Introduction - the game

I remembered a documentary that I had seen about the Dambuster raid which mentioned a parallel development of Barnes Wallis' bouncing bombs which was to be used against shipping and particularly initially against the huge German Pocket Battleship, Tirpitz.

I rifled through my video collection, found the tape and watched avidly.

Here was the game or at least a good basis for one.

In essence the game would be the same as initially envisaged. An aerial attack, low over water using bouncing bombs against a large target. Because of the scale of things, it was always likely to be in 1/300 scale although 1/144 may have been a possibility, having been attracted by the Revell and Academy aircraft range in that scale. But this now was perfect.

Tamiya made a 1/350 plastic model of Tirpitz and there would be no problem in getting 1/300 Mosquitos so that meant the main players were covered. All we had to worry about now would be the terrain and the rules!

A little more research via the internet and a few books convinced us that this would make an excellent topic for a game but before we could get stuck into building the models and scenery we had to have a decent set of rules.

In any game, but especially in a participation game, the quality of the rules will make or break the project. They had to be simple enough for players to grasp quickly and yet not so simple as to loose too much accuracy. The game needed to last about an hour with the possibility of a successful outcome but without making it so easy as to not be worth playing.

A very fine balance would have to be achieved.

There were three or four basic elements to the game, which had to be covered. The Mosquito's flight down the fjord, the German defensive fire and the dropping of the bomb with the ensuing damage (or not!) to the Tirpitz. We felt pretty comfortable that the first two elements could be covered without too much difficulty. The worry was about the bombing.

It was essential that we manage to capture the fact that the bomb had to be dropped at a particular speed, height and distance from the target. The challenge would be creating a consistent, fast and easy method to 'calculate' how each of these factors would effect an attack. The first thoughts came up with the use of a graph against which each of the factors could be plotted to read off a result, but this took time and looked frighteningly complicated. The next possibility was the use of a palm top computer, but try as I might, I couldn't come up with a formula to fit and even if I had, the result wouldn't have had much of an exciting result for the players or spectators. Time was moving on and we were getting fairly close to the deadline by when we needed to be sure we could go with the idea, there was still the Tirpitz to be built let alone all the scenery.

 

Game - systems

Then the brainwave hit! I'd been thinking of some ways to reduce the need for dice and hence look up tables etc. Tapes, rules and dice have an annoying habit of cluttering up the gaming table and so I'd been toying with the idea of using playing cards to generate some random factors such as damage to the planes or the Tirpitz and that was when it all clicked into place.

A number of cards would be picked to determine the damage to the Tirpitz depending on where the bomb hit so the less accurate the bomb drop, the fewer cards would be picked and so less damage would be done. It was so simple it was frightening. Each playing card would have a value on it relating to Tirpitz damage, Mosquito damage and (added a little later) any British attack on the Tirpitz's defending Flak ships.

Now we had to test the mechanism. Fortunately I have a collection of 1/3000 WWII ships and we were able to test out our ideas and make any required modifications, but on the whole it played like a dream. Now that we were convinced we had a playable game, construction could begin in earnest. Phil Portway (of Mainly Military) built all the scenery while I concentrated on the models. This works well because each of us knew exactly what was needed, they were the things we were best at and our styles would be consistent.

Each 'Pilot' needed to have his own control panel to keep track of speed, altitude and direction changes. An A4 size control panel was made up using a word processor, including all the required dials. This was then stuck onto some hardboard and the edges covered in elephant-tape to prevent any splinters and give it a metallic look. Pointers for the dials were made from plastic plant labels and fixed through holes in the hardboard with brass coloured, split pin document staples.

Small labels were printed to cover damage to the Tirpitz, Aircraft and German defenders and stuck on to ordinary playing cards. Wooden distance sticks were made from simple dowels to denote flak attack distances from the defending destroyers and a larger one for Tirpitz's own flak and a turning template was made from plastic that would allow us to quickly turn the aircraft between 10° and 60°. With all the equipment now made up we were ready to play.

 

Game - intro

Each game takes about 1 - 1½ hours and we managed to fit in five games at Salute 2000. I must say I was more than pleased with the reception the game had. It wasn't easy to gather eight players at first as everyone was milling around wanting to see the sights, but soon enough we got going and from then on we only had one break for a spot of lunch and making our own purchases.

Even during lunch people had sat down to book their places. But be warned; it's a bloody affair with the majority of the pilots being shot down but it was amazing to see the interest from people passing by.

At several points through the day we must have had people up to four deep watching and cheering as the mossies made their way up the fjord. The Tirpitz suffered damage almost every game but was sunk only once (by a single attack!) and so by popular demand it makes a return appearance, only this time there is a slight difference….. watch your 'six', there are bogies about!

 

Game - medals

As a finishing touch I scanned some medals and printed them out onto address labels so those who were shot down received an Aircrew Star, those who successfully dropped their bomb received a Distinguished Service Order and if the Tirpitz was sunk the attacking Pilot was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

 

Game - phases

Each turn was divided into 12 phases. This might sound a lot, but in reality many could be skipped and each was quite fast.

 

Game - phase 1: Direction table to 0°

Each pilot ensured that their direction counter was turned to 0°. The direction counter wasto indicate a change in direction for that turn and so making this the first phase ensured that people didn't leave the change in direction from the previous turn.

Game - phase 2: Change height, speed OR direction

Each pilot was allowed to change ONE factor: height, speed or direction.

Speed could be changed by up to 30 mph.

Height could be changed by up to 30 feet.

Direction could be changed by up to 90° (I know it seems a lot but no-one would really want

to do this because of the implications in the next phase!).

 

Game - phase 3: Make forced changes due to phase 2

For every 10° of change in direction made in phase 2, the pilot was then forced to lose 10ft in height.

If however they had decided to loose altitude in phase 2, for every 10ft dropped they wouldgain 10 mph or equally for every 10ft climbed, they would lose 10 mph.

 

Game - phase 4: British damage

German Flak ships have a range of 18 inches. Any aircraft within 9 inches of a Flak ship would draw two damage cards from the deck, whilst any aircraft between 9 and 18 inches would draw one damage card. These did accumulate so if an aircraft was 7 inches from one ship and 17 inches from another the aircraft would draw 3 damage cards.

Ships that were suppressed cannot fire (see phase 6). The Tirpitz also has defensive Flak.

We used the same stick to measure the bomb run (by having a square dowel, two sides were marked for the bomb run and the other two sides marked with Flak. The stick was 40 inches long divided into five sections each of 8 inches. The section furthest from the Tirpitz get 3 Flak cards, then 5, 7, 8 & 9 respectively.

As you can see it pays to bank sharply away from the Tirpitz because within 8 inches of the Battleship, 9 Flak cards are very likely to force an attacking plane into the sea.

 

Game - phase 5: British damage

Damage card taken in phase 4 took effect (on the day we rolled phases 4 and 5 together).

As you will see later, damage to aircraft could result in complete destruction to a further

forced change in altitude or speed (simulating the effect of close flak bursts).

 

Game - phase 6: Remove German suppression marker

More of this in phase 9 but suffice to say that Mosquitoes could attack the Flak Ships and suppress or even destroy them. We showed this using water splashed made from a cotton wool type material used in aquarium filters (its much better than cotton wool as it stays white, takes paint very well and doesn't loose its shape). In this phase one suppression marker would be removed.

 

Game - phase 7: Red factor cards drawn

In order to prevent people flying too low or at ridiculously slow speeds sections of the dials were coloured red and anyone in these sectors would take a damage card for every 10mph or feet past 60ft height or 60mph. This could result in them plummeting into the 'drink' or if they were lucky gaining height or speed depending on the damage card result.

 

Game - phase 8: British move

Once all the alterations to the initial orders of phase 2 were complete because of Flak damage or red factors the final movement takes place.

Any turning is done at the beginning of the move and then aircraft moved in a straight line, 1 inch for every 10mph. At the end of the movement, any aircraft whose bases are touching draw one damage card each, the bases moved apart and their direction altered slightly to avoid collision.

 

Game - phase 9: British attack

This phase is for Mosquitoes wishing to attack German Flak Ships. Mosquitoes have to be directly facing any part of the Flak Ship and the same ranges are used as for flak attack in phase 4, so if the aircraft is within 9 inches of the ship it draws two cards of damage against the ship or only one card if it is between 9 and 18 inches away. Flak Ships can be destroyed with a lucky shot, but mostly they are either suppressed for one or two turns (although a number of attacks in one turn may be accumulated to suppress the ships for many turns), or no damage is done at all.

 

 

Game - phase 10: German destroyer damage

Water splash markers are put against the ship to show how many turns of suppression have been inflicted and again in reality we rolled phase 9 and 10 together.

 

Game - phase 11: British Bomb Run

The bouncing bomb was a precision weapon and Pilots were informed that the bomb had to be dropped at a distance of 350-400 ft from the Tirpitz, at a height of 60 ft and a speed of 100 mph.

The Tirpitz also had some areas which were more vulnerable to damage and so the best area to target was dead centre of the vessel, right under the some-stack. Each Pilot's control panel showed a picture of the Tirpitz sectioned off into attack areas. Each area had a number against it representing the number of damage cards which would be draw for a perfect attack on that area.

However, for every 50 ft that the bomb was dropped, too close to the Tirpitz, one damage card would be lost.

For every 20 ft of height away from the optimum of 60 ft when the bomb was dropped, one damage card would be lost and for every 20 mph of speed away from the optimum of 100mph when the bomb was dropped, one damage card would be lost.

Pilots had to estimate when to chose to drop their bombs. If they dropped too short the bomb would explode harmlessly. If a Pilot dropped within range, a straight line would be taken in the direction the plane was travelling to see which area of the Tirpitz had been attacked. Distance, Speed and Altitude would then calculate the number of attack card drawn.

Each attack card has a number of points ranging from 0 to 150 (as detailed below) and this score would be the total damage taken by the Tirpitz for that bomb run.

Attacking aircraft would remain on the table until phase 8 of the next move and so a successful bomb run did not necessarily mean that aircraft would escape the wrath of German Flak.

 

Game - phase 12: Record Tirpitz damage

Damage to the Tirpitz is accumulated over the game as each of the eight Mosquitoes attempts to drop its bomb. In order to sink the Tirpitz, 300 points of damage needs to be inflicted. We felt this was about right but it was always a case of 'suck-it-and-see'.

If it's too hard you can always lower the target.

 

 

 

 

Card

German Defence

British Attack

Tirpitz Damage

A§

Destroyed

Destroyed

100

2§

Gain 40 speed

2 x suppressed

40

3§

" 30 "

1 x suppressed

30

4§

" 20 "

1 x suppressed

20

5§

" 10 "

1 x suppressed

10

6§

No effect

No effect

10

7§

No effect

No effect

10

8§

No effect

No effect

10

9§

No effect

No effect

10

10§

drop 10 speed

1 x suppressed

10

J§

" 20 "

1 x suppressed

20

Q§

" 30 "

1 x suppressed

30

K§

" 40 "

2 x suppressed

40

A¨

Destroyed

Destroyed

50

2¨

Gain 10 height

2 x suppressed

40

3¨

" 20 "

1 x suppressed

30

4¨

" 30 "

1 x suppressed

20

5¨

" 40 "

1 x suppressed

10

6¨

No effect

No effect

10

7¨

No effect

No effect

10

8¨

No effect

No effect

10

9¨

No effect

No effect

10

10¨

drop 10 height

1 x suppressed

10

J¨

" 20 "

1 x suppressed

20

Q¨

" 30 "

1 x suppressed

30

K¨

" 40 "

2 x suppressed

40

A©

Destroyed

Destroyed

No effect

2©

Gain 10 height

2 x suppressed

40

3©

" 20 "

1 x suppressed

30

4©

" 30 "

1 x suppressed

20

5©

" 40 "

1 x suppressed

10

6©

No effect

No effect

10

7©

No effect

No effect

10

8©

No effect

No effect

10

9©

No effect

No effect

10

10©

drop 10 height

1 x suppressed

10

J©

" 20 "

1 x suppressed

20

Q©

" 30 "

1 x suppressed

30

K©

" 40 "

2 x suppressed

40

Aª

Destroyed

Destroyed

150

2ª

Gain 40 speed

2 x suppressed

40

3ª

" 30 "

1 x suppressed

30

4ª

" 20 "

1 x suppressed

20

5ª

" 10 "

1 x suppressed

10

6ª

No effect

No effect

10

7ª

No effect

No effect

10

8ª

No effect

No effect

10

9ª

No effect

No effect

10

10ª

drop 10 speed

1 x suppressed

10

Jª

" 20 "

1 x suppressed

20

Qª

" 30 "

1 x suppressed

30

Kª

" 40 "

2 x suppressed

40

 

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