Sunday, January 7, 2018

I just checked in to see what condition my 6 was in

I just played my first game of Check Your 6! yesterday. I checked in to The Panzer Depot in Kirkland to see if there was anything there I couldn't live without. Ken Kissling was running a game and after hemming and hawing about whether to stay and join in, I took command of a flight of P-51Bs. I wanted to see how the rules work.

I'm not a stranger to air combat games. Back in the 90s (mostly), we played a lot of air games using a version of Avalon Hill's Mustangs board game that was adapted to 1/300 scale miniatures. I had a modest collection of aircraft for WW2 and a slightly larger collection of jets—Dave Schueler wrote a version of Mustangs, called Phantoms, that took the game mechanics into the jet age. We haven't played Mustangs/Phantoms for many years and I've sold off all my wee planes.

One of the things about our games back then is that we used stands for the minis that gave us the proper vertical representation. It looked cool, but it required six different stands per plane to accommodate the six altitude bands in the game. In addition to a slug of model planes, we needed a forest of flight stands. For most of our gaming time, the stands were supplied by Paul "Mustangs" Hannah. I never bothered to make any because they were a chore to make, store, and schlep.

Paul has a YUGE collection of 1/300th scale aircraft, followed by Phil Bardsley. As I mentioned, my collections were modest. The 1/300th planes were exceptionally fiddly to paint and put decals on. I was also loath to reduplicate other's efforts. Between them, Paul and Phil had pretty much the whole Luftwaffe and RAF. Phil also had a lot of Italian planes. He loved Italian planes. I mostly did a few odd balls, like Bolton-Paul Defiants and Mitsubishi A5M "Claudes." I also had several jets for the Indo-Pakistan Wars and Arab-Israeli Wars.

Phil and Paul playing Mustangs back in the day
(Paul took the games so seriously that he always wore a tie to play)

Air gaming seemed to quiet down for a while here in the PNW until Check Your 6! came on the scene. Maybe I've just been oblivious (always a possibility), but I didn't really notice anyone playing it until a few years ago, although the rules came out in 2007. There are several expansions for the game that provide scenarios for game plus campaigns.

The game we played on Saturday was from an expansion for the ETO. Basically, in advance of a daylight bomber run, an American force of 4 P-38s and 4 P-51Bs encounter a swarm of German fighters: 2 JU-88 nachtjägers (but jägering in der tag this game), 2 ME-110s, 4 ME-109s, and 4 FW-190s.

In the furball

The formations appeared on the board in the first couple turns. Most formations came on high (altitude 5 or 6), my Mustangs came on a altitude 1, flying top speed, underneath everyone, and flying almost off the board edge.

Much of my effort in the game was taken up with trying to climb and turn at the same time—doing either of these exercises bled speed like crazy. It was a few turns before I had a shot at anything. I managed to damage one ME-109, had several shots on another, which hit, but did no damage. Sean, who was playing the 109s, had the luck when it came to damage rolls.

A hit! A hit! A palpable hit!

It also helped that the P-51B is a much undergunned aircraft. We 'Mercans didn't go in much for no fancy-pants cannon on our areo-planes. The Mustang B had just four .50 cal MGs. The most I could ever hope to get would be to score 20 on my damage dice (4 x D6, counting any 6s as nothing). The Germans, in contrast, were flying cannon batteries. They hit with big dice (D10s and D20s!).

I was also trying desperately to lose Ken's formation of Focke-Wulfs. I figured that flying low and turning sharply to go under him as he passed higher up at high speed would do the trick, yet somehow I was tryna shake him the whole game. I think my inexperience was showing. No matter what I did, hot, nasty tracers were whizzing past my cockpits.

Am I the only one here who can't fly a plane!?

I lost one green pilot in my formation, who got shredded by one of Ken's Focke-Wulfs. The other green pilot got hit and suffered airframe damage. My experienced and skilled pilots survived unscathed. For all the whizzing tracers, I was lucky that Ken hit so few times. He certainly took a lot of shots.

In the end, it was a German win. John, flying the Lightnings, managed to damage a couple of Chris' heavy fighters (the JU-88s and ME-110s), but lost one plane. I damaged one enemy and lost one friendly.

The mechanics of the game are fairly simple, but expertise can take some time. Each plane is rated for maneuverability and can move in certain patterns depending on speed. Planes can maneuver in formations that allow the leader to plot a single move and the other planes in formation have a lot of leeway in choosing maneuvers to follow the leader and stay in formation.

Breaking formation isn't a bad thing unless unintentional. Then the plane breaking formation just kinda wanders off for the turn. Formation can be powerful because it brings all your guns to bear on targets.

I enjoyed the game and liked the rules, but not enough to go jumping back into air gaming.

Well, that's like, your opinion, man

Besides, I have way too many irons in the fire already. I've been divesting myself of a lot of my small-scale naval (1/2400) and air minis. I'd rather paint big 28mm figures and even bigger 40mm figures. I still have my 1/1250th WW2 coastal, 1/600th ACW naval (ironclads), and some 1/1200th pre-dreadnought.

I will, however, push someone else's wee planes whenever the opportunity presents itself.


  1. I still have a boat load of 1:300 A/C also, with stands and a game mat...

  2. Nice write up, David. Were they 1/300 planes that you used for this game?

    1. Yes, 1/300th. I think they were all Ken's planes.