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The Battle of Britain is one of the turning points of World War Two. Having just evacuated what was left of their army off the European mainland, the British were isolated and facing a possible invasion from Hitler’s forces. Before the Nazi forces could land however they had to neutralize any defences that could hinder their progress. This would lead to the massive bombing campaign launched by the Germans, and what would become known as The Battle of Britain.

Designed by John H Butterfield, ‘RAF: The Battle of Britain 1940’ gives you the chance to defend British skies from the Nazi bombing raids in the ‘Lion’ scenario but also play the other side in the ‘Eagle’ scenario. There is also a two player head-to-head game if you don’t feel like playing solo. (This review is primarily about the ‘Lion’ scenario.)

Like many solo games the game play is quite process heavy. There is a clear order in which things must be done and it can take a while for this to sink in, but once it does the game begins to flow nicely and you can concentrate on your tactics. When playing the ‘Lion’ scenario the German actions are determined by decks of cards. These cards tell you where the attacks are headed, how severe the raid is, and what planes will be flying in the raid. The British response is determined by what sort of intelligence they have received about the raid, and how early they received it. When you have accurate and very early intelligence you can scramble more squadrons to meet the threat, but poor and late information finds you committing squadrons before you know anything about the raid. (This is one of the places the game can get very tense.)

The ‘Lion’ scenario is a constant balancing act. You need to balance the needs of meeting the current raid against the need to husband your forces for future raids. Keeping in mind planes can’t stay in the sky forever, and need to land, re-fuel, re-arm and repair. This can keep planes from participating for a number of raids depending on what has happened to them.

This is where the design shines in my opinion. There is a real tension and it requires a bit of thought and some calculated risk at times to overcome it. Do you push your lightly damaged fighters to chase after the bombers, or do you get them fixed for future battles? Do you scramble fighters from neighbouring sectors (and if so how many), or do you let the limited number of squadrons in the sector handle it? And so on.

To someone watching all this it may seem like you spend your time turning over cards and moving counters and then rolling dice without much happening. But they would be wrong! As well as being a brain burner, this is a story game. I got a real sense of a narrative as I sent my plucky squadrons against the hordes attacking them, and every loss was a blow.

As you can probably tell by now I enjoyed playing the ‘Lion’ scenario. There is lots of re-playability just in this one scenario without trying the others which suggests that there is a lot of game in this box. The game also gave me an appreciation of the job done co-ordinating the defence during the battle. I can only imagine how nerve wracking the actual battle was. So in summation, a great game that makes you think and deserves to be played multiple times. In other words a keeper.
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David Brown
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I found the Eagle game far more ineresting and rewarding. The options in Lion were fairly obvious
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Derek Gillam
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I would have to agree with David.

The best strategy is to pounce on small raids, in overwhelming force & really 'cream' the Luftwaffe.This can net you 10-15 VPs.Yes it may mean that a raid goes through unopposed, but you only lose 3 VPs(?)

Always take reinforcements as early as possible.The effect of more RAF planes early,really snowballs & the last few turns (before the inevitable British overwhelming victory!) just show the Germans being massacred.
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Robert Taylor-Smith
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To repeat what Derek posted:

Squadron Leader Douglas Bader's 'Big Wing' strategy (also known as the Balbo) is the only way to go for the RAF in this game.

I consider this a serious flaw in the game. Much debate has gone on about the Big Wing's effectiveness in the Battle of Britain vs Air Vice-Marshall Park's 'Hit and Run' strategy of constant attacks by squadrons. While the Big Wing reduced the RAF losses it took too long to form unless the bombing target was known. 1941 Wargame planning had demostrated it was a really bad tactic if airfields were the targets. Thus the Big Wing was only really effective for the short time when the Luftwaffe changed to daylight raids against London. Unfortunately the game doesn't reflect or enlighten the player that both tactics had merit depending on the conditions. It can't be solved by a simple retooling of the victory points.
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flapjackmachine wrote:
Squadron Leader Douglas Bader's 'Big Wing' strategy (also known as the Balbo) is the only way to go for the RAF in this game.

I consider this a serious flaw in the game. Much debate has gone on about the Big Wing's effectiveness in the Battle of Britain vs Air Vice-Marshall Park's 'Hit and Run' strategy of constant attacks by squadrons. While the Big Wing reduced the RAF losses it took too long to form unless the bombing target was known. 1941 Wargame planning had demostrated it was a really bad tactic if airfields were the targets. Thus the Big Wing was only really effective for the short time when the Luftwaffe changed to daylight raids against London. Unfortunately the game doesn't reflect or enlighten the player that both tactics had merit depending on the conditions. It can't be solved by a simple retooling of the victory points.


I hope I'm not wrong here but I always thought the big wings are pretty much marginalised in this game. They occur only when the target event states 'Big Wing: If more than one squadron from 12 Group is attacking, shift down 1 row for squadron attack.'

I took it that what John had in mind was Park's operational tactics of squadrons (or pairs when using fending and evading) coming at the enemy piecemeal. So when you send, for example, 9 squadrons up against the Germans they are really attacking piecemeal but when abstracted in the combat system they overwhelm the enemy with numerous attacks by no more than a dozen or so aircraft at a time.

I get distinct impression the designer has deliberately marginalised the big wings for good reason. At the time it was a political sideshow that did no good and it's impact was more or less negligible and at worst undermining of the efforts of 11 group. I don't agree that the big wing strategy had much merit at the time even for fighting formations over London with so many fighters many would not have been able to come to bear and London's awesome anti air defences would have been sufficient. Anyway its rare in Lion to actually have the terror raids so it doesn't really come into Lion that much. During the time period of the game 11 group should have been able to rely on 12 group covering their arses so 11 group could get on with the fight their way. IMO any merit big wings had did not start until the earliest just after the time scale of the game.

I think the importance of the big wing controversy in the period of the game is much more with the inability for 11 and 12 to coordinate effectively than about the execution of big wings. I think the game gives it exactly the right amount of attention which is minimal.

Tally ho!

edit: Forgot to mention the couple of day event cards that stop 12 group squadrons operating in 11 group sectors until the next day event. IMO the game has it spot on. It was the inability to work together that was much more relevant at the time than whether a big wing is better than sustained piecemeal attacks. Clearly they wanted a crack at the enemy but from what i've read both Leigh Mallory and Bader come out of this looking like chancers who were pushing their own careers at the expense of what Park was achieving. I'm sure that wasn't the way it was seen at the time because there was plenty of support at government level for what they (Leigh Mallory and Bader)were proposing and what happened after the battle shows this. This was a very stressful time for government and Churchill had to cope with lots of panic at senior level at what was going on from powerful players who felt out of the loop and its a credit to Dowding and Park that they kept such cool heads at the time. I think its hard to fault what the Brits were doing. IMO Park's execution of the Dowding system was faultless. One thing they might have done better IMO is that Dowdings could have been more flexible in shifting a few more squadrons south quicker but then they would have come under Park's command anyway and can't see how that would have helped Leigh Mallory.
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