be present in many of the hexes, though likely not all of them.

See 13.0 Designers Notes for the vegetation type fire behavior is modeled with for this game. Google images of "boreal spruce landscape" and you can see a variety of densities depicted. Areas in some photos are ready as is, others would need a lot of work.

Leaving the helicopter in a hex.
As for leaving helicopters in a hex between I don't think this is necessarily the correct interpretation. My interpretation is that if you pay to keep a helicopter in play over consecutive turns it in essence is airborne the entire time. You don't need to land it close to a crew that you anticipate may be in danger. Since it has unlimited movement (8.1) and can't be overrun (see 6.4), it can swoop in and land to extract a crew when needed.

That's how I understand the rules, for what it's worth.

In the real world, a helicopter would ideally not be used as a last ditch method of evacuating personnel. When things get bad enough that firefighters need to evacuate down their escape routes the conditions are often bad enough that aircraft wouldn't fly, or certainly land, in the same area. Visibility can drastically decrease at the head of a fire due to smoke and high winds are likely present, which may make it difficult or impossible for a helicopter to safely land and take-off. Firefighters are trained from the beginning to rely on aviation for rescue. Even if possible, helicopters may not be readily available (not a factor in this game once you've bought them and they're in play) to rapidly extricate people in a bad position.

Tangentially related to the above paragraph in regard to the visibility discussion, take it or leave it.
If you see section 12.3 Smoke, I sort of disagree with the sentence at the end which states that aircraft are not held to the same prohibition that ground resources are if utilizing this optional rule. If the smoke is bad enough to force ground firefighters away, smoke activity, especially at the head of a fire, can easily preclude aircraft from getting close enough to drop water/retardant. More importantly, if a fire is moving fast and with intensity, aviation is often ineffective at slowing the fire.

My personal modification to the 12.3 optional rule, which I really like though I disagree with how it is implemented, is to prohibit ground resource and aviation activity at the head of a fire as described in the rule only when the wind and moisture content in in a red square. Basically, anytime the spread rate at the head is 10 or greater, which only exists in the "moderate", "fresh", or "strong" wind speed categories, aviation and ground resources may not operate in a hex adjacent to the "head" of a fire. I have toyed with extending the restriction to the orange squares for ground resources...but haven't played that way yet.

Summary
There's a lot of my interpretation of the helicopter rules coupled with real life experience mixed in to the above paragraphs. I'm not saying I'm necessarily correct per the rules in regard to the questions you asked, but I can't help but make some small tweaks or assumptions to the rules here and there. Take what you will from them. But certainly don't get bogged down trying to add extra conditional rules or situations to the game to make it more "realistic" just because I say they're realistic. The rules do well simplifying a complex environment into a playable game.

Photos of helispots in action, for perspective:




Ryanmobile wrote:
I'll try to keep this concise as I am liable to blather on and bore any and all to tears.

Fail.
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Koinsky
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Ryanmobile wrote:
Ryanmobile wrote:
I'll try to keep this concise as I am liable to blather on and bore any and all to tears.

Fail.

No one knowing you would have trusted you in the first place, anyway
Very good reading & Great pictures!
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Steve Norton
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Thanks, Ryan.

I wasn't thinking of using helicopters for last-ditch evacuation (although I wouldn't necessarily rule it out!) I was thinking more of situations where there are multiple ignitions and it may be desirable for some crew to be relocated from an old fire that is now under control to a new one that isn't.

To be more specific still, I was also thinking of situations where a helicopter is not operational for a spell (which is when it might be left in a nearby hex). Failing to leave it nearby would mean spending more money (and waiting another turn) to have the helicopter fly in for evac. I have been assuming that a helicopter can not fly in, collect ground crew, and then fly out all on the same turn. Perhaps it can?

Boarding a vehicle does not cost any movement points (so perhaps it is reasonable for a crew to board a helicopter on the helicopter's turn?) In this way a helicopter could fly in from elsewhere, pick up a crew, and then land somewhere else. The crew could not dismount because that would cost one of their movement point and so they would have to wait for their next turn.

Am I getting this right?

I feel a bit uncomfortable about it because I recall reading that vehicle transport must occur at the beginning or end of a unit's turn (but not both). The rules specifically prohibit moving to a vehicle, being transported, and then dismounting all in the same turn. I suppose what I've described above isn't quite the same thing...
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Kerry Anderson
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I continue to be amazed at how this game continues to attract attention and questions. I suppose because it's one of a kind.

Helicopter rules. What Ryan says (and he should know). Yes, I made the assumption there would be clearings available to allow crews to be picked up. Even if a hex (1 hectare) did not have a clearing, presumably an adjacent hex would (I'm not going to sweat this).

As for transportation, yes, before or after but not during ground movement. I thought this was an elegant way of phrasing it. This avoids unrealistic uses like flying to a hex, build a line, carry to the next hex, build more line. etc.

Basing helicopters in the field? No need to really. Presumably there is a helicopter base somewhere, which the helicopter transit to and from. It would take a helicopter minutes to traverse the entire map -- well within the time frame of each turn. If you want to start tracking movement in minutes (I suppose each crew movement point represents 12 minutes), one could capture loading, unloading, and transport more realistically but this is just a game. Putting this additional effort into the "simulation" assumes the other parts of the "simulation" are equally if not more accurate, which I assure you is not the case.
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Kerry Anderson
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BTW Ryan, I like your smoke rule. I think I snuck my optional rule in without thinking it through. Your choice of using the colour (which indicates the fire's intensity) is appropriate.
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