On the table is Enemy Coast Ahead, a game about the famous WW2 air raid to destroy several dams in Germany using Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bomb. The game, intended for solo play, is designed by Jeremy White and published by GMT.
The Physical production standards are excellent: one clean full sized map, a rule book, a scenario book, 30+ 1” counters, 250+ 5/8” counters, and an abundance of charts to get you through the game free of the rulebook. However, the rulebook is very good, and it answered all my queries, with nothing causing me pain or grief. (An unusual state of affairs with today’s rulebooks.)
There are three types of scenario, which is really a variation on programmed learning. First you have the Attack Scenarios. These deal with the actual attacks, and so you learn the rules for dealing with the approach, the release, enemy flak, nightfighters, and so on. Of the five, one is pretty chunky, one is small, and three are medium. I have played one of each type to conclusion, and enjoyed them. You can also combine Attack Scenarios. Then there are four Flight Scenarios (three plus the fourth combines the others) which deal with flights to the attack zones, as well as the attacks on the dams. Finally, there is the Campaign Game, which adds in the preparation and training for the operation.
There are a ton of historical and design notes in the package, and the whole thing just oozes with the love, care, and attention that has been poured into it. Sometimes, a designer’s infatuation with his subject matter can blind him to design faults and quirks. This can make the developer’s life even more challenging. In this game, no developer is credited, so it looks as if Jeremy White got exactly what he wanted anyway. And, for the avoidance of doubt, I see that as a good thing. He clearly knows his subject matter, and he does have the talent to synthesize enough of the historical events to give a meaningful and historically accurate game playing experience. I loved it. I even managed to blow up some dams!
In short, you get a lot for your money in the box, including an immersive historically accurate gaming experience. However, you should be aware that in many respects this game is close to being a supercharged version of the old Avalon Hill solitaire game B-17, meaning that the amount of player decision making is not high. You do have a lot to mull over in the Campaign game, and that is where your decision making can make the difference. But in the other scenarios you are moving, rolling dice, drawing chits, and praying for good outcomes. It’s a question of personal taste. If I am in the mood, this is perfect. So I am happy with my purchase, and even happier I finally got it to the gaming table – it came out over two years ago. But the mood has passed, and I will probably play just one more Flight Scenario before moving on to another game. (It will be back on the table at some point, but will need to be patient.)
Finally, if you are interested and want to know more, check out Matthew Kirschenbaum‘s excellent piece on BoardGameGeek; it’s a full review, and a reasonably objective one at that.