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Posted on Mar 14, 2008 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Wings of War: Dawn of War – Game Review

By Bill Bodden

Fantasy Flight Games has had solid success with the Wings of War series of World War One aerial combat simulators. A new wrinkle has been added – changing the setting to World War Two. In Wings of War: Dawn of War, players take on the roles of World War Two fighter pilots in any one of eight nationalities.

The game itself is fairly simple. Each player selects a plane and the corresponding maneuver deck. Players choose a scenario that most closely fits the bill, and they’re off! The rulebook includes eight different scenarios with specific victory conditions. The maneuver deck consists of 18 cards illustrating a particular maneuver. Players must choose a marker to indicate whether to take the movement at high speed or low speed – this will determine which set of arrows to use on the maneuver card. Players line up the arrows on the card with those on their plane, and leapfrog the plane to the front of the maneuver card, again lining up the appropriate arrows. The previous movement card is always left on the table until a new maneuver card is played, as a reminder of what just happened.

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Certain maneuvers require a set-up action before they can be executed, so having the previous card still on the table makes it easy to remember what action is allowable for the next move. Players must plan their movements two turns in advance. Included in the game are handy pilot cards for displaying the two face-down maneuver cards that are next in line to be executed. There is also space for displaying the damage tokens taken, though the amount of damage is kept secret until the plane either wins or is shot down.

Combat occurs when one plane has another in its field of fire. Handy cardboard rulers are included to measure distance at a glance. There is a white stripe halfway along the ruler’s length – within the white marker is short range, and heavier damage. Beyond the white stripe indicates long range and potentially lighter damage. Anything beyond the length of the ruler itself is out of range. Damage is controlled by chits marked A, B or C, and different planes use different letters of damage – sometimes more than one type at close range. Damage ranges from zero to eight points per chit, with planes being able to absorb between sixteen and nineteen points before being shot down.

As one might expect, this is largely a game of maneuver, which can be frustrating for novice and veteran alike. Having a clearly defined gaming area helps. Each scenario has a measured combat area, and planes that stray out of bounds are penalized victory points. Scenarios range from one-on-one dogfights to aerial reconnaissance missions to opposed strafing runs against ground targets. Note that measurements are in centimeters, so have a metric ruler handy when marking out the battleground.

The mix of pilots is heavily skewed towards British and German. There are three each of American and French planes, two Italian, four Japanese, five British and German, and one each of Soviet and Belgian aircraft – twenty-four planes in all. Some of the allies will be flying Lend-Lease aircraft and there are duplicates within the larger forces, so the actual number of different planes available is only 14. In looking at the mix of previous editions of this game, it seems clear that additional planes will be forthcoming in the next set. All planes in this set are primarily fighter-type craft, though some do have limited bombing capabilities.

Advanced and optional rules are included for campaign play, with additional rules regarding fuel, highly skilled pilots, damage to pilots, and so forth. These rules offer additional depth to an already meaty game.

I found Wings of War: Dawn of War to be an exciting, fast-moving game. Detail is not sacrificed for expedient play, but much of the more complex detail is set aside from the basic rules until players feel up to the challenge of the advanced options. Too many games these days don’t make these kinds of allowances for novice gamers, and fresh blood is the surest way to keep the hobby vibrant and growing. The rulebook is well-written and fairly straightforward, with solid examples of play for instruction. It would be easy to adapt this game to re-enact historical scenarios, though the mix of planes would definitely be a limiting factor. With the number of advanced play options available and the variety of planes included, Wings of War: Dawn of War should keep armchair fighter pilots everywhere quite happy for a long time to come.

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ACG Intel
Wings of War: Dawn of War By Fantasy Flight Games

Designed by Andrea Angiolino and Pier Giorgio Paglia

Illustrations by Vincenzo Auletta

For two to six players, ages 10 and up.

Playing time: 30 minutes+

MSRP: $ 29.95

Available now
 

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