Author Topic: IN THE AIR TONIGHT: A Nighfighter Ace AAR  (Read 10074 times)

BanzaiCat

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on: September 09, 2019, 05:19:40 PM
PART 1
INTRODUCTION AND FIRST SORTIE


Adler Haydn, born December 1921 in Munich, joined the Luftwaffe on his 20th birthday. Having skill as a mechanical engineer, but with no degree, his work on aircraft frames and engines was much needed, and his civilian status stuck despite horrendous losses in men on the Eastern Front in 1941. By the end of 1941, however, thanks to kindly comrades, he finally found his way into the military arm of the Luftwaffe and reported to his Recruit Training Depot just before Christmas, 1941.

Losses from the Battle of Britain and Barbarossa both hit the Luftwaffe hard, but had not yet curtailed pilot training fully. Adler spent six months at the Fliegerersatzabeilung, enduring endless drill and physical training, as well as receiving basic instruction on wireless operations and map reading. The mechanical and electrical side, he excelled at, but only had a faint advantage when it came to the rest of his basic training, there.

In May 1942, with the Reich resurgent on the Eastern Front and spirits risen through the ranks, Adler graduated to a Pilot Waiting Company, where general aeronautical subjects were studied. As the Battle of Stalingrad began to rage in August, he was finally assigned to an A/B Schule (Elementary Flying School); he’d begun to think the Luftwaffe had forgotten about him. He greedily absorbed the flight training he received on the Klemm 35 and Focke-Wulf 44. This was supposed to go on for another six months ideally, but again, losses at the front and a lack of a clear victory increased the need for pilots. Frantic that he would miss his opportunity, though, at ‘getting into the action,’ and also that he might be assigned to some transport aircraft company, he petitioned to graduate early. Near the top of his class, he was able to get into B2 school and graduated to fly more complex aircraft (specifically, he learned about the Arado 66 and 76, and the Arado 76).

Mastering just about every aircraft he came across, he was pushed quickly through the B2 program to get his official pilot’s license. On January 3, 1943, he finally graduated with his pilot’s wings (Flugzeugfuehrerabzeichen) and license. Dreams of moving to Fighter Training blossomed, but were quickly dashed, when he was sent to an advanced school to learn multi-engine aircraft. Worse, he excelled at instrument and blind-flying, so he was assigned to a night flying school. As the war progressed, the Allies’ trickle of bombing missions into Germany began to turn into a deluge, and defense against both daylight and nighttime raids grew exponentially; Adler was at the ‘right place and right time’ to learn how to fly nightfighters. He spent several months acclimating himself, as well as his crew (comprised of his Funker, a radioman/observer, and a rear gunner), to the intricacies of night flying. By the end of July, 1943, with the ashes of the failed Kursk offensive hanging in the air around the now-holed theory of German invincibility, he and his crew were assigned to II/NJG 2 in Holland…the front line of the nighttime air war in Europe.

Note: I do own a physical copy of this game, but for expediency in writing this AAR, I’ve chosen to use the VASSL module to illustrate. This is what you will see in the following screenshots of the game.



Adler Haydn begins our game of Nightfighter Ace as an Unteroffizier, an NCO pilot. He never pursued the officer’s track, fearing becoming a ‘dressed plum’ would deflect time from him learning as much as he could about all aircraft. Initially despising his assignment as a night fighter pilot, it slowly dawned on him that nightfighter operations required much more skill. After all, you flew blind in the dark looking for targets that might or might not be there – it took observation, cunning, coolness, patience, and a willingness to listen to those who had been there, to become a success.

He begins with no Prestige Points but does begin with two Experience Points. His crew starts with zero Experience Points (they do not earn Prestige). Adler has been assigned to fly a Ju88 R-1, a basic but capable night fighter aircraft, out of the Dutch base of Melsbroek.



In the upper left corner, we mark three things – the Dutch Base Zone, the Base itself, and his unit (II/NJG2). This unit, Nachtjagdgeschwader 2, was formed in September of 1940 and had served in the Mediterranean through 1942, moving to Dutch bases in early 1943. By August 1943, our pilot Adler and his crewmen are eager to begin.



Note that I’ve accidentally marked a ‘0’ in the Flight Engineer space; there is no Flight Engineer on this aircraft.

Before we go too far, though, let’s take a closer look at Adler’s skills. As an NCO, he starts the game with two Experience Points, which can be spent immediately on Skills. I choose to spend these two Points on Landing and Parachute, each which costs 1 Experience Point. ‘Landing’ is especially useful as it helps with landing (go figure!), while Parachute helps with…you guessed it, it helps with the need to evacuate a perfectly well-shot-up plane that’s plummeting to the ground without pilot intent to do so. Adler’s experiences as an NCO have served him well to this point and both now come somewhat naturally to him.



Now it’s time to start with Adler and his crew’s first Sortie.



Rolling on Table A1, the Raid Chart, the result is 12 – boxcars. Peenmunde is the target, which falls within the Bremen area. I now move our Aircraft Marker from the Hangar space to the Takeoff space in the Dutch Endurance Track.



Rolling on the Weather Chart, I get a 3, which means Good Weather. This only really affects the Landing portion of our adventure, so Good Weather means no bad modifiers – always a good thing when landing.

We also check the Moon Phase; according to the Pilot Log sheet, this first Sortie is flown in Dark (-1) conditions. The -1 modifier due to ‘Dark’ means the Moon is not cooperating with spotting, so it’ll be tougher trying to Intercept enemy bombers. We will get to that in a bit.

I mark both of these items on the appropriate Mat.



Now that Adler and crew and their magnificent (to them, anyway) Ju-88 R-1 are taking off, it’s time to check for a Random Electronics Failure. The result is 11, which indicates a Warning Device fails; fortunately, our new night fighter has no such device, so we can count this as ‘no effect.’

Now, we get to move our Aircraft Marker to the Bremen space on the Dutch Endurance Track. Adler and crew are eager to find the British and prove themselves on this first mission.



However, we’re not done yet. The RAF is devious and are, while in their infancy with this ability, nevertheless try to confuse our brave Luftwaffe night fighters by broadcasting bogus signals to divert night fighters from interceptions. We need to check to see if Adler and crew are thusly bamboozled; we roll a 5, so the result is No Effect. Our German ground controllers manage to direct our fighter in the right direction.

Now that our night fighter is in the target area, the search begins for the enemy bombers. This being night and all, and especially dark (remember, -1), we now roll on the Interception Table to see if we manage to find an enemy.

In this first Endurance Box (Bremen), I roll a 2, so we find nothing but empty air. This means we now move our Aircraft Marker to the next Endurance Box and search again.



This time I roll an 8, which is better, but no closer to finding the enemy. Just as a side note, that -1 modifier means we need a natural ‘10’ (or, 0 on a ten-sided die) to find something. Our lack of discovery means we move to the next Endurance Box and…try again.



Another 2 rolled and another missed search. We move to the next Endurance Box…

Hey, I rolled a 3. That’s different. But no better. We have gone through our last Endurance box and found absolutely nothing. This means we move to the Landing Box and begin our return to base, disheartened that we found nothing.



Returning to our base, I roll a 5, which is modified to a 4 thanks to Adler’s Landing Skill. We’d only need to worry on an 11 or higher, on 2d6, but there are a number of modifiers that could make this die roll worse (damage, weather, and many other things).

So our night fighter returns to base after its first sortie, with disappointment abounding among the crew. Visions of finishing off the RAF’s Bomber Command single-handedly begin to fade slightly as the reality of our situation sinks in; after all, our instructors told us numerous times that finding bombers in the dark is like searching for a shadow in a dark room. This is going to take some time, patience, and skill to succeed. While we have not had a chance to prove our crew worthy yet, that time will almost certainly come soon.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2019, 10:21:44 AM by BanzaiCat »



bob48

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Reply #1 on: September 09, 2019, 05:29:47 PM
 :bigthumb:

“O Lord God, let me not be disgraced in my old days.”

'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers'


BanzaiCat

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Reply #2 on: September 09, 2019, 05:33:57 PM
Several parts already written up. Will post the next in a day or so.



bob48

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Reply #3 on: September 09, 2019, 05:37:32 PM
Excellent!

“O Lord God, let me not be disgraced in my old days.”

'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers'


BanzaiCat

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Reply #4 on: September 09, 2019, 05:39:31 PM
I should note two things:

One, I make no claim as to the ultimate accuracy of the introduction...I made a lot of guesswork happen, there, though based it on a few resources on how Luftwaffe pilots were trained, mid-war.

Two, it's interesting to note that one of the R-series Ju-88 aircraft, portrayed here, was actually flown to Scotland by its crew and turned over to the RAF. Two of the crew cooperated fully, but one did not, and was treated as a normal prisoner of war. If anyone has reading suggestions on that particular story I'd love to read about it.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2019, 05:44:00 PM by BanzaiCat »



bayonetbrant

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Reply #5 on: September 09, 2019, 05:48:11 PM
Several parts already written up. Will post the next in a day or so.


I hate you right now  :waiting:

Random acts of genius and other inspirations of applied violence.


bob48

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Reply #6 on: September 09, 2019, 05:54:06 PM

“O Lord God, let me not be disgraced in my old days.”

'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers'


BanzaiCat

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Reply #7 on: September 09, 2019, 06:06:05 PM
Several parts already written up. Will post the next in a day or so.


I hate you right now  :waiting:

...wwwhy?

You want this on the front page?



bob48

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Reply #8 on: September 09, 2019, 06:06:59 PM

“O Lord God, let me not be disgraced in my old days.”

'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers'


bbmike

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Reply #9 on: September 09, 2019, 07:24:58 PM
Several parts already written up. Will post the next in a day or so.


I hate you right now  :waiting:

...wwwhy?

You want this on the front page?

I don't think mirth has installed one of those yet.  :whistle:

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BanzaiCat

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Reply #10 on: September 10, 2019, 09:44:39 AM
SORTIE 2

Today we get the alarm – an RAF raid headed for Nuremberg. Adler and crew are briefed and then man their Ju-88. Ground crew scrambles to ready the aircraft for flight, and in the spot-lit darkness, its engines cough to life and roar with anticipation. Surely, this sortie, we will find something…

The briefing told us the weather is expected to be good, but the moon won’t be much help (no modifier this sortie).

As we take off, we hold our breath, but no electrical failures occur. Our aircraft is in excellent shape as the propellers bite into the night sky and we climb, following the vectors our ground controllers provide. These vectors are good, despite the RAF on the other side of the Channel trying to send bogus vectors our way.



Our newness gets the better of us, despite accurate vectors; I roll a 1 on the Interception Chart, which means we not only get no contact in this Endurance Box, but also in the next one too. So I have to move our Aircraft Marker two spaces down the track.



Our search for RAF bombers is fruitless on this sortie; we are unable to locate any enemy at all. This is made more frustrating by wondering if the bombers are right there in front of us…oh but for a way to see in the dark!

Fortunately, though, Adler brings in the Ju-88 for a safe landing. Another sortie in the books, but yet another empty search. Our commander tells us that any sortie we return from is a good one, but we ache to engage the enemy, whom we heard has had a successful raid on Nuremberg.



Barthheart

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Reply #11 on: September 10, 2019, 10:17:39 AM
Do you as crew/pilot have any actual decisions to make? Or is it mainly story ride along like the B-17 Queen of the Skies series?

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BanzaiCat

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Reply #12 on: September 10, 2019, 10:42:09 AM
Do you as crew/pilot have any actual decisions to make? Or is it mainly story ride along like the B-17 Queen of the Skies series?

A great question and one I'm addressing in my review, though I think this kind of discussion deserves it's own article, to be honest.

I cannot recall if you can abort in B-17 or TfT or B-29 or any of the similar games; I think you can in some of them. In this one, you certainly can choose to abort at any time, for any reason.

You can choose what part of the enemy bomber you want to target; you don't roll for a hit location until you determine hits. You'll see more of this when we finally do intercept a bomber (and we do in later sorties).

You can choose to abort an attack on a bomber, or choose to press your attack. You can select what range at which you engage them, and can choose how to engage them (if you use your forward guns or your Schrage Musik, if your aircraft has that system).

You can choose what Skills to spend your accumulated Experience Points on, and you can choose more advanced aircraft/rebasing based on your Prestige Level and Prestige Points.

Bottom line is you ARE technically on rails most of the time, but the game is pretty good at manipulating you into thinking you're making actual meaningful decisions. It doesn't feel like you're on rails, though.

It's a very good narrative-driving game.



Barthheart

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Reply #13 on: September 10, 2019, 10:52:58 AM
All that sounds very similar to B-17 Queen of the Skies which I played to death when it first came out. Recently tried it again and it just seemed like endless die rolling and chart look ups.

But then I bought The Hunters and it's basically the same thing but I had a lot of fun playing it. Hunters plays much faster though so maybe that's why I enjoyed more now.

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BanzaiCat

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Reply #14 on: September 10, 2019, 11:13:42 AM
This one is very similar to another Gregory M. Smith design, Zeppelin Raider. Which are also somewhat similar to another Compass game, Raiders of the Deep, by Ian B. Cooper (I had to look that up as I thought it was another Gregory M. Smith game).

The same Gregory M. Smith also designed The Hunters so I'm not surprised there's similarities there, too. It's my understanding he's doing yet another game along these lines, something around WWI German bombers (Gothas, if memory serves).

I generally like this system but there's going to be a saturation point sooner or later with this design.