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Subject: Strategies for the Battle of Britain rss

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Chuck Pierce
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After having played several full-up games of RAF over the last few weeks, I wanted to capture my thoughts on strategies that seem to work well, over the long-run at least. I’ll discuss some general philosophies for three phases of the Battle of Britain that I’ll call Early War, Middle War, and Late War. There is no hard demarcation that separates Early, Middle, and Late War, but for the purpose of this article, I’m going to define them as follows:
Early War: Aug 11 – Aug 24
Mid War: Aug 25 – Sept 10
Late War: Sept 11 - Oct 1
Why did I choose to declare that the Early War ended on Aug 24? Simple. The Luftwaffe 3 to Luftwaffe 2 Event becomes playable on Aug 25, and this event causes RAF Fighter Command to re-evaluate its position/strategy versus the Luftwaffe. Late War starts on Sept 11 because that's the target date for Operation Sealion.

Early War
In my mind, this phase of the war could have been subtitled “Winning the War of Attrition.” At the start of the BoB, the RAF is severely under strength to handle the Luftwaffe raids, but will be slowly be gaining strength over the next 10 or so day. So, the RAF will have to give up quite a few VPs by letting raids pass through to their targets, in order to preserve their strength for well coordinated, high-strength attacks. In my mind, the Early War needs to be broken into two phases, which I’ll call “The First 5 Days” and “Aug 16 to Aug 24.” I know, really cleverly named phases… blush
The First Five or Six Days: At the start of the game, the RAF squadrons are pitifully weak. Vice versa, the Luftwaffe is incredibly strong and rested. RAF reinforcements won’t start arriving for 4 days. Downed Luftwaffe aircraft won’t really matter too much to the overall Luftwaffe effort. So, mostly sit tight and intercept select raids in which the RAF has a decent advantage. Keep a significant number of squadrons on patrol (as opposed to being sitting ducks on the airstrip). Let most of the German raids through. It’s unavoidable; your VP will drop negative, but with a little luck, not more than -5VP or so. Whenever replacements become available, ALWAYS take them, no matter how negative the VPs are, but take them as Green Pilots to reduce the replacement cost by 2VP.
~Aug 16 – Aug 24: RAF Reinforcements are finally starting to bolster the squadrons. Depending on where the replacement squadrons are deployed (ie, sector/group), some sector/groups will start becoming strong. I like to see 2/11, 6/11, and 7/11 become strong as soon as possible. During this later stage of the Early War, the RAF should turn the corner, and the VP marker should start heading back toward zero, then into the positive numbers. Hopefully, during this phase of the game, Luftflotte 2 as a whole will become very fatigued and damaged. This is your chance to score a significant number of kills. Be ready to capitalize, as this is probably the best advantage that the RAF will have during the entire BoB! The Battle of Britain will probably be won or lost during the last 4 or so days of the Early War. With a little good fortune and some well coordinated intercepts, by Aug 24, the VP marker should be in the 12-22 range. And, as in the first few days of the Early Way, take all replacements as Green Pilots.

Middle War
The Middle War starts at about Aug 25. By August 24, Luftflotte 2 should be very fatigued and damaged. Hopefully, the last few days have mostly been a turkey shoot over Britain. On Aug 25, the tide of the war can change though. Quite a few event cards allow Luftflotte 3 to reinforce Luftflotte 2, on Aug 25 and later. When this occurs, there’s a pool of mostly fresh gruppen available to raid Luftflotte 2 territory. Therefore, the RAF should once again become a little more cautious in the early part of the Middle war. However, the total numbers of available Luftwaffe fighters and bombers should be way down by now; so, allowing a few unopposed high strength raids through should fatigue a significant portion of Luftflotte 2 and 3. Raids composed of mostly fatigued gruppen are a nice target, with decent intelligence and full-strength, READY squadrons. There is no formula for when to attack and when not to, but the goal should be to reach +35VP before Sep 11. This goal is very achievable, with patience and some good fortune.

Late War
Late War starts on Sep 11, the date when Hitler plans to start preparations for Operation Sealion. If the VP Marker is between -25 and 25, then Sealion preparations are delayed. Each day thereafter, the Sealion-Delayed range becomes smaller. I have never actually gone into this phase. So, I don’t have any experience from which to pull strategic tips. It does seem to me, though, that the strategy should remain basically the same as in the waning days of the Middle War, with the exception of if the VP track is several negative. I would actually like to hear others comment on strategic tips for post Sept 10.

General Strategies

When to Attack (from a Position of Strength): This truth generally holds for the entire game, especially so, while the RAF strength is at its lowest (ie, early BoB). Only attack when you at least know the strength of the Luftwaffe raid and are pretty sure that your fighters won’t be jumped by many ME109’s. Generally speaking, Major Raids need to be let through, especially to cities, ports, and such, but you’ll have to think hard about letting raids through to radar installations, Industry sites, and airfields with sitting fighters. It’ll be hard to sit back and watch the VP marker steadily dropping more and more negative. You’ll get angry with the Luftwaffe (game system, actually), but that’s what’s intended. You need to feel the pain and the anguish of the war. :-) However, if you foolishly sortie a few fighters into an incoming raid of high or unknown strength, this could be a very short and immensely frustrating war for you!

So, when is the right time to attack (I wanted to say “go on the offensive,” but you’re always playing defense in this game, though sometimes a really tough defense has the qualities of offense. :-) )? Whenever you attack, you REALLY want to be on the bottom row of the Combat Table (Table 10.3), and not just for the bombers. It is not nearly as important to overwhelm the bomber force as it is to overhelm the ME109’s. If you can overwhelm the ME109’s, then you will probably overwhelm the bombers, too.

If the Luftwaffe is raiding a target that lies beyond the ME109 range… Oh, my God, what can I say, manna from Heaven, hit them and hit them hard. Being guaranteed to not encounter ME109’s is an opportunity that should not be squandered. It’s victory points waiting to be plucked!

When to Attack (Relative to the German Effort): The game system is designed to vary the voracity of the Luftwaffe attack each day. There is a Light Effort, when there will probably only be 1or 2 raids that day. A Normal Effort will usually sortie 3 to 6 raids in a day. The dreaded All-Out Effort will usually sortie 5 to 10 raids per day. During Phase I of each day, the German Effort is set. However, just before the German Effort is set, RAF squadrons have to be ordered onto Patrol. If the odds are high that the German Effort might be Light, then put a bunch (maybe all) of the READY squadrons on patrol.

On Light Effort days, the RAF needs to pounce as if it’s the last battle of the day. Sortie every available READY squadron into the raid (assuming, of course, that you have good intelligence regarding the number/composition of the raid, and can attack from a position of strength).

On Normal Effort days, the RAF has to be a little more patient than on Light Effort days. Try to have about half of the RAF squadrons on patrol at the beginning of the day. The LAND PATROLLING SQUDRONS Event Card comes up quite frequently; so, you’d like to be able to put some more CAP back into the skies after the current patrolling squadrons land and are fatigued. Generally speaking, be very judicious about intercepting raids before noon. Toward the end of the day, become more aggressive, when the numbers and intelligence allow the RAF to attack from a position of strength.

On All-Out Days, be uncommonly patient. There are a significant number of 0-hour and 1-hour raids that can occur. If you sortie too many squadrons too soon, then you may be forced to sit on the ground with fatigued squadrons while airfields and radar installations get bombed out. I’d recommend being very passive until about 1500 hrs, then becoming progressively more aggressive as the end of the day approaches.

In my mind, a well managed day is one where at the end of the day, all of the RAF squadrons are fatigued and on the ground, very few squadrons have been sent to the REST or DAMAGE box, and very few radar installations have been disabled. Of course, I’d also like to have downed a few Luftwaffe fighters and bombers in the process.

Managing the Luftwaffe Attrition: One benefit of sitting still and allowing Luftwaffe raids through is that every time the Luftwaffe raids, each gruppen in the raid becomes fatigued for the rest of the day. So, on All-Out Effort days, the Luftwaffe will be wearing itself out. Several Major Raids with 8-12 gruppen will put a significant number of the total Luftwaffe force in FATIGUED status. When the Luftwaffe is forced to attack with fatigued gruppen, the odds significantly increase for a kill! Also, fatigued gruppen that are unopposed will end the raid in the REST/FATIGUED box. So, in the waning hours of the day, if the Luftwaffe is raiding with a significant number of fatigued gruppen, hit them hard, if at all possible. You still want to attack from a position of strength, but this may be a time to take a few more risks, because the return on investment could be VERY high. Certainly, if so many gruppen are in the REST and DAMAGED boxes that the Luftwaffe cannot sortie full-strength raids, then use good judgment about how aggressively you should try to capitalize on their weakness, to make them even weaker.

Closing Thoughts
I really like RAF. Once you understand the ebb and flow of the game, I think it’s relatively easy to beat the game. However, if you’re impatient or foolish, the game system can be very unforgiving.
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James Fung
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Given my recent review, probably not surprising I agree with you on most things. However this section:

Oxotnik wrote:
The First Five or Six Days: At the start of the game, the RAF squadrons are pitifully weak. Vice versa, the Luftwaffe is incredibly strong and rested. RAF reinforcements won’t start arriving for 4 days. Downed Luftwaffe aircraft won’t really matter too much to the overall Luftwaffe effort. So, mostly sit tight and intercept select raids in which the RAF has a decent advantage. Keep a significant number of squadrons on patrol (as opposed to being sitting ducks on the airstrip). Let most of the German raids through. It’s unavoidable; your VP will drop negative, but with a little luck, not more than -5VP or so. Whenever replacements become available, ALWAYS take them, no matter how negative the VPs are, but take them as Green Pilots to reduce the replacement cost by 2VP.

You seem to be confusing replacements and reinforcements. (15.11) Replacements arrive by calendar but don't cost VPs. (15.2) Reinforcements have nothing to do with the calendar, are available at any time (even from day 1), but they do cost VPs.

As for green pilots, I disagree with you about taking them. For their first couple combats, the green pilots will undo whatever combat strength they contributed and then some. Then again, you seem to be paying for your replacements, so no wonder you're hurting for VPs.
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Chuck Pierce
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fusag wrote:

You seem to be confusing replacements and reinforcements. (15.11) Replacements arrive by calendar but don't cost VPs. (15.2) Reinforcements have nothing to do with the calendar, are available at any time (even from day 1), but they do cost VPs.

Wow! I've been cheating. I just reread Section 15, to see that I'd been doing reinforcements/replacements all wrong, for the British. blush At the beginning of the game, I put all of the British reinforcements (those units having never yet entered play) on the calendar track in the first available slots. I charged VPs for them to enter play, but allowed Green Pilots to arrive with those units (which is also a violation of the rules shake ). When downed RAF units went to the Calander track as relacements, I also charged VPs for them to re-enter play. So, all in all, things balanced out a bit, but it was still a bit to my advantage, I think, since I never had as my units shot down as there are replacement units. Also, I missed the rule about improving the status of a unit in the damage box whenever an empty reinforcement/replacement occurs at the start of a new day. I'm so embarrassed!!!

Quote:
As for green pilots, I disagree with you about taking them. For their first couple combats, the green pilots will undo whatever combat strength they contributed and then some. Then again, you seem to be paying for your replacements, so no wonder you're hurting for VPs.

Yep. In light of my inability to properly read the rules, you are probably correct.

I will say, though, even though I was bringing too many units into play with Green Pilots, I had great success getting them to regular strength quickly. I always tried to have a unit with Green Pilots on Patrol so that it could join with a bunch of other units to intercept an inbound raid, so the -1 or -2VP got lost in the noise (though it did put another unit or two at risk for being sent to the Rest or Damaged Boxes).
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James Fung
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Don't worry about it. Seems like every time I post a session report, someone points out a rules mistake of mine.

Oxotnik wrote:
Wow! I've been cheating.

Actually, you probably haven't. It sounds like you're taking reinforcements slower than you would like and paying for your replacements, so you've been making the game harder than it really is.

Do think your strategy will change now? Now I have the urge to play a campaign to see if all my words are hot air, but I just started a game of Twilight Struggle...
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Chuck Pierce
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You know, one of the great things about the BGG community is that mistakes can be made and pointed out, without arrogent or condescending talk. That makes this forum truly fun. Anyway, just a thought from the peanut gallery.
fusag wrote:
Actually, you probably haven't. It sounds like you're taking reinforcements slower than you would like and paying for your replacements, so you've been making the game harder than it really is.

Here's an image of my starting board before the last game I'd played. You can see all of my RAF reinforcements already placed on the Calendar track.
As I've thought about it some more, I think that my 'cheating' was almost a wash, but I think that I did get a bit of an advantage since I usually only have half as many replacement units as reinforcement units. But, as you pointed out, I did have a wait longer to strengthen my sector/groups. So, maybe it was a wash.

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Do think your strategy will change now? Now I have the urge to play a campaign to see if all my words are hot air, but I just started a game of Twilight Struggle...


I guess I'll have to play a campaign to find out, now, won't I????
A friend of mine and I have a game of Twilight Struggle planned for tomorrow. What kind of minds think alike? Oh, yeah, 'great'!
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Kenneth Lury
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Now I am more confused and I was pretty confused already.
Could someone please clearly and completely explain the reinforcement/replacement rules. I was putting all units with "R" on the calendar before the game started and filling in the calendar with shot down planes.
 
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John Sy
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You take the British squadrons with R on them and set them aside. You do not put them on the Calendar. Not so with the Germans. You put their R marked squadrons on the map. The R marked Brit squadrons can be deployed on any day you want, one squadron per day, but at a cost of VPs.
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