Wing Leader Victories 1940 – 1942 is a really fun air combat game. I got it last year as an impulse buy during a time when I had a million other things going on in my life. As a result, it slid right into my collection like a stealth plane, its presence barely detectable among all the other clutter of my busy days and frantic nights.
During a self-imposed lull in my life when I should have been hard at work at something or other, I spied it on my shelf. I pulled it out and wondered how on earth I had failed to be enticed by the box cover’s lovely artwork featuring a P-40 Warhawk screaming down through the shattered skies.
The components are nice with plenty of reference charts for easy play. It has a nicely organized rulebook and there are plenty of scenarios covering a wide swatch of air combat that characterized the early days of World War II.
The game is easy to learn, plays very smoothly, and has a clean uncluttered look to it. The scenarios are diverse in terms of size and aircraft mix and there are over 23 of them in the scenario book – so you can pick and choose among them according to your particular taste and available time.
I had a blast playing the smaller scenarios and was able to sit down and complete the smaller ones in a half hour after I had the rules down. The first two scenarios are basically training scenarios that feature American pilots in China and fighting off small bomber raids by Japanese forces. They were fun and I enjoyed them but I was more intrigued by the prospect of pitting seasoned German Luftwaffe pilots against the men and women of the ragtag Red Army Air Force.
I didn’t have to wait long to find an opportunity to do just that.
Stalingrad Airlift is the third scenario in the scenario book. It is November 1942 and the German player is trying to get a pair of He-111 transport flights safely to the edge of the map so they can drop relief supplies to the encircled Sixth Army. At this point, the Luftwaffe is quickly wearing out and has few planes to spare for escort duties. The Soviets, however, are just getting geared up and are happy to throw lots of inexperienced pilots into the air to try and take down the Germans.
The setup is very simple. We have a dense layer of cloud at altitude 3. The German transports start off at least five squares away from each other at altitude 1. The German BF-109F flight is on escort duty and is placed at altitude 3 just behind the first wave of transports.
The Soviets go for a simple setup and put one Yak-1 squadron a few spaces ahead and 1 altitude level above the first flight and the other flight a few spaces behind the second flight.
On the first turn, the Yaks tally the He-111s. The German pilots, however, completely miss the incoming enemy aircraft and fail to tally them until they are right on top of the planes in their care! Rolling for reaction, the German pilots react successfully and dive to altitude 2. They engage the incoming Yaks before they get the chance to shoot up the lead He-111s.
The other Yak squadron races to catch up with the rear He-111s. Next turn, they should be able to dive down on top of them.
The combat between the lead Yaks and the German escort is uneventful. Neither side manages to inflict a loss on the other. However, during the Cohesion phase, I rolled a “3” for the Germans, causing a disruption. The German flight is broken despite its Veteran status and immediately heads for home starting on the next turn. The lead Yak squadron fares little better, earning a disruption but managing to stay in the fight for now.
On the next turn, the rear Yak squadron finally intercepts the lagging He-111 flight and scores a kill. Neither side is disrupted, however.
The lead Yaks turn around in their square and fly above the lead He-111 flight, ready to swoop down on it next turn.
On turn 3, the rear Yaks again hit their target. This time, I rolled an 11 for their attack, inflicting three hits. All three hits incur a loss. Having suffered the max number of losses, the rear He-111 flight is completely destroyed and the marker is removed from play.
They lead Yaks jump down on the He-111s in front, finally getting their chance now that the German escorts have run off. The Soviets fail to shoot down any of the bombers but the Germans do manage to inflict a single loss on the Yak squadron. The Soviets go on to fail their Cohesion roll and end up with a Broken flight.
There is no chance of the rear Yaks intercepting the only remaining He-111 flight before it leaves the table. With the other Yak squadron returning to base, the Germans manage to get one flight off the board, earning 6 VPs. They score an additional 1 VP for shooting down a Yak for a total of 7 VPs for the German player.
|Wing Display at the end of the game|
The Soviets have completely destroyed one entire flight, however, and get 8 VPs for their four He-111 kills.
We subtract the Soviet total from the German total for a grand total of -1 VPs. The Soviets have won handily in this test of arms. I think the key to victory for the Soviets was the rear Yak squadron with its great luck in downing an entire flight of He-111s. I was surprised to see the German escort flight break so fast. It usually lasts much longer than one turn and almost always manages to maul one of the Soviet squadrons. This is a tough scenario for the German player though as their escorts are spread very thin here.