Author Topic: Skies Above the Reich 1942-? AAR  (Read 1626 times)

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Offline ComradeP

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Skies Above the Reich 1942-? AAR
« on: August 06, 2018, 01:34:47 AM »
Skies Above the Reich (from this point on: SAtR), designed by Jeremy White and Mark Aasted and published by GMT Games, is a 1-2 player boardgame covering the Luftwaffe's attempts to thwart the USAAF's B-17 daylight bombing campaign in 1942-1945.

Players control an oversized Staffel of Luftwaffe Bf109 fighters and supporting auxiliaries of various types. It's designed as a solitaire game, but includes rules for two players each controlling a part of the Staffel. The game's coverage of the air war over Germany starts in 1942 with the first daylight bombing missions by B-17's and ends in 1945 or earlier if the player manages to "win." The war years, aside from 1942 and 1945, are divided into abstract early-mid-late seasons covering several months. 1942 and 1945 are represented by a single "season." In each season, the player fights through a certain number of missions in order to reach the next season.

There are three mission types, to represent the moment the bombers are intercepted by your aircraft: Inbound, Near Target or Outbound. They're nearly identical in terms of mechanics and rules, with the main variables being when Escorts arrive (outbound)/leave (inbound and near target) and if there is "friendly" flak that can damage bombers. I say "friendly" because it can hit your fighters as well. Flak, interceptions by other formations or mechanical problems are also abstracted into potential pre-battle damage that you roll for during the mission preparation phase.

The auxiliaries are Me110 heavy fighters, Me410 heavy fighters, Ju88 bombers converted to a heavy fighter role, FW190 fighters and the Me262 jet fighter. Auxiliary types become (un)available on certain dates as the campaign progresses, or may or may not be available if you play a single season.  The various Bf109 versions are abstracted into a single type for the entire campaign, but certain attachments become (un)available on certain dates to represent changes to armament, tactics and equipment. The attachments are bombs, rockets, cannon and armour.

Allied escorts consist of RAF/USAAF Spitfires, P-47's, P-51's and P-38's, which become (un)available for escort duties on certain dates.

Luftwaffe fighters are represented by stickers on blocks, other components by markers or altitude indicator blocks.

There's a decent amount of die rolling to be done during setup and the game, and at first glance some mechanics might seem convoluted, but in my opinion it all works well in practice. The game was initially far more complex, and was made more accessible over time. The thought that went into the design clearly shows.

The difficulty with writing an AAR for SAtR is that it's tricky to make playing a mission visually appealing for a blow-by-blow narrative. The map and components all look great, that's not the issue. The problem is that the map can become a bit cluttered for reasons I'll mention shortly which can make the action difficult to comprehend. Due to those factors, the AAR will be mostly text as "tell" works better than "show" here.

The game comes with two folding map boards, with a game map on the front and rear. Map 1 also has an A and B variant, which adds up to 5 maps or variants in total. The first folding map, containing maps 1A/1B and 2 is a 17" x 22" map board or about A2 paper size, the map board containing maps 3 and 4 is 22" x 34" or about A1 paper size.

To borrow a screenshot by GMT, map 2 looks like this:

The B-17's are organized into 3x3 space elements and printed on the map. Status changes can be indicated by markers.

Each B-17 is adjacent to/on the corner of 4 spaces, with the edge of the map counting as a space.

Each space has a Lethality level depending on the number of B-17's adjacent to the space. The Lethality level can increase or decrease based on fighter approach vector and detrimental changes to the bomber element like a bomber falling out of formation or being destroyed or a decrease in element cohesion. Fallen bombers result in -1 Lethality in the spaces they were originally adjacent to.

Elements can be in one of 3 states: Good Order, Loose or Kaputt. Loose gives a -1 penalty to Lethality for the entire element, Kaputt a -2. An element can never return to Good Order when Loose, but can return to Loose from Kaputt under certain conditions.

Fighters move into spaces from approach boxes from the 4 different sides: Nose 11 to 1 o'clock, Flank 2-4 o'clock, Tail 5 to 7 o'clock and Flank 8-10 o'clock as indicated on the map. They may approach from either High, Level (if possible) or Low vectors relative to the bombers. Fighters have 1 move per turn which allows them to move to a different box or direction of approach, and end in Return boxes after (surviving) combat with the B-17's on turns when the fighters attack.

Allied Escorts start in off-map Escort stations and may move to map boxes based on die rolls. Escorts engage Luftwaffe aircraft in the box they arrive in, or move to an adjacent box with Luftwaffe fighters during the Escort phase if they're already in an on-map box. As the on-map arrival of Escorts depends on die rolls, it's possible that Escorts never arrive on-map.

I'll try to explain how the rest of the mechanics work as I run into situations where they come into play.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2018, 02:59:16 AM by ComradeP »
The fact that these people drew inspiration...and then became chicken farmers - Cyrano, Dragon' Up The Past #45

Offline ComradeP

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Re: Skies Above the Reich 1942-? AAR
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2018, 02:48:13 AM »
You start the 1942 campaign with 6 Experten (aces) and 12 veterans. Veteran pilots have no special skills and face no penalties. They're the default pilot quality category and there's no marker to indicate a veteran pilot. There are 18 named pilot stickers for the Bf109's. You always have at most 18 pilots and Bf109's per mission, regardless of whether you would be able to deploy more aircraft (if you can deploy more than 18 aircraft, the rest would have to be auxiliaries if you don't spend points on attachments).

An Experte may possess one or more Experte skills, which cost pilot 5 experience to acquire and may be acquired more than once. Skills can be used once per mission.

The skills are:

Timing: add Damage to attack result (requires Determined mode).

Aim: if Damage result, draw and apply 2 Damage markers.

Luck: ignore 1 Hit.

Break Anywhere: Break Away to any Return Box (no Continuing Fire card).

What these skills do in practice will become clear later on. I picked Luck for all 6 pilots.

Pilots can be replaced once, giving you a theoretical total of 36 pilots of which at most 18 can be active at one time. When replaced, they are Green. some pilots might already be Green if you start later in the war.

Green pilots suffer one of 3 penalties, which always trigger when applicable:

Erratic: 1 Tactical Point to Break Away (or else fighter exit).

Panic: exits when Hit; perform Recovery immediately. The Hit can still be removed by a Hit Removed modifier.

Zeal: must be in Determined mode.

Green penalties cost 3 pilot experience to remove. When removed, they function like veteran pilots with no special skills or penalties.

Pilots earn experience by surviving the Fate box rolls if they suffer a severe hit or are shot down in aerial combat, if they shoot a bomber out of formation (bomber Fallen), if they destroy a bomber, or if they shoot down an Escort. Destroying a bomber gives 2 EP, everything else gives 1 EP.

The game comes with a pad double-sided pages. The first page is the Pilot Roster where you keep track of your pilots, the second side contains the Staffel Log where you log mission information, Staffel experience, Victory points, whether pilots were killed during a mission and any notes you might want to add.

The Staffel earns 1 EP for each Fallen bomber through actions of the Staffel and auxiliaries, and 2 EP for each Destroyed bomber through actions of the Staffel and auxiliaries. Auxiliaries that end up in the Fate box and don't get a Land result give a -1 Staffel EP and -1 Operations Point penalty.

Staffel EP can be used to override die rolls during Mission Set-Up at a cost of 7 EP per roll. More about that later.

As I'm using the Advanced Rules, I have to Destroy bombers either through a Bomber Destroyed catastrophic effect on the formation map, or on the special Pursuit map in order to earn Victory Points. I earn 2 Victory Points per destroyed bomber for Inbound missions, and 1 for Near Target and Outbound missions.

There's a Pursuit map for each year or group of seasons, representing increased durability and firepower of the B-17 as the war goes on.

Borrowing another screenshot from GMT, the Pursuit map for 1943 looks like this:

Bombers that become Fallen from damage caused during the mission (not from pre-mission damage) end up on the turn track, at which point you can send fighters after them to attempt to intercept them and fight them on the Pursuit map at the end of the mission.

There's a bit of a catch with this mechanic, as the bomber might be destroyed when you get there through Accumulated damage for a certain damage category (3 rudder damage, or 6 wing damage in the case of 1943 for example) or bail out/fire rolls, which means your pilot doesn't get 2 EP for destroying a bomber, but you do earn 2 Staffel EP and 1 or 2 VP, depending on mission type.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2018, 03:07:50 AM by ComradeP »
The fact that these people drew inspiration...and then became chicken farmers - Cyrano, Dragon' Up The Past #45

Offline JasonPratt

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Re: Skies Above the Reich 1942-? AAR
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2018, 06:45:36 AM »
This is reasonably squee.  O0
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in chronological order. Lots and lots of order...

Dawn of Armageddon -- a narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse: The Hunt Begins: Insert Joke Here!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

Offline ComradeP

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Re: Skies Above the Reich 1942-? AAR
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2018, 09:16:37 AM »
So, to continue the AAR I'll give a short explanation of how combat works and then I'll "introduce" the Experten to give them some background for the sake of the narrative.

Note: I use small plastic bags to hold the markers, so I'll refer to taking markers out of the bag instead of a cup or the like.

Combat is choice-marker-card-dice based. Rolls are made with a D10 die.

The first step in combat in SAtR is moving aircraft into an Approach box from one of the altitude boxes. A wave of up to 6 fighters can attack at the same time from all of the Approach boxes combined, any other fighters will attack in the next wave(s).

You determine the mode they'll be in, Determined or Evasive. Determined is more lethal to bombers and your aircraft (higher chance of getting Hit or inflicting Damage), Evasive less lethal to both. Evasive aircraft spend an extra turn returning to an altitude box.

You also decide what kind of Manoeuvre a fighter will make, which in terms determines where it goes and if it uses the High or Low (Evasive) return box. You can climb, climb/roll, dive or dive/roll.

After that, you move them into a bomber's space on the side you're attacking the bomber from.

If there are 2 or more aircraft in a space, you take a collision marker out of the bag and apply the effects, if any. Most collision marker effects tend to apply only to fighters in Determined mode.

You then draw a card for the relevant approach angle (Nose, Oblique or Tail) and check the result on the card for the fighter's mode, altitude and the space's lethality value. For example: Nose - Determined - High - 0 result might be Damage.

Hits to your aircraft are applied by taking a Hit marker out of the bag, which indicates where the fighter was Hit and a number. Damage can be shrugged off in two ways: by a roll equal or higher than the number on the marker or by using the Luck Experte skill or an advantage that cancels a Hit, such as the Rotte advantage for attacking with two Determined fighters in the same space. Advantages can be applied once per bomber element, regardless of how many times they're earned. For example: earning the Rotte advantage 3 times won't allow you to cancel 3 Hits, but just 1.

If a Hit is applied, the fighter won't be able to move back to the Formation map and moves into the Fate box where the fate of the pilot is resolved through rolls after the battle.

If the bomber is Damaged, you take one or more Damage marker(s) out of the bag. Damage markers have an indication of the part of the bomber that was hit on the front, usually with a Catastrophic Effect number and effect.

A Catastrophic Effect, when triggered, causes the bomber to either become Fallen or Destroyed, depending on the marker. You roll a D10 to determine whether or not it triggers. Using the Advanced rules, if it becomes Fallen, the bomber is moved to the Turn track where you need to intercept it by moving a fighter from the Formation map to the Turn track before you can engage the bomber on the Pursuit map. The last pilot to damage it on the Formation map earns 1 EP. If the bomber is Destroyed, it is simply removed from play, you earn 1 or 2 VP's depending on mission type and the last pilot to hit it earns 2 EP. You then place a Fallen or Destroyed marker on the map on top of the printed B-17 that is no longer in the element.

If any of these effects occur from pre-battle damage, your pilots don't earn EP or VP and the B-17 is assumed not to have entered the formation map.

If no Catastrophic Effect applies, you flip the Damage marker. On the rear, it has a letter and a number. The letter is used for determining where the marker is placed on the Pursuit map, the number determines the severity of the hit and may cause the bomber to be gone before your pilots can get to it on the Pursuit map if the number is equal to or higher than the relevant number for the part of the plane that was hit. The pilot earns no EP for watching a bomber go down before the first pass on the Pursuit map, but you do earn 1 or 2 VP. 10 accumulated damage, regardless of type, on the Formation map destroys a bomber without the need to chase it to the Pursuit map. This doesn't apply to the Pursuit map, though it's rare that a bomber will still be in the air with 10 accumulated damage.

After the attack, you draw a Continuing Fire card and Break Away. The Continuing Fire card has two rows for mode and Lethality, where you check the effect and apply it. There is also an Event description which might call for additional markers to enter play, inflict a Tactical Point penalty, increases Lethality for a certain Manoeuvre or which might cancel Continuing Fire for a certain Manoeuvre and/or force you to Break Away to a certain attack vector. When diving, your aircraft might also get Bounced by Escorts in the Below Trailing station, forcing you into aerial combat.

Lethality can be decreased if a bomber is Fallen or Destroyed. Depending on the attack card, your fighter might also have moved one or more space after attacking, and you apply the relevant Lethality level. I prefer to plan a Manoeuvre to the edge of the map as the Lethality level tends to be lower there. You don't want to end up in the middle of an element.

Experten can learn the Break Anywhere skill which allows them to ignore Continuing Fire and move their fighter to a return box of their choice. Me 262's in Evasive mode always Break Anywhere. They're way too fast for anyone to catch aside from when they're making their attack pass and basically zoom and boom their way through the bomber stream.
The fact that these people drew inspiration...and then became chicken farmers - Cyrano, Dragon' Up The Past #45

Offline BanzaiCat

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Re: Skies Above the Reich 1942-? AAR
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2018, 12:39:36 PM »