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Old 02-23-2023, 05:26 AM   #1
muduri
 
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Default wwii naval air battling - setting level of ambition

I've been reading Path of Cunning #2 and #3 and can't deny a fascination with the WWII aircraft stats and aerial combat rules. There's no way to shoehorn them into my GURPS Hârn campaign haha but I'm sure I can muster a few people to try out a dogfight! What I'd like to ask about is what levels of ambition would be easy, difficult, or inadvisable:

First, if we get the hang of range bands, possible to refine as tactical combat? We would probably jury-rig something from GURPS Spaceships 3 at say 20-second turns and 400-yard hexes (or the even-more-varied-from-Spaceships 10 seconds, 100 yards?). Has anyone tried this, and discovered whether muddying Engaged and Advantaged greatly outweighs the satisfaction of seeing the planes in particular locations?

Second, if the other elements work it's so tempting to try adding an order of magnitude of complexity by including ships. If nothing else, a single cruiser in the Pacific that the planes could try dive-bombing or torpedoing. But maybe even trying ship-to-ship combat as a sideline to the aerial war?

I've been surprised at how large the gap in my knowledge is here - apparently I've never read up on or even searched for GURPS WWII naval combat! Have detailed descriptions, stat lines, or even just Move/HP/DR calcs, ever been published for say WWII aircraft carriers and cruisers? Does Spaceships already do justice to WWII ships? I could always try David Pulver's conversion technique but admit nervousness about my skill at the scale of the USS Hornet haha - which I'm guessing might be related to my not finding it easily online or in my GURPS collection.

Thanks for all thoughts!
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Old 02-23-2023, 08:26 AM   #2
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Default Re: wwii naval air battling - setting level of ambition

There are ships in the GURPS WWII books (I don't have mine handy, or I'd tell you which ships are in which books). They use the WWII modular design system, which is based on GURPS Vehicles (Vehicles 2e for GURPS 3e), so would require some adaptation to match the 4e vehicles and weapons rules.
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Old 02-23-2023, 08:54 AM   #3
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Default Re: wwii naval air battling - setting level of ambition

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There are ships in the GURPS WWII books (I don't have mine handy, or I'd tell you which ships are in which books). They use the WWII modular design system, which is based on GURPS Vehicles (Vehicles 2e for GURPS 3e), so would require some adaptation to match the 4e vehicles and weapons rules.
Note that Gurps:WWII is an entire line of 3e books probably available now only in pdf. There are huge numbers of vehicles of all sizes. There's even a Weird War II for Nazi flying saucers and Godzilla.

If I wanted to do WWII and had these books available I wouldn't bother converting frm3e to 4e. 4e vehicle rules aren't really "better" so much as they are different in philosophy.
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Old 02-23-2023, 11:16 AM   #4
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Default Re: wwii naval air battling - setting level of ambition

I would honestly prefer the abstract combat system from Spaceships 1 over any kind of detailed tactical hexmap. WWII aerial combat was fast and disorienting, and the details of high side passes versus scissors versus boom and zoom are hard to capture on the tabletop. But saying "my pilot is going to attack the Zero I see and maneuver into an appropriate attack position" is pretty easy, and then a contest of skills to sort out whether or not you get into the right position is a lot easier.

You'd need to expand the abstract Spaceships system quite a bit. Speed and height were really important in WWII, but target fixation and getting ambushed while setting up a pass were a thing. And bombers need better rules for formations and for having formations break up as bombers get shot out.

I don't know your library, and forgive me if I'm recommending something you have, but John Lundstrom's The First Team and First Team and the Guadacanal Campaign go into extensive detail about WWII naval aerial combat. The First Team has a wonderful appendix that shows all the attack passes, with illustrations from the Navy's tactical manuals, which is really useful for understanding how aerial combat was supposed to work.
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Old 02-23-2023, 04:15 PM   #5
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Default Re: wwii naval air battling - setting level of ambition

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I would honestly prefer the abstract combat system from Spaceships 1 over any kind of detailed tactical hexmap. WWII aerial combat was fast and disorienting, and the details of high side passes versus scissors versus boom and zoom are hard to capture on the tabletop. But saying "my pilot is going to attack the Zero I see and maneuver into an appropriate attack position" is pretty easy, and then a contest of skills to sort out whether or not you get into the right position is a lot easier.
This is important - combat air control was in its infancy in WW2 and once a merge had started no-one really had any idea what was happening - if you are expecting the players to play individual aircraft drivers, you should probably expect a lot of one-on-one play with little ability to interact. If they are on the carrier, the air battle is something you watch and try to ensure your gunners only shoot at the enemy...
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Old 02-24-2023, 08:11 AM   #6
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Default Re: wwii naval air battling - setting level of ambition

GURPS Action has a chase scene system that was expanded with some air combat specifics *runs off to Google* by David Pulver in Pyramid 3/53.

I'll check out the Path of Cunning articles. Haven't read them before, but they sound interesting.

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I would honestly prefer the abstract combat system from Spaceships 1 over any kind of detailed tactical hexmap.
If, on the other hand, you did want a detailed tactical hexmap, my grognard memories suggest taking a look at Achtung: Spitfire and/or its predecessor Over The Reich ('43-'45) and successor Whistling Death (ships, though earlier games do include air-ground combat rules). It's an old-school paper tabletop wargame for WW II air combat. As I recall, it has a pretty decent system for handling energy mechanics in air combat, while remaining light enough to be scalable for a single player to manage entire groups of planes on each side. It's still going to be heavy by TTRPG standards -- a big battle will take up your game session, because the game was designed to, well, be the game you were playing rather than a small subsystem -- but I'm not sure you can do a detailed tactical simulation that's any lighter. (Avalon Hill's Air Force/Dauntless series, for example, was fun, but not at all realistic in the maneuvering. SPI's Air War was detailed and accurate in the maneuvering, but legendarily unplayable even with single planes.)

When it comes to scale, the designer of the Achtung: Spitfire series went with 4 seconds and 100-yard hexes. Might be appropriate to appropriate for any homebrew.

But for TTRPG purposes, I think you'd likely be better off with something more narrative that doesn't turn combat into the entire focus of the game. Not to say that doesn't happen a lot in TTRPGs anyway, or that's a Wrong Way To Play. Just that the RPG focus is generally on single characters with a plotline that's both bigger than "how the aerial battle went" and with more focus on their personal heroics. And gritty realism is kind of out the window anyway. I think it's Robert Shaw's book "Fighter Combat" where I saw a citation that something like 80% of WW II aircraft that were lost never saw the plane that shot them down. One reason high speed was important in a fighter is that combat was more often just a straight ambush than a tense and exciting movie dogfight narrative with twists, innovative maneuvering and reversals of fortune. You don't really want your characters dying just because they failed that initial Perception check at -5.
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Old 02-24-2023, 09:14 AM   #7
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Default Re: wwii naval air battling - setting level of ambition

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And gritty realism is kind of out the window anyway. I think it's Robert Shaw's book "Fighter Combat" where I saw a citation that something like 80% of WW II aircraft that were lost never saw the plane that shot them down. 5.
Yes. Both of the top US aces from WWII (Richard Bong ,40 kills and Thomas Mcguire, 38) flew P-38s in the Pacific theater. They probably had Acute Vision and would spot Zeros at lower altitudes and would attack in long shallow dives that had them coming in more than 100 mph faster than a Zero could fly.

They'd hose down their targets with long bursts of .50 BMG and 20mm fire and then zoom past before any survivors could do anything. Wouldn't make much of a game but it is instructive about Real World combat.
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Old 02-24-2023, 09:50 AM   #8
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One reason high speed was important in a fighter is that combat was more often just a straight ambush than a tense and exciting movie dogfight narrative with twists, innovative maneuvering and reversals of fortune.
Possibly multiple reasons - the faster you are the more difficult it is for your 'ambusher' to be in a position to make a good attack pass, and the more deflection they need to place a crossing shot. It helps on both ends of the gun.

(Of course, this really to a large extent generalizes in war. So far I haven't read about a WWI or WWII battle that wouldn't be a slapstick comedy if not for all the real violence involved. One thing people may tend to miss...I certainly did...is that despite WWII ships and usually aircraft having radios, they were often, often not really in communication and not remotely in effective real-time communication.)
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Old 02-24-2023, 12:01 PM   #9
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Default Re: wwii naval air battling - setting level of ambition

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Possibly multiple reasons
Oh, certainly there's lots of reasons to make a plane fast. Just a point to remember when the discussions dive deep into the intricacies of air combat maneuvering and tactics. Sometimes the applications of an advantage are the simple ones. (Run away! Or prevent the enemy from running away... After all, early on in WW I through WW II, fighters were called "pursuit" aircraft; apparently their main role was thought to be running other planes down rather than dogfighting them.)
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Old 02-24-2023, 02:26 PM   #10
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Default Re: wwii naval air battling - setting level of ambition

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Oh, certainly there's lots of reasons to make a plane fast. Just a point to remember when the discussions dive deep into the intricacies of air combat maneuvering and tactics. Sometimes the applications of an advantage are the simple ones. (Run away! Or prevent the enemy from running away... After all, early on in WW I through WW II, fighters were called "pursuit" aircraft; apparently their main role was thought to be running other planes down rather than dogfighting them.)
Whatever they're named, they're only really fighters first when the design becomes focused on establishing air dominance, rather than for killing planes that actually do stuff.

Originally, the thing the pursuit planes would be pursuing would have been artillery spotters and probably photo recon. Because those were the planes that actually contributed to the war effort!
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