Nerf of the Month Club- March 09


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DOCDOOMHere's a fun topic, what's been nerfed and how and more importantly ... why? Welcome to the nerf of the month club. In this column I'll be bringing up recent, "OMG they nerfed the xxx and now it's total whack 1eleventybillion@@!" type posts or similar things like, "this is more easy than that and it was king in real life WTF!" with a view to revealing the true nature of how we model stuff. You might read posts by players, in the forums or in game chat, where all manner of things are claimed but the truth is often more elusive than what you'll generally see written by players. So let's get the nerf wagon rolling this month.

We'll begin with the most frequent example, the one we see all the time. Top of the hit parade I guess you could say.

"Why do the Allies get better planes than the Axis ?"

Well they don't actually. They get DIFFERENT planes. Where the German planes are modeled to represent the common German aircraft of the period, the Allies get aircraft modeled to represent the common British, French or American planes of the period, and American types feature here chiefly because the French ordered, purchased or used (depending on several factors) a lot of American aircraft types. Before France was knocked out of the war in real life, they bought a good number of Curtiss fighters beginning with the Hawk 75. These served the French Air Force in 1940 and at that time the French also bought from Curtiss the Hawk 81 (known in American parlance as the P-40) and after their re-entry to the war a few years later, the Hawk 87 (also known in Allied service as the P-40) served in a number of French squadrons ... the French Purchasing Commission in 1940 also bought or ordered the upcoming P-38 (known to them as the Mle.322) and P39 (Mle.14a) ... none of these actually made it into French service as the country surrendered before delivery could be made. The Hawk 81's were actually offshore awaiting delivery to the French ports on the day of capitulation and were redirected to Britain instead.

However, the main concern always centers around the Spitfires, which seem so easy to fly compared to say, the Bf109s which were the mainstay of Luftwaffe fighter squadrons throughout all the earlier war years. The Spitfire has an almost unique ability as a dogfighter especially for inexperienced pilots. It was easy to fly! Every flight sim game featuring WWII aircraft and PvP reveals the same dynamic, Spitfires are more popular than Bf109s. In games where you can fly any fighter on any side (not historically divided between sides like they are in Battleground Europe) the Spitfires are easily the most common choice of all aircraft as far as dogfighting goes.

There are reasons this happens. The Spitfire was superior at retaining energy in a tight turn as a result of it's eliptical wings and a lower wingloading, and most players without an advanced grasp of air combat tactics resort to the tactic of tight turning where the Spitfire has an easier time of it. This means getting slow and if you don't kill your opponent quickly and get out of Dodge you will get whacked by another pilot. Spitfires handle the tight turning type of fight better. They don't handle the climbing energy style of fight as well as Bf109's do, and are generally a little slower than Bf109's ... until the later model Mark IX which is a really good vertical fighter, and finally faster than the F and G type Bf109s too. However, this style of air combat is hard on players who only use tight turning type tactics, and takes more experience to understand and use. The German Bf109's CAN turn well but it takes skill and experience to get the top 10% best out of them.

Here is something the famous German ace Werner Molders said of the Spitfire versus Bf109, having flown unfamiliar Spitfires in direct comparison to the very familiar (to him) Bf109.

"It was very interesting to carry out the flight trials at Rechlin with the Spitfire and the Hurricane. Both types are very simple to fly compared to our aircraft, and childishly easy to take-off and land. - Werner Molders"

Adolf Galland, another Luftwaffe pilot who flew Spitfires in comparison trials, said of the two:-

"the ME-109 was superior in the attack and not so suitable for purely defensive purposes as the Spitfire, which although a little slower, was much more manueuverable" and in a fit of frustration at being blamed for the alleged poor performance of the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, uttered the famous retort to Hermann Göring "I should like an outfit of Spitfires for my Squadron". - Adolf Galland

Gunther Rall chimes in with this observation:

"The elliptical wings of the Spitfires had fantastic characteristics, great lift. They were very maneuverable and superior to ours in a sustained turn." - Gunther Rall

However, there are advantages to the Bf109 too, you just have to know what they are and how to use them. The first of these is climbrate. If you can employ vertical (going up) moves in your dogfighting, you can maintain an advantage over any Spitfire with the same or less energy than you, except the Spitfire IX. Climbing turns work well as long as the Spitfire doesn't have greater speed than you to convert to a zoom climb with. This is where judging E states (energy) is crucial. ANY plane with more E than you is going to make your life difficult and short lived. Even a slow climbing H-75 will get you if he has zoom climb speed in his bank account. This works for you as well as against you, all you have to do is make sure YOU have the greater speed going into a manouevre.

You should always try to stay above your opponent as it gives you an advantage that is very difficult for him to take away from you, and never surrender that advantage to trade it for a turning circle unless you can win the fight before he can slow you down and come around on you, when you have no speed left to dictate the terms of the fight with.

The Bf109 also has a greater instantaneous turn rate (iTR) although it's sustained turn rate (sTR) is less than the Spitfire. How does THAT work ?

A Bf109 in general bleeds speed faster than the Spitfire due to it's higher wing loading. If you come barreling in at a good clip, and the Spitfire is fast too, you can pull into the turn and stay inside him because you bleed speed faster, if you can get guns on him before you are both slow, he cannot get inside you to come around because he will not slow as quickly as the Bf109 (this is where the Spitfire's legendary E retention works against it)... but you must be able to shoot him before you are BOTH slow because then his higher sTR (sustained turn rate) means he now can get around on you once you have both bled off all your speed.

THATS when you need to get out of Dodge. In addition to a better climbrate (Spitfire IX exception) the 109s are a little bit faster in general, especially the F models before the Spitfire IX comes into the game. If you can't get the Spitfire in the first couple of turns, don't expect to get it after a couple of turns. You are slowing down to where he has the advantage now. Come in fast, let him commit to the break turn, and slow down faster than he does (throttle management if nessesary) and get guns on him before you complete the first circle. Alternatively, come in fast, let him commit to the break turn, don't slow down but do a climbing circle turn above him, and get inside by rolling out and down onto his topside 6, this employs your climb and speed to hold the upper hand. Don't commit to extended circle turning getting slower and slower until you are the victim now instead of the attacker.

If we model the aircraft after their real life examples, you will have to get used to what made them different to each other and not the same. That is the essence of what you fight with in Battleground Europe, it's the differances between the various pieces of equipment that is being simulated. Understanding what those differances are, and how to use them to your advantage and your opponents disadvantage, is where the true winners become winners. They aren't nerfed because they know how and why things work like they do, and they use that knowledge just like the real guys who came out winners did.

Guys like Molders, Galland and Rall, who gave their opponents equipment it's proper respect and recognition, and beat it by using that respect to formulate the tactics they used to beat it.

After more than a decade of simulated WWII air combat PvP contests, I can tell you this much: the scariest pilots I have ever met (and been beaten by) flew Bf109s. While a Spitfire might be piloted by a less experienced or not highly skilled pilot (or it might be, in which case ... OUCH!) and one could take liberties with them until they showed their true ability, it's always dangerous to underestimate the unknown 109 jock. If they are good, they will bite you faster then you might anticipate. I have attacked thousands upon thousands of online fighter pilots in my time doing this, and I always sweat a little more when setting up the 109s than I do the Spitfires, because I know that a lot of the time, all a Spitfire is going to do is break hard and commence turning. If he doesn't, well that's going to be a good fight. With the 109s, they almost never do the totally obvious. It's almost always a good fight, or it's over very quick.

Those guys I quoted earlier ... they weren't nerfed, and neither are you. :)


PS: working with a partner or two (wingmen) is always fun and your score will improve a lot too.