Peleg and I have now completed a couple of playings of the GMT game Bomber Command. Designed by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, it’s about the 1943-45 nighttime bombing campaign by Britain against Germany.
The British player plots his raids on a separate (hidden) copy of the map, with a set timetable, target and route for each. He cannot deviate from this. The German player has to scramble his air force, set up patrols, and hope he detects the raids so he can attack them with his nightfighters. The more damage done to the bombing raids, the less effective their bombing is. However, the German player has to be aware of the fuel limitations of his planes and so must be able to cycle enough of them (like refuel and rearm) at the key points at the right time.
Because you are dealing with groups of planes, you lose the detail and overhead of flying individual aircraft. This frees you up to concentrate on the big picture. You are playing a different role in this game.
In play it’s very different from most wargames and will not suit all types of player. For example, the British player is largely done once he has plotted his raids. He does get to pick the aiming point when he reaches his main target, and do a bit of bombing adjustment, but that’s not too demanding. The German player has the bulk of the work – and the frustration of trying to find his targets.
As an important aside, the main raid is conducted on a separate city map – there are five types for different sizes of city – which illustrates the reality of the bombing campaign. Target cities have city center, industrial, and transport hexes. They also have residential hexes. People die. So, the game does not shy away from showing you, almost up close and personal, a more concrete image of what collateral damage is.
The game includes a ton of historical detail, much of it layered on with the cards each player has. There’s weather, jamming, searchlights, radio beacons, scramble losses, landing losses, city flak, area flak, wild and tame boars (nightfighter tactics) and much, much more. The rules are not complex for what you get, but because the concepts and mechanics are different, may take a little longer than usual to learn.
We played a shorter introductory game – with a limited choice of targets – and master bomber Peleg secured a resounding victory. Next we played a complete game, giving Peleg the full choice of targets (from a chit draw). My German air force was performing much better this time round. unfortunately, fate – a card played by Peleg – caused my detection screen to lose a vital link at the wrong time, and his main raid penetrated without much damage. And, just as I had gathered the forces for a killer swarm on the return journey, I blew several detection rolls. So his raids sneaked home, largely untroubled. Another British victory.
We both enjoyed the game. It’s not difficult to play, but challenging – especially for the German player (ahem) – to play well. It gives a good feel for the campaign and the type of issues faced, It’s involving, interesting and fun.
There are two campaign settings which, with a large variety of targets and scenario specific rules, means there is a lot of good gaming time in the box.
For anyone interested in WW2 aerial warfare, it’s a must.