What, no dice? My Wings of War review.

Why am I reviewing Wings of War?

A friend of mine wanted to show me a game he'd bought that he was pretty excited about - which turned out to be Wings of War - a World War I (or World War II, depending) dogfight game. I was pretty intrigued as he described it, particularly as this was the first wargame/whatever that I'd seen with no dice involved. Here's my review:

Components:

There're two ways of playing Wings of War on the tabletop - with cards representing the planes, or with miniatures. Either way, the game plays the same - but your mileage may vary if you have a strong preference for eye candy and "bits."

Anyway, you get:

  • Planes, in card and/or miniature form, both of which are nicely detailed and have the plane's stats and fire arcs on.
  • Range rulers for shooting.
  • Damage cards that determine not only how much damage is taken, but also little bits of colour from rudder jams, engine stalls and catching fire, to the attacking plane's guns jamming.
  • Manoeuvre cards to plan how your plane(s) move in a dogfight - this is the fun bit!
  • Counters and markers for all manner of things...
  • Rules
  • A box to keep it all in

Bottom line: High quality components, and nothing lacking, although some may want to splash out more on the planes.

Gameplay:

WoW has some pretty interesting game mechanics, particularly from the perspective of someone who grew up playing Warhammer and the like. Each round, every player/plane chooses three manoeuvres for that turn, which play out in sequence. Different planes get different manoeuvre decks, with varying turn tightness etc. This adds a lot of excitement to the game as in a dogfight scenario you end up with a mix of abilities - some planes can perform Immelmann turns, some can only perform sharp turns one way - and it's all (apparently) pretty historically accurate too.

So, players not only have to plan ahead and second guess their opponents, but close to within range without colliding - and preferably keeping out of enemy fire arcs too. Any plane can shoot at any target within range, scoring a single damage card at long range or two at short. No rolling to hit - or for damage - which took a while to get used to!

Damage cards list the damage taken - from zero upwards - and any other effects; planes can catch fire, suffer engine trouble, fall foul of jammed rudders... The damage cards also occasionally show a crosshair to signify that the attacker's guns have jammed, a nice touch!

Our group really enjoys this aspect of WoW - the fact that in a game where victory is so dependent on careful forward planning, the designers are constantly imposing chaos on the players. It's always a good laugh, although I'm not sure how well it would go down with more competitive gamers.

Bottom line: Good fun, always entertaining - provided the chaos appeals to you.

Expandability:

I have to confess, I have no idea which particular flavour of Wings of War we've played - it's usually a mix.  Here's what is currently available:

  • Famous Aces is the original WWI set, and features the iconic planes of five famous aces, including Baron von Richthofen.
  • Watch your Back brings WWI two-seaters to the fray, with five more planes.
  • Burning Drachens has balloons to escort, or attack, in your WWI dogfights.
  • Dawn of World War II adds new planes from the early years of the war, including a Spitfire.
  • Fire from the Sky drags your game into WWII, featuring a Stuka, a Yak 1 and more.

Each is a standalone game, but all can be combined - just be aware that the WWII planes will outclass the WWI ones on the battlefield.

There are also countless "booster" packs, and plastic 1/144 scale models of each plane.

Bottom line:  Absolute bags of content, but could get very expensive if you want the models too.

So, what's the catch?

There are a few niggles with Wings of War, chiefly:

  1. The battlefield can get very busy, with planes overlapping or passing each other.  This can be a particular issue when using miniatures, but not one that can't be resolved with common sense!
  2. Buying all the model planes - which does add a lot of visual appeal to the game - could get expensive.
  3. Sorting out the various decks and storing them can be an issue as there are only four card-sized holes in the box for storage, and the cards get mixed up.

The last word:

PROS:

+ Entertaining gameplay mechanics and simple rules

+ Historically accurate, for those that have an interest

CONS:

- Could get expensive!

- No "points" values for the planes, so has to be balanced by players

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