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Subject: First Sessions rss

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Nate Trent
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I picked up BC/BS and Lost Squadrons at WBC; John ran me through the rules and design concepts quickly and demonstrated some movement and fire. The quality of the components impressed me, and the level of detail seemed just right to hit the playable/fun/historical sweet spot for me. I was right.

Got it home, read through the rules once and gave it a spin. Had no problems employing the rules and moving/firing planes. However, I still need to figure out how best to plan my approaches against targets and from where to attack and break away to come 'round again. That is, I'm already focused on the tactics that can be employed in the scope of the simulation, not how to employ the rules. How refreshing!

Ran through the solo beginner scenario twice, using the alternate setup both times of two Hurricanes against three He-111s. John noted when I bought the game that the first scenario isn't really meant to be won or lost; it's meant for new players to get practice moving in three dimensions and firing.

But, of course, I want to win. So I tried the scenario once maneuvering to one level higher and firing at longer range to take advantage of the size modifier of the He-111s while avoiding return fire. This tactic preserved my fighters - and I succeeded in maneuvering to the positions I wanted - but I only succeeded in racking up moderate hits against two of the bombers before they exited; none shot down and no critical hits.

The second time I tried maneuvering my Hurricanes at the same level and close behind to see if it would be more effective in bringing down some bombers. Again manuevering was not a problem. Unfortunately, I negated the whole experiment when I forgot to use the automatic hit bonus die for my attacks, and I got no critical hits. By the end, two He-111s had moderate to severe damage, and both Hurricanes were shot down by defensive fire. They got a little too close to the flame for too long. I need to run this scenario again using this tactic but without forgetting the bonus die to see if criticals are generated and how that changes things.

Lastly, I tried scenario one. I used clouds and rolled dice for random placement. One cloud even blocked line of sight when I wanted to take a shot! I flew the Hurricanes to the port side of the formation of Ju-87s on a reciprocal course at the same level and then broke into the formation for deflection shots before continuing the port bank to get rear shots. The maneuver worked as intended, except that the tail-end-Charlie Hurricane collided with a Ju-87 and exploded when there was no more room to maneuver out of the way. The 87 took an engine critical from the collision and slowly fell out of formation. The other Hurricanes attempted to focus fire on one target and brought it down after some time, soaking up defensive fire along the way. By the time the 87 formation was about midway to their exit board edge one Hurricane was left with only one hit remaining, so it broke off to return to base.

Take Aways:
- This is a fun game solitaire and would be a blast I'm sure face-to-face with a group of friends. And the alternating movement by formation lends itself well to solitaire play - undoubtedly more so when there is at least two formations per side.

- Moving your planes and using the movement rules is not difficult. Getting into position against your targets is more challenging, but then that's where you want the challenge - in the game play, not the rules.

- Firing is simple and quick to calculate and resolve - although I kept forgetting to employ the automatic hit bonus die, much to my detriment. (This is important in my view, since criticals will give each game an authentic non-generic feel to damage results. Until I run the scenarios again and remember to employ the extra die for automatic hits, AND generate some critical hits, then I won't really have a true feel for how combat affects game play.)

I can't wait to get this back out on the table. It won't be long either, because these scenarios were quick to set up and run through. Once I am confident I'm employing all the rules properly and smoothly, then I'll be on the hunt for some folks to teach it to :)

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Team Ski
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I found that during my two solitaire games that bombers are virtually impossible to shoot down before the fighters bit the dust. The "wear down" mechanic in the game from the dice rolls makes it almost a certainty that bombers will survive the engagement. The best I could do was to send one bomber spiralling... Kinda disappointing.

-Ski
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Nate Trent
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Ski,

Fair enough point - and one that had me worried before I started playing. I had read your posts elsewhere, and those of some others voicing similar concerns. That's why I ran the solitaire training scenario twice using two different tactical approaches, to see what works and what doesn't. I was hoping it was just a matter of finding the right tactic. Unfortunately, I undermined my effort by forgetting the extra die for automatic hits. I'm going to try that tactic again (flying in close astern for maximum dice and added chance for criticals) to see what happens.

After that I'll take stock and see what's needed for balance or for obtaining more realistic results for the tactics used. I like John's reply in one of the threads where he said just to add another Hurricane. Except that doesn't really address what you described as the "wear down" mechanic of combat, which I experienced in all three of my games.

The way I see it, there are two separate but related issues to reconcile regarding combat. First, the apparent difficulty of bringing down bombers because of the "wear down" mechanic you noted. Second, the (unrealistic?) effectiveness of bomber defensive fire against interceptors.

To tackle the second issue first, as an experiment I'm tempted to treat any bomber defensive fire factor that is rated for a 10 sided die to instead use an 8 sided die. Hopefully that would tweak the defensive fire just enough to feel right, yet not so much as to break the game or alter it too drastically.

After all, a Hurricane or Spitfire will be directing eight forward firing machine guns against their target at once from a solid firing platform coordinated with its direction of movement. That earns them a "2F" rating for two 10 sided dice, barring any "tailing" status or automatic hit bonus. In contrast, in most cases a bomber will bring to bear a single machine gun in defense against an interceptor from a less than ideal firing position not coordinated in any way with its direction of movement, making accuracy all the more difficult. That earns them a "1F" rating for one 10 sided die. So, eight machine guns gets you two dice but one machine gun gets you one die. I think I'll try using an 8 sided die for bomber defensive fire instead to see what that does.

For the first issue, I think increasing the frequency of critical hits would more realistically model how these combats tended to play out. From what I've read, these bombers were no B-17s when it came to weathering battle damage. They had certain systems that when even so much as nicked brought the aircraft down; such as coolant, oil, electrical, and other critical engine parts.

So, maybe maneuvering interceptors to obtain more critical hits from angles that minimize incoming defensive fire is key to deriving a more realistic 'feel' of aerial combat from the game. I suspect this will entail using sound tactics rather than messing with the game design,

Either way, I'm going to keep trying until I find the right tactics within the scope of the simulation, or add fighters for better play balance, or tweak defensive fire by switching to 8 sided dice or something like that. Because I really love the scale of this game, the balance of detail and abstraction, and what it attempts to simulate overall. I really think there is something special here, and I want it to work for me by learning to be a better player or by figuring out something simple but effective to get it right.

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Team Ski
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Great response! I think the issue here is the over simplification of damage on the planes. If you compare this game to lets say, Air Force or Spitire, where damage is allocated to different parts of the planes, you generally do not get critical hits on specific parts that would ultimately cause the plane to crash. In Air Force, when you fill in all those circles on an engine, your time in the air is extremely limited. I believe BC/BS needs a hit log similar to what is used in Air Force to better reflect what damage those 8 .303s are doing to the bomber. Without it, the bombers are woefully overpowered.

-Ski
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alan beaumont
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Tally Ho
Teamski wrote:
Great response! I think the issue here is the over simplification of damage on the planes. If you compare this game to lets say, Air Force or Spitire, where damage is allocated to different parts of the planes, you generally do not get critical hits on specific parts that would ultimately cause the plane to crash.
Forget games, there is plenty of gun camera footage showing bombers having an engine shredded by a concentrated burst of fire. Alternatively the 303 bullet wasn't good at destroying an airframe, so a bomber might be riddled and still make it home. This is why there were urgent efforts to develop cannon; which were largely unsuccessful for the duration of the Battle of Britain.

If you are going to redress the balance I suggest an 'Ace Accuracy' roll, or some such, so that a good pilot might down or cripple a bomber in short order.
 
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