Monday, 14 March 2005

Wings of War

World War 1 Dogfighting has always been a favorite of mine (see the galleries at SNV). I think there's something very romantic about this early period af aerial combat (probably the people who were actually involved disagree), that is not really present in other periods of air-to-air combat.

Last weeked I tried a little boardgame "Wings of War" (published by various labels, here's the site of Fantasy Flight games that publishes it for the US market). Although some reviews are not very favourable (see reviews and pictures on Boardgame Geek), these have more to do with the mix of components in the gamebox, rather than with the game mechanics themselves.

The gameplay is very smooth. One plane is represented by a little card on the table, indicating on the card it's vital statistics including a graphical depiction of its firing arc.

During a turn, players lay 3 maneuvring cards face down. Each of these cards displays various maneuvers (sidelslip, turn, Immelman, ...), and the mix of cards is different for each type of plane. One by one the cards are revealed, and you can actually use the maneuver cards to reposition your plane on the table. On each card an arrow indicates the starting position and end position of the plane, and the card itself acts as a template to reposition your plane. So no fiddling with rulers, turning templates etc.

After each maneuver, you can shoot other planes within your firing arc and distance, and depending on your stats, you draw a card from 2 different damage decks. This card indicates the amount of damage, but also can list critical damage, which can limit the type of maneuvers you can perform in subsequent turns.

We played 2 scenarios in a single hour. The first scenario was a typical dogfight with 2 planes on each side, and the 2nd scenario was a bombing mission. The rules can be explained in under 10 minutes.

Although some might say the game is a little bit simple, it actually does a good job in capturing the same tactical feel I had in previous WW1 dogfighting games. You have to think about out-maneuvring your opponent, and take shots whenever the opportunity presents itself. Altitude of the planes, however, does not play a role, and that's the one main point missing!

Although all the planes in the game are represented as cards, it can be played very easily with miniatures, providing you use a base of the correct size.

For those of you who are interested: the rules are available for free from the Fantasy Flight website mentioned above.

A good example of how the game works can be seen on this picture.


  1. BTW, there are two basic boxes "Famnous Aces" and "Watch your back", which have the same rules, but different planes in each box (I own them both, of course :-) ).
    Another expansion "Burning Drachens", has been announced, and will include some extra rules on altitude, and such contraptions as zeppelins.

  2. This sounds very interesting. I came across the WWI planes when packing this weekend, and thought to myself that we should do something with them. Perhaps this game migth lend itself.
    BTW, between this game and the 'collectible' Age of Sail ship game (I forget, or rather have never known, the name) this is two data points for a board game - miniature game crossover. Do we see a trend developing?

  3. The game you�re thinking of is probably Pirates Spanish Main, a Wizkids game. This is not really a board game in the traditional sense, but really a miniature game with miniature ships etc. The ships look really nice, and are an easy way of obtaining not too expensive model ships for Age of Sail miniature battles.
    In the same vein, Wings of War is in essence also a miniature game with 2D flat miniatures :-), but it is marketed and published through the more traditional boardgame channels.
    BTW, what would constitute a miniature game? Is it the miniatures, or is it rather the game mechanics (continuous vs. discrete)?
    In any case, I wouldn�t really speak of a trend developing. Wings of War has a clever game mechanic that I haven�t seen before, neither in miniatures nor board games, but it definitely �feels� much more as a miniature game.

  4. This is a very nice game, which works easily and well. I played it a couple of times and was impressed. It probably won't be useful or even desirable to try to use miniatures though, the cards are essential.
    I also like 'Rise of the Luftwaffe' for WW2 dogfights and bombing missions. Very simple but fun.

  5. Alan,
    I diagree about using miniatures for WoW. I think it can be done rather easily, provided your base is exactly the same size as the cards, and the base has little markers for movement as used in the normal card game.
    I agree it's not practical to use already based airplanes, since the bases are indeed essential.

  6. Andrea Angiolino7 April 2005 at 14:49

    Thanks a lot for the attention you devoted to my little card game!
    I�d only like to point out that there will be no Zeppelin in �Burning Dachens�, only observation balloon. I don�t want anybody to think that there are dirigibles and be disappointed by that�
    A couple of blisters with maneuver decks and new planes (many two seaters, Sopwith Snipe, Fokker D.VII) should be ready after the summer. In the meantime we are developing a WWII version.
    You can find additional scenarios, rules and so on there:
    Bye and thanks again,
    Andrea Angiolino

  7. Hello!
    Please notice that the site is now active and has optional rules, background info, battle reports (includin the one on the 22 players dogfight fought last sunday, the largest ever for the moment) and other stuff about the game.
    If you have anything to submit to the site please write to
    w o w (at) n e x u s g a m e s (dot) c o m
    Thanks a lot... and happy gaming!

  8. I have just bought Burning Drachens, haven't played with it yet, just punched out counters and studied cards. Can anyone tell me if the Famous Aces and/or Watch your back are of any use to the SINGLE player? Both games say 2 - 4 players but perhaps owning B.D. means the single player can use planes,cards etc from them? Thanks.