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

Defending the Reich – Game Review (PC)

By Mike Tomlin

Bomber Statistics Receive detailed statistics on just about any aircraft

Once the British player exits the planning phase, all input ceases, and he can do nothing except watch the night unfold. British and German movements are plotted on the map, and individual missions can be selected to follow in detail. A “teletype” screen is provided that gives action reports throughout the night, and radio calls are played for atmosphere, along with short video clips of take-offs, landings, air combat and bombings etc. The teletype screen shows information on current losses, as they occur, and aircraft being destroyed or damaged on landing. Ultimately, when the last aircraft from both sides have landed the turn is over and players revert to the main screen for the next planning session. Analysis of what went wrong with tactics is imperative if the player is to have any chance of winning.


Game play for the German player is different, although he has similar information and options available, prior to the actual combat phase. Also, he has the option to redeploy some night fighter squadrons to unused airfields. Unlike the British player who can only await events, the German player has only made resource decisions and in the Combat phase must react in real time to incoming raids. The main map screen displays target cities, and also highlights occupied airfields showing those used by dedicated night fighters, and those by Wilde Sau which are single seater fighters with no on-board radar. As British incursions are detected they appear on the map and the challenge is to launch interceptors, locate and identify which raids represents the main bomber force then, by vectoring the maximum number of fighters against them, try and shoot down as many of them as possible.

By selecting each airfield, Gruppe can be launched and assigned a raid as target, and attempt to intercept, although this is not guaranteed. Controls are relatively simple – mouse or keys – but some practice is necessary before being able to send orders at the speed required, especially with multiple raids inbound. A pause facility is available, but essentially it’s quick thinking and reactions that count. Interpreting the data correctly, and learning the British tactics is quite a challenging aspect of the game. Gruppe can also be tasked with patrolling at designated locations, to await retreating or inbound bombers. Night fighters can be tasked with Intercepting or patrol, because of their radar capabilities, but Wilde Sau may only patrol over suspected target cities. To help reduce the load on the player, the AI will direct aircraft when they are within one game pulse of a bomber force and also ensure that all Gruppe are vectored to base when low on fuel. As the player selects a Gruppe, a range circle will appear around its current position to help in determining which missions it may be able to intercept. Ensuring that Gruppe have the range and speed to intercept is made harder by the British Bomber forces tactics of never flying directly to target but seeking to confuse by frequent, preplanned, changes of course.

Graphics are fairly basic but appropriate for the game, although the colors used seem somewhat dull and overemphasize dark grey. Additionally, three excellent and useful training videos are provided to take players quickly and clearly through the basic mechanics of the game from each side. One complaint is the fact that text on some screens id difficult to discern against background colors. This was a documented problem with some setups, and easily rectified by changing the basic Windows Desktop setup, but slightly irritating nonetheless. Sound is limited to the provided action videos and also simulated radio conversations during combat and bombing runs. It is however entirely appropriate to this type of game, and atmospheric.

This is a good game offering a very realistic representation of the command decisions relevant to combat of this kind. There is a lot of background and peripheral technical knowledge included that a real enthusiast will enjoy. For those with an interest in Bomber Command in World War II and the Luftwaffe’s attempts to combat them, this is perhaps the only game in recent years that has covered this field. It is an excellent attempt and the enthusiast will find much to enjoy. For the mainstream wargamer, it’s certainly worth trying due to its single campaign. Defending the Reich may not prove to be everybody’s cup of tea, and may have limited re-playability for those not too interested in this type of warfare., but it is a stimulating and enjoyable experience.

Armchair General Score: 81%

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