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Thursday evening, May 19th, at Huzzah Hobbies in Ashburn, Virginia — Volko Ruhnke (possibly with a special guest) will be demonstrating and teaching the latest volume in the COIN Series, Falling Sky–The Gallic Revolt Against Caesarhttp://huzzahhobbies.com/wordpress/  Sound the carnyx!

Date: May 19, 2016
Event: Falling Sky Teaching and Demonstration with Volko Ruhnke
Venue: Huzzah Hobbies
(703) 466-0460
Location: 44927 George Washington Blvd.
Ashburn, Virginia 20147
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Delian League Diaries #4

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During a recent session of Pericles, JR Tracy (host and ASL expert) and myself represented Athens versus our worthy Spartan opponents, Roberto and Nate. We played the 1st Peloponnesian War scenario, which can last from 3 to 6 turns, ending when Peace is declared. In keeping with the history, this one ended up being a true death match and went the distance, as no one wanted to declare Peace.

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We had a great time with about 90 gamers at our most recent GMT Weekend at the Warehouse on April 21-24. Thanks to all of you who attended and made the event so much fun!

We do have dates for our Fall Weekend, so come join us on October 13-16, 2016, for our 32nd (!) GMT Weekend at the Warehouse! We’ll spend the better part of 3 1/2 days, often long into the night, playing your favorite GMT (and non-GMT, if you’d prefer) games. This is mostly an open gaming event, although we do have tournaments from time to time.

Gaming starts around 8 each morning and goes until Mike Lam and the Down in Flames Aces event players collapse from exhaustion in the wee hours of the morning.

Quite a few GMT Designers and Developers usually attend these weekends, but we don’t know yet who’ll be here in the Fall. We’ll be updating this list often between now and the event as we know exactly who’s attending this time.

  • Gene Billingsley will teach and demo Mr. President.
  • As usual, Mike Lam will be running the Down in Flames Aces Event, including the two-player team tournament on Saturday, where Gene and Samantha Billingsley will defend their team title against numerous highly skilled teams who’ve shot them down many times in the past and are gunning for them again.

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Date: October 13, 2016—October 16, 2016
Time: 8:00 a.m to late night, ending around noon Sunday
Event: GMT Weekend at the Warehouse - October 13-16, 2016
Sponsor: Gene Billingsley
Venue: GMT Games Offices and Warehouse
800-523-6111
Location: 13704 Hanford-Armona Rd, Suite B-1
Hanford, CA 93230
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Conquest of Paradise: Solitaire Rules

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Quite some time ago, Gene asked me to write an InsideGMT article to help support Conquest of Paradise in its pursuit of pre-orders for its new, Deluxe Second Edition printing. Even though there were plenty of improvements from the original printing- such as a mounted map, wood pieces, the new event deck, and improved graphics- Gene wanted more. He strongly suggested a set of solitaire rules for the game.

Into the Wild Blue Yonder: Campaign Rules, Part 2

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This time I’ll address how strike missions have changed in WBY, which is where the most notable differences from the previous rules are.  Most of the changes have one or two main purposes.

Over the years, many players have noted that the Bomber most definitely does not “always get through,” and even less frequently gets home.  This is particularly true for early war Medium Bombers with their feeble Turret Support ratings.  So a number of changes have been made to make bombers at least a little more survivable.

Delian League Diaries #3

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The First Peloponnesian War

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Pericles is now starting its public testing with my favorite gamers, the 1st Minnesota. This means that Pericles is now officially launched and from early responses doing very well. I am now getting a breather where I sit back and see how things are going, modify stuff that needs improving and so on. However, the design is finished and I cannot stop playing, which is my key metric for any of my designs.

Introducing Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62

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Colonial Twilight is Volume 7 in the COIN series of games from GMT. It will be the first game in the series designed for two players. That alone has attracted much attention from fans of the series; in fact, it’s probably responsible for more attention than the subject matter of the game itself, the struggle of the nationalist Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) against the French colonial authorities.

On the last day of the Consimworld Expo in Tempe AZ in May 2014, Mark Simonitch sat down with me and asked if I would be interested in designing a COIN system game on the Algerian War. As I was the guy who had designed the first game to be published on that war (Algeria: The War of Independence 1954-62, first published in 2000), and considering the influence of that game on Volko when he designed Andean Abyss, and my co-design of A Distant Plain with Volko, I of course said yes! By fall I had roughed in the design and was doing my own playtests; by the end of the year I was working with Jordan Kehrer, an experienced and very able developer. Jordan helped me to see vital concepts from another vantage point, and was always willing to throw ideas back and forth; I’ve been very pleased to work with him.

By spring 2015 we had the game in approximately its present state, and at the Consimworld Expo in June we showed our work to Gene…. And lo, Gene saw that it was good, and put it up for P500 the following month. The game took about 43 days to reach its trigger point, and as of this writing pre-orders stand at 939.

We’re still in playtesting and the artists are starting to work their magic, but it’s possible this game will be in players’ hands by the end of 2016 or early 2017. While everyone is waiting, I thought it would be helpful to talk about the design a bit.

Lion of Judah Historical Background (Part 2)

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The Opposing Armies during the 1935-36 Italian Invasion

The Ethiopians

The Ethiopian army that defended their country against the Italian invasion was more akin to medieval bands of warriors than a modern army under a unified command. The armies were nominally commanded by the Emperor, or King of Kings (Negus Negusti) Haile Selassie, but in reality each warlord, or Ras, did as they pleased. These Ras commanded their forces as they saw fit and only occasionally followed the orders of the Emperor, who had a very limited ability to coordinate the operations of the different tribal levies. In fact, two of them, Ras Kassa and Ras Mulugheta, were rivals that operated entirely on their own avoiding any coordination with the other.

Ethiopian infantry marching in the streets of Addis Ababa, October 1935

Ethiopian infantry marching in the streets of Addis Ababa, October 1935

Because of this fractured nature of the Ethiopian forces, the Italian intelligence worked to further undermine support for Haile Selassie. They contacted several Ethiopian Ras who had previously been candidates to the throne, bribing them into rebellion against the Negus, or at least into passivity. As the invasion began, Italian aircraft dropped leaflets asking the Ethiopians to rebel against the “usurper” Haile Selassie and support the “true Emperor Iyasu V” who had been deposed and put under custody by Selassie in 1916 (Iyasu died in unclear circumstances in November 1935).

Equipment

In general, the Ethiopian armies were poorly equipped relative to the Italians. They had approximately 250 artillery pieces, most of them obsolete, though they included a dozen of Pak35/36 anti-tank guns. There were some 800 light and 250 heavy machineguns and around 100 anti-aircraft guns, most of them of the light 20mm variety. They also had some 300 trucks and four Fiat 3000 light tanks. The only European-style force, the Kebur Zebagna or “Honor Guard” was still training when the war began.

An Ethiopian Potez 25

An Ethiopian Potez 25

The fledging Ethiopian air force included three Potez 25 biplanes in flyable condition, as well as a number of reconnaissance and ambulance aircraft manned by foreigners. Overall, the Ethiopian air force consisted of thirteen aircraft and four pilots under command of a French pilot, André Maillet. The pilots included rather dashing personalities such as the Russian exile Misha Babisheff or the African-American John Robinson.

John Robinson in Ethiopian uniform, 1935. During World War Two he would serve as an instructor for the famed Tuskegee airmen.

John Robinson in Ethiopian uniform, 1935. During World War Two he would serve as an instructor for the famed Tuskegee airmen.

The Simulation

The Ethiopian forces are modeled in Lion of Judah as separate tribal factions led by individual leaders, as well as a small number of units representing the Negus Honor Guard. Each tribe must be activated separately and the activation is not guaranteed to be fully successful; in addition, the Italian player can attempt to bribe a tribal faction to prevent its activation during a turn. The leaders are critical to the Ethiopian player, as units may only activate if stacked with or adjacent to its leader, and if the leader is lost, the tribal faction will no longer receive any additional levies for the remainder of the game. This forces the Ethiopian player to protect his leaders, but he also needs his leaders near the front lines to activate his forces.

The exception to the above is the Negus, which can activate units from any tribal faction – but only if they are stacked with or adjacent to the Negus (also the same requirement for activating his Honor Guard). However, being fearful of internal rebellion, the Negus begins near Addis Ababa and must be rolled for being released before he can be activated by the Ethiopian player.

Ethiopian forces: Ras Imru’s levies (light blue), the Negus and the Zebur Kebagna, the only western-style units in the Ethiopian army (note that these are playtest counters).

Ethiopian forces: Ras Imru’s levies (light blue), the Negus and the
Zebur Kebagna, the only western-style units in the Ethiopian army (note
that these are playtest counters).

Given the small number of supporting equipment, the Ethiopian player does not have any aircraft markers or tank units. Most of the tribal levies possess very weak strengths relative to the Italians, but the Ethiopians have their own Combat Results Table due to their (generally) different style of attack (which is significantly more bloody for the Ethiopians, but also has a greater chance of inflicting a minor loss on the Italian player – representing expenditure of supplies, wounded soldiers, etc.).

The Italians

The Italian buildup in Eritrea and Somalia began as early as April 1935 and within six months no less than eight Regular Army and Blackshirt (Fascist party militia) divisions had arrived in Eritrea, with two more arriving in Somalia. To these forces one must add the troops of the Royal Corps of Colonial Troops: the elite Eritrean Brigades and Divisions. These units proved to be some of the finest in the Italian army and at least equal to the regular forces. Also present were the Libyan and Arabo-Somali units in Somalia called Dubats (the “Arabo” element were the Arabic mercenaries recruited in Yemen).

In addition to the forces, the Italians could count on a number of semi-independent “allies” who fought for them against their common Ethiopian enemy. In the northern front, the Azebo Galla tribes, who had suffered a brutal Ethiopian occupation since the 1880s, rose in rebellion against the Negus; encouraged by the Italians, who sent weapons and advisers. In the southern front, the Somali Sultan Olol Dinle commanded his own personal army, advancing into the Northern Ogaden along with the Italian forces. The Sultan wanted to retake territory lost to the Ethiopians in the late 19th century.

Eritrean colonial troops

Eritrean colonial troops

The long-time Fascist General (later, Marshall) Emilio de Bono was named commander of all of the Italian forces in East Africa in March 1935. He was also in command of the northern (Eritrean) front, while Gen. Rodolfo Graziani (of later WW-II fame) was in charge of the secondary southern (Somali) front. Graziani was initially ordered to remain on the defensive, with orders to launch spoiling attacks if the Ethiopian forces in the Ogaden region were sufficiently small.

Equipment

Between the Eritrean and Somali fronts, the Italians deployed some 2,000 artillery pieces, 600 tanks and armored vehicles, and approximately 400 aircraft, with plentiful supplies of ammunition. However, while the material was not lacking, the Italians faced the difficult task of how to move all this ordnance from the sea ports to the fronts; compounded by the lack of roads and the extremely difficult terrain: ranging from trackless mountains to waterless steppes. This was a problem that they never fully solved and led to many of the difficulties faced by the Italians in their conquest.

Graziani reviews a Black shirt unit

Graziani reviews a Black shirt unit

The Simulation

The Italian player has several types of units, some significantly stronger than others. Almost all of their units have multiple steps, signifying their ability to take losses and remain a viable fighting force (conversely, the Ethiopian player has only a single Honor Guard unit that has two steps…the rest are all single step units). The Italian player also has highly mobile tank units (though weak on defense), as well as air markers, which can be used to support attacks, bombard to inflict losses or drop gas, or to interdict Ethiopian movement. Due to the political nature of ‘foreign’ troops showing up the Italian regulars, the Italian player is forbidden from first entering any town or capital with native troops. Finally, the movement factors of most European units are reduced relative to the native troops, which had more familiarity with movement in the hostile terrain. However, the Italian player can force march with his European forces – doubling their movement factors, but exposing them to the possibility of step losses due to ambush when moving in enemy territory.

Italian units, 1935-1936 scenario: Eritrean colonial forces (red box), Italian regulars (white box) and Fascist Blackshirt militia (black box). (Note that these are playtest counters).

Italian units, 1935-1936 scenario: Eritrean colonial forces (red box), Italian regulars (white box) and Fascist Blackshirt militia (black box). (Note that these are playtest counters).


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WWII in Two (and a half) Hours and then 58 Minutes: Hitler’s Reich AAR’s with a New Player (Part 2)

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Be sure to check out Part One of this series for more information about Hitler’s Reich and the AAR of Game One.


Game Two: March 18, 2016 (58 Minutes to play)

Hitler’s Reich can be over very quickly.  Most games average two hours or a little more…but a few take longer or, in the case of tonight’s contest with my friend Max, less than an hour.

Max elected to take the Allies tonight (his second time playing the game).  As the Axis, I decided to go full blast to the West – and to ignore Russia, which the Axis can do in 1941 (as the Nazi-Soviet Pact is still in effect).  Not going East means the Fascists can focus on just one front (or the FFF – Fascist Front Focus)…but if they fail (FFFF…for Fascists Front Focus Fail) then they can be very, very vulnerable, as the Soviets are right on their border, with no room for the Axis to sacrifice before the Red Army could be poised to assault their rich with Production Centers heartland.

As the Axis I opened with trying for Franco, and bringing Spain into the Axis Camp with an Event Card Conflict Action to make the British Gibraltar Production Center vulnerable (and no, I won’t make another FFFFF out of this, I promise: although Franco’s first name also begins with the letter F).   I Failed.  (yeah, again with the Fs, this is like Sesame Street, brought to you by the letter, well, you know).  Then Failed again.   Failed again.  Fourth time, however, was the charm …but in the meantime Max had gotten a Convoy through (to increase his hand size from the starting 6 to now 7 cards) and had put a Fleet in the North Sea to protect that Allied Production Center, which abstractly represents the vital convoy routes which keep Britain a going concern, and he had picked up a few other Event Cards to bolster Allied prospects.

Once I got Franco and could place an Axis control disk on Spain, I went for the Waffen SS (or Panzer Tactics as it is also known) which gives an extra die in land combat.  You can’t attack out of Spain the same turn you get it, which gave Max as the Allies a chance to beef up his defenses as he could see my next play …charge in with the panzers from Spain into Gibraltar (a Victory Center, one of six needed to win a knock out automatic game win in the West).

To counter this threat, Max went for “Vichy Defects”, a Political Event Card which puts a lot of control markers on the map, two of which are in the sea zones next to Gibraltar.  This helps in the defense of Gibraltar.  It was a good plan in theory, but the Waffen SS, led by Rommel, supported by Stukas and with a killer Conflict Card won the day for the Axis…but only by the slimmest of dice roll margins.

This conquest of Gibraltar, however, took ALL of 1941 to accomplish….or almost all.  As the deck was nearly empty, which would signal the end of 1941, I decided to go for Russia after all – but not to conquer it, just to bleed Max’s Card Hand and gain a bit of breathing space for the inevitable Red Army offensive..

The Axis gets to call “Operation Barbarossa” anytime during 1941.  If they do, that breaks the Nazi-Soviet Pact and brings Russia into the war on the Allied side.  “Operation Barbarossa” does, however, give the Axis a special turn in which they are guaranteed FOUR attacks – one against each of the four Soviet territories that border the Axis eastern front.  Normally you get one attack and, if successful, a second (and maybe extras with a Blitzkrieg, if you pay for them).  “Operation Barbarossa” is four guaranteed attacks, and even if you lose three you still get the fourth.

By this late point in 1941 I had a pitiful hand of Conflict Cards, but this was a chance to burn four cheap cards and hopefully draw out four good ones from the Allied hand.  It worked like a charm; yes, I lost all four battles, but it cost him some very good cards to do it.  The year ended with him dropping a Fleet off Malta, in the Sicilian Sea, to protect it and threaten an invasion of Sicily.

That ended 1941.  The Allied hand size goes up one each year to reflect the burgeoning economic assistance being provided by the USA, so he gained what he had lost from me taking Gibraltar, and we each drew some good Event cards in the year-end interphase – one of the Events I drew was  Landing Craft, which allows an amphibious invasion.

As 1942 dawned, I decided to stick with the plan to go West.  The Wolfpacks struck, knocking down the Allied hand.  A fierce sea-saw conflict in the North Sea (in which the Bismarck was sunk twice…the card actually represents not just that big ship and her sister behemoth, Tirpitz, but the German main battle fleet).  The third time, however, saw a successful Axis attach and the North Sea was mine.

I then went for the Paratroops Event and got them.  This allows an attack across an intervening space such as the North Sea.  I used them to attack Scotland with the dreaded Fallschirmjaegers (German for airborne troops).  That attack, however, failed.  Undeterred, I went direct for London with the Landing Craft Event supported by Rommel, Stukas and the Waffen SS.  This concentration of powerful attack enhancing cards did the trick – even with Max getting the extra die for defending the capital.  (It helped that I played the Outfoxed Event which made him play a random Conflict Card from his hand rather than the card of his choice). The loss of London cost him two cards from his hand…..cutting him down to three cards to my nine.  The next turn I took Scotland as well, leaving him no land route back into London.

Max was now on the ropes, despite getting a Convoy through which increased his Card Hand Size by one.  I now shifted the Axis focus to the Middle East, and got Iraq to revolt.  That cost him another card and Production Center.  I then attacked out of Syria (which ironically had joined the Axis through play of the Vichy Defects Event Max gained – as that card is a two-edged sword, but one that normally favors the Allies, as it protects Gibraltar, helps with Malta, and gives the Allies a foothold in North Africa).

The panzers rolled out of Syria into Palestine under Rommel and from there blitzed into Suez.  In Hitler’s Reich, you can launch a Blitzkrieg Attack from a successful land assault, reusing that attack’s conflict enhancing Events, at a cost of minus one card to the attackers Hand.  If successful, up to three Blitzkrieg attacks can be made from a single assault… which simulates the hard driving mechanized offensives which  so characterized WWII in Europe.

That was another Production Center taken from the Western Allies.  Unfortunately, here I got a little careless, and instead of blitzing again into Egypt, I stopped (as previously mentioned, blitzes cost cards from your hand and knock your hand size down).

Max played for and got Sherman tanks (the equivalent of the Waffen SS – an extra die in combat) and damn, retook Suez out of Egypt!  I should have knocked out that offensive base which enabled the Suez attack.

He also sent Fleet Carriers (an excellent Naval Conflict Event) into the North Sea and knocked out my fleet there (but failed to regain control of the sea zone and its crucial Production Center).

It looked like the tide had turned – but I was not yet ready to give up the Axis Western gambit.

Back into Suez I roared with Rommel, the Waffen SS Panzers and Stukas – and then after that victory blitzed through to seize Egypt.  Then I put a fleet in the Irish Sea, another Production Center abstractly representing the convoy routes back to the USA.  He matched it with a fleet of his own, and then we went head to head, four dice to four dice, one card to one card for the Irish Sea.  I won, and then won again to take it – and gained a Sudden Death Victory by taking all six Western Allied Production Centers (Irish Sea, North Sea, London, Gibraltar, Suez, and Iraq).

….all in 58 minutes.

Max played well.  Going after and getting “Vichy Defects” to help defend Gibraltar was a good play, as was his attempts (some of which succeeded) to bring Convoys through, get Sherman tanks, bring Turkey into the war and recruit a good Russian defensive general.  My play was hardly flawless, but it was solid, focused, and backed by good card draws and a little bit of luck (we went back and forth on the dice).

The FFFF doesn’t always work (actually, it doesn’t usually work) but when it does…


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Into the Wild Blue Yonder: Campaign Rules, Part 1

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The Zero! and Corsairs & Hellcats rules with errata incorporated also formed the basis for the Campaign Rules in WBY.  Unlike the Dogfight Rules, though, there have been a lot of changes.  In this article, I’ll describe some of general application.

Sequence of Play

The Campaign Sequence of Play adds two steps, but like the Dogfight Rules “additions,” these aren’t really anything you haven’t seen before.  The first step is now a Search Step, which incorporates the procedure for Night Fighters searching “at the beginning of their turns.”  Obviously, you skip this step unless it’s a Fighter’s turn in a night mission.  Bringing up the rear is a Final Step, which is unique in that it occurs only once per Game-Turn, after all Player-Turns are complete.  Here, too, nothing “new” happens; it provides sequencing for all those pesky mechanisms like formation aircraft disengagement and bombing, Area Flak, and Fuel Disengagement that occur “at the end of the turn.”

Sections

Rules for 3-plane Sections have been added to more accurately show how most air forces fought at the beginning of the war.  It’s a tricky balancing act to ensure that having 50% more aircraft in a flight is actually NOT an advantage in most circumstances.  The gist of the rule is that the Leader-Wingman mechanism remains unchanged, but a Section’s Wingman draws one ADDITIONAL card when attacking a Formation and one LESS when attacked by an enemy Fighter.  Rather than removing an aircraft card when an aircraft is shot down, the Section marker is removed instead to transform the Section into a regular Element.  So in essence, the Section will perform a little better against Medium and Heavy Bombers, but will take heavier losses from enemy Fighters.

For simplicity and ease of play, the Section rules apply only where one side flies in 3-plane sections while the other flies in pairs.  This is the case in the Battle of Britain and Barbarossa campaigns in WBY.  Malta is proving difficult; if anyone knows when the British and Italians switched to 2-plane tactical units there, please e-mail this information and your sources to me directly.

Special Ratings

Three new Special Ratings applicable only in campaigns have been added.

Dive Brakes – While simple, just rating the Ju88 for Dive Bombing rather than Saturation Bombing gave it an advantage against a wide range of targets which it didn’t deserve.  Changing to a Dive Brakes Special Rating allows us to restrict the Dive Bombing ability to only realistic circumstances.

Oblique Guns – This rating may be used by Night Fighters equipped with Schrãge Musik or similar installations to attack bombers with a smaller mini-hand but without a Burst limit and against a reduced Turret Defense.  Turret Fighters are also given this rating.

Slow – A handful of Fighters and Light Bombers use a value less than the default of 6 for their Speed when calculating mission duration.  When the number of campaigns with a special rule for this grew, it became easier to include it as a new Special Rating instead.

Loaded Aircraft

As a visual cue so you don’t have to remember which Action cards you can’t play while loaded, those cards will now have a symbol on them to remind you.

Also, now that each side has a larger deck, much of the reason to deny loaded Leaders their hands of cards until they need them is gone.  Leaders loaded with ordnance will draw initial hands at the beginning of the game like everyone else, but with a catch:  you place their hands face down under the aircraft cards without looking at them!  As a disincentive to turn fighter-bombers into fighters (“Hey, I’ve got the Ace Pilot/Fuel Tank killer combo!”), you can neither look at the cards nor discard until you’re attacked or drop or jettison your weapons.

Skilled Aircrews

All skills now benefit Wingmen as well as Leaders, and five skills have been added or enhanced:

Combat Vision – Now, if either the Leader or a Wingman in an Element or Section has this skill, you get the hand redraw benefit.  The thinking here is that if a Wingman spots the enemy early, he very quickly draws his Leader’s attention and the Leader would be able to act accordingly.  Also, this skill increases the Night Combat rating by +1 during a night mission.

Leadership – This new skill gives all aircraft present of the same type as the pilot’s a favorable row shift when disengaging.  It also allows an additional Element to be scheduled for entry on the same Turn in the large 8th Air Force missions.  These benefits represent the abilities of pilots who showed themselves capable of leading large formations in superior fashion (e.g., Blakeslee or Lützow)

Nerves of Steel – May now apply to Fighter-Bomber and Light Bomber pilots as well as Medium and Heavy Bomber crews.

Radar Operator – Similar to Combat Vision but only useful at night, this new skill increases the Night Combat rating by +1.

Veteran – Long used in “Big Missions” and by Mike Lam in his contests at conventions, this new skill allows the pilot to treat any single card played as either a Barrel Roll or a Tight Turn once during each mission – sort of a poor man’s version of the Ace Pilot skill.

In a campaign, all Fighter types will have a generic Veteran pilot available, even if no named pilots are listed for that type.  Bombers also frequently will have generic skilled crews available rather than just specific named bomber crews.

Next time I’ll address the changes to the Campaign rules from those previously published, which are rather more extensive.


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