Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Battle of Britain and Civil Air Patrol

I see that it has been over a year since I last made a new post to this blog. While I had such good intentions of working last winter on catching up on my backlog of post that I wanted to share on my gaming life once again got in the way.

Last January I became the Aerospace Education Officer (AEO) for the local Civil Air Patrol squadron. From high school through my college years I was a member of CAP both as a cadet (for those of you who know about CAP I received both the Mitchell and Earhart awards), and then a senior member. For I number of years now I have been an Aerospace Education Member, but when the local squadron changed their meeting nights I was able to attend. I found that they needed an AEO, and with my background in CAP, science and education they were excited to have me. So instead of spending 2017 gaming I worked on lesson plans, building science equipment, and teaching classes on rocketry, hydraulics, astronomy, and aviation. It's been a lot of fun; I have a large group (31 cadets currently), of very intelligent, well behaved cadets who are interested in learning what I am teaching. Certainly different than teaching in the public schools - more like homeschooling my daughter, Maggie Reitz-Wells.

Of course I have had the chance to use games in the program. This past summer I built a simulation of the Battle of Britain. I started with Avalon Hill's classic London Burning. While this is primarily a solo game, I have found that solo games are easier to adapt to large groups than a game designed for multiple players. By the time I was done the game was able to accommodate 28 players. 

The game is composed of two parts, a strategic board of southern Britain (based on the original AH board), with 2-inch hexes, and a tactical air combat board with 4-inch hexes.  The boards are of felt with features painted on, and defensive installations (Chain Home stations, AA emplacements and barrage balloons), made of paper for a 3D effect.  The aircraft are also paper models of Spitfires, Hurricanes, ME 109's, and HE 111's. 

Each side was commanded by an air marshal. The German air marshal's task was to pick the bombing targets and assign aircraft for each mission - a mix of bombers and fighters. He then handed the target selection over to his navigation officer who plotted the course, being careful to avoid AA batteries and keep the flight as short as possible. The British air marshal decided which of his squadrons would be on patrol or standby and at which airbase. The British defense minister controlled the placement of defensive installations and handle the budget for repairs of civilian targets and aircraft.

The British defenses where composed of six squadrons. Each squadron was commanded by a cadet who's job was to intercept the attacking German aircraft. One released by their air marshal they needed to plot their intercept course, decide if they would wait for support, and then whether they would attack bombers or fighters. 

The German pilots represented both bombers and fighters. The cadets controlling the bombers needed to decide their formation to best defend each other, while the fighter pilots needed to decide if they would intercept fighters or defend bombers. 

I began the evening with a brief overview of the Battle of Britain, but used situations during the simulation to point out actual historical events. It made the lesson much more fun. As it so happened this class occurred on the night before the release of Dunkirk; a nice tie-in.



 

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