The arrival of THE BURNING BLUE (publisher GMT, designer Lee Brimmicombe-Wood) reminded me of just how many games I have in my collection specifically on the subject of the Battle of Brtain in 1940. There must be something about that particular air battle I like; it was a desperate time where a handful of men on both sides fought to the last full measure of their strength. I guess I like the battle because of the high stakes involved.
Here’s a small survey of what I have on hand:
1) THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN (publisher Gamescience, designer Lou Zocchi, year 1968)
Back in the heyday of Gamescience, Lou Zocchi’s one man band wargame company, he used to put out some decent games. The Battle of Britain is one of his better ones. This is a classic hex and counter game (although it’s really a square and counter game, but essentially the same thing) with a very limited and straightforward operational concept.
You maneuver small units of airplanes around on patrol (as the RAF) or on raids (as the Luftwaffe). You try, in a limited way, to outguess your opponent’s unit placements. Combat is fairly innocuous but it IS fast moving for the simpler scenarios. Battle of Britain is extremely dated by today’s standards (graphically and in terms of design) but it did deliver on fast and easily understood game play.
In terms of both look and feel and design concepts, I have always related LUFTWAFFE (Avalon Hill, published a few years later) to this game. Very similar, right down the round counters.
2) RAF (publisher West End Games, Designer John Butterfield Year 1986)
RAF is a solitaire effort, and one of the best wargames published by West End (and that’s saying a lot). I was always pretty impressed with WEG’s output. West End was a true garage company (or more accurately, a one-side-of-the shoe star company) with a talent for finding good designers. One of the better guys to work for WEG was John Butterfield, designer of RAF, Freedom in the Galaxy, Ambush and another game on this list.
The action takes place on a smallish restricted focus map of England, the channel and a little bit of France. The human (solitaire) player sets up his patrols and then consults the true AI of the game, which are three decks of cards: Enemy Forces, Events, and Targets.
RAF plays fast and furious, and even though the engine is card driven, I have rarely felt it to be repititious. I suspect RAF is the game on this survey I’ve played the most.
London’s Burning is yet another solitaire game of the Battle of Britain. I guess game designers think that the Luftwaffe side must be dull or something! I like playing this game quite a bit. The mechanics are fairly straighttforward and chart driven, but far more detailed than RAF.
Between this and RAF I probably like RAF somewhat better, because it plays faster. However, LONDON’S BURNING has many interesting features, notably the pilot focus, which is semi-RPG like, and the ability to play the game with another human playing in a collaborative role.
4) BATTLE OVER BRITAIN (TSR/SPI, Designer John Butterfield, Year 1983)
The merger (Borging) of SPI by TSR did generate a few great games. Battle of The Ardennes is one. Battle over Britain is another. Again, John Butterfield was the designer. This is the grand battle at operational level. This game has a very involved German position as raid planning is very important. The Brits are far more reactive in this system.
Interception and air to air combat is fairly complex. The model of squadron management is quite good; you can shuttle squadrons around to your heart’s content as the tempo of battle changes.
Ultimately, this can be a very complex game that is very rewarding to a patient player.
Which brings us to:
5) THE BURNING BLUE (GMT games, Designer Lee Brimmicombe Wood, year 2006)
I’m pretty enthused by my latest addition. Burning Blue is no light wargame. I like the occassional detailed game that makes me think on a different level. I suspect this might be the definitive word on the subject just from looking at it so far.
The first scenario will pretty much tell me what I want to know. The system appears to be quite detailed and both the dedication of the research and love of the subject matter shine forth. It’s clear that Brimmicombe Wood used first person reports as much as possible from both his website and the historical notes. Let’s hope the game lives up to the buzz….
This is by no means a complete list. TSR put out BATTLE OF BRITAIN which I’m still looking for (I hear it’s quite good!). There is also a game by Attactix that I can’t remember that would probably fit. RISE OF THE LUFTWAFFE and ACHTUNG, SPITFIRE might work but I consider them primarily general games about air to air combat and not really at the same level as the previously named games.
In any event, these are the Battle of Britain games I enjoy.