Fair Flak

Today we have a children’s board game. The boxtop is pretty clear, it’s a Nazi German anti-aircraft game. Entitled ‘Adler Luftverteidigungsspiel’ (Eagles Air Defence Game) the box depicts a German 88mm Flak gun shooting down a British Bristol Blenheim Mk.IV (a favourite ‘target’ of German propaganda).

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The story, thanks to Board Game Geeks website: ‘This game was produced in World War II-era Dresden, and the instructions say it was “developed by an officer of the Luftwaffe with the aim of the defence of our airspace. It’s more profound reason is to be prepared for an attack on the Fatherland”. Created for the Hitler Youth to teach them the strategic thinking needed to defeat an enemy.

Incidentally, I’d be pretty sceptical of the ‘developed by an officer’ bit – classic PR.

‘This is a WWII era children’s game about anti-aircraft batteries. Each player has to try a bombing raid on the enemy city. The 24 wooden airplanes are 6 escort fighters and 6 bombers for each side. Hits are determined via a special die. Each player (red and blue) tries to gain air superiority over the board, attacking the opponents positions and defending their own.’

The displayed set (thanks again to Board Game Geeks website) shows a similar picture on the instructions, but the board itself starts to get interesting. Both players are attacking their ‘enemy’ base and ‘defending’ their own, so rather than having German and British sides for the actual game, it’s a classic ‘red force’ vs ‘blue force’ (though the players could no doubt both be ‘goodies’ in their heads).

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Thus the actual game is a classic of the pre-war aerial knockout blow concept, as examined by Dr Brett Holman on his blog Airminded, and like the pre-war scenarios is made to be a literal ‘level playing field’. Not, as implied by the box, a defensive game against enemy attack alone. Each player launches an attack and tries to recover their bombers too.

But it’s a Nazi game, isn’t it? Well apparently, originally it was, but it appeared as a Spanish version – although another Fascist dictatorship at the time and long after the war, but note the lack of markings for the ‘enemy’ aircraft on the boxtop now.

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A closer look at the Spanish boxing (‘Combate Antiaero’ is clear enough a name!) while the gun crew are in vaguely Spanish, or German based uniforms (the cylider gas mask case is German style, the helmets less the familiar ‘coal scuttle’ shape the Spanish used from German sources. There’s also an (Nazi-occupied or aligned) European flagged version.

But then there’s a Swedish version, below here, with a much cheaper design – possibly because it’s unlicensed? However, as well as the crudity, note the ‘red’ and ‘blue’ aircraft, and that they represent a fighter attacking a bomber, but neither is particularly relating to identifiable types. (You can see a B-25 Mitchell in the bomber, arguably) Neither have any national markings.

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So once you go past th boxing and its branding, in the modern parlance, it’s a classic opositional board game, like checkers or chess, but with a map overlay to bring back the warlike element we now overlook with those classics.

Of course children would’ve made each version fit their own world of their time, but it’s interesting how easy it is here to ‘de-Nazify’, partly because it’s a two player game that is deliberately fair – not a Fascist approach at all.

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

Thanks to Victoria Taylor, ‘SpitfireFilly’ on Twitter for the tip, and to the Board Game Geek website for the details and further pictures here.

[Note the game has sometimes been presented in error with another board (see below) featuring a two fleet attack around the coast of Britain, but this is clearly for an entirely different, pre-war game, without a known name, as discussed here.]

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