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Mustangs» Forums » Variants

Subject: Fighter Duel total conversion sample game rss

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Philip Sabin
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The Mustangs system is quick and dramatic, but reflects only very abstractly the real physical dynamics of WW2 fighter combat. Over the past year, I have designed and developed a complete composite variant incorporating ideas and components from other published air combat board games, including my own game Angels One Five. The result is a much more realistic simulation, but one which retains the simplicity of Mustangs rather than the time-consuming detail of other air combat board games such as those by J.D.Webster. I have posted my fully illustrated rules (just 8 pages including examples and design notes) in the Files section of this site along with a single side of ready reference charts, for anyone interested in trying this hybrid variant.



As shown above, Fighter Duel uses the hex grid from the other old Avalon Hill game Flight Leader to give a much larger and more finely grained play area. The Mustangs counters are retained to show the all-important aircraft characteristics, but the 3D position of the contending craft is displayed instead by smaller counters drawn from the even older SPI game Spitfire. A key (optional) innovation to speed play is that I have attached these counters to the sides of 10mm dice, so that only three cubes are needed to show altitude levels from 1 to 18, instead of 18 separate counters as in the original game. It is not necessary to have copies of all these games to play Fighter Duel, since one may use a generic hex grid and print out countersheets from the high resolution scans available here on BGG. George Falconer’s much expanded Mustangs countersheets are invaluable in this regard, offering over 180 different plane types compared to just 14 in the original edition of the game. Please download my Fighter Duel rules for more details on how to construct and modify the components, and on how the variant system works.



For this solo sample game, I chose to model a Pacific dogfight in 1944 between two small flights of US Navy F6F5 Hellcats and Japanese A6M3 ‘Hamp’ fighters. The respective characteristics of these craft are shown above, though several of the ratings are not used or are used in a different way than in the original Mustangs system. The Hamps have the best turn and roll ratings of any fighters in the game, and also have better pilot visibility thanks to their bubble canopies. However, the Hellcats have higher firepower, more ammo, greater resilience, higher engine power, and faster dive speeds. This gives them a net technical edge, which I decided to offset by pitting a pair of Hellcats against a shotai of three Hamps. To stop this being too much of an offsetting benefit, I gave both sides one veteran and one experienced pilot, and I made the third Japanese pilot green. I decided that the resulting asymmetric balance should be even enough for there to be no need for a victory point handicap to equalise the contest.



I used the default set-up as shown above, with the contending flights approaching one another from opposite halves of the board. Each hex represents 100 yards, and the three Japanese planes start more closely spaced than the two Americans. All craft start at altitude 8 because their Mustangs ‘ceiling’ is 5. (The 18 altitude levels in Fighter Duel together represent a 5400 feet block of airspace at an unspecified height above ground level.) As shown above, the top and bottom edges of the board are used to track to a high resolution the kinetic energy of the individual craft, which translates into an airspeed of 2 to 6 hexes per turn (not capped directly by the Mustangs speed ratings). A tiny die placed next to each cube shows this airspeed at a glance and also shows by its location whether the fighter has its wings level or is in a left or right bank. Both sides’ craft start at an airspeed of 4 (around 270 mph), but the Hellcats have a higher initial energy thanks to their faster dive speed. I decided randomly that the sun was shining down from the SW. The large Mustangs counters are purely for reference, and their location is not significant.



Fighter Duel is played in turns, each representing 3 seconds of action. In each turn, the fighters are activated to move and fire in order of their code letters (A, B, D, E and F in this case), without any need for special sequencing to reflect tailing and initiative. The pictures from now on show the position, altitude and heading of the fighters at the end of each turn, with their flight path indicated in red or blue as appropriate. As shown above, on turn 1 Hamps A and B diverge to try to bracket the enemy, but Hamp D’s green pilot is slow to react on a D10 roll of 1 and continues straight ahead instead. The Hellcats also spread out, but they choose to climb one level as well, so they move forward only 3 hexes rather than 4.



On turn 2, Hamps A and B mirror the enemy climb, but Hamp D again fails its situational awareness roll and ploughs on straight and level – an action which could be disastrous if it were already engaged. The Hellcats up the ante by climbing to level 10.



On turn 3, Hamp D finally orients to the situation, and all 5 fighters climb a further level. (They could climb 2 levels per turn at this speed, but this would bring a slight energy loss due to the extra drag caused by pitching up and down.)



On turn 4, the five fighters approach the merge, all still climbing steadily. Although their kinetic energy has been gradually falling as they gain altitude, this has been partially offset by the energy gained from going to full throttle on spotting the enemy, so all five craft are still just within the airspeed 4 bracket even though they have been moving only 3 hexes per turn due to flying at an upward angle rather than straight and level.



On turn 5, the outgunned and less resilient Hamps shy away from a head-on approach to the Hellcats. Hamp B continues to climb forward to outflank the Hellcat leader, while A and D bank left to complete the bracket. Both of them succeed in turning thanks to their excellent roll and turn ratings. Hellcat E turns left towards the approaching Japanese, but his still climbing wingman F needs to score 5 or more to turn right because of the penalties for moving partially left and having to roll into the bank, and on a score of 2 he is unable to change heading this turn. All five fighters have now lost enough kinetic energy through climbing and turn drag to reduce their airspeed to 3 hexes per turn (or a move of 2 hexes if climbing or diving steeply).



On turn 6, Hamps A and D successfully continue their left turns, while Hamp B turns right to try to get behind the Hellcat leader. This Hellcat continues its own left turn, and climbs to level 13 to get above the Japanese. Although the Hellcats lose more energy due to turn drag than do the Hamps, at airspeed 3 their high power gives them more energy from engine thrust, which is why they chose to take the fight higher in the first place. Hellcat F, having climbed to level 13 on the previous turn, enters a steep dive back to level 11 and so moves just 2 hexes as it finally turns SE. This use of the vertical for a high yo-yo has reduced the radius of its turn compared to a horizontal circling manoeuvre, and the loss of altitude brings its airspeed back to 4, hopefully giving it the speed margin needed to overhaul the Hamp leader.



On turn 7, Hamp A drops to level 10 and continues its turn in towards the threat from F. Hamps B and D also successfully continue their turns, with D still just about keeping the Hellcats in sight to its left rear thanks to its bubble canopy. The Hellcat leader rolls all the way from a left to a right bank and climbs further to level 14, but still scores the 5 or more needed to turn right to threaten Hamp A. (I realised later that it should not have been allowed to make this turn, since it did not move more hexes to the right than the left.) However, Hellcat E has by now lost so much energy through climbs and tight turns that it is wallowing clumsily on the brink of a stall at airspeed 2. Hellcat F climbs back to level 12 so that Hamp A is bracketed from above on both sides of its flight path.



On turn 8, Hamp A evades the dual threat by weaving up and left. Its wingman B climbs to level 13 to try to provide cover by getting behind the Hellcat leader, while Hamp D continues its horizontal left turn to get back into the fight, again keeping a tally on the Hellcats only thanks to its bubble canopy. Hellcat E drops back to level 13 and airspeed 3 in pursuit of Hamp A, but it cannot change heading since it moved straight forward. Hellcat F weaves right at airspeed 4 (not 3 as shown on the die) to try to stay behind Hamps A and D, even though this exposes it somewhat to Hamp B.



On turn 9, the Hamp leader climbs and turns sharp right to evade the threat from Hellcat E. Hamp B could drop down for a close-in deflection shot on Hellcat F at the cost of throttling back to avoid overshooting, but it chooses instead to pursue Hellcat E and open fire from directly behind at medium range. Its score of 9 would normally achieve a hit, but because E has a veteran pilot skilled in evasive manoeuvres, there is a -1 modifier which increases the score required to 10. Hamp D levels out and weaves right to support its comrades. Hellcat E weaves quickly left and breaks right to complicate a follow-on attack by Hamp B, while Hellcat F climbs back to level 13 and airspeed 3 and successfully turns left to threaten Hamp D.



On turn 10, the Hamp leader weaves right and climbs to threaten Hellcat F from the side. Hamp B accelerates to speed 4 (not shown on the die) and launches a follow-up deflection attack on the evading Hellcat leader, but its roll of 6 is nowhere near the 10 required. Hamp D weaves left and climbs ready to take over the attack on Hellcat E. The Hellcat leader continues its right turn towards the threat from D, while Hellcat F continues its left turn to threaten D from above and to the right, neglecting the threat from Hamp A.



On turn 11, the action becomes hard to follow as the contending craft stack with one another and launch a succession of attacks. Hamp A opens the party by banking and turning left and stopping short to launch a deflection attack on Hellcat F. Having to throttle back cuts its airspeed to 2, and a miserable score of 4 is nowhere near the 9 needed to hit. Hamp B banks right and just manages to roll the 3 required to succeed in a horizontal turn. Hamp D could manage only a hopeless front quarter attack on the Hellcat leader, so instead it climbs and turns towards the threat from the other Hellcat. Hellcat E now counterattacks the Hamp leader by weaving right for a close-in deflection attack. The two veteran modifiers cancel one another out, and the +1 modifier for Hamp A being preoccupied by its own target means that the American pilot needs only a 6 or more, but with a score of 1 he is out of luck. Finally, Hellcat F accelerates to speed 4 and launches its own deflection attack on Hamp D, but it has not dived to qualify for the sun bonus and it is penalised for having just been fired on itself, so it needs a 9 and scores only a 6. Notwithstanding their bad luck so far, the US fighters are making good use of the ‘Thach weave’ tactic of crossing past one another to attack one another’s adversaries.



On turn 12, the Hamp leader dives back to level 12 and speed 3 and rolls the 4 or more needed to turn left despite its initial lack of airspeed. Hamp B continues its right turn towards the Hellcats. Hamp D rolls a 2 for situational awareness and would have had to fly straight and level if not for its bubble canopy and the fact that it has just been fired on. As it is, D climbs to level 14 and continues its right turn. Hellcat E banks left after a quick weave right, but it fails to score the 4 or more needed to turn and so continues heading SE. Hellcat F turns right and seizes the opportunity for another deflection attack, this time on Hamp B, but throttling back cuts its airspeed to 3 (not shown on the die) and on another dismal firing roll of 1 it fails to reach the required score of 9 or more.



On turn 13, the first hit is finally scored. At the cost of decelerating to an airspeed of 2, the Hamp leader climbs to level 13 and just manages to qualify for a long range deflection shot on Hellcat F. The range penalty is offset by the bonuses for the firer’s skill and the Hellcat’s target fixation, and the score of 8 exceeds the required roll of 7 and means that F loses one of its four damage capacity points. On a further die roll of 2, Hellcat F narrowly avoids suffering two additional points of critical damage which would have ended the contest. Hamp B flies south past its leader, while Hamp D dives and turns right to seize the fleeting chance of a deflection attack on the Hellcat leader. If another hit were scored, the Japanese would have done enough to prevail, but as it is, the penalties for g forces and the gross disparity in skill mean that D wastes its ammo with no chance of success. Hellcat E successfully continues its left turn. Hellcat F need not check its situational awareness since it has just been engaged, but on an unlucky roll of 1 it fails to achieve its left turn, leaving the Hellcats heading east at something of a disadvantage with all three opponents behind them.



On turn 14, the Japanese suffer bad luck of their own, with Hamps A and D failing to turn towards the Hellcats due to their low speed and opposite bank attitude respectively. The Hellcats meanwhile turn inwards to conduct another Thach weave manoeuvre (with F having passed its situational awareness check for having no enemies in sight).



On turn 15, Hamps A and D belatedly succeed in turning towards the enemy (despite D having lost sight of them to its rear), while Hamp B seizes the chance to turn east for a deflection shot on the Hellcat leader. However, the penalties for g forces and target skill mean that a score of 10 is needed, whereas only a 2 is rolled. Hellcat E escapes north to threaten the flank of Hamp A, while Hellcat F crosses past to launch its own deflection shot on Hamp B. The bonus for the Japanese pilot’s target fixation means that only 6 or more is needed, but yet again poor US marksmanship with a score of 3 lets down their impressively executed and statistically superior Thach weave counterstroke.

In my next post, I finish the story and reveal which side finally prevailed.

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Martin Gallo
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Sounds intriguing. Are you going to "share" the rules or put the conversion process up for sale somewhere?
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Philip Sabin
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The full rules and charts have been submitted to the Files section, and are just awaiting Admin approval. I thought these Forum posts would also need approval because of all the pics, but they have appeared straight away!
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jb jeanba
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Definitly deserves a close look
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T. Dauphin
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This does look interesting.
Will be keeping an eye out.

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Philip Sabin
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The rules and charts are now available from the Files section, as is the full set of Mustangs counters. The other day I played a Spanish Civil War dogfight between a pair of Me-109 Bs from the Condor Legion and a vic of three slower but more agile Republican I-15 Chatos. Both sides were handicapped by their poor firepower, but the Chatos eventually hit a 109 while the Germans panicked a green Republican pilot into leaving the board, so the game ended in a draw with 1 victory point each and 8 bursts of ammo expended by each side.

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