Night Fighter Ace, Week 5

After taking a week off while my wife and I headed to the east coast on vacation (the goal was to view the fall foliage that just happened to be near American Civil War battlefields…  ) the I/NJG 5 again were ready to fly night missions against RAF bombers. All five squadron members were available for operations tonight, which was fun.

The I/NJG 5 squadron, clockwise from top left: Dale Mickel, Michael Koznarsky, Scott Williams Scott Murphy and Gary Griess.

The first mission, during a night with no moon modifiers, was socked in and, given the danger that landing with a +3 modifier would significantly increase the change of crashing and dying, none of the squadron took the risks of flying and stayed at home, safe and warm. Not heroic, but historically two pilots have been seriously wounded; discretion was the better part of valor. As the moon darkened, the pilots took to the skies, however, disaster struck as a Mosquito pounced on Fw Mickel and destroyed his plane with the loss of both the pilot and funker. Fortunately, both were “replacement” crewmen as his original pilot was still recuperating from previous wounds. [Adjutant: in our game wounded pilots and other skilled crewmen were tracked as being out of action with the appropriate date of return to operations on the spreadsheet we found in the BoardGameGeek files folder in the Night Fighter Ace game. We then allowed them to continue to fly operations with the original pilot with his original skills but did not permit any new skills to be obtained. This helped with record keeping and kept the game interesting for all the players – who wants to watch his friends play for 24 missions while resting in the local hospital?!] Hpt Griess’ original pilot returned from wounds sustained while landing in foul weather but failed to find any bombers. The remaining pilots caught and shot down bombers with Fw Williams bagging two, one of which had been damaged enough that it crashed on its return flight to England and was observed/confirmed by independent sources! The preferred method of attack for most pilots has been to use the Schrage Musik (SM) at close range, get a kill or serious damage and finish the plane off with another shot with forward guns after swinging around and reacquiring the bomber. This has proven to be a highly successful strategy. Hpt Griess chose the SM aim skill which gives a “free” fuel tank hit; as this results in the bomber needing to roll 2D6 to see if it catches fire and is shot down, this has worked well for him as he notched two kills when the bomber’s wings were engulfed in flames.

The number of enemy contacts dropped as the moon darkened to its New phase though as January transitioned to February 1944. The number of victories was lessened as both Hpt Griess and Fw Koznarsky spent two weeks training in the new Junkers series of night fighter to allow them to fly the Ju-88 C6c. Missing sorties in which the moon gave a -2 and -1 modifier seemed to be a good strategy. Unfortunately, this did not pay immediate dividends to these pilots at neither encountered a bomber on the next evening and Hpt Griess found two Mosquito bombers! The kills were spread out between Fw Mickel, Murphy and Williams, with the latter bagging another two. Unfortunately, Fw Murphy missed several missions early in the campaign so was still flying the Bf 110 F-4a. This plane has decent firepower and is useful in the early part of this campaign, however, it lacks good radar bonuses for interception. In the start of the game this is not a problem but with the increased British jamming in mid-January 1944, it means Fw Murphy is only intercepting planes on a 10 on a D10 for more than half of his missions, a significant disadvantage. It also means his prestige level will likely remain at 3 unless he is wounded (always a risky event as 50% of the time it results in a serious wound or KIA) or gets to 20 missions flown or 20 kills. At higher prestige he will be able transfer into planes with better radar. Fortunately, he has flown 17 missions with his original pilot and funker – at 20 missions flown the pilot will gain a prestige and the funker a 5th experience point allowing him to but the “Radar” skill, giving a +1 to intercept the RAF planes.

During the final mission of the night, the improved Ju-88 proved its worth with interceptions as both Hpt Griess and Fw Koznarsky were able to intercept the enemy planes in the “bomber stream”. [Adjutant: the “bomber stream” is where the vast majority of the British bombers are flying during the evening. In many cases, the pilots must reroll a D10 to attempt to intercept a new bomber in the bomber stream, allowing for multiple interceptions in one endurance box per evening. It is possible for pilots to spend experience points to get the “Bomber stream” skill which eliminates the need to reroll for each interception making the new interception automatic.] As the moon became brighter (+1) interceptions skyrocketed as 4 of the 5 pilots caught bombers! The results were very mixed as Fw Murphy sustained a fuel tank fire, causing his funker and he to bail out and Fw Mickel suffered an oxygen hit, ending his mission early; luckily he took down the bomber before he had to abandon the night’s operations. Hpt Griess caught 7 bombers in the stream, knocking 5 out of the sky! Defensive fire from the bomber knocked out all his weapons, thus ending his night. Fw Koznarsky intercepted 7 in the bomber stream which ended when a Mosquito night fighter was encountered – fortunately, the Junkers gained the initiative but lacked the speed to catch the Mossie [Adjutant: we played this incorrectly during the evening, allowing the Ju-88 to fire and shoot down the Mosquito night fighter. While re-reading the rules, I realized that the C6c model can only intercept and fire at the Mosquito AFTER the Mossie gets one round of fire AND the Ju-88 wins the initiative. The administrative records were corrected to reflect the loss of this plane as a kill. Still, a lost kill is better than seeing a “DE” result when the Mosquito fires its 12 firepower at your undefended tail!] His original radar operator had the Radar skill, however, Fw Koznarsky did not pull strings (spending a prestige point) to get him back in the crew because the new funker nearly had enough experience to but this skill and already had the “Weapons maintenance” skill (which negates the first “Weapons jam” result of the night). The lack of a trained funker affected the ability to reacquire targets in the stream and he was only able to reengage 3 of the wounded bombers. While getting his 40th kill, the D6 die roll of 5 did not earn Fw Koznarsky the coveted Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves and a free trip to Berlin to get this award personally from the Führer. One bit of admin still pending is the die roll to see if wounded bombers were shot down and observed by other sources, thus, giving more kills to the players – update: yeah, we all stink and either the bombers returned safely or were not seen to drop into the North Sea.

What the game looks like via Zoom – the players can all see/hear each other and follow the progress of the game through the use of Vassal on a “shared screen”. Here, for example, we see the result of the Mosquito’s fire vs Fw Mickel’s Bf 110. “DE” is NOT a good result.

Of course, on the final mission of the night, during the full moon with its +2 interception bonus, a player rolled a 1, meaning the British chose not to fly that night. Darn it! With some of the group still working during the COVID crisis, having to get up early, we called in a night after this mission.

There is so much depth to this game which really makes it a lot of fun to play. Each player gets to spend his experience points in any way he likes – this makes each fighter crew individual and unique. The medals and awards are really items that players yearn to earn and missed opportunities to kill a bomber are truly regretted. The Prestige system is a neat system – earned by their performance, this allows or limits the ability of players to move to more active bases, get new planes, etc. The game has a lot to keep players interested and wishing to “get just more mission done” each evening. We really look forward to playing this each week!

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