I fly against AI as I did for 20+ years. RoF is the first sim (excluding some arcade flight games) where I tried MP, but anyway I defeat every plane in Quick Mission before going against humans in the same a/c. (Not many places to go however. Most servers in the list show 1 or 2 players only. Shooting Stars is always full of planes, but most of them are bots.)
Boring doesn't mean wrong. Actually, most right things in this life are boring Flying to the mission area in non-Quick Missions is boring e.g,, even with max time compression. Pure head-on may be too risky, but when you attack from below, it works fine, at least with AI. Of course I know where to shoot, I turn aiming help on.
I'm not going to purchase anything. $45 for a new joystick was enough for my tight budget.
I'm "meh" on the rudder pedals, personally -- I used to have some, so I could practice what I'd done during RL flight training, and I found they simply didn't feel at all like the real deal, and for me (YMMV) it actually hampered learning proper RL rudder habits -- so, for sims, my old CH pedals went permanently in the closet. I've found the twist stick for rudder, while less immersive, is no less effective for me.
Now, regarding your attack strategy, there are a lot of guys that like "prop-hanging", and to some degree, it can be quite effective. That said, a good pilot who understands altitude and energy advantages is going to eat you alive, if you stay below - regularly.
The primary problem is one of energy - the higher guy has it, and if he understands what he's doing, he can bleed yours off with relative impunity.
Once that is accomplished, he'll be able to regularly get behind your 3-9 line and bounce you till you're dead ***.
In fact, that IS the recipe for BnZ - if you ever watch sparrows attack a crow - you'll see the perfect demonstration of BnZ. "Always above, Never below, Rarely at the same altitude" and "Against scouts (and crows), always attack from behind".
*** the reason for this, even against a more maneuverable plane is twofold - one he can turn at corner speed (ie. max performance turn), and he can also use the vertical to get favorable turning angles.