This review was originally published on BGG at this Link:
Basic information: Designed by Erik von Rossing, Lock ‘n Load Publishing, 2017.
Overall Evaluation: “A Wing and a Prayer” is the upgraded and published version of the PnP game “B-17 Bomber Squadron: A Solitaire Game of the WWII Daylight Bombing Campaign over Europe” (Berserker Games). What do I mean by “upgraded and published”? Lock ‘n Load worked with the designer to prepare the PnP components for a more professional release as a published boxed game within their lineup. Upgraded graphics, easy to follow updated rules which include improved aerial combat procedures, large die-cut counters, and great player aids make this game an enjoyable experience. The result is simply a great solo game made even better. I don’t say this lightly...I am honestly a fan of this game.
I wrote a review and mission report of the original PnP version of this game so I don’t want to repeat myself again although some aspects of that review will naturally appear here as well. Those who are interested can read those at the BGG home page for the game. The review offers a little more on game mechanics/sequence; the mission report transfers well between the games. I want to concentrate now on what is new with the Lock ‘n Load release of “A Wing and a Prayer” and why I think the game is even better than in my previous review. Also, this review will briefly place the game into perspective with the other recently released B-17 solo games.
Background Theme: The game simulates B-17 and B-24 missions of the American bomber campaign against Germany during World War II. This campaign began in August 1942 with B-17 raids over France, progressed to B-17 and B-24 missions over Germany until the conclusion of the war. The sub-title of the game is “Bombing the Reich” with all of the missions designated against targets in Germany as well as occupied countries of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
What is new with Lock ‘n Load’s “A Wing and a Prayer”?: Well...where do I begin?
1.Increased bomber options: The game now offers the B-17F, B-17G, B-24G, and B-24H aircraft.
2. Large die cut counters: The rounded (not round) counters with “A Wing and a Prayer” are thick, die-cut, and large 1-inch pieces. Graphics on the counters are excellent drawings or period photographs.
3. Enhanced Mission Cards: The mission cards are now...well…”mission cards” printed in color on good quality card stock and well illustrated with period B/W photographs of the air war.
4.Enhanced Strategic Map: The strategic map is printed on card stock, well illustrated, and includes useful tracks for fighter escorts and turn sequence. It also includes “boxes” to hold upcoming and completed mission cards.
5. Enhanced and new Player Aids: The player aids (printed on 11x17 inch cardstock in color and some with period photographs) include Victory Point compilation and tracking, Play Sequence, various combat tables, and available resource tables. My favorite -- the large bomber formation “card”. The title of this aid is “Formation Card” which I think is a misnomer because it is much larger than what one might imagine as a “card” but is also an 11x17 inch cardstock aid. This is essentially the tactical combat formation area with locations to place up to 12 bombers of the squadron, areas for friendly and enemy fighters, and a handy spot for the cloud cover counter.
6. Rewritten Rules: The rules were rewritten to follow a more “paragraph-subparagraph” format of Lock ‘n Load. Rules are clearer, illustrated, and include examples. Rule changes for the game include a modification to the aerial combat sequence.
7. More Fun: The component and rules enhancements make this a fun game to play.
8. A Box: While I am perfectly happy with folio style packaging, I understand there are many gamers who prefer their games to be boxed. I admit they do sit well in bookshelves and look better than my PnP copy of “B-17 Squadron” stored inside a manila folder. The game is now in a well-illustrated box.
9. Two-Player Option: Optional rules to shift the game from solo to two-player (one the bomber squadron commander and one the German Luftwaffe commander).
Issues with the New Game Treatment: AKA - nothing in life is perfect.
1.My game includes Rules 2.1. Nothing is perfect and Lock ‘n Load has released version 2.2 at their website and on BGG which offers clarifications to gameplay.
2.There are a couple typos of city names on the strategic map (For example, two should be “Abbeville” and “Stuttgart”). While I would prefer the cities to have correctly spelled names...it certainly does not impact gameplay and I am not going to make a pen and ink change on my map.
How Does “A Wing and a Prayer” fit into the game world? In other words, why is this game worth acquiring if a gamer has another B-17 solo game?
“A Wing and a Prayer” entered the gaming world right after the release of “B-17 Flying Fortress Leader” (DVG) and “Target for Today” (Legion Wargames). The following is my personal opinion and it is not my intention to begin a debate on how the games compare. It is my intention to simply offer a personal comparison of these games for those who might be confused on the release of three separate games on the bomber campaign in a short time span.
All three are good solo games. However, owning one should not automatically preclude a gamer from ignoring the others. Each looks at a different “level of analysis” of the bomber campaign. “Target for Today” is a “one bomber” game with the player following the flight of a single bomber down to the individual crew member level. “B-17 Flying Fortress Leader” is the most strategic of the three games and places the player in the role of the commander of multiple bomber Groups. In “A Wing and a Prayer” the player is a Squadron commander. Without going into details, each takes a different look at the bomber campaign...individual bomber, a single squadron of up to 12 bombers, multiple Bomber Groups.
This leads me to explain why I am such a big fan of “A Wing and a Prayer” while still enjoying the other two games (Well...look at all the aviation games on my avatar…). As a Squadron level game, “A Wing and a Prayer” provides the gamer with the opportunity to make decisions at the Squadron Level -- Bomber availability, crew assignments, route selection, escort coordination, escort decision making in aerial combat etc. OK...the last three were technically not the duty of a Squadron commander but the game allows that decision making. During bombing and aerial combat, the player has all of his/her individual bombers arranged in a squadron formation (loose, tight, high, low, lead and/or tail elements. Aerial combat is plane-to-plane on the formation chart. While aerial combat is a bit abstract, it works well (bombers staying in a formation while being hit by fighters) and provides a ‘gut-wrenching’ view of the Squadron formation under attack by German fighters...and perhaps under some protection from escort fighters. What happens during the mission impacts the next mission. Do you have to return to the target due to poor bombing results? Impact of a hard mission on individual bomber availability and/or crew experience?
Replay Value: Excellent. Your type of aircraft; type of mission; the number of escorts; target location; enemy opposition; and any number of events along the flight path are random and two games will never be exactly the same. Even two encounters between the same number and types of aircraft will differ. I conducted a replayability test and flew back-to-back missions to the same target with the same number and type of aircraft. Completely different events and results. Excellent replayability.
Evaluation: Overall, I think Lock ‘n Load has a winner with this game. Kudos for keeping its basic format which allows the game to offer a different aspect of the bomber campaign from other games.
Bang for the Buck: Excellent. Lots of replay value for those who like solitaire gaming (or even two-player with the optional rules) and lots of detail for those who like that aspect. Yet, the game is manageable and not complex.
Hey Lock ‘n Load -- I highly recommend you take a look at “Aces of Valor” (Berserker Games) for a similar upgrade and publication. As an aviation game enthusiast, I find that game fits a unique niche in WWI solo gaming and I’m ready to put on my goggles and grab the stick on a published copy of it.
The Swamp Hamster
A Wing and a Prayer: Bombing the Reich Review
“A Wing and a Prayer” is the upgraded and published version of the PnP game “B-17 Bomber Squadron: A Solitaire Game of the WWII Daylight Bombing Campaign over Europe” (Berserker Games). What do I mean by “upgraded and published”? Lock ‘n Load worked with the designer to prepare the PnP components for a more professional release as a published boxed game within their lineup. Upgraded graphics, easy to follow updated rules which include improved aerial combat procedures, large die-cut counters, an