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Posted on Apr 24, 2012 in Boardgames

Baptism of the Zero – A ‘Fighting Wings’ Scenario

By Rick Martin and J.D. Webster

"Baptism of the Zero" is a Fighting Wings series scenario utilizing counters from the Fighting Wings games Whistling Death and Buffalo Wings. This scenario was specially created for publication on the Armchair General Website by the series’ designer, J.D. Webster, and frequent ACG contributor, Rick Martin.

September 13, 1940: Chungking, China


BACKGROUND: For three weeks the Japanese flew their new Zero fighters over China on bomber escort missions. For those three weeks, the Chinese fighter pilots refused to fight this strange new plane. They simply kept their Russian I-15s and I-16s out of range of the Zeros. Itching to test their new planes against the Chinese, Japanese pilots tried a new tactic. On the 13th of September 1940, a Japanese raid of bombers and their Zero escorts pounded the city of Chungking. The Japanese planes completed their mission and then wheeled away—ostensibly heading back to their airfields. A lone Japanese recon plane circled over the burning city and then reported that Chinese fighters had flown back to their airfields in the Chungking area now that the Japanese planes had "cleared the area." The Zero pilots immediately turned their new mounts around and pounced on the Chinese planes as they returned to their base. Diving from out of the sun, they achieved a classic surprise bounce on the Chinese. Thirty minutes later, the Japanese claimed 27 Chinese fighters had been shot of the sky, with no losses to the Japanese side. The Zeros had proven their worth against the best of the Chinese fighters. At the end of 1940, the Japanese asserted that their force of 153 Zeros had shot down 59 Chinese planes in air-to-air combat and destroyed 42 on the ground. The Japanese had lost none of their Zeros in air-combat actions.

Use the Buffalo Wings map, if available; otherwise, use any Fighting Wings blue sky map.

Japanese: 2 x A6M2 Model 11 Zeros (from Whistling Death)
Chinese: 4 x I-15bis biplanes (from Buffalo Wings) and 3 x I-16 Type 18 (from Buffalo Wings)

Set Up
The A6M2 Zeros are in hexes 2714 and 2914 heading east, wings level in shallow dives (not turning and diving in BW) at altitude 4.0 and speed 6.0. The I-15s are in hexes 2720, 2921, 3121 and 3320 heading east, wings level in level flight (not turning and level in BW), at altitude 3.0 and speed 4.0.

The I-16’s are in hexes 3026, 2824 and 3224 heading East, also wings level in level flight at altitude 3.0 and speed 4.0.

Game setup, overview. Click to enlarge.Game Length
Lesser of 20 game turns or until all A/C from one side are destroyed or have escaped off the game map.

Special Rules
1. All pilots are Regulars but the Chinese are poorly trained and subject to "Panic;" see below.

2. Chinese planes must fly straight and level on turn one (no turns or pitch changes, at maximum power).

3. Special Chinese Panic Rule – The Chinese fighters are in a loose gaggle following the first I-16 and under orders to avoid fighting Japanese fighters, but saving face is also important. For each Chinese plane except the leading I-16 (this pilot will never panic), roll a d10 at the end of turn 1 and again at the end of every fifth turn after.

Closeup of Chinese setup. Click to enlarge.On an odd result, the Chinese pilot panics and must turn as quickly as needed in level flight to put the nearest Zero (at the start of the Chinese plane’s move) into his rear arc by the end of its next move, and then it must fly towards the nearest map edge, ignoring the Zeros, at full speed in level flight (optional altitude descents okay) until the next Panic die roll.

On an even result, the Chinese pilot decides to fight. In this case, the Chinese plane must immediately turn in level flight in the direction of the nearest Zero until it has ANY Zero in play in its front arc and within 10 horizontal hexes. At the end of the game turn in which this is accomplished, the plane becomes totally under Chinese player control and may then fly and fight freely.

A Chinese pilot may panic and on the next check remain panicked or decide to fight. When a Chinese pilot decides to fight, he also gets to skip the very next panic check; thus he is ensured of remaining in the fight until the check following the skipped check.

Closeup of Japanese setup. Click to enlarge.If a Chinese plane flies off the edge of the map he escapes combat. As soon as ANY Chinese plane reaches severe damage or is out of ammo, its pilot must turn and flee toward the nearest map edge as if it were panicked, whether actually panicked or not.

4. Victory Points – Each Chinese fighter escaping off the map earns the Chinese player 2 Victory Points regardless of its damage state. Damage to Japanese Zeros is worth double value for the Chinese. The Japanese only earn points via the normal damage rules.

Variant: For a larger game use double or triple the actual number of planes, setting up two or three in each start position – allowing up to 9 Zeros, 12 x I-15s (use I-153 counters to fill out the numbers) and 9 x I-16s to be in play. For each three Zeros added the Chinese player may secretly designate, before play, one extra Chinese pilot in any plane to be immune from panic. These are revealed at the end of turn 1.

Scenario idea based on a report in "Zero Fighter," by Martin Caidin, Ballantine’s Illustrated History of World War II, Volume 9, pages 55 – 59, copyright 1969.

Click these links to read Armchair General’s reviews of Whistling Death and Buffalo Wings and an exclusive interview with J.D. Webster on designing air combat games.