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Subject: 303 versus 111, a comparative review. rss

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Bartosz Trzaskowski

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It's a pity that 111 does not have any reviews yet, and since it's a great game I decided to give it a try. This game is a follow-up to the 303 game, chosen the best Polish wargame of 2010 and one of my favorite short fillers. Since I haven't reviewed it, I decided to make two reviews, comparing these games. So let's first focus on 303, a relatively small and short assymetric wargame/abstract for 2 players that combines strategy and luck.

Components.

Disclaimer: Most of the pictures show both 303 (always on the left or top) and 111 (always on the right or bottom), so you can see all the differences.

The game comes in a small box:



which holds the map:



, a 60-page long manual (in Polish, English and Czech, all three 20 pages long).



The rules themselves are actually only 10 pages long, and the rest gives very interesting information on the historical background of Battle of Britain, most famous Polish and Czech pilots from the famous 303 Squadron



, short description of the main WWII fighters and their comparison. Then there are the game pieces: 6 tokens of RAF fighters, 5 tokens of Luftwaffe fighters, 1 token representing a Luftwaffe bomber, 3 shoot dice - each of them has three sides with Luftwaffe symbol and 1 side with RAF, Czech Air Force and Polish Air Force each. There are also 12 shoot markers (small black wooden cubes) and that's it.



A word on components. There is a chance that you've never played a Polish game, particularly published by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, which is not a commercial company. Wotty not, though, since the quality of the components is great. The manual warrants more praise, since it provided the player with additional historical info, giving a nice background on what's going on in the game. Overall, kudos to IPN.

Rules.

The starting position of the game (always the same) is presented below.



The goal of the German player is to get the bomber to one of the three London squares; as soon as it reaches London German player wins. The goal of the British/Czech/Polish player is to prevent it by either shooting down the bomber (immediately ends the game) or delaying the bombing for 8 rounds, after which the bomber runs out of fuel. Each of the eight rounds of the game consists of eight phases; it always starts with the Luftwaffe fighters moving and shooting, followed by the bomber movement and ends with the RAF fighters moving and shooting.

The movement it simple: each fighter in each round can move 0, 1, 2 or 3 spaces in any direction, while the bomber can move either 0, 1 or 2 spaces. The order of moving Luftwaffe or RAF fighters is irrelevant. No plane can fly over or stop on any field already occupied by another plane. For the fighters, their movement affects, however, the shot phase in the same round. You can think of it as each fighter having 3 actions (movements and shots) per round, so if a fighter moves 3 spaces in a round, it can't shot since it already used all 3 actions. If a fighter moves 2 space it can still shot once; if a figter moves 1 space it can shot 2 times and if a fighter doesn't move at all, it can shot 3 times. For the bomber, its movement does not affect the shot phase, since it always shoots just once.

The shot phase is also simple. Each plane can attack only one target located at an adjacent space: this is done by rolling as many dices as there are shots available for this unit. For Luftwaffe player all Luftwaffe sided of a dice are considered a hit, while all other fields are considered a miss, and vice versa (so you have always 50% chance of a hit on each dice). One hit when targetting a fighter means damage, and two or more hits mean that the fighter has been shot down. The bomber, as stated before, shots just once and when targeted, it can't be damaged, just shot down, so you always need two hits to take it down. When attacking, the fighters (but not the bomber) have to also fly to the other side of the targeted plane, which does not count as an additional move but is a part of a shot. It's worth mentioning that the manual does a great job and in a few schemes explains everything.



There are two more rules. First, a damaged plane can get repaired at one of the airfields. This may be quite important to the RAF player, but doesn't really affect the Luftwaffe player, since German airfields are just too far from London. Second, in rounds 4 and 6 RAF player gains one additional fighter, which starts at Norfolk airfield, just outside of London. That helps to even the chances in the game and, according to game authors, make the game almost 50-50.

Gamplay.

So how does it play?

Fast. It's not only the gameplay, but also the learning curve, because the game has really easy (and few) rules. You should be good to go and catch it after just one play. The game itself should not be longer than 20 minutes and advanced players can easily finish it in 15 minutes. As suggested by the authors it makes sense to play the game twice each time and in the second game change the sides, since it really plays different for RAF and LuftWaffe player.

There is some strategy involved, which is different depending on whether you play RAF or LuftWaffe side. The goals are obvious: for the German player you have to be fast and quickly move to London while protecting the bomber. You have a large advantage in the first 4 rounds and a smaller advantage for the next 2 rounds so you have to use it to your advantage. For the RAF player: you're outnumbered in the first 4 rounds so forget about the LuftWaffe fighters and try to get to the bomber asap. Hopefully you'll be able to shot it down or at least survive until the reinforcements arrive. There is, however, some good dose of luck involved, which can alter your plans.

In Poland the game won the Best Wargame Award in 2010. In my opinion this is not a wargame, but rather an abtract/wargame crossover. Don't get me wrong, this is not a criticism of the game, it's just a hint at what you should expect from the game. For me it sometimes plays more like chess/checkers + dice, than a wargame. It may have (and does have) however a lot of appeal to wargamers, thanks to the visual side and the great introduction into the period in the manual.

Overall I love this game, right now it's one of my favorite short games, a perfect treat if I have 20 minutes of spare time.

And onto 111...
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Lutz Pietschker
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Thanks for the review, looking forward to get my copy.
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