“Only the spirit of attack borne in a brave heart will bring a success to any fighter aircraft…” ― Adolf Galland– Interceptor Ace Game Review
Interceptor Ace Daylight Air Defense Over Germany, 1943-44
Game Review. Publisher: Compass Games Designer: Gregory M. Smith Price $75
Passed Inspection: Well written rule book with examples and an index, easy to learn and fun to play, immersive almost role playing game like play, beautiful components, addictive
Failed Basic: Would have liked to have seen rules for the Me163, Me262, Dornier Arrow and other late war fighters; also a way to track days between missions would be nice; would also like to see a squadron success table and rules for late 1944 and 1945 operations
March 7th – 2nd mission Lt Marten flying Lion’s Claw, a
Bf109 G4 Jg27 is my home squadron. B24
raid on the Ruhr. Good weather. Intercepted a formation of B24 Liberators. No
enemy escorts are visible- I and my wingman approach a B24 from 12 O’clock
level. We fire from long range hitting the port wing badly. The B24 flips as
pieces of the wing break off and the B24 enters a diving spin. No parachutes
seen. We gain altitude in a climbing turn and attempt a pass on another
We target a second B24 and attack again from 12 O’clock but this time from higher altitude. We take accurate fire from long range from the gunners of this plane. My wingman gets solid hits around the cockpit of the B24 and around the top turret but his plane is hit and breaks off. The enemy machine gun fire hits my plane but then stops as I hit the fuselage just past the cockpit. The plane suddenly explodes and I find myself just missing the debris. As my wingman plane is damaged and my MG151 20mm cannons are out of ammunition, we head back to base. Both of us land safely. The crew chief says our planes will be back in shape later today. One kill for me. One kill for my wingman, Gibson.
Meanwhile an Me 410 tangles with a P38 flying cover for another bomber group: “I hit the P38 and damage his port wing and his oxygen system. He turns hard to starboard and his weapons hit my tail and does minor wing damage to our plane. We press on and use an extended burst which wounds the pilot and knocks out his cannons. He performs a split S and we lose him. We circle back around and see him ahead and diving. We don’t have the speed to catch him so I break off the pursuit.”
These two after action reports are based upon some of my play throughs of Compass Games’ newest release “Interceptor Ace” and like their game from last year, “Night Fighter Ace” – they have scored a clean kill with this great game!
The game boasts impressive artwork by Knut Grunitz and Terry Leeds.
The game components include:
1 counter sheet of 9/16” units-counters
15 double sided aircraft display mats
4 player aid cards
1 bomber target mat
1 fighter target mat
1 pilot awards display mat
1 air operations display mat
8 ace pilot cards
60 combat cards
1 24 page rule book with a complete index
a pad of log sheets to track your plane and pilots
2 6 sided die, 1 10 sided die and 1 20 sided die
Additional counters for Night Fighter Ace are included in Interceptor Ace.
To get started with Interceptor Ace, first you name your pilot and gunner (if you have a two seat interceptor) as well as your wingman and either pick a starting base (some bases have different starting aircrafts available so if you really want to fly a Bf110, for example, pick a base that houses that type of aircraft) or roll a 20 sided die to get a random base. Some bases have more than one starting aircraft type so if, for example, you pick or roll Wevelgem, you can start with either a Bf109 G-1 or R-2 or G-4 or a Fw190 A-4. Each base is also noted for which Jagdgeschwader (Interceptor Wing) or Zerstörergeschwader (Destroyer/Heavy Fighter Wing) is based there.
You either start on March 1943 or pick a later date to start your game. Each month, you’ll fly up to 8 sorties depending on the weather. In April 1943, you’ll have fewer sorties owing to fewer Allied bomber raids. You can also play a scenario as a one off game. You don’t have to play the campaign game.
You pick your aircraft display mat and then pick one skill to give to your pilot. As you fly more missions, you gain more skills to outfit your pilot with. Some skills allow you to avoid one drastic damage per sortie while others make you a better marks man, give you more daredevil flying skills, etc. As you fly and shoot down enemy planes, you also get to increase your prestige which gives you access to new, more advanced aircrafts. This role playing element is the core of the game and forms the campaign narrative of your pilot and his wingman or crew.
You then get your airplane ready for combat. You add ammunition counters to the spaces for your plane’s cannons or maybe even rockets. Machine guns are considered to have unlimited ammo for game tracking purposes. Each ammo counter represents from a few rounds to a dozen or so rounds depending on the size of the shell. Some planes can be equipped with Werfergranate 21 rockets or even a 75mm anti-aircraft/anti-tank gun!
You then place your wingman on the status indicator showing that he is present. During the course of the mission, he may become separated from you or even get wounded or die. As he gains experience points, your wingman also can gain skills just like you can.
A scoring system for keeping track of how you well you did during the campaign is included but I also wish a table was included that showed how well your fighter wing did in the battle on that particular day. I may have to write one up. As it is right now, you and your wingman exist in a bubble instead of dynamically with your squadron or fighter wing.
Once you have your plane loaded out and your wingman ready to fly, then you do the following:
1) Roll on the Raid Chart to determine the type and location of the Allied raid.
2) Roll for the weather. This can affect your entire mission of the weather is really horrid.
3) Take off and roll to intercept the raid. If you don’t intercept the raid, move your plane in its territorial endurance box to try and intercept stragglers (or intercept enemy fighters) or if you are running low on fuel, head back to base.
4) If you intercept the raid roll to see what type of bombers are in the raid and if they have fighter escort.
5) If you encounter enemy fighter planes, either engage them or fly straight through to the bombers if you can. If you tangle with fighters, determine what type of fighters are escorting the raid (Spitfires, P47s, P38s or P51s – based on location and time period) and then place the enemy fighters and your fighter and wingman on the Fighter Target Mat. If you survive, you can either turn back or try and shoot down a bomber or two or return to base.
6) If you take on the bombers, break out the Bomber Target Mat and determine at what altitude and position you approach the bombers. Take incoming defensive fire and then try and shoot down a bomber. If you survive and the bomber survives, either break off your attack or attempt to close on the bomber and start again. Beware of B17 box formations –they can kill a German fighter faster than anything.
7) If you have ammo and a functional aircraft after your passes, you can try and pick another bomber and try again.
8) Assuming you survive your encounter, try and make it back to your base or a closer base if necessary. Then try and land. If you are alive, file your report and head to the bar for a drink or two and maybe some dinner.
This game uses a similar system to Night Fighter Ace so if you know that game, you can learn this one in no time at all. In fact, Interceptor Ace, Night Fighter Ace and Legion War Games’ Target for Today, if taken together, create an almost completely integrated examination of both the Allied bombing campaign and the German efforts to fight the Allied bombers off. All three games are excellent!
Combat results are obtained through drawing Combat Cards. Each weapon on an aircraft has a number associated with it. Let’s say you are attacking with machine guns (offering three points of combat factors) plus 20 mm cannons (which offer 6 points of combat factors) – that gives you 9 points of attack strength. You draw a Combat Card which provides three different types of combat results – the first line includes damage by attack strength aka weapon firepower. Let’s say that my 9 points of attack strength / firepower results in 4 hits to the bomber or fighter. I then go to the airplane damage charts and roll damage to the enemy plane. I can try and hit either wings or the fuselage and if I have specific skills, I can even try and hit specific systems such as the enemy’s engines or fuel tanks. Additionally, when attacking you have the decision of using an extended burst of fire power – this could do more damage to the enemy but you’ll end up using ammo faster or maybe even jamming your cannons.
The second line of information on the Combat Cards is the Defensive Action or Wingman’s action. If it is a Defensive Action, this applies to your attack on an enemy fighter and includes such actions as barrel rolls to avoid damage and such. If it applies to your Wingman, he may get an extra attack or possibly missing an action this turn due to being busy with a technical issue on their aircraft.
The third line is the Defensive machine gun fire from the bomber or rear gunners attack for aircrafts with rear gunners such as the Me 110.
So how well does the solo system work as it relates to controlling the enemy bombers and fighter planes? The bombers are easier to create AI for as they, primarily, just fly straight ahead without tons of maneuvering. Depending on whether they are in tight or lose formation, their weapons can tear you up. The combination of 50 caliber and 30 caliber machine guns are nasty! Unless the crew are hurt, they will just fire away at you.
Fighters, on the other hand, are a different kettle of fish. Gregory Smith did a great job on the Fighter Target Mat. Dogfights are fast and furious and include rules for altitude and speed differences, position of both fighters, out of the sun surprise attacks, etc.
As I previously stated, when engaging in a fighter interception, the first thing that must be determined is whether you are going to try and speed past the American fighters and attack the bombers or engage the fighter. If you ignore the enemy interceptor, you will probably find him on your 6 after you attack the bomber. This is not healthy and may end your career.
If you engage the fighter, you must first find out what positions your two planes start at. Either head on, advantaged, disadvantaged, tailing or tailed. Additionally, you or the enemy may surprise one or the other from “out of the sun”. There are different modifiers based upon the position of the attacker to the defender. The same Combat Cards are used but you just use different lines on the cards for the defensive actions and damage.
The Combat Cards are ingeniously designed and easily provide the AI for the encounter. It was owing to a Combat Card that the P38 in the dogfight narrative at the beginning of this review decided to Split S and dive away from me. This worked out realistically based upon the damage I had done to the plane.
There are additional rules for flak and aircraft repairs, rebasing, cooperative play and even assassinating Hitler during an awards ceremony.
Interceptor Ace demonstrates that you can have a fun, historically accurate and engaging game without overloading the player with a plethora of rules. The AI engine hides in the game and works wonderfully.
There are a few bullet holes in the game’s fuselage though. There are a few typos which don’t detract from the game. For example, Rule 7.2.1 refers to the Allied fighters you may encounter as only being P47s and Spitfires but the game actually includes those two plus P38s and P51s.
Even though the designer says that late 1944 and 1945 missions would be too one sided from the German perspective and nearly impossible to live through, I would at least like to be given the chance to fly late war missions. I would have liked to have seen rules for the Me163, Me262, Dornier Arrow and other late war fighters even if it means the game being more difficult. Maybe we can convince Greg Smith to write an expansion!
It would also have been nice to have a simple table to roll on to find out how many days have passed between sorties. For my game, I just rolled a 6 sided die and then adjusted based upon how late in the month I was playing.
An average sortie can take as long as 45 minutes or as short as 15 minutes so you can get in multiple plays in an afternoon or evening.
A deck of Ace Cards is also included. These cards allow you to add historical ace pilots to your plane and see how well they fair during your missions. I was hoping they had included Adolf Galland in the list but alas it was not to be. It could be that he was not included because during the time period covered in the game he was flying a desk more than a fighter plane.
I just love this game. It’s easy to learn, fun to play and very addictive. Make sure you have a copy of Interceptor Ace in your gaming hanger pilot and that’s an order!
Armchair General Rating: 96% (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 who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!