Since I’m a bit behind on my gaming, I’m going to post my playthrough of Enemy Coast Ahead: The Dambuster Raid by GMT games. This will finally put ALL my playthroughs in one place, and maybe get a few more orders in for ECA’s sequel: Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid. It was eight months ago that I played this through and posted about it on BoardgameGeek, so I’m hazy on the details, so I may not be able to ask all questions, but please, fire away anyway. This game is definitely on my short “to play again” list.
So let’s set the scene. We’re in a smokey room, our officer’s jacket and hat hanging on a coat rack beside the door. You’re seated at your sparse desk, ledgers and maps laid out on it, several pencils spread out within easy reach so you’re never without a writing instrument when inspiration strikes.
What do you need to do? Plan a top secret attack against the infrastructure of the German army using a new type of weapon that no one is really sure works, flying in a way no one is really sure is safe, expending resources no one is really sure is worth it, risking lives no one is really sure would be better served flying standard bombers.
With sleeves rolled up, you get to work.
We start by looking here, your resource points for the turn. You have 4 turns total, though you can always start the mission whenever you want, even after turn 1 (let me know if anyone has ever tried this)! I always start by aiming to start on turn 3, because flying without a moon makes a lot of things more difficult, especially finding the dams themselves, but a lot of times I’m forced to wait for turn 4 because of one thing or another.
You start turn 1 with 60RP. You will get 60 on turn 2 as well. After that, you are on your own. You can always ask for more money, though. It’s easy: Roll a die: Evens get 30 more points, odd get 20 more points. The catch? German spies may notice all the money being funneled to your little base and want to know what’s going on, so you have to do as much as you can with as little as you can (like being a middle manager in modern America!).
So I’ll start by doing a Requisition right off the bat. I like to have some deeper pockets and feel a sense of security when shopping at first, rather than desperation in turn 4. It’s also been a while since I played, so I don’t remember how much money is good to have, so let’s just grab more, shall we?
Die roll – 2
Good, that gets me 30 more Rps. Meaning my resources track now has the Rpx10 on the 9 and the RP Request on the 1, so I remember I’ve done it once when I make the security check later on. So let’s spend some of the tax payer’s money!
We’ll skip planes for now and look at pilots. Here is where you’ll make the decision that you’ll curse and scream about later on in the game. Either you’ll pay way too much money on pilots and leave a bunch sitting at home while your planes take to the sky, or training will kill off your crews and you’ll have one flight of five hoping to blow up Berlin. I have NEVER purchased the right amount of pilots and been happy with my choice. But you have to get close.
So here you want to a) Choose enough pilots to fill your planes and b)Make sure you have enough Veteran pilots to lead your flights since having Veteran Wave leaders gives you a bonus to your Coordination check which is awfully nice in the Flight Phase. But if half or more of your crew is Veteran, they contribute to your security risk, so you don’t want that. I always take a few Green (to soak up casualties), a good handful of Seasoned, and more than a few Veteran.
So let’s set a goal for the final mission: I’ll shoot for a smallish goal: 3 Waves of 5 planes each. That will require 15 Crews and I’ll need at LEAST 3 Veterans as wave leaders. I can’t have more than 7 Veterans without tripping a Security risk. Let’s crunch some numbers.
I could grab 20 Crew to round up for any crew losses during training, or hope for good luck and just go with 18 (since rounding to multiples of 6 is good since every 6 crew you get gains you a pull from the Elite Crewman cup). Let’s say for this game I’m going to put more money into training and technology than in the number of crew I’ll requisition, so let’s get 18 men. I can get 8 vets, if I want, though that seems excessive. I decide on 5 Green 7 Seasoned and 6 Veteran. Total cost: 37RPs
Will that mean I have Green pilots on my missions? Yes. Does that mean I have places to put my Hazards during the Flight Phase? Yes.
I won’t tell their parents that when I write the letters home, but you can’t go into these kind of things not expecting casualties.
Anyway, buying 18 crew gets us three pulls from the Elite Crewman cup. Usually you get a nice bonus from this, though there are 2 bad pulls that can really get you, a Spy or a Jinx. Cross your fingers.
Okay, not bad. Bombadiers are handy things to have. The Pilot can get you out of a real pinch, too.
Back to shopping. Now we have to pick up some Groundcrew. There’s only 6 of these. I’m always tempted to just grab all 6 from the get go, since they are so useful, but I may hold off until I get my next 60 bucks next turn. These guys are used to a)Buy planes and Upkeep. b) Offset a -1 for training c)Repair planes damaged in training d)Create the tech you need to make any of this possible e)Outfit your planes when you finally start the mission
It’s a lot of stuff, and they’ll be spread out very thin! They are also very susceptible to breaching security, so you don’t want to work them too hard. I have 53 points remaining, so I can buy a few here.
Both 6 cost Groundcrew, one 5 cost crew and one 3 cost crew. For now. Total Cost: 20.
Finally (and we’re not out of the first Requisitions box yet!), let’s hop over to the Aircraft and Ordinance section. We need to buy some planes because if you train with less planes than half the number of crew, you have a penalty, so I need at least 9. You can buy as many planes as the “Handle” of the crew you’re assigning to that task.
So I’ll put my big crew on the job so they can buy 10 of either/or inclusive. I just grab 10 planes since they’ll be used for training. I’ll pick up more planes and start getting the ordinance next turn. Total Cost: 10 Remaining Rps: 23
Now we can put some security measures down. You have three measures ranging from benign to the paranoid. Sadly the way the turns go, you can flip a marker, then you can place a marker, so in the first turn, you can only place a marker. If I transfer the 57 squadron, I would have to send one of my groundcrew with them, and I just bought them! So I’ll hold back on that. I still have some money remaining, so I think I’ll buy the extra police since that’s a -2 to Security risk right off the bat. Cost:5
Now let’s train these pilots!
Or ten hut, if you’re on a budget.
We now have to train our crews. We get to roll for two skills chosen from Navigation, Altitude & Speed and Bomb-Aiming & Release. We can choose to give Extra Training to train them on the third skill (or another skill for a second time), but that increases the likelihood that one of your crews will stay grounded during the mission, something I don’t have a lot of leeway on. Let’s not push them too hard YET.
You see on the corner that if you don’t have any groundcrew helping out, you have a -1 to all your rows. Luckily it doesn’t matter what the crews stats are, so I’ll chuck the lowest priced members over to help with training maneuvers. That only leaves me with two crew to help with tech later, but C’est la guerre.
Here are the modifiers we want to pay attention to, and apparently a reminder about Extra Training due to my cropping skills.
The last two modifiers are only available after tech increases. The Recon bonus is defined as such:
Because of that I will choose to increase my crew’s Altitude & Speed as well as Bomb-Aiming & Release. Why? I plan on spending enough RP to get 1 in each zone, so I will have the +1 bonus next turn. I am not guaranteed to have the other bonuses (since tech successes are based on die rolls), so I’d rather get more chances at raising ranks with lower modifiers and then raise those that have the greater modifiers.
So I customarily just go down the line, starting with Altitude and rolling once for Green, once for Seasoned and once for Veteran, then doing the same for Bomb-Aiming. All you do is compare your roll to the chart at the top of the training session and do what it says. So let’s get rolling!
I will be doing straight rolls without modifiers, so here’s hoping I get lucky.
Green – 3 – gain one rank
Seasoned – 2 – Nothing
Veteran – 6 – gain 2 ranks and Draw Elite Crewman (Gained a Navigator)
Green – 6 – gain one rank but roll for damaged aircraft – 4 – even – aircraft damaged.
Seasoned – 2 – Nothing (dangit!)
Veteran – 5 – gain 2 ranks
So this is what I look like after one round of training. I’m very disappointed in my seasoned crew. I hope to get some +1 modifiers for next round and pull them out of the muck. I hope I don’t have to push them too hard to make pilots out of them.
I’m not throwing my hands up in defeat, we still have 3 more months of work before showtime (or two, if I’m lucky), so we’re moving on to Modifications (which I’ve been calling technology this whole time. Too much High Frontier from me, maybe?)
This, too, requires ground crew and their “Erk” scores will tell you how many dice they are rolling to try and get successes towards modifying the plane to help in your mission.
Okay, I’ll be honest, “to help” is putting it mildly, if you don’t have all three of these things, you mission is going to be a failure. I would still play it out, because your boys might surprise you, but the penalties that are put on you because you don’t have proper radios, lights or bombsites just make it too hard to operate. DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO HAVE YOUR TECHNOLOGY READY.
If someone wants to argue this point, I’d love to hear about it, I really do. I’ve flown missions without aldis lights. I’ve flown without a VHF radio. None have gone well.
Anyway, I have 2 flight crew left, and this is the last thing they will be assigning themselves to this month (unless I decided to start the mission, which, obviously, I won’t). I could also assign one to repair the plane that my green crew damaged in training, but I’ll wait until we have a few more damaged planes before that becomes a problem. So I have one crew with an Erk of 5 and another at 4. The Radio needs 1 success (successes are rolling a ‘6’), while the Altimeter and Cockpit both need 2.
I’d love to get the bonuses to training right away, but, again, I know how important it is to have the tech, so I’ll assign the 4 Erk crew to the Radio and the 5 Erk crew to the Altimeter.
Now is one of the tougher choices of the game. To roll for the radio, I’m currently rolling 4 dice to roll a 6. Not great odds, but not terrible odds either. I can spend a RP to get an extra die. I do have 18 left.
However, the last step is Recon, and I want to have a 1 in each zone, which is going to cost me 15, so I only really have 3 to play with. Ugh. And here I thought I had some money to play with. Recon on dams is very important too….
I’m sure you’re noticing I’m saying how important everything is. You’ll see how every decision I’m making trickles down to every event that happens during the mission.
Okay, fine. I’m going for pure luck here. 4 dice to get 1 6, and then 5 dice to get 2. Luckily if you get 1 six when you need 2, that carries over to the next turn as a partial successs. Dangit. I wonder if I should have done another requisition at the beginning of the turn.
Radio: 4d6- 5,5,2,2
Altimeter: 5d6: 3,5,5,1,1
Looks like I’m asking for more money next turn. And I’ll have to tighten security to compensate. Crap.
Anyway, let’s move on to Recon as I grumble.
So 5 points to scan a zone which will save your butt in the flight phase. Every time you do this, that’s one less hazard per turn you’ll have to deal with. Nice. You start taking security hits once you hit level 3, so there’s really no reason (besides cost) to have level 2 on almost everything recon wise.
So let’s move this:
To show ones on each level. Now I’m left with 3, so I can save them, or do Recon on 3 individual dams. Again, there’s no point in NOT looking at some dams. Which ones? Well, there’s a nice benefit to this brilliantly laid out map: It tells you the VP value of each dam. So Eder, Mohne and Sorpe seem like awfully good choices to have a good view on.
The first time you do a Recon on a dam, you just roll on a table to see what you see. Each time after that, you roll again, but only take better results. So rather than flying in and shooting down the guns, you can just stare them down.
Okay, that’s not really what you’re doing, but I like feeling that way. So let’s take a look at these dams:
Flak – 5 – No Flak
Searchlights – 6 – No lights
Balloons – 6 – No balloons (where were these 6’s before?)
Water level – 2 – rising
Great results! The water level is really low, so it will be very hard to breach, but no resistance!
Umlaut – None – My keyboard can’t make one
Flak – 2 – Level 3
Searchlights – 1 – Level 2
Balloons – 3 – Level 1
Water Level – 1 – Rising
And the fates even themselves out and makes this the absolute worst dam ever.
Flak – 1 – Level 4(!)
Searchlights – 6 – None
Balloons – 6 – None
Water Level – 5 – Full
I just have to get past the flak, but man that’s a lot of flak.
And that’s turn 1. We had some good. We had some bad. You take them both, and then you have: This post.