Night Fighter Ace, Mission Evenings 3 & 4

The difficult choice will be – which plane will we choose to fly next?

Our local gaming group continued to fight the COVID apocalypse by getting together via Zoom to play Night Fighter Ace. We are having a great time and look forward to getting “up in the air” each week. I failed to write an AAR after the missions we flew two weeks ago so will include two nights’ play here. The night skies above Germany are “hotting up” as most pilots worked their way into much better planes with improved radar capabilities.

By the third week of November 1943 all pilots had attained the status of “Ace” and were slowly increasing their prestige levels. All the active pilots (Lieutenant Griess, Unterfeldwebels (Ufw) Koznarsky, Mickel, Murphy and Williams) were available for night operations this evening. The squadron scored their best week ever, downing 8 British bombers. Several pilots were able to catch the British in the “bomber stream” resulting in multiple interceptions and resulting kills. [Adjutant: with increased radar skills and moonlit evenings, intercepting bombers becomes easier, with more “plusses” to the die roll. On a D10 roll of 11+, the fighter finds itself in the “bomber stream”, meaning it has found the main line of bombers approaching the target. Multiple interceptions are possible in the same endurance box, permitting multiple kills.] Unfortunately, this month would see three missions with something significant occurring: first, Ufw Williams was lightly wounded in combat and then had a rough landing, worsening the wound to a serious one. The squadron physician reported that he would be out for 3 months or 24 missions due to a broken bone, a blow to the morale of the unit. [Adjutant: in a solo flying game, the pilot would miss these missions and immediately start flying 3 months down the line. With up to 5 players all playing, missing 3 months of game time was too boring so we allowed the pilot to continue to fly after missing one mission. The kills would be recorded and new skills could be earned but not would count for the original pilot. Upon his return, he would have his original pilot but would have to pay 1 Prestige point to bring back old crewmen. This seemed a fair way to deal with injuries and playability – no one wants to sit on the sidelines for 3 months watching other players play the game!] On the next night, flying a truly short flight over the Ruhr, Ufw Koznarsky was tasked to day operations vs B-17. This can be quite bad for a pilot’s life expectancy as the B-17 sports multiple 50cal machineguns compared to the four British machineguns firing 19th century caliber bullets! The B-17’s fire is simultaneous and at 4 times the normal firepower! Discretion being the better part of valor, the USAAF bomber was attacked at long range resulting in -2 shots (-1 range, -1 for Air Combat Maneuvering – the pilot dodges shots better due to his skill) reducing the total shots from 16 to 8! Fortunately, the hits were scattered all over the Bf 110 and the pilot/crew landed safely.

Midway through the sorties, messages were received from the Luftwaffe HQ notifying all the pilots in the squadron of their promotion.  Griess, Koznarsky and Mickel of their promotions. The stories of what occurred during the festivities for Hauptmann (Hpt) Griess (who earned a Prestige point for his promotion) and Feldwebels (Fw) Koznarsky, Mickel, Murphy and Williams were epic, however, what happens in Berlin, stays in Berlin.

As the moon waned and the nights became darker, interceptions decreased and, in one period, resulted in only 3 interceptions and 1 kill. Tough times for the squadron. In the final flight of the night, the +1 Bright moon would offer much better hunting, however, the weather was “socked in”. Pilots are not allowed to fly when the weather is socked in unless they are Aces. As all five pilots were Aces, the option to fly was offered to each and all but Ufw Murphy chose to fly. The downside is that landing is more difficult with a +3 modifier to the die roll (which can result in light, serious wounds and death to all the crew). The squadron really took advantage of the brighter moon and beat their previous high kills number, downing 9 RAF bombers! As bad luck comes in threes, Fw Mickel’s strategy of getting in close to fire at the bombers paid poor dividends as his luck ran out – incoming fire resulted in some critical damage to his fighter which, coupled with the foul weather, caused his plane to crash upon landing. His Funker (radar operator) was killed in the crash and the pilot seriously wounded. Reports from the field hospital told of a broken bone and 24 weeks of convalescence.

Performance results to date were:

Hpt Gary Griess  Kills 10, Prestige 6

Fw Michael Koznarsky  Kills 21, Prestige 5

Fw Dale Mickel  Kills 18, Prestige 5

Fw Scott Murphy  Kills 5, Prestige 3

Fw Scott Williams  Kills 10, Prestige 5

The fifth night saw only three pilots available for operations: Hpt Griess, Fws Koznarsky and Mickel. The initial sortie took place during a full moon, however, there must have been something wrong with the radar sets or ground/air coordination as only three planes were intercepted and two shot down.

Missions appeared to hot or cold with some pilots “swimming in the bomber stream” while others struggled to make contacts. Both Fw Koznarsky and Mickel shot down 5 bombers in one endurance box with Mickel straining to get a 6th which happened to slip from his grasp. Fw Mickel showed the great advantage of having the “Bomber stream” skill (no need to reroll for new encounters) as he kept pounding the RAF intruders until his luck or airframe/engines held out!

The increased number of encounters did take their toll on the pilots this evening as Hpt Griess was shot down once and Fw Mickel twice, bailing out over the crisp but clear winter skies. The strategy of coming in close to take out a wing is risky – three hits is enough to destroy any bomber BUT, if it survives, the British tail gunner gets to shoot back and with an extra hit on the German plane.

Only one other evening had encountered “socked in” weather and most pilots chose to brave the skies. Another foul weather front socked in the squadron on a mission that occurred on a new moon: -2 for interception and +3 while landing. The opportunity for encounters would be at its lowest and the landing problems at their worst – the risk/reward ratio was skewed and only the maddest of pilots would consider taking off in this weather/evening. The original socked in weather result did contribute to Fw Mickel’s serious injury – both Fw Koznarsky and he chose to sit this one out. Hpt Griess, chose to brave the elements and show the enlisted pilots who was the bravest of the brave. His evening started off well bagging a “Lanc”, however, the encounters did not materialize until the final endurance box when a Halifax chewed up Hpt Griess’ plane, lightly injuring the pilot and killing his Funker. The foul weather resulted in a rough landing, worsening the light wound to a serious one and 6 weeks convalescent leave for Hpt Griess.

The final mission of the night was completed by Fw Koznarsky as the other pilots were recovering from their wounds or finding their way back to the squadron after bailing out. Despite significant advantages from radar and the bright moon, only one bomber was encountered – despite these setbacks, this was his 35 kill, earning Fw Koznarsky his Knight’s Cross, the first in the squadron.

Talk in the mess discussed transferring to a new airfield in February as intelligence reported that the raids against Berlin were going to be significantly reduced. Other topics included attempting to get a plane in a different series, such as the Ju-88. The most up to date Bf 110 models had extra crew and better radar, however, the pilots had grown very fond of the “Jazz Music” and the options available when using that weapon – to their dismay, none of the more modern Bf 110s had this weapon. Perhaps it was time to move on. The stress of flying so many missions was taking its toll on the squadron and mission sorties were put on hold for another week.

The original crewmen kills, Prestige and Skills currently are:

Hpt Gary Griess  Kills 15, Prestige 6

– Skills: Pilot – Schräge Musik aim (one free Fuel hit when using SM), Bomber stream (no need to roll for additional new bomber contact when in the “bomber stream”)

Fw Michael Koznarsky  Kills 35, Prestige 6

– Skills: Pilot – Aim (one “free” hit on the selected target), Air Combat Maneuvering (-1 hit from the bomber); Funker – Radar (+1 to interception)

Fw Dale Mickel  Kills 18, Prestige 5

– Skills: Pilot – Aim

Fw Scott Murphy  Kills 5, Prestige 3

Fw Scott Williams  Kills 10, Prestige 5

– Skills: Pilot – Air Combat Maneuvering; Funker – Radar

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