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Posted on Dec 4, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Defending the Reich – Game Review (PC)

By Mike Tomlin

Passed Inspection: Excellent Option Menu layout. Requires tactical innovation and flexibility. Excellent historical feel.

Failed Basic: Limited to one fixed campaign. Non-strategic targets. Dull color scheme.

Defending the Reich is the first of a planned series of games from HPS entitled World War II Air Campaign Series. It covers the rarely addressed RAF Bomber Command Campaign against German-occupied Europe for the period of August 1943 to May 1944. This was a hard and costly campaign with heavy losses incurred on both sides. Technology and tactics were crude but developing, and courage and skill were at a premium. Bomber Command flew by night, with the US Eighth Air Force striking by day, and the German Luftwaffe struggled to intercept and destroy the incoming forces. This game reflects a genuine, and quite successful attempt, to represent the challenges and tactical difficulties that both sides faced, and gives a truly historic feel to the player.

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The main drawback is DtR being a niche market game. The scope of it, in both time and forces involved, is very limited. All revolves around the night-time strategic bombing campaign, and no other aspects of the war are portrayed. Even the effects of the bombing are not shown in any detail, with a simple use of acreage destroyed as the test of success. Defending the Reich will primarily be welcomed by those players with a strong interest and knowledge of the period, planes and tactics. That said, the game can be picked up and played quite quickly, by those with little or no knowledge of this type of warfare. It does not represent the flyers war, with lots of interaction, but rather the crucial role of the planners and fighter directors. This may well limit its appeal to some who require total and detailed control in their wargames.

Defending the Reich can be played against the AI, by Email or TCP/IP against a human opponent. The player can choose either the German or British side, and can select from various setup options to vary the balance of play and historic accuracy of the game.

The main game screen shows a map covering most of Germany, the Low Countries, and parts of France Denmark and East Anglia. Superimposed on the map are key cities and German-controlled fighter airfields. A variety of simple icons appear at the top of the screen and the game is run from a list of menu options down the left hand side. The options are simple and clear, and are an effective way of going through a game turn. Many games are counter-intuitive in the way the interface plays, but the controls are simple to use. Each turn notionally represents one week, which is a slightly artificial method of pushing a timeline through the game, but in actuality each turn represents one night of bombing.

Defending the Reich is played in four phases, namely planning, combat, recovery and victory determination. Victory in the campaign is decided on Turn 44, 30th May 1944, although where both players are human they could agree on an earlier end date, accepting the victory status at that time.

The campaign status option presents a screen which is effectively a graph, displaying up to date info based on the last mission carried out –e.g. current and average aircraft loss rates; acreage destroyed; victory points and sorties carried out; current Victory trend, and projections for final victory level. This is the screen that dictates whether your current tactics are working or not.

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