We really like air war games here at The Players’ Aid and one that is focused on World War II is even better in our eyes. Last year, there was a Kickstarter for a new air war game that took place in the Pacific Theater of World War II called Fighters of the Pacific from Capsicum Games. We missed out on the Kickstarter but once it was available in retail we jumped on the base game and played it recently and really had a great time with it as it is simple, rules lite but very interesting and creates a very unique experience with a reliance on maneuver and positioning versus the luck of dice rolling to come out on top of combat. After that play, we became aware of the next entry in the series called Fighters of Europe and it is now being offered on Kickstarter. We reached out to one of the codesigners Didier Dincher to see if he could provide us with some information on the upcoming game.
If you are interested in Fighters of Europe from Capsicum Games, you can back the project on the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/338597945/fighters-of-europe
Grant: How have you felt about the success of your first Kickstarter Fighters of the Pacific?
Didier: I’m very happy, because after years of development, it’s great to see that other players like your game too. You never know before you release it. It’s also liberating, because we were not expected to make this kind of game, and we started from nothing in terms of notoriety.
Grant: How has that success encouraged you to expand the series?
Didier: Once we saw that the players were happy with the system, and that our design was resonating with players, it was time to tackle a more difficult topic, but one that could draw others into the adventure. Europe is a challenge because the range is wider, both geographically but also because there are more countries involved and we have options to use a greater amount of different missions.
Grant: What lessons did you learn that you hope to implement in your upcoming campaign?
Didier: People are really fans and military aviation history buffs. Therefore, they are very quick to find out what is not correct enough with a drawing, an aircraft profile, or a scenario. In fact, it’s a fantastic opportunity for the game as it really provides us with an inexhaustible source of inspiration and knowledge. I intend to listen to them carefully and we are ready to adapt and change a lot of things to make the game meet their expectations even better.
Grant: What is your new Kickstarter Fighters of Europe about?
Didier: It’s hours of intense and frenetic wargaming, with dozens of planes on a board to simulate WWII air battles in Western Europe.
Same system as before (Fighters of the Pacific), but with new planes, and a new front. This is a stand-alone game about the Battle of Britain that you can extend by purchasing expansions to include the Battle of France and up to 1945 with the Defense of the Reich.
Grant: What have you had to change in the system for the European Theater of World War II?
Didier: That is the great thing with this system. Nothing needed to be changed, except for the additional aircraft models of course. This system is very flexible and can be changed by just adding in new models of aircraft with new Traits.
Grant: What from the history of the air war in Europe did you need to include in the design?
Didier: In term of rules, only a few new Traits were required to represent technologies or capabilities that were not met in the Pacific Theater.
In terms of level design, it is difficult to capture the variety of aircraft and combat from 1939 to 1945. As we did in the Pacific by focusing on the year 1942, what represents the most air combat on the Western Front in our memory? For us, it is first of all the Battle of Britain, because of its strategic consequences, then the defense of the Reich, which conveys many typical images of the war, and finally we wanted to highlight the Battle of France, which was not exempt from thrilling situations and heroic battles.
Grant: What is the anatomy of the fighter aircraft counters? What is the difference between high and low altitude sides?
Didier: Each counter represents a plane, with a direction and an altitude. One side represents the plane at low altitude (on a green background), the other side represents the plane at high altitude (on a white background (clouds)). There are only two altitudes in this system, with no interaction between them. Changing altitude is a maneuver. Players simply flip the token to represent the change.
Grant: What different types of planes are represented in the game?
Didier: The variety of roles and missions of airplanes during WWII is wide. You’ll find mostly Fighters and Bombers of course, but also ground attack aircraft.
The core game focuses on the Battle of Britain with Hurricanes and Spitfires on the allied side and Bf109’s, He111’s and Ju88’s on the German side.
For the Battle of France though we have two French fighters, the Dewoitine D.520 (the best one) and the Morane Saulnier MS.406 (the most numerous), and a bomber the Leo451, (relatively modern and effective). For the Germans we add the infamous Junker Ju87 “Stuka”, the very appreciated Messerschmidt Bf110 and the bomber Dornier Do17.
Finally in the Defense of the Reich, you’ll find P-51 Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt protecting B-17 flying fortress from German Folke Wulf FW190 and Messerschnmidt Me262.
So a wide range of aircraft and possible gameplay.
Grant: What research did you do to get each planes specifications and performance correct?
Didier: We used several sources, on the internet, in books or magazines. The planes of the Second World War are very well documented.
There are three types of estimates: the direct ones (speed, type and position of the guns). They are easy, even if the speed can be subject to discussion when you are at the limit between two levels. And there are the non-direct estimates. Agility, armor, etc… this is mostly based on contemporary descriptions. For example, we don’t have a direct measure of agility, but the Zero and Spitfire are always described as such, relative to their opponent.
Finally, a third and last aspect comes into play: the relationship with other aircraft. It’s a kind of balance, or to create a special gameplay that will simulate what we think it could have been.
Grant: What different attributes are tracked across the different aircraft?
Didier: Speed (from 2 to 5), Armor (from 2 to 4) and Field of Fire are for all aircraft.
Then each one may have some additional Traits. Most of them are positive attributes (20mm gun, Agile, Good Climber), some are negative (Poor Handling, Low Ammo), some are just saying what kind of ground attack you can perform (Level Bomber, Dive Bomber).
Grant: What new special abilities have been introduced?
Didier: Heavy Gun is a new Trait introduced to represent the 30mm gun or the combination of several effective 20mm guns installed on certain airplane at the end of the war. It makes more damage than the 20mm gun Trait.
Rockets is also a new kind of equipment, usable only one time. It creates a tremendous amount of damage but needs an accurate targeting.
Good Diver is also a new Trait to represent the characteristic of some planes and create new tactics.
Grant: Can you tell us about a few different types of planes and explain their relative strengths and weaknesses?
Didier: The typical duel is between Spitfires and Bf109’s, the two iconic fighters of the Battle of Britain. In the game, they both have the same Speed (3) and Armor (2), the difference is that the Spitfire is Agile, while the Bf109 has a 20mm gun.
This duel is very interesting. The German can kill a spitfire in one shot if well placed, while the spitfire will always have the upper hand in maneuvers. We really do love this matchup!
Grant: With no dice in the game how are dodge and fire resolved?
Didier: At the end of its movement, if an airplane put an enemy airplane in its Field of Fire, it engages it and starts shooting. If the targeted airplane has not been activated yet (i.e. it has not moved yet this turn), it can dodge using one movement point, escaping the attack, but cannot be activated further this turn. It used all its potential to dodge the attack.
If it has already been activated (i.e. been moved this turn), it has no “combat potential” anymore. It is not able to dodge enough and takes one damage.
You shouldn’t see it as if a plane that shoots hits every time, no. It means that a plane that attacks another one in a weak position, reduces its combat potential until it is out of combat. For example, when a plane attacks another that is dodging, it is in fact full of missed shots, rolls, etc…
Grant: Why did you feel a dice-less system would work best for the design?
Didier: First, it’s a change from the other games in the category. Then the decisions of the players have direct and indisputable consequences. I find it rather pleasant. The game is about maneuver and the better players are at using their plane’s attributes and taking advantage of the option to pass through the initiative, the better they will do at the game.
Grant: What is the concept of Handicap and what does it represent?
Didier: The Handicap represents the level of disorganization and loss of “combat potential” of each side. In my opinion, this is a very important element to take into account in a wargame. Handicap is really about how well the forces of one side can communicate and coordinate their actions.
Grant: How does Handicap effect initiative?
Didier: The player with the least amount of Handicap at the beginning of the turn gets the initiative for the whole turn. They have enough combat potential to react accordingly to their opponent, and are in better formation and proximity to each other, giving them a certain advantage.
Grant: How are bombs used to destroy ground installations? How does antiaircraft protect these ground targets?
Didier: An aircraft with the Bomber Trait only needs to maneuver straight ahead twice in a row at low altitude. It can then drop its bomb on one of the hexes it entered. The anti-aircraft gun can be activated as an air group to fire at a target within its range (all adjacent hexes at low altitude), but it can also perform a barrage, at the beginning of the turn, up to two hexes away, at high altitude. These antiaircraft in essence creates obstacles in the airspace around a target making it more difficult to maneuver in position to drop those bombs without being hit or destroyed.
Grant: What scenarios are included?
Didier: There are 10 scenarios in the Core game plus 5 included in each of the expansions (Battle of France and Defense of the Reich).
Example of scenarios can be found in the demo scenario book available on the web.
Grant: What expansions are included in the campaign?
Didier: We introduce 2 different theaters including Battle of France and Defense of the Reich.
The first one is quite unknown and deserve to be adressed I think. It is also the opportunity to increase the type of plane involved in the core game (Battle of Britain).
The second one is a very different era and gameplay with huge aircraft like the B-17 Flying Fortress and the very fast and heavily armed Me262.
The campaign will also unlock new planes and new scenarios, but mostly around these two theaters.
Grant: What are you most pleased with about the design?
Didier: The initiative system and all what results from it in the game play. And during the design it is when we test a new plane and when its profile generates well what we think it should do during the fight.
Grant: What has been the experience of your playtesters?
Didier: Very creative. Most of them were experimented players from Fighters of the Pacific so they knew the system and how it could work. Their feedback was then very accurate because of their experience but also very brutally honest, but always very constructive.
Grant: What different stretch goals are included in the campaign?
Didier: Lots of new planes and new scenarios. I think it’s nice to have your own favorite model. It is a kind of a collection of sorts. Such a collection couldn’t be distributed normally, we are not big enough for that, but the Kickstarter campaign allows us to do that.
Grant: When do you expect the game to fulfill?
Didier: April 2024. Except if there is another pandemic between now and then.
Grant: What theaters of WWII might future expansions to the system cover? Have you considered other wars?
Didier: In my mind, Fighters of WWII should be a trilogy: Pacific / Europe / Russia, with maybe a small “step” into the Mediterranean Theater. However, I must admit that my knowledge is not adequate at this point to develop this. I’ll need some help. And the layers must also be at the rendezvous. All depends on the success of the first two entries in the series.
Thanks for the great look inside the game Didier. I think that this one looks really interesting and keeps the mechanics simple to allow for the players to have a good time interacting with the scenarios and trying out different tactics and strategies. I very much look forward to playing this one when it is complete.
If you are interested in Fighters of Europe, you can back the project on the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/338597945/fighters-of-europe