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Posted on Sep 24, 2019 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Taking the War to the Enemy!  B-25 Prince of the Skies Board Game Review

Taking the War to the Enemy! B-25 Prince of the Skies Board Game Review

Rick Martin

B-25 Prince of the Skies    Board Game Review.  Publisher: None – Print and Play   Game Designer: Lee Smith Price FREE

Review by Rick Martin

Passed Inspection: Easy to learn, strong solo narrative, beautiful components, FREE!!!

Failed Basic:  The Ki84 shouldn’t be included in the 1942 Doolittle Raid scenario. A few typos.  If you don’t like dice rolling, this may not be for you. Skills that your crew could earn would be a nice addition and add to the role playing experience.

Mission #2 of the Betty Page. B25 Mitchell bomber of the 42 Bombardment Group flying out of Port Moresby, New Guinea.

 “A collective groan escaped the bomber crews this morning when we were briefed that our target for today was, once again, that damned Japanese naval airfield at Gasmata that we failed to damage yesterday. We knew they’d be expecting us back and the welcoming committee would be angry as hell.

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This mission got worse when our fighter escort failed to meet us at the rendezvous point.  As the Betty Page and the other planes in her bombing wing made the dangerous trip towards Japanese held territory, the crews did their jobs, silently and focused but the tension put their stomachs in knots.  The droning of the B25’s two Wright Twin Cyclone Engines was comforting but so loud it could be heard over the crews’ earphones.

As we made our approach a N1K2 Kawanashi was sighted as it attacked us from 10:30 high. The “George” slashed down at our plane; its four 20mm cannons spitting death but our gunners spat back with a stream of 50 caliber bullets!  Our machine guns missed him and his cannons missed us. He came around for another pass from 1:30 level but he missed and we missed. He then broke off as other B25s in our formation tracked him and fired at him.

We maintained a good formation over the airfield even with the moderate but ineffective flak.

Bombs away and on target.

As we veered away we were jumped by two Zeros. One at 9 o’clock level and one at 1:30 high.  They had obviously been flying c.a.p. over the airfield.

Our top turret gunner hit 1:30 bandit which exploded.

The other Zero attacked from 12 o’clock level. The nose gunner hit him. The bandit burst into flames and spun into the ocean.

After we returned to base, we were debriefed and later the bomb damage assessment indicated that our wing achieved a 40 % damage rate to the Japanese airfield.

Not bad plus the Betty Page killed two Zeros bringing the little red Japanese meatballs on the side of our plane to 3.

We relaxed as our planes were worked on by the ground crew but tomorrow we’d do this all over again.  That was our job now until this damned war was won.”

“B-25 Prince of the Skies” is a print and play game utilizing the same system designed by Steve Dixon and Bob Best for “B17 Queen of the Skies” and its contemporary offspring “Target for Today”.

B-25 Prince of the Skies is a solitaire game which simulates the decisions made by the captain and crew of a B-25 flying for either the 42nd Bombardment Group out of New Guinea operating in the Solomon Islands from 1943 – 1945 or the 3rd Bombardment Group from 1943 – 1944 operating in the Philippines.  The Doolittle Raid is included as a standalone scenario.

The game is available for “FREE” – yes – “FREE” (add reverb here) and is a labor of love by the game’s designer Lee Smith.  For my review copy, Lee was kind enough to print and construct my copy and it is simply beautiful.  Another great thing about this game being available on-line is that typos and errors can be fixed almost immediately and then posted for download plus Lee is on Facebook and available for questions or comments.

The game components include:

a 21 page rule book

a B-25 Mitchell map board used when enemy fighters attack

a strategic movement boards for each campaign plus the Doolittle Raid

a B-25 crew placement board

color coded tables and charts

156 full color counters

a mission chart master copy (photocopy or print more to use for each mission)

a composite mission chart (photocopy or print more to use to track your B 25’s progress)

22 B-25 aircraft nose art cards (including some amazingly funny anachronistic bits of nose art which were added as a joke)

As with “B17 Queen of the Skies” and “Target for Today”, the rules are designed to easily and logically walk you through the game.  Once you get the flow of the game turns, it’s really just die rolls and chart reading.  The game can be played as standalone missions, campaign playing or even multi-player flying if you have multiple B25 crew placement boards.

First you pick the campaign you want to participate in – either the Solomon Islands, the Philippines or the stand alone Doolittle Raid scenario.  Each campaign has a year you will be starting at.  Then you pick the nose art for the bomber you wish to fly.  I chose the Betty Page and she hasn’t let me down for two amazing missions.   (Yes I know that Betty Page wasn’t really famous until after the war but what the hell, it’s just a game and she is so hot!) After naming your crew members and assigning those boys to their appropriate positions on the plane, you are ready to fly!

Tables walk the player through all aspects of the mission from take off to either a safe landing back at your airfield or, perhaps, a more somber end to your crew.

Since the focus of “B-25 Prince of the Skies” is the operations of one bomber, you follow orders and try to carry them out.  Target tables list your ‘target for today’ based upon the time period and whether you are for the 42nd or 3rd Bombardment Group.   

The crews start out pretty much all the same.  As with Target for Today, I think an interesting optional add on would be to assign the starting crew members with beginner skills and then assign their positions based upon these skills – this would deepen the role playing element.  I also think that the crew should gain skills as they survive more and more missions.  (Hey Lee – write those rules!!!)

After creating your bomber and crew, the target is assigned.  The distance to the target is based upon zones.  For each zone to the target, the player rolls for weather and the quality of your fighter escorts (if any).

While traveling to and from the target, you may meet up with enemy fighters.  These fighters include the famous Zero, Ki84s and N1K2.  Each enemy plane is rated for their offensive capability, defensive capability and pilot quality (Green, Normal, Ace). 

 The Map Board shows your bomber in the middle and is marked off by possible enemy aircraft positions.  It becomes very nail biting when you have planes coming in from 12 O’clock high, 1:30 Low, 6 O’clock level and then have one diving on you from the vertical position.  As the planes attack, you have to assign your gunners to fire on them and determine the quantity of their fire power.  Spraying bullets may help hit a bogey but can also jam up the guns and use up your ammo faster!

Complete tables spin the narrative of how many aircrafts are intercepted by your fighter escorts if you have any, what damage you do to the enemy planes and, if you shoot one down, does the pilot bail out, flak damage to your aircraft, crew wounds, fires, and other misadventures add to the tension of the mission.

This game has it all for those wanting to experience the nail biting terror that the heroes who flew in the Pacific Theatre went through.  An average mission can be played in as little as one hour!

Those who don’t like “dice rolling created narratives” may not appreciate this game because the die rolls and charts spin the narrative.

While the game is nearly perfect, I think a few more additional tables would be helpful as I stated in my review of “Target for Today”.  A “Time Between Missions” table would be nice so that you can keep track of how many missions you fly in a month.  Also I found that the frequency of fighter attack was a little too great but then again who wants to fly a game based so on reality that it becomes boring?  Also, there needs to be a table telling you what Japanese planes are available by year.  When I played the Doolittle Raid, my B-25 encountered a Ki84 which wasn’t available until a year or so later.  In my mind, to justify the encounter, I had my crew unable to identify this new “prototype” fighter! 

I would also like a table which describes how the rest of the bombers in your wing were doing.  That way you’d feel more a part of the overall team instead of just one plane and its crew.

B-25 Prince of the Skies also allows you to modify your B-25s – yes you can actually have one of the B-25 tricked out with extra machine guns or, my favorite, a 75mm cannon for busting ships and bunkers!

And speaking of missions, this is just a sample of some of the missions you can be assigned based upon the campaign you are flying:

Anti-Shipping – Either Skip Bombing, 75mm cannon attack) or 50 Cal. MG attack

Strafing Troops – Attacking troops on the ground using 50 Cal MG’s.

Bridge – Dropping bombs on bridges.

C.A.S. – Close Air Support, dropping bombs, or strafing troops

Supply Air Drop – Dropping much needed supplies to cut off Allied troops.

The Doolittle Raid scenario is designed by Chuck Seegert and is a gem of a design!   Since the B-25s were modified for this mission, you automatically remove the tail gunner and his weapons.  You then have the option of removing other weapons for additional fuel and range.  There are special rules for tracking fuel usage, getting your target assigned, anti-aircraft fire, getting the drop on Japanese fighters as they were not expecting American bombers over Honshu, landing in Russia or China or going down over mainland Japan, the danger of Chinese landing fields, etc.

If you make it to China or Russia after the raid, you have to roll dice to find out the fate of your crew i.e. are they captured by the Japanese, locked up by the Russians, killed while attempting to land, etc.

All in all, B-25 Prince of the Skies is an amazing design and a great game!  For the price of FREE (insert reverb here) – you really can’t go wrong!

B-25 Prince of the Skies can be downloaded from:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ozfbfogdw9u0512/AAC4bkYbmL2f8vOEcEnE-h7qa?dl=0&fbclid=IwAR0G6DnH7xbctEuY1hoAEJ7Yuy1JZl7nrAD7_sPEqr6Tt0Zj_Qtmt64_w-4

Armchair General Rating: 95 %

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

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 who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

B25 Rule book and Bomber Template
Betty Page Mission 1
Betty Page Nose Art
Enemy Fighter Types
Today’s target is an airfield
machine gunners two targets fire
attacked by two aces
Ki84 attacks from the vertical
Bomber Crew Placement Board and Counters
damaged B25
Doolittle Raid

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for the kind words Richard! Keep Betty Page up in the air and enjoy the game my friend.

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