After Air Force and Dauntless was played through and I started to be seriously annoyed by the artificial limitations and nuances in the system, I tripped over to Over the Reich. It was first game of J.D.Webster’s Fighting Wings Series I got my hands on and have never really looked back. Achtung Spitfire was also in the shelf at the time, and it did not take me till next day to go to pick up that one too. Both systems share essentially same mechanics and therefore they are just two different eras. Over the Reich is game about the western front at the end, while Achtung Spitfire is from the Battle of Britain and early years.
It was all too good. Secretly plotted movement, system that felt like you would have the limits set by reality without artificial constraints and best of all, arsenal of planes that were outright fantastic. Graphics were beautiful, with double sided maps and the whole package felt like it wasworth every cent.
Under optimal circumstances, player would control one plane, but that is seldom possible unless you play by e-mail. Players can control multiple planes in FtoF games – a bit time consuming affair, but it can be done and if on the mood, attacks against big bomber formations over the Third Reich really fit for solo outings.
I always felt that Over the Reich and Achtung Spitfire offered a toolkit that players could use. Each plane has sheet for log, and sheet of the plane data. Each bit of the game is throughly researched, and data sheets contain more information that you ever wanted to know about each of the plane. System itself is simple, once you get your head around banking angles, nose pitch (which was rather simple at these two) and various other avionics.
There are three layers in the game which can be used to create longer missions to enemy territory. Rules govern flack, search lights, cloud decks wether etc. Then when engagement is imminent, planes can maneuver into position in relation to the opposition to gain maximum benefit in the ensuing combat, and finally setup is made on the map and engagement if fought out.
The drawback was that the gravity was calculated wrong in the game design, causing major issue in relation to power output of the engines and the rate of climb. Anyone playing the game could see that in tactical mode, planes could climb far higher than they could in combat situation and designer did of course notice the issue and remedy was on it’s way.
Other matter was the pitch. Planes had 6 bank angles, but pitch angels were not defined very well, leading into interesting situations that were hard to model – and to visualize. Bearing in mind that the game has only mopboard as reference in two axis, and the third is something that you would have to do in your head – in addition to model the actual angle of the plane in relation to everything else.
So, there were problems with these games too – albeit they were clearly step to the right direction, and while very complex and mentally demanding, the reward that they provided besides of the fun was beyond anything.
Now, I could think whatever I wanted about the day I got hooked with Knights of the Air, but the day that Over the Reich landed on my desk, and I got through the rules that barely pale in comparison to ASL, I knew that it would be fun for a long, long time. They did.
Until… Something else came along.