Achtung Spitfire!
Bigtime's finest hour
by Jeff Lackey
Avalon Hill
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Achtung Spitfire! (Avalon Hill's and Bigtime Software's follow-up to Over the Reich) is a turn-based wargame whose action takes place in the air over WWII Europe. It covers the most dramatic air battle of all time, the Battle of Britain. For those unfamiliar with Bigtime's air war games, this is not a flight simulator; it is a primarily tactical wargame.
Shot One The player is presented with options to play from a British, French or German perspective. One can choose to set up a dogfight, play a series of historical missions, or try to survive Tours of Duty. These latter campaigns include the Battle of France as the French, the entire air war from the onset of hostilities in 1939 through 1943, when the Americans arrived in force, as either the British or German commander, or the actual Battle of Britain, again from either the British or German perspective. A very nice touch is the ability to transfers squadrons that have survived Achtung Spitfire! until 1943 into Over the Reich.

Play is at the level of individual pilots and planes; each pilot is rated for experience and may have a number of additional attributes, such as superb eyesight, marksmanship, excellent flying skills, hero status, etc., which have significant effects on how effective each pilot is. A simple addition that adds immensely to the immersion factor is the ability to rename all of your pilots.

Shot Two Actual gameplay is deceptively easy: you basically decide the moves that you wish for each plane in your squadron, then attempt to execute them with a simple point and click interface. At the higher complexity levels the sequence of movement is determined by an initiative system that takes into account pilot skill and relative positioning. While the game is extremely easy to play, it would be a mistake to decide the game itself is overly simple, a mistake that is usually realized after being completely wiped out by the computer a few times. Decisions abound for the human commander: do I risk a high G turn that provides a high probability shot, at the risk of damaging the aircraft? Should I fire a full, extended blast at the risk of jamming my guns or fire a safer, shorter burst? Should the non-fuel injected Spitfire try a negative G maneuver that will provide great positioning but cause a momentary loss of power? Add to these tactical combat decisions the choices the player must make as squadron commander, such as rotating tired pilots in and out of combat, selecting which combinations of rookies and aces to send up, deciding the number of plane to send on a sortie, etc., and you have a very rich wargame, one in which the player's decisions have an immediate and dramatic effect on the outcome.

Shot Three While single missions are available, the full flavor of Achtung Spitfire! is only appreciated in the Tour of Duty campaigns, in which the player attempts to bring a squadron of pilots through a series of missions over an extended portion of the war. While most of the campaigns have the general nature of tree based missions (with variability in terms of what opposition one will face on each mission), the heart of Achtung Spitfire! is the actual Battle of Britain. This Tour of Duty allows the player to take command of a squadron and attempt to recreate (for the British) or change (for the German) history. From the British perspective, a typical day involves the reception of contact reports (from either radar sites or coastal watchers) and decisions on which ones to intercept, a task made difficult due to limited numbers of planes and weary pilots. Is the contact heading down the coast a well escorted flight of bombers, intent on destroying a crucial airfield, or perhaps Galland's deadly Bf-109s on a fighter sweep? If the British player commits his resources to an early contact, all of his planes may be caught on the ground refueling while German sorties freely bomb the English countryside. On the German side of the Channel, commanders must decide sortie compositions and targets. This strategic element provides the game with that "up until 2:00 a.m." dimension that all great wargames possess.

While there are a few very minor nits to pick (where are the medals; it would be nice if a few more targets were available in England), Achtung Spitfire! takes a solid wargaming system to the next level. Highly recommended.

Requirements:

Windows
  • 486 or higher
  • 8 MB RAM
  • 2X CD-ROM
MacOS
  • System 7 or higher
  • 68040 or higher
  • 8 MB RAM
  • 2X CD-ROM
Multiplayer: 2 players, Internet, play-by-e-mail
©1997 Strategy Plus, Inc.