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Posted on Dec 27, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“Had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of the Battle would have been the same.” Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding   303 Squadron Board Game Review

Had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of the Battle would have been the same.” Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding   303 Squadron Board Game Review

Rick Martin

303 Squadron.  Publisher: Hobbity.eu  Designer:  Michal Kohmann  Price $79.90

Passed Inspection:  Beautiful components, tense game play, solo or multiplayer, tons of scenarios, full campaign mode with legacy game aspects, tons of replayability  

Failed Basic: some lack of clarity in the rules leading to having to re-read a section a few times, needs a player’s aid sheet

            During the Battle of Britain, 8000 Polish pilots and ground crew fought with the RAF against the Luftwaffe providing much needed combat expertise against German pilots tested and trained in Spain, Poland and France. Polish combat pilots fought bravely against enemies from without and within from both the Luftwaffe and bigotry from some members of the RAF. In total, Polish combat pilots shot down 203 German aircraft for the loss of 29 Polish pilots.  The Polish 303 Squadron was the most successful RAF squadron in the Battle of Britain.  Polish pilots were known for attacking from close range.

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Hibbity.eu’s 303 Squadron is one of the most beautiful games that’s come across my gaming table in a few years. The game features stunning artwork by Piotr Forkasiewicz and a lovely companion book called “The Squadron” can be purchased which features more of Piotr’s work for 303 Squadron.  See pictures from “The Squadron” which accompanies this review.  Other talented artists who contributed to this game include Rafal Chalupnik, Mateusz Michalski, Magdalena  Fajfer and Olga Lesniak.

303 Squadron Box Cover
The Squadron Book
Squadron Book Spread
The Squadron Book Spread

The game designer Michal Kohmann and graphic designer Magdalena  Fajfer have provided us with a sturdy, beautifully designed game box in which all the components logically fit in place.

The components in the game include:

A 22 page rule booklet and a 22 page compendium (a copy is included in English,

  Polish,  French and German.)

A huge 2 part mounted game board

Scenario Cards, Event Cards, Deployment Cards, Pilot Cards and Combat Cards

Player Cockpit Boards

Over 84 Tokens and Wooden Blocks for Damage, Specialization Status, Medals,

            etc.

Statistics Cards for German Aircraft

Plastic Miniature Hawker Hurricanes, Ju87 Stukas, Bf 110s, Heinkel 111s,

Bf 109s, Do117s and Ju88s.

Stands for the minis.

Specialized Dice

A beautiful 303 Squadron Dice Bag

Components
Dice Bag

The two game boards fit together to give an operational area covering from the French coast to Northolt – total  size 39 ½ inches (100.33 centimeters)  by 27 ½ inches (69.85 centimeters).  Be warned that with the control boards, cards and counters, you’ll need a decently sized gaming table to play this game.  The map is divided into operational sectors designated with alpha/numeric codes.  When you encounter the Luftwaffe, the enemy planes are controlled by scenario and event cards which designate their flight path by using these codes.

303 Squadron is as much a role playing game as a traditional war game. Specific RAF pilots are represented by character cards which lists their names and special skills.  As the pilots fly missions and shoot down targets, their skills increase.  It is important to note that these are not just fictional characters – each pilot is/was a real person and their biographies are presented in the Compendium.  The game accommodates 1 to 4 players – each player plays one or more RAF pilots of the 303 while the game controls the random events and the Luftwaffe.  The game system adapts its difficulty to the number of RAF pilots involve as well as the success or failure that the players have in the previous scenarios.  In the Campaign Game, failed missions have lasting consequences on the future missions; for example, is the Luftwaffe knocks out a home chain radar station, the game adds in hidden units which may or may not be actual bomber formations.  As the players succeed in their missions, the Luftwaffe adds in more and more expert fighter pilots and bomber crews.

The Pilots
A Pilot

The Rule Book is nicely illustrated and logically laid out with plenty of examples.  I found several of the rule sections could have been a little more clearly written but, none-the-less, after several re-reads and some play-throughs, game play became second nature.    I do wish the designer had included a separate player’s aid card with the turn sequence and important rules re-printed for ease of access.  Luckily, the Rule Book and Compendium are both very sturdy and can handle page flipping without issues.

After picking your pilots and deciding whether you are playing a continuing campaign or a stand alone mission, put the pilot cards on the Cockpit Boards. The Cockpit Boards represent the Hurricane that each pilot is flying.  There is space on the card for Pilot Card, Skill Specialization Counters, Damage Tokens and Maneuver Tokens.  There is also a dial to track ammunition burst usage and another dial which tracks the renewal time for a specialization skill. After using a Specialization Skill set the dial at red and each turn move the dial one space back towards green.  When the dial is on green, the skill can be used again.  When you are low or out of ammo, you can fly back to an airfield to get more fuel and ammo.

Combat occurs by rolling custom dice with results such as “Hit”, “Reroll”, “Evasion” and “Maneuver”.  Dice come in blue and yellow (for the RAF Hurricanes) and black for 30 caliber defensive machine guns, white for cannons and red for a combination of machine guns and cannons.  Each color die has a different spread for the results.  Black dice used mostly on bombers hit very rarely while the Bf109’s red dice can tear up a target.   Combat die rolls can be modified with the Combat Cards in your hand.

Each German plane is rated for its fire power (expressed using custom dice), primary mission (dive bomber, level bomber, fighter or destroyer) and toughness as well as speed. 

The turn sequence is as follows:

  1. Event Phase – draw and Event Card and resolve
  2. Player Phase – use pilot’s special ability/skill, conduct combat card draws then move and then conduct the reconnaissance sub phase. The reconnaissance sub phase occurs either when the scenario says to use “hidden German squadron movement” or during a campaign if the loss of Home Chain Radar causes German squadrons to come in without a good radar contact.  Instead of mini airplanes, hidden squadrons use counters.  When the player  has an aircraft in the area, draw a squadron card to see what you’ve found.

Finally players may land at an airfield and refuel and rearm.

  • Fight Phase – roll dice and modify the attack using the Combat Cards in your hand or your wingman’s hand.  This happens twice then the German planes engaged in combat shoot back.
  • Counterattack – German fighters and destroyers not engaged in combat during the Fight Phase will attack and use special symbols on the attack dice to try and do damage.  If the players can match the special symbol on the dice with a Combat Card in their hand, they can avoid damage.
  • German planes then move and bomb if they are over their targets..
  • Reorganization Phase – use the facilities at the airfield you are landed at to get ready for your next flight.

If the players have met the goal of their scenario they win but if the Luftwaffe has achieved its goals, the Germans win the scenario.

Interceptions
High Quality Minis
Bf109 escorted He111s



Additional Rules are included for German Elite pilots and crews and choosing home airfields.

Stukas

Two expansions are also available – Brothers in Arms which add Spitfire Squadrons to the game and Convoy which adds protection of Channel Convoys to the game.

A full mission in 303 Squadron can be played in an hour to an hour and a half.  The game is beautiful to look at and a blast to play.  The solo system is effective and difficult to beat.  Out of three games, I won two and horribly lost one.  The effects of the lost mission made further missions even more difficult to win.  I really admire the game design, it is elegant without being overly complex.  This is one of my favorite games of 2022.

If you like World War II aviation games, get this game.  Set it up then put on the soundtrack to The Battle of Britain and start playing.

            For good background material, watch the classic Battle of Britain film and 2018’s Squadron 303.

Armchair General Rating:  98% (1% is bad, 100% is perfect)

Solitaire Rating: 5

(1 is not suitable, 5 is excellent 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 and has designed the solo system for Forsage Games’ Age of Dogfights.  Currently Rick is designing T34 Leader for DVG.  In addition, Rick can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

1 Comment

  1. Nice review Rick!

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