Night Fighter Ace – General Recap

OfW Mickel enjoys the rewards of a storied career!)

The Gig Harbor Irregulars have continued to support social distancing and responsible gaming by playing Night Fighter Ace by Compass Games via Vassal and Zoom. The squadron had assembled over the past three weeks to fly more sorties in the late winter/early spring of 1944 against worsening odds – the British have been more successful with jamming our radar and in their attempts to fool our operators to the precise location of he evening raids. Now based in Münster, the pilots hoped to intercept bombers earlier in their endurance boxes, increasing their opportunities to intercept and then shoot down RAF bombers.

The first of the three evenings saw fairly good squadron results despite the darker nights in which the missions were flown. The four pilots amassed 21 kills, nine of which occurred while in the Bomber Stream. This is an extremely good skill to possess as, once the pilot has rolled high enough to be in the bomber stream (where the majority of planes would be found), the player does not need to reroll for enemy contacts. Bomber interceptions are now automatic as the night fighter “swims in the bomber stream”. The squadron welcomed the return of Hauptmann Griess and his new funker (radio man); Hpt Griess had spent a Prestige point to get a crewman with two experience points. Their first mission, however, ended in tragedy as the experienced funker was killed in action. This loss was offset by news that the Luftwaffe high command had promoted Griess to Major (with another prestige point) and all the enlisted personnel to Oberfeldwebels (no prestige gained). The evening ended with Fw Koznarsky rolling well enough to confirm his award of the Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves and Swords and a free trip to Berlin to receive the award from the Führer.

During the second gaming evening the hunting results were even better with 31 kills with Maj Griess, Ofw Koznarsky and Ofw Mickel all obtaining multiple kills with the bomber stream skill. Ofw Koznarsky set a squadron record 10 interceptions and 7 kills during one full moon evening. While in the mess after an evenings sorties, the pilots reported that their current plane of choice is the Ju-88 C6-c. The plane provides a combination of good firepower: 12 forward firepower (3 cannon shots), 12 Schräge Musik (5 shots and the bomber cannot return fire while using this weapon), +3 radar and a rear gunner. The preferred technique by most pilots is to come to close range, fire the SM, determine damage/kill to the bomber and swing around to finish her off with the forward guns. Firing at close range does run the risk of getting hit with falling debris (2 or 12 on 2d6) which is offset by an extra shooting die; this strategy did backfire on Ofw Williams once when his plane took an engine hit, preventing him from catching the bomber in the next round. The main disadvantage of the Ju-88 C/6-c is its speed – a single engine hit reduces its speed by 3 to 13, one point too slow to catch any of the British bombers. Good natured ribbing occurred as the pilots teased Ofw Mickel and how he runs through funkers like a child goes through cookies – 7 funkers lost with a life expectancy of a little over 6 missions!

Strategy was also discussed regarding choices of planes and skills. Maj Griess selected the Schräge Musik skill (free fuel tank hit) over pilot aim in order to maximize his ability to down bombers using the SM attack. Ofw Williams chose Air Combat Maneuver (one less shot by the bomber gunner at all ranges) to stay alive while coming in close to attack. Ofws Koznarsky, Mickel and Murphy preferred the Aim skill (one extra hit at the area targeted) to allow them to pick the aiming point of their attack. Getting a free hit on the wing has proven to be a tried and true squadron strategy. Other options include targeting the rear gunner to get a wound or kill, this reducing or eliminating enemy return fire. An overall goal is to get into a He-219 Uhl (Owl). This will mean getting 9 prestige points (PP) with 4 available to be spent (2 to upgrade to the new plane and one to transfer to the Dutch bases). The best He-219s were felt to be those that required 9 prestige points. The opportunities to get 9 prestige are limited: Iron Cross 2nd, 1st classes, ace status, flying 20 missions (Operational Flying Clasp) and 20 kills (German Cross in Gold) are the usual way pilots get to 5 PP. A wound while flying (not crashing) gains a PP, however, there is a 50% chance the wound will be serious (out multiple missions) or fatal. Risky and one you cannot “plan” to attain. Killing a Mosquito and B-17 are possibilities as well but are also dangerous. As the speed of the early night fighters is much slower than the Mossie, the only way to shoot one down is to already have taken fire from one. The 12 fire factors from the British night fighter are tough to survive and, of course, there is no guarantee that the German pilot will gain the initiative to attempt to shoot at and kill the British plane. The B-17’s defensive firepower is multiplied by 4! and survival past the first round is a challenge. These are exceedingly difficult and dangerous ways to earn PP. This only leaves Knight’s Cross awards gained after 30, 40, 60 and 100 kills. For pilots who have been wounded, getting to 60 kills will earn them 9 PP (the disadvantage will have been the time they spent convalescing in the hospital while wounded); for those without wounds, only getting to 100 kills will get the required prestige to transfer to 1/NJG 1 in Venlo (Dutch bases) and upgrade to an He-219. These dreams, however, seem a long way off.

Ofw Dale Mickel makes his way to Berlin to get his well deserved Knight’s Cross!

The final night of missions proved to be the most dramatic of all evenings! Maj Griess and Ofw Mickel were slowly edging towards 30 kills and their Knight’s Cross, Ofw Murphy was struggling at 14 kills and Ofw Koznarsky at 80. All of the pilots’ choices to take Bomber Stream paid off nicely as every pilot edged closer to their goals – Murphy killed 10 planes in 5 missions, his best effort ever, Mickel earned his Knight’s Cross and an evening off in Berlin (a night on the town followed by the the award ceremony and the Prussian Presentation March!) and Koznarsky lost count of kills, ending the evening with 99, one short of the 100, a Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds AND enough prestige to get his dream Uhl. The best story of the evening, however, involved Griess as he hit the bomber stream, hoping to get his 29th and 30th kills. Unfortunately, the target he rolled for his 29th potential kill was a Mosquito night fighter! Maj Griess had encountered a Mossie before and had to bail out to save his crew and his life as the British plane chewed up Bf 110 in September 1943. Attempting to gain initiative, he needed to roll a 5+ on a D10 – not bad odds – but failed by rolling a 2. The Mosquito moved in for the kill, spreading 5 shots all over the plane to include an engine hit. Griess’ options to gain initiative or break off contact would only be a 50% proposition, something to consider after his rear gunner took a shot at the RAF plane. The outlook was grim as the rear gunner, flying his first mission, fired two shots at the Mosquito – the first caused minor damage but the second hit the fuel tank! 2D6 were rolled and – yes! – the fuel tank caught fire, meaning the RAF crew would be forced to bail out, resulting in the Mosquito being shot down! The squadron celebrated hard into the early morning following this achievement!

The Mosquito tails Maj Griess’ Ju-88.
Ahhh – the hits are spread out all over the plane with nothing critical damaged.
With an engine trailing smoke, the rear gunner fires at the Mosquito.
The fuel tanks hit and on fire, the Mosquito crew must bail out over Germany!
Maj Griess enjoys a well deserved victory!

The squadron is now in mid-May 1944. The stats, currently, are:

Maj Gary Griess – kills 29

Highest award: German Cross in Gold

Prestige 9/To spend 3

Crew skills: Pilot – Schräge musik, Bomber stream

Ofw Michael Koznarsky – kills 99

Highest award: Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves and Swords

Prestige 8/To spend 3

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

Ofw Dale Mickel – kills 35

Highest award: Knight’s Cross

Prestige 7/To spend 2

Crew skills: Pilot – Aim, Bomber stream

Ofw Scott Murphy – kills 24

Highest award: German Cross in Gold

Prestige 5/To spend 4

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

Ofw Scott Williams – kills 13

Highest award: Operational Flight Clasp

Prestige 5/To spend 2

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

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