So how exactly do you launch one of Osprey Games most successful game series into the skies and maintain the balance, avoid the boredom of circling for targets and keep the strong overall deck building main mechanic? Carefully. You do it carefully. You treat it with the biggest kid gloves. After all, they launched Undaunted Stalingrad to much critical acclaim last year which presented itself as a semi legacy game that changed as you played. Undaunted Battle of Britain appears to be like the palette cleanser after such a successful meal, but shows that Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson aren’t happy to just make another version with a few changes in order to make it appear like the game is now just trucks and soldiers in the skies.
Undaunted on the ground is all about steady movement, planning out the route to attack and controlling areas and important targets. Undaunted Battle of Britain had to deal with the problem of making you feel like you were soaring the skies, continually moving and looking for that chance to get an enemy in your sights. Just like other flight games, you move from dealing on a horizontal plane to those involving altitude and direction, turning circles and maintaining contact with you squadron mate.
For those who own the other games, this isn’t going to feel too dissimilar, you still have your deck that your are playing from, a supply that you are trying to bolster from and a hand of cards that decides your fate. From the off you are sacrificing cards to gain the initiative and be the first player. Your cards are based around squadrons and communications. One has a direct effect on the the planes movements and attacks while the others are all about support. Command actions will have you drawing cards into your hands, the familiar bolster moving cards from the supply in to the discard pile for future use. Guide and Inspire allow you to take actions for your units if they don’t have cards you can play for them on that turn. Coordinate allows you to remove a Discord card from your hand.
Fresh out the oven, Discord smells delicious, like freshly baked honey oat cookies. Discord is what happens when you decide that your specially partnered up squadron needs to split up to carry out a pincer manoeuvre and you’re feeling smart until you need to play your next action and you can’t because there’s a communications symbol and now you have to take a delicious discord card into your discard pile. When you draw that card on your next shuffle you can’t do anything with it. It sits there doing nothing but be a hand filler, which is huge when you’re only allowed a hand size of four cards. It’s brilliant because sometimes you need to make those choices and if you don’t time it correctly and get back into formation then you are quite literally sowing the seeds of struggle into your future deck.
Combat isn’t too different from previous titles, with range and cover still being taken into account, but plane tokens can share the same air space even if they are from different sides. You need to get up close and personal to give yourself a fighting chance as rolling tens no longer give you automatic success, especially if there are other planes between you can your target, or the distance is just that little bit too far. The allies have access to anti aircraft actions and the axis can go on bombing runs, so now we have extra problems to contend with and then you’re both not paying attention and you accidentally crash into a barrage balloon that wipe you out while you are making that oh so clever manoeuvre.
Don’t worry about placing balloons, targets and objectives because just like it’s predecessors, Battle of Britain comes with a range of scenarios based around events that occurred in WWII that you can set up thanks to the interlocking hexagonal tile system. Which then gives you the chance to use your own imagination to set up your own scenarios if you want to after you have played the main campaign, and give the chance for Osprey to release other scenarios online without the need to create physical copies.
Once again Roland Macdonald has knocked it out of the park with the illustrations which maintain the look you are accustomed to in the Undaunted universe and keep the information clear while you play. Once again adding to the watercolour aesthetic that permeates the rest of the series so far.
You may have guessed buy now that I’m fairly impressed with what Battle of Britain offers, but let me tell you what swung it for me from being a good game to one that will see the table again and again.
Tension. There’s a real sense of tension around the game which comes from a couple of areas. Firstly the supply deck. It sits there like a shop window tempting you about what you could have at your disposal, but it also tells your opponent what you don’t have in your hand, deck or discord pile. It’s a reminder to be balancing between bolstering and actual action and it acts like a ticking time bomb, as once you lose one member of a squadron you remain constantly out of communication and therefore not able to take the bolster action.
Secondly, with a hand of only four cards every turn, sometimes you won’t be able to take an action with one of your planes. There are cases where you line up the perfect counter attack only to draw a hand on your next turn that doesn’t allow you to fulfil and so you need to take other measures instead or use an inspire move just to allow you to move forward slightly and keep yourself out of danger. Normally in games of a similar ilk, you’ll always be able to take some kind of action but just need to wait your turn in the activation queue. To be prevented from taking an action with some of your units in Battle of Britain is both refreshing and terrifying at the same time, especially when the damage is measured by the removal of cards from your active deck. It further demonstrates how much David and Trevor have honed the Undaunted system.
Undaunted: Battle of Britain manages to take the existing enjoyable Undaunted system and transfer it into the skies in a game that manages to create a sense of tension and tactics from a series of tokens. This is vehicle combat with cards that works well and provides an immersive flying by the seat of your pants experience. If you have the other games in the Undaunted series, then this is a must add. If you’ve been shooting in space or skirmishing at sea and you’re looking for something to add to your collection that offers a fresh take, then Battle of Britain is certainly worth a look. Outstanding.
While its exciting to go on the offensive, forgetting to bolster will kill your victory chances dead in later rounds.
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
The majority of the games that we are play are going to take a reasonable number of sessions and playthroughs to fully understand every possibility that they offer. We hope this write up gives you an idea of whether or not this game is something that you will consider playing or even add to your collection. Our Six Degrees of Expectation have been written to make it easier for you to find out what is important to you as a player. Even if we don’t like something, hopefully it helps you to decide if it is something that you should find out more about. We always suggest you check out a gameplay video to give you a better understanding of the game as it is played.