The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Does gaming have a white male terrorist problem?

| June 3, 2016

So, I came across this post:

http://latining.tumblr.com/post/141567276944/tabletop-gaming-has-a-white-male-terrorism-problem

And I am appalled at what she has described. But, it also doesn’t really square with my experience. In uni, half my Shadowrun group was female, and all of the “inappropriate” comments were between people who were already sleeping together (sometimes, I think they viewed gaming as foreplay). In the decade and a half since, I’ve gone to many cons (generally Cold Wars and Carnage) and have played pick up games with lots of folks, and have also played in some RPG campaigns. Yes, it’s a male dominated hobby, but there are a decent amount of girls and women in it (offhand, I’d say 30-40%) and I simply can’t imagine this stuff happening on a regular basis at any of the places I’ve been. Indeed, enough of a proportion of the gamers are chivalrous and polite that if someone did try something like that, you’re probably going to get handed your teeth (or, at the very least, police will be called, if not already there, because a lot of cops play). I mean, hell, my Mom plays, and aside from a few asshats making jokes about how the game might be too complicated for a girl (which is even more hilarious when she beats them), she has never had anything like this happen to her.

Am I wrong here? Or, maybe I’m just out of touch with mainstream gaming enough that this is what it’s like, I just don’t see it because everyone is playing 40k and I’m playing TNT….

So, I’ve been dark for awhile…

| June 2, 2016

I’ve been away for a bit because I’ve been working on other things; specifically:

Now that I’m finished with those projects, I’ll likely be posting more. Still have a lot of hobby stuff to talk about, pictures to post, and some website maintenance to do. I’ve enabled a markdown plugin, so I can use markdown for my formatting, but that required disabling another plugin I was using, so most of my past 3 years of entries need to be edited to use markdown. Since markdown is a standard, hopefully this is the last time I’ll have to do this.

Once that is all sorted, I’ll likely go through and start converting pages from my old site into WordPress.. This has been outstanding for years, and I really should get around to it at some point.

Anyway, that’s it for now.

Interesting Kickstarters

| March 10, 2016

This is Not a Test – for hardcover rulebooks, additional minis, etc. Stone Skull Studios: Miniature Furniture – for 28mm furniture – but there is also a pledge level which gives you all the .STL files so that you can 3D print them yourself. Since I have one (that I still need to blog about) that is really interesting to me…

Battle report – 1p40K demo game 1

| February 5, 2016

So, a friend was back in town on holiday break. We got to talking about wargames, so I broke out my 1p40K demo setup. I use the US Army and Insurgent lists from the Fan Armybook for these games because there is a chance that people not familiar with wargames will be familiar with basic military strategy and equipment. In this case, my friend is a Sergeant in the Army, and hence is familiar with that equipment.

Lists

The basic lists are:

US Army

  • 1 x Platoon HQ (4 guys with Assault Rifles) and the “Binoculars” upgrade (lets them call in an artillery strike).
  • 2 x Veteran Squads (2 guys with Assault Rifles, 1 guy with an Assault Rifle and a one-shot Grenade Launcher, 1 guy with a Machinegun)
  • 1 x M2 Bradley (autocannon, machinegun, 2 one-shot missile launchers)
  • 1 x M1A2 Abrams (3 machineguns and a battle cannon)
  • 2 x Humvee’s (Uparmored, with machineguns) Total is 815 points.

Insurgents

  • 8 x Regular Squad (4 guys with assault rifles, 1 guy with a Grenade Launcher), with the “scout” upgrade.
  • 2 x Technicals with Machineguns.
  • 2 x Technicals with Missile Launchers I had calculated the total at 800 points, but actually had that wrong. Basically, I made the following mistakes:
    1. I didn’t add in the cost for the missile launchers (30 points each for a total of 60)
    2. I forgot that the technicals can’t transport troops, and let all of them do that.
    3. Since the scenario called for a hidden deployment, I bought “scout” for the squads. But, one squad deployed in the open, 3 deployed in hidden (but fixed) places, and the remainder were held in reserve. This means, at a minimum, I spent 75 points more than I had to. So, in the end, aside from letting the technicals transport my reinforcements in, the game was actually pretty even. Spending 75 more but forgetting 60 means it was 815 to 815. However, I also think that the way I used “scout” ended up not being worth the points, and I should have just used the standard rules, which would have paid for a couple of transport vehicles.

Anyway, on to the pictures. Note that these pictures are taken at the end of each turn, not at the end of each activation, but I’ll try and spin it into a narrative that makes some sense.

Introduction

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The basic scenario is that there are bad guys in the large compound to the right of the picture with some guys by the gate. The blue and yellow cards are miniature playing cards for hidden set up.

The Army can move on any board edge. He chose to move on the left board edge, and this is right after first turn, so he’s moved his Abrams right up to the crossroads (which would prove to be a bit of a mistake).

Turn 1

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On his first activation, the Abrams moved up to the roundabout so it can see the compound.

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On my turn, my insurgents (behind the sandbags at the compound) shoot at the Abrams with their AKs and RPG, scoring an immobilized result. The RPG gunner gets a round of applause for his targeting of the vulnerable track areas.

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On his second activation, he moves up the Bradley.

My insurgents in the top floor of the building reveal themselves and shoot at the Bradley, inflicting a wound but having no secondary effect.

He then disembarks the troops from the Bradley, who assault the building, lose the assault and are pushed back into the street.

I reveal an insurgent group in another building (you can see them in the foreground on the right) and they shoot at the Abrams, inflicting another wound and getting a Shaken result.

He moves up one of his Humvees (you can see the back of it poking out from behind the building) and put fire on the building.

I pass with my remaining unit (all the rest are off the board).

The fire team in the Humvee gets out and assaults the building through the back door, destroying the defending insurgents and securing the building. They take position on the top floor to provide fire support with their M249 SAW (Machinegun).

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With all my moves complete, he moves up his remaining Humvee and puts the other fire team in the building on the opposite side of the street as the first.

Turn 2

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This one starts with a bang. I roll successfully for all my reinforcements, so first turn I roll on a technical with recoilless rifle (missile launcher) which is proxied by the Humvee with a tube blue-tacked to the top, and take a shot at his Abrams with it. A good hit with that causes a wound – so, remember, we’re now up to 3. They also got shaken, so their shooting is going to be quite bad.

He rolls up with the Bradley and blows up that truck (hence the smoke and flame) throwing the remains of the squad out.

I roll on a second recoilless rifle technical, and shoot the Abrams again. Another wound! Now 4!

He splits fire from the Abrams, shooting a machinegun at the technical, a couple machineguns at the guys in the building, and the main cannon at the guys behind the sandbags. The technical survives, and everyone else takes minor casualties.

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This overview shot shows things a little better.

He moves up his left side fire team into the next building so they had a good field of fire and were able to put more fire on my guys across the street, whittling down that squad but not forcing a morale check.

The guys riding in the un-blown-up technical disembark and get into a building, then shoot at the Bradley, causing a second wound with no secondary effects.

His command squad (outside the building in the foreground, up against the building) call in an artillery strike on the compound, which does minor damage.

My guys who were thrown from their exploding technical run for cover behind the sandbags and ineffectively shoot at the Abrams.

All the remaining squads exchange fire with nothing particularly interesting happening.

Note that even though I could have had my 2 machine gun trucks come on this turn, I elected not to do so, holding them in reserve until next turn.

Also note that his two Humvees are now positioned peeking out from some walls in the foreground left and right of the picture.

Turn 3

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Once again, I go first since I have fewer units and thus ran out of activations first. Rather than get blown up by either the Abrams or the Bradley, the remaining technical with recoilless rifle peels off and shoots the Humvee it can see.

The infantry all exchange fire, leaving a couple units with only one man left and they fail morale and are suppressed.

His command squad joins another fire team in a building, and everyone basically shoots at everyone else without much effect.

Then my remaining technicals show up. They have machineguns and your standard 5 man squad with AKs and an RPG. They come in on the opposite board edge as the rest of their friends, unload out of their technical into the building and shoot at the Bradley. BOOM. No more Bradley.

The other squad takes up position behind a hedge row and puts fire into the building with the command squad and second fire team.

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View from the compound.

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View from his board edge.

Turn 4

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Again, I go first. One of the squads with an RPG hits the Abrams again, getting a Shaken secondary effect.

The Abrams then everything at the full strength squad at the end of the street, killing 3 but failing to suppress them, largely due to the Shaken result rendering its fire less effective.

My remaining technical with the recoilless rifle then backs out and shoots the Abrams, destroying it.

The infantry then all shoot at each other with minor casualties since everyone is in cover.

His remaining Humvee comes out to give some fire support.

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View from the compound.

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View from his board edge.

Turn 5

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He pulls his command squad and second fire team back, using the remaining fire team and Humvee to cover them.

My remaining teams, all well below starting strength, advance, firing as they go.

My truck with the recoilless rifle advances and eliminates the squad shooting from the building overlooking the crossroads. (A recoilless rifle round through the window tends to ruin your day).

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View from the compound.

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View from his board edge.

Turn 6

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At this point, it’s a free for all. Everyone converges on his remaining units who try to fight valiantly and hold their position. At the end of this turn, all that remains is the Lieutenant, trying to dramatically call in an airstrike before his position is overrun. It’s so bad, I’m out of smoke markers and have to use a bare tea light (the markers are lights covered in cotton wool which is painted and the light at the center flickers making it look like fire).

They do manage to kill the technical with the recoilless rifle, however.

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View from the compound.

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View from his board edge.

Result

At this point, we called it as a marginal insurgent victory. They eliminated a whole platoon of US Army, plus a Bradley and an Abrams, but at the cost of several technicals and 35 men.

I want to play!

My son Miles wanted to help us measure. He’s 2 and he’s already getting it:

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Reference pictures for weathering

| January 28, 2016

While visiting my brother in law, we went for a walk and I found these cars in a field. Hopefully the landowner didn’t think me strange for taking them, but you can see what the cars look like having been sitting there for some number of years.

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Tanks!

| October 7, 2015

Had a little bit of a break from the job search last night and finished reassembling my second tank. Also got some treads on the APC after a little bit of cleanup sanding. It still needs a bit more.

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Finally got back to modeling

| September 14, 2015

I’ve been messing around with my 3D printer (longer post on that to be forthcoming) so I haven’t been doing a lot of modeling recently. However, we got Divergent in from Netflix, so I broke out the minis and worked on my Sentinel’s and mortar crews.

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Divergent was okay. A lot of how they set up their society doesn’t make sense, but I suspect may be better explained in the books. I think that, in isolation, I might have liked it more, but after seeing the Hunger Games, the comparison is inevitable, and Divergent is not as good.

I do like the recent spate of anti-establishment movies, however. (Hunger Games, Divergent, Lego Movie, etc.)

Switching gears on the hobby bench

| July 7, 2015

I’ve switched from “decals” to “building”, and am working on a few different things.

This: 20150624_214641 Is the beginnings of a TNT warband of tribals, called The Murphys. I’ll write up a greater description at some later time, but the basic gist is that they’re the descendants of a bunch of punks, skins, and hardcore youths, brought together by their love of music from a Last Americans punk band from South Boston, with some crossover into the metal scene as well. Since this music is popular with folks who work with their hands and actually know how do build, do and fix things, they’ve done pretty well after the fall. They have a Celtic/Viking/punk vibe to them, and are a pretty inclusive community and let people join the tribe. All you need is a useful skill and either some claim to a Celtic or Viking ancestry (and this can be as thin as having your beard grown in red) or profess a love of punk music.

Anyway, this is 2 Tribal Warriors (spears and shields), a Champion (with a large-bore revolver and a sword which is cut off in the picture), a Scout (the lady with the cowboy hat and bow) and a Lesser Shaman (who rolled the Levitate ability, so I gave her a sniper rifle. The idea is that she’s a hunter who uses her levitate ability to hide in trees and such when hunting deer.). I still need to make up the War Leader (who has a rifle with bayonet) and 2 Tribals (who have shotguns).

The models are all from Wargames Factory and are a mix of a couple sprues of Celts (which I got as a promo somewhere) and the Apocalypse Survivors Men and Women boxes.

I’ve also been playing a lot of Dawn of War: Winter Assault, which has inspired me to start working on putting together some Imperial Guard stuff: 20150628_215601

There are a couple of things in this picture. The main thing is a partially assembled Leman Russ Main Battle Tank, which is part of the big pile of stuff I inherited. I kind of get the impression that these were put together by several different people, because some are basically perfect and others are really rough (lots of leftover sprue bits, bad glue adhesion, etc.). This tank was one of the worst, so I took my hobby knife and carefully split it apart, and am now sanding it, cleaning it up, and putting it back together. Some gap filling will be required, but, all in all, it’s going well.

The idea behind this army, given the mix of Catachan, Cadian, and some generic or kitbashed models is that it is, at the core, a Catachan force that has been fighting its way across the galaxy. As a result, they’ve had to expand beyond their traditional jungle fighting ways, and have been reinforced with units who hail from other worlds. As such, they have swapped much of their close-ranged weaponry used for jungle fighting for other weapons with a longer range. So, their Sentinels have gone from being outfitted with flamers to having the conventional autocannons or multilasers fitted. Similarly, they take Leman Russ Main Battle Tanks and artillery (once I print them a couple) for support purposes, which normally have some issues in jungle warfare because they get bogged down going through the trees. However, as this army fought on various types of terrain, they adopted different support structures and tactics in order to adapt to the varying mission requirements. In the end, their structure ends up looking more like a standard IG army, and, hence, I’ll be using a standard IG force organization.

More decals…

| June 28, 2015

So, yeah, I’m kind of burnt out on decals, but I got a pretty decent amount of touch up and decal additions done.

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Turrets. Unit 4 has 2 options, unit 2 is the guy on the stick and he goes in another unpictured turret, with just one option.

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All completed units awaiting varnishing in the spray booth.

The astute reader and 40K nerd would perhaps notice a couple of things:

  1. The razorbacks and predator lack army designations.
    • This is because, according to Dark Angels OrBat those are not organically part of a battle company (in my case, the 5th), but rather drawn from the Armorium as needed. As such, they don’t get army designations, except, perhaps for the Armorium, for which I do not have decals. A rhino, however, would.
  2. The dreadnought’s number isn’t over its army designation.
    • That’s because it’s too hard to read (white on white). So, I moved it.
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Another shot of the Chaplain and landspeeder, with an attack bike not in the above shot.

The same reader above might say that the chaplain should have a green shoulder pad because, while space marine chaplains always paint their armor black, the left shoulder is typically painted in the color of the chapter to which they belong and has that chapter’s sigil upon it (this is not 100%, depending on what painting guide or codex you reference, but I like it). However, the Dark Angels are weird – the whole army doesn’t use the same sigil. The sword and wings on a green field are used by most of the army, but the deathwing (first company) uses a red sword and wings on a bone white field, and the ravenwing (second company) uses a different white sword and wings on black. Since the chaplain is attached to the company, not the army, it makes sense to me that such a chaplain would use the company sigil. Hence, all black armor and a ravenwing sigil, not a generic dark angels sigil.

The jetpack chaplain, however, will be attached to the 5th company (likely attached to an assault squad most of the time) and will have the normal green shoulder pad and white sword with wings sigil.

Wargaming rules post collection

| June 27, 2015

So, I’ve been wanting to do a couple of these posts for awhile, one for wargames and one for roleplaying games. This is the one about wargaming. I’ll break it down by scale (meaning the size of miniatures) and scale (meaning the size of the engagement), the latter which I’ll call “scope” for clarity, and Genre. I’m ignoring genres or scales which I don’t play.

  • Scale: 15mm-30mm (one figure per base)
    • Scope: Platoon to company size (15 – 250 soldiers) (aka “army”)
      • Genre: Modern/SciFi
        • One Page 40K – This is basically the only game in town for games of this scale. All the other ones I’ve tried are just a boring slog which take too long to play. This is largely because they’re “scaled up” skirmish games. OnePage rules sacrifices a lot of fiddly bits (namely, weapon strength and rate of fire are aggregated together into the number of dice rolled, and the different models’ strength, toughness, and separate melee and ranged skills are aggregated together into a single quality number). The overall goals are fun and simplicity, and I’m finding that this leads to more tactical depth, because you can focus on tactics and not get hung up on the crunch. The rules aren’t currently generic, but they aim to be once they get the bugs worked out of the point calculation system.
    • Scope: Squad to platoon size (4 – 15 soldiers), maybe a little bigger (aka “skirmish”)
      • Genre: Modern/SciFi
        • One Page 40K This is the scaled down version of the One Page 40K rules. I have not played this extensively. As above, it is not currently generic, but intends to be.
        • Zed Or Alive is a modern post-zombie-apoc skirmish game. Uses the Savage Worlds Showdown engine, which is familiar to me. It’s less wargame-y and more “RPG light”. It is miniatures agnostic with point values for unit creation.
        • This is Not a Test is a near future postnuclear skirmish game, which throws a pile of different tropes together and hits blend. It’s pretty obviously heavily influenced by the Wasteland and Fallout series of games, as well as tabletop campaign-oriented skirmish games like Necromunda. It is miniatures agnostic with point values for unit creation.
        • Pulp City is a superheroes game, with mechanics that fit the theme and a rich backstory, and rules for doing all the fun pulpy stuff you’d like to do. It’s designed for play with their miniatures, and no unit creation rules are provided.
      • Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk
        • Warmachine and Hordes are a superbly balanced, well-modeled, strongly thematic, nominally skirmish pair of games which are widely played and I highly recommend. (Warmachine is based around the command of steam-powered robots, Hordes is based around the command of large creatures, and the two systems are compatible, so a Warmachine army can fight a Hordes army without issue). My only drawback to it is that I get burnt out on it because I love SF stuff and start to miss it. But, that’s not the game’s fault, it’s my malfunction.
  • Scale: Smaller than 15mm.
    • Genre: Space ships
      • Firestorm Armada is a space ship game which hits all the happy buttons with regards to space ship combat. It’s not generic per-se, but there are various homebrew points systems for creating ships, which I’ve found to work out to be pretty balanced.
      • Full Thust deserves an honorable mention. I very much like this system, but Liz doesn’t, mainly because of the pre-plotted movement. She vastly prefers the alternating system of Firestorm Armada and, while we could use the Firestorm Armada movement system with Full Thrust, it’s easier to just make up ship cards in Firestorm Armada.
      • X-Wing is a really good game and has the distinction of having the only movement pre-plotting mechanic which Liz likes (because it’s done very quickly and unobtrusively). Plus, the minis are prepainted, so it’s really a “pick it up and play” gateway game (or game for the busy gamer). I like the system so much, I may try to port it to the now defunct Crimson Skies game, because I have a pile of those planes, but everyone hates the movement system (alternatively, I’d use an alternating system, not unlike Firestorm Armada).
    • Genre: Naval
      • Dystopian Wars. So, I don’t generally like naval games. They just don’t really appeal to me. The exception is that very narrow period of time which was WWI-WWII, with large battleships with big guns with lots of aircraft flying around. Dystopian wars hits this in a Victorian SF setting, so you get a pile of weird things (cloaking devices, tesla guns, flying ships, etc.). It is non-generic. You use their minis and unit cards. There are no unit creation rules.
    • Genre: Land
      • Dystopian Wars covers land warfare too, with the same notes as above.
      • I don’t have a generic one. I’m looking. I own several, but I don’t really like them. I’m waiting for the One Page Rules guys to come out with something in this scale (likely called 1pEpic or something like that, after the now-defunct Epic 40k game, but the key here is that is must be generic. I have a pile of modern microarmor, as well as a bunch of epic 40k stuff, and I’d like to be able to use all of it under the same ruleset. In the One Page Rules Forums, some folks have reported success using the One Page Kill Team rules in that scale, and that’s not a bad approach. I mean, when engaged, infantry will either get killed, driven back, or pinned (called stunned). This makes sense. I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense with vehicles, but I could be sold on it – they either blow up, back off, or get rattled and don’t act. Fair enough. However, there aren’t rules for making units, nor are there some units that are really common in epic 40k games. It also is kind of an “all or nothing” killing of units rather than a graceful degradation of capabilities, like there is in the Dystopian Wars ruleset.. which may be another option – come up with a points system which works and use those rules. Not sure.
      • Dirtside II is a solid generic contender, but I need to play it more to determine if I really like it.
      • Axles and Alloys Post apoc automobile warfare with kitbashed matchbox/hot wheels cars. This is kind of its own thing, and is just fun.
      • Battletech: Alpha Strike This is a giant stompy robots (and, actually, airplanes, tanks and other combined arms) in the future game, and is a streamlined version of the regular Battletech game. This allows for both larger games playable in a normal time frame, or the same sized games as regular Battletech, but played in a shorter time frame. Liz and I played a 2 on 2 battle in half an hour, and that was while learning the rules. The game is fast, brutal, dynamic and, while the rules cover all situations, they are pretty simple, while keeping the real flavor of Battletech. As with other rules discussed in this post, they get out of their own way, and make you want to focus on campaigns and strategy, and not making sure you get the rules correct, because doing so is simple.
    • Genre:Air
      • Dystopian Warscovers air warfare too, with the same notes as above.
      • I don’t have a generic one here either. I’d love to use my Crimson Skies planes, but there are two problems with those rules as written:
        1. Liz hates pre-plotted movement.
        2. I don’t like the way the guns are done – large caliber guns make big holes at short range. Small caliber guns make small holes at long range. I get why they do this (game balance), but it’s kind of annoying.
        There are a couple of ways to fix these items. I’ll take them in order, using the same numbers as above.
        1. The simple solution is to not pre-plot movement. Have the activations alternate between players, even better, happen based on pilot skill. This is how most of the games detailed above work. Alternatively, you can borrow from X-Wing, which does pre-plot movement, but uses a really good mechanic for doing so (namely, a little dial which you set then put upside down near the ship or plane). With the advent of 3D printers, making your own really nice looking ones becomes easier.
        2. There are a couple of steps to fix this. The first is to rework the ranges so small caliber has a short range and large caliber has a long range. However, you need some type of way to keep it in balance. Options:
          • Limit ammo for larger caliber ones (this ends up requiring more bookkeeping, which is not great).
          • Let smaller caliber stuff shoot more (roll more dice). This results in rolling buckets of dice.
          • Make smaller guns cost less in terms of game points.
          I’m not certain which is correct. It also influences how damage is recorded. The original game uses sheets where you color in boxes for your planes as they get damaged, which is a lot of fun to watch your plane get shot up. But, if you let some guns shoot more, you end up having planes get shot down more quickly. If you drop this requirement, and give each plane a certain amount of damage it can soak before it gets destroyed, then that works, and is pretty conventional. So, yeah, I’m not sure what to do here, which is why I’ve done nothing. If anyone knows of a good set of generic airplane rules, leave a comment.