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Ace of Aces: Wingleader» Forums » Reviews

Subject: The good, the bad, and the ugly rss

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Ralph T
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Wingleader follows the basic gameplay of the Ace of Aces booklet games, except for the first time, brings it to WWII.

The Good:

The booklet game remains the most portable game system ever made. The booklets are textured silver paperbacks, with covers superior to the boxed Ace of Aces Rotary series. There are 24 planes that are simulated, including Italian and Russian planes and rare planes like the Buffalo. (I'd rather have had the long nose FW-190 or HS-152, than the three Russian and two Italian planes). Each plane has a hard cardstock sheet which gives their speed, gunnery damage, and the five throttle positions.

The Bad:
The game has far fewer moves available than the WWI Ace of Aces books, only three stall manuevers, three degrees of turns, one sideslip, immelman, and going straight ahead. Some of the moves these WWII planes could do, like a barrel roll, are gone.

There are no longer variable speeds (slow, medium and fast) in the game. Instead, to simulate speed, faster planes get a free move every three turns, and a shooting penalty based on how much faster they are. Not a good simulation, since even having a 5 mph speed advantage gives the same number of free turns as a 150 mph advantage. So what's to make up for the loss of most of the manuevers? The throttle positions for each plane, which basically mean when you slightly bank to the left, the next turn you may no longer do more than a slight turn to the right. A number of these moves are actually combinations of both a stall and a turn. In faster planes, they have fewer moves available. Only the Japanese planes can do all moves from a non-banking position. However, because there are so few moves there is not that much variety between the planes. So the variety comes from actually reducing the moveset further.

The Ugly:
While the loss of moves makes the game less interesting than before (although a little more customized per plane), you'd think that a more modern game would be prettier, but it's the opposite. The game does not use photos or drawings like previous editions, but scans, and poor ones that appear to be about a poor 16-color grayscale, at low resolutions. Many pages have white lines where the scan seemed to have gone wrong. It's 1988 laser printer technology, and it's dated. Yes, if you don't look closely at it, it's not that bad, but it should've been better.

Conclusion:

If you have never owned an Ace of Aces game and a WWII buff then this is worth a look, but if you aren't, stick to the Handy Rotaries or Powerhouse series.

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I heartily concur with your recommendation to stick with Ace of Aces: Handy Rotary Series and Ace of Aces: Powerhouse Series. Ace of Aces: Flying Machines can also be fun, especially if you try the unfixed gun variations in the rules.

Ace of Aces: Balloon Buster has its own charm, but I found a pattern long ago that essentially always wins for the plane in 3-4 moves, so I haven't played it since.
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James Lowry
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At first glance, the expansion of AoA to different eras was a sure thing. However, this and the jet-age version showed just how limited the system really was. Its great for slow speed/high maneuverability aircraft like WWI fighters, but when (relatively) minor top speed differences become one of the essential differences between aircraft handling, the book system just comes apart. I thought the sheets were a great idea to customize between different aircraft, but at the same time, it interferes with the basic portability and ease of play.

I admit, I'm looking at Wings of War, and I note that it too has bridged from WWI to WWII fighters. And I think of Ace of Aces and wonder, 'Is it possible to do both in the same system?'
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Frank Eisenhauer
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Rindis wrote:

I admit, I'm looking at Wings of War, and I note that it too has bridged from WWI to WWII fighters. And I think of Ace of Aces and wonder, 'Is it possible to do both in the same system?'


I wonder about that too, anybody able to make a comparisson?
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Ralph T
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I think the books needed to be redone for WWII, no need to do the same 223 pages. If they were to do fewer moves, they could have added climbing and diving and different relative altitudes, and pages where you could not tell where your opponent was because they were in a blind spot. Diving could put you a further distance away (unless a stall) while climbing would be a slower speed. Could it have worked? We'll never know.
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ralpher wrote:
I think the books needed to be redone for WWII, no need to do the same 223 pages. If they were to do fewer moves, they could have added climbing and diving and different relative altitudes, and pages where you could not tell where your opponent was because they were in a blind spot. Diving could put you a further distance away (unless a stall) while climbing would be a slower speed. Could it have worked? We'll never know.


This may be relying on faulty memory, but one of the reasons they stuck with the 223 page system is that, in theory you could mix and match your Wingleader/Jet Eagles/Powerhouse/Handy Rotary/Flying Machines books.

Why you'd WANT to try a jet fighter against a flying machine is a different question entirely.

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James Fung
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I haven't looked at my copy in years, but I remember trying to fly a Me-262 against a Zeke. Due to its speed advantage, when the 262 and Zero were banked in the same direction, the 262 could actually outturn the Zeke.

That was the point when I put the game back on the shelf and forgot what I paid for it. Adding complexity over the basic Ace of Aces game for bad simulation? That's a cardinal sin in my rulebook. I'll take Ace of Aces: Handy Rotary Deluxe Edition over it any day.
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Paulo Vicente dos Santos Alves
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Rindis wrote:

I admit, I'm looking at Wings of War, and I note that it too has bridged from WWI to WWII fighters. And I think of Ace of Aces and wonder, 'Is it possible to do both in the same system?'



There is a variant of blue Max that tries it.
However the fuel consumption had to be given up.
Also, I never tried the WWII planes to be sure it works.
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Ian Cooper
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The problem with Ace of Aces when they went to different eras is they got a bit caught up on the speed issue and they removed a lot of the moves that were fun as a way to make the game seem faster. This, which is why the Wingleader game has that clunky extra move thing and why the barrel roll was removed in both Wingleader and Jet Eagles. The result is a more boring game.

Plus, they got caught up in adding more and more complexity, with the charts, more complicated rules, etc., when the greatness of the system lay in its simplicity.

In my opinion, all they really needed to do was use pretty much the exact same maneuver options they had for the WW1 series (Flying Machines maneuvers for slow planes, Handy Rotary maneuvers for maneuverable planes, Powerhouse maneuvers for powerful planes) and update the images for WW2, then do the exact same thing for Jet Eagles. Problem solved, game still fun.

In short, they tried to fix something that wasn't broken, and they ended up breaking it.

If they had stopped wasting all their money and effort on new rules, new maneuvers, aircraft cards, etc., and simply kept the game system exactly the same and piled all the extra cash into pretty graphics, the Ace of Aces series might still be around today, with multiple game books with photo-realistic graphics for WW2, Korea, Vietnam, etc. Sure, some people would have noticed that nothing had changed, but the point is, nothing needed to change - the system was perfect for any era.

The trap they fell into was the same trap a lot of game developers in the 1980s fell into - they got lured into adding complexity at a time when what people really wanted was simplicity and superficial improvements. That's why massive tabletop games developers like SPI and developers like Avalon Hill who made games with complex rules all went out of business and were supplanted with German game developers who were trying to make games as simple as possible while pushing theme and pretty graphics.
 
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