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Campaign contrasts - Battle of Britain II and Cliffs of Dover Blitz Edition

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For one reason or another, I've found myself running single player RAF campaigns in parallel in these two Battle of Britain sims. As indeed you may have noticed, from recent mission reports. So I thought it might be moderately amusing to describe where I've got to in each, side by side. And share some more of my thoughts - for whatever they may be worth - on their respective merits, based now on a little more than first impressions. Starting with Battle of Britain II - Wings of Victory.

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It's the morning of 18th July 1940. Watching 'the plot' on the campaign map, I hear the a WAAF announce that a new raid is forming, over northern France. Time acceleration automatically slows from 300x to 20x and I watch the raid's marker nudge its way north, towards the Thames Estuary. As it comes, its size is revised upwards to seventy-plus and I can see at once that its likely target is either of two convoys, one off Felixstowe, the other further north near Great Yarmouth. Both are protected by a single fighter patrol, in squadron strength, put up by the campaign AI. The raid drifts past the Felixstowe convoy and I accept AI recommendations to scramble three squadrons to intercept it. Confirmation comes that Convoy Weasel, up off Great Yarmouth, is the likely target. In the meantime, the intercepting squadrons have been tracking across from the west and Douglas Bader's 242 Squadron is the first to report spotting the bandits. BoB2 asks me if I want to fly this mission and I accept, choosing to fly as Green 3, in one of the rearmost 3-plane vics in 242. The mission loads, and I find myself in Hurricane LE-L, at just over 16,000 feet, now heading nearly due south.

Up ahead is the enemy - some of them, anyway. There look to be about thirty of them. They're not contrailing, so it's hard to work out their heading. You can just about make them out, right of top centre, in the pic below.

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From up ahead and to my left, Douglas Bader is saying something important on the blower, but I'm more interested in what the rest of the formation is now doing. Wings are waggling nervously and I'm suddenly concerned about keeping in formation. I'm also thinking, this was supposed to be seventy plus, where are the rest of the Germans?

The answer isn't long in coming.

Suddenly we are swamped by a shower of Messerschmitt 110s, which fall on us from above. I pull up and around in an effort to avoid being shot down, and maybe even come around onto their tails. In doing so, I realise I'm on my own and have lost the others - in such a situation, it seems to be each man for himself.

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I look up briefly to see if it's clear above me, before coming back down after the 110s.  I get another shock. Waves of aircraft, which could only be Huns, are sailing past up there. The lower ones might be Ju88s; the paler ones above them could be more escorts. Others again, I can only see by their contrails. Crikey!!!

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If only the bloody Controller had told us to put on a bit more height, we would not be in this mess, bounced by 110s with the rest of the raid now having a clear run to the convoy. We can only hope that having stripped away some of the escorts, other squadrons will manage to get the bombers before they get the ships.

Did anybody buy it in that first pass? No time to worry about that now. I roll over onto my back and go down, after the Messerschmitts.

...to be continued!

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Now, that's what I call a dogfight!

'We've been bounced!'  I said it again to myself. In all these years playing combat flightsims, how often has a formation I've been flying in, tootling along doing its own thing, actually been bounced by another one? Not very often, I think - I can't even remember the last time, certainly not one as convincing, sudden and scary as this. Kudos to BoB2!

Back in character, I level out and come around after the 110s. I spot a pair on their own and go for them - not the one in the pic below, the one behind him whom you can't see under my nose. What you can see, top/centre left of pic, is the tail end of the aerial armada we'd failed to intercept, sailing on its merry way to a bomb-laden rendezvous with Convoy Weasel. Bugger!

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I have a rattle at the 110 but get no hits before he rolls over and goes down. So I chase the leader for a bit, with similar results. Lighter by several hundred rounds but not in mood, I open her up and race over to join the main party, which is in full swing. Like I said in the header, now that's what I call a dogfight, and you can see only part of it here.

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At this point, things get a bit confused. I think maybe I should try to join up with another Hurricane and cover his tail for a bit (poaching his kills never crossed my mind, honest!). But instead, I fall in with this fellow.

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He throws his big machine about quite skilfully when he sees my tracers, but I definitely get hits from at least two bursts. The Messerschmitt suddenly slows up. I chop the throttle to avoid overshooting but he sideslips to the right, rolls over and dives away.

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Despite the lack of smoke or fire, I'm sure I've done him at least some damage and am content to see him go down, out of the fight. The latter still requires my presence, I decide. I'm not going to desert the team to chase down a damaged Hun for the sake of a confirmed kill.

Any doubts that I have done the right thing are swept away when I see a 110 on the tail of a Hurricane. Throttle fully open again, I roll right and race across to cut off the Hun. I realise almost immediately that I'm not going to make it in time, so I nose up and hose the sky ahead of the Messerschmitt. This shower of 'indirect fire' has no effect at first. But as I get a little closer, I get a reaction - the 110 breaks off his attack and dives away.

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At the cost of what must be most of my ammo, I've missed one good chance at a kill but possibly saved a friend's bacon. I'm happy with that. For shame, you virtual pilots who treat your AI squadron-mates as mere bait!

Feeling moderately pleased with myself, and emboldened by the fact that I've so far not been attacked myself, I start looking for something to shoot down.

...to be continued!

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The Magic Roundabout, Messerschmitt style!

A bit lower down, I notice another pair of 110s, playing follow-the-leader. So for the second time, I decide to have a pop at the number two.

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This time I get some good hits! I last see my target slipping seawards, trailing a distinct cloud of grey smoke. 

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In doing all this I have lost sight of his leader, who might well have decided to repay me in kind. So I break off and put some distance between myself and the fighting. Best get clear of that, before I make my next move.  It would be all to easy to pick up an unwanted companion in that confusing swarm of planes going in all directions.

But not everybody is going in all directions. Several of the 110s seem to be going around in a wide ring, one astern of the other. Like they are trying to form one of those defensive circles, sometimes known as Lufberries after the US WW1 ace. John Weal, in Osprey's 110 aces book, says this was developed early on by I (Zerstorer) Gruppe, Lehrgeschwader 1 and adopted as a standard tactic well before the Battle of Britain.  This ring isn't fully formed but that's what it looks like the 110s are trying to do.

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They seem to be spiralling downwards as they go, slipping into and out of cloud. Again, I try a bit of 'devil take the hindmost' and am surprised to find I've come out of the clouds quite close to the surface of the water, with the waves now clearly visible.

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The chap I'm going for breaks up and away when I cut loose, and of course I go after him, firing again as my sights come on. He's taking us both away from his friends and that's a good thing.

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After a few bursts, not unexpectedly, my ammo runs out! I get below the Messerschmitt's tail, out of the field of fire of his gunner, and he levels out, perhaps having lost sight of me. He'd have made a terrific target if only I had the rounds left! BoB2 retains the Rowan original cheat keys to reload, get out of a spin and levitate five hundred feet, but naturally I scorn such things. Hey, I even play with on-screen aids turned off, as you can see from the fact I don't have the little peripheral vision icons around the edges of my screenshots. Need I add that immersion-killer Youtube videos with the likes of these turned on, are a pet dislike. 

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The Hun seems to be on his way home, so I let him go when he reaches some clouds. I break off with one eye over my shoulder, in case he changes his mind, but he doesn't. Now what to do? I'm tempted to fly home, but find I'm suffering from a heady and thoroughly dangerous sense of invincibility. I mightn't be able to knock down any of the enemy, but perhaps I can still make myself useful to the squadron, practice my air fighting technique if not my shooting, and maybe even scare off a few more Huns. So I pull up and around in a spiral climb and head back into the air above nearest fight I can make out. As you can see, this particular party is still in full swing.

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After a few minutes of partying happily with these people,  I come out of some cloud quite low again, and see a 110 ditched on the sea.

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A short time after that, I find myself chasing off another solitary Messerschmitt. The fight seems to be evaporating and it's look like everyone's had enough. The R/T chatter settles down and I hear the boss order a reform.

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Looking around for the others, I see a group of specks to the north, heading inland and apparently closing up. This looks like 242.

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However, just to be sure, I call them up, only to be told that they are several miles to the west. So I bank left and go after them, heading back to Coltishall, our base in 12 Group's area of operations. When I get there, I see a squadron formed up on the grass. I land without making too many bumps in front of this audience, and turn around as I come to a stop next to them. At this point, I realise that they are in fact a different mob, engines running and looking like they're ready to be off any second. I'm suddenly glad that I didn't land directly in front of them. Code 'GN' actually belongs to 249 Squadron, home of VC winner Flying Officer JB 'Nick' Nicholson and of Pilot Officer Tom 'Ginger' Neil, whose BoB memoir, 'Gun Button to Fire', I am presently reading. Which book tells me that 249 was based further north, at Church Fenton, at this time. Their presence here at Coltishall can be explained by the fact that BoB2's campaign AI rotates squadrons into and out of quiet sectors as deemed necessary. 

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So instead of 242 getting to watch me land, I get to watch them come in.

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This next screen is rather cluttered because I have opened three information windows. But it illustrates the situation at about the end of the morning's fighting. 242's Squadron Diary on the right shows that we are claiming three 110s destroyed and the same again damaged, in return for a pilot and his Hurricane lost, and three damaged. Considering we were bounced at the start, it's perhaps not too bad a result. Overall, Fighter Command losses are high and only a little lower than those we believe we've inflicted.

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I'll save further comment until I've covered the most recent missions I've flown in Cliffs of Dover Blitz Edition - that's up here next!

...to be continued!

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I haven't had BoB2 installed since I migrated to this computer to let my son have my former PC. You are making me thing about installing it again. It provides many experiences that few if any sims have ever provided.

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20 hours ago, streakeagle said:

I haven't had BoB2 installed since I migrated to this computer to let my son have my former PC. You are making me thing about installing it again. It provides many experiences that few if any sims have ever provided.

Ain't that last bit true, and so sad too. 'They don't make 'em like that any more' isn't just nostalgia - they don't! When I get a chance, having seen Sky High's post, I'm going to make a fresh install of European Air War, get it looking like in his screenshots, and see if it can still give me half the buzz it did all those years back. EAW2 I guess we'll never see - SF2-WW2 has a promising base sim but too far to go, and my hopes that WotR would finally be that thing have been dashed by what I've seen and read about the first instalment. Perhaps when it adds more theatres, the variety will begin to outweigh the limitations I'm seeing now in the BoB phase, but they badly need bigger and tighter bomber formations, and the Jaeger operating in something more like gruppe strength by default, right now. Interaction with ground control is another sine qua non for anything that has you flying in an air defense role. CloD falls short in a lot of ways but at least it tries to do that.

All the more reason I'm glad to be getting into BoB2 at long last!

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Meanwhile, back over [the] Cliffs of Dover...

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Spoiler alert - I've no reason to believe CloD's stock RAF campaign missions play out even slightly different each time around, so this may spoil, diminish or otherwise mar your own enjoyment thereof.

I’m not sure how far I’ve got in CloD’s RAF campaign  - from which the screenshot above is NOT taken; it's just an illustration of the eponymous cliffs. :)  But the seven missions played so far have taken me to mid-August, starting from when I've forgotten. The scripted missions are heavily story-driven. But the story itself has only a very passing resemblance to that of the real Battle of Britain. Unlike the campaign I’m playing in BoB2 - and for that matter unlike the campaign in Il2 Battle of Stalingrad. While not much loved in its original incarnation, the latter was at least well founded in, and duly respectful of, the historical progression of the battle in which the sim is set.

In short, CloD started me off as a new arrival in a squadron – aka the Fat Cats - in which all but my flight leader are posh rich people who look down on the rest of humanity, fellow fighter pilots included. This seems to be a somewhat crude, socialist pastiche of the real 501 ‘millionaires’ Squadron. A sergeants mess/officer’s mess scenario would have been a bit more credible, if 1C really felt it proper or even immersive to offer us some sort of half-baked post-Soviet commentary on 1940s British society. They made an effort, I'll given them that. And treating the Battle as a series of episodes (represented by scripted missions) is actually a good way of representing things. Just not these particular episodes. So far, anyway.

Judging from early reviews, this campaign is the one that shipped with the original, buggy release. At least many of the bugs seem to have been fixed since then.

Anyhow, here’s the back story to Mission 6. This time, it’s an air start, as you can see. It has the usual issues like 'Sir' being used on the radio and loose terminology ('10th Sector' presumably means '10 Group', and 'both your wingmen' should be 'your section'). But at least they use the right Proword for an unidentified aircraft. And apostrophes are at last where they should be - yay!!!

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The mission loads with my kindred spirit flight leader, Pickett, taking us down to investigate the floatplane the briefing records me as having spotted over the Channel - all of six miles away. When I look around, the Bogey is actually nowhere to be seen - unless perhaps you have labels turned on, which I don’t think you can do in-flight. Fair enough for map icons, but labels? What were they thinking? Anyhow, this isn’t a problem, for Picket seems to have a very modern radar set tucked away somewhere in his Hurricane. Either that, or he can see labels even when they're turned off. He he leads us straight to the Bogey, for what seems quite a long way.

We go straight into attacking what turns out to be a big Heinkel 115 floatplane, flying at low level. One of Fighter Command’s first WW2 actions (if you exclude the blue-on-blue Battle of Barking Creek) was against a bunch of these in the North Sea, on an anti-shipping sweep. At this later point in time, an air-sea rescue Heinkel 59 biplane would be more realistic – there was a bit of controversy over these originally white-painted, Red Cross-marked floatplanes, when the RAF decided not to confer them immunity as they were liable to report anything they had seen.

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As usual the R/T comes to life with various messages, usually a combination of advice and orders, presumably scripted and duly triggered. I killed the original window which displayed this and replaced it with one using much a smaller, less obtrusive font. Pickett orders us to attack ‘one at a time’ and I go in last. I get some return fire but no hits, while adding some to those the others already got on the Hun.

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Interestingly, the Hun looks to have the slightly bluer finish carried by Luftwaffe maritime aircraft, colours 72 and 73 instead of 70 and 71, if I recall right.

Presumably watched over by the rest of the squadron, we rinse and repeat.

During my last attack, the rear gunner is no longer shooting back...

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... and as I break I see a couple of chutes pop open in the Heinkel’s wake...

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The floatplane flies on for a bit in a wide arc, slowly losing altitude and right wing slightly down.

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Then it hits the water and tears off one float. A bit further on, it hits again and this time sort of cartwheels rather oddly on the surface, throwing up some spray.

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I try to relocate the others but lacking Pickett’s magic radar set, fail to see anyone else. At all. So I fly around the Heinkel’s wreck, which sits rather far out of the water and for as long as I watch it, shows no sign of either sinking or de-spawning.

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Finally, I head back north to our airfield at Tangmere. The only radio command in the menu which I definitely know works is the ability to ask Control for a bearing to your base; communications with others in your squadron seem either absent, or present but often broken, even if you are a leader.

As I near the coast, I hear others asking for permission to land. If there was an order given to return to base, I missed it – which is quite possible as my new font size for R/T messages is a bit small and the audio is often barely audible even set at full volume. I’ll need to increase the font size a bit, if not to its former dominant proportions.

As I cross the coast, I am actually able at last to see some other planes, in the air over Tangmere, as black specks - you can see one of them to the right of my armoured glass windshield, just below the horizon. The grass airfield is just below him, I think.

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I ask for permission to land twice and am denied, twice. So that’s another radio option which does work. Getting impatient, I make a nearly straight-in approach when I see the coast is clear, and while I am caught out for a while by the rather silly need to tap the 'V' key twice to start lowering my flaps, I get away with it.

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Some of the others are already down. Despite the grass, and the textures being set high I think, you can see the angular pools of green on the ground textures, close up. Not sure if this is avoidable, though it's not especially (if at all) noticeable except in screenshots.

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I manage to avoid the lunatic in a small truck who is racing about in crazy circles, playing dodgems with a parked Tiger Moth at one point. Sarnt Major! Get that airman's number!

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The statistics screen credits me with damaging the floatplane, failing to record that it was destroyed...maybe an R-boat came out from France to tow it all the way back. :) It's not really clear to me whether this is your own statistics, or the mission statistics, or both. If there’s a logbook where I can review my overall record, I haven’t found it yet.

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Before boring you with a summary of my current views on how CloD and BoB2 compare as Battle of Britain sims, I'll bring this post up to date with the last mission I've flown in this campaign.

...to be continued!

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Fat Cat finale

I didn’t get a pic of the mission briefing for number 7, but clearly recall that it was a squadron scramble to intercept a force of Me109s reported to be coming in from the east. We were to take off and fly a reciprocal course of 090, to get them. Simple enough, though from what I’ve read, not a terribly realistic representation of how daylight ground-controlled interception worked.

We take off from Tangmere on a grass runway facing roughly south. My fight leader, the affable Picket, seems always to be first off, with me and the other Hurricane in his own section either side of him. And he leads the formation in the air, too. Again, not quite right. Maybe 1C didn’t care, or maybe there was a problem making the player take off in the middle of an AI formation.

I get a surprise when Picket ignores the briefing’s instruction to fly due east and starts climbing straight ahead, to the south, out over the Channel. I’m tempted to engage autopilot to help stay in formation, but the last time I did that, my AI self caught up just fine, but then collided with the boss. I thought autopilots weren’t supposed to do such things but I now know better, for CloD anyway.

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So I sort of hang about to the left and low of the others as they climb steadily in a reasonably neat, not too spread out formation of three-plane vics. Like BoB2, CloD doesn’ seem to model the gradual adoption by the RAF of less restrictive formations, as the Battle developed.

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CloD doesn’t seem to suffer from the sometimes rather visible ‘level of detail’ transitions you see in many other sims. This might be because you can see nothing until other aircraft are quite close, and then the poor antialiasing hides any transitions until you are close enough to be able to recognise the aircraft type.

Roughly about the time the jiggly-jaggly plane speck thingies appear up ahead, somebody comes on the blower, reporting them. Apart from the strictly Hollywood 'There they are, men!' the radio chatter isn't actually too bad, as a representation of the exercise of command and control. But BoB2 uses the correct terminology - the 109s would be described as 'Snappers', not 'enemy fighters'. The pic illustrates my reduced-size text, and the fact I haven't worked out yet how to limit it to displaying one line only. I did manage to set its properties so if doesn't hang around as long as the previous, much larger text did, so there's that.

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The Huns fan out as we meet more or less head on. I'm not conscious of anyone actually shooting. Instead my attention is distracted by a serious outbreak of verbal diarrhea. It's made worse by the fact that the stupid and pointless messages are in anachronistic Top Gun speak that no self respecting 1940s RAF pilot would use, even if they understood it. Sadly, my impression is that CloD Blitz is locked down to modding, such that it's not possible for average users to eliminate this tripe. Hence also no swastikas on the Luftwaffe planes.

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More R/T chatter comes before I can fire an aimed shot. It seems the mission script has decided very quickly what the result is, so it becomes pretty clear, pretty quickly that my contribution is already meaningless.

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Next thing you know, the Fat Cats are all heading home, in a ragged bunch, with the boss calling me back into formation. Not that anyone's in formation yet - you can just about make out some of them in the pic below. I don't really like using zoom in this situation, even if it's the only way (short of turning your air battle into a display of flying labels) to compensate for display limitations. Maybe that's just me.

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At this point, Control comes up with a warning of enemy planes. You get this from time to time. At random times, possibly. At least the chaps in the ops rooms are represented in CloD, though at this stage the message seems to have been rather overtaken by events. More interestingly, I notice a 109 passing by on my right. He could easily have crept up on me but either he's badly lost, deserting or hunting the others in preference to Yours Truly.

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Of course, I slip in behind him and let him have it. His evasive efforts are not wildly bad and my shooting is poor. I leave him heading for France clearly in some distress. Meanwhile, my fellow Fat Cats are on the air, being talked down to landings.

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The stats screen credited me with the 109, with no other aircraft - on either side! - recorded as so much as damaged. Truly, CloD moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.

Well, there you have it. You can probably gather that I'm not very impressed with CloD as a Battle of Britain-based flight sim. To call a spade a shovel, NO such product set in the Battle should make such a poor job of recreating that setting. 'Merlinadequate?' comes to mind, the thought evidently planted in the mind of Rock Paper Shotgun's Tim Stone by his first encounters with a more recent sim of the Battle, Wings Over The Reich.

And yet...

If you can enjoy Cliffs of Dover Blitz Edition for what it does well, fair enough. What it does well is I think summed up best in one of the original reviews of CloD, on PC Gamer - written as I just noticed by the very same Tim Stone. He observed that CloD was really rather good, if you could but look upon it as a virtual museum, filled with lovely-looking and sounding flyable warbirds which you could pay as much for individually as FS add-ons. With the bonus of a bunch of missions and a decent map to play them on. And if it's multiplayer you're after, it's a whole different ball game.

While this isn't even a potted review, if it was, I'd likely give CloD in its current form about three stars out of five. There's a lot of effort put in, across a lot of areas, but the results are uneven - like the Curate's Egg, it is good, in parts.

Mission 7 finished with the script having me ask for, and getting, a transfer to a Spitfire squadron. Is this were I meet that infamous, immersion-killing companion, 'Spitfire girl'? Even so, I'm playing on. I've got a Battle of Britain sim which ticks pretty well all the boxes, so as a stocking filler, I can still get a certain amount of enjoyment flying CloD. And of course, if multiplayer is you thing, CloD's balance sheet looks very different indeed.

The sim which ticks pretty well all the boxes is of course Battle of Britain II - Wings of Victory. It ain't perfect. Some players have issues with results in the pilot campaigns. Twice, I have been close to and seemingly ignored by a formation of 109s. Ju88s don't ever dive-bomb, apparently. BoB2's formations can move a bit unevenly, when they change direction. But far, far better to have formations which are realistic 90% of the time and impressive, 100%, than ones which are realistic or impressive 0% of the time - too small, too spaced out, and too prone to breaking up despite (or perhaps because of) their supposed more individualistic AI. 

Apart from some (and only some) aspects of the visuals, Rowan's Battle of Britain in the form of its A2A/BDG successor does just about everything so much better than Cliffs of Dover, and knocks the spots straight off it as a sim of the Battle.

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Footnote - Adler Tag

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I only just realised that the stock CloD Luftwaffe campaign - Adler Tag - is not more of the same when I read its intro. Which provides just that information. No [contrived] backstory here, 'just history' is the bold claim. All the Luftwaffe missions are precisely recreated historical ones, presented as three mini-campaigns, flying the Bf109, then the Bf110, then the Stuka. Numbers of aircraft have been reduced a bit to make them playable for those like me with lesser systems. How thoughtful! Perhaps I've been a bit hasty in my judgement of CloD?

The first mission, set on 10 July at the start of the Battle, turns out to be for a staffel from I/JG51 tasked to escort one of the bombers flying Channel recce, looking out for naval action worth attacking. My role is not entirely clear - my 109 is not at the head of the pack for take-off, although it carries the double chevron of a gruppe kommandeur. Black with white outline might have been more realistic, though otherwise the unit markings and camouflage colours (71/02/65) and pattern look authentic, complete with individually-numbered Messerschmitts. Not sure though that JG51 carried the yellow identification marking so early in the Battle -Michael Payne in 'Bf109 - Into the battle' says this started to appear in mid-August. And of course, we are not permitted to have swastikas, or even to have a mod which applies them.

The mission starts well enough, with a decent line up on our grass field at the Pas de Calais, across the Channel from Dover. I say 'grass', but the latter is not present in the pic below, perhaps because I paused the action for the picture.

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It all starts to go a bit Pete Tong after that. There's a lot of cloud about and I get separated. I check the map but despite having turned the map path back on, it's not there so I have no idea where the RV with the bomber is. I resort to autopilot, and after quite a long flight out to the west, notice some ragged specks to my left front. We slowly converge, but even zoomed in, the specks could be almost any type of aircraft. I have been experimenting with settings to reduce the 'jagglies' but without much luck as you can see from my radio cable.

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As I close with the others - for happily they are my staffel - it really goes seriously t*ts up. There's a radio warning of Spitfires, but nothing can be seen, neither the enemy nor the bomber we're supposed to meet. And no visible reaction from the others. Next, something happens to my aircraft, which sort of shudders a little and loses power. There's no sign at all of enemy action - no Spits, no damage visible on my machine. I wonder if turning off autopilot left some engine setting in a dangerous condition. I had turned on CEM in the last RAF campaign to confirm that it produced negative-G cut out in Merlins - which it does, as well as confirming that the developers made a really, utterly crass design decision, in tying that effect to that setting. At the same time, one of the 109s up front breaks off, there's some R/T chatter, and I'm told 'mission failed'. Just like that!

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Oil splashes up onto my windscreen...

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..and I turn south for the French coast, passing a small unescorted convoy. A study of my instruments might have told me what had gone wrong, but at this stage I had ceased to care.

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Via the rather awkward expedient of pausing the action (or turning on autopilot and taking your chances) and then hitting F10 (to toggle off mouse camera control) you can mouse-click the screen and bring up a little menu which lets you change viewpoint to other objects. Doing this, I can see that the rest of the staffel flies on, entirely unconcerned by what just happened. Whatever that was.

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At the same time, a flight of four 74 Squadron Spitfires is crossing the English coast from the Channel. They must have shot down the Dornier recce plane (whose loss is confirmed in the stats screen). Possibly, without anyone seeing this; certainly, without anyone doing anything at all about it.

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Is the mission broken, or did I miss a trigger or something that would have made it work? I have no idea. I'm not going to start turning on aircraft icons on the map just so I can see things I ought to be able to see in the 3d world, but can't. I certainly can't seem to rely on the AI spotting and attacking targets. I may fly it one more time to see if I can work it out. Or move on try a few of the others, in the hope they are less frustrating. But from this admittedly very limited evidence, the CloD Luftwaffe campaign is looking like a promising concept, killed by poor implementation. I'm not quite ready to apply that assessment to the product as a whole, but for now, I am sticking to my aforementioned lukewarm opinion of the sim.

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It's unfortunate that swastikas are unavailable, even through the use of mods. Rather irrational, hypocritical virtue-signalling as if this kind of censorship ranks as the equivalent of the efforts of the real human beings who risked their skins fighting against what this symbol represents.

Is it surprising that such confused priorities should lead to other errant design decisions? When political correctness takes precedence over historical accuracy, it is inevitable that the latter will also be disregarded elsewhere.

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Yes, that's one of my pet hates as well. I'm old enough to recall the original Revell 1/72 FW190A, which had a normal cross decal on the fin and whose 1960s instruction sheet said 'The markings on your model are not historically accurate. Portrayal of the accurate markings would not be in keeping with the spirit of Democracy.'  Nowadays even Germany has I think legalised swastikas in such usage, so where is this coming from in CloD Blitz? A Russian influence, perhaps, as they are still absent in Il-2 BoS, - though not of course the Communist stars, the symbol of a regime only somewhat less obnoxious. As a blow against facism, it's about as silly as the airbrushing out of all signs of violence on Airfix box art in the '70s, but these self-righteous lobby groups have many forms.

The first Adler Tag mission is definitely broken. Second try, my schwarm gets off, but the rest of the staffel sits on the airfield asking for takeoff clearance while with me mostly in autopilot, we head west down Channel, for the RV.

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The recce plane meanwhile leaves the area and passes us by on a nearly reciprocal course offset several miles to the ENEMY side of the Channel, flying now at low level close to Dungeness, where the Observer Corps will not only be able to see him, but could practically chuck stones at him.

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Of course, he gets whacked when 74 Squadron arrive from the opposite direction. We can't even see this. There's a report of Spits on the radio which reads more like it came from a German ground controller than the Dornier but it's way too late and it's 'Mission failed' again.

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You can see the radio messages below from the rest of the squadron, still trying to get takeoff clearance.

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Determined to get some fun from the mission I tried a third time and used my knowledge of the bomber's location and route to try to catch it. My wingman came with me, the rest of the staffel (which actually took off this time) headed for the RV miles to the west.

I still arrived too late to save the Dornier, but chased after the Spits, knowing from previous plays that they headed north for home. 

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The Spits ignored us at first, even after I started shooting - with MGs only, as I hadn't programmed a button to fire cannon. After I knocked one Spit out of formation the others evaded a bit wthout making any effort to counterattack, before resuming course. I got one of them before heading home - he just flew straight and level while I hosed him down from dead astern. I could give my kazcmarek no orders and he had nothing to do but congratulate me.

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Patrick Bishop's 'Battle of Britain - a day by day chronicle' confirms this action took place, and presumably the other Luftwaffe campaign missions likewise. So it's major shame if what could have been the making of CloD is as screwed up as this first mission.

EDIT - all is not lost. I've just downloaded the RAF and Luftwaffe 'redux' campaigns from ATAG and they appear to be a whole new ball game. I've just started the RAF one and it's a re-work of the stock one with a re-written, more historical storyline. I've just played the first mission and while the action is similar to the stock equivalent, the presentation and execution are visibly better.

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Darn Asus mobo's power surge protection killed it just after I had knocked down a second Dornier, but I did even better on the replay, including knocking down a 110 whose crew bailed out just in time...

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My Hurricane has lost its overdone weathering and has authentic 607 Squadron codes...

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And I don't remember the airfield looking so knocked about when I landed, complete with bomb craters to avoid, in the stock campaign.

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I'll definitely be giving this one a go!

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I have never been much of a campaign person. I prefer flying generic 1v1, 1v2, 2v2, 1v4, 2v4, and 4v4 single player missions to test particular tactics and types against each other or fly historically accurate single missions. So what matters most to me is the accuracy of the flight models, the weapons/damage modeling, and the behavior of the AI. I haven't played CloD enough to really get a feel on how it compares to my other sims. But I have played BoB2:WoV enough to know that I love the Spitfire, Hurricane, and Bf109 flight modeling as well as how the AI flies those aircraft when set to the highest skill levels. The SFP1/SF2 series has some of the most entertaining/challenging dogfight AI of any flight sims I have played... but it has cheats that make it so. SF2 AI can always see you without regard to canopy/visibility limitations even if you are low and on its 6. SF2 AI knows if you are looking at or targeting it even if it can't see you... so the enemy almost always reacts to your presence and will probably engage you rather than other AI enemies. BoB2 seems to do a much better job of having dynamic AI reacting to the entire situations instead of just you with the skill level somewhat realistically affecting its choice of tactics. So BoB2 AI is as fun and challenging as SF2 AI, yet doesn't appear to be cheating as much if at all. There is nothing that can replace the experience of trying to defend Britain against a sky full of Nazi bombers and fighter escorts with but a few Spitfires and/or Hurricanes. I can only imagine how the real pilots felt having to face those odds day after day. If Germany had stayed focused on bombing the airfields and other strategic targets rather than trying to break morale by bombing the general population, one can only wonder whether the UK would have been able to hold on and maintain a Western front to help the USSR stay in the fight.

CloD may not be as good as BoB2 at modeling the full scope of the Battle of Britain, but the graphics and plane set still let you experience aspects of it in a way that the very dated BoB2 can't. But if I could only have one, it would be BoB2. But the truth is that I don't have the time to play all of the flight sims I have accumulated over the years. I used to focus on the SFP1/SF2 series because of my preference for the F-4 Phantom and MiG-21, but the halt in SF2 progress followed by the rise of DCS World forced my transition. Lately, I have spent more time in civil flight sims than I ever have due to FSX/P3d having TacPack supported F-4s and AeroflyFS2 and X-Plane 11 also supporting VR. But I by far spend most of my time flying all of the DCS World modules. It is hard but fun for me to try to maintain basic proficiency with such a large library of aircraft modeled to a study-sim level. So BoB2 isn't even installed and CloD is only on my hard drive as long as I have room for it.

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Being a 'campaign person' and not much into jets are probably the main reasons I have no interest at all in DCS in its present or foreseeable forms. As for CloD, I'm finding that the improved RAF campaign produces some immersive flying and many nice images...

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...but in the end, while worth experiencing, it can't really compensate for scripting which still sometimes fails, erratic AI, a mostly broken command menu, very poor visibility of other aircraft, smaller scale, narrower single player scope (except flyable planeset) and bad antialiasing.

So I still have BoB2 far ahead of CloD, on almost every scale that's important to me.

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