Battle of Britain is a remastered release of the TSR classic from 1990. This upgraded version takes mechanics and features of the original game and adds new features to create a new gaming experience, including new streamlined dogfighting and fuel rules, ace fighter squadrons and the ability to play shorter scenarios.
As a 2-player game, one player will command RAF Fighter Command while the other takes the role of the German Luftwaffe.
The RAF player will have to skillfully manage their few number of fighter squadrons to protect the English homeland by stopping the bombing of key cities, industrial resources, airfields and vital radar stations located along the coast.
The Luftwaffe player will command Luftflotte 2 and 3 located in Northern France and Luftlotte 5 in Norway and use their numerous bomber squadrons, protected by fighter squadrons consisting of mainly Messerschmidt 109’s, to complete a number of specific bombing missions to win the game.
In this Action Point, we will take a look at the two types of Attack available to the British defenders against the continual, seemingly never-ending waves of bombers in Interception and Dogfighting.
Once the German player has chosen their missions, either to bomb cities or radar stations, each Luftflotte will move across the English Channel and will have to cross over the coastline radar net to attempt to reach their targets. One of the most important advantages that the RAF has in the Battle of Britain was radar. The string of radar stations have the RAF early warning of incoming Luftwaffe raids and allowed the time needed to scramble fighters to attack the bombers before they could reach their targets.
Each radar station on the game board is attached to at least two different spaces. When a Luftwaffe flight enters one of the spaces in the radar line, a radar detection marker will be placed on the squadron’s flight box to remind players that the flight has been detected.
When a Luftwaffe flight enters a radar detection space for the first time, the RAF player will have to make a decision about what they are to do in response. They have at their disposal 5 interceptor/dogfight markers that have a dual use. If they wish to intercept, they must move one of their flights to the space with the Luftwaffe flight. The RAF flight can move their if it is located within three spaces of their location as they have a movement allowance of three spaces. Once they move into the same space as the Luftwaffe flight, they must place an Intercept marker. After placement of the marker, the Luftwaffe flight will have to stop its progress toward its mission. So the radar net not only acts as an early warning device but will hamper flights as they come into British airspace.
At the end of the Luftwaffe Movement Phase, all Intercepts will be played out as well as all Dogfights, which we haven’t covered just yet. The process is a bit unique and sees the German player take all of the squadron cards in that particular flight’s squadron card box. At the beginning of the game, there are 6 squadron cards in this box but as they take losses and continue on toward their mission this number can be reduced. If there are no cards left in the squadron box the mission is a failure and the British player will take the Mission card and will score 1VP at the end of the game for each failed mission.
At the start of the Intercept battle, the RAF player will draw 3 cards at random from the Luftwaffe player’s hand of squadron cards and then places these cards face up. The RAF player then takes their cards in the attacking flight’s squadron box and places them face up. Both players will then total up the dice for their side to roll in combat by adding up the numbers located in the dogfighting section of the card which is located in the upper left corner of each card. In the picture below, the 13th RAF squadron group contains three aircraft; a Defiant with 1 Dogfight die and 2 Spitfires with 4 Dogfight dice each for a total of 9 dice (1 Defiant + 4 Spitfire #1 + 4 Spitfire #2).
Pictured near the start of the post, you can see that the Luftflotte consists of only 1 poor fighter (a BF 1100) and two bombers (this is good for the RAF and bad for the Luftwaffe). The squadron has 2 JU 88’s with 1 Dogfight die each and a BF 1100 with 2 Dogfight dice for a total of 4 dice.
Players then roll their side’s dice (black for the Luftwaffe and white for the RAF) and total up the number of hits. For the Luftwaffe, Iron Crosses denote hits while Rondels denote hits for the RAF. If a player rolls his opponents symbol, it will count as a hit for them as this represents self inflicted wounds. You then total up the total number of hits for both sides. In our example, 5 Rondels were rolled and only 3 Iron Crosses. Both players then assess the hits to the aircraft using their red damage strength number shown in the bottom left side of the card.
The Luftwaffe player must lose at least two aircraft as he has to absorb 5 hits. Looking at the cards, he chooses to absorb 2 hits with the BF 1100 (2 damage strength) and 3 hits with one of the two JU 88’s for a total of 5 hits. If the RAF had rolled one more hit, all of the Luftwaffe planes would have been shot down as even one damage will destroy a plane in this deadliest of combat.
The RAF player has to absorb 3 hits and decides to take out one of the two Spifires. If only one less hit would have been scored, he would have only lost the weaker Defiant. Luftwaffe destroyed planes are placed in the damaged aircraft box on the game board. These planes are lost and cannot be replaced and will score 1VP each for the RAF player at the end of the game. Destroyed RAF squadron cards are placed in the damaged aircraft box on that Flight’s Group display. These can be repaired throughout the game and brought back into play (we will cover this aspect in Action Point 2).
After losses are taken, both players return any undamaged squadron cards to their flight’s squadron box. This concludes an Intercept Combat.
When the RAF player moves one of their Squadrons into a space with a German flight they may play an air combat marker with the Dogfight side face up. This form of combat is a bit less risky than Intercept Combat and can also bring greater rewards such as an Ace marker.
The process is much simpler than the Intercept process. Both players will select one card from all the available cards in the flight’s Squadron Box. Players will then determine the number of dice to roll based on the Dogfight strength in the upper left corner of the card. If the player has an Ace marker they will roll one additional die in the combat.
Players then roll their side’s dice (black for the Luftwaffe and white for the RAF) and total up the number of hits. Hits are determined and the winner of the Dogfight is the side that has the most hits. Remember, your opponent and you both can roll hits on your dice for them.
If the number of hits equals or exceeds the losing player’s damage strength, it is shot down. The winner of the Dogfight will continue using their winning squadron card and randomly draw a card from their opponents hand to fight. If either player wins two battles in a row it will be given an Ace marker and one additional die will be rolled in future dogfights. If this unit survives to the end of the game, the owning player will score 1VP for each such Ace. If neither side wins a combat, meaning the number of hits was tied, these squadrons will be placed back in their squadron boxes and no damage is taken.
In the example pictured below, the Hurricane will roll 3 dice while the JU 88 will roll only 1 die. This reflects the advantages in dogfighting of a fighter versus a bomber and will most likely end in a British victory but it will be tough to destroy the JU 88 as it has a damage strength of 3.
This process will continue until one side or both has no more squadron cards to fight. As you can see, aerial combat can be brutal but is necessary to either stop your opponent as the RAF or to succeed at the missions assigned to the Luftwaffe.
In our next Action Point, we will examine the British Production & Repair Phase as well as a Luftwaffe Bombing Run Phase.