Suggestions for rules light hexgrid aircraft dogfight boardgame

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Gabriel

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Anyone have any suggestions for a relatively rules light, but still moderately detailed, hexgrid aircraft dogfighting game? My thematic preference would be modern (80s and onward) jet aircraft, but WWII fighters would be good as well.

"Maneuver Path" systems like X-Wing, Wings of Glory, Wings of War, etc, are right out. The person I play with hates the types of games with just open table space and movement templates. It has to be hexgrid based.

In terms of rules depth... something about the level of mech only Battletech.
 

Gabriel

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Nothing? Oh well. My efforts own hadn't turned up much. I would think modern jet fighters would be a pretty popular theme for a game, but I guess not.

There doesn't even seem to be a flight path style game featuring modern jets. Most of what exists seems to skew pretty heavy.

My research has shown me that the best it gets for my particular criteria are probably the FASA Top Gun game from 86 or the retroclone Cold War Air Supremacy. I've just had a problem getting those to the table. Maybe I should try harder.

Another one I've seen brought up are the old Milton Bradley games Screaming Eagles and Mission Command: Air. I own both. They hit the table a fair bit. I was just hoping for something a bit more detailed.

If I'm willing to switch themes for WWI aircraft, I do have Dawn Patrol. It's just that the set I finally acquired after all these years is so nice it seems like sacrilege to cut the cards apart.

I have learned of Dawn Patrol. That one looks pretty good like it might meet my criteria. It also seems to be the source of the movement rules I like from the vastly stripped down and simpler party game I own called VCR Dogfight.

If I were going to switch from modern jets to something else, I think I'd rather switch to WWII aircraft. Oddly, there doesn't seem to be much of anything in that genre either. There's flight path systems, but that's it.

Aereronautical Imperialis looks like it might fit my criteria, but I don't really want a collectible type game like that and I'm not really after a starfighter game. I'd rather something that is a complete in the box game rather than a Starter sort of game.
 

Bunch

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Might look to see if anyone repurposed the OGRE rules to do something like this.
 

Lofgeornost

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For W.W.I, I had a lot of fun with Richthofen’s War by Avalon Hill back in the day. It’s not a simultaneous-movement game, though, so it works better for multiple aircraft per side, in my opinion. For a 1-1 dogfight it tends to turn into ‘I maneuver behind him/he maneuvers behind me’. Its also interesting with non-fighter aircraft—recon two-seaters vs. fighters from early in the war, for instance.
 

David Johansen

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There's an article on aircraft in The Ogre book.

I played Blood Red Skies Korea once but it doesn't use a hexgrid but it does give you a feel for how fast the jets were compared to prop jobs.

Oddly enough I quite like GW's Aeronatica Imperialis. It's really a better WWII dog fight game than Blood Red Skies.

I know Clash Bowlery did an rpg, Wild Blue, about modern dog fighting but it doesn't use a hex grid and is very much an rpg.

I could probably dash one off based on my c21+ rules and the big book of airplane stats I have sitting on my shelf.
 

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Crimson Skies I think had a click based miniatures game that was probably grid based. Might be something there to look at.
 

David Johansen

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So, I guess the first question is whether you're looking for double blind orders be it cards or markers or dice or whatever but do you want a game where maneuvers are selected simultaneously without knowing. It's a great mechanic for small games and a terrible one for large games.

The next question is how important heading and three dimensional play are to you.

Because there's always this: https://www.adastragames.com/birds-of-prey
 

Gabriel

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So, I guess the first question is whether you're looking for double blind orders be it cards or markers or dice or whatever but do you want a game where maneuvers are selected simultaneously without knowing. It's a great mechanic for small games and a terrible one for large games.

The next question is how important heading and three dimensional play are to you.

Because there's always this: https://www.adastragames.com/birds-of-prey

The exact maneuvering mechanic doesn't really matter to me, as long as the result feels like maneuvering an aircraft as opposed to just moving a counter around. Simultaneous secret choice of pre-plotted manuevers seems to work well, but I am perfectly fine with free I-move-U-move as long as the maneuvers meet the feel I'm looking for.

Three dimensional play is mostly a negative to me. It starts at a very mild negative for very basic altitude rules and gets more and more negative the more detailed the altitude rules are. I am perfectly content with a 2d hexgrid simulation.
 

Gabriel

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Crimson Skies I think had a click based miniatures game that was probably grid based. Might be something there to look at.
There were two.

The first was a hexgrid (?) fighter combat game. I think the damage system was borrowed from the Renegade Legion games. When I looked yesterday, there don't seem to be any copies of it on ebay. This version doesn't seem to be very common.

The second was a clix system. I actually remember buying the rules pack and a couple of fighter packs from Gamestop way back in the day for something like $5 total because it was all on just-get-it-out-of-here clearance. I'm not sure if I have any of that stuff anymore. I don't recall anything about it beyond looking at the rules and not having any desire to play it. Pretty bad that it was only $5 and still was a waste of money. I might still have the rules, but I think I chucked the minis in the dumpster without ever even having opened them. And I had been really into clix at the time.
 

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There were two.

The first was a hexgrid (?) fighter combat game. I think the damage system was borrowed from the Renegade Legion games. When I looked yesterday, there don't seem to be any copies of it on ebay. This version doesn't seem to be very common.

The second was a clix system. I actually remember buying the rules pack and a couple of fighter packs from Gamestop way back in the day for something like $5 total because it was all on just-get-it-out-of-here clearance. I'm not sure if I have any of that stuff anymore. I don't recall anything about it beyond looking at the rules and not having any desire to play it. Pretty bad that it was only $5 and still was a waste of money. I might still have the rules, but I think I chucked the minis in the dumpster without ever even having opened them. And I had been really into clix at the time.
I have promos of theb Clixs minis but they don't have any actual numbers and never saw the rules. Ive kept the minis for general play. Too bad the game wasn't good.

I'll keep my eye out for the first edition.
 

Gabriel

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Oh, up above, I talked about Dawn Patrol, and then seemingly started talking about Dawn Patrol again as a separate thing. I typoed because I guess I had target fixation. What I meant to type was Blue Max.

Blue Max looks like it might be interesting. Yeah, it has that pesky altitude stuff, but it might be OK. Anyone got any experience with that one?
 

Lofgeornost

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As far as tracking altitude goes, it’s hard to make a good game about air combat in the prop era especially where it doesn’t play a big role. Getting above your opponent could be very important tactically, and differences in climb rate and ceiling were important.
 

David Johansen

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I think altitude is important but it can be as simple as three to five levels Blood Red Skies actually uses altitude to track damage. If you get hit you lose an altitude level and when you hit the ground you're dead but Blood Red Skies is intended for larger engagements and squadron morale is the main factor being watched.

But even in the modern era, altitude is stored energy that can be used to the pilot's advantage. I guess a major question is whether you want one plane per player, a squadron per player, or a whole task force.
 

David Johansen

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So, just to take a stab at a light system.

Planes are activated in order of altitude level then speed with the attacker winning ties. A plane moves and shoots during its activation. I hate having to remember stuff between phases.

Planes are rated for speed, number of engines, weapons, and size / damage points.
Speed is the number of hexes the plane can move each turn. 1 is under 0.5 mach. 2 is upto mach 1, 3 is up to mach 1.5, 4 is up to mach 2, etc.

There are five altitude levels, ground, low, medium, high, and stratosphere. The thing is that jets konk out at the highest altitude so you can climb to it but will stall. It costs one hex of movement to climb one altitude level. Diving increases the speed by one in the turn the plane dives, after that air friction slows it down again. You can power dive straight down as many altitude levels as you like but this is dangerous and requires a piloting skill roll to pull out. A plane must climb to attack a target at a higher altitude level, adding the difference in altitude to the range. A plane must dive to attack a plane at a lower altitude level.

A plane with its speed reduced to zero stalls and falls one altitude level per turn. When it hits the ground it is destroyed. A plane can turn 60 degrees once during its movement. A second turn requires a piloting roll or the plane continues and doesn't turn. Planes can increase or reduce their speed by one each turn without climbing or diving.

Attacks are made at gunner skill or less on 1d20. Each doubling of the weapon's range halves the gunner's skill. The chance to hit is also halved. If the target's speed is greater than the range and is perpendicular to the target's heading. 1 point of damage will kill a light plane or helicopter, 2 points will kill most combat aircraft, 3 point will kill a big fighter like an f14, jumbo jets and hercules type planes can take as many as 5 - 6 points of damage. Losing engines proportionately reduces a plane's top speed. A speed 4 plane with 4 engines becomes a speed 3 plane if it loses one.

Plane damage locations
1 Radar and Avionics (plane can no longer navigate, target planes beyond range 2, or fly at low altitude. Treat low altitude as the ground because you can't tell the difference anymore)
2 Cockpit (the pilot is dead, if the plane is a drone the radio and computer are knocked out instead)
3- 8 Wings, (the plane loses one altitude level)
9 - 10 Engine (The plane loses speed proportionate to the number of engines
11 - 12 Landing Gear (the plane is still flying but counts as a casualty)
13 - 15 Fuel (BOOM the plane bursts into flame and goes down. Pilot ejects)
16 Weapon (The plane can no longer attack with one of its guns, missiles are payload)
17 - 18 Payload (The plane loses any cargo it was carrying which probably is a victory condition but if it's carrying bombs then BOOM as for fuel)
19 - 20 Tail (The plane requires a piloting roll to make a single turn and can't make two turns anymore)
 
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David Johansen

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Air to Air Missiles are Speed 6 but cannot make tight turns. In order to fire a missile the gunner must first hit with a target lock attack the missile is then launched and moves as an independent unit. Planes with flares can decoy air to air missiles 10- on 1d20. When the missile enters the target's hex the pilot can attempt to dodge the missile by rolling under their piloting skill. Missile hits cause 1d6 + 2 damage.

Other missiles are primarily mission objective related much like bombs. Ground attack missiles and anti shipping missiles are being carried to destroy a surface target.

Air brakes allow a plane to decelerate 2 in a single turn.

Flares are used to decoy air to air and surface to air missiles

Helicopters and vectored thrust jets like the Harrier and the Marine version of the F-35 can hover at move 0 without stalling.

Helicopters have a maximum speed of one but are generally used in ground combat rather than air combat

Turrets have gone out of fashion since World War II but a plane with a dorsal turret can attack targets above it without climbing and a plane with a ventral turret can attack targets beneath it in a 360 degree arc in both cases. Chin and tail turrets have a 60 degree arc instead of the normal straight ahead arc of most weapons.

Scale: One air combat hex is one kilometer across and an air combat turn is about 15 seconds. Ground units generally move slow enough that they will only move once every 5 to 10 turns. Ground combat hexes are 100 meters across but the turn length remains the same. World War II planes would probably use the ground combat scale.

Ground Units
Ground units primarily function as targets for ground attack missions but a separate ground combat game could be worked out.

Infantry represents fireteams with four riflemen or one heavy weapon team. Most infantry weapons can only fire at low altitude targets. SA-7s and similar surface to air missiles being an exception. A rifle team attacks like a single machinegun.

Vehicles can be as detailed as aircraft and ground combat is practically a game of its own at that point. Tanks are heavily armoured tracked vehicles with a powerful cannon and machine guns. Armoured personal carriers are lightly armoured but largely immune to small arms fire. They carry a light autocannon and an antitank missile on their turret. LAVs and similar wheeled troop carriers are lightly armoured and armed but can carry antiaircraft guns and surface to air missiles. Multipurpose vehicles like HUMVEEs can carry antiaircraft machine guns, surface to air missiles and anti tank missiles. Light trucks like Jeeps and technicals can carry an anti-aircraft machinegun.

Tanks Armour 6/4/1 4 damage points
APCs Armour 4/4/1 3 damage points
LAVs Armour 2/2/2 2 damage points
Light Trucks Armour 1 1 damage point

Machinegun range 1, damage 1 (linked guns random hit number eg 4 guns 1 hit (1-5), 2 hits (6-10), 3 hits (11 - 15), 4 hits (16 - 20)
20mm cannon range 2, damage 1d2
30mm cannon range 3, damage 1d3
80mm cannon range 4, damage 1d6+1
110mm cannon range 5, damage 1d6+3
Air to Air Missile speed 7, damage 1d6+2
 

Toadmaster

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Avalon Hills Flight Leader was fun, it was a mid 80s game so it won't have the latest and greatest fighters of 2021 but many of the fighters in the game are still mostly current. I believe it allowed combat from Korea to the present day (mid 80s).

I haven't played it in a long time, but as I recall it is crunchy-ish, but the crunch is easy to use ad the game plays quickly. If you can handle Battle Tech this might work for you.
Each player has a card in front of them that allows them to track altitude, speed, energy, fuel etc. Fairly simple tracking, just a token on a bar so is similar to hit points. Enough detail that an F-14 Tomcat, F-4 Phantom and Mig-21 are quite distinct with their own character.

Altitude and speed are critical factors in a dogfight so any game that tries to make even a half hearted effort at realism will have to include them. In this game managing your energy (a factor of speed and altitude changes) is a major consideration.

AH Flight Leader


In Harms Way from Flying Mice Games is set up an an RPG based around pilots. The rules look pretty decent to me, but are more of a table top minis measure and point kind of thing rather than hexes, although I don't think it would be difficult to adapt it to work o a hex map. There are 3 versions Aces in Spades (WW1), Aces & Angels (WW2) and Wild Blue (modern). There are lists of aircraft and for later periods missiles and such. There is an effort to be accurate on the technical specs but the author admits to a bit of "that looks right" hand waving on some details which might annoy some purists.

Flying Mice Games

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I've not played it only read the rules, but it strikes me as being along the lines of Battle Tech or Mech Warrior.
 
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