Thursday, August 30, 2007

by Friedemann de Pedro
Pilot Games

A brand new game, released only this month, “Duel in the Dark” allows gamers to recreate the WWII night bomber/fighter campaign in 1943. Even though it is advertised as a two-player game, it easily can be played by three (the German players command two night fighters each) and some are playing it with up to five! The basic rules are only 4.5 pages long with 1.5 pages of advanced rules. There is even an extensive and detailed example of a British raid on Emden. A raid can be played in about 45 minutes.
The object of the game is to score the most points. Game play begins with the German player setting up his four fighter squadrons. Weather conditions for the entire game board are determined by the random draw of a card. The British player then plots the flight path of his Lancaster squadron using a very simple use of playing cards (there are 11 target cities from Emden to Berlin). The German player then assigns 40 different defense resources in any combination he wishes (flak, searchlights, radar, fuel, fire trucks, smoke screens, barrage balloons and civil defense bunkers). Play follows with the movement of the Mosquito, the German fighters (done independently each turn) and, finally, the pre-programmed Lancaster bomber. The British player scores points by attacking the German fighter with the Mosquito (though it does not score as well against German fighters as they do against the bomber) and when the bomber hits the intended target. The German player scores points by attacking the bomber with fighters and with successful target protection. Now, the really tricky choices begin – does the Mosquito can act as a decoy, leading the night fighters away from the bomber? When should the fighters land to refuel? Should the fighters try to cover a wide area or try to guess where the bomber will be flying to gang up on it? The strategies and choices are endless!
Simply put, this game ROCKS! It is very professionally produced (the designer enlisted the help of family to sort and fill a total of 305,000 game pieces!) and sharp looking. The individual game pieces are very easy to remove without needing a hobby knife. Player aid cards area available to help scoring each turn. The beautifully colored map covers from eastern England to Berlin and Hamburg to Munich; even the opposite side of the game board has a full color drawing describing a night raid over Germany in WWII, a very nice touch! There is a minor oversight in the advanced game where one too few markers is not in the game, however, this is very easily fixed by substituting another marker (a British medal). Plans are in place to include it in the first expansion. I saved a piece of the extra cardboard and will photocopy the missing piece and use a glue stick to make the replacement. Overall, the game presentation is outstanding!
While the rules are easy to learn, the strategy is not. The game plays differently each time and is lots of fun! The game comes with sturdy cardboard plane models, but I chose to finally get some use of the planes I painted for night fighting (though I had to substitute a Ju88 for a Do217). Are there are future plans to produce plastic planes for just this purpose? It is up in the air at this point but the models really did make the game sparkle. Even though this is a brand new game, the designer already has plans for add ons, like the He219, extra flak and a four-player variant. Available through Z-man Games, there is a special flak train piece available, as well. You should check the main website ( for neat extras and free downloads. Friedemann is always receptive to suggestions and proposals. This game is another of my “gotta have it” things; I even dug out a spare Me110 and Do217 I bought years ago and never got around to painting – “Duel in the Dark” is less than a month old and already one of my favorites!
Price: $49.99
(note: the photo is of the box top, the author Friedemann outside a civil defense bunker in his town and three of the new ground defense markers - the acoustic mirror, quad flak and railway gun!)


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