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Imperial Skies is a rule set for use with aeronefs in a alternate history from the late 1890s through the 1920s. Don't know what an aeronef is? Think of a traditional wet navy battleship now make it fly through the use of the Loewe Graviton Engine. Zeppelins, blimps, and hot air balloons also fit into this category.
For me, the look of the ships is a big draw. The ships used for photos in the game are from Brigade Models. They have a large line of ships that have been around for many years and include ships from all of the major countries of the time and many of the smaller countries as well. I've always thought these models are fantastic, but have never dipped my toe in this area of gaming. I am looking forward to getting some of these models and spending some time painting them.
The book is soft-cover with full color mat pages throughout the book. In reading through the book I can see that a little more editing could have been done, but nothing terrible. There is no index (why don't publishers put an index in), but there is a table of contents.
I read through most of the book in two evenings before bed. It was a quick read and the short pieces of fluff mixed into the book make for a good read. I skipped over a few sections like the build your own ship rules. I will go back to them at some point, but for starters, I was only worried about how the game plays. There are plenty of ships that already have stats so I wasn't worried about trying to make my own.
The book is laid out nicely and the rules seem to follow a logical order. The short stories that I mentioned above are in italics so it is easy to see when the rules stop and the story begins.
The rules note that a number of rules are optional. That is a nice touch so you can keep the game simple if you want or add some of the optional rules to add complexity and depth if you want to add that to your games. For me, I will probably just start with the most basic rules in the first few games. I'll avoid bombs, torpedoes, elevations, and traditional aircraft.
The book is 117 pages. The rules are about 30 pages. There are 6 pages on fleet construction. Ship cards account for 36 pages. And a painting and modeling section is another 25 pages. Add in a fair amount of historical information and you've got a pretty solid book.
There are no scenarios in the book, which I found to be disappointing, but I think I can come up with some myself.
The book also does not include the turn templates that you will need for the game, but these can be found on their Facebook page. I also believe they will be selling plastic turn template sets at some point as well.
The setting for this game starts in pre-World War I. While it is an alternative history, all the historical powers are present. The book provides stats for ships from each of the major powers, some minor powers, a variety of merchant vessels, as well as fortifications.
The book provides rules for making your own ships so you can add additional earth based factions, alien (Mars obviously) factions, or expand the existing factions.
Initiative and Command Points
Each turn players will roll for command points. This is a d6 plus 1. These command points can be assigned to different ships in your fleet (max is 3 per ship) or can be used to improve the initiative roll.
The command points assigned to your ships allow them to take special actions that can make them turn quicker than normal, improve their shooting, repair some damage they have suffered, or screen fire directed at nearby ships.
Unit Stats and Basic Attack Mechanic
Each ship will have a ship card that will provide info for that ship and allow you to track damage taken. The ship card tells you the speed of the ship, the number of guns, bombs, and torpedoes, its turning rate, and all the necessary info you will need during the game.
The primary weapons in this game are broken into 3 categories; small guns, medium guns, and large guns. The small guns have a range of 10", medium 20" and large 30". These also line up with the 3 range bands used in the game. At the longest range band a gun can shoot it will need a 6 on a d6 to hit, however, 6s explode and are re-rolled, so you always have the chance of doing significant damage, but nothing is guaranteed. As you get closer, the weapons have a better chance of hitting. So a large gun within 20" need a 5+ and when within 10" needs a 4+.
Rule are also provided for bombs and torpedoes.
When you activate a ship, you will complete all of its actions before passing the turn to your opponent, who will then activate a ship. You will keep passing back and forth until all ships have been activated.
A ship must move a minimum of 2" (damage can reduce this minimum) unless it is a blimp or zeppelin, which can sit still.
The size of a ship will dictate how easily it can turn. The larger a ship the slower it turns. You will use turn templates to measure your movement in a turn, otherwise you will just move straight forward.
Ships are allowed to shoot at up to 2 targets, and can split their attack dice up. Shots going through the fore or aft arcs get half the attack dice as it is assumed that less guns can be brought to bear on targets in those directions.
Each ship has a number of structure points that can be damaged before it is destroyed. A ship looses a point of damage for each hit. As a ship suffers damage, it will become less effective. It will lose some guns and speed as it takes more and more damage. This is noted on the ship card and takes place automatically as the damage is applied.
The game does not provide any scenarios and I guess assumes that players will create their own or just engage in pitched battles.
I believe that scenarios are the key to a great game and I especially enjoy scenarios that include objectives other than just killing the enemy. I will be searching for some good scenarios to make use of in my games.
The theme of this game is very interesting to me. I have always enjoyed fleet games, be they wet or cold navy. I've got a pretty sizable collection of space ship models, so this is another game that is going to help scratch that itch. However, with the time period being WW1, this will fit well alongside of my gaming groups existing colonial era and VSF (Victorian Science Fiction) gaming.
The rules don't appear to be overly complicated, but have enough depth that players will need to think through their strategies and tactics in order to be successful commanders. And the optional rules that are presented in the book will add further depth when we decide to add them in.
Two of my friends went in together on the kickstarter for this game and are both getting fleets, which hopefully will be arriving soon. I am going to purchase a fleet or two and another friend is going to make use of his Leviathan models, so we have 4 of us that will be ready to play soon.
I will likely pull out some of my space ship models so I can test these rules out, since we don't have fleets just yet. I will share my thoughts on how these rules work in action once I get a game or two played.