(NEW) 2020 Annual -The Cruelest Month
When T.S. Eliot penned, "April is the cruelest month", he was talking about seasonal and life stages, not about a dreadful offensive on the Western Front that would be called the "Battle of Arras" but remembered far better for what the Royal Flying Corps called it-- "Bloody April." Still flying mostly outdated aircraft, General "Boom" Trenchard insisted on constant offensive actions and round-the-clock missions for recon, artillery spotting, mapping, etc. With the most common plane involved in this work being the dreadfully vulnerable Be2C, facing up against the likes of Baron von Richthofen's Jasta 11, the results were woeful losses. To the RFC's credit, they continually fulfilled the missions, despite the losses.
The average flying life of a RFC pilot in Arras in April was 18 hours in the air. Our whole picture-- from movies like "Dawn Patrol" or "Aces High" -- of young men going straight from flying school into combat (and straight into the ground shortly after) comes from this six-week period, preparing for and supporting the "spring offensive."
Now, Paul Rohrbaugh's The Cruelest Month looks at this struggle, with the focus primarily on air operations and ground battle abstracted (something like he did in Chennault's First Fight.) As the British player, you will marshal your limited numbers of fighters to help secure the skies for 2-seaters that would be better suited to training planes. As the German player, you will employ your well-armed modern fighters against waves of RFC planes that simply keep coming, regardless of how many you shoot down.
While losses in the air were puny compared to the thousands dying on the ground, those aerial actions had great impact on how things worked out on the ground. The Cruelest Month will give you a full selection of aerial operations, including balloon busting, ground attack, bombing, and the all-important photo-recon and artillery observation missions, plus the fighter dogfights that center around protecting or stopping all the others. You'll use a Air Battle Board for these fights, and your planes will interact with ground forces on a map of the Arras area.
On the ground, your gray-suited soldiers will face mines, tanks, and the newly adapted "creeping barrage," in trying to maintain your hold on key defense lines. Can you hold the line? For the British, your objective is not so focused on the big "breakthrough," but now working with the idea of biting off chunks of key landscape and holding it. Can you equal the magnificent Canadian assault on Vimy Ridge?
The Cruelest Month and the 2020 ATO Magazine Annual
Maps - One full color 22" x 34" mapsheet
Counters - 176 full color 5/8" die-cut counters
Air Displays - 2
Rules length - 16 pages
Charts and tables - 2 pages
Complexity - Medium
Playing time - Up to 3 to 4 hours
How challenging is it solitaire? - Average
Designer - Paul Rohrbaugh
Development - Dave Boe
Graphic Design - Mark Mahaffey
Read more about this game on Consimworld
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