Microplanes

By By Robert L. Hayden and Charles Oines


Editor's note: These are as close to official as a variant article in this magazine can get: i.e., not very But they're fun, and they should go a long way toward satisfying those of you who have been clamoring for plane and jet rules. If we get good feedback, we might produce an aerial supplement for Car Wars, with these rules, airships, and anything else we can cram into a box.

Microplanes provide an inexpensive way to take to the sky and get that drop on an enemy that only a chopper provided before. Just remember, when you need to get there "as the crow flies" and can't afford a helicopter, a microplane is the next best thing.

Construction

Building a microplane follows the usual system; space, weight and cost should be foremost in your concerns. like a helicopter, chassis and suspension cannot be modified. Microplanes can be sloped and streamlined, and streamlining is three times as effective on a microplane - it adds 30 mph to top speed.

Basic Design

Although a microplane looks like a normal airplane, it should not be confused with one. Microplanes are just that; very light, and not very durable. The basic design of a microplane includes an enclosed body that is armored and armed like a car, a motor or gas engine, one or more propellers, two wings and a tail assembly.

Unlike heavy-weight aircraft, microplanes are made almost entirely of high-grade carbon-aluminum frames (keep this in mind during collisions) and heavy-duty light-weight plastic.

Microplanes may use Improved Tail Assemblies. The small, medium, large and cargo microplane may use one pair of helicopter maneuver foils, the large cargo microplane can use two pair.

Wing Spaces are the maximum sizes of wing-mounted weapons allowed on each wing. The large microplane, for example, could mount a 1-space weapon on the outer edge of each wing, and a 2-space weapon (or two 1-space weapons) in the wing body; it could also mount a 3-space weapon (or three 1-space weapons) in the wing body itself. For the small and medium microplanes, the weapons can only be mounted on the outer wingtips. microplanes may be sloped and/or streamlined, and may use amphibious gear (from Moat Wars).

Microplanes may mount turrets and EWPs. For mounting purposes, treat a small microplane as a subcompact, a medium or large as a luxury, a cargo microplane as a van and the large cargo as a bus. They may mount as many turrets, rocket platforms etc., on the underbody as on top.

All microplanes require three motorcycle tires as landing gear. Cycle wheelguards are needed to reduce drag planes will suffer a -10 mph to top speed per missing wheelguard. Microplanes may mount retractable landing gear.

Propellers

Microplane propellers - $250, 100 lbs., 1 space, 4 DR A microplane must have at least one propeller; up to three may be mounted on a single craft. Propellers may be mounted in several places; at the nose, tail, in EWPs or the wing mounts. If mounted in the wings, the microplane must have two of them (one on each wing), and both propellers must be facing the same direction (forward or back). A plane with acceleration 15 or better must have at least two propellers. If a plane has three propellers, its HC goes down by one. When a propeller is destroyed, the microplane suffers an immediate D4 hazard, and its HC drops by two until that propeller is replaced. Propeller armor costs $5 and weighs 2 lbs. per point. Up to 10 points of plastic propeller armor can be put on a single propeller.

Firing on a microplane's propeller is handled exactly like firing on helicopter rotors.

There are two optional enhancements available for propellers:
Ducted cowlings - $250, 20 lbs., no space, adds 2 DP to the propeller. Ducted cowlings increase the microplane's performance; when added to all propellers on a microplane,the engine's power factors are increased by 15% for purposes of acceleration, top speed and maximum toad. Ducted fans are also larger than standard propellers, and easier to target.
Tilt-rotor - $100, 75 lbs., 1 space each. Tilt-rotors must be mounted on the wings, facing forward. Tilt-rotors swivel up for takeoffs and landings, and face forward for level flight. Switching between the two is a firing action, taken during the acceleration phase. A Tilt-rotored microplane may have ducted cowlings. A plane with Tilt-rotors has its acceleration reduced by 10 mph while in VTOL mode. If acceleration in lift mode is 0, then the plane will not be able to achieve VTOL flight.
A Tilt-rotored plane with its rotors up has a maximum speed of 50 mph - if the rotors are switched to the vertical position, a Wing Check must be made, at + 1 for every 5 mph above 50 mph. Even if the Wing Check roll is made, the plane must continue Wing Checks (once per turn and once per maneuver) until its speed is at or below 50 mph.

Body Styles


                                                  Wing          Armor
Type       Cost   Weight   Max. Load  Spaces  Spaces  DP  HC  cost/weight
Small     $2,500  200 lbs.   3,000     7        1      5   4      11/5
Medium    $3,500  350 lbs.   4,500    10        2      8   3      13/6
Large     $5,000  550 lbs.   6,000    14        3     10   3      18/9
Cargo     $6,500  600 lbs.   8,500    14(+8)    3     12   2      22/11
Lg Cargo  $8,000  800 lbs.  10,000    20(+16)   4     16   1      30/14

Wings

Wings have two purposes: To keep the aircraft in the air by creating lift, and to provide more places to mount weapons. The wings on modern microplanes bear few similarities to the wings of old - these wings are self-adjusting microprocessor controlled airfoils. The microplane bodies above assume standard wings, and give the wing DR Wings are damaged in a similar fashion to metal armor, and are targeted at + 1 from above or below, or -3 from the sides, front or back. If a microplane has an unequal load on its wings, it suffers a -1 to HC until that situation is rectified. A Wing Check must be made whenever a wing suffers two or more points of damage.

They cannot be armored, but they can be modified:

Heavy Lift - +10% of body weight, +25% of body cost. Allows a microplane to take off with a greater load, and reduces stalling speed by 5 mph and top speed by 10%. When figuring acceleration and top speed for a microplane with Heavy Lift wings, use 70% of the microplane's weight.

Delta Wings - +5% body weight, +25% body cost. Swept-back delta wings reduce drag on the microplane, and allow it to increase its maximum speed by 50%, but increases stalling speed by 10 mph. Delta and Heavy Lift may not be combined. Propellers mounted on delta wings must face backwards.

Power Plants

Microplanes use car power plants, and may use gas engines. A power plant's power factors must be at least _ of the weight of the microplane, or it won't move. If the power factors are _ to 3/4 of the weight; the acceleration is 5 mph. If the power factors are 3/4 of the weight but less than the weight itself, the microplane gets acceleration 10. If the power factors are equal to or higher than the weight, acceleration is 15. Top speeds for electric plants are doubled. Overdrive cannot be used. Acceleration is determined normally. Turbochargers, superchargers, etc. do not add their acceleration bonus on planes, although they do increase top speed. Top speed with internal combustion engines is figured using the formula (480 x Power Factors)/(Power Factors + weight).

Like most vehicles, it takes three seconds to power up a microplane.

A microplane power plant will go about 400 miles at 100 mph (150 mph with delta wings). With gas engines, they get twice the listed mileage at half the top speed.

Weapons

A microplane may mount any weapon within its body. A general rule for wing-mounted weapons on a microplane is "if it kicks, forget it." The following weapons may be wing-mounted on a microplane: MGs, VMGs, GGs, all rockets, all lasers, all dropped weapons, all FTs, FGs, GLs, bombs and RRs. No weapon may be mounted on the same facing as a propeller (i.e., a microplane with a nose-mounted propeller may not have any forward weapons in the body of the plane. If it had propellers facing back on the wings, wing-mounted weapons must face forward and vice versa.) Referees should use common sense regarding new weapons developments. Microplanes may mount turrets and EWPs. For mounting purposes, treat a small microplane as a subcompact, a medium or large as a luxury, a cargo microplane as a van, and the large cargo as a bus. They may mount as many turrets, rocket platforms, etc., on the underbody as they can on top.

Wing spaces may be used for weapons or propellers. Weapons may face forward or back. Wing-mounted weapons must be mounted and fired as linked pairs; the pairs themselves need not match (i.e., a plane could have an RR and SAM on each wing).

A new skill is needed to fly microplanes - Fixed-Wing Pilot. It is basically identical to Driver skill, but applies to fixed-wing aircraft like microplanes. If a person without the Fixed-Wing Pilot skill attempts to fly a microplane, he will be at HC A, assuming he figures out how to get it started.

Takeoffs and Landings

Takeoffs and landings with Tilt-rotors are easy. just follow the helicopter rules for vertical movements. When the tilt-rotors are facing up, the microplane's top speed is 14 normal. Horizontal takeoffs and landings are a little more complicated. To take off, a plane must start at one end of a long, flat field, road, lake (if it has pontoons), or other flat surface, accelerate until it reaches it's stall speed (see below), and begin climbing.

Landing is basically handled like taking off, but in reverse. First, the microplane approaches the end of a long, flat area. Next, it begins a controlled dive at 14" per turn until it touches down (remember to stay at or above stall speed).

Flight

A microplane in flight maneuvers may drift or veer as does a helicopter. The difficulty of aerial maneuvers is doubled (so a 150 veer, which is normally a Dl, would count as a D2, and a 450 veer or a _" drift would be a D6). Microplanes using tilt-rotors in the up position use the helicopter rules, and may perform maneuvers just like helicopters.

All microplanes may decelerate by up to 15 mph safely in straight-line flight.

Climbing, Diving and Rolling

In order to climb, a microplane sacrifices 1/2" of forward motion to climb 1/4". That is, a microplane which has the option of moving 8" forward could instead move 7 1/2" forward and climb 1/4", or move 6" forward and climb 1/2". This is announced during the acceleration phase. Unlike helicopters, a microplane's ability to climb is effectively restricted only by its present speed and its stall speed. While climbing, a microplane must still move forward faster than its stall speed. When it becomes important, the exact position of the plane can be found by gauging its climbing speed (which would be 65 mph in this example) on the speed chart, and adding those values to the plane's altitude at any given phase. When climbing speed exceeds forward speed, the Back firing arc is considered to face the ground, and the others move accordingly. A microplane may level off at no penalty after climbing, and its new speed will equal it's old forward speed plus its climbing speed.

Example: A Sniper pilot is whipping along at 300 mph when a cliff face pops up out of nowhere (note that the Sniper does not have radar). He pulls up as hard as he can, trading 260 mph, or 26" of forward movement, for 6 1/2" of altitude. After he has cleared the cliffside, he levels off at a new speed of 105 mph (40 mph forward speed during the climb, + 65 mph climbing speed).

A microplane may accelerate more quickly by diving. A too-steep dive can have disastrous effects, but a shallow dive can safely increase a plane's speed. A microplane must spend a full second diving, moving forward as many inches as its current speed indicates. The player specifies how much altitude will be lost during a turn, within certain

limitations (described below). For every _" of altitude lost, the microplane picks up 5 mph of forward speed during the acceleration phase of the next turn.

A microplane must accelerate into a dive - the pilot can't simply go from level flight to a 90-foot dive and pick up 60 mph of speed, all in one second. A microplane can pick up 20 mph/turn of acceleration while diving, above and beyond the plane's normal acceleration. Keep track of how much speed is picked up through diving, as this will be offset when the microplane pulls out of the dive. When its dive speed exceeds its forward speed, the microplane's forward arc is facing the ground.

A microplane pulls out of a dive by applying some of its forward motion toward decreasing diving speed - with _" movement lifting the plane 14". However, a microplane that has been diving for speed must offset the dive rate before beginning to climb normally. The dive speed is reduced by 5 mph for every _" of "climb," and a microplane may reduce diving speed up to 2" per turn.

Example: The Sniper Pilot, having narrowly missed the cliff, sails along blissfully through the fog at a leisurely 120 mph, only to encounter an airship directly in his path. He immediately panics and dives at the limit (2", or 2~mph diving speed) for three turns, gaining a dive speed of 60 mph and a forward speed of 180 mph. At the end of the third turn, he is losing 6" of altitude per turn. But he can't just "stop diving" - he has to gain altitude in order to offset the dive. A player with a diving microplane can only put 2" toward climbing out of the dive - thus, the plane can go to a 50-mph dive speed (and 160-mph forward) at the end of the first second, 40/140 at the end of the second turn, 30/120 at the end of the third, and so on until it is at level flight at the end of the sixth turn, moving at 60 mph, assuming no acceleration while pulling out.

Rolling is relatively easy; simply trade firing arcs. There is no innate D hazard for rolling; but a plane may only roll one facing (900) per turn. Any maneuvers taken while sideways are at an additional +D1, and any maneuvers while upside down are at +D3. When a microplane is flying sideways, its stall speed is increased by half; when upside down, its stall speed is doubled.

Flying sideways has one benefit: Veering in the direction you are facing is done without the doubling for level maneuvers. For example, if your top is facing right, a 150 veer to the right is only a Dl. If you try to veer to the left while facing right, the difficulty of the maneuver is doubled normally. However, your speed is reduced by 5 mph for every 150 you turn if you are turning toward your top facing, or reduced by 10 mph if you veer in the opposite direction. This deceleration takes effect on the next turn.

Flying sideways also has a potentially severe drawback:

Your wings are not generating lift. The net result of this is to add 10 mph of diving speed per turn, without the corresponding speed increase from intentional diving.

Example: The Sniper pilot above, instead of simply pulling up or diving, rolls his craft sideways (his Right firing arc now faces Down, Top faces Right, Left faces Up, and Underbody faces Left) and executes a continuous series of five Dl veers to the right, resulting in a free 25 mph deceleration next turn, and 10 mph diving speed.

Stalling

Each microplane has a specific stall speed, the speed at which the wings cannot generate lift. If the microplane is flying, and falls below this speed, it must immediately dive or accelerate in order to achieve a safe speed. The small, medium and large microplanes stall at 30 mph, the cargo microplanes stall at 50 mph. Delta wings add 10 mph to stall speed, and Heavy Lift wings reduce stall speed by 5 mph.

Losing Control

Microplanes check for control in the same way as other vehicles. Cross-index the handling status of the plane with one-half its speed on the Control Table. If a control roll is called for, roll the die. If you lose control, add the appropriate modifier from the Control Table and roll on the microplane Crash Table.

Hazards

Hazards affect microplanes immediately, as they occur, decreasing the plane's handling status.
Some sample hazards:
Colliding with another aircraft or vehicle: D4, and a Prop Check.
Enemy fire, doing 1-5 points of damage: Dl.
Enemy fire, doing 6-9 points of damage: D2.
Enemy fire, doing 10 or more points of damage: D3.
One wing destroyed: D6, roll on microplane Crash Table each turn until the microplane hits the ground.
Both wings destroyed: Don't bother rolling. The microplane drops like a stone, decelerating by 10 each turn until it hits the ground (use the Free Fall Damage Table from DCW, p.51, to determine landing damage, and remember that all microplanes have CA frames).
Strong winds: Dl.
Very strong winds: D2.
Tail assembly (back armor) destroyed: D4.
Loss of propeller(s): D4.
Pilot injured or killed: D2.
Flying alongside or below a copter, within 2": D2.

Microplane Crash Table

-1, 0, 1 - Involuntary drift The microplane does a drift maneuver in the direction it was moving toward, and gains or loses (roll randomly) 14" of altitude. If it was flying straight, roll randomly for the direction of the drift.

2,3 - Involuntary veer. The microplane does a veer maneuver in the direction of its last maneuver (if flying straight, roll randomly for right or left), and loses _" of altitude. Weapons fire is at -1 for the rest of this turn.

4,5 - Severe veer. The microplane executes a veer in the direction it was moving and loses 1" of altitude. Weapons fire is at -3 for the rest of this turn.

6,7 - Diving veer. The microplane executes a veer in the direction it was moving. The microplane loses 1_" of altitude, and checks for Wing Failure. No aimed weapons fire allowed until the next turn.

8,9 - Spinout The microplane turns 900 to its flight path at the end of the phase in the direction of its last maneuver. Check for prop failure. No aimed weapons fire allowed. Check for Wing Failure. On the next turn, the microplane does a Diving Veer (making another Wing Check).

10 and above - Disaster. The wings have been torn off, your prop flew away, your tail assembly is gone, or some other equally nasty event. The Wing Check automatically rolls a 12. Speed is reduced to 5 mph below stall speed. Consider ejecting soon .

Microplane Damage Allocation

Front(: Front armor, front weapons, (pilot, co-pilot/gunner, cargo, engine), back weapons, back armor.

Back: Same as front, except in reverse order.

Right: Right armor, right-firing weapons, (crew, cargo, engine), left-firing weapons, left armor.

Bottom: Roll 1 die, on a 1 or 2, a wing is hit (roll randomly). Wing hits have a 1 in 6 chance of hitting a wing-mounted weapon or propeller. On a 3-6, the body takes damage: Bottom armor, bottom weapons, (crew, cargo, motor), top weapons, top armor.

Top: Same as bottom, but in reverse order.

Targeting Modifiers

Small microplane: -1 from side, above or below, -2 front or back.

Medium and large microplanes: -1 front or back.

Targeting wings: + 1 from above or below, -3 otherwise.

Heavy-lift wings: +1.

Landing Wheel: -5

Propeller: -6, -3 if it has a ducted cowling.

Tail assembly: -3. The tail assembly is destroyed when back armor is gone.

Wing Failure

During stressful maneuvers, there is a chance that one or both wings can fail. This entails breaking, becoming disengaged, snapping off, etc. When a Wing Check is called for, roll 2 dice and check the table below for each wing, taking into account any modifiers below:
2-7 - No effect.
8-9 - Wing damaged. HC drops by 1, stall speed increases by 5 mph per damaged wing (if both wings are damaged, HC is reduced by 2, and stall speed is increased by 10 mph). Roll on this table every turn thereafter during the acceleration phase until repaired or the plane lands, and consider any result of "Wing damaged" to be "Wing fails."
1~1 1 - Wing fails. The microplane takes a D6 hazard, and HC drops permanently by 4.
12 - Wing destroyed. Inflict id of damage on the side the wing was mounted as the wing structure rips itself off the aircraft.
Wing Failure Modifiers
Speed is 75-100 mph: +1.
Speed is 101-140 mph: +2.
Speed is 141+: +3.
Wing damaged by weapons fire: +2.

Sample Microplanes

Sniper - Small microplane, medium power plant, 3 PR cycle tires, 1 propeller mounted back, ducted cowling, delta wings, pilot, 2 linked MGs in wing mounts. Armor: F30, R28, L28, B27, T7, U20, 3 1O~pt. cycle wheelguards. Acceleration 10, top speed 300, HC 4; 2,415 lbs., $9,965.

Wraith - Medium microplane, super power plant with PCs & SCs, 3 cycle std. tires, 2 ducted tilt-rotors wing-mounted forward, pilot, universally turreted RR below, HRSWC. Armor: F20, R18, L18, B16, T4, U18, 3 1-pt. cycle wheel guards. Acceleration 15 (5 in VTOL mode), top speed 200, HC 3; 3,437 lbs., $1 7,682.

Javelin - large microplane, super power plant with PCs & SCs, 3 cycle solids, 2 propellers wing-mounted back, ducted cowlings, delta wings, pilot, 2 linked VMGs F, 2 RGMs back, 2 linked pairs of SAMs wing-mounted forward, ITA, Radar, targeting computer. FP Armor: F25, R23, L23, B24, T4, U20, 3 1~pt. cycle wheel guards. Acceleration 10, top speed 300, HC 3; 5,149 lbs., $39,210.

Bee - Cargo microplane, 300 ci engine, 25 gallon racing tank, 2 propellers wing-mounted back, heavy-lift wings, 3 cycle HD tires, pilot, HDFT under, 2 linked RLs wing-mounted forward, TL forward, LGL, radar, hi-res computer, 8 spaces cargo. Metal/plastic armor: F8/30, R8/25, L8/25, B7/25, T4/17, US/i 8, 1~pts. propeller armor each 3 1~pt. wheelguards. Acceleration 15, top speed 215 unloaded, Acceleration 10, top speed 160 w/1 ,365 lbs. cargo, 7,135 lbs., $41,505.

SX-Express - large cargo microplane, 500 ci engine, 25 gallon dueling tank, 2 propellers wing-mounted back, delta wings, 3 cycle solids, pilot, 8 passengers, two linked VMGs in universal forward turret under, 3 linked pairs of SAMs wing-mounted F, link for all 6 SAMs, ITA, radar, hi-res computer, 5 spaces cargo (461 lbs.). Armor: B36, 20 on all other facings, 3 1~pt. wheel guards, 10 pts. propeller armor each. Acceleration 15, top speed 390, HC 1; 9,500 lbs. (loaded), $63,055.


Issue 7/1 Index

Steve Jackson Games * Car Wars * ADQ Index