The history of a Polish Squadron that bravely fought against the Luftwaffe to stop the German raids on the UK in the Battle of Britain is about to live again on the tabletop, with the cooperative board game 303 Squadron. Published by Hobbity, its English edition is distributed in North America by Ares Games and will arrive in stores in February 2022. In this article, the Polish game designer Michal Kohmann shares his notes about the creation and development of 303 Squadron.

303 Squadron: game based on the history of the Polish Air Unit.

"This story began during a Comicon some years ago. As a big fan of aviation and pilots, I had visited an exhibition of the WW2 airplane models which was part of the event. It lit the fuse and I came back to visit it again with Marek Przepiórka, CEO of, and we started the discussion of board games about Battle of Britain. We noticed that there were two kinds of designs covering this type of games: the battle games with nice models, where the players are planning the movements using templates, and the strategic games where you can control all the squadrons. I’ve started to think that it would be nice to play a game where you take the role of the single pilot and together with other players try to protect England during the Battle of Britain. The 303 squadron - and their pilots - was for me the obvious choice and the most efficient squadron of the Battle of Britain with pilots of high skills and great personalities.

Also the mechanics of the game should be dynamic and immersive. I had invented the basic concept during the night. I started from the combat. Using dice would generate the randomness of the dogfight and the cards with the special abilities could reflect the skill of the pilot. In the following days I designed the dice, battle cards, the player boards, and the board with the map of the South East England with areas, some key points which were the targets of the Luftwaffe attacks. We were ready to start the first tests, but it was just the beginning of a long journey.

The creation

Every Thursday my friends and I used to meet and play boardgames. Everyone could come and bring a title to show to the others. That’s also the perfect occasion to make the first tests of a prototype game. With the map, cards and dice created in the simplest way, we started the first battles. We made many tests and changes, and one night driving my car I noticed that it’s not the result I wanted to get. The gameplay was quite different that time. Semi-cooperative with style of euro game. It was not bad, but it lacked the immersion I wanted the game to have. The players were not identifying with the pilot, and the cooperation was lost amongst the counting of the victory points. So I decided to throw away 60% of the gameplay, like the individual points.

Michal Khomann presenting 303 Squadron in September 2019, when the game was ready to launch on Kickstarter.

I had the idea to make the gameplay more like a “tower defense”. The battle cards received the movement points, and the Luftwaffe got the “counterattack” phase. That was the second version, which was also eventually scrapped. At first it was fun, but the replayability was practically non-existent. Every game was too similar to all the others. Something was missing, and after months of concept testing and rebuilding I was all out of ideas. It was only when I had stopped to even think about the game for about two months, the solution came to me.

What the design needed were scenarios and events. The inspiration for them were the historical events, but also scenes from books and movies. New wave of tests proved that I was on the right track. The players started to fight side by side, and the possibility of “support” even increased the cooperation. Random setting and different types of scenarios, different events and dice used for the battle added the replayability the game was lacking before. Finally, after one year of work, the gameplay started to run smoothly. Now we could start to think how to make it not only playable but also beautiful. Together with the publisher, we wanted top class graphics for the main board, player boards, and cards. We alsos made the decision to represent the aircrafts as miniatures to enhance the immersion even more. We were lucky to find people like the digital aviation artist Piotr Forkasiewicz. He made a fantastic job to make our dreams real and I’m happy that you can see them too.

The pilots and planes

303 Squadron pilots, in 1940.*

When I started to think about the game of the Battle of Britain in which the players would take the role of the pilots, I had no doubt that it should be about 303 Squadron. Not only because it was the most efficient squadron in the Battle of Britain, but also for its history. It was continuing the tradition of the 7th Squadron formed by the American pilots who supported Poland during the war against Soviets in 1920 – that’s why there are stars and stripes in the logo of 303 Squadron.

Among the seven pilots featured in the game are Witold Urbanowicz called “Cobra”, one of the best instructors in the fighter pilot school, able to notice every detail of the combat and the only Polish pilot fighting in China during the WW2 as the guest of the American squadron Flying Tigers; Jan Zumbach, fighter pilot, smuggler, businessman and mercenary – we can easily call him the real version of Han Solo; and Josef Frantisek, who decided to join the Polish pilots after Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany and refused to be transferred to the Czechoslovakian squadrons in England.

Some of the pilots presented in the game.

There were many of them, and for each we can tell a lot of stories. I was planning to create the gameplay for six players, but we had to limit it to four, mainly because of time. That’s why I decided to put the most iconic pilots - in my opinion - into the game.

Regarding the aircrafts, we used the most known BF-109, He-111, Ju-87, or Do-17. A harder decision was about the main fighter for the players. We were hesitating between beauty and reality: Spitfire was the most beautiful and iconic fighter in the Battle of Britain, but the Hurricane was the first plane of the 303 Squadron and the “workhorse” of the RAF. After many discussions we decided to include Hurricanes in the core box and Spitfires in the expansion. This way, you can try both machines fighting against the forces of the Luftwaffe.

I hope that the game triggers curiosity of the players to learn more about this part of history and the people involved in the most famous of air battles."

* From the left side: P/O Ferić, F/Lt Kent, F/O Grzeszczak, P/O Radomski, P/O Zumbach, P/O Łukuciewski, F/O Henneberg, Sgt. Rogowski, Sgt. Szaposznikow. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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