Dogfight over the Golan Heights – CY6! Jet Age
Recently Scott Fisher, author of Check Your 6!, offered me and the guys in the group here a chance to preview/playtest the CY6! – Jet Age rules, set for release this summer at Historicon. I had gotten to play in a couple of games at Historicon and liked it a lot, so jumped at this chance to explore the game more thoroughly and perhaps provide Scott with a little feedback.
I had a small collection of jets I had painted up back in Texas and bumped a couple of more from the unpainted planes bin to the front of the painting queue. I added a pair of F-4s in Israeli markings and a pair of MiG-21s (destined for Syrian markings, but only 80% finished at game time). Most of my collection was in Lybian and Egyptian markings, but they were pressed into duty in the Golan Heights, 1974 scenario I put together (not a historical encounter, but based loosely on actions in April 1974).
In trying out the rules for the first time we could have gone with a minimum of new elements or dove into the deep end head first, which of course is what I chose to do. We had five players, so had a couple of F-4Es and a couple of Mirage III CJs on the Israeli side against four MiG-21 MF and a pair of MiG-23 MS on the Syrian side. The Syrians also had an off table SA-6 SAM battery. The Syrian aircraft were all carrying 4 AA-2 Atoll heat seeking missiles. The Phantoms had a pair of AIM-7E Sparrow radar homing missiles and 4 AIM-9D Sidewinder heat seekers. The Mirage carried a pair of Israeli Shafrir 2 heat seekers. So we’d get to try out jet maneuvering, afterburners, radar homing missiles, hea seeking missiles and SAMs. Everyone in our group has played CY6! quite a few times, so I was pretty confident we would be able to jump right in.
I was flying the Phantoms and set up below the Syrians so that I could loose off a round of Sparrows as we closed. At the minimum, I was hoping that the Syrians would make evasive maneuvers to dodge the missiles and so break up their formation. The first missile launched though was an SA-6 that arced up toward one of the Mirages, but it missed. The powerful radar on the Phantoms easily locked onto the Syrians and I loosed a missile at each flight lead. Tom’s pilot saw the missile coming and committed to an evasive maneuver next turn. Ken’s pilot was oblivious, so I didn’t even get the benefit of breaking up his formation when the missiles both missed. The SAM site would get off a couple of more shots before an Israeli SEAD mission blew it to bits.
One of my Phantoms swung out to the west as the MiG-23s came onto the table from the NW – low and fast. As Tom turned from his evasive maneuver, my Phantoms zoomed in. The one to the west was lined up for a perfect Sidewinder launch and I loosed two missiles – only to then notice that the MiG-21 was up sun from my jet. Buck fever strikes again!. The two missiles tracked off to try and blow up the sun, but the MiG was still in trouble as my Veteran pilot had a short range cannon shot and the 20mm gatling cannon shredded the MiG. The Veteran was now on the north end of the battle and made a looping turn back toward the rest of the aircraft.
As my other Phantom continued around he was able to line up a couple of more more missile shots, but didn’t manage to kill anything. Maintenance standards must be slack for both squadrons, as there was an above average number of missiles that malfunctioned and failed to track altogether. As the plane passed over the center of the table, an SA-7 man portable heat seeker arced up from the ground and hit the Phantom, causing engine damage. With one engine flamed out and reduced to half speed, the Phantom made for the Israeli board edge.
As the veteran looked back around, the aircraft was well away from the main fight, but I still had a sparrow and locked onto one of Ken’s fighters and loosed the missile, which actually hit! The aircraft survived the hit with airframe damage, which effectively crippled his ability to maneuver.
My wounded Phantom was making for the board edge, but the big trail of black smoke was attracting MiGs. At least two sets of missiles were launched at the aircraft but luck was on his side and all of them misse
At some point one of Andy’s Mirages took a pair of missiles up the tail pipe. The sturdy Mirage shrugged off the damage from the two proximity explosions- except for the lucky hit which sent a chunk of missile right through the canopy and killed the pilot.
My veteran was later able to get a point blank cannon shot on one of the MiG-23s and destroyed it with a lucky hit to the fuel tanks. Soon after that the Israeli’s decide to make good their escape as our two remaining aircraft were mostly out of missiles and had used up our afterburner fuel. Andy and I shot down 4 MiGs and damaged another in exchange for one Mirage destroyed and on Phantom damaged.
You may have noticed that compared to the many WWII Check Your 6! reports I’ve done this one has a very me-centric point of view. The reason is simple – there was simply so much going on in the Jet Age game that I was focused on my own planes and didn’t really keep up with what everyone else was up to. The jets move faster and there is a lot more vertical maneuver possibilities, especially with the use of afterburners. the biggest difference (at least in the time frame of our game) is the greatly expanded engagement envelop presented by missiles. The heat seeking missiles can reach out to ranges of 10-12 hexes (compared to effective engagement ranges of about 6 hexes for WWII aircraft) and most importantly, can engage aircraft at significantly different altitudes. So a maneuver that would be “safe” in a WWII game can present an opponent with an optimal heat seeker shot in Jet Age. It definitely made for a very fun game with a LOT of action throughout the game. The number of aircraft that can be accommodated in a game will probably be lower than the WWII rules, but jet age engagements almost always featured fewer aircraft than WWII engagements, so that is really not a problem.
The CY6! – Jet Age rules worked great. Scott and his team have had these in development for three years and it’s clear that they have done a great job in my mind. The basics of maneuver, firing, etc., are all handled using the same mechanisms as WWII CY6! and the added elements such as missile combat make use of many of the exact same mechanisms. The only thing that really has a new mechanism is radar lock-on, which has a new dice convention and table. However this new mechanism is maximized by using it for visual and radar searches (used if targets start the game as hidden), radar lock on by both aircraft and SAM batteries, and awareness checks to spot and evade incoming missiles. So once you pick up this mechanism/table, it is familiar for a variety of game function. Our crew has played plenty of WWII CY6! and we were able to jump right in with quite a few added elements with almost no problems. Within a couple of exchanges of fire, everyone was familiar with the missile mechanics and handling all of that themselves. For anyone who enjoys CY6! and has even a passing interest in jet combat, this summer’s release should definitely be highly anticipated.
As the jets have much more vertical maneuvering capability, I used two Combat Altitude Bands for this game (as I’ve seen in many of the scenarios that Scott has put on at Historicon). I was worried that my 3D stands would get too unstable at that height, but we had planes moving around at 10-11 altitude bands above the table and didn’t have any significant problems with them falling over, so we are good to go there. In addition to painting a couple of more planes, I also produced a few other visual aids for the game. I drilled out the exhausts of all of the jets so that a bit of orange pipe cleaner could be inserted into the pipe when the jets used afterburner. I also made a bunch of missiles in flight. These are not strictly necessary to play the game, as missile fire is almost always resolved in the same turn the missiles are launched, but the missiles provide a handy way to designate who is launching missiles and most importantly, looks really cool. Next step is to get my desert tan 3″ hex mat done so that my collection of middle east aircraft don’t look like they are flying over New Guniea…