Playtesting my “Bomber” rules

Some years ago I created a wargame based around Len Deighton’s novel “Bomber”, depicting a raid by Lancaster bombers over Germany 1943.  I have been revising and tweaking the rules over the past few months, but do not have a definitive ruleset yet.  It is intended to be a multi-player game for a large table, in which each player controls three or four Lancasters and one JU88 night fighter.  The object is to complete the mission, inflict maximum damage and minimise your own damage to crew and aircraft.

In my latest campaign I need to depict a bombing raid by the Luftwaffe on a French town/city in 1940.  The Germans have two bomber squadrons – to use the English equivalent – and two escorting fighter squadrons.  The French have one defending fighter squadron.

I decided to play through the rules, adapting where necessary for aircraft specifications, and to annotate the game for rule codification.  It was not entirely successful.

What did I learn from this?

First, do not lay a thick blanket under your gaming cloth to protect the dining table.  It makes the planes go all wobbly on their bases and topple over, often with a domino effect.  Hence accompanying photographs show them temporarily stuck to MDF hexagons.

Second, and especially if you are occupying the family dining table, don’t start a game that can’t be completed within three days!

Third, a multi-player game where each player has four models is unlikely to be manageable with one player controlling sixty, especially if every move is documented.

Fourth, rules written for a scenario where every aircraft is following the same general route indicated by pathfinder flares, but essentially operating on their own at night do not translate well to a daylight raid in an era where tight formations were the normal operational method.  Having a table only 35”/89cm wide does not help with manoeuvring the flights of three or four aircraft.

Fifth, because the rules are written around the varying abilities of each aircrew member, radar guided night fighters with a crew of three don’t translate to single-seat fighters where one man does everything.  (In my original game the “abilities” of each aircraft crew added up to the same total.)

I had to adapt everything as new situations occurred and gave up the game after three days, before the second wave of bombers had reached the target.  However, I had worked a system of formation flying and fighter interception, as well as enjoying the bombing.  In my game the actual bombing is done with tiddly-winks.  After each bomb-load is dropped, the score is counted and the winks replaced by smoke markers, which obstruct the subsequent bombing efforts. 

Scoring is adaptable for each game, but for this one I set the points as follows: 

Marshalling yard 30 points, other railway 12 points, industrial 18 points, residential 6 points, open country -6 points, church or hospital -30 points.  These scores were to allow for division where a wink landed across two or three different hexagon types.

For example:  If a wink landed across the intersection between the cathedral, the rail yard and a residential area, the score would be (30/3)+(-30/3)+(6/3) or 10-10+2 =2.

One bomber managed to hit the cathedral with one of his five bombs, two fell on the hospital, one in a street and one in the fields outside the town.  A score of 6-30-60-6:  -90!  The best score was two on the marshalling yard and engine sheds, two residential and one factory for 81 points.

Here are a few photographs from the game:

The target city before bombing. Main target is the marshalling yard (3 hexagons with 4 rail tracks).
Heinkel 111 N-Nordpol caught between two AA units
The bombers (on temporary MDF bases) approach the target
After the first 2 flights have bombed
This pilot returned home in shock (now called PTSD). He extinguished two engine fires but failed the third, but did successfully make it back to base.

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General Whiskers

Wargaming butterfly (mainly solo), unpainted model figure amasser, and Historical Re-enactor of the black powder era.

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