Friday, 18 May 2018

Blood Red Skies - Over the Channel, the tale of J for Johnnie

We've been playing quite a bit of Blood Red Skies from Warlord games, and we have a Battle of Britain mini campaign running at Asgard Wargames in Middlesbrough. This week a flight of plucky Poles ran into their German counterparts high over the English Channel as part of Phase 1 - the Kanalkampf.

On this sortie the Poles are outnumbered -  this is due to previous losses and their CO deciding to rest a couple of pilots due to fatigue - something the campaign factors in. The initial set up sees the Poles in classic "Finger Four"  facing three loose pairs of Bf109s. There is some cloud, but not a lot. The Poles have some advantages however, as they have the "Radar Support" theatre card in play, which should give them a better starting position. One pilot - J for Johnnie - didn't get the message and is starting disadvantaged - possibly a language issue with his British controllers? "Repeat Please"

The concept of "Advantage" is crucial to BRS, so it is probably a good time to mention it for those not familiar with the rules. BRS doesnt track altitude. The designer Andy Chambers thinks we over complicate games and miss the point trying to represent the whole 3d thing by tracking altitude, be it with counters, extending stands or whatever. He thinks altitude on its own isn't the deciding factor, it is how you use the "advantage" it gives you. BRS therefore does not measure altitude, it tracks advantage in three stages, advantage, neutral and disadvantage, and you can use advantage to increase your move or manoeuvre options. I think he has a point, and it works. Crucially you can only shoot at at target that is at a worse status than you are, and you can only be shot down if you are disadvantaged. As status changes throughout the turn your advantage level is marked with the pivot on the bases - nose up is advantaged, level neutral and nose down disadvantaged. As each plane completes it's move you place a small "Zoom" marker next to it so you dont get confused as to who has moved in each turn. This is really important!. The Zoom markers are the card "wings" in the pics and the acrylic "Eagles" - more of that later.

The Poles make a quick decision. Not liking the odds they decide to try and pick off one pair of 109s before they others can concentrate and use their superior numbers against them. J- Johnnie trailing behind a little from his leader climbed to neutral. The 109s jockey for position and manage to outmanoeuvre J -Johnnie using a pilot action and disadvantage him - not good. Pilots have one "action" they can choose at the end of their movement - shoot, climb for advantage, or outmanoeuvre. This last one is important and harsh. Better pilots automatically outmanoeuvre lesser experienced ones, equal or better pilots can test to avoid it happening. If you fail you drop one advantage level.
J-Johnnie is distracted by the nearest 109s

Overall position at the end of turn 2
Turn 3 and the 109s do their stuff. The Rottefuhrer White 5 of the leftmost pair uses the 109s "great dive" ability to burn his advantage and slots in behind J - Johnnie. This would automatically disadvantage him anyway, but he is already struggling. Just to make things worse White 5 plays his "Superior Armament" card, adding an extra dice to his shooting attack. J-Johnnie counters with his "Robust" Trait card, reducing the attack by one dice. The Pole sees him at the last minute, takes some hits but just manages to avoid being shot down, however his Squadron suffer a "Boom" chit - the morale system in BRS -  basically if the number of "Booms" exceed your planes you disengage and run for home.
Dakka dakka dakka...
Meanwhile on the other side of the cloud the other pair of Hurricanes are above their opponents and have the advantage due to Radar. They decide to try a head on pass at the 109s who are still trying to climb up to them. Head on passes are the exception to the rule about only shooting lower advantage level targets - you can always return fire if you are attacked head on. This exchange goes disastrously wrong for the Poles, and they suffer another "Boom" result with no return - in fact the 109 scored 2 hits making the Hurricane lose one defence dice for his dodge attempt and he dropped to neutral. The score is now 2-0 in Boom chits to the Luftwaffe

Head on pass misfires 

 Back to the beleaguered J- Johnnie. Activation is in sequence of advantage, then pilot skill, then speed as a tie breaker. Johnnie is in the unenviable position of being at a lower advantage status AND the slower plane. The Luftwaffe take advantage of this, mercilessly trying to hit him while he is vulnerable. Two more 109s make an attack, this time from the beam. J-Johnnie twists and turns, getting hit twice but on both occasions his Hurricane holds together - just, but two more Boom chits are added to the score - 4-0. One more will cause the Hurricanes to head for home.

J- Johnnie in deep trouble
The 109s on the other side of the cloud try and press their advantage, and another lucky deflection shot causes a "boom" chit - the Poles now have 5 Booms and only 4 planes, so they must disengage at the end of the turn, even though they have yet to suffer anyone shot down.

Hurricanes climbing away from the fight
Which is no help to poor old J-Johnnie, disadvantaged and with four 109s after his blood. Thankfully he survived the 109s fire and managed to make it to the safety of the cloud. Clouds are good places to be in BRS if you are in trouble. When you enter or move through a cloud your advantage resets to neutral and you can no longer be tailed or shot at - in fact you cannot be affected or affect another plane in any way while you are in a cloud. J-Johnnie likes this cloud :-)


Final positions

And in a moment the skies were empty again.

The Germans scored a campaign victory and returned to Abbeville for champagne and bratwurst, claiming one Hurricane shot down as they saw J-Johnnie diving into a cloud clearly damaged, and one probable. The Poles made it home but managed to write off one damaged plane in a landing accident - and it wasn't J-Johnnie! What is more, having survived the repeated attacks the pilot actually learned from his experience and increased his skill in the campaign. The next sortie he will know better and listen to his controller more carefully.

The campaign is now moving  on to Phase 2 - the Attacks on the Radar Stations.

A word on the toys. The Bf109Es, dice and card tokens are from the BRS starter set from Warlord Games. Warlord has not released Hurricanes yet for BRS - they're scheduled for a summer release along with Bf110s, but we are lucky in that we have a set of the beta stats for them. The Hurricane models are from the excellent Armaments in Miniatures range. You can also see some very nice third party acrylic measuring sticks and "Zoom" counters in the pics. These are from Buy-the-same-token on ebay. The movement stick is particularly welcome as the one in the starter set is badly designed, a pain to use and also a bit wrong.

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  1. Great post
    Nice to see you are growing your following
    You hear over the air waves another battle report coming in
    The Luftwaffe are trying a bomber mission ...

  2. Nice looking game with lovely planes, great pictures!