The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

A bit of Wild Blue Yonder campaign & thoughts

As advertised, I set up the easiest campaign (Rommel Attacks) and played both sides through the first mission. If you’ve played Down in Flames (or just skimmed my review) you’ll have a rough idea of how dogfighting works. The simplest campaigns are Land campaigns, which comprises 3+ missions. Here’s how it works (after you pick the campaign and sides), by walking through the first mission:

  1. You draw a card to get your target and starting aircraft. Since I was playing Stage I of Rommel Attacks, that campaign had a chart and said the Axis were trying to bomb an airfield at Gazalla. The airfield is the target, and it shows flak ratings (both area flak, and over target), and how much damage each hit, direct hit or vital hit (from the bombs) does to the airfield, and the VPs for various damage levels to the airfield. The scenario noted that Gazalla had less flak than a typical airfield.
  2. The card drawn also shows the base airplanes for each side. In this case, the Luftwaffe had a leader + a wingman in a Bf 110 E, and the allies had … nothing.
  3. Now, each player gets to pick a resource. There are 3 resources (and three mission) so you get to pick each one once. Each of the Allied resources includes a Hurricane Mk I Leader + Wingman. The allies took that (and nothing else) and the axis took a Bf 110C.
  4. The scenario sets the duration — 9 “target-bound” turns, and 7 “home-bound” turns. (There’s always an ‘over-target’ turn in between). (In reading the rules again, I missed something. This is the base time, but is reduced by the speed of the slowest attacker … so instead of 9-1-7, it should be 3-1-1. A big change!)
  5. If your planes have special pilots (as a resource) you get them, otherwise you draw for bonus pilots. The axis 110E’s wingman is good, so he gets +1 Performance (basically an extra offensive card in his mini-hand). To balance, good pilots that get shot down cost extra VPs.
  6. The 110E’s are loaded with bombs (the extra planes are escorts). There are a number of penalties for “loaded” planes, but the most important is this: You can’t inspect your hand until you need it, and you can’t attack unloaded planes unless they began their turn engaged with them. So the Bf 110 E’s can’t target the Hurricanes until they drop their bombs (or jettison them, which costs VP). Loaded planes also can’t play some cards (Full Throttle, Half Loop or Scissors) and wingmen have reduced offensive rating.
  7. The airplanes all choose their altitudes (depends on the mission), but I just picked medium for everyone.

So, here we go. The German’s Bf 110E’s (simply “E”) are loaded, so that hand goes face down. The Axis go first and the Bf 110 C (“C”) wingman doesn’t go (the very first wingman skips their turn). The leader tries a simple burst and fails, having a hand full of only attacks. He discards another card to replace.

The Hurricane’s Wingman (“H”-W) attacks the C’s leader. The hurricanes could maneuver to attack the loaded E’s, at which point the C’s could attempt to intervene to cancel the attack, or the E’s could take it and pick up their hand. This would let the E’s also start discarding and redrawing, but that’s skipped while the hand is face down, so in my judgement the Hurricane’s should focus on the escort for a while. The wingman gets a small burst and hits. The H-leader fires a more dangers burst at C-L, and now C-L responds an cancels. The E’s turn is skipped. The next Target Bound Turn (you count down) has some maneuvering (all cancelled) and the hurricane’s do a bit more damage. Both sides have their maneuvers cancelled, but eventually the Hurricane’s get the advantage and damage the C-Leader. Another two turns of dogfighting and the C-leader is down in flames, promoting the C-wingman.

All this works exactly as the dogfight game. If the Hurricane’s target the E’s, then intervention applies.

The rest of the Target bound turns see the Hurricane’s trying to finish the escort. (Part of that was due to my misreading of the VP rules). Finally, at the end of Target Bound -1, some special rules apply. Normally, only aircraft planning on bombing go over target, since there is flak. The E’s get an “over target” marker and the other planes don’t.  The Bf 110E’s take some minimal area flak (only card against each, but you can’t respond!) but are in luck — no damage.

During the over-target turn, the planes not over the target dogfight normally. The scrappy C-leader (former wingman) gets a cockpit hit on the Hurricane wingman, which doesn’t do much damage, but keeps him from drawing any more offensive cards. Nice! But the Hurricane leader damages the C wingman, so he flips over. The E’s take their turn, they drop to low (required to bomb) and then draw a mini bombing hand, based on their altitude, target and plane bomb rating.

Each card has a four bomb results “Miss,” “Hit,” “Direct,” and “Vital.” In order each plane draws its hand, and then British draws a flak hand. Flak can do two things: Some cards “Spoil an attack” which turns the best opponents card into a miss. The cards may also do damage, but can be responded to. But … the attacker is considered loaded when responding, and will also reduce one of their hits one level).

So — a minimal “mini hand” is drawn for each side and played out, mostly luck, but possibly some decisions (respond and lower your damage, or not). The mini hands I draw have no options, since the minimal flak does not spoil any attacks or even damage the planes. The Germans do enough damage to earn 3 VPs, but are down five for losing a plane and two more for a damaged plane. The E’s then have to take area flak (which again, is just a draw they can’t do anything about) on their way out and get a scrape or two but nothing serious.

The next turn the hurricanes try to finish the remaining Bf 110C but narrowly fail. The E’s are now unloaded and they climb up and engage the hurricanes. The hurricanes take one last shot at the damaged C and then shrug and climb to high, then vertical roll to very high, above the German planes’ ceiling. The Hurricanes could try to voluntarily disengage (there’s no VP penalty for this during non-dogfight missions) but that’s risky and by going very high they can effectively time out the game, so that ends it.

VP are mission VP (3 VP for the damaged airfield for the Axis) and then damaged planes (7 VP for the allies). But there’s a somewhat confusing rule I didn’t notice earlier that could be interpreted a few ways, but in this particular case every reading gives the Axis 4 VPs since both planes struck the target and ended undamaged, so that’s 4 more VP for the Axis.

It’s a draw!

Of course, If I had realized that I got the number of turns wrong and the VP bonus for each plane that bombs the target, the Hurricanes may have decided to charge the bombers.. Ah well, I played it solo to get the rules right eventually, not right “This time.”

Now — the campaign missions could get more complex than this. Rules I haven’t touched include:

  • Formation bombers — these act like wingman and typically can only defend (and bomb). This leads to a lot more
  • Intervention — It could have happened this game, but it didn’t. Perhaps that was wrong on the part of the Hurricanes.
  • Fuel — This is an optional rule.
  • Special rules — some campaigns have a page or so of rules, or some missions that may show up that have special rules.

There are also progressive campaigns, where you keep the same pool of aircraft between missions, deal with weather, and don’t have a fixed number of missions, but VPs until either it times out or one side wins.

Anyway, it will take a few more games to work the kinks out but the game didn’t take too long (even though I played 11-13 turns instead of 5!, and recorded some notes), so I think this is playable once you are willing to invest the time….


Written by taogaming

December 24, 2017 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Session Reports

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