I have read loads of books about the war in the air during WWII but one of the most impressive parts to read about is the war that was fought in daylight between the German Luftwaffe and the USAAF Mighty Eighth. And I don't want to downplay the efforts of all the other air forces that were fighting in the skies here, but the Eighth was something special.
Lumbering B-17's and B-24's heading towards their targets in the knowledge that the Luftwaffe and its Experten would be waiting for them. Later the bombers would be escorted by Spitfires, P-38's, P-47's, and the impressive and beautiful P-51. But at the start of the daylight offensive it were the bomber crews that had to face the German pilots, determined to bring this to a halt by inflicting crippling losses on the Viermots, on their own.
Despite all the dangers involved, not only flak and German fighters but also the altitude and weather, the bombers were relatively safe as long as they stayed in their combat boxes. If however a bomber got damaged and it lost speed and or altitude, it was flying on a wing and a prayer hoping to get home safely. An Herausschuss was something that was feared by many a crew.
You are too young to drive a car at home in New York, Michigan, California, etc., but are allowed to fly a big four-engined bomber, loaded with bombs and ammunition, and 9 other young guys, over Germany. You fly at 23,000 feet and all of a sudden, fighters are spotted ahead. They dive towards your part of the formation and next one of your starboard engines erupts in flames and the prop stops turning. There is no way to feather the prop on the engine and it is like a giant finger is pushing against the wing. You hear the voice of your ball turret gunner stating that he hit one of the fighters that sliced through the formation.
But you are busy keeping the bomber in formation with the bomber next to you. Yesterday you had a couple of beers with the guy sitting there. Now he is watching your bomber being hit, fearing that you will move out of formation and slam into his ship.
But your B-17 thunders on, straight ahead, but it is starting to lose speed and altitude no matter what you do. Slowly you slide out of your position and below the other bombers...
A few minutes and some 5,000-6,000 feet later you manage to get the bomber on a level course and more or less heading towards England. You and the co-pilot have to fight the controls all the time to keep the ship on this heading towards safety. You know it's still a long way to home base but you hope to evade any German fighters that may pass along. While you are heading towards the Dutch coast a sense of relief starts to come over you. Will we actually make it across to England, escaping the German fighters' attention?
The bomber crosses a canal and the left waist gunner points out a windmill in the distance. It is a beautiful day and one can hardly imagine that a war is raging across Europe.
It's the call of the top turret gunner that ends all this: Bandits, two o'clock high!!!
The game is available as a separate ziplock game or together with issue #34 of Against the Odds magazine. The game contains a cover, large 1" counters, a game board with a track, and a doublesided card with game rules. The art used is beautiful and nicely detailed. It puts you in the position where the story above ended, on the German side, in one of those bandits that spotted this lone B-17 heading for home.
It is your duty to bring down the bomber, ensuring it will not return to fight another day.
After determining the position of the sun, the extend of damage that has been inflicted earlier on the bomber, and the position of its top and ball turrets, you get to place your Rotte of either two Me-109s or FW-190s on the game board.
Anyone familiar with air warfare knowns that the clock positions are used to point out the positions of other aircraft. 12 o'clock is straight ahead, six o'clock is right behind you, 3 o'clock is to the right, while 9 o'clock is to the left. Add high/level/low, and it's quite easy to denote where an aircraft is coming from. So you can put the aircraft in any position you like. You can even add extra Rotten by spending Tactical Points. You will start with 5 TPs.
Since air combat is not static but an always evolving arena of moving objects and forces playing their part, chances are that after you maneuver towards the bomber it maneuvers too. A die roll determines if inertia moves you to another position relative to the target. Dots in the separate spaces around the bomber, which make up four zones (front/right/rear/left), have values ranging from 1 to 5. You will shift a number of spaces according to the result of the die roll but never more than this result. Imagine that you roll a 5, your space contains one dot, so you move to the next space which contains three dots. This makes a total of four. The next space has two dots, so more than one and you stop shifting the fighter as it is not allowed to move to the two dots space. If shifting more than one space the fighter also changes altitude one level.
Combat is resolved by a die roll, black for the attacking fighter and red for the defending bomber. Die roll modifiers are present on the back of the fighter's counter, again color coded, and on the game board. If the attacking result is more than 10 a hit is scored on the bomber. A table present in the space occupied by the fighter shows the result of the attack. Next the bomber gets to fire back, and again, 10 or more is a hit.
If the fighter is hit, the game ends unless you spent a Tactical Point to keep the fighter 'alive'. This represents a last moment break off. Any damage inflicted on the bomber by this fighter is nullified, and the game continues.
If there are no Tactical Points left, or the bomber has suffered either 2 cockpit hits, 3 tail hits, 4 engine hits, or 6 fuselage hits, the game ends. This means that the bomber has been either shot down or it has escaped, or the fighters ran out of ammo or petrol.
Having played a couple of sessions I have seen various results. The first time the bomber shot down many fighters and I ran out of TP. The next session saw the bomber going down with two cockpit hits. Another session saw the bomber being crippled by hits, but it succeeded to reach home in the end. (I do hope that the crew landed this junkheap safely as many hits were scored on it, but if you Google 'B-17' and 'damage' you will see what the Queen of the Skies could suffer and still bring her crews home)
Schwarm! is an excellent game to fill any spare time between game sessions, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, or just when you feel like you want to play a quick game.
The game components are nicely done, and the fighter and damage counters contain good details. The rules are clear except for some small things which were quickly answered at CSW. It's a fun game!
Thank you for taking the time to write this review. 'Schwarm' sounds very interesting. I am always looking for quick-playing but deep solitaire wargames.
- Last edited Sun Mar 9, 2014 10:21 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Mar 9, 2014 10:21 pm
Just played my first game. It was quite fun.
I like the repositioning of planes and turrets that occurs before combat ensues; the lack of complete control adds a nice touch to a solitaire game.