Tag Archives: World War II

Skies Above the Reich

Skies Above the Reich. GMT Games, 2018 Designed by Jerry White and Mark Aasted. 46 wooden plane blocks with stickers, 12 blue wooden altitude blocks, Pilot Roster pad, 2 double-sided mounted game boards (4 maps), two counter sheets, almost 100 poker-sized cards, 3 Player Aids, a 60 page rule book, an Advanced rule book, a Situation Manual, and two d10. 1-2 players, ages 12+. About 30-60 minutes per mission. MSRP $89.

In Skies Above the Reich, a solitaire player commands a squadron (staffel) of German Bf109s struggling to defend Germany against the daylight raids of B-17s from the United States Army Air Force during World War II.

In a campaign of several linked missions in one or more years, you will send your pilots, expert and green, along with other aircraft on loan from other Luftwaffe staffels, against various formations of American B-17s as they rumble across the skies over Europe. Over time, your pilots gain experience and improve, or are shot out of the sky by the deadly “combat box” formation of overlapping fire or by various allied escort aircraft, including Spitfires and P-51s. With each mission, you might gain Victory Points for downing bombers or you might lose pilots and planes. Lose too many pilots or gain too little victory, and you can lose your campaign. Destroy enough bombers and you just might win!

The rules are brilliant. After a brief introduction setting the historical stage, the reader is referred to the first of many charts and tables on the Player Aids. Following the aid step by step, with page references provided if you have questions, you immediately proceed to setting up your first staffel, first campaign, and first mission. Within minutes you are playing the game. Follow along and soon you’re deciding which pilots to send, what angle to attack, and how to maneuver through the formation. Before long you’ve hit the limit of fuel and time and must land whatever planes you have left, while watching the remaining bombers continue on their deadly mission. Following the mission tally, you determine the fate of your pilots who took damage during the fray, and hopefully rack up some experience and victory points.

After stickering the blocks, which are used to show your pilots’ positions and mode (determined or evasive), add counters for attachments (like cannon or armor) and head into battle. Once approach and altitude are determined, barring interference from escorts, your planes maneuver into the bomber formation for their attack run. Assuming no one is forced off track by collisions, attacking is handled by a set of cards, drawn based on approach angle, and the results read based on altitude and lethality of the bomber formation at your position. Damage to the bombers and hits on your fighters are handled by chit draw and dice roll. And when exiting the formation, the B-17s’ gunners force you to draw Continuing Fire cards.

As you might guess, between counters for attachments, hits, and maneuvers, plane blocks can become a bit crowded. The only record of green pilot penalties and “experten” pilot skills is on the Pilot Roster, which makes it difficult when looking at the plane blocks on the map (which look alike except for the pilots’ names) to tell who has what special ability and whether or not it’s been used yet this mission.

The Advanced rule book includes rules for two players, where each player commands their own half of the staffel. While cooperative in that you can work together for your advantage, ultimately you’re trying to have a better record than your mission partner. Also included are rules for pursuing “fallen” bombers, so if you force a bomber out of the formation, but don’t destroy it, you can pursue it to see if you can finish the job.

If you’re a fan of solitaire wargames like B-17 Queen of the Skies or Target for Today, you will definitely want to check out Skies Above the Reich. Thanks to the rule book and player aid design, you’ll be flying high in no time. And with many campaigning seasons providing different bomber formations, aircraft, and attachments, as well as a randomized situational setup, there is a lot of replay value in this package. Highly recommended.

 This review was written based on a privately purchased copy. No compensation was involved. c2018 by Richard A. Edwards

Tiger Leader

Tiger Leader. Dan Verssen Games, 2015. $90. Designed by Rick Martin. 1 tactical display sheet (mounted), 1 headquarters sheet (paper), 1 rule book, 240 cards, about 400 counters, 12 terrain tiles, 1 player log sheet, 1 10-sided die. 1 player. 30+ minutes for a single battle, 2+ hours for campaign.

In Tiger Leader, a player creates and commands a combined arms German World War II Kampfgruppe. Starting with choosing a campaign (out of 9 ranging from the 1939 invasion of Poland to the final days of Berlin in 1945) and objective, players build their KG by using “Special Option” points to pick specific types of units available in the campaign time period. Units include infantry, armor, and artillery and range from Panzer I to King Tigers. Each command has cards representing six skill levels from recruit to ace.

Your enemy, played by the game system since this is a solitaire game, is represented by battalion cards. Your goal is to gain victory points by reducing or destroying as many enemy battalions as you can with the force that you have in the time allotted by the campaign you’re playing.

Each week of the campaign, you’ll assign units and commanders to attack specific enemy battalions. Then you setup a battle, including special conditions and events and a small board created from randomly drawn terrain hexes that can be used to create desert, European or winter landscapes. Units are represented by counters on the board. Battle turns then play out the action as the game’s AI uses the allied units to move and attack while you counter with your German units which may be damaged or stressed, decreasing performance.

After each week, your units and commanders have a chance for repair and recreation as well as spending experience points to improve before the next week’s assignments.

With so many campaigns, objectives, enemy battalions, units and commanders, each campaign may be highly varied which gives this solitaire game high replay ability. The artwork on the numerous cards and the level of detail give the game a good “feel” for commanding your force and it’s easy to gain stress yourself over your favorite commander being wounded or killed.

The tactical battle game is very simplified. There are few differences between units of different enemy nationalities. And allied units of the same type within a single nationality are classified the same (a tank is a tank) though they may sometimes be modified in different campaigns.

The AI is very random and sometimes feels like it’s not making the best move. Specific questions have arisen concerning details within the game rules and there is word that DVG is preparing errata and/or an expansion to improve the rules and the tactical game.

Overall, this is a fitting addition to DVG’s Leader series. The campaign concept and creating and managing your Kampfgruppe provides an interesting challenge. Unfortunately the tactical system seems very light and sometimes confusing. With rules being discussed in online forums and hopefully being changed and improved, I wish I had waited for a revised edition.

This review was written based on a privately purchased retail copy. No compensation was involved.
c2015 by Richard A. Edwards