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Monsters of the Purple Twilight
Two player and solitaire game
design by Alan Sherwood
estimated MSRP $85.00
estimated CPO Price $62.00
+ shipping

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;

                                                                                ‘Locksley Hall’, Tennyson 

This was the world’s first strategic bombing campaign, the first time death rained from the skies onto an unsuspecting populace. Although seemingly ponderous and fragile, and filled with inflammable hydrogen, in 1914 the airships built by Count Zeppelin for the fatherland were a much more viable platform to bomb the English than the rickety wood and canvas aeroplanes that struggled into the sky at the time. Able to fly for days and cover thousands of miles, they were a true ‘airy navy’. However, despite the conviction of its champion, the Leader of Airships Fgtkpt Peter Strasser, this Teutonic leviathan was not a war winning weapon, and failed to deliver the hoped-for victory. 

Any reading of the campaign will show that their greatest challenge was not the British defences, but just finding their way over the British countryside. In the dark (all raids were at night), it all looks much the same, and there were no radio beams to guide them like in WWII. This is reflected in the game; above all it is a game of navigation. 

The Zeppelin movement is governed by a system that limits what you can do depending on how well you know your location. The latter you can improve by using landmarks, such as towns, rivers, railroads and coastlines. Alternatively, you can ignore these and rely on dead reckoning, but then you might end up totally lost in the middle of nowhere. And of course, there's weather (clouds, rain, mist) to frustrate you too. However, there's a chance of opportunistic targets when towns randomly fail to blackout. 

However, it wasn’t only the Germans who faced the problems of the night. British aviation struggled to develop the technology and practice to deal with night raiders. A warning system that could enable timely launch of aeroplane patrols was never really developed, and once in the air the airman was on his own not knowing where the raider might be, or even where he was. Of course searchlights were the essential item to make the air defence viable, but the wily Zeppelin commander did all he could to avoid them, including using cloud cover. 

This is similarly modelled in the game. The British player makes a hidden set up for his airfields before the German player comes on. Once the raiders arrive, he can launch aeroplane patrols, but the number and location is restricted by how much activity the raiders do to reveal themselves. Once launched, the patrol remains in place until a searchlit Zeppelin is in spotting range, and then it can attempt to intercept and attack. In the early scenarios aeroplane attacks can be damaging and cause a Zeppelin to scuttle home with leaks, but after incendiary ammunition was developed in mid 1916 it became sudden death to the Zeppelin. 

The British player also has anti-aircraft guns, which are distributed over the map and controlled largely by random rolls, except for the mobile guns which the British player can place at strategic locations and use to set up ambushes. 

Combat is largely abstracted to die rolls, but the challenge is to bring the raider to bear. As the British, you plan your fighter patrols and move mobile AA guns to defend areas or set up ambush. But reveal a unit too soon and the German player will know its there and avoid it. As the German, use stealth to avoid combat. Hide in clouds; at all costs keep out of those searchlights. But in the end, you have to brave them if you want to bomb the good targets. 

This game offers a definitive study of that unusual campaign, with a set of 20 scenarios (each being an actual historical raid), covering the entire 4 years of the campaign. The subject matter naturally lends itself well to solitaire play as well, and specific rules for this are included. The game includes:

  • 2 map sheets covering nearly all of England and the south of Scotland, although some scenarios can be played on just one map.
  • Informational display for the Zeppelins (to keep track of altitude, bombs, etc)
  • Informational display for defense air stations, where patrols are readied and launched (similar to the ‘tote board’ used in WWII).
  • 2 sheets of charts and tables. 

The units in the counter mix are:

  • Zeppelins (one counter for each)
  • Defense aeroplanes (18 different types)
  • Fixed and Mobile AA guns (1-3 guns per counter)

Also included are the following informational markers:

  • Clouds (with associated weather, eg rain or drizzle)
  • Mist and Fog
  • Wind speed and direction
  • Searchlight indicators
  • Spotting markers
  • Altitude, Bombs, Damage, engine failure, etc markers for Zeppelin status tracks