These postal rules were adapted by Tom Tweedy from the original board game. Small amendments have been made by a number of GMs (gamesmasters) to facilitate postal play. This edition is by Keith Thomasson, based on Dave Tant's edition of 10th October 1994. Not all postal games of Sopwith will use these exact rules.
The game takes place on a hexagonal playing area made up of smaller hexagons. The total area is ten hexagons on a side. Games normally consist of six pilots, each of whom starts from an airfield located in one of the six corners of the playing area. Each plane starts the game with 16 ammunition points, 12 damage points and zero victory points.
To win a game you must be the last pilot left in the game.
Each 'turn' is divided into three 'moves'. Pilots may order their planes to perform one of the following in each move. Examples of these moves are shown on the sample playing area (sample here). In the examples, the starting position of the plane is shown in green, the final position is shown in red.
|A||Plane moves ahead one hex.|
|0||Plane does not move, but see No Moves Note below.|
|LT||Plane turns left by 60? and moves ahead one hex.|
|RT||Plane turns right by 60? and moves ahead one hex.|
|LS||Plane performs a left slip, moving into the hex ahead and to the left, retaining its original facing.|
|RS||Plane performs a right slip, moving into the hex ahead and to the right, retaining its original heading.|
|I||Plane performs an Immelman turn. This move is only available to Aces. The plane moves forward one hex and turns to face in the opposite direction.|
Planes MUST make some movement to avoid stalling, so the '0' move cannot be the first move in any turn, and if it is the second move, it MUST also be the third!
Taking off and landing involves taxiing along your airstrip. Each airfield has three airstrips and to take off you must tell the GM which to use. They are called Alpha, Beta, and yes, you've guessed, Gamma. Beta is the one leading towards the centre of the board and, relative to that, Alpha is on the left and gamma is on the right, from the point of view of someone standing on the airfield looking towards the centre of the playing area.
In order to take off you must order 'A'; 'A' to taxi along the selected airstrip. Your wheels then leave the ground and the third move may be any of those listed above, except '0'.
Conversely, in order to land you must line yourself up with the end of one of your OWN airstrips (you may NOT land on anyone else's) and order 'A' for two moves in succession over the airstrip. These two moves may overlaps two turns if necessary. Note that to land, you MUST tell the GM before you reach the end of the airstrip, and you CANNOT then change your mind!
When you land your plane, you MUST stay on the ground until the next turn, even if the landing manoeuvre is completed before the end of the turn. During that time the ground crew hastily re-arm your plane, and you can take off in the next turn with a full 16 ammunition points again. No damage is repaired. However, you can take the risk of staying on the ground. For every FULL turn you elect to do so, two points of damage are repaired. Your plane can never go above the original 12 damage points.
Providing you have sufficient ammunition left, you may fire up to three bursts in any one turn, spread over the three moves in any way you wish, except that you may not fire in the same direction more than once in any one move.
Note that planes on the ground may be fired at in the normal way, but may not fire back. This also applies to planes taking off or landing. They may be shot at, but may not fire back while their wheels are touching the ground.
Firing may be in a choice of three directions: 'A', 'R' and 'L'. 'A' is obviously ahead, while 'R' and 'L' correspond to the hexes you would turn or slip into. A burst of fire uses one ammunition point and inflicts damage as listed below. Note that all opponents within range in the appropriate direction are hit, even if two are in the same hex or one is hiding behind another. There is an exception to this, in that you cannot fire into or through clouds, so targets in or behind clouds will not be hit. Note the prohibition against firing more than one burst in the same direction in the same MOVE. Thus, firing 'A' in each of the three moves of one turn would be legal, as would firing 'A+R+L' in a single move. However, 'A+A+A' in the same move would not be legal!
Aces get an advantage in firing, as shown in the table. They do one more point of damage at each range and can also score hits at a range of five.
When zero damage points is reached (or passed) a plane crashes. A damage point can also be lost by flying through a cloud (those planes were FRAIL, and probably weren't called 'kites' for nothing).
Clouds are placed randomly on the board at the start. They should be at least one hexagon away from any of the airstrips. The exact number and shape of clouds is up to the GM. Some sample clouds are shown here. It is suggested that there be between 20 and 23 hexes of clouds at the start of the game.
Clouds are blown one hex in a randomly chosen direction at the end of every Turn. Planes take one point of damage if they move into or remain inside a cloud. Having a cloud moved onto your plane in between turns will not do any damage, but failing to fly clear will. Clouds or parts of clouds that move off the playing area do not reappear, even if the cloud moves back onto the playing area.
There can be an advantage to flying into a cloud, however. A plane in a cloud cannot be hit, but on the other hand, it CAN fire out!
Victory points are awarded for the following events.
|point||for each point of Damage scored on an opponent|
|5 points||for shooting a plane down|
|10 points||for shooting down an Ace|
|5 points||for winning a game (i.e. being the last pilot left in the game)|
|-5 points||for being shot down or crashing|
|-10 points||for being shot down or crashing if you are an Ace|
The qualifying mark for gaining Ace status is 40 points. Whether you become an Ace as soon as your score reaches 40 points depends on your referee. Most people do not allow you to gain Ace status while in the middle of a game.
If a pilot's last damage point is removed by a cloud, he still loses 5 (or 10) victory points, but no-one gets the points for shooting them down.
Planes may also crash by flying 'off the playing area', usually by failing to send in orders (NMRing). If this happens, any damage points they may have had left are divided up amongst the survivors as victory points, rounded up to give a whole number each. The culprit still loses his 5 (or 10) points. It is traditionally considered as 'unsporting' to deliberately fly off the board so as to prevent an opponent getting a 'certain kill'.
Note that the finishing positions are not based on the number of victory points gained, but the order in which pilots leave the game. The first pilot to be shot down or crash will be sixth, the last pilot left in the game will be first. Pilots who leave the game in the same turn and move will share a position, irrespective of the number of points each has gained.
If a pilot NMRs, their plane will fly straight ahead, without landing or firing, until they either resume sending orders, crashes or is shot down. GMs should therefore refrain from dumping pilots from the game after too many NMRs (saying they've crashed, for instance), as they should be left flying peacefully, straight and narrow, for the others to blast to bits.