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miniature review Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4 (Galland): - The Luftwaffe's Finest Mini (So far...)

Miniature Review
Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4 (Galland): click to enlarge
Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4 (Galland)

  • Number: 6
  • Rarity: Fixed
  • Country: Germany
  • Movement Deck: B
  • Damage Deck: A C C/C
  • Damage: 18
Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4 (Galland)
- The Luftwaffe's Finest Mini (So far...)

written by  Premium Member LV75
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General description:
One of the greatest fighter aircraft of all time, the Messerschmitt Bf-109 ruled the skies over Europe starting in the Spanish Civil War and continued well into World War II. While it was eventually outclassed by other fighters, with countless upgrades it remained a major player in the air all the way through the end of the war.

This particular miniature represents the 109 E-4 flown by Oberst Adolf Galland of Luftwaffe squadron JG26 in 1940, around the time of the Battle of Britain.

By the end of the war, Galland had been credited with 104 aerial victories. For comparison, the highest-scoring ace of all time was Erich Hartmann with 352, while the highest-scoring American ace of WWII was Richard Ira Bong with "only" 40. (That massive disparity between countries is much more a function of military policy rather than a direct correlation to flying ability. American pilots were frequently rotated away from the front lines to recuperate and to train new pilots, while Luftwaffe pilots generally got sent back out until they were dead or there was nothing left to shoot.) Neither of those two pilots are currently available as minis or even as cards, but as the game eventually progresses into the late war and the higher-end fighters like the Bf-109-F/G and the P-38 make their entrances, they're sure to be leading the way.

The BF-109 E-4, or "Emil" as it was called, was armed with a pair of MG 17 (7.62mm) machine guns above the engine and a pair of MG-FF/M (20mm) cannons in the wings. The damage values reflect this armament with the significant increase in damage potential at close range compared to long range. Although the overall average damage value of a "C" token is double that of an "A", the "A" is much more consistent and has a lower percentage of zero-damage hits (26% for "A" versus 42% for "C"). In other words, the "A" is more likely to hit for at least some damage, while "C" won't cause damage as often but packs a far, far greater punch when it does.

The single "C" at long range is interesting because you might expect that to be only an "A" to represent the greater effective range of the smaller machine guns, but what that "C" also takes into account are the explosive shells used in the cannons. While their effective range may be less, when they do hit they can still hit hard.

Like the vast majority of 109s available in the game (both as miniatures and cards), Galland's E-4 uses the "B" deck for its maneuvers. Although the speed and maneuverability provided by the decks gradually decreases as you go from "A" to "B" to "C" to "D", the "A" and "B" decks are functionally identical except for the extra pair of "sidelip" cards in the "A" deck. In gameplay terms, that means the 109 can hang right with the "A" deck Spitfires in a dogfight, and success will depend much more on the pilot rather than the merits of their aircraft.

(The Fire from the Sky expansion/base set, which includes several of the Series 2 minis, adds "E" through "I" decks which follow a similar pattern. "E" is very similar to "A" and "B" while the rest drop off in speed and maneuverability until you get to the "I" deck made specifically for the sluggish dive bombers.)

If you're playing with some of the advanced rules, Galland's fighter and all other versions of the 109 E-4 have an altitude limit of 11 and a climb rate of 3, meaning they need only three climb counters to reach the next altitude level (for comparison, the F4F-3 Wildcat has a top altitude of 12 but a climb rate of 4, so while it can climb a little higher it takes longer to get there). Most of the Spitfires and Hurricanes have the same numbers as the Emil, so it doesn't gain or lose any advantage against its traditional Battle of Britain opponents.

The most obvious primary use for this miniature is as a fighter, to hunt down enemy aircraft and blow them out of the sky.

If you're playing a scenario of some sort the potential roles can be expanded to include bomber escorts, interceptors, and possibly even light bombers (with a limited payload of one or two small bombs).

Strategies and Game play:
Since all planes with "B" maneuver deck fly essentially the same, and the "B" deck is functionally almost identical to the "A" deck, there really aren't any tactics or strategies specific to Galland's Emil that wouldn't work just as well for any other aircraft using the "A" or "B" decks.

Victory will largely come down to which pilot is better at getting on the other's tail and staying there. Vary your speeds and maneuvers to keep the opposition guessing, and don't let yourself get stuck flying in circles or constantly doing Immelmans and Split-S maneuvers.

Avoid head-on passes too. It may seem like a great way to get your guns on the opponent's plane, but chances are they'll firing right back at you plus it risks a collision.

Combos with other miniatures:
Specific combos are tough to pick for this game because there are so few minis for each nation, and because the "right" ones to fly depend heavily on the scenario (if any) being used.

If you're looking for a simple dogfight, Hauptmann Wilhelm Balthasar, Leutnant Werner Mölders, Feldwebel Erhardt Pankratz, or some combination of the three would work well as wingmen for Galland since their Messerschmitts all use the same maneuver deck and their armaments are identical. In fact, aside from their paint jobs, the only actual gameplay difference between any of them is that Galland's E-4 has one more hit point (18) than those three E-3s (17), but in a close dogfight that minor difference is unlikely to matter much, if at all.

If you prefer an escort mission, Galland could fly along with either of the German Stukas in order to keep those pesky Spitfires away.

Ways to counteract it:
As mentioned earlier, since there aren't any strategies that are completely unique to Galland's Emil, there are also no countermeasures that are specific to this fighter.

Your best bet is to outmaneuver and out fly the opponent. Vary the maneuver cards you play, change up your speeds, and try to gain altitude whenever possible. Avoid getting caught in a loop where you keep repeatedly using Immelman/Split-S maneuvers and making head-on passes at each other, because that just turns the game into a boring battle of luck to see who draws the higher damage tokens first.

Then again, if you happen to be flying a P-39D* with the massive 37mm nose cannon (which uses the special "D" tokens for damage!), those head-on passes are much more likely to work in your favor.

*Currently available only as a card in Fire from the Sky, but I'm sure it will get a miniature eventually.

-Good close range firepower (A+C+C)
-Decent long range firepower (C)
-Relatively high armor/damage rating (18)
-Good maneuver deck (B)
-Top-of-line climb rating (3)

-Long range firepower could be a little better (but it is historically-based, so that's really not a fault of the mini - and it could be a lot worse)
-Maneuver deck is slightly behind the A deck (but the difference is almost completely negligible)

Artwork and aesthetics:
The color scheme of Galland's Bf-109E-4 is far from being the most decorative design out there and it's even fairly plain looking compared to the other German fighters available as miniatures so far, but it is historically accurate so you can't fault it for that.

(The fuselage markings in these two images are slightly different, but they're close enough to make a comparison.)

One interesting point of note is the black "X" on the tail of the miniature, which should actually be the black Swastika associated with the Nazi party. German law forbids the display of that symbol on anything but purely historic items, so in order to sell these miniatures in that country it had to be changed. It's a hurdle encountered by all game publishers that deal with historically-based games that are sold Worldwide, and if you look closely at other games dealing with the subject you'll see similar measures have been taken: some use the black "X", some use the traditional German Cross ╬, some replace it with another vaguely-similar symbol, or some simply remove it entirely. It in no way affects gameplay, but if you're such a stickler for details that it bothers you it's easy enough to "correct" with a fine-tipped black Sharpie or a touch of paint.

Overall rating:
Oberst Adolf Galland's Messerschmitt Bf-109E-4 is an iconic Battle of Britain fighter, he's one of the best-known Luftwaffe pilots of the war, and it's a solid all-around game piece. If you're looking to get into the minis side of the WWII version of Wings of War but don't want (or can't find) the Deluxe Set with Pankratz's Bf-109, Galland gives you a great starting point. Even if you do have the Deluxe set, if you want to expand your Luftwaffe forces Galland's fighter is a good next one to get because he's got the best 109 currently available as a miniature.


Modified on June 17, 2013 08:29 am

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Discussion about this Miniature Review
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woelf Premium Member
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November 10, 2008
Subject:    Posted: March 8, 2011 12:28 pm Reply with quote Report content icon

Who knows if anyone will ever actually read this review, but in case you have, thanks for looking. Please leave a comment of some sort to let me know you've been here.
(I'm subscribed to this review, so I'll get a message if anyone comments on it.)

I'd like to go on record and say that even though it may not look like it, this was by far the most difficult and time-consuming review I've ever written for this site.

The way the game plays there really not a lot of "uniqueness" from one mini to another so most of that information ends up being really generic, and finding a good way to say more than just "fly around and shoot stuff" was a challenge.

The direct historical aspect throws another huge wrench into the works, and there was a ton of extra research required to get into the finer details of the game and what the various aspects (particularly the armament) represent.
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bootstrapbill Premium Member
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Subject: Heres the first comment of the first review - quite well done   Posted: March 10, 2011 06:31 pm Reply with quote Report content icon

Adolf Galland is one of my favourite WWII pilots - I did a report on him in history class in school - along with Douglas Bader.

According to the Dictee Volcke a pilot is expected to turn in to an attacker in order to get his guns on the enemy as fast as possible - but that is very risky against an aircraft like a ME109 ( or Airacobra too for that matter but that's another story).
I can't wait until the mid and latter aircraft are available. I would like to pit Siboru Sakai in his Zero against McWhorter in a Hellcat.
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woelf Premium Member
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Subject:    Posted: March 10, 2011 08:59 pm Reply with quote Report content icon

Thanks for commenting!

quote from bootstrapbill:
I can't wait until the mid and latter aircraft are available. I would like to pit Siboru Sakai in his Zero against McWhorter in a Hellcat.
I'm really looking forward to some of the later war stuff too. Especially the P-38, so I can pit Bong against... well, pretty much anyone else.

I've been following a bunch of the design discussions over at Boardgamegeek and one of the issues they're running into with incorporating the late war aircraft is the considerable speed jump. The existing A and B decks already use the entire length of the card for high-speed moves, so making planes even faster is a problem. They're still trying to figure out if it's better to use multiple cards for single moves or to go with larger cards (like standard Poker-sized or bigger). When they eventually get to the Me-262 and He-162 there will be another big jump in speed.

Scale becomes an issue too. The single-engined fighters fit fine on the existing cards, but most twin-engined fighters (P-38, Bf-110, DH98, etc.) were wider and would need larger cards, and the bigger multi-engined bombers don't even come close to fitting.
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woelf Premium Member
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Subject:    Posted: June 28, 2011 06:55 pm Reply with quote Report content icon

It's nice to see that other people are actually reading this, but why did you rate this a 3, kaxelvofer?
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maciver Premium Member
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Subject:    Posted: July 9, 2011 03:24 pm Reply with quote Report content icon

I read it and I think it is really interesting. I don't have any A&A minitures but I am interest now in geting some. Great Job!
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Avatar for lt_v
Subject:    Posted: June 9, 2013 10:27 am Reply with quote Report content icon

Great review Woelf, as I become more in tune with the game, I'll try to post a review or two
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woelf Premium Member
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Subject:    Posted: June 17, 2013 08:29 am Reply with quote Report content icon

Lorma, a comment to go along with that rating would be appreciated.
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