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  • Writer's pictureRobey

Air Assets in Midnight Dark

The place of aircraft in the original Horizon Wars was always a bit of a challenge for players.

On the one hand, aircraft are a cool feature of sci-fi combat and play an undeniable role in ultramodern warfare from Prince Harry's Apache helicopter to the Ghost of Kiev. On the other, though, they operate on entirely different tactical and strategic principles to everything else.

Dropzone Commander is a game working within the same design space that tried to resolve this challenge by making transport aircraft a fundamental part of the game experience, the narrative context and even the rules themselves. It did so with mixed success, and a lot of players more or less drifted away from a focus on the dropcraft themselves as the game community developed.

Horizon Wars tried to square the circle by making the air war something of a mini-game within the main game. In fact, the Horizon Wars aircraft rules were literally taken from a separate game (that I also wrote) called AirFrame. But in practice, this mostly led to even the most enthusiastic players just ignoring aircraft entirely as an option for their Battle Groups and a lot of people complained that the rules were too complex.

The new edition has tried to embrace this feedback by adjusting its sights so that the aircraft available to the player in the main rules are only tactical assets. I modern terms, that means they are attack and transport helicopters (insert your technological system of choice): low altitude, close support assets that engage with enemy targets most effectively up close and personal. They are still fast and hard-hitting. But they no longer have the confusing Mb/Mv feature and you no longer have to add the ability to hover as an upgrade. Other than their ability to move in the three-dimensional space (with Altitude largely unchanged) they are essentially like any other element.

That said, they still have a bunch of other rules to support them, but in a much more streamlined form from the original game. I hope this will make the tactical options of using them as fast transports for smaller elements an attractive one for players, as well as creating the option for playable and competitive Air Cavalry formations.

A feature I have also retained from the original but refined is that of the ejecting pilot. This is closely related to a new feature of the game - heroes - but will hopefully become a fun and tactically-relevant part of gameplay with air assets.

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