Dave Schueler and I have a list of air games we’d like to try. For the past five or more years we’ve run games at Enfilade, and we’re always looking for the right convention game.
One issue we’ve struggled with is a good set of WWII air rules for a convention setting. I know Check Your 6 is popular, I’ve played the game and I don’t hate it. But I have two issues with it. First it’s tied to a hex grid. My chief goal in life is to free all miniatures games from hex grids or they are simply board games played with nice metal and resin pieces. Secondly, and probably most important, is I’m completely unwilling to make the investments I’d need to do to convert my hundreds of painted miniatures over to the system. Sorry, no, not happening.
Which brings us to the Illustrious scenario. I’m on Facebook. Please don’t think ill of me. One of the advantages is being able to connect with folks who have common interests. There is actually an Aerial Wargames group. I lamented there wasn’t a game similar to David Manley’s excellent Air War C.21 game. David Manley happens to be a member of the Aerial Wargames group, and let me/us know that he has a WWII air combat set of rules that is similar to Air War C21. Daveshoe has a real relationship with David and when I told him about the game, sent Manley an e-mail. He agreed to let us beta test his rules. We were happy campers.
Yesterday Dave broke out his freshly built and painted HMS Illustrious plus Tribal class destroyer, and put some Italian and German bombers on them. Just a word, Dave is the model-builder in our partnership, and his work is really good. The ships looked super and properly camouflaged for the January 1941 incident.
The game is based on the German/Italian effort to neutralize Illustrious and its task force which terrorized the Western Mediterranean and re-supplied Malta during 1940. The Germans and Italians combined their forces to launch an attack on the carrier group, and our game tries to take their efforts into consideration.
The four Axis players divided six torpedo armed SM. 79 trimotors and six Ju. 87 Stukas. The Italians came in at low level, lugging their fish. The Stukas game in at high level at turn later. Scott Abbott and I each ran a pair of Fairey Fulmars–sort of an eight gun fighter version of a Fairey Battle. We’re sort of talking an under-powered bus with guns. It was our job to combine the ships’ flak with our air prowess to save our floating home.
We showed our air prowess immediately when Scott tried an advanced maneuver-an Immelman?- failed and lost enough power to go into a dangerous stall. The three Italian bombers facing him, immediately raced past the Fulmars and were off to the races.
My Fulmars tangle with David Sullivan’s SM. 79’s went better, but only because a quirk in the scenario rules.
I had more luck engaging the Italians facing me. Though my maneuvers were hardly elegant, I inflicted minor damage on two of the bombers. According to the scenario rules, if the Italians suffered any damage they would have to check morale. A roll of three or less on a D10, minus one for each point of damage would cause the pilot to jettison their payload and head home. David Sullivan rolled a one and a two for each of his morale rolls I finally lined up a good shot on his remaining plane and damaged the torpedo release, so all three of his planes were out of action.
Al Rivers’ Stukas (left) get ready for their dive bombing attack on Illustrious. Dale Mickel’s Stuka is about to be blasted to atoms as my last attack detonates his bomb. Not a good day for the Stukas.
The Stukas had little luck. Flying at normal altitude, they came under fire from heavy flak. Scott’s planes finally got into action, were quickly damaged, in fact, they were so slowed that a Stuka shot down one of his lumbering two seaters. But the survivor managed to shoot down one of Dale Mickel’s Germans. I engaged another of Dale’s planes and got a critical hit, exploding his bomb. His third plane ran into flak and folded into a fireball.
Dave Demick’s SM. 79’s broke loose from Scott’s fighters and flew unhindered by Fulmars or flak and made their torpedo run at the carrier, scoring a hit.
Dave Demick’s Italians, unhindered by Scott’s fighters, pressed their attack on the carrier and loosed their their torpedoes. One hit the carrier and did significant damage. As the three SM. 79’s crossed over the carrier, one plane was perforated by a two-pounder and plunged into the sea. The carrier, shaken by the hit lost some of it’s flak.
I managed to line up a shot at Al Rivers’ Stuka, only to be shot out of the sky by flak. The remaining German dive bombers pressed on and made their runs on the Illustrious. One, damaged by earlier fire was unable to release its bomb. The others missed. Game over.
The game’s victory conditions called for 50% damage to Illustrious for an Axis win. The carrier had 50 hit points. The torpedo did ten points of damage, based on a die roll of 2 D 10. That was the only hit in the game. Allied victory. The Italians lost one bomber. The Germans lost three Stukas. One Fulmar was lost to enemy action. One was destroyed by friendly flak. The other two suffered damage, but survived.
The debrief was challenging because I was a player in the game. Everything was difficult for the Fulmars. They’re slow, turn poorly and their armament may seem formidable, but light machine guns don’t cut it in this game. So when the Axis players said they had no chance it was hard to credit them. But morale rolls did cost them a quarter of their attacking force and the flak did seem nasty, so Dave and I are revisiting some of this for a future playtest.