The smallest possible map that is worth playing with fighters is 2,300km across, or 30". Lightning fighters are currently the shortest-ranged fighter I have written up, which can travel 35" before returning to base (minus 2 turns for take off and landing included). Some aircraft have shorter legs, namely Valkyrie gunships, but bombers and transports just get longer and longer. This is a game that will make full use of forward airbases and mobile mass carriers, making fuel a very relevant issue, especially between races. As it stands, fuel consumption is simply a running tally: For every turn you just add a tally slash for a squadron in the air. The one current exception is if you use afterburners, in which case you add two slashes. It takes all of 2 seconds, and since it's based on a tally you can readily see what you've used in blocks of 5, without having to re-write a number like "13", "14", "15" etc.
Phantom and Hornet leader used counters for payload which you choose for mission. Like bombs, for example. You ditch counter from your plane card after it is used and there is multiple selection of armaments to choose from.
So far the weapons work on a similar principle, but using the tally on the player's organization sheet. Primary weapons like forward-firing guns have ammo, but all secondaries come in "slots" which average around 2. A Lightning, for example, will have Lascannons with 2 shots, autocannons with 3 shots, and 2 secondary slots which can be mixed and matched with missiles and bombs. On using the latter, you just strike the name of the weapon off on your sheet. All secondary payloads are determined before the game starts as they use up points, but you can change payloads mid-game after landing so long as you have excess points left over (exchanging numbers for utility).
Also morale is made easier since planes/squadrons are predetermined by planes you choose for mission. Those games are campaign based so morale gets affected between missions mostly on what happened on earlier game. Things like friendly casualties and getting fired upon alot makes people go stressed and will affect their future mission unless they have been put to rest.
Currently the only crew-related stat is a very basic experience level ranging from 1 to 5. I suppose it could be dropped from one game to the next as part of a campaign, but there's something to be said for how air warfare works: It's not that cut and dried when it comes to the psychology of it.
For starters, pilots of single-seat fighters rarely "break and flee" simply because they hardly see any carnage with their own eyes. If the rest of their squadron bites it, they can simply turn tail and burn away at high speed, leaving most threats behind. Most of their in-battle stress comes from the notion that sometimes (like during escort missions) you MUST go head first into the enemy to protect others, where your speed cannot necessarily save you. As for panicking over damage and death, even in today's world most munitions can wipe out a fighter in a single hit. If you're lucky enough not to die in the blast, your training/guts immediately have you punch out from the burning wreckage. There's no time to grouse over wounds and the like; it's not that dramatic in the air itself.
That changes on the ground, when you get to see with your own eyes just how many didn't come back, and after sharing stories, how some people could have done better and saved teammates/escorted friendlies, but didn't. That said, it's only in the most melodramatic fiction that squadrons are made up of 12 people, 24/7. In reality, the only reason any airforce had 1 pilot for 1 aircraft was when they were absolutely desperate, like Soviet Union 1942 kind of desperate. Otherwise, multiple aircrews for the same airframe spreads the fatigue and morale "damage" around much better than a squad of boots on the ground. Requiring squadrons to land due to fuel explains this away in an instant: That's when they swap out crews.
As for aircraft with larger crews, I would say that 'this' is where it becomes tedious, since there are slightly different rules at work. Even then, the crew swap on the ground would still happen.
If this is squadron based game, dont put too many tiny little recordkeeping details into it. Less rules are usually better than bog game down on small details.
Aside from knowing values such as speed and damage dealt, and since payloads are established before the game begins and merely counted from then on out, these are the only pieces of record-keeping required so far:
- Base (where the squadron is landed and how long it has been, when 2 turns rearms and 5 turns rearms and refuels; acts as a tally, is erased when airborne)
- Strength (with an emphasis on the half-way mark since hitting it halves the damage dealt)
- Endurance (again, just a simple tally)
- Countermeasures (for aircraft with limited amounts, usually a tally of 1 slash only)
- Primary weapons (a tally for each, usually no more than 8 max)
- Secondary weapons (you cross it out)
- Land unit/building hitpoints (also a simple tally, and mission specific)
There are a myriad of details I could have included. Strength could have been actual number of aircraft matched to armor/durability values and adjusted for damage accordingly, but instead it's just simple HP, bloated for numbers and durability. Damage dealt could have been scaled with every loss of HP, but instead it only halves at the half-way mark. Endurance could have been an ungodly fuel calculation based on chosen speed and altitude, but instead it's just turn by turn. This means that actual endurance is a function of both speed and endurance points, but it allows aircraft with little range to still stay in the game for meaningful periods. Likewise, secondary weapons were abbreviated into roughly "pairs" and "bomb loads," so instead of tracking every single missile on all 4 pylons of every Lightning, you simply have 2 slots, or 2 wing pairs for missiles, which act like barrages.
I've been looking at games like these as much as possible without seeking out and buying expensive out of print sets, but the common theme is that many of them are nowhere near the scale I'm gunning for. What I'm doing is something like Epic 40k for Aeronautica Imperialis, and since it's 'aircraft' that balloons the scale to continent-wide proportions. I've been trying to streamline the gameplay such that having 20 squadrons in the air at one time is no big deal, but your management of their skill, fuel and mission capabilities 'is'. And since every faction plays its own way, no one strategy will work all the time.