London’s Burning: August 13th – Adlertag

In 1995, Avalon Hill produced “London’s Burning“, which is a solitaire game about the Battle of Britain.  London’s Burning doesn’t attempt to cover the wider aspect of the battle like RAF:  Battle of Britain but instead builds a tighter narrative by focusing in on a single squadron of pilots and their attempts to fend off German bombing raids over England during August and September, 1940.

For this report, I’ve chosen the “regular scenario”, which starts on August 13th and ends on September 6th.   I’ll be playing through the game on and off in the next couple of weeks, highlighting or narrating any interesting events that occur as I play through it.

Setup and Pilots:

Our two active pilots are Flight Lieutenant Stone and Sergeant Pilot Drake.  Stone is a Spitfire pilot while Drake flies the Hawker Hurricane.  In reserve are Flight Lt. Holmwood and Sergeant Pilot Waters, both of whom are Hurricane pilots.

Our two current pilots:  Drake and Stone

Each Sunday, another reserve pilot becomes available and, luckily for us, Flt. Lt. Kowalski, an ace, will be joining the squadron on August 25th.

August 1940 calendar with pilots becoming available each Sunday.

We have many sector airfields from which to base these men and I have chosen Hornchurch home of no. 54 squadron.  It’s just south of London as our squadron’s home airfield. It’s right in the middle of the action so that should guarantee we’ll get a chance to shoot down some Jerries!

Let the battle begin!

August 13th:  It is Adlertag (Eagle Day) today and the Germans are about to launch the some big raids on Britain.  In the early A.M, Flt Lt. Stone is patrolling around Dunkirk in his Spitfire.  Drake is moved to a satellite airfield in Rochford on stand by.  No raids come.  
10 a.m.  The two pilots switch roles as Stone lands at Rochford and Drake patrols over Dunkirk.  A raid of 5 Jerries is reported incoming at 10,000 feet near Dover!  Stone scrambles from Rochford airfield but there’s simply no time to wait so Drake decides to try to go it alone.  He approaches the raid from behind and out of the sun as it clears the English coastline.
Drake intercepts the raid on his own.  A wise choice?
Unfortunately for Drake, coming at the Jerries from out of the sun is not such a great advantage when you’re at the same altitude!  The German raid is at 15,000 feet, which is 5,000 feet higher than earlier reported.

A formation of Dornier Do-17s circa 1940
Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-342-0603-25 / Ketelhohn [Kettelhohn] / CC-BY-SA

The raid consists of an Me-109 fighter, a pair of Dornier Do-17 bombers, an He 111 and a Ju-87 Stuka.  Drake bites his lip and decides to go for the big He 111.  He lets loose with his eight machine guns riddling the He-111’s frame.  The rear gunner in the bomber fires back but misses entirely.
The German raid.
The Me-109 fighter almost manages to get on Drake’s tail but the Hurricane jinks and the German pilot curses as he maneuvers around for another attempt at a firing solution.
Drake tries for one more pass at the He-111 and then he’ll bug out.  He empties the rest of his ammunition on the He-111, again damaging the frame but the big bomber refuses to go down.  The Me-109 catches up to Drake.  Tracers fill the air and the German fighter’s machine guns damage the Hurricane’s frame and engine.  With no ammunition and a damaged aircraft, Drake breaks off from the raid and makes an emergency landing at Hawkinge airfield to the west.
Stone is now in the air and at 15,000 feet.   The German raid presses on to the northwest.  No one knows its ultimate target but it is getting awfully close to an airfield at Detling.  Stone decides to waste no time and heads for the raid, intercepting it.  Stone goes straight for the He-111, trying to finish off the job that Drake started.  He fires a six second burst at it and the Spitfire’s guns damage the German bomber’s engine.  The He-111 jettisons its bombs.  This is good enough for Stone and he will try to get home after this.  The Me-109 pilot, however, begs to differ and fills Stone’s cockpit with machine gun bullets.  Although Stone is unhurt, he heads for home.  He is badly shaken by the incident, replaying the scenes in his head again and again.  He will not fly again today.  
With the two English fighters gone, the German raid closes in on West Malling and bombs the airfield.  Light AA fire prevents the Ju-87 Stuka from accurately divebombing the field but the Do-17s hit the target, causing 2 points of damage.  
The German raid drops its bombs on West Malling airfield.
West Malling was an emergency airfield that means little to the RAF and probably wasn’t worth the near-loss of two fighters.  Hopefully the rest of the day won’t bring any more raids.  Drake gets a new replacement aircraft and flies home to Rochford airfield.  The only good news is that the He-111 from the raid crashed in the English Channel on the way home.  The award for the kill goes to Stone.
August 13th, 2 p.m.
Sergeant Pilot Drake patrols around Dunkirk, waiting for news of an incoming raid.  4 incoming German planes are reported at 10,000 feet coming across the channel.  Drake heads south towards Dover, hoping to intercept them.
The raid’s target, however, is not Dover but Manston airfield.  Drake has no chance to intercept it and Manston airfield is bombed.  
August 13th, 5 p.m.

Drake intercepts a raid of German bombers going for the “Chain Home” radar station at Pevensey.  If he wants to catch them, he’ll have no choice but to try and shoot them down before they hit the coast.  
Drake intercepts the raid heading for Pevensey.
Unfortunately, the Germans have three Me-109 fighters (one of which is piloted by an ace!) protecting the He 111.  
Wasting no time and knowing the odds are against him, Pilot Sgt. Drake dives at the group from 20,000 feet, firing all of his ammunition at the He 111.  The German bomber pilot is killed and the He-111 crashes into the sea.  All three Me-109s gang up on Drake.  He twists and turns, trying to dodge their fire but it’s too much and smoke fills the cockpit as his engine is destroyed.  He bails out over the coastline…but the sea claims him.  Drake dies a hero, having prevented the certain loss of the radar station at Pevensey but no one would argue that it has not been a terrible day for the squadron.
Note:  In the very first battle with Drake, I made a mistake by not rolling enough for damage but I corrected this in the fight with the second raid.


  1. Nice story and interesting way of game design. You have such a compelling art of telling a story from a game, both about a possible historical event, and a game design's strengths and limitations.

    It seems these single pilots were modelled as 'representative' among larger numbers? because these named heroes get individual psychological damage (Shaken) and planes get individual physical damage..

    I've never heard of a formation of literally 1 Me109 escorting such a motley mix as 1 He111, 2 Do17, 1 Stuka.

    But there were real history reports like of a squadron-of-should-have-been-12-but-really-9 Hurricanes (of which 1 got lost in navigation, so 8) scrambling against a group of 27 German bombers with 11 fighters.

  2. Thanks! You know, I'm not really sure what they were going for with this one. It wasn't historically accurate but it was a fun game. And you're right – the mixes of planes were probably there more for the fun of having variety than realism. What I did get out of this game was a sort of "feel" for how a small force of men were up against some pretty intimidating odds during those days. I'd be interested in trying something a little more accurate at some point. I know about Butterfield's RAF but haven't heard much about whether it's a bit truer to the historical aspect. Any recommendations?

  3. I heard good about RAF too, but missed it in an auction some time ago. RAF seems higher-level and more 'systemic'. Don't know if it has gross imbalances or exploitable bugs – damaging to a good solo. It seems not, or not big ones.
    Of course, the historical battle WAS imbalanced in some ways (German raw numbers) counterbalanced by others (distances, British radars, pilot recovery abilities) as Discovery documentaries keep pushing their analysis… But if the game's rewarded objectives are at least somewhat balanced with capabilities, it still gets good as a game.

  4. I've heard it's a really good two-player game but I'm not sure. There seem to be so few really revered BoB games that I wonder if it must be really hard to find some sort of balance between total abstraction and tedium. I can honestly say I'm somewhat interested in the topic and would probably buy another game about it if someone were to come out with something new and interesting – as long as it isn't card-driven.

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