Thursday, April 30, 2015

Red Baron, Great War Air Fights.

Oh my god.
    I have been pretty busy this week, been falling behind on my PBEM games but with a great excuse! Last night I played an incredible Great War aviation Combat game, The Red Baron. The red Baron is a 3 dimensional wargame, something I never really thought possible outside of a virtual simulation, but I now stand educated and amazed.

The German Planes
The Entente Planes
    Somewhere over France, I played as the Germans while my comrade James played as the French Entente planes. The scenario he designed was such that one of his two planes were equipped with a camera, and he was ordered to take reconnaissance photos of the German trenches. He had to get within 6 inches of the border of my base (marked with blue tape on the table,) get low enough to take the shot, and roll a hidden die to see if he gets a usable photo or not. My goal is to stop them in the name of Kaiser Wilhelm the II and shoot them down. I was given command of 2 fighter planes each with 2 guns, while the Allies had one big bomber equipped with a camera, a front and rear gun, and another fighter plane with 2 front guns. While I ended up with more power, his planes had some differences but his fighter notably had more maneuverability.
Here is where we plan our turn.

    The game is played in turns, where you plot out your flight path, speed, and altitude for each turn. It is tricky at first to figure out the scale of your movements, unless you can readily estimate an inch in your head, which I can't. The orders were such that one had to predict what your opponent would do, and then test your own spatial ability by plotting out each part of your flight.
The basic maneuvers your plane can make.
Combat is declared by the player when you think your opponent is in firing range after the... completion of both of your moves. If you check for combat but you are not within 15 inches of your opponent, the shots are lost, not to mention at 15 inches you barely have any chance of hitting your target. If you are attempting to damage another plane, the trick is to get your plane as close as possible to the other one with your gun (or guns) facing the target. 

James is checking if he can make this shot, he can.
    It bears repeating that this game does take a lot of brainpower, trying to plan out your moves in a 3 dimensional realm is fairly hard to do when you are bad at math and kind of stoned, but after fumbling for the first hour or so I quickly picked up on it. It does seem like it would be perfect for a really big game, 8-10 players or more that each command a plane or 2. James, who put together all these beautiful miniatures, told me about a game of Red Baron that took place with 20 something players and every plane was on the floor. I think this game would make a pretty cool aerial supplement to a mini's campaign, something I eventually hope to do in this club. 

The two fighters disengage from each other. 
    The game starts to get really fun when you start plotting advanced maneuvers like climbing or diving half-turns that leave you upside down but heading in the opposite direction. These more complex maneuvers can even be perfected by having your plane in various positions when you attempt the half turns. The planes can also be over worked, making turns they aren't cut out for, going faster than they are built for, but at the expense of usually permanent damage to the plane; more of an endgame thing I think. The game forces you to think like a pilot as you have to plot banking left or right before you turn, or speed up before you attempt a half loop.

My German fighter trying to get a handle on this fatty french bomber.
LOOK AT ALL THE FUCKING PLANES (The red baron is on the top right)
    So I'm saving the action for last because in terms of the time it took while I fumbled around to when we started breezing by turns, it took around 3 hours to finish the game & in scale, I believe this exchange only lasted a matter of minutes or seconds. My planes took off at a high altitude with each of my fighters trying to attack each of their planes. My red plane came into contact with the enemy first while making a descending half loop to get behind the Entente plane. I wasn't aware that the Entente plane had a rear gun and just like that I became the prey and he the predator. The gun fire tore into my plane killing a crew member, damaging my wing, and my engine. That red plane was never the same after that.
Took a shot at the Entente plane, missed, figures.
     Ultimately the Entente bomber flies down low and James makes his secret roll. I don't know if he ends up making it or not till the end of the game. My red plane ended up getting completely destroyed trying to maneuver around the yellow plane, failing the Kaiser and probably getting court marshaled. The green fighter I had scrambled to shake off the fighter on his tail successfully, and started charging toward the yellow plane. At one point I wanted to bank right 3 times so I would be perpendicular and could turn tighter to catch up with the bomber.
    By banking 3 times I put my plane at risk of going into a spin, I had to roll a die (I forget which) to avoid it and I did. This was unfortunately the most success I saw all the game. While I caught up with the bomber, every shot I made missed and he escaped. To add insult to injury, my green plane got shot down with a roll of 100 on a 100 sided die. If losing all my planes wasn't bad enough James also succeeded in getting 2 clear pictures of the German trenches, achieving a flawless victory. Nevertheless, I love this game, I would play it again in a heartbeat, and I hope I get to again soon. It has totally expanded my thinking on the physical space of games, and I hope I run into more games in 4 dimensions (or is it 3?)

The final roll of the game.

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