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B-17: Queen of the Skies» Forums » General

Subject: Game Scale in B-17 QOTS – Some Thoughts rss

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Thomas Fowler
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(Hope this is the correct forum for this.)


With the goal of making it more realistic, many players have modified different aspects of the original game. Increased realism is a laudable goal, and one area that I have seen discussed occasionally is the question of game scale. It is fairly well known among players of B-17 QOTS that the target map is a bit off, with regards to the range-to-target measurements. This is readily resolved with a little work and common sense.

In the original 1983, AH release, in the B-17 QOTS Rules Folder, on page 3, in section 2.2, “…The strategic area shown is divided into concentric zones expanding out from the base, each approximately 50 miles apart. Under normal conditions, the B-17 travels one zone per turn. …”

The game designer, Glen Frank, states very plainly that the width of each zone is approximately 50 miles; the key word here is, approximately. War games are all about space and time; in B-17 QOTS zones = space (miles) and turns = time (hours and minutes). We know the physical-space scale of the game; we now need to obtain information about the time scale of the game, that is, how much time is represented by each turn. This is easy to figure out if we know the airspeed of the bomber.

The most reliable source I have access to, regarding B-17 performance specifications, is B-17 Flying Fortress, Part 1, Production Versions, in detail & scale, by Alwyn T. Lloyd and Terry D. Moore.



I highly recommend this book; Mr. Lloyd was a long-time Boeing employee, and this volume as well as the other two parts, are extremely detailed and accurate. On page 65, on the Performance Characteristics and Technical Data chart (Mr. Lloyd’s sources are Boeing charts and the U.S. Army), we find that:



Generally, the bombers didn’t fly missions at maximum speed; it would have wasted too much fuel, added unnecessary wear and tear to the engines, and severely reduced the deliverable bomb load. The cruise speed is the important factor. Averaging the cruise speeds of five different versions of the B-17, we find that the average cruise speed was about 200 mph.

We know each zone is about 50 miles; we know the average airspeed of the bomber is about 200 mph. The bomber flies across one zone each turn, normally. Flying at 200 mph (cruising airspeed) during four normal turns, the bomber can cross four zones in one hour. This works out to one zone about every 15 minutes. Therefore, each turn equals about 15 minutes of game time. A bomber normally spends one turn (15 minutes) per zone, but a bomber that must spend two turns per zone is spending 30 minutes of game time.



How accurate are these figures? That is a good question, and one I was curious about. I’ve read a number of books about the Strategic Bombing Campaign. Most of these books have personal accounts of the missions, by the men who were actually there. Taking one book off my shelf at random, Half a Wing, Three Engines, and A Prayer, by Brian D. O’Neill, we read close to the end of chapter five, which covers the first Schweinfurt mission, August 17, 1943, “…it was ‘about a 1200-mile round trip’…” as well as, “The Lady landed at 1808, after five hours and 52 minutes in the air.” That is: about 1,200 miles flown overall, in almost six hours. This comes to about 600 miles and about three hours, one-way.

Using Google Maps, we can measure the approximate distance as 463 miles one-way, and 926 round trip. The figures from Google Maps presume straight out and back mileage. We know the bombers did not follow a straight out and back flight path, but here we are converting miles into zones; the concentric rings, expanding outward from the base. 463 divided by 50 = 9.3, or in game terms, zone 10 to reach the target, and 20 zones for the round trip. We know it will take one 15-minute, normal turn per zone, so four 15-minute normal turns per hour equals four zones per hour. Thus, 10 zones to target divided by 4 normal turns = 2.5 hours, one-way. Double that for the round trip = 5 hours. In game terms, we have shown it will take about two and a half hours to fly to the target; about five hours for the round trip. In game terms, we have also shown the distance to the target to be about 500 miles, one-way; about 1,000 miles for the round trip.

How do we explain the difference between 600 miles versus 500 miles, one-way? How do we explain 3 hours versus 2.5 hours one-way? The figures given in the book are more accurate. The game scales represent an abstraction of space and time. The mileage measured using Google Maps is straight out and back. The bomber flight path was not straight out and back, as the mission planners tried to avoid known flak concentrations both out and back.


(Example of how dog-legged a mission flight path could be.)

In addition, the actual mileage and time flown includes the formation assembly time over England, as well as formation reassembly after the bomb run.

Here is the nub: if we can/want to measure out each mission as it was actually flown, including all the twists and turns of the flight path, we can arrive at a much more accurate figure for the game. If we want to maintain playability, we can accept some abstractions. Items to consider: the bombers were slower flying to the target with the bombs than on the way home, without them. There might have been headwinds. And, if we consider the twists and turns of the actual flight path, we might add 15-30 minutes to our overall flight time in the game.

I can accept the game scale as: average bomber speed = 200 mph, 1 turn = 15 minutes, 1 zone = 50 miles. This helps me to relate to space and time within the game better, which makes the gaming experience more realistic to me.
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Lou Correia
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"I can accept the game scale as: average bomber speed = 200 mph, 1 turn = 15 minutes, 1 zone = 50 miles. This helps me to relate to space and time within the game better, which makes the gaming experience more realistic to me."

I have also come to use the same approximations as I fly my missions. Maybe some zones are a little longer as the formation avoids flak, but that doesn't impact the playing of the game. BUT it might find its way into my AAR narrative.

There is one area where the distance becomes critical. If I am leaking fuel I have looked at how many zones remain and draw a circle from where I was hit, based on one zone equaling 50 miles. Based on that distance I have left the formation to detour to an emergency air field. Three times I have successfully survived (or barely survived).

Once on a mission to bomb Norway, I was within range of the RAF fields in the Shetlands after taking flak damage. A better option than ditching in the North Sea. That was actually a TFT mission described here. https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1896545/mission-bergen-norw...

Once I was hit on a raid against Munich, and Switzerland was within range.

Recently, I was damaged over Sicily, and had 4 turns of fuel remaining. Malta was 176 miles away, so I fought my way over there. Bomber was CAT-E but six of the crew will fight again.

When I look for possible emergency fields, if it is a fighter base I figure a -2 DM to land based on the shorter runway. If two-engine bombers use the field I'll use a -1 DM. I use the site http://www.forgottenairfields.com/malta/island-of-malta/raf-... to find possible emergency fields in range.
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Thomas Fowler
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"... it might find its way into my AAR narrative."

I agree! As I have gained experience with the game, I convert zones into hours & minutes in my AARs. These are approximate, but provide a fairly accurate estimate of the time spent on the mission. Like you, I have sometimes barely made it back because of a fuel leak.

While working on a PTO variant (1941-1943), the research material kept making the point that fuel expenditure - normal, leakage, wasted (headwinds), etc. - made a big difference whether or not a mission was completed or not. I highly recommend Fortress Against The Sun: The B-17 Flying Fortress In The Pacific, by Gene Eric Salecker, for coverage of the B-17's PTO missions.

https://www.pacificwrecks.com/reviews/fortress.html

Thank you for the information and the links! I appreciate it, and will check them out.
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