Solitaire Games → Skies Above the Reich
Skies Above the
Reich is a solitaire game depicting a Luftwaffe squadron of Bf109s
struggling to deter and destroy the relentless daylight raids over Germany
during World War Two. The player’s individual aircraft, each represented by a
stickered block, must confront the mighty “combat box” formation of the United
States Army Air Force, a deadly terrain
of B-17 Flying Fortresses. The game is a broad strokes depiction that presents
the arc of the desperate air war. Stretching from late 1942 to early 1945, Skies
Above the Reich follows that trajectory in a series of missions strung
together to make a campaign. Each mission will take a half hour or more to
play, while a campaign can last anywhere between 6 to 60 missions.
You select pilots and “attachments,” such as
gun pods, rockets, or added armor. You may also augment your attack with
auxiliary aircraft such as Ju88s, Fw190s, or later in the war, jet propelled
Me262s, the answer to the deadly P-51 escort fighter. Time in a mission is
limited, so you must do your best to wreck the bomber formation as quickly as
possible, while bringing home as many pilots as you can in order to muster a
force for the next mission.
The mission is played on a formation map that
depicts as many as twenty-one B-17 bombers in a tight array. The game comes
with two double-sided map boards (four maps in all) that as a set chronicle the
development and increasing lethality of the bomber formation. Each map is a
bigger and more lethal terrain than its predecessor.
Will you strike the formation from the nose or
from the tail? Will your fighters make a
dead-level attack or will they drop bombs on the formation from above? Will you
split your squadron to attack from multiple angles, or will they charge at the
bombers in successive waves? Will you even have time for this kind of maneuver?
What if you encounter the bombers’ “little
friends,” fighter escort lurking nearby? How will you handle them if you do, or
will you even try? Will you organize part of your force to tangle with escort,
or will you arm your entire contingent to focus on the bombers?
As tough as each mission can be, the real
challenge is the campaign where you watch as your roster of pilots gradually
shrinks. Some pilots will survive long enough to acquire ace skills, but you
will be forced to replace downed or wounded pilots, and those young newcomers
come “green”. Some campaigns will end simply because you run out of pilots.
Full Campaigns follow the chronology of
“seasons,” each comprising a number of missions that your squadron flies
striving to disrupt the American bomber raids. In a full campaign you must
endure all seven seasons, keeping your squadron intact while making an impact
on the relentless wave of bomber formations roaring over your homeland. A short
campaign challenges you to win a single season, although you may wish to extend
it to a second or third season depending on how well you fare.
Each season represents a distinct period of the
war, as the campaign traverses the history of the air war. Bombers become more
heavily armed but so too do your own Bf109 fighters. Early seasons are
characterized by smaller formations, while seasons in the middle of the war are
notable for the lack of fighter escort. And later seasons will put the squeeze
on your squadron.
Basic and Advanced Games
In the basic game your goal is to knock bombers
out of formation, or destroy them outright. The advanced game adds “pursuit”
where you dispatch fighters to chase after and intercept bombers knocked out of
the formation. Played out on an 8.5” x 11” map depicting a single bomber,
pursuit makes the advanced game even more challenging.
The Two Player Game
You may also play this as a (un)cooperative
game. Players each command a squadron of fighters and attack a formation of
bombers together. Although players may lose together, even if they win the
campaign only one of them may be declared the victor.
one who experienced them will ever forget them – those streams of Flying
Fortresses. Suddenly we saw [them] ahead in a great swarm. I confess the sight
put me into a bit of a flap, and the others felt the same. We seemed so puny
against these four-engined giants.
we attacked from the beam."
Bekker, The Luftwaffe War Diaries
- 17” x 22” map board (double sided)
- 22” x 34” map board (double sided)
- 8.5” x 22” off-map display panel
- 8.5” x 11” pad: Pilot Roster & Staffel Log (double sided)
- two countersheets (one sheet of 1” counters; one sheet of 5/8” counters)
- one set of blocks (50 @ 1” x 1” x 1/4”)
- two sticker sheets (8.5” x 11”)
- 60 card deck of attack cards
- one tri-fold player aid (11” x 25.5”, double sided)
- two bi-fold player aids (11” x 17”, double sided)
- two pursuit maps (8.5” x 11”, double sided)
- situation manual
- ten dice (10 sided; 5 red and 5 black)
Game Designers: Jerry White and Mark Aasted