Bomber Boys

Bomber Boys is a solitaire PnP game by Steven Aramini aka Mr. Sprawlopolis. If you are one of the numerous people who adore his abstract city building game, I should warn you: this is completely different, and more akin to Scott Allen Czysz's Pocket Landship. I was glad to see it was a game for me.

Bomber Boys is a dice rolling and dice allocation game with a WWII theme. You are managing the crew of an Allied aircraft during a series of air operations. To win, you have to complete each of the given missions, and each mission ends with a target that you have to bomb for a major victory. The game comes with five missions of progressive difficulty, and gameplay is based on a combination of decision making and luck.

You begin with a pool of five dice and a ten-member crew: pilots, gunners, an engineer, a bombardier, a navigator, a radio operator. Each of them fulfills a specific task: cover a specific line of sight, perform maneuvers, repair or assist in causing more damage to targets. The starting mission is the Tutorial, and each mission after that is a mix of Tutorial game cards plus mission-specific ones. You place the mission deck next to your aircraft and draw a card every turn. The cards will be either an enemy aircraft that you will have to fight, or a nasty event, or a helpful item. There are also ground air defense cards that you cannot attack but may be able to defend against.

As soon as you draw an enemy aircraft, you check two things: its initiative and its location. It is best to not let the enemy take the initiative, and try to hit them first. To do so, you have to set aside a number of dice equal to or more than the enemy initiative. So, for example, if the enemy has a 2 initiative, you may set aside 2 of your dice and roll the other 3. If you set aside more dice, you get a +1 (up to +4) bonus to your dice roll. If the enemy gets the upper hand, they get the bonus instead.

Then, you check the position of the enemy. High or low, left or right. This will define which crew members you can activate. You will roll your dice and, depending on the result, you will assign each die to the crew members who can deal damage to the enemy aircraft. If you fail to exterminate the enemy, they attack back and damage your plane. If an enemy ever hits the same spot of your plane twice, the corresponding crew member dies.

After crew members are activated, they are exhausted (turned sideways) and cannot be used again in the following turns unless you rally them back. When you draw the next card from the mission deck, you may choose to rally (restore the crew to their positions), and suffer the consequences of this delay: either execute an event, or ignore an item, or let the enemy fire without reacting.

The Tutorial mission is, as expected, the easiest one. From then on, things get quite tough. Even when you play well, you are, to an extend, at the mercy of the dice. I managed to finish the second mission twice, and twice failed to bomb the final target, even after six re-rolls! I also tried the third and the fourth mission but the boys died halfway through in both cases.

If you feel like playing a light game with an air fight theme, give it a try. It is quite challenging but also fun to play, with several 'oh, sh_t' moments when enemies pile up, and 'oh no'es' when a crew member dies. The designer posted about it on Facebook, and provided the files and a playthrough video. The rules are very clearly written, but you may prefer to see him explain it before you let your own bomber boys vanish into thin air.

#BomberBoys #Aramini