Recommend
56 
 Thumb up
 Hide
15 Posts

Battle of Britain» Forums » Reviews

Subject: TSR's Battle of Britian review rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Mike Hoyt

Durango
Colorado
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quick Take
TSR’s 1990 Battle of Britain is a simple wargame with some pretty nice components. Game play can be fairly repetitive, but there is enough strategy to make it interesting for a couple of playings anyway, and it is short enough to make for a nice week night game when you don’t have time for something meatier. Definitely not for the Grognard, but fun for a light wargame.

Components
The mounted game board is a stylized map of England and the German airbases in France and Norway. It is evocative of the RAF plotting tables, an impression heightened by the use of plastic plane models on clear stands to mark the locations and progress of the various RAF and German flights. It really does look like the plotting tables you see in the movies.

Both sides have a collection of color coded cards representing squadrons of aircraft, each squadron is shown with a single dominant aircraft type (HE 111, Spitfire, etc.). Squadron cards are organized into flights on separate cardboard mats, typically 6 or 3 squadrons to a flight (German and British respectively). Each cardboard mat in turn represents either a Luftflotte or Air Group, which makes up the highest level of organization. So squadrons form flights, and flights form Luftflottes or Air Groups. These cards and mats are well done, with top down drawings of the airplanes and simple rankings for air to air or bombing capabilities.

Various functions are resolved with dice, and the game comes with 6 dice for each side. (A very good hint is to buy a second copy, you’ll often be throwing more than 6 dice and rerolling is pain). The dice for each side have 1 symbol for that side, three for the opposing side and 2 blanks. Sometimes you need to roll your own symbol, sometimes the enemy’s. So keep some simple expected values in mind, each die gives you either a 1/6 or a 1/3 chance of getting what you need.

Game play
The game comes with a Basic and an Advanced version. There isn’t enough extra work to the Advanced game to scare off anybody, so I’ll skip the Basic version and just get into it. Trust me, even Advanced is simple enough for a (smart) 12 year old.

The Germans start with three of the highest level organizations, Luftflotte’s II and III are based in France, V is based in Norway. They have 8 turns to accomplish 9 missions, with each Luftflotte being assigned one mission per turn. The British have four Air Groups, 10,11,12, and 13, who can stop the Germans by either denying them mission success, or shooting down so many German squadrons that the Germans can no longer put together a full Luftflotte.

(There is a potentially minor rules quibble here. The rules actually say the British win when the German player cannot use any of his flights, which could be misinterpreted to suggest the Germans have to keep all the flights going, but that is not correct. The Germans can keep going as long as they have at least one Luftflotte available).

Each turn is broken down into a couple of steps. First is randomly allocating the squadrons of both sides to the flights. If you can’t come up with enough squadrons to fully fill a flight, that flight can’t fly this turn, and for the Germans if any given flight can’t go, the whole Luftflotte is withdrawn. Right from the start this can be a challenge for the German Luftflotte V from Norway, they only have one flight of a minimum 6 squadrons, but they only have 9 squadrons available, so one bad mission and they are withdrawn. Less of an issue for everybody else at the beginning, but attrition will take it’s toll on both sides.

After setting up the flights, the Germans randomly draw 5 Mission Cards. They have to assign a mission to each of the three Luftflottes, returning the other 2 to the deck. The only exception is that if they decline a mission against a radar installation or airfield, that mission card must be turned over to the British player and is not available for the rest of the game. Picking the right missions for each Luftflotte is an important skill for the German player.

Take Off!
Flight is conducted in five impulses each turn. The Germans move first. Each flight has a limited amount of fuel, represented by markers numbered 1 thru 5. Whichever marker you spend is how far that flight can go that impulse. Given that the British have unlimited fuel, but are limited to no more than 3 spaces per impulse, you can see that there exists the possibility of the Germans outrunning the RAF on any given impulse, but over the full course of a turn things are even.

Another limitation on German movement is that they must stop upon first entering a square that is part of the British radar line. This only applies once per turn, but it keeps the Germans from simply racing in and hitting a target before the British can react. So typically the Germans will use their first impulse to move into the radar line and stop just offshore.

Scramble!
Then the British get to react. It’s tempting to immediately fly out and engage as many German flights as possible, and sometimes that is a good idea, but not always. Each British flight has 3 squadrons in it, but the number of them that actually get to attack is a function of how far that squadron moved that impulse. If they moved 2 or 3 squares, only 1 squadron can attack. If they moved 1 square, two Squadrons, and if they manage to engage in the square they started in, then all 3 squadrons can attack. So sometimes the British player is better advised to keep his flights stationary over the anticipated German targets, and let the bombers come to him.

But it’s hard to know where the Germans are going. Any given flight could be a feint, there are even a few worthwhile targets right on the coast that could be attacked at the end of the first impulse’s movement. Definitely introduces an element of bluff!

Air to Air
Once the British have moved, dogfights occur in any square with opposing sides. The British player indicates which of his flights will attack which German flights, the German player takes the squadron cards for that flight and divides them into three piles, face down. These piles don’t have to be equal! It is a very legitimate tactic to mix and match the bombers and fighters to try and set up ambushes of the British. Then the British player takes however many squadrons are available from his flight, based on the distance moved, and picks a pile of German squadrons to attack.

Combat is simple. Each squadron is rated on how many dice it brings, 1 for a Bleinhiem, up to 4 for a Spitfire. Both sides throw their dice at the same time and the resulting number of British Roundels and German Crosses indicate how many hits were scored. It takes 3 hits to destroy the first squadron, then 2 more for each additional squadron. Remember I told you that your own dice carry your symbol on one side? If the British throw 3 Roundels, then they’ve shot down one of their own squadrons! It happens, and it is something for the German player in particular to keep in mind when he creates his three piles. Creating a uber-pile of as many squadrons as possible when faced with a single British interceptor might guarantee shooting down that one squadron, but it increases the chance of losing some of your own squadrons to friendly fire.

Bombs away!
Once dogfighting is done, and if there are any German bombers over their assigned target, we go to bombing. Very similar to dogfighting, each bomber has a rating of 1 or 2 dice. Throw them all together and each roundel is a hit on the on the target, while every 2 German crosses is a German squadron lost to anti-air fire. Airfields and Radar sites are destroyed on 4 hits, cities take 6 hits, except for London which requires 7.

(Quick quiz. Given that most German bombers roll 2 dice, and there are 3 Crosses on each die, how many bombers do you need to have an expected outcome of destroying a 6 hit city? If that sounds too much like math for you, then you might enjoy the game anyway, but if you eagerly do the calculation in your head, well then you are well on your way to Grognard status! Answer at end.)

Impulses 2 thru 5 repeat the steps above, German move and fuel expenditure, British movement, dogfighting and bombing. Turns rarely last the full five impulses, the Germans have to be thinking in terms of hit and run. The ideal mission is bombing on the first impulse (difficult because of the radar line) and returning to base on the second impulse before the British can muster any reaction.

Recovery
Once the last German flight has made it back to base, or been destroyed in the air over England, the turn ends with a British recovery phase. Since most of the British planes would have been shot down over friendly territory, the British player is given a chance to patch them up and get them back in the fight for the next turn (German squadrons shot down are gone forever). The British player rolls his own dice, the number being equal to his current undamaged cities. For each roundel (1/6 chance) he can repair a city, airfield or radar site, or reclaim a shot down squadron.

The next turn starts with allocating the available squadrons, withdrawing any understrength flights, moving, dogfighting, bombing and recovery again. Germans win if they accomplish 9 missions in 8 turns, the British win if the Germans fail, either through running out of time or running our of available squadrons to keep at least one Luftflotte in action.

Rules Clarifications
A couple of rules cause some confusion. First, as noted above, the elimination of one Luftflotte does not end the game. Very typically Luftflotte V from Norway will only last a couple of turns, but as long as either II or III can carry on the game continues.

Second, the German fuel rules can be confusing. With only five chits available, numbered 1 thru 5, it will soon become apparent that they can not fly round trips of more than 7 squares. And several target cities are further away than that. Doe that make those targets safe? Nope, there you have to pay attention to the clause in the Advanced rules that says the Basic rules are in force unless superceded, and the Basic rules allow for the Germans to fly beyond their fuel range, then throw the dice for each square they come up short of home base, the squadron failing to make it on a German Cross.

Third, each pile of squadron cards in a given German flight can only be attacked once per impulse. Sometimes you’ll have so many British flights in the dogfight that they can’t all get a target. In which case it is better to use them to cut-off the Germans from their home base.

Which brings up an important 4th clarification. The German flights don’t have to go back to their originating airfield, any friendly airfield will do. This is a critical safety valve for the Germans.

There are other subtle points that a good player can take advantage of, don’t be fooled by the simplicity, there is more to this game than a simple die rolling contest. Which brings us to;

Strategy
OK, possible spoiler alert. I’m going to use this section to discus some of the finer points. None of which require any great amount of genius and you may have more fun discovering them on your own. But if you are one of the wargaming snobs (like me) or inclined to dismiss this game as just another “6 to Hit” (a ridiculous stance with any game, but that’s another essay) or you’re thinking the game is horribly unbalanced, well maybe this section will give you something to think about.

German Strategy.
First, you need to carefully match your missions to your current capabilities and those of the British. Coastal targets near France are the easiest of course, but if you’ve blown a hole in the radar line, or the British can’t field certain flights, deeper raids can open up. Sometimes it even makes sense to pick a Mission you have no intention of completing (e.g. Belfast), then having that Luftflotte just touch the radar line and then return to base. Why? Because you get that mission out of the deck and improve your chances of drawing easier missions on later turns.

Second, think twice before reinforcing any given flight. You need enough bombers over the target to destroy it, but the more planes in any given dogfight the better the chance you’ll lose squadrons to friendly-fire. Send enough to accomplish the mission, no more.

Third, touch the radar line on the first impulse. Once you’ve touched it you are free to go anywhere for the rest of the turn. If you spend the first impulse “feinting” around at sea, all you are doing is giving the British time to form their intercept pattern, they still know you have to stop at the radar line.

Fourth, consider how to position your flights on that first impulse. Sometimes it is a good idea to spread all three flights of a Luftflotte out in the radar line, then bring them together only on later impulses over the target. That keeps the British guessing and makes it harder for them to put up a barrier of fighters. But is also necessarily puts more of your flights closer to the initial British interceptors and that may cause them to intercept you earlier. If, instead, you amass the entire Luftflotte in one square on the first impulse, you reduce the possible British interceptors on that impulse to a minimum, but make it easier for them to cut you off from your target. I’d recommend a flexible approach, keep the British guessing!

Fifth, play Luftflotte V carefully. Luftflotte V is not going to last long. If you try to bull through determined British interceptors you’d better accomplish your mission because it is unlikely there will be another turn for you. So if you’ve got the right mission and see the opening, go for it. But if you’ve got a difficult mission, or the British have you out positioned, think seriously about just touching the radar line and fleeing straight back to Norway. Towards that end, you should almost always burn a 5 fuel chit on the first impulse. At most, the British will be able to intercept with only one squadron, and then you can spend the 4 fuel chit to flee back to Norway before the British can catch you.

British strategy
There are only two ways to win, limit the number of missions accomplished or shoot down enough squadrons that the Germans can no longer field a Luftflotte. Taking a look at the second goal first, we’ve already mentioned that Luftflotte V has 9 available squadrons and require 6 to continue, so shooting down those first 4 squadrons is a high priority for Group 13. Luftflotte II and III have 51 and 52 squadrons respectively. Since they have to field a minimum of 18 to keep their 3 flights each in the air, the magic numbers are 34 and 35 squadrons shot down.

So first strategy for the British is to maximize German casualties, and consider concentrating against one Luftflotte or the other. V is going to get knocked out in a few turns, if you can then knock out either II or III it becomes much easier to stop the last Luftflotte from accomplishing it’s missions.

A great strategy for shooting down the German squadrons is to not worry too much about them hitting targets, but cut them off from returning to base. A line of British squadrons across their return path can result in a lot of casualties. The Germans can use one flight to dogfight and open a path for the other flights to move through, but a combination of positioning and fuel restrictions can make that harder on them. So sometimes it is better to pass up a dogfight this impulse if you can only get one squadron into the fight, and instead position that flight to intercept next impulse with more planes.

When a dogfight occurs, the Germans divide each flight into three piles. A common tactic is to set up two piles of only one squadron apiece, which is usually a fighter, and put the rest of the squadron in one big pile of four or more squadrons. The hope is the British player will be nervous about losing his own squadron(s) and avoid the big pile. I recommend the opposite. Remember, British squadrons can be rebuilt. Unless you are just desperately short of aircraft, attack the big pile and hope that all those German dice roll up some Crosses! Friendly fire is just as deadly as your own, and the goal is to take out a bunch of squadrons.

Keep track of the missions accomplished and attempted! You may be able to narrow down the possible targets later in the game and station your fighters right where the Germans need to go. Facing even two flights already over the target is going to give the Germans pause, and they’ll have to choose between taking serious casualties or aborting the mission.

Keep the radar line intact! It is tempting to spend all your production on recovering aircraft, but a hole in the radar line makes things too easy for the Germans. Remember, you can transfer production from one Group Area to another, but only the home group’s production can be used to rebuild radar sites or airfields, and you need those!

Conclusion
This is a simple to learn, relatively quick to play, and fairly well balanced game (though a run of bad dice can sink either side). The components are top-notch and it is fun to play. On the other hand, strategy is pretty basic and the actual game play can become repetitive, so I doubt you’d want to play more than a few games in a row. For me, I’d put it back on the shelf for awhile and pull it out again when I need a quick fix, a game I can play in one evening with minimal fuss.

Oh yeah, the quiz. Given that most German bombers roll 2 dice, and there are 3 Crosses on each die, how many bombers do you need to have an expected outcome of destroying a 6 hit city?

Well ,each die has a 50% chance of getting a hit (3 sides out of 6) and you need 6 hits to destroy the city. So your expected value of 6 hits would come from 12 dice, and with each bomber rolling 2 dice, you’d want 6 bombers to make it to the target.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy the game if you give it a try!


42 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joseph
United States
flag msg tools
badge
Today, we're all Spaniards!
Avatar
.
Mike - Thanks for reviewing this great old game. thumbsup

Old games need love too!

Cheers.
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve Herron
United States
Johnson City
Tennessee
flag msg tools
badge
Never play block wargames with a dentist, they have those little mirrors to peek behind the block.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have not seen any infromation on the remake of RAF but I would think it would be about time for a company to design a new less complex Battle of Britain game or an updated version of this game.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Barry Kendall
United States
Lebanon
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Nicely done review. I'm known in some quarters as a grognard but I still enjoy playing this one. Maybe because it's a Richard Borg design (and I like Richard both as a designer and as a gentleman), maybe due to the fact that one can actually refight the Battle of Britain to its conclusion in an evening.

I'd like to see this one reprinted, with updated squadron card art and perhaps differentiation between German bomber and fighter types but essentially unaltered in play. Little chance, I suppose, but one can always hope.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Barry Kendall
United States
Lebanon
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
sherron wrote:
I have not seen any infromation on the remake of RAF but I would think it would be about time for a company to design a new less complex Battle of Britain game or an updated version of this game.


I believe Decision Games is running feedback/preorders on a re-do of RAF which would allow the solo player to command either side, rather than just the Royal Air Force as in the original. I don't know how far along it is.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Hoyt

Durango
Colorado
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I'm glad you guys liked the review, thank you for the feedback.

I think this game hits the mark it was aiming for, a realtivily simple overview of the campaign playable in an evening. A more or less straight reprint would still be an enjoyable game today.

I wouldn't mind a meatier apporach with a different game though. Burning Blue looks good, but AFAIK it is one mission at a time, not really a campaign game. I haven't tried RAF. Maybe there are other games out there? (I suppose I could alays take Yaquinto's Bomber and just have the bombers fly the other way... )

My interest in a campagin game would be seeing what would happen if the Germans had concentrated on the radar line, then the airfields, basically rolled the RAF back and then turned to hitting the cities. Or would they have skipped that last step and launched the invasion instead? My guess is that if you let the German player pick his missons in this game it would be a cakewalk...

Anyway, glad to see I'm not the only grognard who sneaks this onto the table once in a while
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Barry Kendall
United States
Lebanon
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
The older SPI/Decision Games "Battle Over Britain" might be just what you're looking for. Squadron-level, with multiple scenarios, a one-week campaign scenario and the full campaign.

Not quite the level of detail/complexity of "Burning Blue" but it plays faster and still has a lot of meat to it.

Should still be available in some venues. Good game.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Hoyt

Durango
Colorado
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks Barry, I'll give it a look
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve Herron
United States
Johnson City
Tennessee
flag msg tools
badge
Never play block wargames with a dentist, they have those little mirrors to peek behind the block.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I wonder if they are considering an Axis & Allies version of the Battle of Britain or maybe the air war over Europe?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joseph
United States
flag msg tools
badge
Today, we're all Spaniards!
Avatar
sherron wrote:
I have not seen any infromation on the remake of RAF but I would think it would be about time for a company to design a new less complex Battle of Britain game or an updated version of this game.


I would welcome a revamp of RAF.

RAF is one of my favorites. A real nail biter. The mechanism of play is innovative, and I don't recall any game from that era or earlier that used time incrementation in that manner. (Where each card / encounter made time elapse)

Due to the high number of cards in the game, it's difficult to crack the code, so it has good replay value.

2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Hoyt

Durango
Colorado
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I haven't tried RAF yet either, you guys are giving me some great ideas!

If anybody ever remade Battle of Britain, I'd like the plane figure to be HE 111s, not the ME 109. Does anybody know of a (roughly) compaitable scale airplane series?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marshal Anderson
United Kingdom
Chesterfield
Derbyshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
blockhead wrote:
I haven't tried RAF yet either, you guys are giving me some great ideas!

If anybody ever remade Battle of Britain, I'd like the plane figure to be HE 111s, not the ME 109. Does anybody know of a (roughly) compaitable scale airplane series?


Not sure if you're still reading this thread, but Tumbling Dice (www.tumblingdiceuk.com) do a good range of miniatures.

Grumbs
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Hoyt

Durango
Colorado
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Yes, I'm still subscribed. Thanks for the link
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Smith
msg tools
I know this is an old thread, but still valid as it comes up in searches. Readers may be interested to note that a remake of Battle Of Britain is now on kickstarter as of July 2016:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1992455033/battle-of-br...

I Had a great demo of this at the UK Games Expo recently and thought it might be worth a punt...

-M
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mih Kah
Finland
flag msg tools
blockhead wrote:
I haven't tried RAF yet either, you guys are giving me some great ideas!

If anybody ever remade Battle of Britain, I'd like the plane figure to be HE 111s, not the ME 109. Does anybody know of a (roughly) compaitable scale airplane series?


Has anyone pimped up their game with different minis? Is the scale 1/600?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.