A ‘What if?’ Imaginary Engagement. 21 May 1916. The scenario involves six pilots who had victory claims for that day.
Initial setup* – Navarre is targeting the LVG, Boelcke the Be2, and KEK Vaux is after Naval 1. Both reconnaissance ‘craft and the Naval 1 flight have failed to spot anything (yet). * I use the (excellent, imo) system from Mike Clinton’s ‘Watch Your Six’ for scenario setup.
Turn One Navarre turns and dives, setting an intercept course with the LVG whose observer fails to spot the Frenchman. Boelcke dives to gain speed to close on the Be2 whose veteran pilot notices the German. The pair of Fokkers edge closer to the still-clueless Naval 1 flight. Game notes: Those who had no spot at the start (both recon ‘craft and Naval 1) must first make what I’ll call an ‘awareness check’ based on their pilot/crew points+experience before making an attempt. The LVG’s observer and Be2 pilot did so, but only the Brit succeeded in the spotting roll. While applicable mainly for solo games (such as this) I would still impose it on players because -for this size encounter- it would be a two-player game and rules to restrict total control wouldn’t take away all of a player’s chances for input, ie: Some of one’s force would fail to ‘obey’ but you wouldn’t be left completely out of the game.
Turn Two Navarre levels off above his prey and maneuvers to place himself in an attacking position. The LVG’s pilot glances about as they close in on the target town but fails to notice any danger. Boelcke fails to close on the Be2, but still levels off to retain his altitude advantage rather than convert it to speed. The Be2 pilot spots the Nieuports of Naval 1 and -feeling his back is covered- continues on towards his target. The Brits are still oblivious to all around them while Frankl and Wintgens continue to work their way up the line. Game notes: Now within a range of 1 hex, Navarre can gain CV points via maneuvering -he does a level 2 MT rolling the maximum allowable 7 dice. Though three failures are rolled, he’s got enough pilot points to cancel them as well as match the two bonus points gained- the CV total is halved because of the range, yielding a final addition of 4. A lesser pilot would be taking a greater risk doing this (rolling 7 dice) as any uncancelled failure rolls would mean a failure of the test, and in any case would not be able to match as many points gained – thus the better pilot does better (on average) in gaining a firing position.
Turn Three Navarre isn’t able to close the range, but retains his position. The German observer takes a look around before checking the town below and spots the Nieuport approaching. Boelcke closes on the Be2 but fails to gain any meaningful advantage beyond being on the Quirk’s ‘6’. Leading the Naval 1 pair across the trenches, Dallas (finally) takes a look around and spots the trailing pair of Fokkers – not Boelcke or the poor Be2 who thinks he’s got help coming. Game notes: If he wanted to keep up, Boelcke in the E-IV could only roll two dice in a 0-level MT – the Fokker isn’t near the plane the Bebe is when it comes to maneuverability, having to roll a penalty die as well as subtracting an aerobatic die from the pool (as opposed to adding one as the N11 can), so that even as good a pilot as Boelcke can only do so much with such an aircraft. Regarding the spot of Dallas: For solo-gaming purposes, I gave him a 4/6 chance to look forward instead of checking his ‘6’, and the die decided for the latter – not so unreasonable, imo, to overrule fate.
Turn Four The LVG pilot maneuvers to give his observer a shot at the attacking Nieuport, while Navarre moves into effective range and lines up the German for a shot – making no effort to elude the return fire of the observer. Each gets off a few rounds to no effect. Boelcke is unable to get into effective range yet, but does manage to improve his position slightly. Dallas leads Mulock in a slow turn to the left in a cautious move to get the tailing pair of Fokkers (that he had seen turn to his right) off of the Nieuports’ ‘6’. Game Notes: The LVG pilot could have chosen to apply the four CV points he gained to evading Navarre (reducing the Frenchman’s advantage) but instead applied a reduced amount to his observer’s attack ability (CV gains are halved in such a case). Navarre could have negated the defensive fire by giving up some of his maneuvering bonus, but added the entire amount he gained (6 points) to his attack. The degree of maneuvering done by both resulted in them each only being able to roll half of their allowed dice in combat – this is meant to represent the limited amount of time available with the target in one’s sights during a turn of turning/maneuvering.
Turn Five The LVG dives to gain speed and increases the intensity of maneuvering but is unable to shake the more nimble Nieuport – more rounds are exchanged, but the Frenchman’s aim is truer, resulting in a critical hit that sends a stream of fuel into the LVG’s slipstream. Little has changed on the other side of the lines as the Be2 moves over their target town – the British see that the threatening Fokker of Boelcke hasn’t gotten any closer, but the supposed protection of Naval 1 now lies a mile away. The two Nieuports have turned over the trenches to see the facing Fokkers climbing steeply, and the British match the gain in altitude with a steep climb of their own. Game Notes: I realize the scenario design was purposefully balanced, but didn’t really expect the dice to produce such a symmetrical picture. oh well…
Turn Six The LVG tries to dive away from harm, but Navarre has no trouble staying in a perfect firing position. The Frenchman empties his drum, and though most of the rounds do no more than put holes in the nothing that makes up most WW1 ‘craft, one finds the pilot – only a ‘hero wound’ but enough to complicate things for the Germans. On the other side of the lines the veteran Be2 pilot -seeing no hope for help from Naval 1- puts the Quirk into a steep dive that contains the sort of jinks not commonly done in a Be2. Boelcke is taken off guard and loses whatever advantage he’d gained in the gradual reeling in of the British ‘craft -to the point where he will start the next turn at a disadvantage. In the center, both flights of two -their speeds depleted by the steep climb- don’t risk a stall and level off and end up face-to-face just outside effective gun range. Game Notes: The Be2 pilot gained 10 CV in his desperate level 2 MT! -not bad for rolling only four dice with two penalty dice: the Quirk has a -2 aerobatic penalty as well as 2 penalty dice for the test -the penalty dice only count for failures…it definitely was ‘one of those rolls’, and not the sort of thing one would bet the game on.
Navarre needs to reload, but fails to consider his environment: He flies straight and level right above the diving-for-safety LVG whose observer figures ‘Why not?’ and takes a shot – luckily for the French Ace the rounds go wide. The Be2 pilot takes advantage of his good fortune and puts some distance between himself and Boelcke. No rookie, the German Ace orients himself and reacquires his target – the game is still afoot. Over the trenches, both wingmen discard the ‘follow the leader’ plan and seek to engage their opposite number while Frankl and Dallas pair off. Frankl discovers that going toe-to-toe with a superior machine (without speed/energy to spend) is a mistake: Dallas sees what’s what and puts his Bebe in a firing position – the burst does little real damage, though. Meanwhile, Mulock has climbed and positioned himself above the German wingman, only to discover that the more experienced Wintgens has slipped the noose. Game Notes: In hindsight (looking up and now knowing the odds) I would have made Navarre’s mistake more improbable – I rolled 8 dice and looked for a single ‘6’ to have him recognize the danger. Oh well…nothing hurt but his pride. In the center, I admit to being disappointed that -once again- the dice created a symmetrical game – both wingmen choosing to target their opposite. *sigh*…such is fate. Initiative played a role in this turn as both Wintgens and Dallas were able to react to the moves of their enemy. Such results are nothing but chance (with a few modifications, of course) but I don’t see that as a bad thing.
J) Tussle Over the Trenches
Nieuports of Naval 1W mix it up with Fokkers from KEK Vaux.