Skies Above the Reich AAR #1

Hello and welcome to Aerial Combat Theatre. I am your host, Kolbex. Today I’ll be talking a little bit about Skies Above the Reich, a new solitaire wargame from GMT. In Skies Above the Reich, you are put in the role of a Staffelkapitän of a group of Bf109 pilots (with occasional supporting planes of other types) during World War II, tasked with, as the subtitle of the game goes, “breaking the combat box,” the deadly, mutually supporting bomber formation that the US settled on to protect their heavy bombers from fighter aircraft. I received the game yesterday from GMT, and today I set it up to see what was what, taking about an hour and a half to get everything situated, get my campaign started and the first mission set up and then to take the first couple of turns. How did it go? I think you will see that so far it has gone extremely badly.

Not because the game is bad. Oh, no, I am looking forward to getting it all set up again already. It is pretty ideal for my situation, that situation being having a couple of cats that absolutely preclude leaving any kind of board game setup long term. The game is played in campaigns, and each campaign is composed of a number of missions. Each mission takes place on one of the four included boards, and consists of a variable number of turns. There are even few enough bits involved that I believe it’ll be easy to break between turns and set up again, although that may only be because of the simplicity of my first mission. Time will tell.

So, let’s begin.

I decided to start with the basic game. The advanced game contains a whole separate “pursuit” board (actually four depending on year), which isn’t mounted like the others but is just a sheet of paper with a bomber on it. I haven’t looked into it very deeply, but I gather that this separate pursuit phase is something that takes place once a bomber has been knocked out of formation, something that historically I guess resulted in the highest number of kills. Given how my game has gone so far, I don’t find that hard to believe. In the basic game, however, once a bomber is knocked out of formation, poof, it’s just gone and you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

I also decided to start with the 1942 “season”. You have a few choices: 1942 and 1945 are handled monolithically, while 1943 and 1944 are broken down into phases: “early,” “middle,” “late,” that sort of thing. The 1942 season is the shortest and easiest, a kind of introductory season, although you can play all the way through from 1942 to 1945 in a great big full-war campaign. Maybe someday.

Let’s get started with that first mission! Being early in the war, at least as far as this game is concerned, my forces consist of 6 experten (“aces”). Each one comes with a particular skill from a set of four. Pulling chits from a cup, I get two who have Luck, two with Timing and two with the Break Anywhere skill, which it just occurred to me that I neglected to use. Next time!

Each campaign is recorded on a sheet from a pad included with the game (there’s a PDF on BGG, too, so you can print out more), with the pilot names, their skills, any experience points, etc., and the back side records the missions, how many kills and so forth. You roll on a little table to determine which board you’ll use, what sort of mission it is (inbound, outbound, near target) and how many escorts the formation has, and when they enter the picture.

For this mission, I rolled board #1, which represents a pair of formations from before the “combat box” had really become a settled thing. The designers’ intent was to make the combat box function as a kind of hostile terrain that the fighters of your staffel will have to navigate. I can tell you that it is very hostile, indeed. Mission is outbound, meaning the formation is being intercepted by us on its way back from bombing whatever it was they bombed. I got a light fighter (Spitfires, at this stage of the war) escort which enters on turn 6 (meaning the fighters didn’t accompany the bombers to their target but will link up on the way home, while I am harassing the formation), sun is in the high 8-10 o’clock flank (which can affect whether or not you get hit from attacking from/retreating to that space), and of the two formations on this somewhat special map, I rolled formation B. First visual:

The situation in the above shot is towards the end of turn 2, since turn 1 consisted only of my fighters entering (all low, as the rules state) the field, and a cohesion check for the bomber formation, since in the pre-mission setup the formation suffered some damage. You can see the “top” bomber has one point of damage (it takes 10 to destroy a B-17), and the bottom one has “fallen out,” which applies a modifier to the lethality of the spaces that surrounded it. So there are only four bombers. It’s enough.

My six fighters, eager for action, have all chosen their attack vectors. Since you start low, you attack from the low approach boxes, unless you spend tactical points to move higher first. You can see on the turn track on the right side that I have 4 tactical points for this mission (determined by yet another roll). The attacks: two from the nose, two from the tail, one from each side. This bomber won’t know what hit it! Another cohesion check on the formation does nothing much.

Now, the Attack phase. This is what we’ve been waiting for!

Fighters in position, ok let’s go through the Attack procedure and…collision check? What? Oh god, since there are two fighters in both the nose and tail spaces, I have to pull a couple of “proximity” chits and apply them to the fighters. Some are automatically “no collision,” and some have numbers. I pull a 2 for both groups. Now, according to the procedure, you roll, and if the result is lower than the number on the chit, there’s a collision, which I have to admit sounds pretty Not Good. Ok, rolled an 8 for the Nose group, cool, and a…1…for the Tail group. Well. Now you roll again, and an even result means the fighter collided with the bomber in its space. Otherwise it collides with the other fighter. I rolled a 3. So, Mission 1, Turn 2, Ademeit and Bauer are gone, having collided with each other in their lust for glory. One third of my staffel is now KIA. On the first mission. On the first real turn. This is going, uh, great.

Since two of my fighters (the Nose group, since the Tail group is…dead) attacked from the same vector and altitude, I get a “Rotte” bonus, which allows a fighter attacking the element (a group of bombers, and remember this map has only one) to avoid a “hit” result, which will be semi-important later on. Maybe. Next up, choosing maneuvers for each fighter. The maneuver determines to which “side” of the board they will go after they make their passage through the element. Climbs and dives gain and lose altitude respectively and go straight across to the other side from the side they came from, and rolls allow you to make a 90 degree turn either way (also with climbs and dives). I make choices that will see one of my remaining fighters on each side of the board to hopefully avoid any more disastrous collision checks, although I could have just sent them after separate bombers, too.

The game comes with four decks of “attack” cards (you can see one of these cards in the image below): Nose, Tail, Oblique and the inaccurately innocuous-sounding “Continuing Fire” deck. You draw a card for each fighter depending on which side of the board it came from, then chose the column based on the “Lethal Level” of the space it’s in (e.g. Clade’s space in the image above is a 2), then cross-reference that with the row corresponding to the altitude the attack was made from (everybody in this turn is Low), then apply the result in the corresponding space not so fast there are two, depending on whether your fighter is in the Determined or Evasive mode, chosen at the beginning of each Attack phase I think. It’s all going a bit hazy now. Determined fighters are more likely to do damage and Evasive fighters are less likely to be damaged. Based on all of that, my four fighters manage to score two hits to the bomber, both of which turn out to be (after chit pulls) 1 damage hits to the fuselage with no chance of a “catastrophic” result (which can cause a bomber to fall out or just straight up explode). So, out of four bombers, one has taken a cumulative total of 3 damage. Out of the 10 required to destroy it. And I’ve lost 2 fighters of my 6 total.

I also spent my Rotte advantage to avoid a hit that went along with my hit result for the one fighter. Yes, you can get hit making your attack, and also while you’re moving away, which coincidentally is what happens next. This is where the Continuing Fire deck comes in. All of my attack cards also contained a “pass through” result, which means the fighter moves the number of spaces on the card in accordance with the maneuver selected, so a climb moves from, e.g. nose to tail, a climb roll that was pointing to the right from top flank to nose, etc. So everybody played musical airs (hehe) around the bomber and ended up in different spaces after their attacks. With different lethal levels from the spaces they’d left, and now we draw Continuing Fire cards. These are simpler than the attack cards, because they just have the lethal level and that’s what happens (well, also Determined or Evasive). On their way out, three of my fighters take hits: CLade to the cockpit, Frieling to the fuselage and Grimm to the elevator. How bad are these hits? Good question! We won’t find out until the Recovery phase next turn, which comes before Attack. The hits could be trivial, in which case nothing happens, or Serious, in which case the fighter is moved to one of the ominously-named “Fate” boxes on the big card to the right of the board.

So now the Attack is done and my fighters all move off to the sections of the board that their maneuvers dictate, to await the next turn, and oh god this is going so badly already, and the escorts haven’t even shown up yet.



Back home early for ersatz coffee and medals…

This is awesome!!!

I wish I had enough room to set up a solitaire game here at home.

I put it on a 3 foot by 3 foot card table and had room enough left over for the rules and some small plastic boxes I was using as cat barriers. Aside from the board and the turn card in the top picture, the only requisite equipment to run a mission is a couple cups for chit pulls and space for four decks of cards. Between missions you can pack it completely away and lose nothing in terms of setup, since each mission is a new situation.

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Enough talk about tables please. We all want to know more about your success in breaking the box

So far the box is breaking me, but I’ll try to get another turn in tomorrow. The designers say that once you’re familiar with the rules a single mission (without stopping to take notes/pictures, of course) should take half an hour to an hour. I assume that does not include using the pursuit rules.

Welcome back. When last we left our staffel, two of its six pilots had died, and three of the remaining pilots had sustained hits to their aircraft on the sole attack run they’d made against the bomber formation. Will they succumb to these assaults upon their person? Stay tuned.

Turn 3: Recovery
Being in the Return boxes of the board, the only action any of my pilots can take is Recovery, which takes place a few phases down the line, or Exit. Dahl, whom you may remember is Out of Ammo after the attack run thanks to his draw from the attack deck, but being undamaged, exits the mission, his ability to do anything from here on out being pretty much zero. Best not to hang around and die, then.

As for the other three, they are prevented from exiting by their hit markers, which are resolved during the recovery phase. For each hit on each fighter, you roll the included d10. If the result is greater than or equal to the number on the hit marker, the hit is trivial and they shrug it off. If, however, it is under, bad things happen. Frieling rolls a 6, and his hit is trivial. Clade rolls a 3, meaning his cockpit hit is serious, so he is moved to the appropriate Fate Box on the card. Grimm likewise rolls a 3, meaning his elevator hit is serious, and he likewise shuffles off to the corresponding Fate Box. On the bright side, the bomber element fails its cohesion check (add up all the markers assigned to the element, like damage markers and Fallen Out or Destroyed markers, roll a d10, and if the roll is under the number of markers the formation suffers a loss of cohesion, otherwise it may gain cohesion) and goes to Element Loose, which imposes a blanket -1 penalty to its Lethal Level. The turn is now over.

Turn 4: One Last Pass
Frieling is the only fighter left on the board, everyone else either dead, gone home or in the process of trying to go home. He is filled with determination and decides to make one last pass at the bomber his compatriots paid so dear a price to damage so very little. He moves from the Return box to the High box on the 8-10 o’clock flank, which puts him in the sun. If you attack from the sun (or move into the sun during the Continuing Fire portion of the Attack phase) you can cancel one hit result against your fighter from the card pull. That can only help. The element once again fails its cohesion check, putting it at Kaputt (-2 to Lethal Level). Things are looking ever so slightly up.

Turn 5: For All the Marbles
Frieling moves to the High Oblique approach box, committing to the attack. The element passes its cohesion check (boo), moving back to Element Loose. Frieling moves to the Nose attack spot in front of the lead bomber once again. In the image below, you can see a couple of new components: the little sun marker on top of the fighter as a reminder that he attacked out of the sun as well as the blue altitude blocks, two as a reminder that he attacked from the High position.

He has also chosen the Evasive mode, having seen what became of the staffel’s gallant attempt at being Determined. This will force him, after the pass, to enter the Evasive Return box rather than the regular Return box, which would impose an additional turn’s worth of downtime before he could make another pass. Or it would if he didn’t have the Break Anywhere experten skill, which allows you to do precisely what it says, which will come in handy in just a bit. He’s also chosen a dive roll toward the 2-4 o’clock flank as his maneuver, although this will prove to be irrelevant. Regardless. Approaching from the front, with the Element Loose penalty against the bombers, the Lethal Level is 0. The result from the Nose deck card for 0/High is Pass Through 1. No hits on either side. Bummer. Rather than pass to the top side (as viewed from our position looking at the board), he chooses to invoke Break Anywhere, which allows him to skip Continuing Fire and just go to a Return box, any one he chooses. This fight is over, now. He could get another pass in, but next turn the escorts will arrive, and there is only one of him, so on Turn 6 he wisely chooses to live to fight another day and exits. The mission is over.

Now it’s time to resolve the Fates of Clade and Grimm. Clade rolls a 7 for his landing check and crashes. This prompts another roll, which is a 6, meaning he bails out but is wounded. He gains 1 experience point for surviving. Wounded means that before the next mission, if I roll a 9 or 10 he is back in action and can go on the mission. Any other result means he’s still cooling his heels in the infirmary, flirting with the nurses, no doubt. Grimm rolls a 9 for his Fate and lands, earning himself 1 EP in the process, which seems slightly unfair since he managed to bring his machine home. Regardless. Three lost planes means -3 Operations Points for next missions. I didn’t really go into that, but Operations Points are how you assign equipment to missions. For the first mission I had 6 OP and nothing to spend it on except for 6 Bf109s, which cost 1 OP each, so that was that. OP do not carry over from mission to mission. Next time I might be a little understaffed.

Below you can see my pilot roster. In accordance with the rules, I have crossed out the dead pilots’ names and replaced them with names of my choosing, sticking with the letters they originally had (I got them from a Wikipedia list of German surnames). So, Auerbach and Bachmann (I guess I just really like “bach”) join the staffel, and as replacement pilots they are both green, which means they get a Green penalty. Auerbach has “Zeal,” which means he must choose Determined as his mode rather than Evasive, and Bachmann gets Erratic, which means I have to spend 1 TP (tactics point, recall) for him during the Break Away phase (which comes after continuing fire and is how fighters get back to the edge of the board to make another run), or he immediately exits. That seems pretty harsh! I could at this time choose to replace Clade, my wounded warrior, as well, but you have to be careful with that sort of thing. I would get a sixth pilot immediately ready to go on a mission rather than having to roll for a wounded one, but he would also be green rather than an experte, and also if you lose a replacement pilot, that’s it, they can’t be replaced.

So, that’s the first mission over. The campaign is going to be a tough one, and at least this time around I’m not even going to use the optional “Staffel Erosion Table” rule, which simulates losses due to other types of missions that a staffel would have flown besides bomber formation attacks, and which the designers promise will, “make your campaign harder”. Not sure I need that at the moment. On my staffel record sheet, in the “Notes” column for this mission I have made the annotation, “total disaster,” which I think sums it up rather well.

So, that’s it for Mission #1! So far, I am really, really enjoying the game. It’s quick to set up, quick to tear down, it’s got a lot of flavor and I think there’s a really good decision space and also a great sense of narrative. Tune in next time to see how many more pilots I can get killed!


Sneak preview: Mission 2 went…ok.

The mood in the staffel was grim following the last mission. Two pilots dead, one wounded, and the next mission sure to be tougher. A few days later the mission was handed down, and sure enough it would make the first one, on paper at least, look like a milk run:

Map: 2 (a full-bore combat box this time, no more fooling about with lesser formations)
Mission Type: Outbound (Again! Ugh. Outbound missions tradeoff a little operation security at the beginning of the mission for less chance of scoring, because [again, in the basic game] fallen out or destroyed bombers are worth 2 VPs on an Inbound mission, but only 1 on Outbound or Near Target missions. Near Target, I suppose, forces the bombers to contend with flak in addition to your own ministrations)
Operations Points: 6 (I erroneously thought I had to subtract 3 OPs from this, although a post-mission reading of the rulebook revealed that your own fighters don’t count toward negative OPs when lost, only auxiliary fighters; so I unnecessarily handicapped myself by only fielding three fighters this mission)
Escort: L5S (light escort [5 planes], showing up on turn 5, Spitfires)

Clade remained unfit to fly, so Dahl, Frieling and Grimm were tapped to take on the mission. Upon arriving at the formation, the situation was as follows:

Damage: Three markers, all 1-point fuselage hits, got put down on separate bombers.
Anchored: Level & Low 8-10 (“Left” from here on) Flank. This is new for me this mission. Anchoring is intended to represent off-map elements of the formation assisting with the defense of elements shown on the map, presumably by filling the sky with so much lead the fighters are prevented from using those avenues of approach, because having an Anchored token in that box means your fighters cannot enter it.
Sun: None. Must have been an overcast day.
Tactical Points: 6
Flight Limit: 9 turns. The variable flight limit is intended to simulate conditions your fighters had to undergo to reach the formation. Maybe they had trouble getting into position, used more fuel, etc. Who knows. The thing is, this is the number of turns they can stay on station before having to turn for home.

Turn 1
Dahl enters the map on 2-4 (“Right”) Flank Low. Frieling enters Tail Low. Grimm enters Nose Low. As a reminder, all fighters always enter Low. First turn, all the can do is enter and size things up. This map has a few new features compared to the last one. Some of the spots, for one thing, are Lethal Level 4. Some get a +1 bonus to LL if their corresponding map side has any Anchored spots, which means I won’t be doing too many attacks from the Left Flank. Some get a +1 LL bonus if you approach from a certain altitude, e.g. Low. Lot to take in.

Turn 2
Might as well get on with the job of knocking down some bombers. Dahl moves Oblique Low Approach. Frieling moves Tail Low Approach, Grimm moves Nose Low Approach, and in the Attack phase they get moved onto the map like so (picture’s a bit fuzzy; this time I used my phone rather than my Fancy Camera):

I wanted them to gang up on one of the damaged bombers, however Frieling must approach from the Tail, and the space behind that flank bomber in the lead element that Dahl and Grimm are going after is LL 3, and worse is one of the +1 Low spaces, and Frieling definitely approached from Low, so he’s just going to try for one of the bombers in the trailing element. All go Evasive, having seen what sort of thing happens to the overly Determined last mission. This highlights how “Zeal,” one of the potential Green penalties of new recruits, is actually a drawback. Forcing a pilot to take the Determined mode is as good as a death sentence in certain, high-Lethal Level situations.

Maneuvers: Dahl roll dive to Nose, Frieling climb to Nose, Grimm climb to Tail.

Burst phase (Where the Action Happens): Frieling scores nothing on his bomber, doesn’t have to pass through or anything, just hangs out. Dahl gets a pass through 1 only. Grimm draws a hit on the bomber, which turns out to be a wing hit. The front side of some damage chits has an arrow (fallen out) or a “blast” mark (destroyed) and a number, and Grimm’s happens to be one of those. This means there’s a chance of a catastrophic hit here. If you roll (on the d10) equal to or higher than the number on the chit, the catastrophic thing happens, the bomber either falls our or is destroyed (in the basic game, these results are equivalent; in the Advanced game, fallen out bombers can be pursued, but only destroyed bombers give VPs). The number on Grimm’s chit is a 10, and I roll a 3. No dice, and the damage on the other side is only 1. During Continuing Fire, the bombers fail to score any hits on my fighters, but Grimm pulls a card that has the “Lucky Shot” text, which means on his way out of his attack run he, somehow, managed to score an extra hit on the enemy. Good result! It turns out, however, to be a somewhat underwhelming 1dmg fuselage hit. All three fighters move to their respective Evasive Return boxes. Here we see another drawback to being Evasive: due to the turn structure (which goes Move, Return, etc.), fighters must Return from wherever exactly it is they go after shooting before they can line up another attack run. They’re dodging, weaving, fighting for altitude, turning around to pursue the bombers (which after all are moving toward their goal at a couple of hundred miles an hour), etc. This takes time. So the turn after a run is essentially dead for the fighters. If you’re Evasive, it’s two turns, because you spend one whole turn going from the Evasive Return box to the normal Return box, too.

Turn 3
All three fighters move from Evasive Return to Return.

Turn 4
Dahl returns to Nose Low, Frieling to Nose High, and Grimm to Tail High.

Turn 5
Dahl moves Nose Low approach, Grimm Tail High.

Somehow I messed up here. Since Frieling was on the Nose side of the board, he should have had to approach from the front of the bomber, but instead I stuck him in the Right Flank High approach box, perhaps misreading the board which says I could move him to any Flank from the Nose high box for 0 TP. While I could do this, I couldn’t also move him into an Approach box on the same turn. Mea culpa, although I don’t think it would have changed things too much, although I would have had to spread he and Dahl out, bomber-wise, unless I wanted to chance another potential collision like last mission, an outcome I’m pretty wary of now.

During the escort phase, the Spitfires arrive:

They hang out in this area off the map until the Station Check subphase of the Escort phase moves them onto the formation map, which happens now; 1 fighter can move from each station each turn. This turn, one Spit moves Right Flank Level. Now he’ll hang out there until another one joins him, or until one of my fighters moves into or adjacent to his box, at which point he’ll give chase.

All three of my fighters gang up on that damaged bomber from last time. Grimm is chancing the LL 3 space in its rear because at least he doesn’t have to deal with the +1 LL, since it’s for Low approaches only and he’s coming from the High box. However, he goes Evasive just to be safe (uh…relatively speaking). The other two go Determined. For maneuvers, Grimm climbs (to Nose), Dahl climb rolls right (to Left Flank), Frieling climb rolls to Tail. Since two of my fighters attacked from separate directions AND altitudes (which is true even after my screw up, since Dahl came from Nose Low and Grimm from Tail High), I get the Advantage Position marker, which like the Rotte one from last mission will let me cancel one hit on my fighters in that element (which is all of them this turn).

The first card I draw is for Grimm, and it’s a hit! Draw a chit, and get another wing like last time, with a catastrophic destroyed 10 marking. Not expecting much, I roll the die and get a 10! So the bomber goes down just like that. Must have gotten a lucky hit on a gas tank with a tracer…or something, who knows! That’s 1 VP, the first for the staffel. You still pull cards for the other fighters who are attacking that bomber, because bombers didn’t necessarily do down instantly, and could be lethal even in their death throes. Time is somewhat flexible in Skies Above the Reich, reflecting the fluidity of the situation. Not every action follows mechanically after every other. Frieling’s card shows a hit on him, but I use the Advantage Position marker to cancel it. The card also had a Pass Through of 2, but use his Break Anywhere experte skill (once per mission) to avoid that, since it would put him in an LL 4 space for Continuing Fire, and send him off to the Tail Return box. That’s the situation in the image here:

Dahl also pulls a hit to his fighter, with Pass Through 1. Unable to cancel this hit, I draw him a chit, which is Fuselage 7. Ouch. Continuing Fire yields nothing. Grimm goes to Nose Evasive Return, Dahl to Right Flank Return.

Turn 6
Frieling Returns to High Tail, Grimm moves to the regular Nose Return box. Dahl, during the Recovery phase, rolls a 2 (remember, to make a hit trivial, you have to roll under the number on the chit). So the hit is serious and he goes to the Fuselage Fate box for the remainder of the mission, trying to get home in a busted ship. One Spitfire moves to Tail Low.

Turn 7
Frieling expends 1TP to move to Left Flank High (since it’ll give a more favorable position than the Tail for attacking another bomber in that element, which they are going to do because the destroyed bomber lowers the LL for the whole element by 1. Grimm returns to Nose High. One spit moves to the Above Trailing station from Below Trailing.

Turn 8
Frieling moves Left Flank High Oblique approach, Grimm moves Nose High Approach. One Spit moves Tail High from Below Trailing. The fighters both move in on the lead bomber of the lead element, both going Determined, and both climb rolling to stay away from the Tail (since there are now two escorts back there, and they will be impossible to avoid). Grimm deals 1dmg to the fuselage of the bomber, gets a pass through and moves on. Frieling takes a hit (cockpit 5) and also passes through a bit. Grimm’s Continuing Fire card contains the “Pull Away” text, forcing him to draw another card and also apply that result. Fortunately it’s nothing. Frieling gets “Friendly Fire,” which is much better than it sounds, referring to friendly fire among the bombers. Roll a die, and an even result means the bomber takes a hit, which turns out to be another wing hit, for 3 dmg with no catastrophic result (alas).

Turn 9
The last turn of the mission, this is just mopping up at this point. Grimm returns Left Flank High, Frieling makes his recovery roll, meaning the hit was trivial (just a scratch!), and one escort moves to Above Trailing. That done, the fighters turn for home.

Meanwhile, Dahl has been nursing his fighter homeward. Just before he reaches the airfield, it gives out, and he crashes. HOWEVER, he manages to bail out, emerging from the ordeal unscathed and earning himself an experience point. Grimm, as the pilot who scored the staffel’s so-far sole victory, is showered in both champagne and also two experience points, bringing him up to 3. Two more and he can buy another experte skill.

So that was Mission 2. All in all, much better result than Mission 1, despite the deadlier map and my unknowingly hamstringing myself with the -3 OPs. There are four missions left in 1942. To “not lose” I need to score 4 more VPs. To win I need to score 14 more. Needless to say, a daunting prospect.


New mission report tomorrow. I will preview it by saying I have phenomenally bad luck.


Makes for an entertaining read, though… :wink:

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I will preface this by saying I intended to use this mission as a showcase for the advanced rules, which mainly govern the Pursuit phase which takes place at the end of a mission and deals with the fates of bombers which have fallen out of the formation during normal play. I hope it won’t be too much of a spoiler to say that it, uh, never came up. Maybe next time. For a visual aid, please refer to the first image in the thread, since I didn’t take any pictures this time. Whereas that mission was against “Formation B” on Map 1, this one is against “Formation A” on the same map.

Following the previous mission, the mood in the staffel was cautiously optimistic. When the alarm was raised and the eight pilots chosen for the mission made contact with the formation and saw that they would only have to deal with a single, isolated element, they were filled with Grimm Determination, by which I mean they were determined to repeat Grimm’s victory from the last mission and even build on it.

The formation was intercepted on its way to the target, meaning they hadn’t yet had the chance to drop their bombs and thus headquarters would look twice as favorably on their elimination as otherwise. Their (light) escort was with them from the beginning and would not abandon their charges, even unto the bitter end. Very well, the Spitfires had proven no deterrent last time, so there was no reason to suspect they would make things any more difficult this time around. The sun was in the rear of the formation, and by the time interception was accomplished the fighters had enough fuel for about six, uh…turns.

Turn 1
Auerbach and Bachmann, the Green replacements for dear departed Ademeit and Bauer (both lost, you will recall, to a fatal midair collision in Mission 1), swung around to the Nose, while Dahl, Frieling, Grimm and Heller (my three active experte, since Clade remains stuck in the infirmary, along with one previously-unused veteran) elected to come from the Tail of the formation, with Johann and Kremler moving in from the Left Flank and Right Flank respectively. A classic double pincer move, or anyway that was the intention. As per the rules, all entered in the Low box of their respective board sides.

During the Escort phase, one Forward escort moved to the Above Trailing station, and one Below Trailing escort moved to Tail Low, smack on top of my big stack of four fighters. This triggered aerial combat, which entails flipping over the escort marker to reveal how many fighters there are. In this case, four, so my four BF109s tangled with an equal number of Spits. Since the escorts moved from Below Trailing, my fighters were automatically “higher” than them, and since there was an equal number of both, my fighters did not outnumber, so rolling and cross referencing on the aerial combat table resulted in 1 escort downed (assigned, randomly, to Dahl, who now has two experience points after getting one for bailing out last mission) but also, somewhat catastrophically, in the remaining fighters and escorts exiting, “exit” being the term of art in SatR for being out of play, removed from game, etc. Nobody’s dead, but they are no longer participating in this mission because by the time they finished playing around with the escorts, the formation was out of sight.

So that’s half my force gone, on Turn 1.

Turn 2
Undeterred by the faithlessness of their comrades, Auerbach and Bachmann move to the Nose Low Approach box to begin their attack runs, with Johann likewise moving to Left Flank Low Approach and Kremler to Right Flank Low Approach. The pincer is now smaller, but will nevertheless proceed! The escorts do a little bit of shuffling from station to station but don’t bounce my fighters again.

All the fighters move in to attack the “trailing” bomber of the element, the bottom one which was (very slightly) damaged in the lead up to the mission and which I have chosen to label (going from the top down) “Bomber 4” in the misguided assumption that more than one bomber would be attacked in this mission. So Auerbach and Bachmann go to the “front” space, with the others approaching from either side. Three of the four pilots choose Determined as their mode (although Auerbach doesn’t have a choice, since his Green penalty is Zeal, which forces Determined; no evasion for this scion of the Fatherland!), but Kremler goes Evasive, since his approach from the right flank will put him in a Lethal Level 2 spot.

Since both Auerbach and Bachmann are in the same space, this triggers a collision check, which given the outcome the only other time i have done this makes my heart beat a bit faster, but I pull an “E 1TP” chit, which means I can either pay 1TP to have the fighter to whom I give the chit (my choice) go immediately to either Tail Return box or the fighter instead exits. Bachmann, as a Greenie, has the “Erratic” penalty, which means during the Break Away sub-phase of the Attack phase I have to pay 1TP or have him exit, and since I only rolled 2TP for this mission, I seriously consider having him exit now, but having already lost half my force to escort shenanigans, I want to at least get a burst out of him, so I send him to the high Tail Return box. Since he was Determined, the chit stays on the formation for purposes of Cohesion checks later on. For maneuvers, Auerbach roll climbs toward the Tail, Johann roll dives toward the Tail and Kremler dives toward the Left Flank (I am here hoping to set up a Position Advantage, which requires two different fighters to approach the same element from different positions and elevations, although the timing is not going to work out, since I forgot to take the “turn penalty” for Evasive into consideration).

Auerbach scores a minor hit to the bomber on his pass (1 dmg to fuselage), gets hit in turn (Cockpit 6), and the card triggers a collision check, which results in No Impact; pass through 1). Johann doesn’t hit or get hit but also triggers a (No Impact) collision check with pass through 1. Kremler simply gets pass through 1. During continuing fire, the only thing of note that happens is that Auerbach pulls the Friendly Fire text which results in a 1 dmg hit to the bomber’s wing from one of its buddies. Thanks, American gunner!

Turn 3
Bachmann and Johann return to Tail High and Kremler returns from Evasive Return to Regular Old Return on the Left Flank, spending that extra turn to come around for another pass that Evasive gets you. Meanwhile the escorts shuffle a bit more in their stations outside the formation and Auerbach decides that the hit to his cockpit was trivial, since it doesn’t appear to have punctured any vital machinery, including himself.

Turn 4
Bachmann and Johann move to Tail Approach High while Auerbach returns to Left Flank High and Kremler returns to Left Flank Low. Bachmann and Johann attack Bomber 4 from the rear, earning themselves the Out of the Sun advantage in the process, which enables avoidance of a hit. Both go in Determined. Since they’re in the same spot, I have to draw a collision check chit, which turns out to be a Proximity 2. Readers with a strong memory (or a strong facility with the scroll bar) will recall that it was just such a chit that I pulled way back in Mission 1 when I lost Ademeit and Bauer. They may also recall that if you roll at or above the number (2) on the chit, then no collision occurs. They may recall that I rolled a 1, then next rolled odd, meaning instead of colliding with the bomber, my fighter collided with another fighter, destroying them both. Well, surely that can’t are you kidding me, I rolled another 1, then odd. Bachmann and Johann go down in flames.

Oh. My. God.

Turn 5
Having witnessed the colossally unlucky loss of their buddies and feeling the hot breath of Time on their necks, since the mission clock is ticking down and nothing has as yet been accomplished, Auerbach and Kremler move in for the kill, to Left Flank Approach High and Left Flank Approach Low, respectively. The escorts continue to move around to little effect, with one going to the Tail High Return box this turn. The element fails its cohesion check (which I have been making each turn, but not commenting on when it changes nothing) and goes to Element Loose, lowering the Lethal Level by 1 in all spaces. Both fighters go in Determined.

Auerbach and Kremler both move to the Left Flank space of Bomber 4. Yes, I am once again tempting the extremely vindictive fate who controls collision checks. I draw an “E 2TP” chit, meaning pay 2TP or a fighter exits, and since I only have 1TP left I can’t pay, so Kremler exits the scene, offering Auerbach luck as he goes.

All alone in the world, Auerbach presses the attack, scoring a hit on the bomber (engine…0 dmg, ugh) and taking a hit in return (Rudder 7). He moves off to the high Return box on the Right Flank.

Turn 6
This turn marks the Flight Limit, but as Auerbach is the only fighter left on the board, the mission will immediately end if he leaves play anyway, which since he fails his Recovery check (meaning the rudder hit was serious) happens, as he shuffles off to the Rudder fate box.

The rudder hit is one of the more survivable ones, thankfully. A roll of 7 or higher means the pilot lands successfully. Unfortunately for Auerbach, I roll a 6, which means although he valiantly struggles to keep the aircraft’s nose pointed in the correct direction, he crashes. Not to worry, because most of the outcomes from a crash result in bailing out, almost all in fact, with about half of those resulting in the pilot being wounded. It’s only on a 1 that he fails to bail out. Of course I roll a 1 and he dies.

Post-Mission Analysis
Well, in the Notes field on the Staffel Log for Mission 1 I wrote “total disaster,” but I only lost two pilots on that mission, so since I lost three this time (two of which were replacement pilots and will thus not be, themselves, replaced) it seems appropriate to annotate this one as an “incredible disaster”. Although it is, of course, not the staffelkapitan’s fault, really, that his pilots can’t seem to stay in the air, it seems rather unlikely that headquarters will take such an expansive view of the situation, so this seems likely to be my only season in charge of this particular group. A rumor has been going around the barracks that our staffel is cursed, or maybe just that I am cursed, and I find it difficult to disagree.


Of course I roll a 1 and he dies.

I type this between giggles, but you may want to swap those dice for Game Science dice. I’ve had the odd GMT die be a bit of a stinker.

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I’ve been rolling the red die all this time, but they give you two, so maybe I should switch to black.

I’d salt water test them both.

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Huh, I’ve never heard of this before. I should try it!

Also try shooting the staffelkapitan. Pour encourager les autres.


The more you know…

…damn insomnia! Spent 30 min on some probably useless(?) research on how to make sure to find THAT die which never rolls a 1 in my pouch ;-/


Since this one was so quick to set up, play and tear down, I figured I would just write it up right now, while it’s fresh in my mind.


First piece of business, Jachmann, welcome to the staffel. Please ignore the three miniature tombstones in the corner that your squadronmates keep throwing significant glances at, particularly the one marked with a J.

Now then, the mission particulars. Another on Map 1, Formation B. This is the “bombers all in a line” formation from the first mission. This time, however, the mission is Near Target, which means there will be flak to contend with for both the bombers and the fighters attacking them. Hopefully it won’t be too much of an issue. Four OPS are drawn, which means four fighters going up. Dahl, Frieling, Grimm and Heller get the nod. Clade remains (as far as the doctors will admit, anyway, and at this point we’re starting to wonder if Clade’s rich parents are slipping them some extra wheelbarrows of Reichsmarks) on the grounded list. This close to their target, there will be no fighter escort, which is good news.

I don’t know what the hell the fighters were doing prior to intercept, but at the time they reach the formation, the flight limit for the mission is only four turns, as short as it can possibly be. Even under ideal conditions, this means they will get two passes and two passes only against the formation (since turn 1 is always a bust and they’ll burn a turn returning from their first pass). I had hoped that the easy formation and lack of escort would make this one a (relative) turkey shoot, but the enormous time pressure means there is no possibility of screwing around. Get in, get some, get out.

Turn 1
All four fighters enter Tail Low. The tail is the best place to hit the bombers from, since the fighters can more or less try to match their speed and little to no deflection shooting is necessary. Unfortunately, the tail spot is also one of the best places to be hit from, and the low position (which the fighters are always forced into at the beginning), is one of the most dangerous. I had planned to move them all to Level, but the incredibly tight schedule they’ll have to keep means that goes by the wayside.

Turn 2
All four fighters move to Tail Approach Low. Before they have a chance to attack, a burst of flak hits the central bomber (Bomber 3, once again counting down from the top) with a nasty fuselage hit (3 dmg). Seeing this, Dahl and Frieling move to attack that bomber, while Grimm and Heller move against the low outside bomber, who doesn’t have anyone guarding her flank (Bomber 5). All fighters go Determined, as there is no time to mess around with Evasive Returns. All choose Climb for their maneuver, as the planned mission will be one pass from the tail on a climb, then turn around and one pass from the nose on a dive and hope for the best. At this point I am not very sanguine about our chances for scoring a kill.


During burst, Dahl pulls an Engine hit on B3, with a high chance of catastrophic result, and for once the dice are in my favor and the bomber falls out of formation! Frieling still has to pull an attack card (because the bombers don’t just instantly vanish and all of this is supposed to be happening approximately simultaneously), and he takes a hit but uses the Rotte advantage they gained by attacking together to avoid it.

Meanwhile, Grimm scores a hit on B5 (wing 4) and in the process takes a hit himself (engine 9, yikes). Heller also scores a hit on B5 (engine 0, ugh, why are all the engine hits 0 dmg…probably because they can and often did come home on fewer than the full complement of engines, I guess), and also takes a hit in return (fuselage 4). Dahl and Frieling avoid all continuing fire, but Grimm pulls the Slow Climb text, which increases the lethal level for him by 2 if he was climbing (which he was), and as a result he takes another hit (fuselage 5) and immediately goes to the High Tail Return box. Heller also manages to get hit by continuing fire (wing 7) but continues his pass through the formation.

Turn 3
Dahl and Frieling return to Nose High. Meanwhile, Grimm shrugs off the fuselage hit, but the engine hit proves to be too much to remain in the fight, and he waves off for home. Heller’s fuselage hit is also serious, so he, too, leaves.

Turn 4
Dahl and Frieling move to pursue the fallen out bomber. Here’s what that looks like:

As there are no more fighters on the main board, the mission ends, but since I’m using the Advanced Rules, now we go to the Pursuit Phase. You can see on the turn 2 space a marker representing the fallen out bomber. All of the damage counters it took are under that marker. Up there on turn 4 (when they exited to pursue) are Dahl and Frieling. You count the number of spaces between (like, literally between) the fighter group attempting the intercept and the bomber they are attempting to intercept. In this case, it’s 1, and since you roll for equal to or higher than that number for intercept, in this case intercept is automatic. So, to the pursuit board!

Here’s what it looks like all set up. For the first pass, your fighters get to attack for free, but after that moving around costs TPs. I transferred all four of mine over from the turn track (since this is the only pursuit I’m going to get this mission I don’t have to be frugal with them), and I also got two extra from the one engine hit. You can see the damage counters distributed around the various spots. If the damage on any one of those spots ever exceeds the number printed on that spot, the bomber is destroyed. Since I got an engine hit before, there’s also a chance they might have bailed out before I even got to shoot at them, but it didn’t happen.

Both fighters choose to attack from the High Tail position, because that’s where the sun is, so they’ll get that hit-cancelling advantage for doing so. Also there’s no collision on the pursuit map (THANK GOD) so it seems like a win/win here. Dahl goes first and pulls a 4 dmg wing hit on the bomber. He also takes a hit, but cancels it with the Out of the Sun advantage. Once again the dice gods smile on me, and I roll a 10 on the table there for the wing, so the bomber catches fire and explodes. This is good for all the obvious reasons, but also because Dahl also got a No Ammo result on his card. I guess it was worth it! Dahl and Frieling turn for home, having done their bit for the staffel. And country, I guess.

Meanwhile, Grimm’s engine coughs, splutters and gives out just as he’s coming in for a landing, one of the most dangerous times to have something like that happen, sooooo…he dies. Friendship ended with Grimm, now Dahl is my best friend.

Heller’s ship catches fire and he burns to death. We hardly knew ye.

So that’s Mission 4. Two missions left and three VP away from Not Losing, so we’ll see how it goes. I like the pursuit board, adds some more flavor into this already extremely flavorful game. It turns out being a fighter pilot in WW2 was kind of dangerous. Jachmann pauses while polishing his boots to watch the morale officer wheel in another pair of miniature tombstones.