I've played this game enough times now to get a feel for what the designer set out to accomplish. This session report will deal with the last session with four players and one airplane each.
Myself and a newbie against my equally experienced partner and a companion who had played twice before.
SPEED OF PLAY -
WoW moves fast. Starting at opposite ends of a 6 foot table myself and Ryan headed straight for the Germans. I had the manuever deck that tends to torque right while Ryan was flying the tighter turning but marginally slower deck. Our opponents had a good manuever deck and a deck that was fast and cumbersome. For the purposes of this session I'll use general terms in describing how the game played.
Within 2 minutes of play we had a mid-air furball going. The newbie picked up very quick what his craft could do and split off left. That drew one German plane in his direction. By 5 minutes into the game three planes had engaged, damage was being taken and the less manueverable German was angling to line up a shot.
This is a fast playing game.
Having read many reviews and session where people said WoW feels like miniatures I'll have to concur. I'm an old hand at table-top combat and everything about this game felt like miniature combat.
EASE OF PLAY -
Both the German pilots had play issue in that they had a hard time visualizing the view from the cockpit. Gary kept walking around the table checking and re-checking his vector because he had turned the wrong way once already and had done so in earlier sessions. Rather than slowing play this had the effect of creating a nice tension. Brad, the other German just had poor decision-making skills. WoW is not friendly to players who fail to understand what might be going on in the mind of an enemy.
We all felt the rules were concise and easy to understand. Enough said. I could teach this game to a non-gamer in 5 minutes. Ryan, my partner learned it in 3 minutes flat. We didn't use the special effects nor did we use the explosion card.
This session took about 20-25 minutes for the entire battle. Gary and Brad teamed up on me and shot me down about 75% of the way through the session. It made for minor downtime for me but WoW plays so fast I didn't feel "left out", knowing that we'd be playing again in just a few minutes.
Ryan, who through his inexperience had left both Germans a shot at me with no threat to them, swooped in and blasted Gary out of the sky the very next round after I went down. This left the tight-turning Englishman against the speedier but much clumsier German. Brad got rattled not having a partner in the sky with him and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't line up a shot. 4 or 5 minutes of play went by with no shots but Ryan was biding his time. Eventually Brad got into a bad position where no Immelmean would save him and Ryan stalled, then turned right into Brads tail. That round and the next, with a long shot and the last German was plummeting to earth.
ADDRESSING COMPLAINTS -
Some have complained about several aspects of this game. One being the cards, another being hazy LOS rules. I felt the cards were very easy to handle. We played on a hard table and they did have a tendency to rotate. But two of us who had better dexterity automatically assumed the role of card movers and the other two never complained. I can think of several ways to remedy this without having to buy anything. I'll just get my big roll of the webbed rubber mat material out next game.
The LOS rules never came up in this session. In fact, we discussed them the very first time we played a couple months back and no player has ever had a problem. I fail to see what the issue here is, though it comes up repeatedly as a fault with the game. The rules are perfectly clear.
Components and price are the other issue I see mentioned frequently as a downside to WoW. Here I have to agree. Thoguh not as stupidly priced as a Steve Jackson Game, WoW at $29.95 MSRP is $5 to $10 more than similar games. The FFG Silver Line games like Citadels spring to mind. In fact, Citadels is a good comparision. Many cards, nice rule book, many little components and the last copy I saw has little plastic gold pieces rather than just cardboard for the gold. About the same amount of material for an MSRP of $19.95.
I don't think the price is offputting nor do I think it lessens the cool factor of WoW. But I think more gamers would bite at $25 and definitely more at $19.95, that's a huge mental barrier in the consumer mindset.
So, from start to finish, one newbie and one sort of klutzy player and it was all over in under 30 minutes. And everyone was raring to go again. This is a good game and if card packs are made available at a reasonable price it could become a widely appreciated game.
Our group will bring it out many times over the next months.