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Skies Above The Reich by   GMT Games    "Against twenty Russians trying to shoot you down or even twe...

Skies Above The Reich by GMT Games Skies Above The Reich by GMT Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



  "Against twenty Russians trying to shoot you down or even twenty Spitfires, it can be exciting, even fun. But curve in towards forty Fortresses and all your past sins flash before your eyes" ("Fips" Phillips 200+ victories).

 This is only one of the myriad of quotes from various German fighter pilots about the fear that engulfed them facing the Flying Fortresses. The USAF decided that daylight bombing would allow precision attacks on German industry. This also meant that that the Luftwaffe was able to throw everything they had at the American bombers. This sets the stage for GMT's new game, Skies Above the Reich.

One of the Map Boards

 The first thing you notice when it is delivered is that it's in a large 3" box that weighs a good deal. Upon opening, you find it contains a cornucopia of gaming goodness. The box is filled to the brim with booklets and charts and two mounted maps. It is a solitaire game that can also be two player (both playing the Germans). Played as a single player game, you are in command of a Staffel of German fighters trying to stop your country from being bombed to dust. The game starts in 1942 and ends in 1945. 

A collage of all four Map Boards

  Where to begin with this Santa sized box of wargaming? Let us list what you actually get:
Boards: 22x34, 17x22 (both double sided)
Pursuit Maps: 2 @ 8.5x11 (double sided)
Roster & Log Pad: 8.5x11
Stickers: 8.5x11 sheet
Blocks: 50 black, 12 blue
Cards: 24 Nose, 24 Tail, 16 Oblique, 32 Continuing Fire
Countersheets: 1 @ 1 inch counters, 1 @ 5/8 counters
O Map Panel: 8.5x22
Player Aids: 1 @ 11x25, 2 @ 11x17
Rule Book
Advanced Rule Book
Situation Manual
Two Dice (ten sided, one red, one black)

Some action from the game

 This is the sequence of play for a mission:

Move - Fighters enter, exit or move from one box on the periphery 
   of the Formation Map to another.
Return - Fighters shift from a Return Box to a High/Low Position  
   Box, or from an Evasive Return to a Return Box.
Escort - Skip this phase unless escort markers are present, or arrive
   this turn.
Recovery - Check each fighter to determine if the hit is trivial or 
Blast & Flak  - Fire rockets, drop bombs, and Ju88/ME410 may 
   fire cannon; then, if Near Target, check for flak. 
Cohesion  - Check each element for cohesion.
Attack  - Skip this phase unless one or more fighters are in an
   Approach Box. There are several steps to this phase.

Another GMT picture of game play

 As mentioned, the game also comes with advanced rules for you to delve into. The base game is about your fighters trying to knock down Flying Fortresses or just knock them out of the formation. The Advanced Game is where your fighters will attempt to destroy bombers that have been knocked out of formation. The game uses four maps to show the difference in the Flying Fortress formations during the years of World War II. Map 1 is the easiest to deal with and shows how the Allies experimented with bomber formations. Map 4 comes into play after Flying Fortresses were equipped with 'chin turrets'. Until this time the favorite attack of Luftwaffe fighters on these bombers was to attack straight at their noses. The chin turret made these attacks much more dangerous for the German fighters.

This is a collage of the Advanced Game Map Boards

 These types of games have a bit of a double-edged sword to them. You actually play with named units/counters instead of just 'pilot A' or Bf109_, fill in the blank. So, you are bound to get attached to the different pilots. At least I do in a game like this. In Wargames I do not get attached to divisions or corps, but in games with individual soldiers etc, I do, especially if I am playing a campaign and have to husband them through different battles. You will have some of your pilots get lucky to survive numerous battles only to fall at the last minute or just when you thought they had made it safely through another B-17 formation. 


1" Counters

 The rulebook is fifty-eight pages long, but don't let that scare you. It is written in large letters and every page has an illustration or two on it. The rules are very well done and hold the player's hand while teaching the game to them. The rulebook, situation manual, and the player's aids are very easy to read and absolutely full of play examples. The map boards are also very well done and 'clean'. There is a lot of information on them, but it is not jumbled up or seem too close to each other. The components just seem to be very well thought out, along with being very well done visually. Even the artwork on the box is excellent. Some of the counters are 1", so these are easy on old eyes. The counters are done to the standard of the rest of the game. I have older GMT games that were nicely done, but this game blows them away as far as visually and component wise.

Front of the Card Decks

Rear of the Card Decks

 Game play is very easy to get into. After your first mission, you will probably only have to glance at the rulebook every now and again. The game is set up so that you play out campaigns. Each campaign is a season. You can play campaigns of one season or up to seven. You will use the Mission Set-Up Table to start the campaign and to set-up each mission. Then you will use the Situation Manual to set-up each mission. You will either roll die or us the Staffel Commands to determine various things about the mission such as sun position etc. So with this game you get the best of both worlds. It is a deep game with a lot of options and heavy thinking for the player, but it also plays quickly and cleanly. The game's use of a die roll for Mission Type and Operations Points helps to keep the player always guessing and thinking. Do you add armor or cannon to your Staffels planes, or do you try to have your auxiliary planes drop bombs on the Fortress Box? The availability of escorts for the Fortresses also increases dramatically with time.  To give you an idea of how tough the war becomes, we will use this example. In 1942 you are given six Experten (Aces) for your Staffel. In late 1944 you are given eight green pilots to start with. Your pilots that survive and are lucky also get to grow through the game. A pilot earns Experte Skill points from successful missions. These can then be used to buy, at a cost of five per, skills such as timing, aim, luck, and break anywhere. On the other hand, your green pilots are penalized by one of these three: erratic, panic, and zeal. You can spend three Experte Skill points to remove the penalty during the game. The game also uses four decks of cards. Three of these are for different attacks: Nose, Tail, and Oblique. The fourth one is for Continuing Fire. These are as well done as the rest of the game. The cards are easy to interpret and there is little actual reading to be done on them. The game has blocks, that you have to sticker, to represent your Staffel's planes and auxiliaries. One thing about the game, you do have to keep a written log. You have to fill in a 'Pilot Roster' log, and a 'Staffel Log'. I am not really a big fan of these. However, I understand why you have to, and I admit that it does give you a sense of filling out the paperwork of a Staffel leader after each mission. There is so much in this game that I am only touching on a few points, and I feel as if I am only scratching the surface. I have been waiting for this game for a long time. It is a hackneyed expression, but in this case is very true.

Log Book

Situation Manual

1/2 of the Turn Record Track and Fate Boxes

Stickered Plane Blocks

 This is an excerpt from the rulebook:
" Although a staffel was likely to conduct hundreds of “missions” in any of the Seasons depicted in this game, scrambling into the air more than once a day when the action was particularly desperate, Skies Above the Reich condenses that action in order to present an impression of that bloody history. Here we reduce the life
(and probable death) of a staffel into a game box.
We only present a part of that “life.” A staffel would have endured a variety of missions, not just bomberbusting attacks like those depicted here. We kindly ask the player to suspend disbelief just a little and forget about missions to intercept enemy escorts or missions to protect ground-attack bombers, or other mission
types that would have occupied your staffel from time to time. For those enthusiasts who demand to see the eroding effects those missions would have had on his staffel, they are welcome to partake of the Staffel Erosion Table. You can find it on the back of this Rule Book. It is intended to be used after tallying points at the
conclusion of each Mission, but if you choose to use it for your campaign, know this: it will make your campaign harder. The Luftwaffe lost the war, the ceiling over the Reich caved in, and over the course of a prolonged campaign the results of the Staffel Erosion Table makes that fact clear."

Aces of The Luftwaffe The Jagdflieger In The Second World War  by Peter Jacobs  Adolf Galland, Werner Molders, ...

Aces of The Luftwaffe by Peter Jacobs Aces of The Luftwaffe by Peter Jacobs

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



 Adolf Galland, Werner Molders, Erich Hartmann, Gordon Gollob, and possibly the best of them, Hans Joachim Marseille, are all here. All of the above, and nine more fighter pilots, were awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds (Brillanten). Many other pilots are in the book also. Gunther Rall was the greatest deflection shooter in the Luftwaffe (deflection shooting is shooting where the enemy will be, instead of from straight behind etc). This book shows the titanic struggle in the air over the East front. It also shows the almost suicidal courage of the Luftwaffe pilots when they flew against the massive bomber streams in the west.

 The book is 200 pages long, and it has twenty-four pages of black and white photos of the pilots and war. Some of these are posed propaganda pictures, but most are candid shots from the pilots' lives.

 The author does not get involved with the argument of the German fighter pilots' claims of 'kills'. He states his case in the introduction and then leaves the matter to the reader. If we take one fighter pilot and compare his 'kills' to his sorties, I believe it will clear up the issue. Erich 'bubi' Hartmann is credited with 352 'kills'. The number of sorties that he flew was 1,404. He was in air combat over 800 times. There were many instances where he notched up more than one 'kill' on a sortie. So roughly he is credited with one kill for every four sorties. The East front was an environment full of Soviet airplanes of all types. Also, as the writer points out, German fighter pilots flew until they were killed, wounded too much to fly, or the war ended. If the Allied pilots were given the same number of sorties and a rich target environment I believe they too would have tallied up impressive scores.

 Mr. Jacobs was in the Royal Air Force for over thirty years. So if anyone is qualified to write this book, it is him. He manages to tell the story of the war, and weave in the different pilots' lives and actions into it. It is true they fought for a horrible cause, but many of the people we history lovers read about would be listed in that way also. I congratulate Mr. Jacobs for this excellent volume on the German Jagdflieger. It is a great book for the novice and the expert alike on German WW II fighter pilots. The book not only describes the day fighters, but also the Reich's night fighters.As the author points out, many of these men were in their very early twenties when the war took place. At the same time that many people are just finding their way in the world, these men were in a life and death struggle with other young men and women (at least on the Soviet side). The appendices list the top scorers and their medals. 


Book: Aces of The Luftwaffe
Author: Peter Jacobs
Publisher: Frontline Books
Distributor: Casemate Publishers


Phoenix A Complete History of the Luftwaffe 1918-1945 volume I  by Richard Meredith  This book is encyclopedic i...

Phoenix A Complete History of the Luftwaffe 1918-1945 volume I by Richard Meredith Phoenix A Complete History of the Luftwaffe 1918-1945 volume I by Richard Meredith

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



 This book is encyclopedic in scope. It is based upon forty years of work and research by the author. In Volume I of this series, the author shows us German military aviation along with a good bit of civilian. The treaty of Versailles forbid Germany from having any military planes whatsoever. I will quote from the book:

 "No air arm of any kind was permitted (article 198) and all stocks of air material not already handed over to the allied authorities were to be destroyed (article 201). Even civilian was to be restricted "During the six months following the date on which the present treaty comes into force, the manufacture and importation of aircraft, parts of aircraft, engines for aircraft  and parts of engines for aircraft shall be forbidden in all German territory (article 201)".

 The book shows that in practice, due to the tumultuous state of Germany at the time, that many airplanes and parts escaped the Allies. These wound up in private hands, or the Freikorps (small private right wing and nationalist armies engendered to fight Communism, and try to take back some of Germany's eastern border). 

 Volume I is split into two sections:

The Years of Secrecy 1918-32
The Rise of Hitler 1933-35

Each of these are divided into:

Strategy and Command
Ministerial Activity
Technical Developments and Production
Infrastructure and Training
Operational Activity

 The book comes with fifty-six full pages of black and white photographs.

 The Author goes into the Treaty of Rapallo. This treaty on the outside was to normalize relations between the German Weimar Republic and the Soviet Union. Secret clauses of the treaty stated that Germany could use bases in the Soviet Union to develop military aviation, among others, in secret and away from the prying eyes of the western powers. 

 The book also shows how from day one Hitler wanted to not only rebuild German military aviation, but also wanted the Luftwaffe as strong as it could be. This was to deter the western powers from interfering with Germany due to the treaty of Versailles clauses.

 The author puts in many tidbits of history to flesh out the story. One example is Erhard Milch, later a Field Marshal, in charge of production for the Luftwaffe. To get around the fact that his father was Jewish, Milch had a signed paper from his mother stating that he was actually the product of an incestuous relationship with her brother! Many such historical pieces are seen in the book.

 This is only Volume I of three and I eagerly look forward to reading the others in the series. I can easily recommend this book to anyone interested in the early and pre-history of the Luftwaffe.


Publisher: Helion&Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

The Ultimate Piston Fighters of The Luftwaffe by Justo Miranda   The Ultimate Piston Fighters of The Luftwaffe i...

The Ultimate Piston Fighters of The Luftwaffe by Justo Miranda The Ultimate Piston Fighters of The Luftwaffe by Justo Miranda

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



 The Ultimate Piston Fighters of The Luftwaffe is not the book I thought it would be. I thought it was going to be a book about the possible 1946 air war, and all of the (some outlandish) propeller planes that Germany might have flown. Instead, it is an encyclopedia of all the different propeller fighters that were on the drawing board for pretty much the entire war. 

 The introduction discusses the effects of  'compressibility buffering' and how advanced the Germans were in understanding it. Then it goes on to list all of their major aeronautic testing sites, especially the wind tunnels that were state of the art, for the time. It also examines the effect that the blockade had on German industry, and their attempts to come up with ersatz solutions for the missing pieces, such as high octane fuel, oil, and rubber. One of the things the Germans could do nothing about was the lack of metals like chromium and molybdenum that were used in hardening steel. Without these, their jet engines would always be prone to breakdowns, meltdowns, and have a generally short life. The Jumo 004 jet engines sometimes had a span of only thirty hours between overhauls.

 The German airplane industry worked hard to develop the best piston engine fighters they possibly could. The book is not a compendium of crackpot last minute war winning schemes. It is a treasure trove of actual designs for the continued development of in use aircraft (BF 109, FW 190 etc.), and some advanced aircraft and weapons that we were lucky to not have to face. 

 The book has more than a few plans for for dual contra-rotating  propeller planes. This then segues into the development of the ejector seat, these being needed to escape instant and horrible pilot death by the pusher props.

 The book continues with plans for large caliber weapons, and then goes on to show the many rocket projectile plans. There are also some plans based on the 'Schrage Musik' weapons. These were weapons that were pointed at an angle coming out of the top of the airplane, to allow night fighters to fire into the bombers' bellies from below. There are also some designs that were based on the photo sensitive rocket/shells that were actually used on some ME 163s. The shadow of the bomber going over the aircraft would set them off. At least one Allied bomber was lost to this weapon.

  Each plane and weapon is accompanied by scale drawings of them. The planes have listed their weapons, speed, and ceiling based upon wind tunnel experiments, etc. The descriptions are filled with the aircrafts' uses, and what specifications from the Luftwaffe they were meant to fill. 

 The book is the ultimate for German prop plane junkies. Hopefully Mr. Miranda is working on more books about the other Axis and Allied countries' designs.