Tuesday, March 11, 2008

B-17: Military Chutes and Ladders

Now, don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed "playing" B-17 these past 25 years. But it's really a strange bird among wargames. Or even among solitaire wargames. Unlike some solitaire games it's not really a puzzle. And unlike most wargames, there aren't a lot of strategies available. Actually, there are hardly any decisions at all.

It's really more like an interactive movie or play. The player takes part, but mostly to execute lines provided by the script. Things happen to the plane and crew, but there's little they can do about it.

This is all very accurate, of course. While valiant and needing a lot of technical competence, the bomber crews of the 8th Air Force had no tactical decisions to make. Their courage was the steadfast bravery needed to stay in formation despite terror and distraction. It would be like creating a man-to-man game about Greek hoplites. Bravery was required, but tactically the overriding concern was to stay in formation.

For the B-17 crew it was much the same. The various gunners fired at the targets presented. The pilots maintained formation with the other planes. The bombardier manipulated the bombsight to drop the bombs at the proper moment. Everyone's duty required staying at their posts and doing their jobs. But almost all those jobs are simulated with die rolls with no real player input.

Like I said, I like the game and enjoy playing it, but on some level I have to admit it's much more like playing a game of Chutes and Ladders than, say, Memoir' 44, let alone being like Bitter Woods.

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