Duel In The Dark


Available from ZMAN games

Duel in the Dark is an abstract simulation of the British night bombing campaign of World War II.

Germany conducted by “Bomber” Harris and the RAF Bomber Command, during World War II, against the German Reich.  I say its an abstract simulation because there are no specific units or raids involved.  The British player commands two “air groups.”  One is a Lancaster, representing the flights of bombers in a raid, and a Mosquito, which represents fighter escorts, pathfinders and ground attack aircraft.  The German player controls four night fighter groups, three short range units and one long-range unit.  Additionally, the German player controls some forty ground defense units, consisting of Flak guns, radar and searchlights.  Since there are no historical parameters in the game, this is definitely a “beer and pretzels” re-enactment.

Game components consist of a Fold-out map, which contains a stylized map of the target areas on one side and a graphic depiction of a bomber raid. The bomber raid utilizes the various components available in the game: six aircraft, one bomber, one Mosquito and four German fighters. Also, there are forty ground defense elements and 25 weather elements consisting of 18 clouds, three thunderstorms and four fog tokens.  The planes, clouds and thunderstorms are mounted on an equal number of plastic stands, which allow for altitude adjustments during game play.  The weather features affect the amount of Victory Points garnered in an encounter during play.  There are five indicating tokens to account for Victory Point, Full Moon, New Moon Summer and wind direction.

The “number of nights” the game will consist of is agreed upon by both players, before play begins; each night is a complete bombing mission. The sequence of Play is divided into six phases.  In the First Phase the German Player places his four fighter squadrons on the map, each in one of the 19 airfields on the European Continent. The Second Phase consists of the British player selecting a weather card from shuffled weather deck.  This weather card shows the position of cloud cover and storms, and the hexes subject to ground fog.  These weather elements affect the number of Victory Points collected in a hex by encounters between aircraft and bombing accuracy on the target of the mission.

In Phase Three, the British player plans his strike on a Germen target.  There are eleven different targets varying from easy (green) to difficult (red), reflecting the number of Victory Points garnered from the target. This selection begins with the British player secretly deciding which airfield his bomber will use for take off, and which one it will return to and land on after the raid. The mosquito must take off from another airfield.  The British player’s second task is to take the compass card deck and plot his route to and from the decided target.  He or she is limited to a maximum of fourteen compass cards.  After selecting his route to and from, he places his cards, in reverse order, on top of the compass deck and places it face down on the table, his course cannot be changed after this phase.  The only exception is he may leave the target by a different route than originally planned, if he has sufficient extra compass cards available for such a change.

The German player places his ground defenses in Phase Four.  At this point the British player comes to the realization as to the gauntlet he will have to fly through to complete his mission. In Phase 5, the British player places the bomber and the Mosquito on the airfields he selected for his takeoff.

Phase Six is the implementation of the actual mission and its interception.  Phase

Six is divided into three turn sections, making up one full turn.  A mission can consist of no more than 14 turns. This corresponds to the maximum number of compass cards used by the British player in plotting his route to and from the target. Turn Phase 1 is the movement of the Mosquito, in advance of, or as a alternative route to the bomber run.  Phase 2 is the German response to the anticipated bomber route.  Phase 3 is the actual execution of the bomber’s pre-determined route to the target. Phase Six is repeated as necessary to complete the mission.

During the Turn segments in Phase Six; combat is executed between the Mosquito and the German fighter units; the Mosquito and the Ground defenses; and the German fighters and the Bombers. Combat is passive and dependent on which unit is moving into a particular hex and the ground defenses, weather condition and phase of the moon.

Ground defense resources come in two categories, basic and advanced.  The basic defenses as already noted consist of Flak guns, radar and searchlights.  The advanced defenses consist of Fuel Trucks, Smoke Screens, Barrage Balloons, Civilian Bunkers and Fire Departments.  A Fuel truck, when placed on an airfield will allow more than one fighter squadron to land there during game play. Smoke, Bunkers and Fire Departments reduce the Victory points garnered by the British for attacking a particular target.  The Barrage Balloons cause the Mosquito to be unable to block takeoffs from a particular airfield.  Smoke causes the Mosquito to expend three bomb markers to destroy an airfield or any single ground defense resource.

Some advanced rules are included, they include making the Mosquito a more powerful entity by giving it two additional bomb markers per mission, however this rule causes the bomber flight to receive 2 fewer Victory Points from the target.  Each weather card notes that changes can be affected in the weather pattern during the course of a mission, which could include changes in wind direction and cloud patterns.  Another rule would allow the British player to re-program his mission route, if his target is now obscured by the weather. The maximum of 14 compass cards is still in effect, minus the cards already used before the weather change.  Another target is now available within the range of the remaining cards, the original target remains in effect. Additional rules for medals, special fuel and other effects are included.

The game can be played solo, with the player assuming the German role and the British flights will be controlled by the selection of the compass cards.  The Mosquito will be always one hex east of the bomber on the outbound leg and one hex west on the inbound. The weather card would be selected and the additional information there would be implemented. The starting positions of the bomber and mosquito are provided on the weather card, as well as the target city for the bomber.  Battle and the assessment of Victory Points are carried on as usual.

The manual is profusely illustrated with examples for each phase of the game and a simulated mission from start to finish showing all phases of game play.  This game is a lot of fun, playing either side has its rewards and concerns.  I highly recommend this game for the shear fun of it, as well as giving a less intense look into what goes into a bombing campaign during wartime.