fathom, I structure my CY6! games much as you do. My players are comfortable running two or three fighters each. I’ve offered players four fighters a couple of times, but they’ve turned me down. I think I could handle four, but I flatter myself that I’m an above-average player…on a good day.
The scenario books are fascinating. I collect them all, but I haven’t run any of the book scenarios. I never know how many players will turn up for a game, so I design flexible scenarios where I can add or take away an element or two from each side, and still keep the game balanced and fair to the players. I set up the models and stands and fill out all the logsheets beforehand, so that the game gets off to a fast and smooth start. If fewer players show up, I take some of the models off the table.
I usually design the scenario around a bomber formation. As the GM I always run the bombers. Although bomber maneuver is restricted by the requirement that they keep in formation, so that I only have to plot for the formation leader, it’s still possible to take some evasive action. Then there’s the challenge of shooting at attacking fighters, and plotting for any cripples to drop out of formation and head home without stalling and crashing. Overall, it’s easier to control a dozen bombers than two or three fighters, so running the bombers leaves me with enough bandwidth to GM the game. I can fly fighters in some other GM’s game at a convention.
Regarding the length of a game…there are 20 lines on a standard CY6! order logsheet, but I’ve never used more than 12 of them. After two or three game turns spent on approach and five or six turns of serious fighting, most of the fighters and some or all of the bombers are always shot down, damaged and running for home, or out of ammunition and likewise heading for home. The few dazed survivors have always been willing to call a decision, usually by game turn 8, or turn 12 at the latest. I see the same thing in convention games. The Hankow game above would have finished in another three or four turns. We only had 2 1/2 hours of play time on a Wednesday night. We could have finished in another hour, or in four hours tops.
Since I design my own scenarios, I’ve given some thought to initial setup. Most aircraft weapons in CY6! have a range of 10 hexes, although they may not be effective at that range. I like to start the planes so that it’s at least two or three turns before anyone can get into shooting range. I do this for two reasons: 1) I want to give new players a couple of turns to practice writing and executing orders and 2) I want to encourage maneuver. So with planes that fly at speed 2 in formation, I start the sides 15 or 20 hexes apart. I set the bombers up myself, in a historical formation some reasonable distance from the target, usually at altitude 5, so I can dive when I choose and my escorts can still be one level above the bombers. I tell the escorts to set up at any altitude and facing they like, within some close distance to the bombers. I tell the interceptors to set up at any altitude and facing, no closer than some specified distance to any of the raiders. This gives the players some control over their initial setup, which I think is a good thing. The players usually start their fighters at altitude 6. And so it begins. Plot your turn 1 moves…
I encourage maneuver, but it’s rare for my players to do much. I tell them, “The first rule of gun fighting is DON’T GET SHOT!”, and “In this game, if you let people shoot at you, you WILL get shot.”, but they generally head straight for the closest hostile plane to attack it, without considering who might shoot at them. This makes for a fast, decisive game, as noted above.
I think I’m an above average player because I *do* maneuver. I try to set up a shot where I won’t take any fire myself. I will take the long way around to a better position for an attack – there’s no rush, there are 20 lines on the logsheet. I will evade an attack if I can, rather than grit my teeth and turn into it for an exchange of fire. Dogfighting is a last resort. One reason I like CY6! is that it integrates vertical maneuver better than most rulesets I’ve tried. I love to dodge in the vertical. The first time I do it in a game, I generally catch my opponent flat-footed and put a “WHAT WAS THAT?” expression on his face. After they see me do it, the other players often catch on and start diving and climbing themselves. I love it. It’s an airwar game, then.
You'll shoot your eye out, kid!