Stop the admins removing history from the Wargaming forum.
WARNING: This is a single play review. I don't pretend to have a comprehensive grasp of the game, I am only giving my opinion after a single play and a few reads of the rules, since.
Well I was lucky enough to get to play this last week in New Zealand. Zev from Z-man games was kind enough to bring it and demo it at our Club. He was over on our side of the world promoting his games. There is already an excellent review up by one of the people who played it at
He gives an excellent review of how the game plays and basic bones of the game.
I wanted to try and take a different look at the game. I Bought The Burning Blue a few months ago and have played a bit (it is a great game for those thinking about it). So this game appealed to me right a way because it tackles a similar subject (strategic bombing).
For those who don't know Duel in the Dark is a game about the night bombings of Germany carried out by Britain. This was particularly devastating for civilian populations, especially in Hamburg, Kassel, Darmstadt, Dresden, and Swinemuende. Combined casualties from such attacks exceeded 100,000 people.
For those interested you can check out
The reason I mention this is that the subject is rather challenging. The game is functionally about the massacre of thousands of civilians. For me this isn't a problem as I find it interesting, but I think putting the game in its historical context is important, you could easily say the same thing about many wargames.
What’s the game like already!
Well the game is an interesting bluffing game. Basically one side plays the British Bomber Command the other takes control of the air defenses. The Game is simple and quick to play.
Have the most Victory Points at the end...duh The British do this by bombing a city (which will give a static VP number) or having German fighters engage their mosquito. The Germans get VP by attacking the British Bomber and having the Lancasters move over AA guns. Various things modify this like weather, the moon, search lights, radar and lots of other stuff.
The Game has six phases.
Firstly the Germans position their fighter squadrons. This isn't a huge part of the game, but I guess it can be important, putting your fighters towards one end of the map, could alter the British plans, which could in fact be a way of pushing them towards your air defenses.
Then Weather is determined. This provides the baseline weather for the game. In the basic game it doesn't change and so is functionally the only random thing in the game. There is a deck of cards, each one with a different weather set up. In the advanced game the weather can change, I can't see this changing much other than adding more uncertainty, although I didn't play with the advanced weather rules.
Next the British player plans their bombing route. They have the advantage of knowing the weather and the German fighter placement, but not where the Germans have placed their defenses. One of the interesting things is that the British player has to take into account the wind direction which can help the German fighters save fuel or conversely make them fly into the wind and use more fuel.
The Fourth phase is when the Germans place all their defenses. Their are plenty of types of defenses, from AA guns to search lights to civil defense centers and fire engines. All these do different things. Primarily they give you victory points if an enemy bomber flies over it or it reduces the VP lost for a bombing run.
The Fifth phase is where the British place their bombers.
Phase Six is where the real game begins. Basically the British move their mosquito first. Then the German fighters move and then the bomber follows its preprogrammed route. Basically it is pretty simple the mosquito is a kind of super fighter that the German just loose against if they enter or stay in the hex it is in. The bomber is a big juicy target the nets the Germans VPs. The Skill in this game is guessing where your opponent is going. If the Germans guess correctly most of the time they will win, if the British can evade them and bluff them into attacking their bomber they will win, simple.
The Game is at its core a bluffing game. Both players tries to deceive each other through posturing. The British player will try to maximize fuel consumption and try to trick the fighters into attacking in a dummy run. All the while the Germans must guess what the bomber plan is. One of the things that makes this interesting is that the situation is can get complex as the German player has to balance many factors in determining where the Lancaster will go.
The Good Stuff:
The game has almost zero luck:
In fact the only truly random element in the game is weather. If you play with variable weather it will increase the randomness as well. I really like this aspect of the game. It made it so simple and elegant. Each time you managed to pick where the bomber went and moved into its space you score vp. There is not random way of determining any thing. Each time the mosquito engages the Brits score. It is simple, but still simulates the strategic decisions of bomber command (ok in an abstract way ).
Simplicity is Key:
The Game is easy to learn. It took barely any time to learn the rules. They are simple and intuitive. It is ideal for people who don't want a complex game. I would say in complexity it would be equivalent to C&C: Ancients, or perhaps a little bit easier.
I love the board for this game. I just think it is aesthetically very pleasing and bits are generally really nice. When I first saw the board I was truly impressed the artwork is great.
Good Level of Strategy:
The game is reasonably deep and has plenty of strategy in it. While there are lots of tactical decisions, many of them fit into a long term strategy.
While I was taught the game, I have since read the rules on line and the rulebook seems reasonably good.
Quick to play: It only took 45-60 minutes for our first play including rules explanation.
The game is designed to be played solo. Sounds cool, haven't tried.
Campaign: You can scale the game length and play multiple nights, building up medals (kind of like resources to spend over multiple nights). I haven't played this but it looks fun.
The game is low in luck, but high in chaos. While technically your opponent's blind choices are not random, the sure can feel like it!
While this may not be bad it can occasionally be frustrating as the skill is often about predicting your opponent’s actions. Not a big deal for me, but others may find it hard.
This is NOT a simulation; it is not The Burning Blue or Whistling Death, thankfully perhaps. However it captures the essence of a game like The Burning Blue, the bluff and double bluff.
This is an interesting game stylistically. Theme wise it is a Wargame. However mechanically it is definitely a Euro. So for me this game is firmly a euro. The low luck, the push your luck, the bluffing and the nice components all make it firmly a euro game. I guess we could argue endlessly over this, I just found it interesting how well it merged the genres, without using a single dice or card.
All in all I loved this game. It was really entertaining to play, fun quick, but interesting enough to make we want to play it a lot more. I'll certainly be ordering it once it comes out. I would recommend it to most people. As an emerging grognard this game won't satisfy a desire for a heavy wargame, but it will provide enough entertainment for an evening if played over several nights (that’s in game nights not real one). It is the sort of game you could easily teach teenagers or maybe older children. For me it is a good replacement for Battlelore, light and fun to play, but shorter, easier and pretty much just as fulfilling.
Thanks very much for the kind words!
An excellent review!
I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment!
Darned you Aussies!!
Thanks so much for your overview of the game. It absoulutely sounds fantastic! I just wish I could get to try it out as I've been following this since day one.
Glad to hear this should be out by summer!
It's OK, you yankees will get your turn
Good informative review. If I hadn't already made up my mind based on how dang pretty the thing is, I would have for sure based on your observations.
I also appreciated your nod to the historical subject and its human cost. It is only a game after all, but it is well to remember that the real thing was not fun.
By the way, I was fortunate enough to see a beautifully restored flying Lancaster Bomber at "Thunder Over Michigan" in 2005. The long bomb bay was ingeniously designed to permanently mount shackles for just about any size or type bomb that might be ordered up for a mission without changing out the shackles. Great time and labor saver.
On the downside, the only bail-out egress from the flight deck is through a lower nose hatch. To move from the pilot's seat down to this hatch required that the rudder pedals be disengaged and moved aside--virtually impossible in flight.
Also, there is only one set of flight controls, so a shot-up Lanc could not benefit by having two pilots physically fighting heavy controls. One of the restoration crew told me that pilots simply didn't get out of crashing Lancs. Wow, those guys had guts.