Part of my quest for solo-ness for my Gambusia campaign, I've been looking at various rules. In a previous post, I considered various land warfare rules. Recently, I've been turning to naval and air combat rules. I decided to check out the Panzer 8 family of rules. They cover everything from late 19th century to sci-fi. They are fairly simple and free. There are two rules for air combat. One is from 1935 to about 1965 and the other is from 1965 to 1975. Both rules are pretty similar in terms of mechanics except the later one includes missiles. I thought I'd try out the '35-'65 one just to get a feel for it plus I didn't have to concern myself with missiles.
I made up a scenario depicting the early stages of the First Chalupastani War that took place in the mid-1970s. The Communist North, backed by lots of not-quite-state-of-the-art Soviet weaponry, launched a massive invasion of the unprepared South, whose weapons were largely WW2 and early 1960s vintage. Early in the war, the North had yet to establish air superiority. In the scenario, three members of the 4th fighter squadron of Southern Chalupastan are returning from a ground attack mission supporting retreating ground troops. They are flying vintage WW2 Corsair fighters.
They are jumped by three members of the 3rd squadron of the 2nd Air Group flying MIG-15s. Up to the war, Northern Chalupistan followed a camouflage pattern similar to that of WW2 Japanese aircraft:
I decided to test the game using counters rather than miniatures. Like a lot of air combat games you need a hex board to play the Pz8 rules. The first thing I did was print up four sheets of hex paper using the Incompetec online hex generator. You tell it what you want, it spits out a pdf file for you. I chose 1" hexes. I wanted them large enough to put decent-sized counters on, but small enough to have lots of hexes for the planes to move around on. I taped together the four sheets of paper and voila, I had my playing surface.
Onto the counters. I made 1" counters from cardstock and used Adobe Illustrator. Probably any drawing program would work fine, but I prefer vector-base programs for things like this. For each plane, I put in all that stats needed.
When a plane is damaged in Pz8, it looses speed and its maximum altitude. So each plane counter has a front and back to represent the undamaged and damaged state:
I also made smaller counters representing a plane's current altitude:
I managed to squeeze in two games in between late-night diaper changings. The first one was an one-on-one duel. It lasted all of four turns, three of which was moving the two planes close enough for the kill. Not too surprisingly, the MIG-15 shot the Corsair down. From this first game, I made a slight change in the rules where changing to a lower altitude will add one hex to the aircraft's speed. This would give a slightly increased chance for a plane to get away, or conversely to swoop in on a target.
I played out the scenario in the second game. Three Corsairs against three MIGs. To determine which planes got activated, the Ace, Two, and Three of Hearts represented each of the three Northern MIGs; the Ace, Two, and Three of Clubs represented each of the three Southern Corsairs. No, the Ace did not mean it was an ace pilot, but there is are bonuses in the rules for aces. I mixed up the cards and turned them over one at a time. The card that turned up was the plane that got to go. When all cards were used up, I reshuffled the deck and started over again. To try to be as impartial as I could, I tried to evaluate what maneuver or movement would be the most beneficial during each plane's turn. Not to go into details of the rules, but unlike Airwar: C21, there are only a few specialized maneuvers in addition to turning.
At start, I had the planes on each side move as one unit and could not break formation for either the first three turns, or within one and a half speed hexes away from their opponent, whichever came first. The Corsairs began at the bottom middle side, the North (yeah know, bottom should be South), of the hex sheet. I rolled for the MIGs to determine where they would start. 1 or 2, left side; 3 or 4, bottom side; 5 or 6, right side. They rolled the left side. I also decided that they were at their maximum altitude, 5, whereas the Corsairs were at altitude 3.
The MIGs quickly closed in. Being faster, they managed to get behind the Corsairs and by the fourth turn, one Corsair was shot down. However, several subsequent turns, the MIGs had terrible die rolls and either missed the remaining Corsairs, or failed to do any damage to them. The Corsairs took advantage of that as well as the luck of the card draw to reverse the roles. Using the move forward one hex, climb one altitude level, change direction 180° maneuver, one Corsair got close behind a MIG and with really good die rolls shot it down. Another Corsair went nose-to-nose with a MIG, which resulted in mutual damage. During what was probably the key turn, The damaged MIG found itself the target of the two remaining Corsairs with no way to fire back. It went down in flames. I rolled an impromptu "discretion is the better part of valor" die (1-3 he fights on, 4-6 he leaves). The MIG pilot decided not to push his luck and drove off to exit the game. The Corsairs had no desire to pursue and they limped back home.
Evaluation of the Rules
The author of the rules state that they are not meant to be highly detailed, but rather rules for a quick game or to be used as part of a campaign. It was enjoyable. The games went pretty fast, and there were some tense moments. About the only issue was the method of activation, which seemed to make or break it for the poor MIGs several times in the game. I am not sure how to improve on this. I have no qualms with the method of resolving combat. The MIGs just kept getting a lot of bad die rolls. Also, it pays to really get in close to your target as it ups the odds of scoring a hit. This helped the Corsairs score hits on the MIGs several times. For another test drive, I plan to use the 1965 to 1975 rules to see how missiles are used. As I stated earlier, the '65 to '75 rules pretty much the same, but with the addition of missiles.