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David Mitchell
United States
Elk Grove
CA
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This is a very complicated game of modern air warfare. As such it is not for the uninitiated. With that said the rule book is laid out in a manner to ease the player into the game. You first learn how to fly the plan and you can do this solo. In the first section you also learn how to use your cannons so you can mix it up a bit.

The display used for controlling the plane are very well designed and can handle up to 4 plans each. It could be very difficult to handle more then that at a time. Everything a plane could do is represented on the display which makes it fairly easy to control the plane.

Initiative is figured out for each plane (check how many planes are in your planes forward arc and how many planes you are in the forward arc of and roll on the initiative table altering the die roll accordingly) with the planes with the least initiative moving first. It is usually an advantage to move later but not always. This system works pretty well and keeps the movement portion of the game from being simultaneous as it is in many other air combat simulations.

You have to set your throttle each turn and because the time scale is so short (2.5 seconds per turn) there is a lag between your throttle and actual speed. It is little details like this that make the game so physically accurate but slow the game down a bit. Here again though the displays make it easy to see and control.

Your plane flies in a true 3D environment. You are always flying in one of three modes, level, dive or climb. There are various degrees of dive and climb and rules associated with each regarding energy loss and gain. Energy loss and gain affects your speed and at times must be burned off. Energy is a bit of a fudge to represent gravity and inertia effects. Energy accumulation can be used for added speed or altitude gain while the effects of losing energy can do the opposite.

The planes face one of 12 directions (using both the point and flat side of a hex) and you have to turn 30 degrees before you can turn the plane to a new direction. The degrees you turn are kept track of on your display in 5 degree increments.

There are maneuvers that allow you to bend the flight rules a little. These all have a set of conditions that must be present so a maneuver must be set up before executing.

Once you have a few games under your belt you can add the rest of the rules such as missiles (they are kept track of on the aircraft display and also must follow the physics of 3D flight), radar, plane load and weight, and antimissile capabilities.

Once you master that (and it is not impossible as it all does follow a certain logic) you can add the optional rules. There are rules on searching, both visually and via radar, pilot capability, nature (the sun, clouds and land is introduced), bombing (which adds a lot of complexity), land based antiaircraft components and ejecting.

There are a lot of charts and tables but only a few will be used in each game and there are a lot of scenarios including fighting a dragon and a UFO.

This has always been one of my favorite wargames and while very complicated it is very playable.
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Tim Harrison
United States
Jefferson
Georgia
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dave, too bad you never lived in georgia, or else you could've stayed in AIR WAR practice, family permitting of course.
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J.D. Webster
United States
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The only problem with the aircraft control displays was when someone bumped the table and all the counters shifted, or if there was a visit by the house cat during a game break (cats like to play with counters). Either situation spelled disaster and a quick end to the game unless someone had photographic memory.

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Jason Cawley
United States
Anthem
Arizona
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Energy is more than a bit of a fudge. In fact the only ways for a real plane to have energy is to have airspeed or altitude, the former giving the kinetic form and the latter the potential form. The designers seem to have listened to fighter pilots describe air combat tactics without understanding basic physics themselves, and made a hash of their confusion. The entire set of "energy" rules can be safely ignored, and just speed or altitude gained and lost tracked.

The other primary issue with the realism of the game is that turning in the horizontal is accurately modeled with full differences in turn rate for every aircraft and airspeed, but turn rates in the vertical are not, and instead are stuffed into a generic set of climb and dive types that are the same for every plane, and at every speed. Making it just as easy to go from a steep dive to a mild climb in a heavy Phantom going speed 10 (max dive speed) as for a low wing loading MiG-17 doing 500 knots (speed 4). Needless to say, in real life the sluggish turn rate of the former vs the later is just as true for the turn upward as for any turn to one side.
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