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Missile Threat (Modern Air Combat) $12.00 $9.00
Publisher: Ostfront Publishing
by Lorne F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/10/2023 06:40:49

The SHORT version: Ticked most of my air combat gaming boxes, so yes, I'd rate it as a good buy.

I'd thoroughly recommend this game for some exciting modern aerial action. If you want to get a look at the general feel of the game before parting with your currency, you should have a look at the demo play video on the product page here on Wargame Vault. That should tell you at a glance whether this is the type of air combat game you want to investigate further. The game is designed to be played with miniatures on a 6' x 4' (approximately 1.8m x 1.2m) table and use a 4" (10cm) wide protactor to measure turning, but if you prefer using your old war-game counters or have less space, you could easily adapt it to a smaller playing area, measure in centimetres, and use a smaller protractor or make your own scaled-down turning key.

The LONG version:

The rulebook itself is comprised of a large number of aircraft and ordnance lists allowing you to play any missile-age air to air, and air to surface, missions, from the 1960s to the 2000s and beyond. The rules occupy a small part of the rulebook. They are tightly, efficiently written rules that in the main I found easy to comprehend and implement in play. Those few exceptions were probably as much to do with me being biased or coloured by experience with other air combat games and doing things by habit or rote rather than as-written in this book, and easily sorted once I realised the error. The rulebook is basically no-frills, no-nonsense. It isn't overloaded with fancy drawings and pictures; it's efficient, big print, easy to read, and has a few interesting photos and diagrams, but is certainly minimalist in this sense. All around, for someone sick of wasting printer toner on tons of unnecessary art and black chunks of diagram, and whose ageing eyes struggle with tiny print in many rules sets, this was a wonderful change. On the subject of print-friendly, the rulebook and supplements when purchased should come with a background-free printer friendly edition as well as the main edition; if this is NOT the case contact the publisher or author and they'll fire off a copy of the relevant file with the background removed.

The game will NOT appeal to simulation buffs who enjoy simulation- or physics- heavy gaming (I don't mind games like that, but I can go either way; those of you who insist on accurate physics and simulation mechanics will be disappointed by Missile Threat). For those who prefer a less crunchy (and much faster to play) game, or who can straddle both sides of the fence, Missile Threat offers some interesting mechanics. Firstly is the notion of a mandatory straight move before anything else; while this is completely not realistic in many ways, it has the effect of constantly changing relative positions and making the player's job of keeping track of situational awareness quite difficult. Following this is an action phase where each aircraft can execute two actions. These are things like turning, making a special manoeuvre, making an attack, or certain other actions. This is where the manoeuvring for position, the launching of missiles, and the cannon attacks take place. Many aspects of the aircraft performance are abstracted and not 'real world' in physics, but in the sense of giving a sense of constantly evolving relative positions, losing track of something or being out of place (or fortunately lined up just so, if you're lucky or have planned well), the game felt more true to some of the things I've read by jet pilots, than the simulation heavy games I've played previously.

Various movement scales - infantry, naval, air - are incorporated into a system that has no relative real-world bearing on one another, but that achieves its aim of modelling a rapidly changing and evolving combat situation. If you're interested in the outcome, rather than the process, and can suspend disbelief at the 'physical abstractions' taken with movement and so on, this is nothing to concern yourself with. That infantry unit moved half as fast as my fighter? WHAT? Well, this game isn't a simulation; simply view it as 'that infantry unit isn't where I thought it was' as you lose some situational awareness. Easy. If that sort of thing doesn't work for you, then don't play this game, as you won't like it. If you're okay with that sort of thing or are willing to chance it, I suggest you try the game.

Differences between aircraft radar ranges, ECM effects, turning ability, pilot ability, and weapon systems are modelled in the game, and are all critical components in tipping the odds of winning or losing, although player decision and choice in the game is by no means overshadowed by the statistics or the dice. I felt that the aircraft were easy to fly, the weapon systems fairly easy to figure out, and that the hardest part was deciding on what to do and when to do it. Better quality pilots go first in this system, allowing them to position themselves and attack first, but it also means that they can be disadvantaged as a poorer quality pilot can react to their move and come after them. This just encourages you to make sure your good quality pilots don't make rookie moves like getting target fixated to their detriment, or positioning themselves so that they can cover the planned move of a friendly pilot who moves later in the turn, to ensure nothing slips in behind them later. Fire-as-you-move, rather than a distinct 'combat phase' where everything happens simultaneously after movement, is the order of the day. This has both advantages and disadvantages, but does avoid any questions of having to note who moved and when and who has fired or not in a given turn.

The author provides a points system which, after two played games, appears to be well balanced, with forces of roughly equal points value feeling like a 'roughly even' fight. There is a victory system to determine the winner of each mission, and even an annex showing the costing method used so you can convert statistics from aircraft books or Wikipedia or some other source, into game stats and the appropriate points cost for balance.

Missile Threat is simple, but not so simple that it's simply a dice 'luck' game; it's easy to play, but not so simple that tactics, deployment and player decisions aren't vital to the outcome; it models major differences between aircraft, but probably won't model the difference between two minor upgrades of a given weapon, radar or aircraft; it takes a short time to play (depending upon how many aircraft you want to use, of course) but is still lengthy enough that it engages you and makes you care about the outcome.

All around, it satisfied most of my air combat urges (except the detail-crazy simulation buff that still lurks within).

For those who prefer solo war-gaming, there are (separately available) supplements covering solo rules and a mercenary campaign, and (by a different author but same publisher), an advanced solo campaign. I have purchased these, but have yet to try them out.

I am not, other than as a customer, affiliated in any way with Ostfront, or game author Tim Jensen, and was not offered any incentives to write this review.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Missile Threat (Modern Air Combat)
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