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Thursday, 18 August 2016

One Hour over Munich (1944): WWII air battle

We took to the skies to give another airing to Bruce's evolving "Action This Day" WWII air battle rules. The main aim was to see if a ruleset that started out to do Battle of Britain on a large scale would translate to the late war strategic bombing campaign over Germany.

Four years ago, when I was tinkering with a scale-up of the CY6! air combat rules, I wrote a scenario called "One Hour Over Munich" about the raid of 24 April 1944. This was one of the last times the Luftwaffe was able to inflict over 10% casualties on US bombers. It pits about 300 B-17s and 100 Mustangs against 200 assorted German fighters. It's a proper battle.

My fleet of 1/600 Tumbling Dice planes. Alert observers will spot that most of these "B-17s" are actually B-24s. Pedantry apart, it was still quite an impressive sight (even if some of these formations look a bit shaky). Swarms of Germans are about to arrive at top of picture.

Bruce took this scenario and adapted it to his rules - a very simple job, as it turned out - and he umpired while four of us flew the planes. As it was the first time the other guys had played ATD, Bruce gave a very full rules briefing, so we only got in two hours of actual play. In that time we got through half the game, which given unfamiliar rules and the size of the scenario is actually pretty good. Most likely if we ran it again we could complete it in a 3-hour evening.

The game gave a really good feel for the combat. The German players were daunted by the sheer numbers of B-17s and the difficulty of bringing them down. As for us Yanks, until our fighter escort showed up there was a lot of gritting our teeth and taking our lumps. The ruleset did a great job of stripping away the rules clutter and technicalities that often encumber air games, letting us as players take the role of wing commanders or generals in operations rooms on the ground, trying to direct our squadrons to where we guessed they would be needed. The interactions of the different classes of aircraft and their roles, especially German light and heavy fighters, were brought out nicely and gave us scope for tactical decisions that mattered in what seemed like a realistic way.

The game confirmed that the rules translate comfortably from early war to late war. Bruce is threatening to take us back to 1940 for a big game of "Battle of Britain Day: The Morning Attack". I hope and expect that a full BoB campaign will follow.

And then when that's done, I have lots of big fat books about the air war over Hungary; and about Eastern Front air battles; and then I suppose there's the Western Desert, and carrier battles in the Pacific ...

ATD is developing very promisingly as a game that is both realistic and fun. As one of our party said: "I really hate air games, but Bruce may have achieved the impossible and made me take a 2nd look at air warfare".