"Chocks away, Bertie!!! I'm off to Bag a Hun!!!"
I've had all sorts of date clashes trying to get up to game at my normal wargames club in Kirriemuir and was starting to suffer from "lackofgameyitus". I've been asked along on several occasions to another club, Angus Wargames Club who meet in Forfar, but with them meeting on a Saturday night (twice a month) this isn't ideal either (but it is a lot closer), but the opportunity arose to get along to their meeting last night so I went along to see what's what and get a game of Blood Bowl in at the same time. However, my intended opponent, Cammie, wasn't able to come along and as Ruarok and my bro, Brian, were squaring off for some Skaven v Dwarves madness (which Ruarok's Skaven eventually won 3-1, well done Ruaork), the opportunity arose for me to try something different and this was "Wings of War" by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG).
Long, long time ago I used to play WW1 aerial combat with the guys at the club using the "Red Baron" rules (which I think are now out of print) and little 1/300th scale aeroplanes from the likes of Heroics and Ros. The models like many others, languish in a box somewhere in the cupboard now and the rules gather dust on my shelf.
The Red Baron rules having been dusted down for the photo.
I was aware of Wings of War when it came out but for some reason never paid it much attention. On it's first release the game involved using cards to depict the aircraft and maybe that's what put me off but anyway the long and the short of it is, I ignored it. BIG MISTAKE!!!!
After it's initial release, FFG, then started to release expansions for the original rule set and more significantly pre-painted models for the various planes used in the game. I should have got into the game then, but I didn't. BIG MISTAKE!!!!
The game is very, very simple to pick up but very difficult to master. Each aircraft has 3 important statistics, it's Maneuverability deck, it's damage deck and it's damage points. Using the models, these are provided with a perspex base and stand (the stand consists of little perspex rods which can be added to/ taken away to show the different altitudes of the plane) and on the base is marked the firing arc(s) of the plane.
Each turn consists of 3 phases and in each phase your plane moves, shoots if eligible, and then housekeeping.
Movement, is dealt with by Maneuver cards. Each plane has a Maneuver deck showing the various move options available to it: -
Some of the Maneuver cards from the deck for an Albatross DV
At the start of the turn, each player picks 3 maneuver cards which will determine the flight path of his aircraft for that turn. These are placed face down, the game comes with game boards for each player where the cards, damage counters etc can be placed. Each player then turns over the first maneuver card and moves his plane in accordance with the arrow showing on the card. Complicated maneuvers such as "Immelmann turns" can be performed under certain restrictions, that is, before the turn is made, you have to play a straight forward maneuver card and also one after it.
After the plane is moved, if it has an eligible target in it's firing arc then it may fire.
A simple measuring stick is used to determine if a target is in range. If it is in close range then the target player draws 2 cards from the damage deck relevant to his aircraft, at long range 1 card is drawn. The cards show the number of damage points inflicted (between 0 and 5) and also if any special damage or events have occurred, for example, rudder damage, fire damage or explosion (that is, the plane does exactly what it says on the tin and blows up regardless of the actual damage points inflicted). In the house keeping phase, markers can then be added to the game board to depict the status of the plane from damage or if it is in the middle of an Immelmann Turn and then play moves on to the turning over of the second maneuver card and so on.
When a plane reaches the number of damage points equal to the total shown on it's base then it becomes a cropper and plunges to the deck and as you no doubt know, Dear Reader, parachutes weren't available then for the majority of pilots.
And most importantly the game does not involve any DICE!!! How could I fail to lose!
So, after a quick summary of the rules by my opponent, Bob M, (he had to do this from memory as unfortunately when rushing out of the door to get to the club, he picked up a set which had the German version of the rules in it) we got to it.
The Albatross DV flown by Lt Helmut Von Schneitzel Gruben (ie me).
The Sopwith Camel shown at the top of this post was piloted by Lt Alfie Fforbes Hamilton-Smythe (ie Bob).
So the two planes flew on from opposite sides of the table. Immediately, I realised I had misjudged the distance each plane flew and the effect of the turn cards had on the positioning of the aircraft with the result at the end of the third maneuver phase of the first turn -
"Got you in my sights Jerry!" Shouts Alfie, over the roar off his rotary engine.
The resulting 2 damage cards pulled by me (and which on the whole are kept secret) resulted in 4 points of damage and critically damage to my rudder, meaning I couldn't do any left turn maneuvers. This resulted in the next few turns of frantic circling (to the right!!) and Immelmanns trying to keep Alfie off my tail.
This happened for several turns until Bob, suddenly remembering the rules, advised that rudder damage only lasted 1 turn!!! Thankfully no harm done as Helmut's superior flying skills prevented any further damage being taken.
"Where has the damned Boche gone?!" mutters Alfie
As I became more familiar with the effects of the maneuver cards on the plane's positioning, I started to become a bit more aggressive with my handling of the plane with the result
Dakka! Dakka! Dakka!
"Take that Tommy!!"
Then disaster struck Helmut when a lucky shot from Alfie resulted in the pull of a damage card which had the "engine damage" symbol. This meant that each turn Helmut had to play one stall maneuver card (which meant he moved forward only a short distance). Alfie closed in for the kill
The coup de grace from Alfie
Determined to right the wrong and avenge Helmut's demise, I was keen to play another game but before I did so, I had a wander round and took some piccies of some of the other games going on at the club -
|Dystopian Wars - The Japanese Bomber fleet advances|
German Infantry advancing cautiously in an early WW2 game (there are some French Infantry hiding out of picture)
There was also some Mechwar Mecha madness and the aformentioned Blood Bowl game going on but I forgot to take pictures of those, sorry Guys!!
Soon the air was humming again with the sound of piston engines, Alfie was once more on patrol but this time he was joined by French Ace, Lt. Henri Vol A'Vaunt in his Spad XIII. Rushing in to the air to extract vengence was Helmut's cousin, Lt Franzen Von Strudle Gruben and his Kommandant, the dreaded, Maj Mansted Von Riechspuddin, known as "The Red Barn" (as he couldn't hit a barn door at 30 paces) in his Fokker Dr I Triplane.
Soon the sky was a buzz with frantic maneuvering by all 4 planes
The Red Barn, however, took a hefty thump from Alfie and the 2 damage cards scored 7 damage points (the Triplane only has 13 in total!). Von Strudle Gruben then decided to play "chicken" with Vol A'Vaunt.
The resulting exchange of fire, saw Von Strudle Gruben take engine damage, whereas Vol A'Vuant suffered a gun jam and also smoke damage, which was just as well for The Red Barn because in the next turn....
"Mein Gott!" cried The Red Barn
However, the damage to the German planes was starting to mount and whereas I was hitting the Allied planes, I didn't seem to be causing their commanding officer too much concern.
Then further disaster for the brave German pilots. Von Strudel Gruben was hit by a fortuitous shot from Vol A'Vaunt and his plane caught fire. This meant that at the start of each of the next 3 turns, Von Strudle Gruben would have to draw a damage card.
The Red Barn, obviously distracted at the sight of his colleague's burning plane, lost his bearings to fatal effect and Vol A'Vaunt swooped in.
The end of The Red Barn
Meanwhile Von Strudel Gruben had drawn 2 damage cards at the start of the last 2 turns and in both cases the card had 0 damage points. The final turn of the fire came, the damage card was drawn
So Lt Helmut Von Schneitzel Gruben's untimely demise would not be avenged this time. But he has plenty other cousins to take up the mantle.
What a simple but very fun game to play. Okay, it will lack the detail that some gamers like but I got the hang of the rules within about 10 minutes of playing and once you get used to what effect the various damage symbols mean, the rulebook can effectively be left in the box.
Further expansions have been released for the game, including a Balloon Busting version ("Burning Drachens"), rules and models for 2 seater planes and more models of the planes flown by various well known WW1 aces.
The rules system has also been expanded and adapted for a WW2 version "The Dawn of World War II" and pre-painted models for that set are now being released.
So although it was "The Wings of Woe" for me last night, I had a blast and despite the fact that I lost both games and couldn't even blame the dice for my defeats, this is a game that I will definitely be playing again.