So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Red Baron Flies Again - A Review of Wings of Glory

Nearly everyone knows that Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, was the German pilot with 80 kills during World War I.  This made him the most successful pilot of the war, despite the fact that he died seven months before the end.  He is well known for shooting down most of these planes in his red Fokker Dr.I tri-plane, which gave him his name.

Except he didn't.

The Red Baron's Albatros D.III
As it turns out, most of his kills were in an Albatros D.III, (also painted red) the plane in which he actually earned his reputation.  Richthofen was killed in his Fokker, though, if that makes you feel any better.

Don't worry, I didn't know this either.

What I did know was that you can recreate WWI aerial combat in a way that completely captures the imagination.  Wings of Glory is an incredible game that recaptures the romance and adventure of the era in 1:144 scale.  In this game, any number of people take to the air in their various aircraft, ready to shoot each other down, bomb targetsor strafe trenches (but mostly to shoot each other down).  The game has a lot going for it, including different maneuvers, weaponry and damage tolerance for different types of aircraft, as well as damage which impacts the ability to fly, miniatures.

Promotional Image of Wings of Glory
Each turn consists of two phases: planning and execution. During the planning phase each player select three moves from the deck of maneuver cards which are tailored to his aircraft's flight characteristics.  Everyone in the game is doing this simultaneously, so it happens very quickly.  The next phase is movement and firing together.  Each player uses his first maneuver card to physically move his aircraft.  When this is done by everyone, a range check is made, and if someone has a shot they give a random damage card to their target.  This is done for all three maneuvers, and then the next turn begins.  This continues until all the planes of one side have taken damage up to their planes damage limit, which is once again specific to each model of aircraft.  It's a straightforward affair.

I really love this game for several reasons:

Awesomeness. Did mention this game has miniatures?  I am really trying to not let this game become my rabbit hole, but it's hard.  There is a lot of cool stuff available for this game.  First of all, there are the miniatures (did I... never mind) that represent the aircraft.  For each of the aircraft models produced, there are three paint schemes available, and there are over a dozen models.  One can rack up quite a collection, and it's hard to resist doing so.  Additionally, there are game mats, which help keep maneuver cards from sliding around or spinning.  They are printed like giant computer mouse-pads, and have the French countryside portrayed on them as you would see from an altitude.  There are three different versions; one with farmland, one with a coastline, and one with towns on it.  They are designed so that any number of them can be put together as you desire; the rivers and roads line up no matter how it's done.  This really makes it an immersive game.

The French Spad XIII is in serious trouble, the Red Baron is coming with help!
This is a picture of three of the models I own on a countryside play mat (pay no
attention to the shadows!).
Fast play.  The planning portion of player's turns can happen simultaneously, and at times moves can be executed at the same time, too.  This keeps everyone involved nearly all the time.  Because of this, my son and I get in a game in about a half hour, even with each of us flying two planes.  Want to go again?  Resetting the game is a matter of reshuffling the damage decks and moving the planes back to a starting position.

Add your own complexity.  Wings of Glory can be played with very little complexity, or more as a simulation.  At it's most complex, there can be critical damage on a card (such as a fire), altitude, and limits on which maneuvers can be done in series (reflecting the aerobatic limits of the aircraft).   At its simplest, you move the planes and use just the points on the damage decks for firing.  This makes it a game for the hard core gamer, but also the under 10 years-old crowd - just add rules to taste.

Gaming communities.  There are Wings of Glory groups meeting in local clubs and online.  They share historical information, scenarios, playing aids, and the local (offline?) groups may have tournaments.  This can be a lifestyle game, like chess or Bridge.  Not only can this be fun, but that kind of community backing means the game will stay around.

This is my son's favorite game.  Okay, this is a very personal reason, but I have to go with it.  He will pick this over anything else.  I'm all for that!  One the other hand, maybe this is a good reason for everyone.  After all, he's 15 and playing this instead of some electronic twitch game.

Now, this game isn't really a game; it's really more of a game system.  First, you buy the rules, damage decks, and all of the things you need to play a game except the aircraft.  Those are sold separately.  Which aircraft you buy are entirely up to you.  They are sold individually, though there are some duel packs with one Allied plane and one German plane.  I would recommend the duel packs, since they are evenly matched aircraft.  Unless you know a little about WWI aircraft history, it would be possible to buy two planes individually and have one plane have a strong advantage.

This version of wings of war features
the Red Baron's Fokker Dr.I as a card
Their is another option.  Originally, Wings of Glory was published as Wings of War.  Their were three versions of Wings of War, and each was a complete game.  The difference between Wings of War and Wings of Glory is that the aircraft were represented by cards instead of miniature.  Multiple versions of each aircraft design are in a Wings of War box.  I have all three versions of this game, and as a result, I can put a lot of aircraft in the air - literally dozens.  That's an advantage, because I could play a game with a lot of friends.  (I know of one game with 80 players!)  Picking up one of these games is also a little more affordable, but not much.  They can be found on eBay.  However, the downside is that the Awesomeness Factor goes way down!  My son won't even consider playing this way.

Regardless of how you play this, it is and incredible amount of fun.  Once again it's a wargame, and won't appeal to everyone.  However, with its ability to be simplified, the large range in the number of players (one of my Wings of War versions is a solitaire game against observation balloons), and short play, I have to recommend this as a great family and casual game.





Wings of Glory
  • Any number of players
  • 30+ minutes (depending on the number of players)
  • ages 8+

It's Your Move!



No comments:

Post a Comment