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Subject: Review of London's Burning rss

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Keith Komba
United States
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Missouri
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I like “London’s Burning” a lot as a solo game. The strategy is not in the tactical nature of a dogfight, but rather focuses on when and where to deploy your fighters before a raid and, more importantly, on when to break off an attack by your fighters to ensure self-preservation.

This is a late addition (1995) AH game, and first impressions upon opening the box are stellar: solid, full color game boards (2!) – no paper maps!; plenty of counters (although they were somewhat difficult to separate); and a rule book covering the solitaire game and the 2-player variant. The map board and plane chart / combat boards are top notch. Most everything you’ll need to reference is included on the boards, so referencing the rule book during the game is minimal, especially after the first couple of rounds. The solitaire rules are contained in the first 12 pages of the rulebook. The rest of the rulebook covers the two player variant. The rules were clear and mostly self-explanatory. Any confusion is clarified after playing the game. Things become pretty self-explanatory.

Set-up took a little coordination at first. (After punching the counters and plane pieces, you’ll need some separate counter holders to draw random tiles from.) There are lots of different things to keep track of, but there’s a chart for each stat you’ll need on the map board(s). Just don’t sneeze heavily or play around an inquisitive cat. A magnetic board / counter set-up would have been ideal!

You have your choice of game time frames to play through, with an actual calendar highlighting the weather for that day on the map board. The weather is either clear (possible raids) or rainy (no raids) and you can play historically or roll for random weather. You start with two random RAF pilots and matching fighters. Two fighters are placed in reserve. The remaining four RAF pilots are dispersed one per Sunday on the Calendar, meaning they can’t be activated until that day is reached during the game. (If you kill off your pilots before that day, as I did my first game, the Germans have free reign to fly unimpeded over England, bombing at will until you can activate your next available pilot.)

Each day is divided into several phases (7am; 10am; 2pm; 5pm; and Night). At the beginning of each phase (except Night) you decide whether or not to send one or both of your fighters on patrol. If you’ve patrolled, you’ll have a better chance of intercepting before a target is reached; however, pilot fatigue factors in, which is usually only significant later in the game, when you’re down to minimal pilot(s) and might need to conserve everything possible. You can also scramble a pilot from his base, which will take longer (usually) to reach the raiding planes, but gives you the option to choose not to fly at all, especially when you’re down to your last pilot! Next you draw a Raid card. There will either be No Raid, in which case you move on to the next time phase, or there will be a raid with a variable number (4 – 6) of German planes involved. These are drawn at random and remain face down until they either reach their target or you intercept them with a fighter. The ‘reported’ altitude of the raid is rolled for, but this is frequently different than what the actual altitude is. (This is intended to simulate the difficulties in determining the actual altitude from preliminary spotting reports.)

The path of the raiding planes is done via the game system, which entails rolling for a starting hex, then rolling on each German movement turn for a random path. Each number has its own hex-movement combination, which is an excellent way of effectively randomizing the German movement. You never know which target they will hit. If you intercept the Germans before a target is reached, the plane counters are revealed and the actual altitude is rolled for, which could move the raiding party up or down one altitude level, and which could allow for ‘top cover’ with some or all German fighters. If you are within one altitude height of the raiding planes when you intercept (which you will adjust to during your movement to catch them) you can choose to attack or break off. This is where the strategy comes to fulfillment. Do you attack fighters first? Do you get rid of the bombers? Are there too many fighters to take on at all and should you just break off and save your pilot? Should you wait for your other pilot to show up?

Once you decide to attack, you pick a specific target for each of your engaged fighters. Your plane goes through a performance check, which includes a die roll + it’s performance modifier (fighters perform better than bombers) + other modifiers (like diving, coming out of the sun, approaching head on) while losing points for things like pilot fatigue or damage to your plane. If your performance check surpasses the German target’s, you get to fire a number of bursts equal at most to the difference in your performance checks. However, you only get a limited number of bursts for the ENTIRE combat (against all the raiding planes), so you must decide (before the combat) how many bursts you want to fire at the target. Roll below your fire number and it’s a hit. Two hits on the same area of a plane and it’s destroyed. Damage the plane and it has to break off and will probably crash later anyway. After you attack, however, the Germans get a crack at you. All available German fighters can do performance checks against your fighter(s), and if they outdo you, they get to roll up to three bursts. Same rules apply for damage. Chances of losing to a German fighter (or two or three!) are GOOD! Plus, each bomber you attack gets to fire its tail gun at you with half the number of bursts you used against it. There’s lots of carnage and shrapnel in a combat round.

If you destroy all the bombers, you don’t have to worry about England being bombed on that phase. If you can break off and save your plane and your pilot after destroying the bombers, all the better. But you can’t break off until it’s your turn for combat. So, once engaged, the Germans will always get their shots on you. The Germans bomb the first available target they reach. Damage is accumulated on each target based upon the number of bombs dropped on it (each bomber carries one or two bombs), the altitude (lower = more damage), and any AA guns on the location (which decrease damage by one.) After raiding, the Germans return home. RAF pilots return to base, renew ammo and fix damage.

This is repeated for EACH of the daylight phases. So there’s a possibility of FOUR (phew) raids a day. Hope for a lot of NO Raid cards to make it through. During the Night phase, Germany replaces two random planes that were shot down. England gets two points to either replace a downed plane or decrease bombing damage. Pilot fatigue is decreased by two as well. The next day starts, and if the weather’s clear, the sirens will inevitably roll again. RAF reinforcements are extremely scarce, so protecting your pilots and deciding when to attack is one of the key’s to the game. When one of your pilots shoots down 5 Germans, he becomes an ace and receives enhancements to his combat performance. It really hurts when you build an ace and then lose him!

RAF scores a victory point for each German plane shot down (and you’ll shoot down a lot, which is fun!) Germany scores points for RAF planes shot down (which hurt big time) plus the total damage points on the map from bombings. High score wins.

This is a great solitaire game. The system of German movement is excellent. The battle system is expectedly harsh. If you’re outnumbered at all, expect to lose something. It plays quickly once you’ve gone through a few phases.
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Keith Komba
United States
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Missouri
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Hey, thanks! It certainly is addicting! I can't stand sitting by helplessly after I lost my last pilot and watching the Germans have their way with the bombings.
 
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Keith Komba
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That's a great sounding variant on the weather. Can you give me the specs on how you roll on the weather table?
 
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Matt Boggs
Australia
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That sounds like a good idea Daren. I've never played this, but the same thing could be done when playing Silent War.
 
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Matt Boggs
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It is awesome. It's just a bit of a monster game when you get into the campaigns.
 
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Tony Cutcliffe
United Kingdom
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kombaman wrote:
That's a great sounding variant on the weather. Can you give me the specs on how you roll on the weather table?

When playing with the Random Weather optional rule, you simply roll a die on the weather table printed on the board.

1,2 = Clear weather
3,4,5 = Same as the day before
6 = Raining

Simples
 
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James Jenkins
Thailand
Chiang Mai
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This is now my favorite solitaire game, right in front of Silent War. I have RAF, but I want to have a small slice of the conflict at the pilot level, not the Air Vice Marshal. So LB works real well.

 
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