A Closer Look – Reinforcements and Knickebein Bomber Navigation
I will focus on two of the bigger innovations brought to players in this add-on; the ability to call reinforcements, and the Knickebein navigation system.
This is both simple in concept, but challenging in execution. Once you are in combat, and feel the need to call for help, you simply hit TAB (radio) > 4 (mission) > 1(reinforcements or verstarkungen) and finally choose what flight(s) you want to scramble. The available flights will then scramble to the point on the map where you called them.
The challenge with this system is that you need to be certain when you call for your reinforcements, that you are where you want them to be, when they get there. That is OK if they are close, and you call them into a fight you are already in. They will probably make it there in time.
Reinforcements on the way. Watch out Jerry! This is a great innovation for gameplay in CloD.
But if you are trying to get them to help with a bomber interception, you need to call them to where you expect the bombers to be (it’s a bit like deflection shooting in that way). So you first have to fly to where you want to position your reinforcements, call them in, and then proceed on your intercept vector.
Here is some advice on using reinforcements, from Thomas Voss of Desastersoft, “In intercpet missions I start with my quadron, pick up the cover squadron and look at the Fighter Command messages, telling me how far the bomber formation is away and then the CH telling me what their course is. When they get within about 10 miles, I call one reinforcement and I go toward the enemy. At the merge I do not engage myself. I tell my squadron and the cover squadron to engage. This usually deals with the escorts. Then I follow the bombers, calculating the course and speed, and at the break even point +3 minutes for climb, I call the 2nd reinforcement. So I have now 9 Fighters against only the bombers.”
This is how the master does it, but for illustration purposes, below is an example of how NOT to do it!
Two sections of 19 Squadron Spitfires were available as reinforcements for this intercept, based at airfields marked A) and B). I called them to reinforce me as I passed point A) thinking the bombers would follow my vector in toward London. However the black line shows the bombers actual path. This meant my reinforcements were circling uselessly around at C) and D) while the bombers were actually at point E) with me chasing them at F). It will take some experience and a little luck, to use reinforcements wisely intercepting bombers.
Another great way this feature is implemented is for Luftwaffe recon / strike missions. You are required to overfly the target and then call in a bomber strike. The way it works is that you go in fast and low and when you are directly over the target, you hit use the same menu keys to order up the bombers. Then you can hang around over the target to keep the air clear for the incoming strike. The bombers drop on the location where you ordered the strike. This makes for tense missions finding and marking the target, and then defending the turf until the heavies have unloaded.
All in all, this is a very creative new feature from Desastersoft that will deliver many hours of immersion.
Knickebein Bomber Navigation
This is also a very creative implementation of scripting, but I’m a little less certain about how much it adds to gameplay.
The way it works is seen in the example below. The instructions in the He111 manual are in German, so you will need a lot of trial and error, as I did, to learn the system.
In this example the mission briefing told me to fly to Boulogne sur Mer and pick up the navigation beam at 3,000 feet. There are no waypoints set for you, so you need to navigate there manually, and try to pick up the beam by trial and error. I had to beetle around a bit before I locked onto it (hint: you do need to be pretty precise about your altitude) because in this case the beam was over the Boulogne-Alprech airfield, not Boulogne sur Mer city as I had expected from the briefing.
After this, you get a message from your navigator telling you he has the signal, and giving you the heading to follow to “ride the beam” (292°).
Yes, it’s dark. More on this later.
Then it is a matter of “riding the beam” by following the instructions of your navigator all the way to target. He gives constant course corrections if you stray.
5 km out from the target he will give you a warning. At this point you should set the level flight autopilot, open the bomb bay doors and ensure the bombs are armed and set to salvo. When you are over the target, the navigator will give you the signal to release and KA-BOOM!
Yes. it’s dark. Who knows if you hit anything? If this was reality for Luftwaffe bomber crews during the nighttime blitz, it is no wonder there were so many bombs delivered off target. Nightime, as represented on my screen in Cliffs of Dover, is just too darned dark to see anything, and there was no combination of game or contrast settings that I could find, that helped “throw some light” on things.
This meant that for me, the gameplay experience of using Knickebein was intriguing the first time, challenging the second time, and just plain frustrating after that. I could get to target, but my chances of hitting it were about zero. And level bombing in Cliffs of Dover is difficult enough in daytime!
For me, the jury is out on whether this was worth the effort it no doubt took to implement this feature.