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"Are ground attacks fun to game?" Topic

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797 hits since 4 Dec 2019
©1994-2020 Bill Armintrout
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Yellow Admiral04 Dec 2019 11:42 p.m. PST

In every air combat game I've ever played, the air to air combat is the focus, and the bombers are mostly just targets. In many of my CY6 group's latest games, the point of the scenario was to score hits on a surface target (airfield, parked planes, ships, etc.), but the bombing runs are either not much fun or outright frustrating.

I'm not convinced bombing/strafing/torpedo attacks can't be fun, I just have yet to play a game where they are.

I'd like to hear anecdotes of fun air-to-ground gaming experiences. Do you have any to relate? What made it an enjoyable gaming experience?

- Ix

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2019 1:16 a.m. PST

I don't see why they can't be fun, either.

I've had plenty of fun with the following:

Operation Bodenplatte beating up airfields and strafing planes parked near them, plus attempting to shoot up/bomb the fuel depot (bonus points for that attack). Must fly through local airfield flak, and CAP/Alert fighters. Then of course, there's flying through the "friendly flak" too, that isn't aware German aircraft are operating over the front, due to the need for secrecy, on their return flight, so…..

RAF Mossies and Beaus beating up U-Boats in the Bay of Biscay, during the "fight back period", where U-Boats were ordered to remain surfaced and to travel in groups for "self-protection". Sometimes they get Ju-88Cs for CAP cover to help even the odds a bit. Tse-tse Mossies and aircraft with rocket projectiles can be a lot of fun vs. the subs. Of course, they get enhanced flak during this period as well.

Stuka divebombers over the English Channel, attack convoy vessels. Good fun, unless you are a sailor. Brits might or might not get air cover.

Always wanted to do Typhoons vs. German trains, and other transport in Normandy, and adjacent areas. Send them out on patrol and see what they encounter. Lots of deadly, low-level flak for the Brits to deal with, and random encounters for this one truck convoys, trains, bridges, etc., etc.. Bought a bagged "card game" for this one, in order to try to glean some ideas from it. Can't recall the name of that now.

I've used a mix of standard and house rules. Haven't done this with CY6, but have done so with Duel of Eagles, Action Stations (air/naval), Clash of Sabres/Shipwreck for the Falklands War (1982), etc., etc..

ALL good fun, and yes, frustrating sometimes too, especially for the Argies, since I had a house rule that only about 20% 25% of bombs hitting their targets would detonate, due to poor fuse setting, and low altitude bombing. Roll for each separately, in order to get the players' hopes up with numerous hits, and then dash them with the dud rolls.

Timmo uk05 Dec 2019 2:24 a.m. PST

I've played the low level attack on RAF Kenley during the BoB, using Bag The Hun II and thought it was a pretty good scenario.

I've played numerous WW1 games with recce targets to photograph or targets to bomb and they've made good scenarios but only when there is fighter cover and fighter aggressors, rather than it being a strictly air to ground game.

Captain Bob05 Dec 2019 5:14 a.m. PST

I put a game on a few years ago based on a fictitious third wave at Pearl Harbor using CY6. The Japanese commanders controlled 3 dive bombers (attacking buildings and oil storage tanks), 3 torpedo planes and 2 zeros. The American commanders controlled the limited number of fighters, AA fire and ships. It was an enjoyable game but it was full on controlling so much. The game ended in a Japanese partial victory as they caused significant damage to the oil tanks and a couple more ships but they didn't achieve all their objectives. The day, however, is mostly remembered when the AA fire from one American player destroyed one of his colleagues planes in friendly fire, only for the resulting critical damage to cause debris that hit his wingman behind, which resulted in a further critical hit and the loss of both of his planes.
We don't play many air games these days but those we do have to have more to them than just dogfights.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2019 7:17 a.m. PST

I've run a lot of air to surface games using the
Blue Sky series of rules.

Sturmoviks versus German armored columns are
interesting and one finds out why the Sturmoviks
were armored. The Flak Panzer IV and similar
vehicles can make life difficult for GA aircraft,
the same being true for US columns protected by
a platoon of M16MGMC's (M3 half-tracks modified
to accept a quad .50 mount)

Using terrain tiles from some of the old AH or other
BG's to create potential obstructions/collision
points can make surface attack games 'interesting'.

KSmyth05 Dec 2019 8:36 a.m. PST

I've run many games that ground attack or anti-shipping games and expect to run many more. I've done modern games featuring a hypothetical air attack on missiles in Cuba in 1962, as well as Argentine attacks on British shipping in the Falklands War.

For WW II we've run raids on Valletta's Grand Harbor, as well as attacks on the Tirpitz, the HMS Illustrious and a couple of weeks ago a British raid on an Italian convoy.

Typically all the games offer the attackers and defenders some choices about composition of their forces as well as placement of attack forces which can lead to complications. We usually have few complaints. There is dogfighting but it is simplified enough that new players can easily pick up the game.

We use David Manley's Air War C 21 for jets and his unpublished WWII rules.

Sundance05 Dec 2019 10:35 a.m. PST

CY6 was designed a an air-to-air game. The ground attack stuff was just added to complete it, but that is why it's pretty generic compared to the air-to-air. In fact, most air games, air-to-ground is pretty generic.

Yellow Admiral05 Dec 2019 12:12 p.m. PST

I've run many games that ground attack or anti-shipping games and expect to run many more.
In fact, your games are part of my inspiration to fix this problem. They look awesome, the players seem to be having fun, and the games run to completion, all good signs. A Kevin Smyth WWII air game is on my "must do" list for next Enfilade. grin

- Ix

Yellow Admiral05 Dec 2019 12:32 p.m. PST

CY6 was designed a an air-to-air game. The ground attack stuff was just added to complete it, but that is why it's pretty generic compared to the air-to-air. In fact, most air games, air-to-ground is pretty generic.

I'm just not that keen on the CY6 rulebook ground attack rules; a few things seem oddly wrong (e.g., you can't run out of ammo on strafing runs), and overall they just feel like they still need some playtesting. That said, I think the most egregious problem with CY6 is the pacing of the game; most CY6 ground attack scenarios seem to end with just a few long-odds shots at the surface targets, usually after too many hours of play.

I think the most fun I've had conducting ground attacks was actually while playing the old Blue Sky series. Unfortunately, I didn't like the dogfighting experience all that much, which is why I don't play those rules anymore.

I've generally found the air attack rules in naval games unsuitable. GQ3 had the most promise, but the overall flavor seems to be the wrong combination of heavy mechanics and too much abstraction. Others just seem too abstract and abbreviated, which is appropriate in a naval game, but not so great for an air battle game.

I'm most interested in a game that features both dogfights and ground attack on the table together, with players controlling a standard 3-4 ship vic/schwarm/flight (or maybe 2-3 of those if level bombers with less maneuvering to do). I still want the dogfighting to matter, but I don't necessarily want it to be more intensive in focus than the ground attacks.

- Ix

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2019 1:33 p.m. PST

Well, since it is the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, you could do a scenario pitting P-47s vs. a German armored column and softskins.

Germans get Wirbelwinds and Ostwinds for defense. Perhaps, if you have them, a few AA halftracks as well, just for grins.

A narrow, winding road, where the ground is soft to either side of it.

The attacks really occurred, and there were losses on both sides.

Throw in the chance for some late-war Messerschmitts, FW-190Ds, or Schwalbes, just for grins, if you think the combat will be too one-sided. After all, the weather cleared, and visibility was great for both sides in the air, just before Christmas, so a little German air support might be possible, at least hypothetically (they did definitely get German air support at night, but I suspect that was a lot more ineffective).

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2019 3:24 p.m. PST

I'm very much interested in this conversation, too. I'm really interested in playing out some air-to surface games, but I can't seem to crack the code, either; I can't figure out how you get decisions into the game, something to make it more than just a simple dice-rolling event.

I'm not looking to play air-to surface fights with air-to air fights; I've already got simple dogfighting rules that I'm using, and the interceptors and escorts go at it as the bombers traverse the length of the board. Any bombers that make it from one end of the board to the other have safely made it to the target area (I figure the interceptors have peeled off to avoid getting hit by friendly AAA fire), and that is where I'd like to start an air-to surface game.

But how do put decision points in the air-to surface piece? I've got some thoughts on Cold War/Ultramodern, where you're maneuvering to minimize radar cross-section, and using ECM jamming, deploying decoys (chaff/flares) to dodge SAMs, while pressing home an attack with a loadout you choose of iron bombs, smart bombs, unguided rockets, etc…, but I can't seem to figure out something for WWII, which is actually where my primary interest lies.

I do like the idea of maybe using terrain to mask, or maybe for 'open' areas like attacking ships on the open ocean, add some clouds to mask, but other than that, I really can't figure out how to make this a fun game.

I see Blue Sky mentioned as working; I'm not familiar with these rules, could anyone tell me what it is about them that 'works' for air-to surface action?


KSmyth05 Dec 2019 4:27 p.m. PST

Ix, Daveshoe and I are looking at Ploesti for our Enfilade game.

Yellow Admiral05 Dec 2019 5:00 p.m. PST

I see Blue Sky mentioned as working; I'm not familiar with these rules, could anyone tell me what it is about them that 'works' for air-to surface action?
I don't think the Blue Sky system had anything special going for it, it's just that the mechanics were pretty easy to grasp without a lot of chart or table lookups, making maneuvering more intuitive than analytical (after some practice). The asymmetrical initiative sequence could be extremely frustrating in air-to-air combat, but air-to-surface attacks on stationary targets were a reasonable balance between thinking and acting.

I've also tended to separate the dogfighting and surface attacks into separate games, but the last year of scenarios has got me rethinking this. It's nice to be able to take advantage of natural human tunnelvision to execute ruses, feints, surprises, etc. on the table.

- Ix

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2019 5:34 p.m. PST


Very interesting; I play solo, and I like to get a good 15 or so aircraft on the table at a time, so simple mechanics are definitely the order of the day.

"The asymmetrical initiative sequence could be extremely frustrating in air-to-air combat, but air-to-surface attacks on stationary targets were a reasonable balance between thinking and acting."
Could I bother you to expound on this?

"I've also tended to separate the dogfighting and surface attacks into separate games, but the last year of scenarios has got me rethinking this."
For me, I'm very happy with my current dogfight rules, so I'm not looking to do anything to upset them, which kind of forces me to split them. I could see maybe allowing 1 or 2 interceptors into the fight, on rare occasions, just to mix things up.

"It's nice to be able to take advantage of natural human tunnelvision to execute ruses, feints, surprises, etc. on the table."
That is a great observation, and a great point. Alas, my games are almost exclusively solo, so hard to pull off.


Yellow Admiral05 Dec 2019 7:09 p.m. PST

Here's a rough draft attempt to define some key elements I think would make ground attack fun to play:

  • Critical thinking. If individual maneuvers and timing have differing effects on the outcomes of surface attacks, the decision cycle gets richer and therefore more interesting. If you just "move over target, roll dice", there's nothing very interesting to do (so level bombing in formation will probably never be a lot of fun to play). If strafing, tank/train busting, dive bombing, torpedo runs, skip bombing, etc. all have slightly different techniques that work better, the game gains depth.
  • But not too much critical thinking.This is sort of a counterpoint to the first point; if the decision cycle is too complicated or detailed, play bogs down as players settle into if/then/else/but/then/however/maybe loops. E.g.: it would help to have similar procedures to conduct all attacks, maybe varying special attacks by one step, one conditional prerequisite, result adjudication, or something else that is only a minor deviation from the normal mechanics.
  • Flak and fighters. It's not much fun to defend against an attack with dice alone, so it helps to give the defenders flexibility to move resources around (when applicable). Choosing flak positions and deploying CAP can be a whole game-within-a-game. Defenses that don't involve a decision tree should probably just be automated or even abstracted away, so that all players are on the same side playing against the GM or the system. (If you're playing solo, I guess this isn't really a problem.)
  • Reasonable chance of getting to attack. Bombers and strafers have to have a chance to achieve a ground attack. Nobody really minds if a dogfight is super bloody (e.g. 20 planes enter, 3 leave), since "last man standing" is a natural part of the hero ethic, but failing to even reach the ground target is just frustrating. The attack force should suffer some casualties, and maybe more nuanced results like spoiled aim or pressing home attacks with damaged planes, but having all the bombers wiped out without result will drive away players.

I'll keep thinking about this.

- Ix

Yellow Admiral05 Dec 2019 7:21 p.m. PST

The asymmetrical initiative sequence could be extremely frustrating in air-to-air combat, but air-to-surface attacks on stationary targets were a reasonable balance between thinking and acting.
Could I bother you to expound on this?
We're taxing my memory banks now. I'm going to misremember something…

The Blue Sky rules use a one-flight-at-a-time initiative system. I no longer remember how initiative is determined, but as in nearly all dogfight games, going later is preferable to going sooner.

This makes larger games with lots of players into waitfests. You wait and wait and wait until you get to move your own planes, try to rush through your move to keep other people from waiting too long, then wait some more until shooting can start. Dogfighting can be frustrating because planes moving too early often get no shots, and worse, might just get shot out of the sky while sitting and watching helplessly as late movers line up shots and take them. It becomes important to move very carefully when moving early, but it's also impolite to take too long.

If the game were just ground attack without a defending CAP, this could go a lot faster, since everyone could move simultaneously.

- Ix

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2019 8:21 p.m. PST


Wow, thank you for the comprehensive replies, I greatly appreciate it. Regarding Blue Sky, I'm reading you, and perhaps I'll take a look at some point.

But in the overall scheme of things, I'm agreeing with the principles you laid out above, and I'm guessing there are no rules that already do that, so I'm going to have to figure this out myself, or with the help of brave, kind folks like yourself ;)

I very much want to get into ground attack games of the type Thresher described above: P-47s combing the battlefield, shooting up tanks, troops, supply vehicles, trains, bridges, etc… And I really want to get to some Vietnam 'strike' gaming, both USAF and USN.

But my immediate, pressing need is for air-to surface of the WWII naval variety. I'm playing out the Battle of Midway right now and I'd really love to give some SBD Dauntlesses the opportunity go after some Japanese cruisers (this is following the sinking of the Japanese carriers), and get it worked out so I can play those types of games in the future. Torpedo attacks later, too. So…

Critical thinking. I agree with what you're saying, but I'm kind of limited here: Dauntlesses dive bomb, Avengers drop torpedoes, Hellcats strafe. But I definitely want to work in aspects of decision making on how to press home the attack, in ways that lessen the danger to the aircraft but lessen the chances of a hit.

But not too much critical thinking. Definitely; I'm a solo gamer, and I like to play lots of games, so I need relatively simple (and thus quick) rules. My current rules are exceedingly simple, but very fun for me: roll a dice to see how far they can move (on a gridded surface), D6 combat and morale mechanisms. They don't even have altitude as a part of the game, though is suspect I'll need to introduce a simple altitude concept in order to add to the critical thinking of the 'how' of the attacks.

I.e., a dive bomber can approach from a nice, safe, height, and drop from that nice, safe, height, but he only has a 10% chance of scoring from there. If he dives to medium height, AAA gets more effective, he's subjected to it longer (assuming he's diving over the target), but his accuracy goes up to, let's say 50/50. Or he can dive all the way to low altitude, making it more likely he gets hit by AAA as he's 1) easier to hit, and 2) exposed to AAA for longer, but his accuracy goes up to 80%.

I'd imagine that, sticking with the high-medium-low altitude bands, torpedoes can only drop at low altitude, but in real life you need to be real slow for the drop as well, so maybe I need to bring a simple speed mechanism into the rules (and do away with the D6 roll for movement, though I really like diced-for movement to throw some stuff in the game), so the lower, slower, and straighter the Avenger runs, the more likely his torpedo strikes.

Flak and fighters. Figuring out AAA is of the utmost importance; I don't mind adding an interceptor or two to the game, but this is not where I want to do my dogfighting, and I don't want airplanes shooting down other airplanes to take over this type of game; the purpose of adding an interceptor would really be just to give the bomber pilots something else to think about, do they alter how they make their run or not.

It's really tough to think about moving AAA around; it's all on ships, and the ships I don't think would really be moving in the context of these games (given the tremendous disparity between ship speed and airplane speed, although I could see ships taking evasive action, making them harder to hit but throwing off their aim, or not taking evasive action, making them easier to hit but higher chance of hitting). I could see giving different classes of ships (CV, BB, CA, CL, DD, DE) set amounts of dice for AAA, and they decide how to apportion it each turn to various targets, I guess. I was thinking of a mechanic where an aircraft fore and aft is safer than an aircraft broadside as the ship can't bring all its guns to bear, but I'm not sure how that would work with dice apportionment, and I sure as heck don't want to get into differentiating different types of AAA (5", 40mm, 20mm, etc…) with different ranges.

Reasonable chance of getting to attack. Absolutely! I play campaigns following squadrons of characters, I need some of them to survive! ;)

Thanks a bunch, love talking about wargaming tactics/mechanics in general, and this time I really need help!


emckinney06 Dec 2019 12:03 a.m. PST

"It's really tough to think about moving AAA around; it's all on ships, and the ships I don't think would really be moving in the context of these games (given the tremendous disparity between ship speed and airplane speed"

Ship speed mattered more than you might think, because laden dive bombers were fairly slow, and laden torpedo bombers were very slow. A torpedo bombers formation want to make an "anvil" attack, coming in from two directions simultaneously, so that the target can't turn into one attack to "comb" the torpedoes without turning its flank to the other torpedo spread. A target running at 30kts means a painfully long flight to get into position.

Even if you give up on the complexity of an anvil attack, you can't just chase a target from behind and drop against it. Your torpedoes aren't that much faster than the target ship, so they have to be dropped much closer than normal so that they don't simply run out of power before they reach their target! You need to maneuver to the target's front quarter to minimize the torpedoes' run time, maximize the launch distance, and make it dangerous for the target to maneuver against the torpedoes in any meaningful way.

And do all of this while flying through a formation of we escorts and carriers with limited fuel (time) before you have to head home.

Fortunately for you, the Japanese at Midway operated in a very open formation to allow each ship maximum space for maneuver, which they considered the primary defense against air attack. They sacrificed massed firepower.

The Americans, with their precious anti-aircraft light cruisers, concentrated in tight formations to put up maximum flak. In 1942, this wasn't enough, but by 1944 it reached murderous levels.

BillyNM06 Dec 2019 2:59 a.m. PST

Gaming Swordfish attempting to sink the Bismarck on the floor of a church hall was frantic and fun.

Yellow Admiral06 Dec 2019 6:40 a.m. PST

Tell us about the game. Why was it fun? More importantly, why was it frantic? What rules were used?

- Ix

KSmyth06 Dec 2019 11:51 a.m. PST

Here are a few things we've done to make our games fun. For all of our scenarios, it's the mission that's important, and that's blowing something up, or preventing the other side from doing so.

1. Give both sides choices. Sometimes it's choice of planes with poorer quality pilots. Usually we offer average pilots or one pilot can be veteran while the second is green. We'll let attackers split up their attacks, with a chance one of the parties are late or end up in a different place. Make some of the bombing targets worth more. Our favorite is always the dry dock in Valletta harbor.

2. It's nice to have interception in your game. We often give the option of escorts in the game at the cost of the same number of bombers. Air to Air combat is abstracted in our rules so it doesn't distract too much from completing the mission which is our number one goal. That works well in AirWar C 21 and Airwar 1940. Just enough maneuvering for flavor.

3. Flak is an abstraction. We use it, heavy and light flak, but we don't get any more specific than that. We also make heavy flak a danger to defender and attacker alike. Light flak is more directed and safer to the defender. We've seen a few interceptors shot by friendly flak. Heavy flak only effective at high altitude. Light flak only effective at low altitude. It's hard to hit with AA, but it does nasty damage if it does.

We mostly run our games at gatherings--Enfilade, the Museum of Flight, a couple of smaller conventions. The rest of the time we're planning and painting. We are planning for a Ploesti game at Enfilade in May. It will be a cooperative scenario for the American players. We won't have interceptors in the game but loads of flak and chances for collision. I think we'll have on the order of 24 B-24D's in the game. I'm super fortunate to partner with the best scenario designer I've ever known. So I take very little credit.

Yellow Admiral06 Dec 2019 1:33 p.m. PST

I have to say Kevin, it's a bit uncanny how your interests sync with mine. Together we accidentally made the Fairey Fulmar the unofficial dogfighter of Enfilade 2017 (emphasis on "dog"), I literally just suspended my search for 'desert pink' colors to paint B-24s for the Ploești mission (I got some paints to try, but I'm awaiting Shapeways test prints of 1/285 B-24s to put them on), and I've been shopping for USAAF 5th AF planes for the New Guinea/Rabaul theater since last year, so I've been following your construction of Rabaul raiders with interest. Now might be an appropriate time to tell you that if you (and Dave?) put together a Rabaul skip-bombing raid against some 1/700 ships, I may have to drive 900 miles North to play it. grin

I'll try to make room in my Enfilade schedule for the Ploești raid. I think that's been on my wargaming "must play" list for over a decade. Maybe two?

- Ix

KSmyth06 Dec 2019 2:29 p.m. PST

Ix, I think that's going to be a Saturday night game. I had two friends, Phil Bardsley and Paul Hannah, who did Ploesti for a Mustangs adaptation. Mustangs moves slower than Airwar 1940, and I never played it. But it was hex based and it would have been more challenging to get lots of turns in.

Paul and Phil were wonderful painters. All their B-24's were desert pink and had nose art. Just brilliant stuff. Unfortunately Phil passed away two years ago, and his widow had his estate sale last spring. I bought his ten B-24's. I also ordered ten more B-24's from Scotia. Decided I wasn't going to try to match the pink and will just stick with green. If you haven't already, the new Osprey Air Campaign on Ploesti is worth a look.

We will eventually get to Rabaul and the skip-bombing. We "know a guy" who has B-25's and wants to get them on the table. So I'm sure we'll try it out soon-well, within the next calendar year.

Yellow Admiral06 Dec 2019 3:09 p.m. PST

A few words about why I started this thread:

I have always wanted to play the great carrier battles of WW2, so I've been expanding my Guadalcanal air campaign collection (Wildcats, Betties and Zeros) with the carrier air complements. The Dauntlesses and some Avengers are done, the Vals, Kates and Devastators are under construction. I'd like to be able to do an entire Midway-style attack in a reasonable amount of time with dozens of planes on the table. I can't think of a better way to simulate the distraction of the CAP in the strike that sunk 3 carriers than by actually distracting the CAP players by sending in the torpedo bombers first.

Last summer I wrote a few scenarios for Patton's 1942 invasion of Casablanca during Operation Torch, which pits my French Hawk 75s and D.520s against my Pacific War Wildcats, Dauntlesses and Avengers. One of the scenarios covers the raid by Dauntlesses to sink Jean Bart at anchor. I acquired a 1/1200 scale model of Richelieu to bomb. Unfortunately, that game was canceled for under-attendance, so it's still unplayed.

A couple squadrons of P-40s came along with Patton's Casablanca invasion force.

USAAF P-40Fs aboard USS Ranger

They didn't get into action because their airfields were severely pitted during capture and the Vichy surrendered before the holes got filled. While I was busy painting planes and printing Casablanca terrain, I rewatched Patton, and this air raid scene from Valkyrie: YouTube link
Together these inspired me to conjure a fictional "almost happened" scenario of a raid on Vichy positions by USAAF P-40s, so on a whim I acquired a dozen P-40Fs and painted them in desert colors. My scenario assumes a smoother transition ashore (pun intended), in time to launch a raid of 8x P-40s with bombs escorted by 4x P-40s fighting off D.520s. As the ground attack P-40s finish their bombing runs, they can come up and join the dogfight. This scenario didn't come together either, but I think it would be fun, so I still mean to play it someday.

During all of this work, I was tinkering with the CY6 ground attack rules, with an eye to making the ground attack portion of dogfights more fun. I have ideas to try, but I'm not terribly happy with any of them.


Last month I rewatched Thunderbolt! YouTube link
This inspired me to pull out a dozen 1/144 scale F-Toys P-47 kits I had collected, and now they're assembled and ready to make trouble.

It also got me thinking: miniatures gamers love to BL*W SH!T UP. Maybe all I need to do is put a train or tanks or a road column on the table and let the players have at it. Could that be fun enough?


Looking ahead, my shopping list for next year's projects includes the planes to play the New Guinea theater air war. That theater saw plenty of ground attacks with the usual suspects (fighter-bombers, medium bombers), but also some innovative techniques I would love to try gaming: skip bombing, parachute frag bombs, super-strafers (B-25s or A-20s full of HMGs or even a 75mm cannon), etc. I need ground attacks to be fun so Kenny's cool campaigns are worth playing.

- Ix

khanscom06 Dec 2019 5:38 p.m. PST

Sturmovik Commander campaign system generates air-to-ground missions as well as air-to-air. I've played a 1940 France series of games that provided a number of engaging scenarios (probably a bad idea to buy the Amiot 143s though).

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2019 5:50 p.m. PST

Make the players search for their targets, with dummies, as well as enemy and friendly units to be fount.

Make the players actually fly close enough to "identify" their targets could make life interesting, assuming they find them.

Bad repercussions if the choose not to, but of course, there is risk involved in doing that from the flak guns.

Lots of ships, vehicles, troops, etc. attacked by "friendly aircraft" back in the day. Could make life, and the scenario(s) interesting.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2019 7:29 p.m. PST

Yellow Admiral, I've done the Midway air to surface
strikes (both sides) several times using Blue Sky.

It easily handles the large number of aircraft
necessary for Midway, Coral Sea, Eastern Solomons,

I also use Blue Sky for 8thAF raids into Germany with
and without escorts. Same for 9th TacAF (Desert ops
and later Air to Ground in support of D-Day and
subsequent ops).

For the Heavies raiding into Germany, I usually
put up about 65 1/300 B-17's and B-24's and perhaps
16 escorts (flights of 4, usually Mustangs but
sometimes P-38's) and a similar number of interceptors
mixed 109's and 190's.

The game described can therefore handle 8 players
(4 per side).

Joe Legan07 Dec 2019 10:29 a.m. PST

Great topic. As you might be aware I game a fair amount of air to ground actions. YA, agree with your points and my mods to BTH to hit all 4 of your points. They are called Brag the Hun but are relatively generic. That said I still think these actions are best played out solitaire because after planning out your defense there isn't much for the defender to do other than roll dice unless he has fighters.


Dynaman878907 Dec 2019 12:27 p.m. PST

The problem is that one side will be pretty much static for the entire thing. Not a whole lot of fun there or decision making there.

Advanced Squad Leader does have some fairly complex Ground Attack and AA rules. Not sure they are really all that realistic and are probably overkill for what they need to do (resolve the Air Attack to get on with the ground action at the heart of the game) but they are fun to play out within the context of how they effect the ground combat.

There are single player games on ground attack that look interesting, Phantom Leader, Apache Leader, etc…

Zephyr108 Dec 2019 3:26 p.m. PST

I misplaced the pages somewhere in my extensive files, but here are some of the basics of a set of AA rules I was working on for a 1/700 scale WW2 naval air game.

> AA rolls are made on D100 (or percentage dice) A '00' always counts as a 'miss'. Defensive fire over 100% rolls for each 100% and a separate roll for the +n%.
> Each AA gun has a 3% chance of hitting (each turn) Multiple mount weapons DO count (e.g. twin 5 inch = 6%, quad 40mm = 12%, single .50 cal mount = 3%, etc.)
> Multiple AA mounts may be combined against a target to make a higher % of hitting (even from different ships.)
> Changing AA elevation costs a turn of AA fire for that weapon (i.e. changing from low (torpedo bomber level) to high (look, dive bombers!))

" and I sure as heck don't want to get into differentiating different types of AAA (5", 40mm, 20mm, etc…) with different ranges."

> Then this may not be for you, as the different types use different range bands (5" can reach much farther than 20mm, for instance), allowing overlapping of AA coverage (especially over a task group. Protect the carrier!) Conversely, this also allows attacking aircraft to exploit gaps. :-)

> Just because an aircraft is 'hit' doesn't mean it's automatically shot down. There is still a Damage roll to make. (Not all planes go 'boom' instantly. Witness a kamikaze continuing to bore in despite obviously fatal damage…)
> AA fire is not considered 'volley fire' for each turn, but is a stream of fire poured at the target.

Now, this 'system' looks bad for the attacking planes (minus CAP worries), and it is if you send them in singly, which is why you send them in by the dozens to split defensive fire… ;-)

For ground combat AA, I'd use the same 3% rules (but you'd still have to work out intervening terrain blocking LoF.), so a quad Wirbelwind would still get 12%. :-)
> Infantry in an area get a flat 3% for using small arms fire (for all in the area, not per unit.)

Mark 113 Dec 2019 5:45 p.m. PST

Interesting discussion!

Some observations come to mind from the various topics others have raised…

Target Movement: As emckinney mentions, the IJN placed high priority on the maneuvering of the ships (and countering the maneuver of enemy ships) in their tactics. And with good reason. Not only is it a long flight to reach good position against an CV running away from you at 30+kts, and not only can they turn to "comb" your torpedo spread, but consider this:
Top speed of IJN Kaga: 28 kts
Top speed of IJN Akagi: 31.5 kts
Aircraft speed to launch Mk 13 Torp: < 100kts
Speed of USN Mk 13 Aerial Torpedo: 33.5 kts (for 6k yds)

At Midway the carriers turned AWAY from the USN torpedo bombers. Consider your position in your Devastator. Your maximum speed for a torp drop is about 100kts, but attacks were typically made at 90kts (just above stall speed). So you are tail-chasing your targets at only about 60kts of closing speed. That means you are going to gain about 2,000yds per minute on the carriers.

Worse yet, your torpedoes will only have a 2 to 5.5kt closing speed, meaning you need to drop at no farther than 470 (Akagi) to 950 (Kaga) yards to have any chance to catch your targets even using the torps' entire runs.

I believe USN pilots trained to start their runs from as far away as 10k yds, well outside of their drop range, so that they could all be in formation, at their settled speed, height and bearing by the time they reached 6k yds. Then they were to fine-tune their bearings as they eyeballed the speed of their target to determine their lead. However long you spent getting into that "starting" position 6k away, as the carriers turn away from you, you now need to spend another TWO AND A HALF MINUTES flying straight and level, 50ft above the water at 90kts, to get to the danger-close launch distance needed have any chance of your torp reaching your target. And even if you do successfully get within 470 yards of the Akagi to make your launch, the Akagi will now have more than two minutes to change it's course before your torp reaches it, having used all of its 6k run to close those 470 yards.

So yeah, ship movement was anything but irrelevant in a USN torpedo attack.

The Mission: As KSmyth mentions, it's the mission that is important. So that means blowing stuff up, right?

Well, maybe yes, and maybe no. One of the significant contributing factors of success of Luftwaffe fighter squadrons in the early part of the war was their focus on survival. Over and above any one attack on any one target, their mission was establishing aerial superiority over a zone of operations. Their wingman tactics, now so universally accepted, were actually pretty revolutionary in that they accepted a 50% reduction in offensive firepower in order to keep a defensive reserve (the wingman). So whatever the ratio of available force was on mission 1, by mission 2 the ratio started to tip to the Luftwaffe's favor.

The USN's "Thatch weave" was even more defensive in nature, essentially putting the fighters into a fully defensive posture and awaiting enemy attack.

Compare this with the Russian practice of ramming (the "taran") when ammunition was depleted. It's an all-in offensive posture.

Some of these tactics were almost permanent (flying with a wingman), while others were adopted only when it was judged that the tactical situation warranted (the taran) and were intended to be of temporary use (the weave).

If the scenario involves a carrier, it's more likely you'll go for the all-in offensive (whether you fly against or in defense of the carrier). Because sinking the carrier has an effect on your relative next mission strength far beyond the loss ratio you achieve in your air-to-air action. But if the scenario is a strike on a merchant ship (or truck convoy), it's much less so. Sacrificing your planes to get (or save) this particular target may be a very poor trade-off in the longer term, vs. having only some possibility of success but living to fight another day (against another convoy on water or land).

Just some stuff to toss into the mix.

Personally I am just finishing up some 1/300 Macchi C.202s, and am following the topic to see if/how I might add more interest to my gaming with them, all of their stable mates and opponents. In my world, though, it is the targets that are the focus, with the planes being the afterthought.

(aka: Mk 1)

Yellow Admiral18 Dec 2019 1:01 p.m. PST

Last Sunday we played one of our last scenarios from the CY6 Floatplane Hell campaign book, Pissant Pete:

    2x F4F-4 Wildcats
    7x SBD Dauntlesses
    4x TBF Avengers
    8x FM1 Pete biplanes
    1x seaplane carrier (IJN Nisshin)
    3x IJN DD (Akizuki, Yudachi, Asagumo)
As you can see from the forces arrayed, this is very much a surface attack scenario, and I deliberately chose to run the Avengers and half the Dauntlesses to give me some good perspective on different types of attack planes, and surface attack as the main focus. I also made sure my partner had the other 4x Dauntlesses and we split the Wildcats, to avoid having one player completely sidetracked by dogfighting. (I'm not sure that was necessary, but more about that later.)

Aside from some of my standing complaints about the CY6 surface attack rules (and a few new ones), I did have a good time, so I feel like I confirmed it can indeed be a lot of fun to just BL*W SH!T UP without dogfighting. Other surface attack scenarios in the past have not been so fun, so I've been mulling over the differences that (I think) made this scenario work.

First: In effect, both sides felt they were underdogs, which is a good scenario design flourish. This wasn't a close scenario at all in terms of casualties 6x Petes shot down for only two Dauntlesses lost and one Avenger wounded but it was a very close game by victory conditions, which kept the tension up for the entire game. The Americans start out in VP deficit and face a 12-turn limit, so need some luck and careful maneuvering to pull off a victory. In this play through, the USN pulled ahead by a mere 1/2 a VP on turn 9, and then managed to get a comfortable points lead in the final two turns by landing a couple bombs on Nisshin and downing a few more Petes. The IJN players held little hope of shooting down armored beasts with pop guns and felt behind for the entire game, but were actually ahead in points until very late.

Next: A few extra things I think helped make the bombers enjoyable to play:

  • The CAP and AA didn't slaughter everything in sight
  • The bomber players got a lot of chances to make bombing runs
  • There were some tactical options for the attacking side

Then: There are some things I think could make the ground attack gaming experience even better.

  1. Attack planes should get some tactical nuances that affect the maneuver decisions, e.g. dive bombers should get advantages for releasing low/late or along the length of a ship, torpedo bombers should have an advantage for scissors attacks, etc. CY6 deliberately abstracts/ignores these things, and I now suspect that's not a good trade-off.
  2. The defending players should be able to make some decisions to optimize their defenses. The particulars of the choices will necessarily be scenario-specific, but should probably be more than just CAP deployment.
  3. Ships and vehicles under air attack should get some opportunities to move. Not much (they're slow, compared to aircraft), but some. This is another thing deliberately abstracted away in CY6 (and other rules) which I'm now questioning. Ground movements have to be short, infrequent, and brain-dead easy to execute so they don't dominate the game or slow it down, but even a little bit could increase the challenge for attacking bombers and strafers.
  4. There should be more to a target damage result than a VP score. Damaged installations, sinking or crippled ships, destroyed vehicles, wrecked equipment, crumbled buildings, etc. ad nauseum. The results should be stated in more concrete terms, and whenever possible, have an influence on the proceedings. It would add to the "war" feel of wargaming to have to pull up to avoid the explosions of your own bombs, swing wide to avoid a hex your comrades filled with smoke, put a pesky AA battery out of action, wreck a CAP fighter before it gets airborne, etc.
  5. Even better, results should be categorized in a way that can be represented visually and tactilely. Our hobby is full of cool props like Litko markers, wrecked vehicles, sinking ships, destroyed buildings, and even hand-crafted items like flickering LED candles decorated with columns of blackened cotton smoke. Miniatures gamers enjoy visual effects; they could really add interest to ground attack games.
  6. A player should only have one type of plane (in CY6 anyway). I think this would help boost the enjoyment of the game by focusing the player's mindset into a unified decision cycle, and also help speed the game. As long as the planes under a player's control have maneuver choices, tactical options, and cool results from successful attacks, it shouldn't be a problem if they are "only bombing". The type of attacks they get to make should be unimportant if the player has a rich decision cycle and the possibility to leave wreckage, explosions, and columns of smoke in his wake (i.e. "BL*W SH!T UP!").

This week I began writing a drop-in replacement for the CY6 Surface Attack rules. I set out to just add a few extra conditions and factors I thought were missing, but that has now morphed into a rethink of some fundamental mechanics. I think CY6 gets the basics of surface attack right really easy to understand and execute, fast to play, built-in tactical considerations, all important info on the QRS. However, I want there to be a bit more nuance and historical tactics for the players to consider, and I think CY6 left out too many little bits that should actually be considered important.

- Ix

Yellow Admiral18 Dec 2019 1:09 p.m. PST

Note that all of my thinking above is aimed at ground attack types that involve pilot skill and initiative torpedo bombing, dive bombing, strafing, rocket attacks, tank hunting, artillery neutralization, etc. I still doubt it's possible to make a herd of level bombers much fun to play in a dogfight game. (I have long thought it's possible to make a herd of level bombers an interesting focus of a stand-alone game, but that's a completely different topic.)

- Ix

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