Rich has started working on Squadron Forward in earnest so I suspect we should be seeing it within the next 6 weeks or so. Since I decided I needed a P-47 squadron in the pacific and had to roll one up I thought I would tkae this opportunity to do a walk though of Squadron Forward for those interested. For those familiar with Platoon Forward much is the same but it plays different. There is more of a individual feel. There are no amorphous squads or platoons here. Every pilot is a character here and his performance matters every time.
In Squadron Forward the first thing you do is roll up your pilots. Each pilot has a personality and motivation. Some personalities will help him get along better with others and some will make it a challange just like in real life. Then for officers you roll for their background, again this can help/ hurt you with your superiors. Finally you roll the starting skill level and if they start with any special skills. The skill level will vary by country and year and is found in appendix 1. It is very similar to my "Everyone wants an Ace" articles for those of you familiar with those.
You can start with as many pilots as you want. I usually play with 6 planes per side as I play solitaire and this is all I can handle. Consequently a roster of 8 pilots works well for me. More an I have too many idle. Please note this is a function of my tactical game- not Squadron Forward. I suggest you start with 8-12 and adjust from there.
So I roll up my 8 pilots but for brevities sake will only list the 4 that will go on this mission.
Maj Dingy McGee Naive/ hedonism Veteran 1 kill
Lt Blue Mooney Cocky/ family (privilaged) Veteran eagle eye -1
Lt Paul Franklin Mercurical/ position (mustang) Veteran -1
2Lt Joe Thurmond Cheery/ hedonism +1
Now to round out the personalities of your pilots you will have to interpret the above. Here is how I did it. Maj McGee rose to command the squadron based on hard work and skill. He is a straight shooter who believes everyone else is as well and does not play politics. Thus he does not care Lt Mooney's dad is a congressman but treats him like everyone else. He lives life for today and takes all it has to offer.
Lt Mooney grew up privilaged with money. His Dad is a congressman and he makes sure everyone knows it. He knows he is very good and feels he will get his way all the time. He has excellent eye sight to boot. He gets a -1 modifier on most interaction rolls because everyone dislikes him for the moment.
Lt Franklin is erratic. He is driven to get ahead in this man's army. This is probably because he came up through the ranks and feels the need to prove he is a good as these college boys. He plans on being the first ace and a squadron commander some day. He is a good pilot, an unreliable wingman and alos gets a -1 modifier.
Lt Thurmond is a happy lad new to the theater. An average pilot he knows he has a lot to learn. He lives life to the fullest and is always the last to leave the bar. He is very popular in the squadron and gets a +1 on most interaction rolls. [That is why Dingy picked him to fly this first mission]
Once you have your roster you need to fly a mission. You find your plane, theater and year and roll a d10. As a squadron commander you have no say in this. For a P-47 in the Pacific in 1945 I roll a 4 and get "patrol". This is a great mission as almost anything can happen. Suggested number of planes are 4-6 but you can take as many as you like. Just like in Platoon Forward, the # of enemy you encounter is modified by how many aircraft you take so odds are you will have a balanced game. Dingy decides to take 4 on a sweep of enemy lines. Because this is the first mission he picks he best pilots. Next you roll for weather and for any event that occurs before the battle. Today the weather was fine and there was no event.
Next you roll to see what you encounter. [ While not realistic you will encounter something every mission. You did not go through all this trouble for nothing!] Fighters!!! You now move to another scenario card to determine how many. In this case we get 5. Unlike Platoon Forward there are no enemy blinds. I really wanted to do that because it sounds cool to go chasing after blinds but in practice it just prolonged the game with little fun added. In air combat there was no real reconnasense at the tactical level. You either saw the enemy first or he saw you. So it is in Squadron Forward. You make several die rolls that determine where you and the enemy set up and how far away you are. To explain it sounds complicated but it plays easily and Rich understood it the first time he read it. It allows for bounces and surprises but otherwises get you right to the fighting.
For the black rams we started at the enemy's 8 o clock at 2/3rds the spotting distance because of Mooney's eagle eye. Once the enemy is confirmed you roll on an appendix 3 table based on theater and year to determine what type of fighter you are facing. Here we rolled Zeros. Next it is back to appendix 2 to roll up the pilot skill levels. For Japanese in 1945 we got one veteran, one average and two rookies.
The battle is then played out using whatever your tactical rules are. Some things should be modified. For instance, Lt Franklin should have a low probablilty of sticking with his wingman. (I used 33% chance after any manuver) Like Platoon Forward there is a random event chart included.
In this game Lt Franklin bagged a Jap
Scratch one Zero
The next turn a random event came up that stated his engine was running rough. So guess what? As he flew through his kill he got debris caught in his engine and had to leave the battle. Cool eh?
Japanese pincer Lt Mooney
Unfortunatley Mooney got shot down but a good chute was seen. (There is a table for that.)
So now we have 2 P-47s against 3 Zeros and the Black Rams are low. As Dingy calls for Thurmond to break off I get another random event. This time it is US reinforcements. I don't want any more P-47s so four 4 P-51s show up.
The cavalry arrive!
They catch the Zeros from behind and quickly shoot down 2 thus ending the battle.
Now we have to get everyone home. Lt Franklin's engine is running rough so we go to the AKOT to see if he makes it back to base. [ The scenario card told us we were over contested territory today so not too far.] He does but then has to land a damaged plane. 20% chance of damage and we roll badly as the plane careens off the rough strip snapping its gear and knocking poor Franklin out cold.
Meanwhile, Congressman Mooney's son lands in no man's land. Another unlucky roll and he is captured by the Japanese. The Black Rams will not know this for weeks so he will be listed as MIA.
Lastly we now go to the post battle events. Unlike Platoon Forward there is some resource management in Squadron Forward. We need to see if we got a replacment plane or pilot for Mooney. (no) and if Franklin or is plane is fixed yet (no). Our squadron reputation and indivdual pilots can affect these rolls at times.
A word about squadron reputation. In this game you want your squadron to have the reputation as the baddest squadron in any air force. So we track cool points. This is a great equalizer amoung air forces. My russian I-16 Ratas get cool points just by surviving in the air with ME 109s in 1941! Here the Black Rams took on Zeros in an even fight, started to run away and got saved by P-51s. Not Cool!! They lost a cool point for this mission even though both sides claimed a plane.
Next we introduced a new NPC, Lt Jake Shapiro the maintanence officer. He is naive and motivated by wealth and is neutral to the squadron. Lastly the group commander, Col Bubba Jackson is not happy that Congressman Mooney's son is MIA. He blames Dingy and has tasked the Black Rams to provide a pilot and plane to help with the search operation.
So that now leaves the Black Rams with Lt Franklin a 1 kill guy in the hospital. They have -1 cool points and are down to 5 planes and 5 pilots ready for the next mission. Oh, the challenges with leading your Squadron Forward!