Their Finest Hour puts you in charge of fighter command just as the Battle Of Britain begins. Your job is to turn back the might of the Luftwaffe in either a single day or over a complete campaign lasting a month from the 12th of August.
At your disposal, you have the squadrons of spitfires and hurricanes at ten airfields with which you must defend the ports and cities of southern England.
As soon as the first enemy are spotted over the channel you must sound the alarm and get your planes in the air to intercept them and the battle begins.
You control the action through a series of icons and a cursor that moves over a map of southern England which can be magnified to show more clearly the plane formations.
It takes a while to learn how to use the icons and the cursor together which is essential if you are to win the day. If you select the I (information) icon while the cursor is over, a squadron it will give you a breakdown of its contents.
Selecting the icon of a plane moves a selected squadron on a course to the cursors present location. If you judge this right then a squadron will successfully intercept the enemy and a battle will begin but if you misjudge it then the squadron will circle at its destination until ordered again.
When a battle begins, a message is flashed up to warn you and you are given a full breakdown of the opposing forces. For example, 32 spitfires are lucky and have found a squadron of bombers without fighter escort (no Me-109's). You order them to fight wth the maximum aggression level (6) and soon the enemy are retreating. You order the spitfires to pursue them.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the map 20 hurricanes aren't so lucky and are outnumbered by enemy fighters so you pull them out (aggression O) and send in some spitfires.
Unfortunately, soon other messages are flashed onto the screen telling you that the pilots are getting tired and some are at the end of their tether. You have no alternative, you have to order them back to their airfields as tired pilots can rapidly become dead pilots.
Memos from your superiors start appearing warning you to change your strategy as the ports are getting a pasting.
Finally the day is lost and Churchill demands your resignation.
Perhaps next time you'll do better. There's enough to thin about in the one day game but there's a lot more in the campaign game. Not only do you have to find an answer to the problems of when to send up your planes, how many, and even what alert to put them on (if they're in their planes on the ground they'll react quicker but also tire easily) but you also have to rest battle weary pilots in Scotland, place reinforcement planes and flack guns and repair damaged radar stations and airfields!
Luckily there's also a save game option to rest tired players and a pause facility.
If that's not enough you can also alter the pace of the game by changing the clock speed to 255 to play it as a board game to panic level at around 50 and impossible at 1.
Their Finest Hours has quite a pedigree behind it. It is published by the company that brought you the excellent Fourth Protocol and is co-written by John Wilson and Nicky Palmer who has not only written countless books and magazine articles on wargaming he was also a stalwart of the sadly defunct National Games Club.
An excellent game that will be played for months to come.