Guide for Scenario CO’s and GL’s
by Brooke P. Anderson (“Brooke” in Aces High)
This document gives my suggested techniques for being a CO (Commanding Officer) or GL (Group Leader) in a scenario. Every CO and GL has his own style, so I wouldn’t expect this document to be a perfect fit for everyone. However, I do hope that it is helpful to new CO’s and GL’s and that it has at least some good suggestions even for those who have been CO’s or GL’s previously.
In this document, I will use “GL” to refer to a leader of any group of aircraft or vehicles, whether it is a flight, squadron, group, or some other named collection in a scenario.
One thing readers might immediately ponder upon starting to read this document is: who the hell is Brooke, and why would he have any advice to give on these topics? Probably my most important qualification is just my willingness to write this document, but I have participated in a lot of scenarios. Scenarios were first invented by DoKtor GonZo (“DoK”) in the early 1990’s in Air Warrior. I’ve played in over 20 scenarios since those days, initially in Air Warrior and now in Aces High, have served as CO in five of them, and have served as GL in four others.
If you want to be a CO or GL, volunteer for it when you hear of an upcoming scenario. If you want to be a CO, make sure you have played in several scenarios and have served well as a GL previously. List your qualifications (such as which scenarios you’ve played in and what your position was in those scenarios). When you volunteer, say that you are enthusiastic about it. It enhances your ability to be picked as CO or GL if you are a person who is a competent pilot, is knowledgeable about the game, has played in previous scenarios, and is not obnoxious, abrasively argumentative, or hard to get along with.
The CO is the top position of responsibility for a side in a scenario. The CO is the person who does the following things (or who arranges for others to do or participate in them being done):
Having people who are good at what needs to get done increases your odds of victory. So, when you know what the scenario is likely to involve, it helps to go out and recruit good people. Start recruiting right away – your CO opponent is probably trying to get some of the same good people. Get them first.
Recruit good fighter pilots who can find and shoot down the enemy. If there is a squad in the game that is particularly good, try to recruit them to sign up for your side. If you have bombers, recruit good bomber pilots who can get to target, hit the target, and give you good bomb-damage assessments. Some scenarios have special needs, like torpedo bombing, base capture, fleet operations, and so on. There are usually people around who have done it before and are good at it or people who are known for being good at learning a new task. Recruit those people if you can.
You will also need people to serve as GL’s. GL’s need to be good at communication (on text and voice channels), good at organizing the group’s pilots, good at finding or evading the enemy, and good at making decisions in combat. Good GL’s may or may not be excellent pilots themselves – that’s not the critical part. GL’s are your direct leaders of pilots in battle. You will be giving groups orders, and the GL’s are the ones who make sure the group gets it done. You don’t want unreliable flaky people as your GL’s, even if they are great pilots.
Some scenarios stipulate most of the command structure simply because it sets the different fighter groups available to your side. Other times, a scenario might stipulate only that you have a certain number of aircraft available of particular types, and it’s up to you to decide how to break them up into groups. You should have a GL in charge of every 4-12 aircraft or so. Less than that, and they probably should be put into another group. More than that, and it becomes hard for one person to manage it in battle.
Beyond that, some CO’s put other command staff in charge of multiple groups. For example, there might be three squadrons (each with its own GL) on CAP over a carrier fleet, and the CO puts a person in charge of those three groups as CAP Commander. The CAP Commander can give direct orders to the three GL’s whose groups are doing CAP. Or there might be two groups of bombers, each with its own GL, and a Bomber Commander in charge of bombers, so the two bomber GL’s report to the Bomber Commander, who reports to the CO.
As CO, it is all up to you on how you want to organize it. I tend to like simple, more flat structures, with a GL in charge of each group, and each GL reports to me, but there are occasions where different structures are better. It depends on the scenario.
You can recruit people for particular positions, or you can wait for registration to march along, see who you get, and assign people to positions after the roster fills out. The CM’s (Campaign Managers), who are the people doing the grunt work of managing registration, setting up the arenas for the scenario, and various other behind-the-scenes work, will give you a roster once registration is over. They might give you a roster (especially if you ask) as registration is in progress.
You can do this, or you can appoint someone on your team to do it. One thing to keep in mind is that people who fly in the regular arenas together (such as in the same squad) tend to like to fly together in scenarios. They are also sometimes better coordinated. It helps to try to keep squad mates together, but you can’t always accommodate every such arrangement.
This is the major role of the CO, or it is the role of the CO to form a team that will come up with the side’s strategy. Most CO’s mull over strategy with several team members before finalizing it. The scenario rules will lay out the objectives and the victory conditions. What is your side going to do to win? It usually isn’t the best strategy just to have everyone take off and try to go kill the enemy, without any organization or plan.
Often, there are bombers that need to go hit particular targets. What route should they take? What altitude should they be at? Should they all go in one group, or should they be in a separate groups, hitting targets from different directions? Then, if there are bombers, are you going to assign escorts? How many groups will escort? Will they fly close escort (right near the bombers), or will they do detached escort (thousands of yards distant, to catch enemy interceptors before they get in on the bombers), or will they fly screens (out ahead or to the sides of the bombers), or a combination? Will there be fighter sweeps to try to clear a path? Will there be scouts that try to find enemy locations so that you can vector bomber groups around the enemy locations? Do you want your escorting fighters to pursue enemies no matter what, or do you want them to break off if the enemy goes several thousand feet below the bombers or strays outside many thousand yards horizontally from the bombers?
If your enemy has bombers and you are trying to protect your territory, which groups are going to scout where? Are they all going to spread out? Are you going to have some groups centrally located so that they can be vectored to bomber formations when they are found? Are you going to fly CAP’s over the bomber targets? What alt are they going to be at – if there are clouds, what if bombers come in under them or above them?
Many scenarios will have a scheduled practice or “beta frame,” where both sides will be welcome to run a trail frame. This way, they can all practice in their aircraft and get a feel for the environment.
If there is time, it is usually very beneficial to have a practice session where only your side is there. Here, you can try out some things that you don’t want the other side to see. Talk to the CM’s and see if you can schedule a practice time just for your side. Make sure you set it up with enough time to e-mail all your players and tell them that everyone who can make it should make sure to show up, as it is important.
Out of the pilots who show up, you can set some up as your side and some up as the other side. You can try out methods of intercept, ways of getting to target, whatever. It gives your pilots more practice, and it lets you know how easy or hard will be some strategic element you have in mind. If bombing ships is part of the scenario, how hard is it with a maneuvering ship with some enemy fighters around it (of the type you expect to meet)? If you need to go bomb some ground targets and there is wind, how hard is that – how high can your bomber pilots be and still hit the buildings? If there are visibility limits, how high can bombers be? Can you intercept well with the aircraft you have available? And so on.
Once it’s done, your pilots from both sides can tell you what they saw as the strengths and weaknesses of your side. The pilots who stood in as the enemy might have interesting things to say about what it was like in the aircraft given. Maybe some aspect is easy or hard, and you should keep that in mind when finalizing your strategy.
If there are some unusual elements to practice (such as bombing under unusual conditions, such as with wind, limited visibility, torpedo bombing, bombing against maneuvering ships, etc.), ask your GL’s to organize practice (online or offline) of the pilots in their groups (the ones that need such practice) and to report back to you on how successful they are in accomplishing the objectives in the practice sessions. They can do multiple practices on their own, in addition to the whole-side practice mentioned above.
Once you have settled on your strategy, the CO or his delegate needs to type an orders document and needs to e-mail it to all pilots on his side at least a couple of days prior to each frame. You should get the list of e-mail addresses of your pilots from the CM’s after registration is done.
The orders document gives:
It is helpful for the orders document to have a map with flight paths and other special locations noted when appropriate.
Some CO’s put out very detailed orders. Some put out fairly simple orders. It depends on the CO and on the scenario. Here is an example of orders at the more detailed end:
On game day, show up at least 45 minutes early. You need to settle in, and there can be questions your GL’s might have or changes you want to implement before things get too hectic. You should make sure your GL’s know the plan and have no questions.
Keep a sheet of paper on which you write who is the GL of each group, where they are assembling, and how many pilots they should have. I like to have a printout of the map and a printout of group assignments so that if a GL is dumped, I can assign another pilot as GL in his place.
Ask each of your GL’s to report how many pilots they have as time approaches takeoff time. I suggest putting this request in your mission orders or sending e-mail to all your GL’s so that they know to do this. For example, “Hiryu Sentai reports 7 of 10 pilots at a10” let’s you know that Hiryu Sentai is at a10 and that they currently have 7 of 10 pilots. Thus, if walkons are being assigned, you know that Hiryu Sentai is 3 pilots short. You can ask the CM to give you walkons and where to send them.
If a GL doesn’t show up by T-30 minutes, you should seriously consider assigning another pilot to be GL in his place so that your ability to sort all the pilots out into their appropriate spots isn’t harmed.
The most hectic thing leading to takeoff is sorting all the pilots out appropriately including filling in where needed with walkons. This is helped a lot if you know which group is where and how many pilots it should have to be full.
When you assign a walkon, tell him where to go and to whom to report, as in “Walkie, go to a10 and report to Brooke.”
Before takeoff, tell your GL’s when you want them to launch.
In battle, it is the CO’s job to hear (or read) information reported by his pilots, figure out if there are changes needed, and to issue orders to the GL’s. It might be to go scout somewhere, to come back to cover a gap, to go engage an enemy formation discovered, etc. I usually think of it like the groups being chess pieces. You give a group an order, such as going somewhere and doing a thing. The GL does his best to make sure the group gets it done and reports back to you information as things progress.
You need to be clear in your orders and to be as communicative as possible. Usually, CO’s are in information overload, with many more people requesting orders than a CO can give out. Don’t worry about that – good GL’s will take independent action if they ask for orders and don’t get them by the time they have to decide one way or the other. Just be as clear and communicative as you can manage. Don’t micromanage, telling groups how to fly or what each pilot in the group should be doing. If you can, tell the group where to go and what to do there, then let the GL take care of the details.
GL’s are the guys who lead the group in battle. A GL’s duties can include:
When I am GL, I usually try to recruit people directly into my group – pilots I know are good at what my group is likely to do in the scenario. If I get people who are willing specifically to fly in my group in the scenario, I tell the CO so that he can put them in my group when he is assigning pilots. Note that the CO might not always be able to arrange it – it depends sometimes on the allotment of other pilots. So, don’t get upset if you don’t get exactly what you want, but it will usually work out OK.
There will usually be some practices organized for the whole side you are on. However, there are times when your group will have some special or unusual role to play. Maybe it is torpedo bombing under circumstances that are not usual. It’s good to ask your group to do offline or online practicing. It’s also good to do some of it online so that you can see how proficient your guys are. If it’s a tough job and they aren’t good at it yet, as GL you should really try to get them to practice until you yourself see that they are acceptable at it.
If your role is just general fighting in fighter planes, and everyone is used to that, you still might want to organize an online practice to see how they are doing in the particular aircraft your group is assigned. However, practices aren’t as vital in this case. It is useful if you ask folks to fly the particular airplane a lot in the normal game arenas prior to the scenario.
If the CO isn’t very detail oriented, feel free to put out orders for your group prior to each frame. Make sure you do this if the CO doesn’t send out orders that include where you are taking off from, what radio channels you are to use, what ordinance you are to load, how much fuel you are to load, etc.
Show up before T-30 minutes – sooner if you have any questions or expect orders changes.
You will be assembling your pilots at a particular location. Pick a field at which to assemble, and announce your group, field, and number of pilots periodically – for example, “Hiryu Sentai pilots, report to a10 please” and “Hiryu Sentai reports 3 of 10 pilots at a10 so far.”
You will be getting your pilots “into uniform.” That means that you will form a squadron in the special events arena, give it a name appropriate for your group (for example, “Hiryu Sentai”, “I/JG3”, “80th FG”, or whatever). Then you will invite the members of your group into it. If you invite them and don’t see the “So and so has been invited” message, it means they are already in another squadron in the special events arena. You have to ask them to withdraw from the squad they are in. Then you can invite them, and you’ll get the “has been invited message.” Then you need to “set” the name of the squad again (just click the “set” button) and then the “refresh” button, and they will show up. They do not need to exit the arena and come back in.
Make sure all your pilots are tuned to the appropriate radio channels. I like them to be on squad channel for both voice and text, but sometimes you might be assigned a particular channel for voice and text. Check that all pilots can year you on voice and can see your typed messages. Have everyone do a voice and text radio check.
At T-15 or so, give your group a briefing so that they know what they are going to do. Make sure they at least know what aircraft, what load, what fuel load, what takeoff field, what takeoff direction – and know to wait for your call for people to take off before they take off, not matter what else is announced on the radio.
At about T-5 or T-10, get them to the takeoff field’s hangar, with having selected the correct plane and loads. If there is a special skin they should use, let them know.
When it’s time to takeoff, tell them verbally and type it.
Upon takeoff, you will tell your group the heading and likely to be at full throttle and in autoclimb. If headings or climbing change, you announce it ahead of time that you are going to do it, then you tell them when you do it. I like to say it and type it.
Make sure your group knows where it is to go and what it is to do in advance whenever possible. Try to say and type orders whenever possible. In combat, it is likely to be voice. Outside of combat, you can usually manage voice and typing.
If you are trying to keep your group together, it is usually handy just to get up to altitude at full throttle and RPM, then throttle back once you level off to let everyone form up. If you are throttled back, announce what manifold (and if reduced RPM, what RPM) you are at so that people who are already caught up to you know what to set their throttle at.
In fighters, it is often handy to spread out so that you have a better chance of spotting enemies.
When intercepting enemies, one very useful function of the GL is to remind pilots that they shouldn’t all go after one or two enemies. If your group comes across and enemy, dispatch a couple of guys and tell everyone else to stay at altitude and watch for other enemies showing up. One large source of disaster in scenarios is when a side has lots of pilots who all pile on every enemy they see, regardless of how many friendlies are on him already. That way, one plane can clear out a whole CAP by diving through it or coming in low. This is where GL discipline is very important.
When you see enemies that aren’t already announced, try to type out a report on the country channel reporting how many enemies, what type of aircraft, where (using the sector/kepad notation, such as “10,10,1”), what altitude, and what heading. Even if they are announced, if there is no radar coverage, it is useful to announce it again. A CO needs to consider that any communication can have some error, so if he gets several of the same report from different sources, he can have more confidence that it is correct.
Try to keep the CO appraised of your situation. If the CO orders your group to do something, try to get out at least a “cc” on the radio so that command knows you got the message. Report to them the result of your order. If you were ordered to 10,10,1 to intercept enemies, report when you are about to enter 10,10,1. If you can, report when you are engaging. When you are done with your fight, report that and what the outcome was. Did you lose everyone? Did your group shoot down most of the enemy but two got away? And so on.
That’s it so far. If you have any suggestions or questions that this document didn't answer, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks, and I hope to see you in scenarios to come.