07 May 2012

Check your Six! demo game in Malmö

Local gamer William had offered to demo "Check your Six" last time we had met to play By Fire & Sword so I went to Malmö this weekend to check out the game which judging by pictures I had seen looked really cool. I also managed to make Thomas and Patrik to tag along, William brought one of his friends so we were 5 players in total.

This was really the first airplane miniature wargame experience I've had, though I have played numerous flight simulators on PC. So I can for natural reasons not offer comparisons with other flying games, Thomas had played a bunch and kept namedropping them during the game but I got the impression that he liked this. Patrik had also played some. All I can say is that I REALLY loved the way this game played and would strongly advise anyone who has the chance to check this game out on a convention or  gaming club to do so.

The game is based on historical scenarios with historical force strengths and weaknesses. The scenario we played was a German bomber escort mission, with three German heavy bombers being escorted by 4 pairs of BF109E (8 planes in total). Trying to intercept these were 1 trio of Hurricane's and 1 trio of Spitfire planes all piloted by Canadians IIRC.

The situation on the outset of the scenario was as such - the German bombers were ahead of their fighter escorts. One group of 4 BF109 planes was just behind the bombers and were at the moment pursued by Hurricane fighters. However in the slight confusion due to the weather the Germans had another 4 BF109 fighters flying further back and very high above the Hurricane's. Trying to intercept this rear guard was an approaching trio of Spitfire planes.

The rules are great if you like planning. At the start of each turn, all players write down on their sheets what sort of change of altitude, speed and maneuvers their planes will be performing. The speed chosen this turn will also carry over to the next turn so you have to think about possible interceptions and trying to predict the enemy movement. The maneuvers become more and more limited the faster you move, while you will be able to make really swift turns if you are flying more slowly. Diving also add travel distance and allows you to pick up extra speed, while taking your plane nose up into the clouds will drop your speed significantly. Planes need to be at +/- 1 altitude steps from each other if they wish to engage in a firefight. So you can't be flying at altitude Level 10 and engage someone flying 5 steps lower even if they are technically in your firing arc.

To make things even more interesting all pilots have their skill, leaders tend to be better trained while their wingman is green.  This makes an impact on the game in two ways. First of all you benefit from sticking within command distance of the planes in your unit which allows you to fly in formation to approach the enemy in a more organized manner. Second and more important is the turn sequence where movement starts with the planes that are either flying in formation (and benefiting from the higher trained leaders) to planes flying solo in which case you move through the lowest to the highest pilots on the table. This makes green pilots making all their movements first, followed by skilled, veteran and Ace pilots.

Now you may wonder where your plotting of altitude, speed and maneuvers come into play with a turn sequence like this. Well all movement is still based upon what each played wrote down on his sheet (in secret). However, better trained pilots are able to slightly adjust their maneuvers on the maneuver chart as the green and lower trained pilots make their turn.

Another thing that is affected by the pilot skill is the ability to avoid collisions with other planes that end up sharing the same hex as you but perhaps most importantly the pilot skill controls how easily you will run out of ammo. The better skill the pilot has , the more restrained he is with his bursts and the risk of running out of ammo is significantly higher for green pilots than for veterans. There are multiple damage tables depending on the ammunition which hits your aircraft and the effects range from oil leakage to blowing up.

I really love how all the game mechanics and rules just came together in a wonderful way to not only create a sense of realistic dogfights with players trying to predict each other’s movement, it also created a lot of maneuvers where planes made maneuvers to change their facing by 180 degrees and spray their pursuers with MG and cannon fire. At one time two pilots had plotted a course that had them end up on the same hex where they both collided which damaged their planes so much that they fell apart only a couple of turns later.

The game takes into account the distance to your opponent when you fire your guns, and uses a mix of D4, D6, D10 and supposedly even D20 dice to determine the outcome of the mayhem in the sky.

So how did it go in our demo game? Well the bombers flew straight ahead at full speed (highest allowed within formation flight), the Hurricanes hade the fighter escorts protecting the rear of the bombers scatter in two directions. This led to one BF109 being shot down very quickly with the impressive amount of MGs mounted on one of the Hurricane fighters. The other pair of BF109 however came around and engaged the Hurricane fighters occupied with chasing the lonely BF109 that had lost its wingman.

At the rear it was something of a ballet in the sky. It started with both German fighter teams descending and picking up speed - trying to catch up with the escort fighters currently under Hurricane attack. The Spitfires coming in on the flank however were closing in steadily. Finally the Germans at the rear made the decision to engage the Spitfire planes and maneuvered up and down in the sky to catch the British airplanes between the two German teams. The Spitfires however also made maneuvers of their own and broke formation. This led to a crazy spectacle where friend and foe got mixed up in the air, flying in all directions and on different altitude. One of Spitfires was destroyed by cannon fire from a BF109. One Spitfire and BF0109 collided mid air wings and gyroscope damaged as a result. The German plane caught fire and blew up shortly afterwards while the British plane fell apart after making a maneuver that was meant to bring the plane up higher. The final Spitfire at the rear was then shot down.

Back up front the remaining 2 Hurricane fighters were hard pressed and ended up becoming chased by the remaining 3 fighter escorts. Hurricanes abandoned their targets , the German bombers, and tried to slip away to the right but were chased down and shot to pieces.

Battle had ended with 2 German and 6 British planes destroyed.

Great fun, great pacing, very good rules - and William had mounted all of his airplanes on aerials which made the altitude changes appear on table making the game a lot more immersive. It was simply a superb demo. I hope to get to play this game sometime soon again!

5 comments:

  1. Looks likes a really fun game, shame the aerials aren't see-through though!

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  2. We play a good deal of CY6! games around these parts; it never gets old, this is a great game. With so many time periods and scenarios the replay value is quite high and the rules are simple enough to bring in new players with little transition.

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  3. @Samulus, yeah but on the other hand you get the ability to raise and lower them according to the planned altitude. I think it was a good tradeoff. If you go with see through static radials I don't think you would get the same immersion by just relying on the turn dial on the base indicating altitude while everything stayed on the same level.

    @Mik, I can see this game being used for stuff like WW1 as well. I really enjoyed it a LOT. And despite all the planning steps and realistic rules, charts etc it played quite fast and fluid. Very well written game.

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  4. Hi Anatoli, just wondering what the miniatures are that you've used here? I'm very interested in taking a look at this game and would like to know where to start! Cheers :)

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  5. @Mickey, send me your email and I'll give you the email to the owner of the planes, William.
    If I'm correct they were 6mm scale, in which case you could check out "Scotia Grendel" and "Skytrex", both manufacturers have WW2 micro scale ranges.

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