Car Wars first entered the air with the helicopter rules in Autoduel Champions, a cross-over product. While the superhero rules for Car Wars and Autoduel cars for Champions were largely forgotten, helicopters remained a staple vehicle in Car Wars and the rules were reprinted with every rules collection.
For a long time, helicopters were the only vehicles allowed in the air -- or at least allowed to stay in the air (jnmping vehicles notwithstanding). In ADQ 5/1 , variant rules introduced airships, and in ADQ 7/1 small airplanes got their day in the sun with Charles Oines' microplanes article.
Response to the Microplanes created the demand for Aeroduel. When I sat down to create rules encompassing ultralight airplanes -- now known as microplanes -- jets, helicopters, airships, autogyros and practically anything else that flies artificially (no bird rules), my first priority was to remain true to both the Car Wars system and scale, and to the already-printed material as well. In the end the rules I wrote read like regular Car Wars rules -- vehicles are built the same way, the maneuvering is roughly the same, and combat is identical.
At the same time, the aircraft presented in the rules have a great many differences from their ground-bound brethren. The most obvious problem is three-dimensional movement: Aircraft move up and down as well as in other directions. This is solved by having players keep a record of their altitude on scratch paper.
Furthermore, due to the enormous speeds at which aircraft operate, the 1" = 15' scale of Car Wars could not handle an aircraft dogfight without a table the size of a gynmasium. In order to facilitate air-to-air combats, a special 1/4" = 15' scale (called air-to-air scale) is included. When aircraft interact with other vehicles, they switch to the familiar Car Wars scale.
Maneuvering is fairly standard. The differences are twofold: Aircraft operating far above ground level have less chance of control loss and aircraft can often make tighter turns than the humans that fly them. The centrifugal force built up by the sudden change of direction (measured in standard gravities, or Gs) can cause the pilot's blood to pool in his legs, depriving his brain of oxygen and causing him to black out. This is known as GLOC (Gravity-induced Loss Of Consciousness). I included GLOC rules as a way of restricting the astounding maneuverability of Aeroduel aircraft -- few cars can hope to compete with an airplane that routinely does complete turnarounds at 200 + mph.
Combat now includes strafing and bombing rules, allowing aircraft to attack multiple ground targets in one pass. In the world of 2040 everyone looks out when something with wings flies over the battlefield, whether it's friendly or not -- bombs and napalm don't really care which side you're on when you're in their blast radius.
Naturally, strafing and bombing are not nearly as accurate as regular direct fire -- strafing does less than 1/5 of the weapon's damage if the strafing aircraft is moving faster than 100 mph.
Bombing has its own limitations. Bombs have to fall into their targets, a time-consuming process. Most of the time the targets have time to get out of the way before the bomb hits, particularly when the bombs are being dropped from a level aircraft. Gravity pulls the bomb to the ground unless the bomber dives to fling the bomb at the target, and gravity-dropped bombs take a long time to fall. Drop a bomb from a mile up and it takes over 30 seconds to reach the ground. Furthermore, the aircraft's momentum moves the bomb forward until it decelerates to a vertical drop -- a bomb dropped from a bomber moving 200 mph flies 450 yards forward before dropping straight down.
Finally, bombs tend to scatter when they hit -- tables are provided for this. That's why bombs are burst effect weapons: They don't often hit the target square unless it's a building
The aerial combat arena is even more deadly than the ground If you lose a tire, the worst you can do is roll and burn. If you lose a wing, the fall won't kill you ... that's the impact's job And with the multitude of weapons available to the aeroduellist knocking the opponent out of the sky is easier than it sounds.
This left the environment open for armed prop aircraft -- hi-tech versions of the combat fighters that ruled the skies during the middle of the 20th Century. Once again they cruise the airways, winged versions of the sleek destroyers that prowl the highways.
Of course, the jets still exist to make life miserable (and very short) for those who trifle with government militaries. If there's enough demand, a supplement covering military aircraft (and spacecraft -- scramjets are the newest additions to military arsenals) might be published.
Equally gratifying were the playtest results. Seven seperate groups contributed their qnestions on rules problems, often suggested answers to those problems. This supplement would not have been nearly as clear or complete without their efforts.
Thanks to playtesters and editor, writing up the second draft of Aeroduel was actually an unexpected pleasure, and produced a better supplement.
Escape the clutches of the ground and take to the skies!