June 17, 2014

Over skies of Britain, yet again

Upplagd av Minondas

Check Your Six is such a delightful ruleset and it’s really a shame that my wargaming group is now depleted to such a degree that it’s becoming difficult to run a decent-sized game.

The scenario

Luckily, I was able to scrap together four of my mates and run a scaled down version of scenario “Tally Ho” from Skirmish Campaigns’ scenario book ‘Over the Channel’. The setup in this one is classic – a formation of Ju88’s, protected by a couple of Me109’s is attacked by Hurricanes trying to do as much damage as possible before the bombers reach opposite edge of the table. The twist is that players controlling the Hurricanes are unaware of the fact that  they will be bounced by Me110’s immediately after they fire their first shots.

Due to lack of players, I had to remove one vic formation of Hurricanes and a rote of Me110s, but even with these modifications, the essence of the scenario was still there. As it’s been a while since me and my mates played CY6, everybody was a bit ‘rusty’. Thus, I also refrained from deploying clouds, which make the scenario more interesting but also complicate the plotting of airplane movements.

After the modifications, six Ju88’s and two 109’s confronted six Hurricanes. Two Me110’s would appear after the Brits fired their first shots.

The game

The game developed in what I, after participating in a 15+ CY6 games, can only describe as ‘familiar pattern’. Random deployment placed that starting positions for both vic formations of Hurricanes would be in same sector, but separated by several altitude levels. They entered the board in very close proximity and to the left of the bomber formation, not giving the escorting Me109’s much time to react before getting in range.

Ha. and He., who had the control of British fighters, headed straight for the bombers in hope for immediate results. Knowing what was coming and taking advantage of the fact that the Brits were so close to me (yepp, yet again I was in control of the bombers, that’s the lot of GM), I adjusted the path of the bombers slightly, moving them closer to the enemy. Counterintuitive perhaps, but quite effective against an opponent who expects you to fly straight forward – Ha.’s Hurricanes overshot my bombers in next move, not able to shot at all. He.’s first bursts of machine gun fire were also ineffective due to being deflection shots.

After initial couple of turns the game developed in, for me at least, familiar pattern. Ha.’s Hurricanes, made a series of sharp left turn immediately after overshooting the bombers, in an attempt to quickly gain firing position yet again. Unfortunately, that manoeuvre also exposed them to the ‘hunter’ pair of Me110’s which now appeared behind and above Ha.’s Hurricanes. Lead Me110, under control of L., promptly disposed a Hurricane that slightly lagged behind his comrades. Another Hurricane was shot down by head on fire of T.’s Me109’s, which stuck behind the bomber formation, in wait for exactly the move that Ha. tried. Sole surviving Hurricane managed to get in the middle of bomber formation and damage one Ju88 at point blank range before having it’s engine shot up by T.’s Me109’s and diving for home. It failed to return home.

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He.’s Hurricanes split immediately after first pass, one of the Hurricanes challenging T.’s Me109’s, while the remaining two fighters headed for the rear of the bombers. As already mentioned, T.’s Me109’s didn’t bodge from their position at the rear of German formation and the Hurricane tangling with them managed to sneak on their tails. Dice luck wasn’t however on He.’s side that day and despite valiant efforts he failed to score any hits. The two Hurricanes that headed for the bombers were more successful. Once in position, they finished off the bomber already damaged by Ha.’s sole survivor and damaged another one. The success came with a price tag – one of the attacking British fighters became the final victim of T.’s Me109’s before He. decided that enough was enough and headed for home, thus finishing the game.

Final tally – four Hurricanes shot down, another one damaged for one Ju88 shot down and one damaged. Good fun all around… but for me as game master, also another case of a slight anti-climax. Why, you say? Keep on reading and I’ll explain.

Musings after the battle

So here’s the thing – I find CY6 to be a quite brilliant ruleset which, if correct tactics are applied, is able to provide nail-biting and for the lack of better word, subtle games. What’s even more important, CY6 enables “historically correct behaviour” both in regard of tactics as well as manoeuvres. However, for those things to happen, a bit of afterthought and care is required on the part of the players. And yet, in the 15+ games I have by now participated in, pretty much same pattern develops in every game. First of all, the bombers act as magnets, with all fighters ‘lumping together’ around them. Chaos inevitably ensues. Also, choice of manoeuvres consists predominantly of sharp horizontal turns, especially on the part of fighters attacking the bombers. Players controlling them usually try desperately to get in yet another burst after the first pass through bomber formation. This makes the attackers bleed speed, consequently making them sitting ducks for the escorts and quite rightly so! This last issue is compounded by fact that if the attackers succeed in getting their fighters in position, more often than not they try to stay there until their targets are shot down. Usually though, it’s they that fall victim of escorting fighters.

The most fascinating aspect of this behaviour is that it seems to be universal – I have now played CY6 with three distinctly separate crowds of players and most of them tend to play in that manner.

On one hand, I understand this behaviour all too well. After all, we all like to ‘shoot and score’. Also, if one thinks about it, the phenomenon I describe isn’t unique – wargames in general have a tendency for becoming a chaotic tavern brawl, with everybody trying to kill everybody else. I must be honest and admit that I find this type of games to be slightly tedious. In case of CY6 in particular, games played with this ruleset can so easily be so much more than a gigantic dogfight and I can’t help but see these chaotic free-for-all engagements as lost opportunities.

Right, you think, and now he’ll probably tell us how to play CY6 ‘the correct way’! Well, maybe not the ‘correct way’, but I will dispense a couple of free of charge advices/observation that may very well provide you a better CY6 game.

Let’s start with the goal of the game. In my opinion, shooting down the enemy airplanes is a secondary objective. Player’s primary goal should be to get his airplanes safely home. After all, most real pilots wanted to survive first, shoot down airplanes second. Keep this in mind and you’ll see how differently the tabletop will look to you as you plan your next move.

While on that topic, nowhere in the ruleset is it stated that you can’t leave the game before you run out of ammunition. You don’t have to stick around if your side becomes disadvantaged or if you’re hopelessly out of position where you can influence the game any further. An added advantage of such attitude is that it also helps keeping the games at sensible length.

Now, regarding the technical aspects of the game, there is one simple rule that should be kept in mind at all times – energy is life! It comes in two shapes in CY6 – speed and altitude. Thus, use sharp horizontal turns only when you absolutely have to. In four cases out of five, vertical manoeuvre is the better alternative, because they automatically provide you with either increased height or possibility to increase speed.

Finally, regarding fighters vs. bombers – you don’t have to glue your fighter to a bomber’s arse and blast at it ‘til it goes down. In fact, it’s the worst thing you can do, especially if enemy fighters are nearby. Quick passes with goal of damaging bombers and forcing them out of formation is a much preferred alternative. Just look at the archive films, do you see the fighters sticking around in the middle of bomber formation? And no, you don’t have to immediately turn into the bomber formation after you made your pass. Take your time, gain speed or altitude and catch the bombers again in five, six or even seven rounds. After all, they’re slow and usually you know where they’re going. So take your time, avoid the escorts with your speed/altitude superiority and don’t stick around for  too long!

OK, hope I gave you some food for thought, that’s it from me for this time around.

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