by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, Gordon Christie and Guy Pickett
Your response is constrained by the Response Levels, so it’s important to identify the size and shape of the attack. Then you can concentrate on the main threat: the bombers.
RDF and Observers will discern the rough shape of an attack, but an aggressive forward defence will identify the make up of formations.
Manage resources carefully. Track the Response Levels and figure how many raids you are likely to face. Over-reaction can penalise you. Develop a plan; don’t scramble squadrons randomly. Each should be launched with a specific job in mind.
Try to intercept before the Luftwaffe bombs. The RAF needs to challenge every raid if playing the raid matching rules. Squadrons at distant airfields need to be scrambled early if they are to reach the fight. Squadrons near to the targets need to be scrambled early to get enough height. Decide what mix you need and scramble as quickly as possible.
Most squadron combats will result in a pancake, so maximise their potential with attacks from height (4-6 Angels is best) and use the sun where possible. When the Luftwaffe raids deeper targets, use the extra time to concentrate forces.
Avoiding Freie Jagd raids allows you to mass against the bombers, but they can still sting with strafing attacks. Strafing Freie Jagd are dangerous and are a good reason to orbit squadrons over sector stations where units are rearming.
Well-escorted raids will need repeated interceptions to get through to the bombers. Wear the escorts down. Never give up, as it only needs one squadron to evade the escorts and punish a bomber formation.
Attack top cover only if tactical conditions are favourable (i.e., up-sun and there are enough squadrons to go for the bombers later). Lead with Spitfires to draw the sting of the escort.
Orbits and patrols are useful for point defence and getting multiple chances to tally during Luftwaffe movement, but can easily be taken down by roaming Freie Jagd, so vector them out of the way of fighter sweeps if necessary.
Don’t forget that Heavy Ack-Ack can aid tallying.
Wings are useful against well-escorted raids, but can be unwieldy. If wings are needed, plan in advance so you have pairs of squadrons ready to take off together. If possible, pair Spitfire and Hurricane units so the Spits can fend off the escort. The Duxford Wing deployed as a Balbo can be devastating but is cumbersome and fragile. Plan its use carefully.
Beware of Jabos in the later scenarios. They look like Freie Jagd but give the Luftwaffe player useful VPs if the RAF is not alert. Erpro 210 is always a worry when in Gruppe strength.
The random chit picks make the Luftwaffe job a challenge. Your game is in your plan. Time spent planning is often rewarded, though nothing can salvage a bad plan. Simple plans are more likely to work but are more easily countered. Complex plans will almost certainly go wrong at some point, so anticipate this and ride with it.
To win, the Luftwaffe must bomb well and score more kills than losses. The first priority is to prevent the bombers being disrupted before they attack.
When planning, look at the maximum VPs your bombers can achieve and compare to the score you need to win. This will give you an idea of how many VPs you can afford to lose through losses, bombing from high altitude, and using Channel patrols as Freie Jagd or withdrawal escort.
Pushing the RAF over their Response Limits can swing the game. Unexpected late game threats to quiet sectors can put the RAF in the position of being forced to scramble or risk squadrons being caught on the ground. Consider holding back raids to make a second wave.
Keep the RAF off balance by making it difficult for him to discern your attack plan. The odder raid chit combinations can work this to your advantage. Use surprise, deception and bluff in your plan. Envisage how your plan will look to the RAF player, and what response he is likely to make.
Have a scheme for using dummy form ups: either deploy them to be credible threats or consider not using your full allocation so that real form ups look like dummies.
Big raids will almost always be detected but are more easily protected with escorts. Small raids might look like threats or Freie Jagd depending on how detection performs. Many small raids greatly complicate the fighter allocation problem for the RAF but are much less robust if intercepted.
Study the weather en route to and over the target and use it to your advantage. Try to ensure the bomber routes pass over landmarks to aid navigation. (The River Thames is a wonderful route for navigating to the heart of London.)
Freie Jagd can turn the game. When they are effective, they can break up the RAF before they reach the bomber raids. However, if the RAF can bypass them then raids can be overwhelmed. Consider paying the VP penalty and taking a Channel patrol Gruppe as extra Freie Jagd if short on fighters.
Place Freie Jagd to cover likely approach routes, generally staying as close to the bombers as allowed. Make them unpredictable. Flying low at slow speed can make them look like bomber threats but allow high RAF squadrons to bypass them easily.
Orbits can be useful, particularly over a bomber target, but once set up are easily identified by the RAF and avoided. However, orbits are useful when put in towards the end of a route to allow the fighters to hang around.
Try to have your fighter sweeps pass through target hexes just ahead of the bombers to take down any orbiting squadrons. Have Freie Jagd routes pass over airfields or balloons so they can strafe if not engaged and pick up odd VPs. Don’t use Freie Jagd as a ‘screen’ ahead of the bombers; this makes them predictable and the RAF can avoid them.
Ensure your fighter routes allow for at least 2 turns of combat endurance use. Be careful of fighters going off in pursuit and combat. You must know when they have to pancake due to endurance. Fighters lost on recovery are kills and give the RAF victory points.
Unless there is a good reason not to, try for every tally you can. Any active RAF squadron engaged is one less that can have a go at the bombers. Make tallying wings and Balbos a priority, as you might take out several squadrons in one combat.
Don’t get sucked into long pursuits with enemy squadrons. Drop pursuit if you can’t catch an enemy.
Any substantial bomber force should have close escort and top cover.
Big raids on deep targets will generally need to fight through with heavy escort, but try and wrong-foot the RAF as much as possible and use Freie Jagd to disrupt the RAF response.
Managing the air battle is difficult because of the number of unpredictable elements beyond your control. Games will tend to become more chaotic as play progresses. A raid plan or tactic that works well one day can fail miserably the next as circumstances change.