Joe, with the release of Squadron Forward we thought it would be a good time to talk to you about the concepts behind the system and to give you a chance to tell us just what Squadron Forward is all about. First the big p[icture question: tell us about the concepts behind Platoon Forward and now Squadron Forward. What motivated you to develop these systems?
For years I have tried campaigns but they always ended after two or three battles. This was because they either involved complex record keeping or forced me to play minor battles that I didn’t want to play. The campaign would lose momentum. Then I hit upon the idea of using a sub-unit. Now I didn’t have to worry about supply and grand strategy as those could be abstracted. Focusing on a small unit also allowed me to start a story with the men of that unit. I didn’t want a role playing game, after all I am a wargamer, but I wanted the story to influence the table top but not control it. My inspiration here was the book, Cross of Iron and the interplay between Steiner and Stransky.
As primarily a solitaire gamer, I needed scenarios where I didn’t know what forces I was facing. This part took the longest to figure out as I wanted something intelligent, not simply random. After two years I had a good system. Several friends said, “You should publish this”, so I approached Richard at TooFatLardies and he agreed.
The Concept behind Platoon Forward is that you command a Platoon of Soldiers around WW II. Your squad leaders will have strengths and weakness as will your superiors. You will have to mould your men into a team and move your Platoon Forward.
Squadron Forward was a natural outgrowth. At first I tried to port the system over entirely and it didn’t work. A fighter squadron functions quite differently to an infantry platoon and they have different challenges that their higher-ups place upon them. Despite first impressions, a fighter squadron is much more structured as are their missions. In addition, equipment is important as players will find out.
The concept of Squadron Forward is you command a fighter squadron in WW II. Here your pilots will have various strengths and weakness as will your superiors and wing support staff. You will have to work with your men, learn their strengths and weaknesses in order to get the best from the team as a whole.
The biggest thing I want people to know is that neither of these products were produced with the idea of selling them foremost in mind. I produced them because this is the way I wanted to play my games. After I had a good product I thought I would share it with fellow gamers.
What will we find in Squadron Forward?
Squadron Forward will allow a gamer to take his favorite tactical air combat game and follow his squadron through any part of the war. Part One is where you breathe life into the names on your squadron roster. You will give them personalities and skills. Part Two consists of five basic scenario types which expand to eight basic situations. Just like Platoon Forward, you don’t pick your mission, it is handed to you. Unlike Platoon Forward, Appendix One contains mission tables that break the war down by theater, combatant, year and sometimes aircraft. After all, a ME 109s missions were far different in 1940 than they were in 1945!
Part Three contains the in-game and post-game tables you need to test your men in battle and outside it. The in-game tables include weather, random events and tables for bailing out and crash landing back at base if that occurs in your game. The post-game tables include some minimal resource management as you keep track of the number of pilots you have ready and the number of planes on the line. This is also where you will interact with your wing leadership as they “help” you. Sometimes they help you like Stransky helped Steiner and sometimes they DO actually help you.
Finally we have two more appendices. Appendix Two gives you tables for enemy and friendly fighter aircraft by theater and year for the entire war so when you encounter your opponent you’ll use this to find out what you encounter. If the scenario card says you meet four enemy fighters you move to Appendix Two and roll to see what you are going to face!
There are a couple of “minor theaters” not there like Syria and Norway but the vast majority are included like Greece and CBI. If your theater is not in there just e-mail me and we can talk about putting together a table.
Appendix Three comes adds medals to the Forward system. Your pilot just got his fifth kill then these nation specific tables will tell you if you can put him up for a medal, however fate can always play its part. If the Wing Commander doesn’t like him since he caused that trouble in town last week then the paperwork might just get lost…
What rules are these aimed at accompanying?
These rules will work with any plane to plane air combat game you like. The Lardies produce Bag the Hun 2 but this is certainly not a system designed for any single rule set. If a pilot gets a “crack shot” skill you will need to interpret what that means in your game system, but this should be pretty straightforward. They are written generically for that reason. In addition, with some tweaking they will easily work for WWI, and Korea. The appendices will obviously not work for those other conflicts but squadron structure and human nature have stayed the same.
How could you use the component parts on their own?
Part I could be used just to add a little personalization to your games by giving your pilots some characteristics. For instance, Lieutenant Smith is very aggressive and a lousy wingman who will take many risky chances. Adding some characteristics to your pilots is a pretty basic way to make your game interesting and this part of the system will do just that.
Part II could be used if you want to play a game solitaire, with a few friends or at a club. It sets the game up for you. This is always a problem when I want to play a game. I want to play but I don’t necessarily want to spend hours devising a scenario. Here is how you do it. One side picks the planes they want. (Or roll on Appendix Two.) They then roll on a mission table. Pick the scenario card and then roll up the opposition. Roll to see who has the advantage and then set up the planes. The whole process should easily take less than five to ten minutes and your planes will be set up with one side already spotted.
Part III could be used if you want the random events that will make the battle more varied and interesting or deal with post-combat events such as the crash landing tables. These are written generically so they fit with all rule sets. This will add some spice to your games.
How would the component parts work together?
Biased opinion but I think they work very well together to provide a complete campaign system where your pilots and the squadron takes on a life of its own. I think they give a picture of a WW II fighter squadron in WW II. They introduce some story elements that don’t dominate the game but influence it. These elements only take a few die rolls that add 5 minutes post-game. That is what I was after.
What sort of experiences have you had with Squadron Forward in your games?
Because death or POW status is much easier to attain in Squadron Forward than Platoon Forward it is amazing to me how attached you get to a pilot once he gets a 3rd or 4th kill! I have also had to relieve a squadron commander because the unit’s morale had dropped so low and they were not performing. That’s the type of thing that happens in reality that just normally miss in wargames. It really adds a whole new dimension to my games. In fact many of my triumphs and tragedies are chronicled on my blog. Why not check that out at http://platoonforward.blogspot.com
Do you have any more ideas for “Forward” in the future?
Yes. I have an asymmetrical warfare expansion for Platoon Forward called Middle of Nowhere. I have also started on two expansions to Squadron Forward; one is for WW I called Jasta Forward and one is a WW II bomber campaign called Bomber Forward. I have two other Forward ideas kicking around in my head, Flotilla Forward, coastal squadrons in WW II and Warband Forward for the age of Vikings. We’ll have to see what comes out of the mix!
Well, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Squadron Forward can be had in PDF format with 92 pages of aerial fun for just £8.00 from www.toofatlardies.co.uk