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Posted on Nov 11, 2020 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

The Most Comprehensive World War 2 Air War Game Ever!  Wings of the Motherland – a Fighting Wings Game.  Board Game Review

The Most Comprehensive World War 2 Air War Game Ever! Wings of the Motherland – a Fighting Wings Game. Board Game Review

Rick Martin

Wings of the Motherland – A Fighting Wings Game    Board Game Review.  Publisher: Clash of Arms Games   Game Designer: J. D. Webster   Price $135.00

Passed Inspection: stunningly beautiful artwork, covers the entire Eastern Front air war from 1941 to 1945, amazing levels of detail, well researched, tons of value for the price, fantastic replayability, solo and multiplayer scenarios, 3rd edition rules feature programmed learning of the system. 

Failed Basic:   rules can be intimidating, has an index but the index does need a little more work as not everything is listed, needs to have on-line learn to play videos

Wings of the Motherland is the long awaited 4th game in J.D. Webster’s Fighting Wings game series.  For an interview with J.D. Webster which includes links to two other reviews of games in the Fighting Wings series, follow this link:  http://armchairgeneral.com/j-d-webster-interview-designing-air-combat-games.htm

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Box Art

Wings of the Motherland looks in intimate detail at the air war between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union.  If you play the scenarios in order, you actually start with a test flight between a Mig 3 and a Bf109 E when the Russians and Germans were allies all the way to the final days of the war.  Each unit is one aircraft, tank, truck, ship or grouping of infantry or anti-aircraft guns.  Each turn is a few seconds of air combat or up to an hour or so in the Tactical Game level.

Test Flights Learning Scenario

The box is features stunningly beautiful artwork by Ian Wedge and the box has a sturdy, pleasant tactile feel which means that it should last for decades.

The components include:

280 full color double sided 1/2” aircraft counters

280 ground units

70 ship and play aid counters

2  34” x 22” double sided full color maps

1 80 page rule book (3rd Edition)

1 page game rules supplement with examples of play

A 120 page scenario booklet which includes a history of the Eastern Front air war and both solo and multiplayer scenarios

A 60 page air plane and ship data card book

A 32 page player’s aid booklet with charts and tables

Components
aircraft counters
Ground Units
Sea Units

But wait, there’s more!  You can find even more aircraft data charts, scenarios and rules as well as on-line training by J.D. Webster, himself, and combat scenarios as well as a brain trust of knowledgeable players at https://fighting-wings-games.groups.io/g/main

The rule booklet walks you through the rules from the basic to the advanced in a programmed format; so you may read a few pages and then the rules will say “Now play scenario 1” to put what you have learned in to practice.  There are plenty of examples to help out but I believe there needs to be some on-line video tutorials as the rules regarding speed and power settings can get pretty dense.  I have heard from more than a few people that they purchased the game but can’t get passed the first few pages of the rule book.  A starter set of rules called “Buffalo Wings” is being reprinted even as we speak.  This is a great way to play introductory games using the Fighting Wings system.  Personally, I believe that a copy of the starter rules needs to be included with each full game of Fighting Wings/Wings of the Motherland.  This would be a great way to avoid the “deer in the headlights effect” that some gamers feel upon opening the rule book.  It would help insure that new blood is introduced in to the Fighting Wings player pool.

The rule book does have an extensive index but the index is far from complete and this needs to be addressed as a downloadable “complete index” for the game.

So how does the game play?

It depends upon whether you are just playing an aircraft fight with just the air combat rules or are using the “Tactical Scale” rules which include the whole mission from take off to landing (or crashing).  With the Tactical Scale game you fly the whole mission so one turn may be equal to hours of flying your plane until you find a fight.  This Tactical Scale adds some nice role playing to the game as you not only track your plane but the planes of your comrades as well.

The Air Combat/Combat Scale sequence of play is as follows:

1) Determine Initiative – I believe the Kill Bonus for Initiative rule is new to this edition of the Fighting Wings system.  Usually heavy lumbering planes such as bombers move first followed by the more maneuverable aircrafts with lower skilled pilots moving first allowing more skilled pilots to react to the less skilled pilots.

2) Movement Phase – in this phase you also determine by pre-plotting your attitude, roll, bank, speed, throttle settings, and altitude changes.  Then the planes move in initiative order.

3) Combat Phase – this is when things can go boom

In order to give you the performance characteristics of each aircraft, each aircraft is not only represented by a counter but also by an Aircraft Data Chart or ADC (I have provided several examples in the pictures which accompany this article).  J.D. Webster, being a pilot himself, has spent hundreds if not thousands of hours poring over flight and combat characteristics for each plane in the game.  Information includes the minimum and maximum attainable speed of the plane at different altitudes, climb and dive rate, roll rates, engine power output at different altitudes, weapon load outs, ammo carried for each weapon, hull points, defensive values, size modifications, gun sight types, blind spots and pilot/crew visibility, armor, etc, etc.   Different variants of each type of plane are also included as are rules for optional weapon load outs, navigation systems and more.

Stuka
Mig 3 and Me109

Plotting your movement and moving the plane is the most difficult concept for the new player to grasp because your plane behaves as it would in a 3 dimensional environment.  You determine what the roll of the plane is – either level or with its wings tilted in a variety of positions or inverted, what your attitude is (level, nose up or nose down in 12 different push or pull angles), how much power your engine is putting out which translates in to both horizontal and vertical movement and how much drag is generated or, if you are in a dive, how much speed you gain.

I’ve been playing Fighting Wings games on and off since the late 1980s but I haven’t played in about four years.  I used this review to relearn the game as if I had never played before.  It took about three hours of reading the rules and playing the solo learning scenarios before I felt comfortable enough with the rules to get back in to combat and even then I had to re-read parts to make sure I was playing correctly and, even then, I  still think I did a few things wrong.  Learning the movement system is the single greatest challenge of this game but once you do, it’s worth it.

Combat on the other hand is a breeze.

When you have any enemy in your sight, you determine what weapons you’re going to shoot.  Then you decide if you are using a normal style shot or taking a longer series of shots which uses up ammo faster and could jam up your weapons.  You add up the numerical value of the weapons as found on your ADC and compare that to the defensive value of your target plus factor in other modifiers such as angle of deflection, speed differential, gun sights on your aircraft, etc.    You divide the total attack strength by the total defensive strength and note that ratio which can be from 1-6 to 10-1.  You then roll a 1d100 on the Base LH Table which gives you a value from +130 to – 130.  That value is then looked up on the Combat Odds table under the appropriate ratio column and that gives you the number of hits (if any) that you did to the target.  Some heavy weapons such as cannons which are 37mm and above may give you multiple hits per value or extra hits.  You deduct the number of hits from the hull strength of your target and then factor in any critical hits that you’ve done.  This system sounds way more complex than it actually is.  The combat results give you a very satisfying feeling of aerial combat.

Here is an example of one of my play throughs in Wings of the Motherland:

Two Bf109 Emil type Messerschmitts (planes # 2 and # 5) of Lg1 intercept 4 Soviet Tupolev bombers.  A Mig 3 is flying top cover attempts to keep the bombers safe. Unfortunately, the overzealous Mig pilot flies too close to a bomber and met the criteria for a fratricide roll and, low and behold, the top gunner on Sb2 # 2 opened up on the Mig damaging it!

Bf109 #2’s machine guns and cannons rip through Sb2 # 2 killing its pilot, damaging its port engine and destroying a control cabling junction causing the plane to spin to the ground out of control. Only one parachute is witnessed as the radio man bails out successfully.

Bf 109 # 5 is in a slight climb and makes a long range shot with cannons only on the Mig.  The Soviet plane takes a few hull hits plus an inconclusive hit to its engine and a critical hit to its starboard wing sparing keeping it from attempting tight turns.

109 # 2 takes damage to his engine from accurate gunfire from the bombers but he pumps all of his remaining 20mm cannon shells and machine guns into Sb2 # 2.  The bomber immediately explodes! Luckily his already damaged plane takes no damage from the debris field which is all that remains of the bomber and its crew.  109 # 5 expends all of his cannon ammo on bomber # 3 and its starboard engine erupts into flame!  Meanwhile the Mig begins a shallow turn towards starboard to try and get another shot in while not ripping off his damaged wing.

The pilot of the damaged Mig decides to break off as his plane no longer has the agility to effectively dogfight.  The two 109 pilots who are down to only their nose mounted machine guns also think it is wise to break off and head home.  The crew of the burning Sb2 bail out as the planes goes into a steep dive and explodes.  Sb2 # 4 flies off and lands safely at its home airfield.

Now I have to tell you that was a solo scenario!  That is the kind of dynamic solo experience that you can get from Wings of the Motherland.  There are fully solitaire scenarios included with full solo rules for the enemy aircrafts.

Sb2 Bomber Falls to a Bf109

It’s so much fun learning about and flying each type of airplane in the box.  The game includes 48 different types of aircrafts!  I only wish they had included jets such as the Me262 which I realize were not flown on the Eastern Front for fear of the Russians capturing the technology as well as the lack of proper runways which could accommodate the jet’s need for longer, concrete runways.  But there are records of Me262s being used against Russian air and ground targets during the Soviet push on Berlin.  That being said, there is nothing that keeps you from using airplanes from the other three Fighting Wings games in this one so, yes, you can grab a Me262 from Fighting Wings – Over the Reich and play it in this game!

Another fun plane to fly is the diminutive I-16 early war monoplane.  I took one up against some Ju88 bombers.   It doesn’t pack a punch but it is a very fun plane to fly.  I also took a lend lease P39 up against a German Stuka.  The P39 couldn’t maneuver too well but when I hit the Stuka from above I tore that German dive bomber apart!

I 16
P39 jumps a Stuka

Wings of the Motherland includes 60 ground and naval attack scenarios and 150 different air combat scenarios!

The game also includes rules for ground and naval based attacks.  In the course of this review, I flew a Soviet IL2 Sturmovik and attacked a small German naval convoy (with much success I must say)  and then I switched up and flew two cannon armed Ju87 G aircrafts and popped Russian tanks while getting torn up by accurate Soviet anti-aircraft fire.  The one complaint I have about flying the Ju87s with the cannon mounts was the limited amount of ammo that the cannons carried.  This isn’t a complaint with the game, just a complaint about the real life guns.  None-the-less, each Stuka claimed one T34 kill along with one or two other damaged tanks.

Ju 87 Tank Buster in Action
Il2 Attacks German Shipping

There is so much packed in to this wonderful game – rules for night fighting, rules for bombing, rules for formation flying, pretty much rules for anything you can think of.  Wings of the Motherland is worth every penny you pay for it.  This game has enough to it to keep you busy for years!   It is an outstanding achievement in aviation gaming!

Armchair General Rating: 97 %

Solitaire Rating: 5 (1 to 5 with 1 being Unsuitable for Solo Play and 5 being Perfect for Solo Play)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer. He designed the games Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Expansion and Sherman Leader for DVG and the solo system for Forsage Game’s Age of Dogfights.  In addition, Rick can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

4 Comments

  1. I’ve read that is suitable for solo play. Could I know how many scenarios are there for solo game?
    Thank u

    • Thanks for asking Marco. There are 56 solo scenarios.

  2. How similar is this to Avalon Hill/Battle Line Air Force/Dauntless series?

    • In my opinion, its much more detailed with more accurate flight and combat models.

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