This weekend at the Devon Wargames Group a few of us got together to play the second in a series of eight planned games to work up a campaign system for Target for Tonight (TfT). Normally I would post about games at the club on the club blog, but this project to design a campaign around the basic game has been detailed here on JJ's and so for completeness and ease of looking back over previous posts I have decided to post about these games here on JJ's.
The first game in this series, which is recreating the first month in the Battle of Berlin conducted by Bomber Command between late August 1943 through to the end of March, started with the first attack on the 'Big City' on August 23rd - 24th 1943 and you can follow what happened in the link to the post below.
Target for Tonight - Berlin Game 1
As described in my recent post covering the planing for this next game, the raid on Nuremberg on the 27th-28th August 1943, I am following the list of Mainforce ops composed principally from the Bomber Command War Diaries and The Berlin Raids as mentioned in that post and listed below.
|The Berlin Campaign list of raids used to inform our ops planning for our eight games|
As can be seen both these raids saw a maximum effort by Bomber Command, now able to put close on 700 aircraft up when required, with both these first two targets deep into enemy territory, putting a greater strain on aircrews and increasing their risks with the long flights to and from the target.
This period was another one of those turning points in the night-bomber war against Germany as Bomber Command looked to take advantage of the disarray caused to the Nachtjagd by the use of 'window', aluminium foil strips dropped in mass bundles to disrupt the signals picked up by German radar, which since the mass raids on Hamburg the previous summer, had forced the German nightfighter crews to adopt new tactics to find the bombers and destroy them.
|The situation after game one|
However the struggle to accurately navigate to the target and then to mark and bomb it in sufficient numbers to cause multiple fires and mass destruction continued to be a challenge, especially when the bomber crews went further into Germany restricting the accuracy of their blind bombing technology and, when making best use of bad weather conditions to blind the nightfighters, this also tended to impact on the accuracy of target marking as well as the bombing of them through thick cloud and haze.
As covered in previous posts leading up to this series of games, we are working through a play-test to see if we have the balance right on points scoring our raids. Quite clearly these games are designed to 'bath-tub' the actual campaign by allowing the players to enjoy the best part of TfT, which is the tension generated during the flight of the multiple model aircraft along our ops route to and from the target, with the aspect of raid planning, bombing up and fuelling the aircraft and attacking targets in such away as to maximise the damage caused and victory points that will outweigh the inevitable loss in aircraft and crews.
|The target plan outlined to the players with the wind direction indicated and forecast to be light and with haze over the target|
The losses sustained in TfT do not accurately reflect those that Bomber Command typically suffered and it would be a very boring game if they did, so the trick, it seems to me, is to marry up results with the cost of lost assets to come up with a simple number that reflects that analysis of the game result, namely victory points.
The result of game one produced a crushing victory from a very concentrated bombing of Berlin, but seeing just under half of the aircraft used failing to return, which leads me to conclude that the VP loss rate for aircraft lost is not correct and I wanted to run a second game to a similarly deep target to assess that conclusion and this post will show what happened and my conclusions that followed.
|The order of battle for the five Mainforce bomber groups with the aircraft they were able to deploy together with the losses they sustained|
Pre game planning for the op puts the players in command of the five Mainforce bomber groups as seen above showing the number of aircraft they have been able to put into the air, and in this example also showing the lost aircraft from the mission marked with a red X.
As Group commanders the players, following the briefing on weather and intelligence, have to decide how much fuel and bomb load will be carried and what the bomb mix will be, ranging from Cookies (4,000 lb HE) 1,000lb HE and incendiaries, which in different quantities and combination will cause major fires to the different targets within the city being attacked.
The players on this op decided to be conservative by selecting a light bomb load with maximum fuel but with an equal mix of HE and incendiary, having the Lancaster groups primarily bombed up with Cookies.
If they had gone for a heavier bomb lift, but with less fuel, it runs the risk of aircraft not having enough fuel for the return flight and less chance to evade nightfighters on the flight to the target with all that weight restricting manoeuvrability, but a bigger bomb lift, if they can get it to the target, likely to cause greater destruction.
With the aircraft bombed up and the aircraft identified with their unique call signs, the squadrons took off heading for the North Sea and in this case without any pre and post takeoff mishaps as shown in the picture above together with the long, long flight track ahead of them to and from the target with potential nightfighter interceptors awaiting them.
The flight proceeded without mishap until the stream came in over the enemy coast when the first casualty of the night occurred when Halifax, 'L - Leather' from 4 Group fell to the guns of an NJGI Me 110 patrolling over the Dutch coast with only the navigator able to bail out but posted as missing.
We had a new member, Steve, join us for the day's play and, as this was his first game of TfT, I had the pleasure of watching his pulse rate race away as one of his 1 Group Lancasters 'A-Apple' had a 'Monica' nightfighter warning alarm sound over the Khamhuber Line and he put the Lancaster into a corkscrew on the nightfighter board with the enemy Me 110 about to administer the coup de grace, when the model was returned to the bomber stream track and he was informed that the it had been a false alarm.
Further on to the target we had a couple of night-fighter intercepts and this gave us the opportunity to try out the nightfighter rule adaptations from the chaps on the TfT Facebook Group which allows air gunners and nightfighter crews to have individual ability factors plus a more enhanced use of the bomber's defences from its various gun positions.
|Our bomber stream heads on into Germany, target Nuremberg with window streaming out in its wake|
These rule changes produced yet more drama with nightfighter pilots weighing up the risk of enduring bomber return fire from mid-upper and tail gunners whilst trying to ensure that close in tail chasing kill shot with zero deflection.
In addition, nightfighters and airgunners are no-longer 'vanilla' in their abilities and bomber pilots can no longer assume that the nightfighter pilot knows what he is doing until he tries to cause a hit, when his gunnery factor is revealed, likewise some airgunners were equally deserving of respect or not and the change certainly adds to the game without any added complexity.
|With the Monica alarm sounding a Lancaster is flung into a corkscrew with a rearward Me 110 in hot pursuit|
As well as nightfighters to contend with we had our usual mix of navigational errors and drifting off over searchlights and flak zones leaving various aircraft carrying reduced fuel loads and damage dice from flak and nightfighters but leaving an intact bomber stream minus L Leather to arrive in the flak zone over Nuremburg.
In the main the flak was intense with plenty of buffeting and a couple of aircraft picking up extra damage dice but again the stream remained intact ready to turn in over the target ready for the bomb run.
It was at this stage that the Nachtjagd unleashed part of its new tactics with radar carrying Wild Boar single seat fighters zooming in on the bomb-run and attacking three of the bombers causing extra damage and seemingly to cause already jumpy bomb-aimers to lose control and release early, with several bomb drops looking likely to have found just fields.
The next casualty was O-Orange, a Lancaster from 5 Group that was attacked on the first part of the homeward leg by an Me 110 from NJG VII which caught the bomber as it seemed likely to evade into the dark only to see multiple hits start fires in the port and starboard outer engines as the German fighter sprayed rounds across the target with a swift kick on the rudder.
Even then the pilot of this veteran crew, managed to side-slip putting out the fire on the port side only to whip up the fire on the other engine causing him to lose control and see the aircraft lost with all its crew.
Soon after this, another veteran crew of Halifax R-Roger fell to the guns of a Ju 88 using Schrage Musik upward firing guns which managed to approach the bomber undetected and shoot the aircraft down without the crew realising they were under attack until it was too late. However the tail and mid-upper gunners managed to bail out just in time.
Then the final casualties occurred on the run back over the Belgian coast as two Lancasters from 1 Group succumbed, B-Beer and D-Duff, with both captains losing control of their aircraft from damage sustained early in the flight only to see all their hard efforts to return in vain, as the English Channel coast was about to be crossed. Only the tail gunner survived from B-Beer.
Another 1 Group Lancaster C-Charlie had a close run thing with a tyre blow out on landing but with the pilot managing to apply enough opposite rudder to stabilise the aircraft and to only sustain minor damage to the undercarriage whilst still landing safely.
In the post raid analysis it was found that the light winds had meant that the target indicators had been accurately deployed on the Oil refining plant, north of the city, but a slight drop back had meant that the serious fires had been inflicted on the nearby residential area, and with the early drops likely caused by the notable nightfighter activity, the other two major fires broke out in the industrial and urban areas to the south close to the river, but with a large bomb drop falling in nearby fields.
So points scored on the raid would be 11 for the target, 8 for the major fires, 6 for other bombs not causing fires hitting the target less 5 points for aircraft lost for a total of 20 victory points and another crushing result which again does not reflect the losses incurred.
On the next series of Ops I plan to make some changes to the victory point scoring which will increase the points loss for downed bombers to better reflect the attrition caused to bomber command.
My thinking will be to increase the basic cost of a lost aircraft from 1 to 2 points for these previous two ops and from op three onward, to cost losses similarly but with a premium added for more experienced crews.
|The debrief, an important aspect of the op and in our case an opportunity to look at the game overall and the campaign structure.|
As it stands then, with these basic modifications, the Berlin op would net 18 points and the Nuremberg op 15 points leaving the current situation running at a British victory at just over 16 points per mission described as;
'the targets have been plastered with losses kept at acceptable'.
If that average should drop to 12 points, then the situation would be a draw, described as;
'mounting losses cancel the effects of the bombing'
which would reflect the historical result and keep the campaign interesting from that perspective.
If the average should drop to 10 points then we move into a German minor victory where;
'losses outweigh the damage inflicted'
and thus the campaign would be unsustainable.
Anything less that a 10 point average and we enter a disastrous outcome for Bomber Command described as;
'unacceptable losses causing a pause and rethink of the night bomber offensive'.
The aim will be to allow for those disastrous missions to cause pause for thought but balanced out by those that cause massive destruction for an average or less loss rate, all impacted by the changes brought about by the technological battle running alongside the air campaign and making fuel and bomb load decisions in the prevailing weather conditions that critical part of planning.
So the next game is planned for July with another op to The Big City and a chance to test out these ideas.
Thanks to Ian, Steve L, Stephen H, Si and Steve (Our new member) for flying this op and here is looking forward to the next one.