Regular readers of the blog will no doubt be aware of my liking for WW2 aerial games. I used to play Air Force and Dauntless an awful lot 'back in the day' and when Axis and Allies: Angels 20 made an appearance (courtesy of Mr. Fox) naturally I was tempted enough to invest in a modest collection - the Battle of Britain being a particular interest of mine.
We have played this game a lot at the club and I have even managed a number of solo games at home but naturally, with familiarity comes the inevitable 'need to tinker'.
Angels 20 is great fun to play as is but there are a number areas that could be tweaked to make it a little more 'wargames-like' rather than 'like a wargame'. The two areas concern pilot quality and special abilities. In the game pilots are rated as poor, average, veteran or ace. They are basic definitions but serve the purpose of differentiating between pilots. The problem at the moment is that aircraft data cards are specific in terms of how good the pilot is which would be fine if they had one for each quality of pilot. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Essentially you are restricted to using pilots based on the cards available.
The quality of air crew for the various combatant nations during WW2 is obviously a major consideration for any aerial game. For example, few would argue that the early war Japanese pilots, with their extensive training pre war, were far better than those largely untrained replacements available in 1945. The quality for them, and also the Germans, fell away dramatically as the war progressed and casualties mounted and were not easily replaced.
Coming back to Air Force, the Expansion set contained a really useful system for rating pilot quality by
nationality and the year of the war being represented. The only problem is that whereas Angels 20 has four ratings - Air Force has 10. What was needed then, was to squeeze the 10 into the 4 - which was surprisingly easy to do. I should point out that the Air Force system is more detailed and runs from pilots rated as -3 Green right up to a potential 240 kill ace. To generate a particular pilot quality players first determine the reference column to use (based on the nationality and year) and then roll 2d6 but counting the scores as two numbers rather than adding the totals together, for example a roll of 6 followed by a 2 would be 62 rather than 8 meaning that with two D6 there are 36 permutations of quality. Fiendishly clever methinks! All I did was to divide the 36 possible permutations into 10 and made use of a D12 to roll for the quality - as every 3 Air Force scores equal 1 Angels 20 D12 score. The range of quality was much more manageable as a result. I realise this seems rather complicated but it is actually pretty simple in use.
The special abilities are a little more involved and will take more work to resolve but the problem is really one of perception. I am not sure about these as although they make for a good game mechanic I am not convinced about their efficiency outside of a one off game. The types of special ability are usually pilot, aircraft or tactical in nature and my feeling is that some of these should be normal rather than special. I also think that some of them are a little gimmicky. I am leaning towards simplifying these and actually ditching some altogether.
Taken together both of these may seem like fairly drastic revisions but the core mechanics of moving and combat are absolutely fine and can be left as they are.
I have completed the first part of this undertaking - the pilot quality - and so the next stage will be to think about the special abilities.