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Brett Berger
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There have been many excellent descriptions of this game posted and the rules are available online. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on game description as I think people will be more interested in impressions about the game.

I had heard a lot about this game on boardgamegeek and the theme looked interesting. I can remember playing Von Richtoffen's war as a youngster and I think WWI air combat translates well into a computer game. Red Baron and Red Baron II by Dynamix are some of the best computer games I've ever played. If you want to go further back, Microprose had a game called Kinghts of the Sky that was good in its day.

My Background: I began many years ago as a war gamer as that was about the extent of this hobby (other than Monopoly, etc.) at that time. I played a little D&D and then moved into computer games. I just rediscovered the joy of board games about a year ago and have since plunged back into this wonderful social activity. I like variety. You will not find 10 financial, 7 bidding and 14 railroad games on my shelf. I'll always buy and appreciate something very different before I buy something that may be only slightly improved or different. I do a lot of research on every game purchase although there is the occasional impulse buy :-).

Well, this is one of the impulse buys. I thought it was going to be a kind of Mage Knights for WWI air combat. It is somewhat similar in that it simplifies some of the more annoying aspects of miniature play thus making it more accessible. For example, altitude is not a huge factor in this game other than the fact that you are somewhat restricted in how many change of altitude cards you can play in a row. Altitude is not tracked explicitly. Since using altitude differences effectively is one of the main skills required to be a great dogfighter, this could be considered as an over-simplification. Is it? Read on...

What I Like: The way movement is handled is simple and interesting. You can easily explain it in a minute or two. As you watch the plane cards "fly" around the table, you can almost picture a dogfight like those portrayed in "The Blue Max" or other films of its type. Theme is carried out very well in the game and you don't feel like you are playing some random game with a WWI air combat setting tacked on. Rules explain things quite well and overall, the game is pretty simple. Artwork is well executed if a bit small and hard-to-see for us old guys, but given the way the game plays, small cards are necessary.

What I Don't Like: Will I've said in other reviews but I'll say it again... I can't stand line-of-sight rules. In this game you use a cardboard ruler to determine if an enemy plane is in the potential arc of fire from your plane. To do this you must line up the ruler at the edge of the firing arc and see if it intersects/touches, any part of the enemy plane. For me, this usually ends up in some kind of argument a couple of times a game. It is amazing that a game with so many potential movements can end up with a situation in which if you change the angle of the ruler by some very small fraction of a degree, it means a hit or a miss. It can easily change the outcome of the game. Add this to the fact that the plane cards themselves can be slightly rotated without much notice and I can say, I'd hate to be a judge in a Wings Of War game for any kind of valuable prize. Still, this is a necessary part of the game and players can decide ahead of time how they will solve impasses (via dice rolls or something).
My next problem is regarding production. I'm not going to say the production is bad as the overall quality of cards and small cardboard counters is excellent. My problem is with quality vs price. For the retail price of around $40, you can have some pretty excellent games. But the small box here contains a couple of packs of undersized cards, some cardboard placemats, and a few dozen cardboard counters. It brings to mind some of the Steve Jackson games I've bought. I'd expect a game with this many and type of bits to retail for arount $15 cheaper. Each plane has a specific movement deck that defines the possible manuevers the plane can make. Unfortunately there is just one of each type of deck (A, B, C, or D). This means that when you play others, you can never pick a plane with the same manuver deck as your opponent unless you get another copy of the game. I'm sure expansions will address this but one would think that this would be possible in the core game. Also, there is only one damage deck though there is promise of others--again, in the expansions. While I'm on the production, I have a small bone to pick about the box design. The inside consists of a cardboard insert with a small, square cardboard box about 2 1/2 inches square in the center. This small, inner box is not big enough to hold the cards so they must be placed under it or separated into short decks. The box just doesn't seem to go with the components at all.
Now for some gameplay issues. Movement is done simultaneously in three round turns. This can cause a problem in that often, players make moves that take them far apart from one another (intentionally and unintentionally). This can make the game rather long as planes attempt to close and obtain a shot or two. The damage deck supplied has some extreme randomness. There is a single card that can cause a plane to be instantly shot down (normally they must take a certain number of damage points). This can make for a boring game for someone shot down suddenly at the start of the game while the other players continue to try and line up shots. Normally, I like randomness in a game, but in this game, there just seems to be a little too much. One variant might be to make it so that the explosion would work if the plane has greater than half-damage.

Additional Comments: All in all, for me right now, this game is not what I wanted. It is a simple game, but it just may be too simple. The small cards tend to be a little fiddly, especially on a smooth surface. They rotate with the slightest pressure and stick to your fingers as you hold them down to place them. Rotation is something that must be kept strictly correct as the plane's angel greatly affects if you get a hit or not. This is especially difficult when planes cross and are literally on top of each other. The game tends to drag on as you try, often in vain, to outturn your opponent. I had one game in which player A was quickly eliminated through an explosion damage card. Player B and player C played for another 1 1/2 hours accumulating about 12 damage cards each before they mutually destroyed each other. Player A was bored out of his mind and players B and C were worn out near the finish only to gain no satisfaction from the tie result. This is a simple game and it has some very elegant ways of abstracting a complex series of events. But should the positive effect of having more altitude than your opponent be abstracted out of the game completely? If I change my mind about it after more play or viewing of an expansion, I'll update this review. As of right now, I must give Wings Of War - Famous Aces a 5 out of 10.

 
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Brett Berger
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Re:User Review
grimzap (#39544), Since I wrote this I've seen the game going for $20 in a couple of places. This is more reasonable but I still have an issue with the partial nature of this game (1 of each type of manuver deck, only one damage deck, etc.). Also, something I forgot to mention is that there is one 2-seater plane included as a promotional card but the decks to use it are not in this game. They are to be in the first expansion.
I know some folks won't have a problem with this but as I look at the little packs of cards and small cardboard counters on the floor and think of the price (and the fact that to play some more interesting scenarios I have to buy an expansion), I can't help thinking that the value just isn't there.
By the way, I suggest playing on smooth carpet or on a table with felt or a table cloth. This helps keep the planes from "mysteriously" changing their bearing. I had another thought that might help... put a small dab of that poster putty on the back of the plane. This will effectively stick it to the table and also raise it a bit so you won't have to dig at it with your fingernails.
 
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Rick Granger
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Re:User Review
grimzap (#40128),

Slightly backbending the plane cards also helps them "stick" to the surface of a smooth table, although you will have to repeat the bending many times during a game. I offer this only as a stop-gap measure...a cloth-covered table works much better.
 
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Rick Granger
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Re:User Review
grimzap (#40128),

I basically agree with all your criticisms of this game, although for all that I still rate it about 6.5, because I think the positives carry a little more weight for me. The damage decks are a problem, and honestly, I don't even use them any more. I just tally successful "targettings"...I admire the elegance of the game design here, but it is, I think, flawed.
 
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William Hoyt
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Re:User Review
Brett Berger_grimzap,

Excellent Review. This is exactly the type of info I am looking for when researching what to spend the little $$ I can spare for a game.

I'll still likely get the game, but I will play wait and see now...for now.

Thanks again.
 
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A L D A R O N
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Re:User Review
Excellent review!

There are several important points here, all of which I agree with in substance. Anyone considering purchasing this game should take them all into consideration. Some objections, like those about the line of site rules and the way in which some games drag on are, I believe, simply part of the nature of the game's subject, and I think any attempt to "fix" them would have taken away from the realistic feel of the game.

One point, however, stands out: this is a surprisingly poorly produced game! Steve Jackson came to my mind as well. At a minimum the aircraft "cards" should be much heavier cardboard stock, the rules should be more carefully translated, and printed in color, and enough components for scenarios involving several planes with the same maneuver decks should be included. As it is, the components not only fail to justify the price but (as noted with regard to card rotation problem mentioned) interfere with play.

I'm looking forward to version 2.0 with an abundance of maneuver decks, heavy stock aircraft cards, and improved and upgraded rules. (And yes, a box that goes with the game would be nice.)
 
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Re:User Review
grimzap wrote:
grimzap (#39544), Since I wrote this I've seen the game going for $20 in a couple of places.

That's because the retail price for this game is $29.95, not $40.00 as you thought. Most discounters will discount enough to bring it right back to retail when they tack on their shipping charges, which in the case of $20 amounts to half again the cost of the game.

Nice review. Your comments will save me the hassle of discovering the issues, as it were, by trial and error.
 
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Andrea Angiolino
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Re:User Review
In Europe is even cheaper. Officially it is 19.50 euros, but I have seen it around at 17.40.

 
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Roberto Di Meglio
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Re:User Review
Unfortunately, as the game is produced in Europe, it got very expensive in the US (1 Euro = 1,2 Dollars).
18 months ago it could have been a $ 19.95 - $ 24 game.
Definitely it should not be a $ 40 game - at that price, buy it elsewhere!
All comments on production (on which I was directly involved) are taken note of. Some elements will be improved on the next set: you will get ziplock bags instead of the (i must admit) almost useless cardboard tray, colour rulebook in the english version.

 
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Hannes Riener
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Re:User Review
angiolillo (#40429),

Seriously - the lowest price I found so far (Germany/Austria) and for which I get it, was € 25.1 (about $ 30).
 
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Andrea Angiolino
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Re:User Review
The 40 dollars mistake could be that somebody has seen the price in Canadian dollars:
http://www.cyberdungeon.com/Generated/Products/16434893.html
Even if the review that started this thread comes from Ohio, so it has to be some sort of mistake.

Fantasy Flight Games ofgficial price is 29.95 US dollars:
http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/ww01.html

Then you can find all sort of online-discount-but-postal-charges-to-add combinations all over the web.

The Italian edition is officially sold for 19.50 euros. Same as above: the Giocofollia shops chain in Rome, where I did the first two official presentations, retails it for 18.00 euros. Online, the cheapest I saw is this one:
http://www.kdsstore.it/index.php?articolo=1&id=236
It sells for 17.40 plus postal fees. I know hat he also sold to several German/French/Belgian customers. The first US customer asking for a copy gave up because of the oversea postal fees, too high to make the deal worth.

Imported games are usually quite more expensive (a sad reality that I had to face for dozens of years, being an Italian boardgame fan). But a German edition is supposed to be realased in the next few days by Mad Man's Magic
http://www.madmansmagic.com/1028x768/Homeframe.htm
in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. That should lower the price in the shops of these three countries.

Bye and thanks!

Andrea
 
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Andrea Angiolino
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Re:User Review
A discussion about prices and "online vs. shop" is going on at
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/26643
 
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A L D A R O N
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I'm gald to hear that the next edition will include some production upgrades.



I didn't mean to seem negative about the game itself. It's just that the game has so much potential and is so cleverly designed that it really deserves better production, especailly at the prices we are seeing here in the US.
 
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David Mitchell
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For all those that do not like the instant lose damage card just picture that bullet as going through your skull instead of massive damage to the plane.
 
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Andrea Angiolino
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Re:User Review
dlminsac (#40829),
that's a picture we preferred to avoid, for a question of personal tastes. But your clue gives a perfect idea of somnething that could happen to a WWI plane. Another is the bullet going through your fuel tank sending a sparkle or two around while scratching some metal...
 
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Jay Duval
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angiolillo (#40900),
Don't forget Von Richthofen was shot down by a single 303 bullet that hit him on the right side and ricochet up thru his heart. It killed him in less than 20 seconds. Strange piece of info it was shot buy a Australian machine gunner from over 600 yards away from the ground. So the red baron actually never lost a dogfight. One shot one kill, no explosion.
 
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Andrea Angiolino
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Xasher (#41047),
very good point! I was just saying that we put the eliminated card, and you can imagine anything you prefer when somebody draws it!


 
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Kevin Duke
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Re:User Review
Boy, there are lots of things to comment on in this string.

First, I wrote a review very similar to this one in Grognards relating to my disappointments with the deliverable. (Actually, I was probably a bit more favorable, and I'd definitely rate the game system itself as higher than 5 out of 10.) Playing on a cloth service and avoiding the shifting/spinning card routine will, by itself, make a huge difference in the "feel" of whether it is a workable mechanic or not. Someone in another thread suggested leaving the move cards on the board to trace the flow of the battle-- beautiful, but since that means those moves are no longer available for the rest of the game, that didn't work for me. I have taken to making each move by putting the move card at the slot on the airplane card and then putting the airplane card right on top of the move card, where the arrow is, and leaving that card under the plane card until any questions of fire are over (or the next move card already designated on your mat is put down). This helps keep the arc alignment a little bit better.

I note the original article said the LoS test was done by lining up the ruler on the arc line. Actually, I notice the rules say to trace from that red dot on the plane fuselage right behind the cockpit. This actually makes it a bit easier to feel certain that the LoS is more accurate and less subject to a wavering or bending of the ruler. And yet, of course, you will still end up with "right on the line" close calls. That usually happens with a miniature system. It is sometimes avoided using hexes (but even the old Squad Leader, with their lovely "dot" in the center of the hex, still ended up with LoS questions.) It's the nature of the beast, and yes, players need to reason something out to deal with the problem, whether it be a die roll, a "one less damage card" for a true on-the-line problem, or even agreeing that hard sight questions just always AREN'T a shot. (of course, that could end up becoming a question like the umpires strike zone.)

I started to raise a cautious hand about the relief that the next edition will be better- it was my understanding that "Watch Your Back" was either complete or at least nearly so-- I don't know how much they could change on that at this late date, other than supplying the baggies that suit the card separation (an idea I got to very quickly-- you certainly don't want to use rubber bands on these lightweight cards, and ziplocks let you separate as much as you want to, but have variable sizes to suit the "slim" airplane decks or larger ones to fit the entire damage deck into.

Yes, the price is tough compared to the components.
Yes, the dollar/euro exchange rate makes that harder, but this would be a much easier thing to accept if we Americans had not already been "spoiled" by the deliverables that Phalanx puts into a box (altho some of that impression goes back a couple years when the exchange rate was better.) When comparing the physical deliverable of something like Waterloo or House Divided, sold for about $5 more than WoW, it is no wonder we feel let down by WoW.

I very much hope Wings will offer additional maneuver decks for sale without expecting folks to buy 2 or 3 copies of the same game in order to do what they would like to do with the game.

I've pre-ordered WyB already, and I look forward in seeing what they will do to raise the bar a bit.

Oh, one last thing- the Ufag 2 seater that comes to promote WyB. Other places on this site have techniques for altering the "B" maneuver deck to fly the Ufag, and how to deall with B shooting airplanes.

(And while we're making improvement sections, wouldn't have been smarter to use something other than letters for both maneuver and damage? We have "A" planes for maneuver and "A" planes for the damage that they cause-- would not have been that hard to find a different approach there.

kd
 
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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Re:User Review
kduke (#42076),

I think that the damage decks are really `red' and `blue', but have letters to help the colourblind.

I find the cards to be quite nice and expect them to hold up. The game plays well with fairly limited table space due to the smaller card size. Glossy tables are rather nasty, however, and seem to slow down the game. (I also manage to slow down the game by always losing my cards; I should keep them in a tableux and just draw my maneuvers on a sheet of paper.)
 
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Richard Dewsbery
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Re:User Review
18 Euros? That's, what, less than £12? I wish. Looks like the UK buyer is getting stung again, because it's £23 (35 Euros).

Now I happen to think it's a good enough game to spend £23 on. If it was available over here at half that price, I'd be tempted by a second copy!
 
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Jean-François Dejoie
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I bought it for 31 euros in a shop in Belgium. I think it's expensive too.
 
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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Re:User Review
mlvanbie (#42120),

You appear to be delusional. Red and blue decks would have been a nice idea, though.
 
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Mary Weisbeck
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Re:User Review
grimzap (#39544),
"The game tends to drag on as you try, often in vain, to outturn your opponent. I had one game in which player A was quickly eliminated through an explosion damage card. Player B and player C played for another 1 1/2 hours accumulating about 12 damage cards each before they mutually destroyed each other."

Vicious female coming through! Sometimes out-turning the other player is way too obvious. Instead, turn the other way or go straight and Immelman; he could very likely end up in your sights if HE'S doing the expected.

And, respectfully, how could this game last 1 1/2 hours with only 2 players playing? Our games have been quick (20 min.) unless instantly shot down (5 min. ) Maybe you are playing on a larger surface? Our table is about 3' across and keeps the play very tight.
 
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Jay Duval
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Re:User Review
sodaklady (#42762),
Hey !...that last statement was unnecessary and cruel...after all ladies size doesn't matter...or is that just another cruel lie.
 
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Andrea Angiolino
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Re:User Review
cybernex wrote:
Some elements will be improved on the next set: you will get ziplock bags instead of the (i must admit) almost useless cardboard tray, colour rulebook in the english version.

The reprint actually had ziplocks. But I even heard that yesterday a prototype of a plastic insert with spaces for 4 decks of cards and a bunch of counter has been brought to the Nexus headquartier in Northern Tuscany. We'll probably have in "Watch your back!" and in further reprints of "Famous Aces".
 
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