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Posted on May 19, 2020 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Fly a Lancaster through the unfriendly skies over the 3rd Reich with Legion War Games’ Target for Tonight.  Board Game Review

Fly a Lancaster through the unfriendly skies over the 3rd Reich with Legion War Games’ Target for Tonight. Board Game Review

Rick Martin

Target for Tonight – Britain’s Strategic Air Campaign Over Europe 1942 – 1945     Board Game Review.  Publisher: Legion War Games   Game Designer: Steve Dixon & Bob Best   Price $94.00

Passed Inspection: beautiful components, well researched, easy to learn rules, great replay value, strong solo narrative experience, makes you feel that you are there

Failed Basic:  some issues with the moon phases (but the enclosed errata fixes this), needs a guide as to how many days pass between missions, a glitch can trap your bomber in a never ending combat loop (until you are shot down that is) with an Ace piloted night fighter in some specific circumstances (this is now fixed thanks to some intrepid gamers), the Halifax bomber needs some attention to its flaws

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“A searchlight catches the plane for an instant. The cockpit is awash with searing bluish brightness. As if a revelation is about to take place. As if an angel is about to appear. He can’t see the instrument panel. The finger of light has the aircraft in its grip. Holding her suspended above the city. As if she is perched on a tightrope. Visible to the whole of Berlin down below. The glare bites into his eyes, sucks strength from his legs. He kicks the rudders to the right. The starboard wing tilts down. He pulls the wheel back. Below, a shifting tableau of coloured globes slide over the tilting smoking surface of the earth. Some roads and buildings made visible by fires and incendiaries.”


― Glenn Haybittle, The Way Back to Florence

The Allied strategic bombing campaign against Nazi Germany was conducted by the Americans during the day and by the British during the night.  The attrition of the British crews owing to accidents, flak and night fighter interception was horrific.  According to a BBC study, if you were a bomber crewman, there was a 50% chance that you would survive one tour in 1942.  This rate dropped to 16% in 1943.  Over the course of the war 125,000 men served in Bomber Command.  55,573 died in the line of duty.  Over 9000 British bombers were lost during the course of the war.  Bomber Command flew over 300,000 sorties and dropped over 1,000,000 tons of bombs.

(Source – Bomber Command Fliers in Their Own Wordsby Peter Jackson  BBC News  27 June 2012 – https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-18501658 )

In 2017 I reviewed the brilliant “Target for Today” which was a game about the American day time bomber raids over Europe during World War 2.  That game put you in command of a single B17 or B24.  A B-29 Superfortress version of the game has been released as was a Korean War expansion for B-29.  (I must get these in my collection soon!)  Now, Target for Today’s designers, Steve Dixon and Bob Best, turn their attention to Britain’s night time bombing campaign over the Reich with Legion War Games’ “Target for Tonight”!

 “Target for Tonight” is a solitaire game which simulates the decisions made by the captain and crew of either a two engine Wellington or a 4 engine Halifax, Lancaster or Sterling bomber.  Additionally a “What If” campaign allows you to fly a B17 or a B29 outfitted for night time bombing by integrating your Target for Today or B29 game components in to this game.  Each plane has an individual control board and special rules for components such as special turrets, gun emplacements, radar and other electronic warfare packages.   In addition, each plane has a specific book which is used for figuring out what happens when the plane is damaged.

Legion has packed the beautiful game box full of goodies.  The components include:

  • 11” (27.94 cm) x 17” (43.18 cm) Battle Board
  • 60 page rule book
  • 35 page book of game tables
  • 16 page flight log gazetteer with moon phases
  • Books of tables for all four British bombers aka “Pilot Manuals”
  • 12 Campaign Card Aids
  • 4 Crew Placement Boards (one for each bomber)
  • 4 Mission Logs
  • 20 1.2 inch (3 cm) counters
  • 184 game markers
  • 5 Bomber Cards
  • Turn Sequence Player’s Aid
  • Composite Mission Record
  • Squadron Assignment Sheet
  • Zone Worksheet
  • 2 ten sided dice and 2 six sided dice

The rule booklet is efficiently organized and includes designers’ notes and plenty of examples.  One thing I really admire about the rules were that in the introduction they tell you what the main differences are between Target for Tonight and Target for Today/B29.  With this, a player familiar with either of the other games can get flying in a minimum amount of time.

In a nutshell, for those familiar with the other games, this game adds night time conditions, electronic warfare equipment, Windows aka chaff, flying altitude, maneuvers, collisions, squadron tracking, night fighters, searchlights, thermal turbulence atmospheric effects from the burning cities and many other goodies.

You can either play an individual mission or you can play a campaign game in which you try and survive a tour of duty.  In the campaign game, your crew can gain experience as they get more comfortable with their jobs.  They can then gain specialized skills which may increase your survivability in future missions.  As the months and years go by, the threat from German night fighters armed with more advanced weapons and radar goes up and your survivability goes down. But, that being said, as the Luftwaffe’s tech gets better so does the technology available to your bomber crew.

Personally, I prefer the campaign game as its fun to see how long you survive and it’s nice to see your crew’s skills increase as they accomplish more missions.  I also enjoy finding a picture of an aircraft on the internet and incorporating the name and nose art of the real life aircraft in to my gaming narrative.  And believe me, this game gives the player a very strong narrative adventure!

Depending on the month and year that your mission is taking place, the Luftwaffe has access to Bf 109s/ Me 109s, Fw 190s, Me 110s, Ju88s, Ta 154s, He-219s, Do-217s and Me 262s. 

To start a mission or a campaign, first you pick the year, month and day you will be starting your game in.  This can be from 1942 to 1945.  Then you pick the type of bomber you wish to fly based upon its availability during the year you are playing.  If you wish you can name both your bomber and your crew members and assigning those boys to their appropriate positions on the plane.

As with the other titles in this series, there are many tables which walk you through all aspects of your mission.

Prior to take off you roll to see what city is the target for tonight.  You also roll to see what the weather conditions are over your base and you will check the date of the mission in the Gazetteer to note the moon phase.  The moon phase is very important as it will impact your bomber’s visibility to the Luftwaffe night fighters, the search light operators and the flak gunners.

Now it’s time to take to the skies.

You roll to see if you have a good, safe take off or if you have an accident such as an engine failure.

Once safely in the air (we can hope) you roll to check visibility and to see if you have any mechanical or electrical problems with your aircraft.  In my first mission with a new Lancaster “Just Jane” we were on route to bomb Cologne when our heating system failed.  To avoid the crew suffering from frost bite we had to dive down to a lower altitude which made us much more vulnerable to flak.  I decided to abort back to base as we couldn’t fix the problem in flight.

You will also find out your position in the squadron by rolling on that chart. A plane near the front of the 12 aircraft formation will have a lower chance of being detected by search lights and such while tail end Charlie may very well be pinpointed for attack.

The distance to the target is based upon zones.  For each zone to the target, the player rolls for weather and cloud cover.  The weather and cloud cover over your airfield and from previous zones can influence the weather and cloud cover for additional zones.  As you approach the French coast you need to check and see if German radar picks you up and if searchlights spot your plane.  Then you have to worry about flak.

On the second mission of my Wellington bomber “Soda Siphon”, an anti-aircraft round exploded in my wing – tearing it off and sending my bomber in to an uncontrollable spin.  No one made it out alive from that air crew.  RIP boys.

And if searchlights and flak wasn’t bad enough, then come the night fighters!  Unlike Target for Today where you can get swarmed by enemy fighters, in Target for Tonight you have one or, at most and very rarely, two night fighters to deal with.  But one well piloted night fighter can spell the end of you and your crew.  When a night fighter approaches, you set up its angle of approach on the “Battle Board”.  You check to see what technology and special weapons the night fighter is outfitted with as well as pilot/crew quality.  Some special weapon systems on the night fighter will dictate what angle of approach it takes for example if it has upward firing   Schräge Musik cannons, it will try and attack from a flight paralleling your course and from underneath and somewhat behind  your bomber.

 The “Battle Board” shows your bomber in the middle is marked off by possible enemy aircraft positions.  Night fighters can attack from various positions including 1:30 Low, 6 o’clock level and then can even have one diving on you from the vertical position.  If you are lucky, one of your gunners may spot the night fighter and attempt to drive it off, damage it or maybe shoot it down.  If you are playing in September 1944 or later, you may have the Monica tail warning radar set on your aircraft.  This detects night fighters as they approach the rear of your plane but, be warned, later in the war the Germans built a device to detect Monica and used it to home in on the 6 o’clock of British bombers!

The combat and damage model in this game can be brutal.  Each bomber has a Pilot Manual which gives detailed damage tables for when you get hit by flak or a night fighter’s machine guns and cannons or, God help you the aforementioned Schräge Musik aka “Jazz Music”, the German term for upward-firing autocannons which can tear your bomber apart.

There are also detailed tables that can tell you exactly what your machine gunners did to that enemy night fighter they just damaged.

If you make it to your target, you then have to drop your bombs accurately.  Some targets are ports or V2 sits or artillery formations while others are carpet bombing whole cities.  Finding those sites can be a challenge.  Pathfinders may mark the cities with incendiaries but later on in the war, technology comes to your aid just as it did in real life and will help guide you in to the target.  Sometimes the Germans will light huge fires in areas away from your target in order to guide the bombers off course to their assigned target.

If your bomber is equipped with H2S Ground Scanning Radar, you have a better chance of finding your target but be aware that the Luftwaffe figured out how to detect H2S using their Naxos passive detection system which allowed night fighters to more effectively home in on the British bombers!  This game accurately simulates the war of technology which effected night missions.

As you drop your bombs, you roll on tables to see if you were on or off target and to see what percentage of your bombs hit the city. 

You also have to see if your bomber gets damaged from the thermal turbulence which is found over burning cities.

Then you start the return trip to England but you still can’t let down your guard.  Later in the war, some night fighter pilots flew over the British airfields just waiting to pounce on a bomber trying to land.

The challenges of night air combat are beautifully represented in this game.  The flak, night fighters, risk of collisions, bad weather, mechanical failure, etc. made me appreciate what those crews went through every few days during the war.  The stress must have been unimaginable.

Target for Tonight has a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable fan base which provides charts to better help you learn the game’s turn flow and they offer tweaks to the game play.  There has been some criticism of both Target for Today and Target for Tonight that the games feel more “Hollywood” than “Documentary”.  That is to say that some are concerned that each mission is amped up with too much combat and drama.  I don’t mind that as I prefer that to flying 10 humdrum missions with 2 minutes of sheer terror as was the case in real life.  None-the-less, the fan base has produced a “Documentary” version of the game that simulates the real life of the bomber crews more accurately and is an extremely fun variant of the standard game play.

They also discovered a rare glitch in the game in which, if you have a night fighter with good radar and crewed by a veteran or an ace pilot, you can’t shake the plane and can get stuck with it attacking you every combat round until it shoots you down or you shoot it down.  The group has the fix for that glitch which has the night fighter roll to avoid running out of ammo.  Here is the fix for that glitch:

Night Fighter out of ammo and breaks off if:  
Roll 1D6  
this is2nd Pass1-2
this is3rd Pass1-3
this is4th and>1-4

In addition, some players think the chances of getting shot down by a night fighter is just too great in the game so they have devised a system to decrease the number of night fighter encounters while simultaneously making the night fighter a little more deadly. 

While the game is nearly perfect, I think a few more additional tables would be helpful.  A “Time Between Missions” table would be nice so that you can keep track of how many missions you fly in a month.  (Fans have made those too and can also be found at the link below!)

All of this can be found at:

https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/199761/target-tonight-main-charts-plus-schrage-musik-atta

There is some initial confusion as to the description of the Moon Phases between the rules and the charts but this addressed on a short errata sheet that comes with the game.

The Halifax bomber had a significantly hire casualty rate then the other bombers covered in the game owing to many technical issues which made it more difficult to maneuver and control in a stall as well as a flaw in its exhaust system which made it highly visible at night out to 500 yards owing to the exhaust glow.  It would be nice if this had been incorporated in to the rules for that particular bomber.

A great new optional rule set for the game lets you set up your squadron and easily track each plane to see if the make it back in one piece.  This gives you the feel of the bigger picture of the progress of your squadron mates. In addition, there are optional campaigns with mine laying missions and even the famous Dambuster’s Raid special missions!

Each plane is much more modifiable than in Target for Today.  You can change machine gun load outs and turrets as well as experiment with different electronic radar and jamming packages.

Legion War Games has a great on-line presence and posts FAQs and Errata for Target for Tonight.  There is also an on-line squadron where you can play the game with other people around the world and you can all fly on the same mission!

This game combined with GMT’s Night Fighter and Gregory M. Smith’s Night Fighter Ace by Compass Games gives a nearly complete examination at the tactical operations of the combatants who fought in the arena of the night skies over Europe and Asia (in GMT’s game).

Target for Tonight shines brilliantly which may not be a good thing if a night fighter is stalking you!  Keep the dirty side down fellow air crews!

Armchair General Rating: 93 %

Solitaire Rating: 5 (1 to 5 with 1 being Unsuitable for Solo Play and 5 being Perfect for Solo Play)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer. He designed the games Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Expansion and Sherman Leader for DVG.  In addition, Rick can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

box artwork
bombers
counter sheet
Night Fighters
pilot manuals
Just Jane – my Lanc
My Halifax Notorious Nan
Me110 attacks
Ju88 attacks a Wellington
Halifax stalked by a late war night fighter

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