Wings Over France - April 1917

Roogames' conversion of Lambourne Games World War One flying Simulation

'Wings Over France'

Wings Over France - April 1917 (WOF) is a departure from our usual sports' simulation offerings, but it has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and is the first of our games where I can say that I actually enjoyed the play-testing!

Those who have played the original board game will recognise many of the features, but will also quickly realise than most of the original concepts have been expanded, as only possible on a PC.  This gives a gaming experience with more depth, more tactics and decisions, and one which very quickly draws you into the world of 23rd Squadron as you become attached to the personnel under your command.

Overview

WOF takes place throughout the month of April 1917, historically known as 'Bloody April'.  The allies were on the offensive, pilot life expectancy was a mere 23 days, and you take control of one or more of the 3 flights which make up the 23rd Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps.  Each flight consists of 6 scout planes and 2 two-seater planes.  A personnel total of 10 plus the Commanding Officer, Major Barnaby West.  Each day throughout the month, you will be asked to complete a variety (10 different in total) of missions, as well as the occasional special task which, if successful, will give you the opportunity to undertake further special tasks.

 

Each flight has different aircraft assigned (7 types in all are available), and there is an option to allow different types of replacement planes to be allocated.  This gives a further challenge as each plane has different airspeeds, endurance and climb ratings.

 

As the campaign progresses, you have to deal with casualties and their replacements (more often than not in-experienced airmen), a shortage of aircraft, while still fulfilling the daily mission requirements.

 

During a mission, watch out for the German aircraft, especially the Jasta 11 'elite' squadron and of course the Red Baron himself.  Weather plays a crucial part in WOF, much more so than in the original game, and this can sabotage well-crafted plans of action.

 

Personnel and Planes

Each pilot is rated in 4 areas, Flying Skill, Firing Skill, Bravery and Leadership.  The use of these skills in the game is much expanded, with leadership particularly important during a mission.  Bravery is hidden during the game, but you will quickly understand which pilots fancy a scrap and which don't.  Fuel is tracked for each individual plane, allowing you flexibility is deciding how to deal with flights consisting of different planes with different endurance ratings.  Ammo is available in drums, so knowing when to change a drum is sometimes critical for survival.  Pilots may crack under the pressure or refuse to complete a mission, leaving you to deal with the situation, probably over hostile territory.  Flights can be split into secondary flights and all flights are treated the same.  If you have a damaged aircraft and you decide to send him home, unlike the board game, you have to actually fly him home, avoiding dogfights if you can.

 

Medals are awarded based on cumulative pilot performance, as well as a single mission performance.  This is a tough one to test as neither Terry or I have been able to keep a pilot alive for long enough!

 

Flying and firing skills can improve during the campaign as pilots clock up flying hours and encounters with the Germans.  Bravery can increase or decrease depending on what the pilot had to deal with on any given day.  When bravery hits zero, watch out for the possibility of refusing to fly.

 

Weather

Realistic weather is included in the game, with clouds moving across the map in accordance with the weather forecast for the day.  You may have to wait over your target for the snow shower to clear, watching out for your fuel situation before you can complete your objective.  Flying above the clouds means no visual contact with the ground.  Have you correctly adjusted for the wind and are still on course?  Flying in the clouds offers protection from the Germans but a real possibility that one of your planes will become disorientated.  You might even lose a plane from the primary flight.  It's nasty if the two-seater loses contact with his scout support.  Below the clouds you run the gauntlet of Archie fire and ground machine gun fire.

 

We have included an optional Historical weather feature where you will fly in weather approximating what actually occurred in April 1917.

 

Missions

You are assigned missions every day which can be flown at dawn, during the morning, during the afternoon and at twilight.  Missions sometimes require two-seaters to complete the objectives (eg. photo reconnaissance, bombing raids), sometimes only scouts are needed (eg. trench strafing and offensive line patrols).  Sometimes you have the option to attack ground targets and trenches (they can fire back in WOF!).  As objectives are achieved, Victory Points are awarded which form the basis of determining overall victory or defeat.  If you refuse to fly a mission (or if you physically haven't the personnel) you lose points, so planning a day out is very important.

 

Encounters

An initiative track is used to control dogfights.  The better a pilot's skill and plane, the higher he will appear on the track.  The highest planes have the option to attack lower planes or can elect to escape.  However, much more has been built in to dog fighting.  Scouts supporting two-seaters usually  have to be taken care of first, pilots may elect to leave if they have a low bravery rating, or refuse to leave with a high bravery rating.  Each dogfight now consists of a series of attacks so, even though you may have the advantage for the first round, you are not immune to being counter-attacked by the same opponent.  Personal duels are allowed when one plane has a significant advantage over another and these can be deadly.

 

The Annals

The program also keeps plenty of stats and records.  Each mission has a detailed summary, modelled on actual reports.  All pilots have full biographies, as well as individual Victory Point totals, and recorded victories.  Finally, there is a day-by-day summary with full end of day reports on all the action, personnel changes etc. which took place.

 

Screenshots

Here are some screenshots from the latest play-test version.  Click any image for a larger picture.

 

Daily Summary Screen - A particularly tragic day for the flight

Mission Summary - Three shot down, but a stunning performance by Leyton-Jones

Pilot selection for the Dawn Patrol - Not much choice!

The flight up on a clear day

Poor weather and sitting under the clouds

Flying above the clouds

Leyton-Jones' Biography screen

Up against it!

Being fired upon by a Jasta 11 Albatros

Ready for the next day.  A lot of new faces

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Wings Over France - April 1917

 

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