Night Fighter Ace: Air Defense over Germany Playthrough

A Replay of Zoom Gaming During the COVID Pandemic – Die Götterdämmerung

Night Fighter Ace is a great solo game that allows gamers to replay the German Nachtjäger campaign against the RAF from August 1943 to July 1944. Players can choose from over 30 planes based on their level of “Prestige”and have the ability to customize the skills of their crewman based on experience gained flying missions. Game options keep the missions unique and challenging. The game is well supported via BoardGameGeek with files that help streamline play, offer extended campaigns, errata and more, as well as a Forum where you can search for Q&A and ask your own questions that will be answered by the rules’ author, Gregory Smith. Very impressive.

[Please note that any symbols, words or patterns of speech used are only for historical flavor as no-one associated with are fascists or believe in that crap.]

End May 1944. The squadron has had its best month ever, shooting down four Mosquito fighters, one H2S bomber and 66 four engine bombers for a grand total of 71 British planes. This was almost as many planes as March and April (75) combined! The improved planes, pilot skills and funkers (radar operators) have proven their worth as is having more unwounded pilots in the air. The squadron enters the final two months full of confidence and just a little swagger, knowing there are blunting the RAF night campaign. As the fight intensifies, will the pilots be able to keep up this pace?

June and July 1944. The battle in the night skies over Germany is intensifying as each side attempts outwit or counter the measures taken by the other. By mid-month RAF Jamming will go to +3! This means that the +4 radar on the He-219 will almost be neutralized – on full moon nights the pilots will find bombers on a D10 roll of 6-10, quite good, however, on no moon nights this will worsen to a 10 only! The Ju-88 crews will have a more difficult time as they only have +3 radar which will drop to +2 radar in July. Pilots Koznarsky, Mickel, Murphy and Williams do have the advantage of having a Funker with +1 interception skill – if he can be kept safe and alive! Most pilots share similar skills, however, pilots Griess, Mickel and Murphy choose “Expert” – this means that, once during each interception, they may redraw any combat card to reflect their skill in their plane. This skill is not transferrable between classes of planes (e.g. Ofw Mickel had the Expert skill while flying Junkers planes and had to reacquire the skill later while flying in the Heinkel series of planes). Having lost the ability to fire weapons due to jamming, pilots Mickel and Williams purchased the Weapons Maintenance skill. All the pilots did their best to upgrade as many different crewmen as possible to gain the Situational Awareness skill – this will be extremely important when encountering the Mosquitos that plague the Dutch bases.

As the month begins with a dark moon (-1 modifier) and with only one pilot in the air, hunting was poor and only one bomber was caught and shot down by Ofw Mickel. The next evening was better for some pilots and worse for others – Maj Griess intercepted 6 planes but only managed to shoot down 2, Ofw Koznarsky and Williams only intercepted 2 planes each which they shot down and Ofw Murphy only managed to shoot down a single plane. The effectiveness of the Uhl was not impressive this night until it encountered a Mossie – Koznarsky rolled well on the initiative die roll and got the jump on the Mosquito knocking it out of the sky as it burned from a fuel tank hit. It was left to Ofw Mickel to uphold the squadron’s honor by intercepting and shooting down 5 planes! As he had 41 kills, the pilot rolls a D6 attempting to roll a 1. For each kill over 40, he deducts 1 from the roll in an attempt to earn the Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves and Swords. Sadly, Mickel rolled a 4. No award this night.

The waxing moon improved vision and hunting was significantly better and the squadron tallied 17 bombers! Ofw Mickel increased his total to 45 and automatically earned his Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves and Swords. The only down-side to earning this was missing a full moon (+2 interception) while he traveled to Berlin to receive his award. Ofw Koznarsky would also miss the best night of the year suffering his first light wound.

Despite only having three pilots available for operations, the squadron did quite well, bagging 12 bombers. Maj Griess bagged 5 and Ofw Murphy tied a squadron best of 6 in a single encounter box, both earning their Knight’s Crosses with Oakleaves! That bright yellow moon is so helpful! Unfortunately, this luck did not last as the British Jamming now increased to +3 – yikes!

Despite a bright moon (+1) only 6 RAF planes were encountered and only 3 were shot down. The tide had clearly turned on the Nachtjägers and hunting was likely going to be much more difficulty from this time onward. This increased difficulty did not show on the following darker night as 14 planes were shot down – not a bad result at all! The darker nights (-1, followed by -2 and then -1 modifiers) were far more challenging as the pilots only caught and killed 19 planes – an average of just over 6 per night, a less than satisfactory night. There were some exciting events as Maj Griess nabbed not one but two! Mosquito night fighters. In the first week of July, Ofw Williams sustained his third wound (of a total of 6! though only 4 would be related to combat) and Ofw Koznarsky, after not getting a scratch for 10 months, was wounded for a third time, this one seriously enough to knock him out of combat for the remainder of flying operations in the game. Weighing the loss of good flying evenings and brighter moons vs the opportunity to get into a better plane, Ofw Mickel transferred to the He-219 A7/R-3 – those 12 unlimited forward cannons are very enticing.

Throughout the rest of June, at least one pilot would “swim in the bomber stream”, getting multiple interceptions and kills, ending the month with 64 confirmed kills. This is extremely good considering that 10 missions were lost due to wounds, trips to Berlin for awards and with Jamming going to +3 mid-month. Despite this, the squadron caught and shot down 5 of the 6 planes they found during the new moon (-2) when two pilots needed 9/10s and three needed 10s to intercept British planes (D10). July, the final month of the game, would be a different story altogether.

Two players were still flying the Ju-88 with Flensburg radar (+1 to intercept). This radar will be compromised this month and become useless. Fortunately, both pilots in these planes, Ofw Murphy and Williams have skilled Funkers to aid in detection of the night intruders. Maj Griess will be better off in his Uhl though both Ofw Koznarsky and Mickel, also flying Uhls, will fare best as they have skilled funkers.

The month did not start off auspiciously as Ofw Koznarsky, after nabbing 4 bombers, was seriously wounded, shot through the thigh and would miss the final 7 missions recuperating. The one consolation was that he would survive the tour of duty. Ofw Mickel and Murphy set the night afire shooting down 18 and 17 planes respectively, despite the odds stacked against them. Maj Griess had a tougher time catching and shooting down the enemy and Ofw Williams managed to only intercept 4 planes, two of which were Mosquito H2S bombers, planes too fast for his Junkers to intercept. As the moon waned, interceptions proved more difficult to obtain and the pilots worked harder to shoot down the bombers. Maj Griess changed tactics from the initial Schräge musik to making an attack with his forward guns, taking advantage of the impressive 28 fire factors, the best in the game. While this only lasted for 3 shots, the British bombers did not stand much of a chance. On a night with no advantage or disadvantage to the moon phase Maj Griess and Ofw Mickel were extremely aggressive in their attacks and only downed 1 and 2 planes respectively before receiving so much damage that they decided that further offensive action was unwise (both pilots had been shot down twice previously). Despite the damage sustained Ofw Mickel landed safely. Maj Griess’ Uhl had a Blind approach receiver, affording a -1 DRM while landing but this had been damaged in combat. Rolling a 12, his crew and he had a crash landing resulting in wounds to all crewmen. The roll for the funker – 3 – light wound. Good. The roll for Maj Griess – 6 – killed in action. There would be no pigs to save the valiant major and the entire squadron lamented his loss, especially as it came with only two missions to go before the end of the game – katastrophal! To the strains of “Ich had einen Kameraden” the squadron bid farewell to a valiant pilot and friend.

The final two missions resulted in few interceptions and were fairly uneventful except for a second rough landing for Ofw Williams. Williams did nab his 30th kill, however rolled a 3 for the Knight’s Cross – unsuccessful. Ofw Murphy shot down his 65th plane on his final mission to earn a Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves and Swords. Maj Griess had shot down 62 planes at the time of his crash; his widow was presented with his Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves and Swords at the funeral. All the enlisted pilots were promoted to Stabsfeldwebel and Griess to Oberstleutnant, also posthumously.


The squadron tallied 355 planes shot down for the loss of six planes, one pilot and countless other crewmen wounded or killed. The players joked that the life expectance of a funker in Ofw Mickel’s planes was not long as he lost 7! throughout the game. Divided by the number of pilots, the total number of kills came to 71, enough to be counted as a decisive win – stories will be told of the exploits of this squadron and fame would follow the survivors through the end of the war and beyond. Four of the five pilots earned their Knight’s Cross with one player topping 100 kills and the coveted Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds. We all agreed that we had a blast playing this game. The opportunity to choose additional skills based on the crew’s experience allowed each player to customize the abilities of their planes, pilots and crewmen. Playing via Zoom and using Vassal, we were able to get together safely during the COVID apocalypse to game weekly over four months and, for a time, over several time zones! Many thanks to those involved to include Gregory Smith, who happily answered foolish questions via the BoardGameGeek forum – he even gifted me 20 Geek Gold for bringing up a point that he had not considered – sweet! We gamed on Tuesday, I would ask a question on Wednesday and often the rules clarification came the same day – plenty of time to get things correct before the next gaming session.

The ranking pilots based on kills were:

Sfw Michael Koznarsky            126 kills

Sfw Dale Mickel                         72 kills

Sfw Scott Murphy                       65 kills

ObL Gary Griess (KIA)               62 kills

Sfw Scott Williams                     30 kills

The number of tallies varied per month, per the type of plane we flew and the number of pilots available for action.

Sept – Nov 1943: all flying Bf110s, no funker skills

Dec – Jan 1943/44: some pilots flying Ju-88s, funker radar skill

Feb – Mar 1944: three pilots wounded

Apr – Jul 1944: flying the best planes possible, funker radar skill, bomber steam skill, aim skill

As you can see, having planes that flew 6 endurance boxes, with good radar, good radar crew, bomber stream (once you caught them you continued to intercept them until you ran out of ammo, were seriously damaged or encountered a Mosquito night fighter) and aim all contributed to a significant rise in the number of interceptions in mid-1944.

Some observations – getting into a plane with radar as early as possible is very important as you cannot shoot down planes if you cannot catch them. We noted that, once we got into better planes with better crew, we stopped taking extended shots as the risks outweighed the advantages. It seemed like the enlisted crew had significant advantages over the officer crew starting with an extra experience point, the ability to repair their planes more quickly and, later in the game, the ability to “work the system” and get replacement crew with 4 experience points – this would usually take flying 16 missions or two months of flying. That proved to be extremely useful for funkers was 5 experience was required to earn the radar skill. Weapons maintenance was another skill that I found to be critical. I cannot tell you how many early mission encounters were ruined by a “Weapons jam” result. Bomber stream was something I initially did not believe to be useful until I saw how easy it was to remain in the bomber stream and keep intercepting planes without having to reroll for interceptions. It was so critical to success that every pilot took that as a skill. One observation – both Murphy and Williams were players who occasionally would not play regularly. Murphy appeared to be more successful because he took an offensive skill “Aim” and Williams a defensive skill “Air combat maneuver”. While it is good to avoid incoming enemy fire, having the ability to target a specific part of the plane to get a “free” hit often made the difference between getting that important third wing hit, shooting down the bomber. As, I wrote before, we all had a fantastic time playing this game and we all highly recommend it to others. Please watch the videos on YouTube, read out AARs and give this game a spin (and I receive no compensation for saying this). Night Fighter Ace is a TON of fun to play!

The game also allows you to make a uniform based on the medals and ranks achieved. For fun, these will be included below with a description of each pilots’ achievements.

Oberstleutnant Gary Griess (KIA)

Kills: 62

Awards: Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves and Swords

German Cross in Gold

Operational Flying Clasp in Silver


Iron Cross 1st and 2nd classes

Wounds: 5

Stabsfeldwebel Michael Koznarsky

Kills: 126

Awards: Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds

German Cross in Gold

Operational Flying Clasp in Gold


Iron Cross 1st and 2nd classes

Wounds: 3

Stabsfeldwebel Dale Mickel

Kills: 72

Awards: Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves and Swords

German Cross in Gold

Operational Flying Clasp in Bronze


Iron Cross 1st and 2nd classes

Wounds: 1

Stabsfeldwebel Scott Murphy

Kills: 65

Awards: Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves and Swords

German Cross in Gold

Operational Flying Clasp in Bronze


Iron Cross 1st and 2nd classes

Wounds: 0

Stabsfeldwebel Scott Williams

Kills: 32

Awards: German Cross in Gold

Operational Flying Clasp in Bronze


Iron Cross 1st and 2nd classes

Wounds: 4

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