Professional creative visual communication: www.universalhead.com
Game summaries and reference sheets: www.headlesshollow.com
Just bought Burning Drachens as my first WoW set and I've been enjoying our first games a lot. We introduced the altitude rules last time though and I was wondering about a few things - especially since we found the rules added quite a bit of work without impacting play much.
Firstly, climbing or diving a level of altitude seems to take quite a while - 3 and 4 turns for the planes in the 'Face to Face' scenario. We also found that one player would make a climb move and then the other player would follow him and that we were only rarely on different altitude levels - and then the only effect would be to reduce the range of our weapons. How come there is no advantage for being on a higher altitude level? Wouldn't an advantage give a plane a bit more incentive to 'get above' the other plane and exploit the advantage?
On a related note, is there no time at all when planes can fire at each other when they are overlapping, even if they're at different altitudes?
BTW, as a designer who loves to make reference sheets, I'm thinking of remaking the play mats in the set to include an vertical 'altitude ruler' up the side to show altitude, rather than use counters. And also, at some time in future editions it would be great to see cards - especially the plane cards - that were thicker and more hard-wearing (eg the balloon card thickness); it looks like the cards are going to wear out pretty quickly.
Anyway, it's a very enjoyable game!
Dives are considerably faster... the dive maneuver loses 1 level plus all counters, not just a single counter. With an overdive (stall-dive-straight) you lose an additional level. A Split-S (stall-Immelmann) only loses a single counter.
Of course, in a one on one dogfight it's probably not worth using any altitude system. The main reason to change altitude is to elude the opponent to try to gain a favourable position. But with no other targets or threats around there's no reason for the chasing plane to just keep following any altitude changes (unless, of course, their plane is completely outclassed in climb rate)... pretty much what you ran into. So it's probably best not to use the altitude rules there... they just complicate things for no real benefit. Use them for senarios that require a set altitude for a mission objective (eg. land and takeoff to retrieve a spy) or for dogfights with multiple planes on each sides (where chasing a fleeing overdiving plane out of the swarm becomes more of an issue because it will take some time to recover the altitude and get back to help your team mates -- it might be better just to let them limp away).
It's almost funny. Lots of air games have come out with altitude built in. (It's a FLYING game, so they think they have to.)
I know of 4 different WWI air games which originally came out with no altitude-- there may be others.
Blue Max, Ace of Aces, Sopwith, and Wings of War.
In every case, later developments added altitude to "improve" the game, and in every single case, the games got slower, harder to play, and overall less fun.
The idea of saving altitude rules to where you really need it-- and balloon busting is one time to consider it-- is sound. But using altitude in mass dogfights really does slow down the mass game play.
The idea of the "altitude ruler" is a very good one. It could be done as a separate add-on to the existing play mats, couldn't it. A snipped of paper that could be laid on the edge of the mat...That way we wouldn't need new mats (and wouldn't feel like we were "missing" something if we don't use altitude.)
Consider putting your plane cards in laminating plastic. You'll get the thickness and durability you want with no loss of game ability. You can buy full sheets of this stuff and do a mass of planes in one sheet and then snip them all out, to save money.
I like this game, but am pleased that they relegated altitude to "optional." I mostly won't ever use it, because the cost is just too high in time and energy spent.