ETO Series: The Air Game Update
In this update, we must preface with a few important things:
Our focus currently remains on “the larger picture” of combined ETO volume games and making sure that, when you connect them, they do so as seamlessly as possible. This has been much on the design team’s minds of late.
Because it is already published, Thunder in the East has been our petri dish for playtesting and strengthening these multi-volume game sinews. Per publisher GMT’s instructions, we are preparing an “update kit” for your TITE game. This project is known, internally, as TITE2 – it is not a second edition but more an improved ETO-izing of the current game.
If you would like to join the TITE2 playtest, it is available as a Vassal kit, with rules and scenarios located here (scroll down to the TITE2 Vassal kits; you can't miss it).
You will see screenshots from that Vassal playtest kit throughout this article.
TITE2 Changes in the Air: New
As you explore the Vassal playtest kit for TITE2, you will see some new Air units. These include:
1x German Do-24 Naval Air unit
1x USSR MBR-2 Naval Air unit
TITE2 Changes in the Air: Different
Some Air units are slightly different:
Those that can perform the ½ Range/Double Bombload feat have their Bomb symbols rotated a jaunty 45 degrees as a handy mnemonic. This has proven extremely useful when allocating them to Bombing Missions.
He-111 units have new Air Cargo symbols indicating that they cannot conduct Paradrop Missions.
The Soviet Pe-8 unit has a corrected bombload value.
The biggest news in the air is the revised Dogfight Table (shown here).
The net change is a small increase in dogfighting lethality. This table also includes a new result allowing the rolling player to “Press” an exchange of fighter unit damage. There are more opportunities for Air units to be sent to their Destroyed box as well as returning to the Flown box Damaged and Suppressed. Prolonged aerial campaigns will show increasing wear and tear on an Air Force lacking Fuel Points to sustain them; those Air Forces must seek rest and repair over time.
The rest of the changes in the Air System revolve around economics. One thing we noticed was a need to apply the “air brakes” to the speed at which Air Forces could build up or bounce back:
The 2 PPs required to build a new Air unit are both Specialists! Thus, building that Air unit is typically done over 3 Months now: 1) Pay 1 EP + 1 Specialist PP; 2) Pay the second Specialist PP; and 3) pay the FP cost to remove it from the Destroyed box. This third step cannot be performed on the same turn as the second due to the “One Up” rule which allows only one improvement to a piece per turn.
Only one Air unit Upgrade is allowed, but now (assuming you’re not playing a card that says otherwise) only on the 1st Week of Month. It will take time to incorporate enough of the newer models to consider that unit “upgraded.”
Likewise, Repairing Air units from the Destroyed Box occurs only on the 1st Week of the Month. If the combat Air attrition is bad, you’re going to feel it and may need to “rest” your Air Force to raise it back up to fighting trim.
When Repairing Air units, you can still mend 10% (rounded up), but an unhindered Air Force can always mend at least two Air units. That means when the Axis and Soviets both have 10 or fewer Air units in their respective Destroyed boxes, the Axis can mend two of them, but the Soviets can only mend one.
There is some good economic news for the planes, too:
A new Free Stuff option has been added for the Phasing Player to “Rush Recover” one Air unit that turn. Thus, instead of plunking down an Improved Defense or Partisan Detachment marker, you can pay an Air unit’s Rush Recovery cost during your own turn and allow it to do thus receive the second improvement! This is an effective (if expensive) way for the Axis to keep their Stukas flying.
All Small units that drink Fuel Points (FPs) only consume ½ FP each. Although that same rule also makes Small Heavy units more expensive (as you must now include ½ FP when purchasing them from your Force Pool), it seems a bit more than offset because raising up Fighter and Fighter-Bomber units now cost only half as much as previously. This is a fair trade-off with the difference “coming out in the wash,” but since we are just discussing Air units here, this does help keep your Fighters flying as they are cheaper to Rush Recover and Repair. Of course, this also increases lethality in the skies!
It is clear now that each nationality in each Theater recovers separately and can be targeted separately by the attacking player when making Airfields Attacks.
German Ju-52 Transport units can help with “special missions” (as well as dropping paratroops). They can create opportunities to Repair Destroyed Major German Air units as well as assist with some important Axis Event cards.
TITE2 Changes on the Ground: Air Support
There are some interesting changes in Air Missions, notably in Close Air Support.
The CS dice are now individually affected by various forms of inclement weather. This means that, occasionally, rolls of Red bolts or Heavy symbols are simply treated as “blanks.” Your Air Force can fly almost all the time, but its effectiveness deteriorates a bit more as weather conditions worsen. Air Support in the Winter? Yeah, we have that; it is just not as effective as it is in the Summer; still, it might be worth a shot.
A new Axis Declaration of War (such as the Barbarossa Sneak Attack) gives the Axis player their free Jericho’s Trumpets cards. Effectively, this means that a Stuka’s two Red bolts automatically both succeed (no CAS dice rolling required!) during the first few turns of their target’s invasion.
Another interesting facet is the Variable Hardness of Airfields Strike and Strategic Bombing targets. They improve from Soft to Medium to Hard as a Faction adds more Flak markers to their Theater. Yes, Soviet “strategic targets” are vulnerable to Strategic Bombing; unfortunately for the Axis, they still do not have an Air Force that can really deliver a sustained strategic bombing campaign!
A new Event card, Local Air Superiority, essentially gives you a 1 column shift advantage on the Dogfight Table. Because it is local, though, it’s Range is centered on a single Air Base. The Allies’ version of this card, however, is Theater-wide!
In our next update, we will take another look at the evolutionary “ETO-izing” of Thunder in the East by focusing on another core aspect of the game.