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Subject: Wings of War - First Impressions from a Wargamer rss

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Scott Tucker
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Let me preface my review by stating that I am an avid tabletop wargamer. Flames of War, Warhammer, 40k, Napoleonic; you name it and I've probably got a closet full of the appropriate miniatures somewhere. It was on an excursion to purchase more of the like that I noticed this little gem sitting on the gaming store shelf. I've been involved with aeronautics in various military and civilian regards throughout my life, and studying WW1 air combat has always been a cherished hobby, so I was immediately intrigued. After a quick google search on my phone and the realization I'd need multiple "maneuver decks" I picked up two boxes of Famous Aces, one Watch Your Back, and the four booster packs, (BD wasn't in stock, or I'd likely have that in my possession as well) and made my way home.

I managed to setup an initial run-through with my roommate, though he's not particularly into boardgames (or wargaming for that matter). He took an Albatros and I a Spad and also the respective A and B maneuver decks. The ruleset is incredibly easy to pickup, the maneuver system is quick and intuitive, and the special damages that can be inflicted add a fun layer of depth to an otherwise simple game. The game did draw out quite a bit, simply because we had a hard time maneuvering in on each other. The vast majority of shots were made in passing as we never managed to get on each others tail. All in all, it was a good time, (I downed my roommate after setting him ablaze and the subsequent damage cards exceeded his plane's hit points) and I was eager to introduce the game to my father. He's also an avid WW1 aviation fan and loves a good board game.

The next night I spread the game out on his table and we proceeded to have an introductory game exactly like the one I'd had the night prior. My sister's boyfriend witnessed the mayhem and decided to join us for a second game. He and I both took Spads while my father flew an Albatros, the three of us engaging in a free-for-all. Even with three planes, it seemed like there was very little possibility to tuck in on someone's six. This meant most shots were taken in head-on passes, including the final round of the game in which my father's Albatros (with six hits remaining) met my mangled Spad (with only two hits remaining) in a head to head, close range exchange. I drew two zeros, he a five and a one. I managed to irk out my fourth kill, and lived to fight another day.

All in all, I found the game to be immensely enjoyable. It's easy to learn and quickly accessible. I find that the maneuver system is a fun and interesting simulation of WW1 tactics, although using the A and B decks has not to this point let us invoke the trailing rules simply because it's that difficult to get behind someone and stay there. Perhaps the more maneuverable planes are more effective in this regard. One tactic which seemed invaluable for these two less maneuverable decks was the Immelman turn, as their long swooping turns were simply too slow. I quickly adapted the Immelman into a sort of makeshift loop (straight, immelman, straight, immelman, straight), which let me lure an attacker in on my six, and then put them back into my sights on the next round as I 'looped' behind them. That sort of 'tactical' depth in a game composed of very basic components and an even simpler rule-set is a rare-find, and will guarantee that this game sees a LOT of play on my table in the future. I highly recommend it to anyone, even those of you who would normally be put off by wargames of any sort.
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J C Lawrence
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Among other changes, I find the game improved by using 12"/6" firing-arc rules instead of the provided 8"/4" rules. it makes the games faster, tighter and I think more interesting as regards teh details of maneuvers.
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Roberto Di Meglio
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I would also suggest to have a minimum of 4 planes in a fight (with 2 planes for each player in a 2-player game).
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Seth Owen
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cybernex wrote:
I would also suggest to have a minimum of 4 planes in a fight (with 2 planes for each player in a 2-player game).


In a one-on-one duel it should be very hard to get on someone's tail. I don't think it's easy to do in any aerial war game.
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Carc >> BSG
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clearclaw wrote:
Among other changes, I find the game improved by using 12"/6" firing-arc rules instead of the provided 8"/4" rules. it makes the games faster, tighter and I think more interesting as regards teh details of maneuvers.


That's a good suggestion. I'll have to try it out with my group again using that variant.
 
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J C Lawrence
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cybernex wrote:
I would also suggest to have a minimum of 4 planes in a fight (with 2 planes for each player in a 2-player game).


I recommend against playing two planes per player. Simply, the overwhelming incentive is for the player to fly the two planes in perfect synchrony at a modest spacing with over-lapping firing-arcs. The result is essentially a plane that is 3-4 times wider than an actual plane, that shoots like a blunt club. If you really have to fly multiple planes, at least make sure they have severely different performance profiles (eg Spad and Fokker).
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Wulf Corbett
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clearclaw wrote:
I recommend against playing two planes per player. Simply, the overwhelming incentive is for the player to fly the two planes in perfect synchrony at a modest spacing with over-lapping firing-arcs.
You mean... like a leader & his wingman?
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J C Lawrence
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Wulf Corbett wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
I recommend against playing two planes per player. Simply, the overwhelming incentive is for the player to fly the two planes in perfect synchrony at a modest spacing with over-lapping firing-arcs.
You mean... like a leader & his wingman? :what:


Leaders and wingmen do not have perfect communication and coordination. Two planes being flown by the same player do. More simply, I don't care about the history, theme or narrative, just the game-play (I play WoW as an abstract). I find that matched planes flying in perfect coordination greatly reduce the quality of the game-play and dog-fight maneuvering.
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Bill Eldard
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skydivinscott wrote:
One tactic which seemed invaluable for these two less maneuverable decks was the Immelman turn, . . . .


One of the weaknesses of the two-seaters is that they are generally too underpowered to perform an Immelmann, so they must resort to jinking in order to evade the guns of a pursuer.

You'll also find that the rotary engine aircraft can make tighter right turns than their non-rotary engine opponent, giving the former an additional maneuver for escaping from the latter positioned on his "six."

Thanks for your review of Wings of War. Like you, I've found it rather enjoyable, and have bought all three series of miniatures.
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Wulf Corbett
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clearclaw wrote:
Leaders and wingmen do not have perfect communication and coordination. Two planes being flown by the same player do.
Not true. As soon as you make a turn, the two change relative positions to one another. Using the same cards as one another just accentuates this - one will always be on the outside of the turn, and will lag behind if it simply duplicates the move.
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J C Lawrence
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Wulf Corbett wrote:
Not true. As soon as you make a turn, the two change relative positions to one another.


Right, but there's detection/reaction latency involved and that gap compounds rapidly as the maneuvers become more aggressive.

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Using the same cards as one another just accentuates this - one will always be on the outside of the turn, and will lag behind if it simply duplicates the move.


Management of the tangent line between the two plane centres is certainly part of flying a pair of planes, albeit not a very hard or interesting part. Ditto for managing the width of the gap between the planes. Why not simply fly a single plan with a firing arc whose base is 12" wide? It achieves the same result.
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Wulf Corbett
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clearclaw wrote:
Management of the tangent line between the two plane centres is certainly part of flying a pair of planes, albeit not a very hard or interesting part. Ditto for managing the width of the gap between the planes. Why not simply fly a single plan with a firing arc whose base is 12" wide? It achieves the same result.
No, it doesn't, it makes it easier Flying as a wingman is hard - you constantly have to reposition yourself to cover your leader's aircraft and still watch your own back. If you don't find it interesting, fair enough - but you are just plain wrong in your assumption that it just makes a single, wider, firing arc.
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Carc >> BSG
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clearclaw wrote:
cybernex wrote:
I would also suggest to have a minimum of 4 planes in a fight (with 2 planes for each player in a 2-player game).


I recommend against playing two planes per player. Simply, the overwhelming incentive is for the player to fly the two planes in perfect synchrony at a modest spacing with over-lapping firing-arcs. The result is essentially a plane that is 3-4 times wider than an actual plane, that shoots like a blunt club. If you really have to fly multiple planes, at least make sure they have severely different performance profiles (eg Spad and Fokker).


I've got to try that.

I might agree, after trying it, that's a little like the Chapel in Dominion... it results in a 'lesser' win.
 
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Paul Doherty
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skydivinscott wrote:
One tactic which seemed invaluable for these two less maneuverable decks was the Immelman turn, as their long swooping turns were simply too slow. I quickly adapted the Immelman into a sort of makeshift loop (straight, immelman, straight, immelman, straight), which let me lure an attacker in on my six, and then put them back into my sights on the next round as I 'looped' behind them.


Agreed that's a good combo - only thing is it will raise your elevation on some planes all by itself (or on others if you were alreday part way to the next altitude level) so you'll end up behind them but above them so your range to hit is lessened (as is your damage potential).
 
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J C Lawrence
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Wulf Corbett wrote:
No, it doesn't, it makes it easier Flying as a wingman is hard - you constantly have to reposition yourself to cover your leader's aircraft and still watch your own back.


I agree if different players are flying the two planes. I enjoy that challenge. I also agree if the multiple planes the same player is flying are of severely different types. I disagree if the same player is flying two or more similar planes as a set.

Most of the plane positioning in WoW is fairly simple. Things like human survival, player survival and all the rest can be readily ignored. (ObNote: I only play team-based melee, winner is the team with a plane still in the area, nothing else matters, no altitude rules) The game optimises readily: 1) deliver damage cards to the opposition more quickly than they do you, 2) coordinate damage card deliveries to rapidly overwhelm single opposing planes, and 3) manage opportunity costs (eg suicide head to head runs). There isn't that much time for the covering game you mention. That's not to say it isn't there, there's just not much time for it.

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If you don't find it interesting, fair enough - but you are just plain wrong in your assumption that it just makes a single, wider, firing arc.


Would you mind supporting that? How does a single player flying multiple planes in concert not deliver a single wider firing arc? How is that case in fact more interesting/subtle when ~7 damage cards will down the average plane plane?

It does if the same player is flying both planes. There is very little reason for a player flying multiple similar plans to not logically treat them as a single very large plane with a very wide firing arc. It greatly reduces the problem space and makes a large number of dogfighting maneuvers markedly simpler (and less interesting). If different players are flying the various planes, I quite agree with you that the problem is not near as simple or as uninteresting. My assertion is purely for a single player flying multiple similar planes in concert.
 
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Wulf Corbett
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clearclaw wrote:
Quote:
If you don't find it interesting, fair enough - but you are just plain wrong in your assumption that it just makes a single, wider, firing arc.

Would you mind supporting that? How does a single player flying multiple planes in concert not deliver a single wider firing arc?
I cannot believe you have ever actually put the cards on the table and tried this if you even have to ask for proof. It just isn't possible to manoeuvre two aircraft without constantly changing their positions and relative aspects, except with the most gentle, symmetrical, sine-curve manoeuvres. The occasions when the wingman is even able to cover the leader are increasingly rare as a dogfight continues. And even attempting to do so simply makes your wingman an easy, open and predictable target.
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How is that case in fact more interesting/subtle when ~7 damage cards will down the average plane plane?
I said nothing about more interesting - that's entirely subjective. I only say you're wrong about how two aircraft are capable of manoeuvring together.
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It does if the same player is flying both planes. There is very little reason for a player flying multiple similar plans to not logically treat them as a single very large plane with a very wide firing arc.
He can try. He'll fail, unless his opponent is utterly incompetent and flies in a straight line.
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J C Lawrence
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Wulf Corbett wrote:
I cannot believe you have ever actually put the cards on the table and tried this if you even have to ask for proof. It just isn't possible to manoeuvre two aircraft without constantly changing their positions and relative aspects, except with the most gentle, symmetrical, sine-curve manoeuvres.


I'm some 30+ games into Wings of War and have won more than my share. Yes, almost every maneuver is going to change the normal between the planes and that's to be expected by simply geometry. If the planes are matched and coordinated they can largely be treated as a dumbell pair that orbit a semi-flexible mid-point. The result is that key element is the angle between their heading and the normal. The gap elasticity can mostly be fudged and ignored with odd make-up manuevers to reset. I don't see this as surprising, difficult or interesting.

Quote:
The occasions when the wingman is even able to cover the leader are increasingly rare as a dogfight continues. And even attempting to do so simply makes your wingman an easy, open and predictable target.


Exactly, so don't bother with covering and rarely bother with dogfighting each plane individually. Focus instead on damage card delivery via arc coverage. The planes are just delivery systems. Only split the plans when forked or pincered.

Quote:
I only say you're wrong about how two aircraft are capable of manoeuvring together.


Been there, done that, won more than my share of games that way. It really isn't that hard in WoW. Locally we only allow players to fly more than one plane if they are severely different types (eg Spad and Fokker) and start widely separated on the field.

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He can try. He'll fail, unless his opponent is utterly incompetent and flies in a straight line.


Straight lines aren't needed. The broad firing arc of the plane-pair reduces much of the dodge-value of dog-fighting: whatever the opponent does he's in range of one of your planes and quite likely two. Yes, one of your two planes will likely go down fast and this should be deliberately planned for as a tactical sacrifice in delivering damage cards. Just deal more than you get; think of it as an offensively ablative plane. Once you're down to a single plane the rest is as normal.
 
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Kevin Duke
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One reason for making sure you are flying different plane types-- if you are trying to fly two at the same time-- is to make it easier to keep the cards separated. The idea of flying 2 SPADS, and trying to keep Spad A's cards separate from Spad B's, makes my head hurt...much less trying to remember which deck in my hand belongs to Spad A or Spad B. In accumulating multiple sets, I keep 2 of the "same" plane per maneuver deck, so that you can keep one on the control board and help "remember" which one is yours (I've taken a lot of new players thru WoW and this really helps). Still, veterans or not, I'd expect to scramble something if I were flying 2 of the same plane at the same time.


As to an early observation, using the tailing rules with A and B maneuver decks against each other might be easier than trying to tail with C versus D. It's not the ability to do do a wide turn that helps the pursuer, so much as limited maneuvers by the target plane.

I'm going to pass on the multi-plane discussion-- the game is the most fun with 4 or more people on each side, flying one plane.
 
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