To use the words of Wessex Games, “Aeronef is a simple set of rules designed to allow you to play Victorian Science Fiction aerial wargames…The rules are basic enough for beginners but flexible enough so that the more seasoned gamer will find them enjoyable….”
Aeronef postulates that Victorian Science Fiction technologies such as the “Negative Gravity Screw” and “R-Matter” are real and lead to flying ironclads in the sky. This is the world of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.
The rulebook is 18 pages long in a two-column setup. The first six pages are cover and background. The actual rules of play cover only three (3) pages with “Expanded Rules” adding another three pages. The Expanded Rules actually add a design modification section which shows how to modify the base stats for custom craft. Scenarios add another three-plus pages and appendixes with Designer Notes, Bibliography and other assorted odds & ends finish the last three pages.
Aernoef (and lighter Aerostats) come in five basic classes from Class 5 “Gunboats” or “Patrol Craft” to Class 1 “Dreadnoughts.” Aeroplanes are also depicted but fly in squadrons.
Movement can use a hex grid or work like regular miniatures. Turning is in 30-degree/hexside increments. There is no initiative; rather ships move half their current sped in order from slowest to fastest. After the first half-move, the process is repeated. Combat uses the self-named RASH (Roll-a-Six-to-Hit) system meaning players will need buckets of dice to play. When attacking player roll a number of d6 equal to their gun rating; any “6” is a hit and reduce the hull points of the target. As hull is lost, gun, bomb, speed and turn are reduced.
Aeronef certainly is a simple set of rules. Even the Expanded Rules do not add complexity to the basic system. The draw of Aeronef is not an innovative rules set, but the miniatures that can go with the game. Indeed, Brigade Models in the UK has a very extensive Aeronef line. There is also the draw of the subject matter. The authors of the game have brought to life the Victorian Science Fiction of the “ether” and “Negative Gravity” or “R-Matter.” To my surprise, I found many of the books or stories listed in the bibliography to be available for free on the net. Reading these stories helps one to get in the mood of the game!
Aeronef has two major expansions available, the Aeronoef Captain’s Handbook which adds Martians to the mix and Land Ironclads which add ground forces with “land leviathans.” Both use the same RASH-system for combat resolution and similar unit design modification processes making integration of all the games close to seamless.
If you are looking for a simple Victorian Science Fiction rules set Aeronef is likely a game you will want.