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Subject: The best air combat board game I've ever played rss

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Mauricio de Souza Fonseca
Brazil
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In my opinion, this is the best air combat board game I've ever played. My brother is a military pilot, very well into World War II stuff, and he was absolutely impressed with the sense of really having to "fly" the plane when playing this game.

The components, unfortunately, followed the patterns of old Avalon Hill. The mapboard is incredible dull. Comparing it with the mapboard of "KNIGHTS OF THE AIR" or "RICHTHOFEN'S WAR" is impossible. Plane counters are small and also dull, but at least they have different colors for the three Air Forces included: Luftwaffe, RAF and USAAF.

The Aircraft Cards are the heart, body and mind of the game. Each represents a famous aircraft of World War II air combat in the Western Theater of Operations from 1939 through 1945 (yes, you will miss a lot of airplanes here, but the most famous are all there). The cards are coloured and very well designed, and the special characteristics and exceptions for each aircraft are printed on them, easing the necessity of checking the rule book all the time.

Although it says this is a two-player game (because the fact that, basically, it's about aircrafts of two sides), it can be easily played by any number of players, since controlling one aircraft is already a hard task. Players may control four, one, two, how many planes they feel they can handle, because each control sheet (provided in the game) has room for controlling four planes.

Shooting a plane down in this gam eis indeed very difficult, how it was in reality. One must work in pairs

The game suggests some scenarios, but they are, basically, very few for my taste. In the heyday of our playing group, we created whole campaigns with whole squadrons and personalized pilots in each one, with house rules for perception, maneuvers, experience points, pilot level, and so on. It was very demanding, since it was in the "pre-PC" age!

There is the DAUNTLESS expansion, containing aircraft from the Japanese Army and NAvy Air Office and from the USMC and USN Air Forces. It's almost obligatory to have this own also, because the planes contained on it are also very famous. However, playing with Japanese planes is a heck of a headache: most of them can sustain only two Line (L) hits, and it's very hard to win any scenario with them or to avoid being shot down in flames.

There was one problem with the game, in my opinion. The lack of scenarios. The original rule book suggest only a few of them, nothing historical, just random shooting around the skies. There are some optional scenarios around, some published by THE GENERAL, other made by individual gamers, but, even so, they are scarce and few.
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Jeff Kelsheimer
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Any chance of getting your house rules posted?
 
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Gregory Wong
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I own the original Battleline version of Air Force. When I bought it and played it, I felt as you do. It was the greatest air combat game ever. I also own Dauntless after it was first acquired by Avalon Hill. The box has both the Avalon Hill and Batteline logos. I also own the rare Air Force Expansion Kit published by Battleline.

Later I got into J.D. Webster's jet combat games [=Air Superiority][/], Air Strike, and The Speed of Heat. When he came out with his world war II games, I stopped playing Air Force. The Fighting Wings games are complicated, but I think they more realistically portray the flight characteristics of the aircraft.

If you don't mind complicated games, I recommend you try Achtung: Spitfire!, Over the Reich, and Whistling Death. There's also a very good online community supporting these games, and you can play via e-mail.
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Mauricio de Souza Fonseca
Brazil
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Thanks for the tip, Gregory. After I read this, I checked a lot of the games you've mentioned, and I confess I'm a little bit scared of trying them :) People tell that to plot just one plane it takes 10 minutes...
 
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Gregory Wong
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The Fighting Wings series of games is complex. There's no denying that. However, they have a Quickstart version which is available for free. It uses a simplified set of rules. You can download the kit at

http://webspace.webring.com/people/dm/mantis1au/FW/FW.htm

Scroll down to "QUICK START RULES".

But if you don't like Fighting Wings, and you're happy with Air Force, then keep playing Air Force.
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Mauricio de Souza Fonseca
Brazil
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saxophone wrote:
The Fighting Wings series of games is complex. There's no denying that. However, they have a Quickstart version which is available for free. It uses a simplified set of rules. You can download the kit at

http://webspace.webring.com/people/dm/mantis1au/FW/FW.htm

Scroll down to "QUICK START RULES".

But if you don't like Fighting Wings, and you're happy with Air Force, then keep playing Air Force.


Gregory, tried to download it at the address you've siad, but it states the file is corrupted.
 
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Gregory Wong
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I just downloaded and unzipped it without any problems. Would you like me to e-mail the files to you? There are 4 PDF files.
 
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Mauricio de Souza Fonseca
Brazil
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saxophone wrote:
I just downloaded and unzipped it without any problems. Would you like me to e-mail the files to you? There are 4 PDF files.


Yes, I'd like it, thanks!

E-mail: msouzafon@terra.com.br
 
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Gregory Wong
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E-mail sent.


msouzafon wrote:
saxophone wrote:
I just downloaded and unzipped it without any problems. Would you like me to e-mail the files to you? There are 4 PDF files.


Yes, I'd like it, thanks!

E-mail: msouzafon@terra.com.br
 
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René Christensen
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saxophone wrote:
I just downloaded and unzipped it without any problems. Would you like me to e-mail the files to you? There are 4 PDF files.

I can't open the files either.
I would like to have the files too.
Please sent to rec@ks.kk.dk
 
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Gregory Wong
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Slotracer, I saw your message to me, but I coudn't figure out what Air Force files you were talking about. I realize now you are referring to the Fighting Wings Quickstart files that I mentioned in this thread. I'll send them to you.
 
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René Christensen
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Thanks, got them now.
 
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Michael Heath
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fernworthy wrote:
Any chance of getting your house rules posted?


I'd love to see these house rules too!
 
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Jason Cawley
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I loved this system but we did find a few bugs in it, as we played it endlessly back in the day. The underlying problem is that the meat of the game is the maneuvering for shots, and that part works great, but the outcomes are far too determined by the absolute firepower of the different planes - more than it should be. There are comparatively minor issues with some of the altitude handling, as well. Here are some of the modifications we came up with.

Fire zones - in the rules as written, planes with fixed forward armament can fire in a 60 degree cone along the line of fire, and this is too wide. It makes shots too common and is the single biggest issue causing the firepower dominance mentioned above. The solution is to require the target to be exactly in line with the shooting plane for 1-2 hex range, and no more than 1 hex off that line for any longer range. This makes it significantly harder to line up shots, reduces the occasions in which several planes will get to shoot at the same target etc.

Flex armament firing limits - in the rules as written, the heavier bombers with multiple "flex" guns capable of firing in multiple directions, can all fire together in large firepower combined shots at enemy planes in range. The flex guns also suffer no accuracy impairment compared to fixed forward guns. The result is the heavy bombers dish out way too much firepower at anything near them - and this is particularly brutal against the relatively fragile Japanese planes in Dauntless.

The solution is to restrict the "flex" firepower shooting at any one enemy plane in a given fire phase to a single mount on the firing aircraft. This would means 4 FP factors for bombers with dual 50 cal turrets, for example, or a single 1-2 FP flex gun on many lighter types. This means a fighter "hanging around" a bomber box will get peppered every turn but not face massive firepower walls at full fighter accuracy.

Deflection shooting & speed - an additional -1 to the deflection table for targets at speeds from 5 to 7, and an additional -2 for speeds of 8 or higher. Wave this penalty only if the shot is by fixed forward armament and the target is directly ahead (the +2 deflection position in the rules as written). Flex armament always has this penalty regardless of attitude.

Between them, those are the only tweaks we found were required for combat.

Next there are some altitude issues - first for for aiming. The idea is that a firing plane must have the proper nose attitude to shoot at a target well above or below its own altitude. In the rules as written, each 500 feet of elevation difference adds one to the range but that is it.

Instead, the rule is that the shooter's attitude is checked, and it will be one of three - nose up if it climbed that turn, any amount; flat if it was level that turn; down if it dove that turn, any amount. If the attitude is nose up, the target must be at the same level or higher, any amount, and the range increases by 1 hex per 500 feet of elevation difference. Same for down attitude and lower. For a plane in level attitude, the target must be within 200 feet per hex of range of the firing plane. And again, add 1 hex to the range per 500 feet of altitude difference.

The next altitude changes concerns steep dives and climbs.

Any plane that dove last turn can enter "steep" on its next turn. It then loses altitude at a rate equal to 500 feet times its speed. But it moves forward only 1 hex on the map. It automatically turns one hexside in the direction of its present bank if it isn't level when it enters the steep dive. Any additional "bank" orders during the "steep" game-turn turn it an additional hexside in the direction of the bank. Only bank (B) and loop (V) maneuvers are allowed during a steep dive game turn - no slips or regular turns. The plane turns one hex per B maneuver, in the ending hex, and if it has a V maneuver it reverses direction in that hex. For "turn mode" purposes the plane has as many MPs as its full speed, it is just "moving them vertically" and only moves 1 hex on the map, regardless, always forward from its previous end of turn facing. The speed increase from a steep dive pegs at the maximum speed increase the plane would get from diving its legal maximum amount printed on the chart. 4 engine bombers are not allowed to perform these steep dives, but 2 engine bombers may perform them.

For steep climbs, do the same thing except the distance climbed will be only 300 feet per point of speed. The speed drop will be, at a minumum, amount for the plane climbing its chart maximum (which is actually its max *sustained* climb, and there is nothing sustainable about these steep ones) - and if the plane climbs more than that amount, continue losing speed at half the chart's printed rate. Note that most planes will lose speed very rapidly in these steep climbs, and if they don't start them from very high speeds will often stall outright in one turn. Multiple engine bombers (including 2 engine) cannot perform these steep climbs, but multi-engine fighters like the P-38 can.

Note that a plane must be in a "normal" (shallow) dive to steep dive the following turn, and in a normal climb to steep climb the following turn. Thus a plane might normal dive, steep dive, normal climb, steep climb over 4 turns - but cannot go from steep dive straight to steep climb e.g. (It takes longer than that to "turn" in the "vertical"). That is the only restriction on nose attitude changes.

These "vertical flight" rules let planes perform proper dive bombing runs, split S and partial split S maneuvers, Immelman turns and loops, etc.

I hope these are interesting...
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Gaston Marty
Canada
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JasonC wrote:
I loved this system but we did find a few bugs in it, as we played it endlessly back in the day. The underlying problem is that the meat of the game is the maneuvering for shots, and that part works great, but the outcomes are far too determined by the absolute firepower of the different planes - more than it should be. There are comparatively minor issues with some of the altitude handling, as well. Here are some of the modifications we came up with.

Fire zones - in the rules as written, planes with fixed forward armament can fire in a 60 degree cone along the line of fire, and this is too wide. It makes shots too common and is the single biggest issue causing the firepower dominance mentioned above. The solution is to require the target to be exactly in line with the shooting plane for 1-2 hex range, and no more than 1 hex off that line for any longer range. This makes it significantly harder to line up shots, reduces the occasions in which several planes will get to shoot at the same target etc.

Flex armament firing limits - in the rules as written, the heavier bombers with multiple "flex" guns capable of firing in multiple directions, can all fire together in large firepower combined shots at enemy planes in range. The flex guns also suffer no accuracy impairment compared to fixed forward guns. The result is the heavy bombers dish out way too much firepower at anything near them - and this is particularly brutal against the relatively fragile Japanese planes in Dauntless.

The solution is to restrict the "flex" firepower shooting at any one enemy plane in a given fire phase to a single mount on the firing aircraft. This would means 4 FP factors for bombers with dual 50 cal turrets, for example, or a single 1-2 FP flex gun on many lighter types. This means a fighter "hanging around" a bomber box will get peppered every turn but not face massive firepower walls at full fighter accuracy.

Deflection shooting & speed - an additional -1 to the deflection table for targets at speeds from 5 to 7, and an additional -2 for speeds of 8 or higher. Wave this penalty only if the shot is by fixed forward armament and the target is directly ahead (the +2 deflection position in the rules as written). Flex armament always has this penalty regardless of attitude.

Between them, those are the only tweaks we found were required for combat.

Next there are some altitude issues - first for for aiming. The idea is that a firing plane must have the proper nose attitude to shoot at a target well above or below its own altitude. In the rules as written, each 500 feet of elevation difference adds one to the range but that is it.

Instead, the rule is that the shooter's attitude is checked, and it will be one of three - nose up if it climbed that turn, any amount; flat if it was level that turn; down if it dove that turn, any amount. If the attitude is nose up, the target must be at the same level or higher, any amount, and the range increases by 1 hex per 500 feet of elevation difference. Same for down attitude and lower. For a plane in level attitude, the target must be within 200 feet per hex of range of the firing plane. And again, add 1 hex to the range per 500 feet of altitude difference.

The next altitude changes concerns steep dives and climbs.

Any plane that dove last turn can enter "steep" on its next turn. It then loses altitude at a rate equal to 500 feet times its speed. But it moves forward only 1 hex on the map. It automatically turns one hexside in the direction of its present bank if it isn't level when it enters the steep dive. Any additional "bank" orders during the "steep" game-turn turn it an additional hexside in the direction of the bank. Only bank (B) and loop (V) maneuvers are allowed during a steep dive game turn - no slips or regular turns. The plane turns one hex per B maneuver, in the ending hex, and if it has a V maneuver it reverses direction in that hex. For "turn mode" purposes the plane has as many MPs as its full speed, it is just "moving them vertically" and only moves 1 hex on the map, regardless, always forward from its previous end of turn facing. The speed increase from a steep dive pegs at the maximum speed increase the plane would get from diving its legal maximum amount printed on the chart. 4 engine bombers are not allowed to perform these steep dives, but 2 engine bombers may perform them.

For steep climbs, do the same thing except the distance climbed will be only 300 feet per point of speed. The speed drop will be, at a minumum, amount for the plane climbing its chart maximum (which is actually its max *sustained* climb, and there is nothing sustainable about these steep ones) - and if the plane climbs more than that amount, continue losing speed at half the chart's printed rate. Note that most planes will lose speed very rapidly in these steep climbs, and if they don't start them from very high speeds will often stall outright in one turn. Multiple engine bombers (including 2 engine) cannot perform these steep climbs, but multi-engine fighters like the P-38 can.

Note that a plane must be in a "normal" (shallow) dive to steep dive the following turn, and in a normal climb to steep climb the following turn. Thus a plane might normal dive, steep dive, normal climb, steep climb over 4 turns - but cannot go from steep dive straight to steep climb e.g. (It takes longer than that to "turn" in the "vertical"). That is the only restriction on nose attitude changes.

These "vertical flight" rules let planes perform proper dive bombing runs, split S and partial split S maneuvers, Immelman turns and loops, etc.

I hope these are interesting...


Great stuff!: I agree with just about everything you say, and most of it I incorporated into my version of the game:

http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/97109/advanced-air-force

I particularly agree with your ideas about the absurd bomber firepower and limiting fixed gun firing opportunities, as well as the grossly excessive importance of firepower that litterally ruins the whole game...

I devised the Advantage rule so that initially you have to fire in a straight line to hit (just like you suggest!), but at least you have the Advantage in the whole forward 60° arc: Then, on the Second Consecutive Advantage, you can fire anywhere into the forward 60°, which forces a harder maneuvering contest for the target to deny you this... Just like in real life: You get the chance to avoid damage, but you have to work hard to avoid it after someone gains a favourable position on you...

Damage is more rapidly destructive with my new hit chart, but less crippling maneuver/performance-wise, so outcomes are not predictable hours in advance as with the old game...

Gaston
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Ralph B
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Maricio -

Thank you for the review!

Does the game play well solitaire?

Ralph
 
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Rory McAllister
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reviewboy wrote:
Maricio -

Thank you for the review!

Does the game play well solitaire?

Ralph


In case Ralph is still out there, the answer to your question is no. AF is a plotted si-move game, so it would be very difficult to solo without major changes to the rules.
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