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Wings of War: Dawn of War
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World War I was the age of the "knights of the air". Aircraft were new, and their role as a weapon of war just being invented. By World War II, the machines were much more sophisticated, and more critical to the plans of an army general than ever before. World War II was a new age of aviation and a new age of warfare -- and now, Wings of War goes to the beginning of this new epoch. This is the Dawn of War.
Wings of War expands to include the flying machines and battles of World War II with Wings of War: Dawn of War! The WWII series of Wings of War is an easy, fun to play, fast and furious system which fans of Famous Aces and the rest of the Wings of War games will be able to start playing minutes after opening the box! Dawn of War includes fighter planes from the first years (1939-1941) of the war -- pilot a Spitfire, a Messerschmitt, a Hurricane. Outfight, outthink, and outfly your opponents with the innovative and viscerally satisfying Wings of War maneuver system. Up to 4 planes can fly with the contents of this set.
- 140 cards
- 6 airplane boards
- 2 rulers
- 1 rulebook
Average Rating: 4 in 1 review
The Wings of War series has become fairly popular in recent years with multiple versions and expansions, adding to the World War I aerial combat game. I was initially skeptical when I first heard of the game, because it was only utilizing cards. Of course, time has since persuaded me that a variety of excellent games can be produced with only cards, and Wings of War was no exception. At the same time, I never really picked it up, because the World War I theme really didn’t interest me. Wings of War: Dawn of War (Fantasy Flight, 2007 – Andrea Angiolino and Pier Giorgio Paglia) was a different story – being based on World War II.
There are some differences between this game and the former games (the planes are a little easier to maneuver), but Dawn of War retains the same fun and simplicity of the previous games. I find it fascinating how the game can be adjusted in complexity; the rules allow a LOT of variants and additions, but it seems to be one of the few games I’ve played that is best when it’s simplest. I personally prefer a few of the options – such as special damage, but Wings of War works best when it’s fast, keeping the fun level high.
Players are split up into two teams, each player choosing an airplane card and placing it on the playing area, representing the field of battle. Players also take an airplane console and four speed markers (two “high” and two “low”), as well as a deck of maneuver cards that matches the letter on their plane “A”, “B”, “C”, or “D”. Each player chooses a card from this deck and places it on the first space (of two) on their consol as well as a speed marker on top of it. Three piles of damage counters, marked “A”, “B”, and “C” are shuffled and placed near the playing area. The first turn is ready to begin.
The first round of each turn is the planning phase, in which players pick the maneuver card that their plane will do the following turn, placing it in the second slot, along with a speed token. A few of the maneuvers are marked with a diamond symbol, showing a “steep” maneuver; two of these maneuvers cannot be played in a road. Another maneuver, the Immelmann turn, can only be played after a straight maneuver.
Once all players have planned, they reveal the card that they played the previous turn. These cards are placed in front of the plane, which moves along the course shown on the maneuver card, stopping at one of the two arrows on the card. The arrow stopped at is determined by the speed of the plane. After all planes have moved, the cards are put back into the players’ decks, and the second maneuver card is moved into the first slot. If, at any time, a plane leaves the playing area, it is eliminated.
Each plane has a front firing cone and a red dot in the center. If, after planes have moved, a ruler (included with the game) can be placed from that dot, through the cone, and touch a plane card from the other team, it can shoot it. If the plane is as close as half the ruler or less, it is a short-range shot; otherwise, it is a long-range shot. Each plane shows the amount of damage that they deal out for each range, and the player draws chips from the appropriate piles. For example, the Supermarine Seafire MK IIC deals one “B” and two “C” damage at short range, and one “A” and one “C” at long range. Each plane has a certain amount of hit points; and when that number is reached, the plane is destroyed. There is also an explosion symbol, which immediately destroys the plane if drawn. The game continues with the next round, until all the planes on one side are eliminated – at which point the other team wins!
Optional rules include: (with notation to how much I use them in my games)
- Special damage: Some damage tokens show certain symbols that cause other damage to the plane, such as damaging the rudder – keeping it from turning one direction for a few turns; damaging the engine – forcing the plane to fly in low speed for the rest of the game, and more. (almost always)
- Tailing: If a plane gets directly behind another plane, they can follow that plane, seeing its maneuver before making one of their own. (almost always)
- Fuel: Players start with a certain amount of fuel that depletes as the game goes by, essentially adding a time limit to the game. (rarely)
- Acceleration: Players can’t change speed willy-nilly during the game. (sometimes)
- Aim: A plane gets a bonus when firing at the same plane on a consecutive turn; they can inflict more damage. (often)
- Shoot at the Real Thing: Only the plane image counts for hits, not the card itself. (depends on what the other players want; I prefer this)
- Altitude: There are a ton of rules that govern this, that allow a plane to climb and dive. (rarely – the complexity it adds is great)
- Ace Rules: These allow players to add an ace to an airplane, giving that plane special abilities, such as better aim, good maneuvering, etc. (sometimes)
- Bombing, Photo Recon, and Strafing: These allow a player to do a variety of things provided in scenarios that force a plane to go to a certain spot on the board (rarely).
The book also has eight different scenarios, each of which use some of the optional rules above.
Some comments on the game…
- Components: They certainly managed to fit a ton of bits in this
small, square box. In fact, I’m not sure why the plastic insert is
included, as there really is too much to fit inside the components
with any kind of sorting. Your best bet is to toss the insert and bag
all the counters, of which there are quite a few. The counters are
well designed, and I like the thought of drawing tiles from cups for
damage – they fit well on the consoles. Speaking of which, the
airplane consoles are well designed, with a spot for each card, places
for damage tokens, as well as the deck of flying cards. The cards
themselves are fairly small (although I have no idea how the game
would fit on the table otherwise) with really nice artwork and easy
formatting to see how the planes move on the table.
- Rules: The rulebook is quite lengthy, but the first few pages
detail the basic game, which is honestly all you’d ever need to have
any fun with the game. Each following section adds a bit more to the
rules, and it’s set up so that a player can add a few rules at a time
without being completely overwhelmed. I found that anybody can
comprehend the basic rules, while many can start with a few of the
enhanced rules, such as the different damage effects with no problem
- Realism and Fun Factor: Usually I wait until the end to talk
about how fun a game is, but I wanted to make it clear that Wings of
War is a huge hit because of its fun simplicity. Yes, even with all
the rules of elevation and more, the game probably isn’t an accurate
simulation of flying. But really, I’ve never met anyone who cares;
and it’s amazing how the designers condensed what could be a
complicated, lengthy game, into something that flows quickly, as
airplane battles do. There’s a giddy excitement when you manage to
fly the plane just right to line up behind someone else, or manage to
outfox the others in maneuvering. And everything flows so smoothly
that games can be played in a remarkably short amount of time.
- Players and Elimination: With two players, the rules suggest that
each player fly two planes each, and I agree because having only two
planes in a dogfight can possibly get boring. But I enjoy the game
most when each player commands a separate plane, allowing them to
focus on one thing – speeding the game up even more. Sure, the game
has the dreaded elimination factor, but games are short enough that
it’s no big deal; and you can quickly get back into the air for sweet
revenge in a following game.
- Planes: The game has a handicap system of sorts, since an
experienced player can take a plane that has a harder time
maneuvering, and does less damage. I’m not sure exactly how to
quantify which plane is better than others, but the rulebook does
point out which planes are well matched. What I do find amazing is
the same thing I enjoy about every Wings of War game – the fact that
the decks for the different types of planes are similar but force a
different type of maneuvering. Planes certainly have better options
than the WWI versions, because of increased technology; but one still
gets a sense of physics, as they fly the planes around the table.
- Luck: Invariably, someone will become horrified at the damage
tokens with the “explosion” symbols on them. It’s a bit frustrating
when you are destroying the other guy, only to have your first damage
completely take your plane down. Many players that I’ve played with
have requested that these tokens be removed from the game; and I
certainly understand the feeling, although I don’t mind either way.
These tokens are really the only luck included with the game; and
while this luck is substantial, the better flying player will most
likely win the majority of their matches.
Wings of War: Dawn of War is a neat game in that it allows players to scale their level of complexity without sacrificing much fun in the process. Most people will be completely satisfied with the basic game, as it is entertaining, intuitive and quick. Others will enjoy adding some more of the advanced rules to add a touch of “realism” to the game, but I foresee most people enjoying the game. Even those who are normally not “war game” enthusiasts have fun just flying their plane around the table. And if it gives you the chance to shoot down your hubby at the same time, what’s not to like? A good, fast family game – Wings of War: Dawn of War is an excellent introduction to this franchise and may perhaps be the best of the series.
“Real men play board games”