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Wing Leader: Victories 1940-1942» Forums » Variants

Subject: Dogfight Sample Game rss

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Philip Sabin
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Here as promised is a full sample game of my simple DOGFIGHT variant for the Wing Leader components, using the rules which Lee and I put together and which are available in the Files section of this site. Please download and browse through the rules beforehand to understand what is going on. This sample game will then serve as an additional example of play, to help you to grasp the mechanisms and tactics involved.

The sample game uses the simple small scenario recommended at the end of the Basic Game rules. I chose a Battle of Britain setting, with a squadron of Do-17 bombers escorted by two flights of Bf 109s (representing 8 fighters in total). The RAF has one flight of Spitfires and two flights of Hurricanes (representing 18 fighters in all because of their less efficient vic formations). To win, the British have to inflict 2 more hits than they suffer.

The one Advanced Rule I used is Sun and Clouds. On a die roll of 1, the sun is shining down from the back left of the bombers. The Germans choose to deploy their escorts together 2,000 yards behind the bombers and 2,000 feet above them, with one flight up sun to the left and the other in the middle block. On a die roll of 3, the British appear from the front, and they choose to deploy all their own flights side by side at the maximum permitted altitude of 1,000 feet above the Dorniers. The starting situation is shown below, with the RAF loss marker and turns completed marker visible in box 0 in the bottom right.



Compared to land wargames with their gradually changing battlefronts, it is always difficult to illustrate air combat games, because the situation changes so quickly due to the sweeping 3D manoeuvres of the opposing craft. The following pictures use two counters per flight, one showing its position and orientation at the start of the turn and the other showing it at the end of the turn. I have also added coloured graphics to show what happens in the 3 successive phases of each turn. RAF moves in the Interceptor Phase are shown in RED, the relative shifts in the Bomber Phase are shown in WHITE, and Luftwaffe moves in the Escort Phase are shown in BLACK. In the game itself, the bombers remain in the centre of the map while all fighters on both sides are shifted one block back in each Bomber Phase, but to avoid confusion, the pictures show the bombers moving forward one block instead.

As per historical precedent, the British decide to send their Spitfires to hold off the escorts while the Hurricanes attack the bombers. Hence, the Spitfires pull up into a climb, while one Hurricane flight moves 2 blocks forward and the other weaves behind it to prepare for successive head-on passes against the Dorniers. After the Bomber Phase, the Bf 109 flights decide to split up to tackle this twin challenge – one flight climbs to maintain altitude superiority over the Spitfires, while the other flight weaves down to the left and prepares to cover the bombers from a position up-sun.



On turn 2, the Spitfires duly gain height, the leading Hurricane flight drops down one level ready for a head-on pass, and the following Hurricanes progress more slowly to set up for an attack in their own Interceptor Phase next turn. The Bomber Phase carries the leading Hurricanes into the same block as the Dorniers, but on a dismal roll of 1, neither side scores in this first fleeting exchange of fire. The higher Bf 109s complete their climb, while the lower Bf 109s accelerate into a classic up-sun covering position above the bombers, which will also allow them to turn right and drop neatly round onto the tail of the following Hurricanes if they carry out their own head-on attack on the Dorniers next turn.



On turn 3, the Spitfires decide to risk a further climb to reach the altitude of the German top cover, while the leading Hurricanes weave right (they cannot turn around until they are clear of the bomber formation). The following Hurricanes abandon their planned attack on the bombers and instead also weave right to approach the covering 109s head-on. The 109s decide to take this opportunity and accelerate into a fleeting head-on pass against the Hurricanes, but on a roll of 3, hits remain elusive for either side. However, the higher 109s realise that the predictability of the Spitfires’ climb creates a vulnerability, and they weave right ready to turn left onto the tails of the British as they labour up from below.



On turn 4, the uncovered Spitfires realise their peril, and pitch all the way down to a dive at the end of their move to try to throw off the enemy aim. Meanwhile, both Hurricane flights turn back round to the left to follow the bombers from directly behind. The lower 109s turn right through 180 degrees to counter this threat, while the higher 109s carry out their threatened left turn and enter a dive themselves to get directly behind the Spitfires. Unfortunately, their attack roll of 1 is nowhere near the 5 or 6 required to inflict first blood.



On turn 5, the Spitfires realise that it is pointless to give their pursuers any further chance of a kill, so the flight breaks formation voluntarily and is removed from play. The higher Hurricanes drop down onto the tail of the bombers, and on a lucky roll of 4 they manage to inflict a hit without suffering damage themselves as they would have on a higher roll. Meanwhile the following Hurricanes accelerate into a position to cover their comrades from behind. The lower 109s turn back forwards, but they are not yet in a position to cover the bombers. The higher 109s realise that they were too greedy and should have settled for a deflection shot against the fleeing Spitfires, since by entering a backward dive from a position behind the bombers, both flights condemned themselves to hurtling out of the fight before they can turn around. The 109s do their best to make up for the mistake, but they are 2 blocks too far back to recover in time.



On turn 6, the leading Hurricanes renew their rear attack on the Dorniers, but without further result on a roll of 2. At least the slow flying second flight keeps them covered, which is crucial as the lower 109s accelerate to an up-sun covering position ready for a classic bounce next turn. After the Bomber Phase, the higher 109s find themselves facing backward in column A-B, and have no choice but to break formation and leave the fight. At some risk to themselves, the Spitfires have hence succeeded in keeping one of the escort flights off their comrades’ backs.



On turn 7, the leading Hurricanes decide to pitch up for a deflection attack on the Dorniers, thereby reducing the potential effectiveness both of the bomber gunners and of the 109s up-sun (which cannot pitch up if they drop down to attack). However, the attack die roll is a 6, which still results in the maximum 2 hits on the bombers at the cost of the Hurricanes themselves suffering a hit and the counter being inverted. The following Hurricanes maintain their covering position and prepare for their own chance to attack the bombers. The sole remaining 109 flight is now left with a bitter dilemma. It could drop down out of the sun and launch a deflection attack on the already dispersing British flight with a 1 in 3 chance of success, but if it does so, the following Hurricanes will be on its own tail and perfectly placed to extend the victory margin still further. Hence, the 109s decide to remain up-sun and limit the damage by covering the bombers against the one remaining active British flight.



As the survivors of the leading Hurricane flight break formation and celebrate their success, the remaining British fighters consider their own options. They could accelerate and attack the bombers, but then there is a very real risk that the covering 109s will swoop out of the sun and reverse the victory which is already in the British grasp. A better option might be to climb and engage the 109s themselves, hoping to shake them out of their covering position and so open the way for a final slashing pass against the uncovered bombers. However, since the victory margin of 3 to 2 (including the handicap bonus for the escorts) already represents a narrow RAF victory, the Hurricanes instead choose to break off and join their comrades, thereby ending the game.

This sample game demonstrates the Chess-like character of the Dogfight system, and the way in which it reflects the historically limited losses in such aerial engagements (just 4 aircraft damaged or destroyed out of around 40 engaged). I hope that it encourages Wing Leader players to add the simple supplementary grid to one of your mapsheets and to give the variant a try. With the scope for lots more engaged flights and lots more variation using the Advanced Rules, Dogfight offers a quick but challenging hands-on reflection of the aerial manoeuvring which is represented more abstractly in Lee’s main game.
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