I have previously mentioned the Wings at War rules for air gaming. The free rules convinced me to order the Thud Ridge starter set from Tumbling Dice, plus a couple of extra aircraft. A mere five days later, my order arrived in the mailbox.
The Vietnam rules are very similar to the free 1948/49 rules, of course with the necessary changes for newer aircraft and missiles. The straightforward mechanics stay the same. Besides fighters and bombers, the game also uses reconnaissance aircraft, Forward Air Controllers, Wild Weasels (anti-SAM, Iron Hand in Navy speak), ECM planes, SAR helicopters, tankers, and of course SAMs.
The game’s focus are the large-scale Rolling Thunder and Linebacker bombing campaigns against the North. Each scenario starts with a number of strategic targets, recon aircraft increase the number of targets. During the game turns, tactical targets (such as troops and convoys) can also be detected by recon and FAC planes. SAMs are placed by the North Vietnam player after aircraft movement, so they can be used to surprise the US player – unless recon aircraft detect them first.
Dogfighting takes into account the poor reliability of 1960s missiles. Anti-aircraft fire is also intense, with an AA marker being placed next to each downed crew. I really like how the rules capture the flavour of the Vietnam bombing campaigns, and doing that in just a few pages without complicated mechanisms. The victory point goal is dependent on the force used, so using more airplanes will not make things easier. It’s also clear that the game supports mixed attacker forces, covering all roles. This is not only a dogfight game. I will discuss suitable aircraft in another post.
A nice website with more information, including tactics, is Raid Scale Gaming.