When I first heard news of this Nexus / Fantasy Flight game, I must admit that I wasn’t intrigued one bit. I’ve played a few aerial combat games, and they just don’t fascinate me. So, a new game featuring WWI bi-planes dueling over the continent of Europe just didn’t set my heart aflutter.
While at Gulf Games, I had the opportunity to play the game before the convention actually began. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the game, in spite of being shot down by Alan Moon’s British Sopwith Camel, which was still flying in spite of suffering over ten hits! I enjoyed the experience so much, that I sought out two more games during the course of the convention, including an 8-player team game wherein we combined two games into a mass duel. Our German team succeeded in shooting down all four enemy planes, suffering only one loss. Great fun!
Unfortunately, Ward Batty sold his one and only copy early during the convention, so it appeared I would be forced to wait until the game was reprinted before obtaining a copy. Luck was with me, however, as I was able to snag a copy from the prize table. Now, I’ll just wait for a second set so we can fight larger battles.
Wings of War is a very simple aerial combat game, with players simultaneously playing three cards face-down to form their flight plan for each turn. Cards are revealed one at a time, planes (printed on cards) are moved, and fire is conducted if planes are within one’s arc of fire and range. Damage is assessed by the drawing of cards, which range from 0 – 5. Damage is kept secret, however, so no one can be certain how much damage their opponents have taken. The game is fast, deadly and fun.
Each player receives a player mat, upon which he will establish his flight plan and place damage cards. Special damage markers will also be placed on the mat. Players each select a plane, making sure that each has a plane bearing a different letter (A, B, C or D). Players receive the corresponding deck of maneuver cards, and the battle is ready to begin.
Each deck of maneuver cards graphically depicts the various maneuvers a plane can execute. There are a variety of turns, slides, straights, stalls and even an Immelmann turn. There are some restrictions when playing these cards – a straight required immediately before and after the performance of an Immelmann maneuver, and the prohibition against playing two “stall” cards in succession – but for the most part, choosing which cards to play are left to the players. The objective is to get your opponent within range and within your line of sight, but to remain out of fire range of your opponents. This will allow you to fire away without any danger to yourself.
Planes are moved by lining-up the maneuver card with the arrow depicted on the player’s plane card. The plane card is then moved and placed atop the arrow symbol on the maneuver card. The maneuver card is then removed from the table and returned to the player’s hand. It’s that simple. However, care must be taken to not jostle the cards and to keep their orientation true. This is easier on a table with a felt top, as it prevents inadvertent sliding.
Each plane card depicts an arc emanating from the front of the plane. This is the “arc of fire”. Measuring sticks are provided to determine if an opponent’s plane is within range of a player’s plane. If so, the opponent must draw a damage card. If the plane is very close, as determined by a mid-point on the measuring stick, then the opponent suffers two cards of damage. Ouch.
In addition to the points of damage depicted, some damage cards also depict special symbols which can affect the target or firing plane. These include jammed guns, fire, smoke, rudder malfunctions and engine damage. Most of these are temporary, but engine damage lasts for the remainder of the game, and forces the afflicted player to play at least one stall card each turn. Fire is perhaps even more damaging, as the burning player must draw one damage card at the beginning of the next three turns. A cruel fate awaits. When a player suffers damage equaling or exceeding his plane’s damage limit, the plane spirals out-of-control, crashing in a huge fireball.
Once all players execute all three maneuvers and subsequent fire after each maneuver, a new round is held. Players once again set their flight plan by playing three cards face-down to their mat, then conduct play as described above. This continues until all but one plane is shot from the skies. The sole survivor is victorious!
In addition to this “last man standing” scenario, two additional scenarios are included in the set, with three more incorporating the soon-to-be-released expansion. However, the game seems extremely adaptable, allowing players to devise a seemingly infinite number of scenarios and perhaps even campaigns. The expansion promises to add even more options and possibilities.
There is no denying that the game is simple and basic, and filled with a healthy dose of luck. Fans of more detailed and accurate aerial combat games will likely be disappointed. However, for those seeking a quick, easy game filled with loads of maneuvering, shooting, and excitement, Wings of War is the ideal flight.
Jules, Kurt, Jim and I flew the not-so-friendly skies, attempting to shoot down all our rivals. I was shot frequently, but managed to keep my plane flying. Kurt was the first to be shot from the skies, followed shortly thereafter by Jules. Jim and I remained, and in a face-to-face, climactic dogfight, managed to shoot each other from the skies. No survivors.
Ratings: Greg 6.5, Jim 6.5, Jules 6, Kurt 6