Home Forums Air and Sea Air Missile Threat: Modern Air Combat Rules

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    NKL Aerotom

    Greetings all, I have been hard at work researching and writing up a rule-set for modern air combat, starting with the Vietnam War and going through to about 2000. We have been play-testing for a few months now and things are getting tighter.

    EDIT (12/7/2017) – At this stage I am not sending out any more WIP copies of the rules, so you will have to wait until it is finished to check it out! Hopefully not long now

    I plan to cover the following conflicts, If you have any suggestions for other conflicts I may have missed, please let me know! I want to ideally cover all the major air conflicts from 1960 – 2000;

    Vietnam War                 [] Done – Divided into 3 periods

    Indo-Pakistani War      [] Done – 1965 and 1971 wars covered

    6 Day War                      [] Done

    Yom Kippur War          [] Done

    1982 Lebanon War       [] Done

    Angolan Bush War       [] Done

    Ogaden War                  [] Done

    Iran-Iraq War                [] Done – Divided into 2 periods.

    Falklands War               [] Done

    First Gulf War                [] Done

    Bosnia / Kosovo             [] Done

    Ethiopia-Eritrea (’99)    [] Done

    • This topic was modified 3 years, 11 months ago by NKL Aerotom.
    Darkest Star Games

    Oooo, love me some modern jet combat.  Will have to give it a look!  I hope it’s a more ‘heads-up’ game than CY6JA, which is my current go-to…

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    NKL Aerotom

    Cheers Darkest Star, I’m not sure how ‘heads-up’ they will be compared to CY6. I tried to keep things as simple as possible but the game is covering a lot of ground – missile behavior, radar, ground assets and attacks, as well as things like flight plans. Once the basics of the game are understood it will be easy to jump into a game, just agree on a points limit and period and start writing up an aircraft roster and flight plan. Almost all of our games are quick to get started in this way. Takes only a few minutes to write up an army list or aircraft roster and only a few more minutes to deploy and start the game.

    One thing missing from the rules is that missiles and cannons can fire at targets up to 1 altitude above and below the firing aircraft, as well as at the same altitude. ATGW will likely be limited to launching from a maximum altitude of 3, while unguided bombs have a maximum altitude of 4. I’ve updated the PDF with these specifications.

    NKL Aerotom

    Just had a bit of a playtest and made a few corrections (PDF updated) quite a fast-moving battle which was nice. The flight plans and aircraft disengaging quickly means combat is a few turns of terror and then its over.

    Brief AAR: E is tracked on the Green dice, Altitude on the white dice
    Early Vietnam war, 2 F-105 Thunderchiefs drop their bombs on target amidst a cloud of AAA. Suddenly 2 camouflaged MiG-17s appear from low altitude, in a perfect position to attack. The MiG-17s zoom climb and open fire with their two 23mm and single 37mm cannon…
    The accompanying 3 F-4 Phantoms are too far behind to help – yet…

    MiG-17s zoom climbing to attack 2 F-105s

    The MiG-17s annihilated one unsuspecting Thud, while the other managed to work out what was going on and broke right as hard as possible, still taking some cannon hits.

    The F-4s were still too far away, and dropped altitude slightly in preparation to engage the MiGs. They prepared to weather the AAA fire, guided by a fire can radar.

    The next turn The MiGs finished off the remaining Thud and turned to face the F-4s, Ground Control on the radio ordering them to RTB – their mission was considered a success with 2 Thuds destroyed.
    The F-4s weren’t going to let them get away without a fight though, and loosed as many AIM-9D Sidewinders as they could. One Phantom was already facing the right direction and so was able to ripple fire 4 Sidewinders in one salvo, while the other 2 F-4s turned and loosed 2 Sidewinders each.

    AIM-9 Sidewinder had an 18% Success rate of actually getting hits in Vietnam. So rolling on the “Successful Launch” table unique to the Vietnam period, this was the result of the 8 sidewinder launches:
    2 missiles didn’t even leave the rail – duds it seems
    3 missiles came off the rails, but fell to the ground without igniting their rocket motors
    2 missiles came off the rails, ignited, but then failed to actually track the target
    and one missile did everything right – tracking one of the MiG-17s beautifully.

    Missiles everywhere except where you need them


    The MiG-17 promptly evaded the missile by breaking left, although the missile then proceeded to track his wingman, who also broke left and easily avoided the missile.

    Evading a Missile

    One of the F-4s was then hit by radar guided AAA and destroyed, while another F-4 was damaged by AAA.

    The 2 MiGs then dove and sped off, disengaging from the combat.

    Meanwhile the F-4s, almost at the limit of their range and with no targets in sight and only AAA fire to keep them company, decided to climb above the range of the guns and head home.

    The result of the game:

    VPAF: No losses

    US: 2 Thuds lost, 1 F-4 lost, but a shit ton of damage done to a North Vietnamese factory, so not a complete loss.

    Points left on the table were within 50 points, so the game is a draw – very close to a VPAF victory though – 1 more point and it would have been.

    Reading “MiGs over North Vietnam” and this is pretty accurate for an early war engagement, around 1966 or 1967 – MiGs appear out of nowhere, being vectored in by ground control intercept radar, MiGs destroy a few aircraft and peel off, often taking no losses. Most missiles launched from the US are easily dodged or too far away to be effective.

    later on the US hone their tactics and get much better results from their missiles. The pilot quality has an important effect on the success of a missile. All the US pilots in this engagement were average, while the VPAF pilots were competent (slightly better than average)

    Just Jack


    Awesome, but the wrong guys won! In all seriousness, that was a great looking fight and the mechanisms sounded cool. I’ll have to take a look at what you came up with; I’ve still got five games left to finish off my Cuba Libre – War of Liberation.



    NKL Aerotom

    Cheers Jack, I still have a few edits to do and some things to think about, but the basics probably won’t change.

    I like to think of the North Vietnamese as the British in the battle of Britain – and the US as the Germans. Puts things into perspective!
    the MiGs over North Vietnam book is a real eye opener – The VPAF describe tracking 30+ US aircraft on radar, and sending 4 MiGs to intercept them… always heavily outnumbered, but they usually still managed to shoot down a few aircraft and get out without taking any losses. Some incredibly brave hit and run tactics. If anything the VPAF seem to suffer from over-confidence and showed no fear of US aircraft…
    I just read the part about the MiG pilots who shot down B-52’s (I don’t think the US admitted any were shot down by MiGs?). First guy had to get past something like 20 F-4s, flying at night, and without using radar, and then with the help of ground control radar sneak his way up behind the B-52 and launch his missiles.
    The second guy (a few weeks later?), had to get past something like 30 F-4s, also flying at night with no radar. He is detected early and avoids more than 10 missiles, but then the F-4s manage to “lose” him from their radar, so he carries on towards the B-52. He describes flying directly under a few F-4s for a few miles and they never notice him… Eventually he gets close enough (so close the F-4s wont fire anymore for fear of hitting the B-52), and fires his missiles. They seem to hit but the B-52 is still flying. The MiG pilot then informs ground control that he is going in closer to attack with his guns – but ends up ramming the B-52, causing it to explode (I guess its much harder to judge distance at night!)

    Look forward to hearing your thoughts Jack 🙂

    Darkest Star Games

    Eegads, any pilot during that period that fires a sidewinder from a head-on aspect should have his wings clipped and be thrown out on his ear!  They were a rear-quarter aspect only missile (until much later), and usually failed because they were fired while turning (coupled with the effects of tropical moisture on missiles that were carried but not fired over and over and over….) and they couldn’t take the g’s or lost tracking when they left the rails.  The Sparrows were even worse when up close.  Ripple fire was indeed the way at the time (no guns on those F-4s?!?! Oh wait, they’re USAF…).  Too bad the US was always hamstrung by really bad ROE.  The whole point of the Sparrow was BVR launch!

    You should try a scenario from Robin Olds doing his ploy.  Might have different results!

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    NKL Aerotom

    That was the impression I got too from the research I did. I tried to balance the accurate performance of the Vietnam-era missiles with something that would still be fun on the tabletop – I’m sure there will still be some tweaking but it seems to work and not be too frustrating to play. Being able to fire 4 missiles at once helps a lot when 2/3 will be failing.

    I also made missiles incredibly cheap and not count towards victory points, so a player has a lot of incentive to buy maximum missiles and launch them all during the game.

    An F-4 with a competent pilot costs 36 points, while 4 x AIM-9 Sidewinders cost 1 point. Faclons are just as cheap, so fitting an F-4 out with 8 missiles only costs 2 points 🙂

    IR missiles do get a bonus for successful launch by being in the rear aspect, and the pilot quality also helps this. So Col Olds, behind an enemy MiG will have a good chance of shooting it down with 1 or 2 missiles, provided the MiG isn’t paying too much attention.

    And yes the F-4s in this early period have no cannons! We bring in the M61 Vulcan gun pod in the mid war list (but without radar gunsight) and finally have the integrated M61 Vulcan with radar gunsight in the late war list, on the F-4E.

    Something that surprised be is that a few of the MiG-21 variants (MiG-21 PF, MiG-21 PFS) also had no cannons in this early period. The idea of “missiles will kill everything” seemed to be present even in Soviet thinking for a short time.

    Darkest Star Games

    You got the guns right, everyone thought the next gig would be knocking bombers out of the sky at long range and that guns were obsolete.  And that’s why I’d rather have an F-8 or an A-4 for early VN stuff than an F-4!  At least the Thud had a gun and got some kills with them!

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    Darkest Star Games

    I just know I’ll be trying to play this using adjustable flight stands…

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    NKL Aerotom

    I just know I’ll be trying to play this using adjustable flight stands…

    You definitely could! Like most of our air combat games there are 6 altitude levels, should be easy enough to implement with a flying stand.

    I’ve made a few edits, mostly to the pilot checks (different qualities now have different target numbers, rather than modifiers). And made some rules about lower quality pilots having a harder time taking evasive maneuvers, and all pilots having trouble with making evasive maneuvers when the enemy is behind them. This will hopefully help to represent the element of surprise and target fixation. Not everyone is looking behind them all the time!

    I also starting putting together rules for campaign play today: Wrote up some rules for pilots ejecting and crash landing and what happens to downed pilots depending on where they land. Depending on if they’re wounded or not and their skill, they will hopefully avoid capture until SAR can turn up to recover them. This will provide incentive to fly SAR missions (I will create a few different types of mission the attacking player can choose to fly: SEAD, Strikes, CAP, SAR, CAS, etc.)

    NKL Aerotom

    I’ve been making good progress on this, grinding through the research and statting out the various aircraft of the various conflicts.

    Finished Vietnam, Arab-Israeli and Indo-Pakistani wars, now on to the Iran-Iraq war, of which the research is mostly done.

    Added helicopter rules and 2 more missions (beyond the Strike): CAS and SAR for retrieving downed pilots.

    So I’m getting there, but still plenty to do!

    We will have another playtest this sunday and I will take some photos and do an AAR. It will likely be a larger Vientam era game.

    NKL Aerotom

    Making good progress on this, Falklands research is complete (including all the naval vessels of both sides – and Submarines! and ASW helicopters!), did a few small playtests of the era but I have a bit more to do as I’m working out the Naval Vessel mechanics and fine tuning them.

    Painted most of my harriers/vulcans and the various Argentine aircraft I have (super etendards, skyhawks, mirageIIIs and IAI daggers’) I’ll post some pictures once I’m done!

    NKL Aerotom

    Finished a few naval vessels for the Falklands. All my Aircraft are done as well (although still waiting for the decals to arrive…)

    Argentine Armada:

    RN Task Force:

    Another shot of the Task Force:


    Ooh, exciting.



    I’m really looking forward to this rulebook.

    NKL Aerotom

    Gulf War complete, now on to Bosnia / Kosovo research and filling out some gaps in the Angolan Bush War.

    I’ve also devised a solo play system and a Mercenary Air Campaign system over the last week, so will be adding these to the rules.

    Mission types and set ups (including CAS and ground forces) have been filled out and Helicopters have been re-written for simplicity.

    Mobile AA units have been added to all factions, for use in the CAS mission. ZSU-23-4 Shilkas, SA-8s, SA-9s, etc.

    NKL Aerotom

    Essentially all the conflict research and stats are done, I’m going add in the second Taiwan Strait Crisis as a bonus conflict as there were missiles used quite heavily.

    Then all I have to do is clean up the Solo and Mercenary Air Campaign rules, and sort out the bonus units.

    Getting there!


    Solo and mercenary campaign sounds very interesting.

    NKL Aerotom

    Missile Threat now released!


    8 months of research and play testing, 11 conflicts (18 if you count different periods), stats for 283 different aircraft, 40 years of air combat in one book!



    Cool, I’ve been waiting for this.



    A weird entry for Iranian AH-1 with 4x AGM-65 per hardpoint? Is this for gameplay reason? Those are pretty big missiles.


    https://web.archive.org/web/20130516192527/http://axgig.com/images/79016160811542429413.jpg certainly makes it look like one per hardpoint at most, and probably one per side.

    NKL Aerotom

    Hmm good point, I will change it to 1 per hardpoint. All the photos of Iranian AH-1s seem to only have 1.

    The points cost will be exactly the same for the helicopter and missile, just change the AGM-65 to “takes up 1 hardpoint” for all conflicts.

    I’ll update this in the next version, thanks for the feedback!

    NKL Aerotom

    I’ve uploaded 2 videos for Missile Threat:


    Introduction and Mechanics discussion:

    Example Game:


    Hope this helps everyone get gaming!

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