I started wargaming in 1979. At that time, the “new hotness” was Avalon Hill Battleline games. In particular, for World War II aerial combat there were just two games; Dauntless and Air Force. I own both, an actual 1977 Battleline First Edition of Dauntless (Pacific combat) and the 1977 Avalon Hill Battleline Edition of Air Force (air war over Europe). For this week’s Game of the Week I pulled out Air Force.
Looking over the game, I am immediately struck by how simple the graphics are. The box art is very appropriate for the air war in Europe, showing a formation of B-17 bombers dropping their bombs over a US Army Air Corps logo. The materials inside are very primitive. The rulebook and Airplane Data Cards all look like they were done on a typewriter. The mapboards (three sections, each folded and mounted) are plain light blue with numbered hexes. The counters come in three colors; Allies white on red, Germans white on black, and markers white on bright blue. By today’s standards, this product looks like a somewhat amatuer production.
The rulebook itself is 16-pages of two-column text. I have to remind myself that in 1977 these guys did not use computers for layout. They had to type the text and insert cut-out graphics to a master page. There are at least two different type fonts used indicating to me that when Avalon Hill took over distribution of the game there was at least some attempt to update the rules. My favorite rule may be II.C. COUNTER-SORTING TRAYS [sic]. Yup, there is a hyphen between “counter” and “sorting,” but it’s what follows that I love:
Two counter-sorting trays, included in previous editions, have been eliminated due to the petroleum crunch. Trays may be purchased from Avalon Hill while supply lasts.
Rules for the Basic Game start on page 3 and end on page 8. Optional Rules go from page 9 to 14, with Scenarios from pages 14 to 16. As I reread the rules, I kept looking for the usual Historical Commentary or Designer’s Notes. There are none to be found, which reminded me why the Avalon Hill house organ, The General, was so important (and thanks to the Internet Archive, still available).
The counters are bagged in matching small plastic ziplock bags. Similar bags are also found in my Battleline Edition of Dauntless leading me to believe these were included in both games at the time. I can’t remember for sure; maybe I bagged them all later. And speaking the counters, I now see it a a bit humorous that the aircraft silhouettes are fairly accurate, but the other counters (tanks, Flak, clouds, etc.) are a bit comical.
For my game this week, I think I am going to take the recommendation of the Basic Level Game and go with a simple 2v2 air combat. One of the recommended match-ups is Spitfire I vs. Me-109E – a classic Battle of Britain dogfight. This is also inspired in part by a recent Timeline documentary, 13 Hours that Saved Britain. Not your usual documentary as it focuses on the memories of people who were kids and youngsters on that day. Well worth your 49 minutes.