Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Developing the Portable Air Wargame - Amendments Summary

A couple of people have expressed some interest in a consolidated list of changes I have made to Bob Cordery's air rules in his Developing the Portable Wargame in order to make a fast, simple and intuitive air combat wargame (Bob Cordery's original rules are designed as an adjunct to his ground combat wargame).

There are plenty of examples on the blog already  and I will get around to posting some more in due course.

These are the changes:

1 - Aircraft have individual stat lines rather than generic ones, but roughly speaking the SPEED/MOVE characteristic has been halved so an "average" fighter has SPEED 6 & DAMAGE 4.

2 - Aircraft must move their entire SPEED each turn.  All moves are of 1 hex.  Every other move after the first may be a turn, when an aircraft changes facing by 60 degrees (i.e. one hex side) instead of moving.  Firing fixed forward guns cost 1 hex of movement.

2a (Experimental Rule) - I am currently experimenting with Green pilots having -1 SPEED.

3 - Bomber aircraft can only turn a hex-side after every 2 hexes moved.

4 - Turns are strictly alternate.  If one side has achieved a bounce, it chooses whether to move first or second.   If one side is escorting bombers, the other side chooses whether to move first or second.  Otherwise roll, high score chooses whether to go first or second.

5 - Aircraft may start the game with extra energy points.  These may be converted to extra speed as necessary, with a maximum of 3 points being expended as such per turn.  This represents aircraft starting at higher speed or at greater altitude than their enemies (typically 1000ft of altitude or 50mph of starting speed).

6 - Aircraft may fire fixed forward guns at any point in their turn after the first move.  Defensive guns fire when an aircraft is fired upon or when an enemy aircraft ends its move in range of a defensive gun.

7 - A single die is rolled to determine hits.  Fixed forward firing guns hit on:
4-6 in the 6 o'clock position, 5-6 in the 12, 4-5 & 7-8 o'clock positions, 6 in the 9-11 & 1-3 o'clock positions.  Defensive guns always need a  6.  Elite pilots add 1 to their die roll, green pilots subtract 1 (but 6 always hits).

Optional rule - USN pilots hit on 5-6 from 9-11 & 1-3 o'clock rather than 6.

8 - Aircraft are armed with light machineguns, heavy machineguns and/or cannons.  These have the following characteristics:

LMGs - Range: 3 hexes; Damage caused (d6) 1-3:0 points, 4-5 1 point, 6 1 points*
HMGs - Range: 4 hexes:  Damage caused (d6) 1-2:0 points, 3-5 1 point, 6 2 points*
Cannons - Range: 5 hexes: Damage caused (d-6) 1-2: 0 points, 3-4, 1 point, 5-6 2 points*

*-allows another roll for damage, and this sequence can go on indefinitely. 

I use differently coloured dice when aircraft have more than one weapon.

9 - Both individual aircraft and formations are subject to morale: when an aircraft is damaged to a third or more of its damage points, it must break off and head for the nearest (safe) map edge.  When a formation of aircraft has lost more than one third of its total damage points, all aircraft must break off.  

10 - Example Stat Lines:

A6M2 Zero: Speed-7, Damage-3, 1xCannon, 1xLMG
Ki43-IIa Oscar: Speed-7, Damage-3, 1xHMG
D3A2 Val: Speed-5, Damage-4, 1xLMG, 1xLMG rear gun
B5N2 Kate: Speed-5, Damage-4, 1xLMG rear gun
G4M1 Betty: Speed-5, Damage-6, 1xLMG front, left, right guns; 1xCannon rear gun
F2A3 Buffalo: Speed-6, Damage-5, 2xHMG
F4F3 Wildcat: Speed-7, Damage-5, 2xHMG
F4F4 Wildcat: Speed-6, Damage-5, 3xHMG
P39D Airacobra: Speed-7, Damage-6, 1xCannon, 3xHMG
P40E Warhawk: Speed-7, Damage-6, 3xHMG
TBD1 Devastator: Speed-4, Damage-5, 1xLMG, 1xLMG rear gun
SBD3 Dauntless: Speed-5, Damage-6, 1xHMG,1xLMG rear gun

It will be noted that these ratings suggest that even early on in the war in the Pacific, US aircraft were as good or better than their Japanese opponents, with the exception of the fairly wretched Devastator - unless I am badly misreading the performance data. This implies that the early Japanese advantages were heavily dependent on situational and environmental factors.  US pilots, especially army pilots, need to be penalized early on.


  1. Some interesting and very straightforward ideas. I'll have to give this a spin! Thanks for your hard work.

    1. You are very welcome. The idea is to be as straightforward as possible to make the game as intuitive and fast-play as it can be whilst retaining enough detail to make it feel a tiny bit like air combat. I think the only innovative thing I have done is treat altitude and speed as roughly the same thing.

  2. Thanks for your summary which is very useful.