Night Fighter Ace: Air Defense over Germany Playthrough

A Replay of Zoom Gaming During the COVID Pandemic

A Ju-88 takes out a Lancaster bomber

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.]

We decided that, despite this being a solo game, we could trying to play this game as a group to do something together during the COVID shutdown. Two practice sessions (in which I died on the last mission each time) using Zoom and Vassal systems showed this was definitely possible. Vassal provides charts and tools in which to play boardgames online and has been critical in the success of our gaming. Through the Share Screen Zoom option, we can share game charts so every player can see what is going on during the game and allowed five players to enjoy the group aspect while flying individual missions. The Gig Harbor Irregulars have been playing this game since September 2020 – starting with four players in Washington and one in Indiana!

The game played on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving was even more eventful than the previous week with all the players hitting significant milestones. This came at a critical time as the British Jamming is increasing, making interceptions more challenging. As all the players have chosen the “bomber stream” skill, the length of each mission has increased significantly and reduced the total number of missions flown to four!


All five pilots, Maj Griess and Ofws Koznarsky, Mickel, Murphy and Williams, were available for sorties which made the evening quite fun. The night started off with Ofw Mickel in Berlin getting his well-deserved Knight’s Cross from the Führer himself. In conditions of a full moon, the remaining four members of the squadron took off in search of RAF intruders. All the pilots were able to “swim in the bomber stream”, getting multiple interceptions and kills. Maj Griess continued a string of three bomber streams in a row in which the second plane in the stream was a Mosquito night fighter. Unfortunately, he was unable to take down any new British night fighters this evening – fortunately, he did not get completely shot up by the Mossie! He was able to bag four more bombers to earn his Knight’s Cross and an all expenses trip to Berlin. An example of one of his missions was:

Target: Halifax H2S

Weapon: Schräge Musik (advantage: the bomber cannot shoot at you)

Target: Port wing

Range: Medium (at this range, you lose the +1 hit for attacking from close range but you lose the risk of getting hit by falling debris if the wing is hit)

Hits rolled = 4: 1, 3, 5, 10 which resulted in hits on the Port wing x2 (3 needed to down the plane), Controls and the Fuel tank. BUT – Maj Griess has the Schräge Musik skill meaning he gets a free Fuel tank hit each time he hits with this weapon. With two hits to the fuel tanks, the bomber wing immediately bursts into flame, the crew must bail out and the plane is shot down.

Ofw Murphy immediately encountered a series of bombers in the first endurance box of the evening, caught and shot down five and ended his evening very quickly as he expended all his cannon ammunition. Also favoring Schräge Musik for his initial attacks, he would swing his plane around for a second pass if the Musik attack failed to shoot down the British bomber. This tactic proved quite effective as he knocked out every bomber he encountered during this flight. Like many other pilots in the squadron, he made his attack in this manner:

Target: Lancaster

Weapon: Schräge Musik

Target: Port wing

Range: Close range, gaining +1 hit

Hits rolled = 5 +1 for a total of 6: 4, 5, 5, 5, 8, 9 which destroyed the outboard port engine, one hit on the airframe and THREE hits on the controls, just enough to knock the plane out of the night sky. The resulting roll for falling debris was not a 2 or 12 so no damage was suffered by the German plane.

The third pilot to swim in the stream was Ofw Koznarsky, also catching and shooting down five planes in one endurance box. The Ju-88 C-6c plane has a whopping 5! rounds of Schräge Musik, however, after the first pass on a plane in a bomber stream cannot be reused on the same plane as it takes considerable time to swing around and reposition the night fighter close to the underside of the bomber wing. Planes can swing around to require the plane but are successful on a D6 die roll of 3-6. This roll can be modified by the Radar skill (+1) and FuG350 Naxos homing device, an H2S detecting radar set (+1). One combat was against a Lancaster H2S bomber – the Lanc is a larger plane compared to the Halifax and potentially tougher to bring down (4 airframe vs 3). The attack proceeded:

Target: Lancaster H2S

Weapon: Schräge Musik

Target: Port wing

Range: Close range, gaining +1 hit

Hits rolled = Group hits: a hit on the wing, the controls, one each on each engine and the extra 2 random hits knocking out the engines. No debris hit the fighter. As the plane was not knocked out, the pilot has to swing around, however, due to having both the radar skill and the Naxos device, the 3-6 roll was actually a 1-6 or automatic detection roll. The second pass was:

Weapon: Forward cannon/guns

Target: Port wing (the wing only needs 3 hits to shoot the bomber down – as Ofw Koznarsky has the “Aim” skill, he can get a free hit on the target of his aim but only if his plane scores hits)

Pass 1 – Port wing, Long range: simultaneous fire. The fighter got 2 hits = -1 for long range resulting in an Airframe hit and a second wing hit from the Aim skill. The bomber did get to shoot back for 2 hits = -1 for long range, -1 for the Air combat maneuver skill (the pilot is skilled at avoiding incoming fire) for a net 0 shots back at the bomber. The pilot can then choose to close to medium range and continue firing or can break off contact to swing around to repeat the process. Moving to medium range would increase the chances of hitting the plane, however, the return fire from the bomber would also be increased – and there is always a risk of a lucky hit on the oxygen (ends the mission), the engine (reducing the speed by 3 and making it impossible for the Junkers to catch any more bombers) or the dreaded crew injury (a dead pilot cannot play any longer!) Discretion being the better part of valor, the pilot chose to swing around for another pass.

Pass 2 – Port wing, Long range: the fighter was not detected and got to fire but only scored 1 hit = -1 for long range = 0 hits. No hits also meant no extra hit from the Aim skill. The bomber got one shot coming back, -1 for Long range and -1 for Air combat maneuver for a net 0 hits, again – the combination of long range can make offensive shots less effective but is offset by the reduced risk of incoming hits, any one of which can ruin an evening! Luck was on his side this turn. Time to swing around again.

Pass 3 – Port wing, Long range: the fighter was not detected, got to fire first and got 4 shots -1 for long range, however, there was no need to roll for these as the Aim skill put the third and final hit on the wing, thus shooting the bomber down. That ended up being quite a lot of ammo expended for a single bomber but it did give Ofw Koznarsky his 104th kill and a flight to Berlin to earn his Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds. The trip would be made with Maj Griess!

An example of one of Ofw Mickel’s interceptions was no less interesting, though different from the others. Flying a Ju-88 his preferred method was also a port wing attack with Schräge Musik followed up with forward firing guns, when needed. His play was more aggressive than the others and was reflected by the number of Funkers that were wounded in his planes:

Target: Halifax H2S

Weapon: Schräge Musik

Target: Port wing

Range: Close range, gaining +1 hit – BUT – the Weapon’s Jam card came up, negating this attack (the first weapon’s jam result can be negated if one of the non-pilot crew has the Weapons Maintenance skill – sadly no one in the plane had this skill).

With the Musik jammed, Ofw Mickel had to fly around to reaquire the target. Fortunately his Funker had a +1 skill and the plane a functioning Naxos radar making the roll needed to find the bomber automatic. Aggressively coming in at close range, he fired the forward weapons at the port wing: 4 hits +1 for close range resulting in a 2, 3, 8, 8 and 9. Three hits on the outboard engine – he really must not have liked that engine! Two wing hits were scored and, because he also has the Aim skill, he got an extra hit on the target at which he was aiming – the third wing hit knocked the plane from the sky.

The final pilot to catch the bomber stream was Ofw Williams, latching onto another Lancaster H2S. The pilot with the fewest kills in the squadron, Ofw Williams was anxious to get in and make a kill. In a previous, however, his plane was hit with falling wing debris which slowed the plane and made it too slow to catch any other planes that sortie. This attack would be a little more cautious:

Target: Lancaster H2S

Weapon: Schräge Musik

Target: Starboard wing

Range: Medium range

Hits rolled = 4 hits with one to the wing, one to the outboard engine and two knocking out the inboard engine. Swinging around would be successful on a roll of 2-6 as he had the radar skill. The roll was a 1 and the bomber was lost. Rolling on the “Bomber Loss to Damage” chart he would need a 1 on a D10 modified by a +1 for an engine being out for a total of 2. Unfortunately, he rolled a 6. Note: even if the roll had been a 2 and the plane went down it would still need to have been seen by someone else so the pilot must roll a 1-2 on a D6! Ofw Williams shook his head, looking for better luck on the next interception. Fortunately, both of the next Lancasters were dispatched with ease using Schräge Musik and a follow up pass aiming for the starboard wing at medium range as the fighter always got his shot in first and downed the RAF bomber before it could react.

He-219 Uhl/Owl Night Fighter

The examples above show how each encounter is very different from another based on the pilot/crew skills taken, the target choices and how aggressive/cautious the pilot chooses to be in the attack. This was the most heralded month for the squadron as three pilots earned their Knight’s Cross: Ofw Koznarsky earned the Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds for the squadron leading 108 kills.

Maj Griess and Ofw Murphy joined Ofw Mickel, who earned his Knight’s Cross last gaming session/month, with trips to Berlin and a respite from the vicious night combat. May was a very busy and quite productive month for the squadron.

The squadron also had a significant scare mid-month as Ofw Mickel, ever aggressive in his attacks, had suffered significant damage to his plane. Damage was caused to his fuel tanks and, rolling to see if the plane caught fire, he rolled boxcars resulting in an explosion, killing all aboard. The squadron mourned the loss of a popular pilot – until the following month when the squadron adjutant recalled that Mickel had earned a “Du musst Schwein haben” (“You must have a pig” or “You must have good luck!”) meaning he could re-roll the 12 to save his crew. Fortunately, the resulting roll was less than 8 and the plane returned home safely. Phew!

the end of the month the squadron reviewed the value of remaining at Münster – this airfield remained a reasonable choice, however, Maj Griess and Ofw Koznarsky had earned enough prestige to request a transfer to the He-219 Uhl, an amazing night fighter with lots of radar and incredible firepower. Both Prestige 9 planes have 12 x3 Jazz music, +4 interception and -1 to landing but Maj Griess chose the He-219 A7/R-2 model because it has a whopping 28 forward firepower, if only for three shots, with a further 2 shots at 10 fire factors before all the forward ammo was exhausted. Ofw Koznarsky chose the A7/R-3 model because, even though the forward firepower was decreased to 24 points for three turns, 12 of those had unlimited ammo. This plane, unfortunately, was only available in Venlo, a Dutch airfield. Ofw Murphy and Williams chose to upgrade from the Bf110 to the Ju-88 series of planes. Ofw Mickel bided his time, waiting to get more Prestige in order to fly the Uhl. After some discussion, the squadron decided to transfer together to the base – transfers between bases cause a player to lose a mission while transferring; switching classes of planes requires the player to lose two missions as they “train up” and gain flying experience with the new series of plane. The pilots chose to make this move during the darker nights of the month when all interceptions were more difficult. One downside of flying out of a Dutch base is the risk of Mosquito interceptions while trying to land – on a 2D6 roll of 2, the plane is jumped by a Mosquito night fighter. The Uhl has the speed to attempt to intercept and shoot at the Mossie but the Ju-88 is too slow and can only attempt to fire at the British fighter IF it survives a round of fire from the plane AND IF it can gain the initiative over the RAF plane. Not a safe prospect at all. By the beginning of June 1944, the squadron was safely located to Venlo, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to fly their new planes against the RAF!

Für Führer, Volk und Vaterland – by the end of this gaming period the tallies and skills were quite impressive. If the squadron could stay healthy, their kill total would climb considerably:

Maj Gary Griess – kills 36

Highest award: Knight’s Cross

Wounds: 2

Prestige 10/To spend 1

Pilot missions/experience: 49/1

Funker missions/experience: 10/0

Crew skills: Pilot – Schräge musik, Bomber stream, Expert; Funker – Weapons maintenance

Ofw Michael Koznarsky – kills 108

Highest award: Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds

Wounds: 1

Prestige 10/To spend 1

Pilot missions/experience: 65/4

Funker missions/experience: 42/2

Crew skills: Pilot – Aim, Air combat maneuver, Bomber stream, Navigation; Funker – Radar, Weapons maintenance, Situational awareness

Ofw Dale Mickel – kills 35

Highest award: Knight’s Cross

Wounds: 2

Prestige 8/To spend 1

Pilot missions/experience: 43/5

Funker missions/experience: 3/4

Bordschütze missions/experience: 1/4

Crew skills: Pilot – Aim, Bomber stream

Ofw Scott Murphy – kills 33

Highest award: Knight’s Cross

Wounds: 0

Prestige 6/To spend 3

Pilot missions/experience: 32/2

Funker missions/experience: 31/2

Bordschütze missions/experience: 3/0

Crew skills: Pilot – Aim, Bomber stream; Funker – Radar

Ofw Scott Williams – kills 22

Highest award: German Cross in Gold

Wounds: 3

Prestige 6/To spend 2

Pilot missions/experience: 31/1

Funker missions/experience: 31/2

Bordschütze missions/experience: 1/0

Crew skills: Pilot – Air combat maneuver, Bomber stream, Landing; Funker – Radar

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