We did finally get the chance to take to the skies though and it was an interesting game.
The game is played using a series of aircraft counters which are viewed top down...because of this each time you change altitude bands the counters become smaller (as you get lower) or larger as you climb. An interesting idea but I'm not sure it added much other than giving us a confusing number of counters to swap around as we dived or climbed. The board itself is quite small and consists of 3 6" x 17" boards which are repositioned as the target bombers fly off the edge
|image from Boardgamegeek|
Each scenario pits fighters against enemy bombers who fly in a straight line across the board and a number of escorts. This is very much the focus of the game and it takes a strategic view of attacks. We played through the first 2 scenarios and it took me till the 2nd one to grasp what the game was aiming for.
I've played various WW2 dogfighting games with Bag the Hun a definite favourite and initially I approached this in the same way. In fact the game is much more subtle than it first appeared. There is a clear link between speed and altitude in the game and it quickly became clear that once you lose altitude it's quite tricky to regain height. Similarly if you slow down to match the speed of the bombers (you need to finish your movement in the same hex in order to fire so this is tempting) it becomes extremely difficult to increase speed again. Quite a contrast to games like BtH or indeed X Wing where planes speed up and slow down, climb and dive in a suitably heroic style.
By the second scenario I'd realised that height and power are actually quite finite resources in this game and the skill comes in planning your attack and timing when to change altitude and speed...sadly something I failed to grasp in time! My 2 Hurricanes successfully lined up on the bombers and evaded the fighter escort but the first one only managed 1 hit on the bombers before being driven off the map by return fire. My second plane slowed down at the wrong point and I quickly realised I wasn't going to be able to catch the bombers and had set myself up to be bounced by the circling Me109s.
A very interesting game which left me with quite a bit to think about. Our next plan is to try it again but this time using 1/300 planes on a hex mat instead of the counters.
On an air war related note, there is a new Kickstarter about to be launched by the Plastic Soldier Company for an updated version of the old TSR Battle of Britain game designed by Richard Borg with 1/300 scale aircraft. Definitely one to keep an eye out for!