Aeronautica Movement Variant


Aeronautica is a fantastic game.
The gameplay is cinematic and engaging . The models are beautiful and are easy to get looking great. You don’t need a ton of scenery,  just the board, so you’re able to get a great experience very quickly.

If you read any reviews of the game, one thing that always seems to come up is the comparison to X-wing. Not really a surprise, as both sit in the sci-fi fighter plane niche and indeed both are originally based on the World War One game Wings of War.

One critic of Aeronautica when compared to X-Wing is how much freedom you have in where the aircraft ends up after you’ve revealed the maneouvre compared to X-Wing where the exact position is locked in. I’m not adverse to having some leeway but one aspect of the Aeronautica movement rules bothers me, so much so that I’m beginning to wonder if it was intended. To explain this, lets have a look through the movement rules.

Here we have our Thunderbolt fighter. There are 8 possible manoeuvres it can be given, all listed on the handy sheet. To select a manoeuvre we choose the token corresponding and place it next to the aircraft. Then when we get to the step where we move the aircraft, we reveal the token and follow the manoeuvre. In this case we’ve picked 6 which is the Stoop manoeuvre.

The steps for completing this manoeuvre are as follows.
Step 1 we select the direction, here you can see the aircraft can go left or right as it starts the manoeuvre. 
Step 2 movement, the aircraft must move forward at least one square, but can use more depending on it’s current speed. Then we end up in that first dashed line hex.
Step 3. Manoeuvre:, we adjust the facing based on the new hex. So here there is no choice, we’re back facing the original direction.
Step 4. Repeat. Stoop has 2 hexes to change direction from, the second and the last hex. For many manoeuvres there is just a start and finish hex. So here we complete the movement and manoeuvre steps again ending up in the last hex and facing in one of the 4 options.
Step 5 is what I want to focus on today.

If an aircraft has not moved a number of hexes equal to it’s current speed, which you would have adjusted just before we started this sequence, it must do so now. So any movement left over must be taken at the end. The problem here, is being able to move after the manoeuvre opens up a ton of options and gives the aircraft a lot of freedom.

Lets look at an example.
This is the Thunderbolt Fury, the workhorse of the Imperial Navy.

It has a throttle of 2 which means it can adjust it’s speed by up to 2 each turn. It has a min speed of 2 hexes, max of 6 and can take any of the first 6 manoeuvres. 
The next few examples assume the aircraft is starting at speed 3, so it can throttle up as far as 5 or down as far as 2.

This is what Level flight looks like. From the image on the card it looks like you’re just going straight forward, but as you can adjust the direction at the end of the level flight and then punch your remaining speed into that new direction, you end up with tons of options.
This is what it would look like if we removed that last step and you had to spend all your speed in the manoeuvre. A lot more like we would have expected.

Similarly, this is manoeuvre 2, the Swoop. Ironically, if I wanted to go forward this might be a better option that level flight as although I can’t end up in the centre line, I have more options in forward facing than I would if I was taking level flight. This is what it would look like if we removed that last step, again a lot more predictable.

This is manoeuvre 3, turn with before and after.

And manoeuver 4 snap turn with before and after.

Then 5 Stall turn, before and after.

And last 6, Stoop before and after.

Now lets put them all together.

This is the current range of options a thunderbolt at speed 3 has. A ton of different locations and orientation s. If remove that last step, then we’re down to this, a big difference but you’re still getting to the majority of the square you’d expect to. So we’re reducing the amount of freedom you have after the reveal but still retaining a lot of that freedom in the maneouever selection. 

Things get a little more interesting for the slower and less manoeuvrable models. In this case we have a Marauder bomber. You’d expect these to be slow and lumbering with only ace manoeuvres 1, 2, and 3 but they can actually be quite nimble due to the step 5 movement. Here the real limitation is the throttle of 1 which means the bomber starting on speed 3 has only 2,3, and 4 speed as options.

If we take that last step away, we’re left with this. A lot more predictable for the enemy pilot, many of the moves from before would now take two turns to complete, but I think this reasonable, especially as this is supposed to be one of the least manoeuvrable aircraft in the game.

And that’s it. 
The goal here isn’t to make Aeronuatica X-Wing, they’re both great games in their own right, but I think we could see from the diagrams that there is a lot of freedom after the manoeuvres are revealed and that particular criticism is maybe valid. This small change doesn’t massively change the game, indeed I suspect most players play it that way already. If you wanted to limit this even further, you could add a second token to the mix indicating whether the manoeuvre is to the right (starboard) or left (port).  Then the only adjustments would be with throttle and the final orientation.

This would shift the tactical emphasis of the game from who can act last in the movement phase, to who can plan better in the Choose Manoeuvres phase. 

Maybe I’m wrong though, if you can think of a reason making this change would be a bad idea, please post in the comments!

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