Designer : Ben Knight
Publisher : Avalon Hill
Year : 1995
Components : 1 map, 2 countersheets, rulebook, 6 dice
I believe that Ben Knight is one of the important designers in late Avalon Hill wargames. Then he moved to XTR and designed “Victory in Normandy” and “Victory at Midway”, both are licensed to Command magazine Japan. The key character of his games is playability.
But, I digress. The “London’s burning” has a scale of 1unit = 1 plane. Actually, it is almost impossible to simulate the whole Blitz with this scale. But, this game uses 2 RAF planes against 3 to 6 German planes to make players feel the tactical combat. I know this is not a simulation, but this simplification is how Knight is.
In this game, you play RAF side as solitary and command 2 fighters. The map covers from Dover strait to London. There are many bombing objects, such as airports, ports, radar site and cities with Anti-air guns and balloon barrages.
German side randomly picks one raid chit every round. The chit determines how many units the raid consists of. Then, roll a die to determine which hex the raid enters and roll two dice to determine its reported altitude. Randomly draw determined number of units from the cup and keep them hidden until revealed. They can be level bombers such as Dornier, dive bombers such as Ju-87, or escort fighters such as Me-109E.
Once entered, they fly to the North on zigzag route determined randomly. If they enter any object, they reveal and bomb it. After bombing they turned to the South and fly back to the France.
Before picking up the raid chit, player must decide how to prepare with his two fighters. They can scramble on any target to wait the raid or wait on the base to have rest.
Each time, the fighter scrambles, the pilot accumulates one fatigue. He can recover 2 fatigues every night by sleep. But, every day have 4 rounds except the night round. So, if he scrambles 3 or even 4 times a turn, he cannot recover the whole fatigue during the night.
Anyway, once both RAF and raid are on the map. They move alternatively. The raid is over when
1) Raid bombs any target and escape to the France.
2) One enters the other’s hex and resolve combat
If a combat occurs, reveal the raiding units and determine their true altitude. The true altitude is the same as reported one or one level lower or higher.
Then, alternatively conduct attack against the enemy. Only fighter can attack one of the enemy planes. The attack is resolved by comparing each factor by rolling a die and adds the plane’s attacking or defending factor and DRMs. Bombers with rear gun can fire back to the fighter. If the attacker is higher, it can get a number of hits as the differential. Then, the player decides what times he would like to shoot within the hits and ammunitions. Roll one die for each hit to determine where it really hits. They can be either engine, pilot or frame (front or back). If a plane gets 2 hits on the same position, it is destroyed. If a plane gets an engine hit, it must break off the combat and fly back to its base. But, it must lose one level of altitude for each hex entered. If it cannot reach the base, it is destroyed. If a plane gets a pilot hit, it also must break off and decide how serious the wound is after landing its base.
After attacking each side, 1 round is over and decides whether the combat is over on the round. Roll 1 die and if the result is lower or equal than round number, the combat is over. The maximum number of round is limited to 4.
DRMs include +2 for 12 o’clock high, +1 for diving attack, -2 for climbing attack, -1 for each hit received, +1 for each friendly fighter unengaged (only for defender). As you can see from these, the altitude is a key factor for aerial combat. In many cases, the escort fighters fly one level higher than bombers.
For simplification, German pilot has no record of fatigue or wound. Only the loss of planes are recorded and removed from the cup.
RAF must keep track of every parameter.
Anyway, during each night, each RAF pilot can recover 2 fatigue levels and player can repair 2 planes form the dead pile for both sides. Also, the number of shoot down is recorded for RAF pilots and if he get 5 shoot down, he becomes an ace and increase his parameter.
On the other hand, bombed targets give the German side victory points if left unrepaired at last. Damaged radar site bring down delays for RAF fighters. They cannot move when raid comes during a number of moves equals the number of damaged radar sites.
Once, any London hex is damaged, the number of raid is increase by one.
The game starts with August 13th, the Adler day. The short scenario ends with one week, and standard scenario ends in one month, and there is an extended scenario.
Since 1 day can have 4 raids, even the short game is not actually short. Honestly speaking, the game is somewhat repetitive.
In my first play, I was really overwhelmed by the frequency of German raids. It is hard to keep the pilots’ condition due to the requirement of intercepting. The good side of this is you can have an ace soon in the game.
There is no significant difference between each fighter. So, first strike is really important. Since the raid moves randomly, usually RAF can get the first strike. And it is important to attack enemy fighters first. This game taught me that air superiority is important even though it does not directly prevent the damage on targets.
Though the combat is really simplified, there is a strategic decision under each action. And the simple combat makes this game really playable like other Knight’s game.
As described above, the game is somewhat repetitive. But, you can feel the atmosphere of Battle of Britain to stand with few fighters against the overwhelming raids. Churchill’s words, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” sounds really true in this game.
Though this game has the same theme and to be the same solitary, this is quite different from “RAF” from West end games.
Briefly speaking, RAF uses an area-map and emphasized where to defend and what should be defended. On the other hand, this game daringly uses hex-map and show the abstract tactical battle to the player to make him feel the atmosphere. Yes, this tactical battle is awfully abstract, since the real raid is done with hundreds of bombers and fighters. But, this is a Ben Knight’s game. The strong point of his designs is he deeply understand what he’d like to make players feel and what he could omit from the game to make it playable enough.
Yes, this game is very different from Butterfield’s games. So, even you played several Butterfield’s games, please try this one.