CABBAGE CRATES OVER THE BRINY
BATTLE OF BRITAIN
by Peter Hunt
Tuesday 20th August 1940
While the action was taking place during the afternoon, Churchill was in Parliament and it was on this day that he delivered his speech that ended with "... never, in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few."
“If you want something done properly you have to do it yourself.” So what follows is an attempt to make a coherent game out of PSC’s “Battle of Britain.”
The new mechanics are a combination of the original TSR, and the new PSC rules, (the two rules as written: RAW,) plus some of my own ideas, using the PSC components. Both RsAW abstract the dynamics of the raids with a passage of time, telescoping daily raids into a longer campaign. The TSR RAW had an ongoing campaign system that the PSC version deleted in favour of a resetting tournament system with three games and little continuity. These rules restore the campaign system. The idea is to give a “feel” for the continuing battle that more closely follows the historical outline of the battle and better reflects the dynamics of mounting and countering raids over Britain.
[A little note on terms: the RsAW use the term “flight” for a formation made up of several squadrons. This is silly and more than a little bit irritating as a flight is a subunit of a squadron not a collective noun for squadrons. The proper term is a “wing” for the British and “geschwader,” (if you don’t mind getting spittle all over your plotting map,) for the bigger German formations, and we shall jolly well use those terms.]
Whilst these amendments use the PSC components you will need to add one pack of normal playing cards to keep track of successful bombing raids and RAF losses. Give the German player one card, (or if you like the face value of cards equal to the number of successful raids or squadrons shot down.) DO NOT Mix the cards! The totals for successful bombing raids and RAF squadrons lost are separate and required for victory conditions.
GAME LENGTH AND STRUCTURE
The battle was fought in three phases over 11 weeks from 10th July to approximately 24th September as shown below, [note that the three phases do not exactly align with weeks.] In addition to the requirements of the RAW these amendments introduce the following new elements:
· Order of Battle: How repairs, withdrawals, rotations and reinforcements affected the campaign.
· Weather: How the elements affected the campaign.
· Targets: How German targeting priorities affected the campaign.
Order of Battle
The key to the survivability of the RAF in the battle was the ability to rotate, squadrons with high casualties and fatigue from 11 Group to the North and replace them with fresh squadrons. For example, of the 22 squadrons in 11 Group on 10th July only 9 were still in the group on 7th September. This is not reflected in the RAW as a result of which 10 and 11 Groups become denuded whilst the northern groups remain at full strength. This has both pros and cons for the German player as although attacks in the south become easier attacks on the north become very difficult as the bombers with a limited number of Bf 110s face full strength wings, rather than the training formations and depleted units that were common in the battle. The amendments cater for this rotation. In addition to the rotation of squadrons fighter command was reinforced by a small number of allied squadrons during the Battle. This too is now reflected in the amendments.
[Combat in the Battle was not continuous as there were days of bad weather over Britain, or “quiet” days when flying was possible over Britain, but the Luftwaffe did little, either because of bad weather over their own bases or because they were recovering from a maximum effort. These days allowed the British a respite to rest, rebuild and repair to await the next onslaught.]
Although there are 11 turns, as in the PSC RAW system, a turn does not really represent a week of fighting but rather abstracts the feel of conducting and combatting raids into a campaign continuum and includes a similar amount of respite for the British as happened in the real campaign but abstracted into turns, rather than individual days off.
The target decks are now stacked to reflect the Luftwaffe’s targeting priorities by removing types of targets from the deck in the different phases of the game. Neither side may look at removed cards. The German player will have three unused target cards in his hand at the beginning of each new phase of the battle. Whilst all the other used target cards are recycled at the beginning of each new phase the three unused cards, [presumably for unpalatable targets,] are retained in the German hand.
The game proceeds as follows (the game turns are summarized at Appendix 1):
Kanalkampf: Turns 1-4, 10th July to 7th August
· Weather: 29 days including 8 bad and 6 quiet. So ½ of the turns should be respites.
· Targets: The radar chain, southern airfields and aircraft factories. Configure the target deck as follows: remove both London cards and 13 of the other city cards at random, and the Catterick, Ringway and Wittering airfield cards.
Alder Tag: Turns 5-8, 8th August to 6th September
· Order of Battle: At the beginning of turn 5 rotate squadrons, remove two bomb hits from each city and remove the RAF Defiant squadrons. At the beginning of turn 6 add No 310 Czechoslovak Squadron to 12 Group. At the beginning of turn 7 remove the Luftwaffe Stuka squadrons and add No 1 RCAF squadron to 11 Group and No 302 Polish Squadron to 12 Group. At the beginning of turn 8 add No 303 Polish Squadron to 11 Group.
· Weather: 30 days including 6 bad and 4 quiet. So, 1/3 of the turns should be respites.
· Targets: Fighter Command. Replace all the used target cards and reconfigure the target deck as follows: remove the both London cards, 13 of the other city cards, 6 of the radar cards at random.
The Blitz: Turns 9-11, 7th September to 24th September
· Order of Battle: At the beginning of turn 9 rotate squadrons and remove two bomb hits from each city. The British may use the Big Wing and Luftflotte 2 geschwader may be reinforced to 7 squadrons if aircraft are available.
· Weather: 18 days including 1 bad and 7 quiet. So, 4/9 of the turns should be respites.
Targets: The Cities. Replace all the used target cards and remove 6
radar and 6 airfield cards at random.
the target deck as follows: remove both London cards.
the deck and deal off the top 10 cards of the deck.
the two London Cards into these 10, and then place the 12 cards at the
top of the deck.
either of the London targets are bombed but not knocked out, place the
card on the top of the target deck for the next turn.
The Luftwaffe’s aim was to achieve air superiority by 15th September to allow time for an invasion of Britain. Initially they targeted aviation infrastructure, (radar, airfields and factories,) but later turned to bombing cities as a means of forcing the RAF to engage and bring them to battle.
Over the approximately 7 flying turns of the game the Luftwaffe can be expected to mount 43 missions, (or possibly a few more depending upon how well Luftflotte 5 does.) Assuming a 66% success rate would be acceptable to Goring and Hitler the Luftwaffe must successfully bomb, (including partially bombed cities,) 28 targets. A city that has been repaired still counts as having been successfully bombed.
Since target cards are replaced at the beginning of each new phase of the battle they can no longer be used to keep track of the number of targets hit. Instead keep score with playing cards.
During the Battle the RAF lost 1017 fighters compared to Luftwaffe losses of 1700 all types, an exchange ratio of 6 to 10.
To win the game the Luftwaffe must bomb at least 28 targets and maintain a loss rate of 6 to 10 or less.
The game will be drawn if the Luftwaffe bomb more than 28 targets but has a higher loss rate; or bombs less than 28 targets, but more than 21, and has a lower loss rate.
Any other result is a British victory.
To calculate loss rates both players collect their damaged squadrons cards at the end of the game, (the damaged squadron cards for the Germans and the playing cards awarded for the British.) The British player deals a hand of six, and the German player 10. Continue to deal these hands until one player cannot deal a full hand. If both cannot deal a full hand at the same time then the loss rate is 6 to 10. If a player has cards left when the other has run out then the player with cards left has the lower loss rate.
Stood down squadrons, withdrawn Defiants and Stukas, and any squadrons in a withdrawn geschwader do not count as losses. [So, you have no incentive to needlessly soak up casualties with them before they are withdrawn.]
GAME TURN SEQUENCE (Major Changes Highlighted Red)
The Standby Phase
Step 1. Advance the turn marker
Step 2. British Production and Repair
Rotate British squadrons and add any reinforcements as described below.
Now throw for repairs using the TSR version. i.e. the British player states how many dice he is throwing for squadrons, and how many to repair airfields and radar.
[Removing bomb hit from cities at the beginning of turns 5 and 9 should bring many cities back into production. British aircraft production was higher at the end of the battle than at the beginning, (although trained aircrew remained scarce.) But since all the target cards are re-cycled a city can now be bombed several times in a game, as happened.]
Step 3. Check the Weather
If the Luftwaffe do not fly [the RAF player thanks heaven for the blessed respite, lounges in his deckchair keeping a wary eye out on the southern horizon, pets his faithful Labrador, thinks about that WRAF popsy in the Operations Room, and wonders if he has a chance of a look-in with her whilst that squadron of bloody Poles is on the base, but he still jumps every time the telephone rings.] Go to the Next Turn.
If the Luftwaffe do fly [the Luftwaffe player is woken by his orderly before dawn with a cup of coffee, a cigarillo and the word that the targets for today are being deciphered on the Lorenz machine.] Continue the Turn.
The first turn of the game can be a respite turn, (in fact historically it was since there was only good flying weather on 3 of the first 7 days of the battle.)
Step 4. Squadron Alert (British and German)
As per PSC RAW. Note change of order between steps 4 and 5. Now the German gets to see what squadrons he has in a geschwader before giving it its mission. Note the return of “stood down” squadrons below, these will be the first to be used to reinforce wings or geschwader before other squadron cards are drawn.
Step 5. German Mission Assignment
As per PSC RAW. See also the special rule for Luftflotte 5 below.
The “Tally Ho” Phase
Step 6. Luftwaffe Movement
As per PSC RAW, except for changes below on the “12 Group Line” and that geschwader do not halt on the radar line.
Each time a geschwader enters a radar square, (not just the first time,) the RAF player can announce an intercept. [If he does so this must be announced in suitably clipped R/T tones to the effect of: “Scramble the Hawkinge Wing. I have trade for you over Foreness. Climb to Angels 15. Over.”] The British player then moves the intercepting wing one square. [Making Merlin engine noises are optional but encouraged.] Then, the German moves his geschwader one square, and the British moves his one square, and so on. The geschwader stops moving when it is in a square with a wing, [at which point one or both players should make suitable “dakka, dakka, dakka” noises,] when it starts a bomb run [the whistles of descending bombs will not be amiss,] or when it has moved five or ten squares. If an intercepting wing does not reach its target it is returned to its station immediately before British movement. It cannot move in the British movement of this Tally Ho phase but may move again in later Tally Ho phases of the same turn. [Comment: This procedure allows geschwader to feint towards the radar line to pull British defenders out of position. However, these tactics use up fuel. It also means that in many cases geschwader can bomb coastal or near inland targets on their first phase aloft.]
Step 7. RAF Movement
As per PSC RAW.
Step 8. Battle and Bombing
As per PSC RAW except see changes below for dogfight and intercept procedures, and any RAF wing that has fought must return to base.
Step 9. “Tumult in the Clouds”
As per the TSR RAW repeat the Tally Ho phase steps 6 to 8 above until all geschwader have reached for home. British wings that return to base in one Tally Ho phase of a turn can intercept or move and dogfight in other Tally Ho phases of the same turn. The turn ends when the last geschwader reaches for home. Any geschwader that did not take off in the first Tally Ho phase of a turn must take off in the second Tally Ho phase or not fly at all this turn. Thus there can only be a maximum of 4 Tally Ho phases in each turn.
OTHER RULES CHANGES
ROTATIONS and REINFORCEMENTS
Squadron rotation represents the transfer north of depleted and battle-weary squadrons and their replacement by newly trained and fresh squadrons. In this manner 12 Group, and, especially, 13 Group provided succor to the Front Line in the South.
To rotate squadrons, take a combat ready squadron in the group indicated to donate and place it in the damaged squadrons box. Then take a squadron of the same type in the damaged squadron box of the receiving group and place it in the combat ready box. In effect the loss in the receiving group has now been transferred to the donating group. Squadron Rotations are made as follows:
Beginning of Turn 5
· 11 Group sends 1 Hurricane and 1 Blenheim to 10 Group.
· 12 Group sends 1 Spitfire and 1 Hurricane to 11 Group.
· 13 Group sends 1 Spitfire to 10 Group.
· 13 Group sends 1 Spitfire and 2 Hurricanes to 11 Group.
Beginning of Turn 9
· 12 Group sends 1 Spitfire and 2 Hurricanes to 11 Group.
· 13 group sends 2 Spitfires and 2 Hurricanes to 11 Group.*
*In fact, 13 Group sent 5 Spitfire squadrons and 3 Hurricane squadrons down south, but the card mix does not allow for this. So damage one of the 13 Group Hurricane squadrons and rebuild an 11 Group Spitfire squadron instead, in total 11 Group receives 3 Spitfires and 1 Hurricane from 13 Group this turn.
All squadron rotations are voluntary, the British player does not have to carry out any or all of them. However, they are time-expired and unused rotations are lost, they cannot be “saved” for later turns.
13 Group Reserves
[More than half of 13 Group is not represented in the RAW. Of the 14 squadrons in the group on 10th July only 6 are present in the game. Eventually 8 of these squadrons would go south and another one to Northern Ireland.]
To reflect the hidden strength of 13 Group and its role as the nursery and health-farm of Fighter Command the Group starts the game with a pool of 4 replacement points that may be used as successful rebuilding dice, except that they can only be used to rebuild squadrons in 13 Group, they cannot be used to rebuild airfields or radar or transferred to other groups. The British player decides if he wants to use points from his pool after he has thrown his rebuilding dice. [And no, if he has surplus successful rebuilding dice he cannot add them to his pool.]
The British player receives 4 reinforcements, each consisting of a Hurricane squadron manned by allies as follows: No 310 Czechoslovak Squadron to 12 Group on turn 6. No 1 RCAF squadron to 11 Group and No 302 Polish Squadron to 12 Group on turn 7; and No 303 Polish Squadron to 11 Group on turn 8. At the beginning of each of those turns take a Hurricane from the damaged squadrons box of the appropriate group and place it in the combat ready box.
No 303 Polish Squadron was exceptional, becoming the highest scoring squadron in the battle despite not becoming operational until the end of August, so it adds an ace marker to the wing it is allocated to.
The Weather Dice
Both sides throw one of their own dice. The Luftwaffe will fly if the result is a follows where + is a Luftwaffe Cross, o is a RAF Roundel and – is a Blank:
[This rule effectively introduces a variable game length since you do not know if the final turn, (or turns even,) will be flyable. Note however, that the weather is determined after British repair so even on the last turn of the game the British will repair squadrons which may affect the loss ratio. Also, the British will not know whether the last turn is flyable when they make their repairs so they still have to decide whether to devote resources to squadrons or airfields/radar.]
[Alternative Weather Rule]
If you want to simplify things the 32 non-flying days out of the 77 days of the battle represent 42% or 15/36ths. Instead of having variable dice for the three phases of the battle use +-, or ++, or - - for every turn.
[Alternative, Alternative Weather Rule]
If you do not enjoy having your genius thwarted by random weather you can cancel the weather throws and just factor the respite days into the campaign which is shortened as follows:
[This alternative rule makes the game a bit shorter and more predictable, but less exciting. It is probably better for those with a low randomness threshold, or high blood pressure, or who have not experienced the climatic joys of an English summer.]
[The problem with any dice-dependent system is that the randomness rubs up against wargamer’s pride, and let’s face it, you probably would not have ended up in the cockpit of this Spitfire if you did not already have a rather high opinion of your own abilities. Dicing for the weather will not usually produce the same weather conditions as in the campaign because of the vagaries of the dice, although if you played enough campaigns this should average out. But in any particular game the British may complain that too much good weather did not give them enough respite to repair and allowed for more bombing sorties; or the Germans complain that too much bad weather in the typical English summer allowed the RAF too much time to repair and deprived them of bombing sorties. The following rule removes the randomness: every game will have 4 respite and 7 flying turns, but “card-counting” will tell you when the game will end.]
Take four black playing cards and seven red cards, shuffle well, and draw one card each weather check step. A black card is a respite turn.
[Alternative, Alternative, Alternative, Alternative Weather Rule]
[Call me old fashioned, but you could always use the historical weather of the campaign. This is predictable but then no one can say that the other player derived some ahistorical advantage or disadvantage by having a respite just when it was most needed by the British.]
In the real campaign turns 1, 4, 7 and 10 were respites.
THE “12 GROUP LINE”
As per the spirit of the TSR RAW Bf 109s and Ju 87s cannot enter a square that is entirely north of the 12 Group southern boundary line. If the boundary line divides a square they may enter it, (e.g. they can reach Norwich, they cannot reach Happisburgh.) If JU 87s are part of a geschwader that is moving 10 squares they may reach for home in the same manner as BF109s.
Luftflotte 2 and 3 Bf 110s north of the 12 Group Line have the same characteristics as Luftflotte 5 Bf 110s, i.e. they have 2 dogfight dice, not 3.
[Comment, as the PSC RAW stand you can turn the skies over Manchester black with Bf 109s if you are willing to accept a 1/3 chance of them running out of fuel. This is silly. Having enough fuel to dogfight over London was their limit. The TSR rule is a lot more sensible and is already generous. Whilst the TSR rule only applied to Bf 109s, the Stukas did not have much longer legs.]
As in the TSR RAW there is now no adverse consequence of a geschwader not bombing a target. Thus, the German player may be inclined to keep Luftflotte 5 as an air-fleet in being to threaten the East Coast and to keep 12 and 13 Groups honest without attacking them. This is a legitimate strategy but Göring demanded an all-out coordinated effort for Alder Tag. If Luftflotte 5 is still active on turn 5 it must enter the radar line and attempt to bomb its target on this turn. If it does not make the attempt the Luftflotte is withdrawn from the game.
As per the PSC RAW except that if a squadron is required to be removed for a lower number of hits than its damage strength number it is not destroyed but temporarily “stood down,” having taken losses which can be replaced in a short time. Note that in any intercept only one squadron on either side can be stood down. [So, say two Spitfire squadrons with a defence of 4 each, had to take 6 hits, you could not allocate 3 hits to each squadron and have them both stood down. One would be lost for 4 hits and one stood down for 2 hits. On the other-hand say one Bf 109 squadron (defence 4) and one Bf 110 squadron (defence 2) had to take 2 hits. You could either lose the Bf 110 or stand down the Bf 109.]
Stood down squadrons are set aside and returned to the top of the Group or Luftflotte Combat Ready Box at the beginning of the second turn after they are stood down. Squadrons that are stood down in intercepts during turns 10 or 11 count do not count as lost at the end of the game.
[Comment: This makes intercepts slightly less bloody in the long term.]
As per the spirit of the TSR RAW when a geschwader is engaged in a dogfight the German player arranges his squadrons into three “gruppen” of at least one squadron each, or less gruppen if there are only one or two squadrons remaining in the geschwader. No gruppe can have four squadrons in it. These gruppen are placed face down. The RAF player then decides which gruppen he is going to attack by placing his squadrons face down next to the gruppen. He may do this in any way he pleases, he does not have to fight all three gruppen. The dogfights are then conducted using the PFC RAW. There are no partial losses and thus no stand downs in dogfight combat.
[Comment: The PSC RAW usually has the British facing a wall of Messerschmitts in the sky. This system, partially based on the TSR system, allows the British a chance to get at the German bombers, but more by luck than judgement, (there will certainly be elements of bluff and double-bluff in the organization of the gruppen so the British are never sure of what they are attacking.) It also poses the Germans with the historical problem that they faced: do they tie their fighters closely to the bombers, (e.g. one bomber and one fighter in each gruppe) or do they concentrate the fighters so if the British get a nasty surprise if do select the fighter gruppe to dogfight with.]
Battle of Britain Game Turns
 All quotes and statistics taken from The Battle of Britain Historical Society site at: https://www.battleofbritain1940.net/contents-index.html that gives a day by day account of weather, raids and losses.
 This number was the result of one playtest, you may wish to vary it. Also, perhaps players could “bid” to be German using the number of targets they aim to hit.