by Russ Lockwood
Designer: Andrea Angiolino, Pier Giorgio Paglia
Artist: Vincenzo Auletta, Dario Calì, Fabio Maiorana
Publisher: Edge Entertainment, Fantasy Flight Games, Galakta, Mad Man’s Magic
Dan and I pulled out Wings of War, a clever WWI aerial dogfight game using 1/144-scale plastic aircraft on a base, maneuver cards slugged to the aircraft, and a common damage deck. We’ve played this many times before, although not recently, and we selected our planes at random: I had a Spad XIII and Dan had a Siemens Schucker D III.
While the Spad XIII is well known, I never heard of a Siemens Schucker D anything, but the D I apparently appeared in January 1918 and the D II and D III shortly thereafter in February, although engine problems withdrew them from service until the overheating problem was resolved. The D IIIs were revamped and a D IV version with some refinements and perhaps a different engine entered service later in 1918. The interceptor with the four-bladed prop proved nimble enough, but did not appear in numbers.
Run and Tell All the Angels
Wings of War uses maneuver cards to plot the flight path of the plane, with the particular flight paths slugged to aircraft performance. You pick three cards and place them face down. Each card shows a starting line, which matches up to the front of the plane base, and an ending arrowhead, which matches up to the back of the plane base. You place the card down at the front of the plane, lift up the plane, and put the back of the plane base down where the arrowhead matches up. Movement is simultaneous.
When you finished moving the plane, simultaneous firing (if any) occurs. Each plane base has an arc of fire and you use the ruler to measure from the center of the firing plane to any spot on the target plane. If you’re within the ruler length you draw a card from either the one-gun damage deck or the two-gun damage deck. If you’re really close, you draw two cards.
Each damage card, rated with a number from 0 to 5, is kept secret. When your total equals the total of your plane, you’re shot down. Some cards also give special damage, such as jammed rudder, jammed guns, or engine damage. These effects last three cards. A special explosion card results in an immediate kill.
2D Compromises in a 3D World
Wings of War posits a 2D fight, not unlike the old 1960s Milton Bradley game Dogfight, instead of a 3D fight as in the old Avalon Hill game Richthofen’s War. We did not use the optional Wings of War height cards. Indeed, we’ve never used the height cards. So, we ignored the Hun in the Sun.
To me, that doesn’t matter much in a straight up fighter dogfight. Where you run into problems is when a two-seater plane flies around the table with an almost 360-degree arc of fire. Without height, you can’t slip under the two-seater to avoid getting hit by either the pilot’s or the observer’s machine gun. The other annoyance is sometimes the models will maneuver atop each other. In that case, you substitute a card for the model. In a multi-player game, this happens more than the time or two in our two-player game.
Since movement is simultaneous, getting on the tail of an enemy plane does not give you any benefits in the basic game. As I recall (dangerous), I believe there’s an optional tailing rule that allows the tailing plane to switch the order of the three maneuver cards after the enemy plane moves. That may be a house rule. We only used it once — about a decade or so ago.
Somewhere Over France 1918
We started at opposite ends, heading towards each other. Hauptman Dan slipped to the left as I slipped to my left, then we cut in to the right for a head-on pass. In a laugh and a half, we both received 0 damage and a special jammed guns cards! For the next three maneuver cards, we cleared our jams.
We twisted and twirled across the sky in a couple of other head on passes, plus he managed to sneak on my side for an unreturned shot. I took five damage in total (of the 16 for the Spad), and a jammed rudder (no left turn for three cards). I don’t know his damage (ultimately 8 damage of the 14 for the plane), but he needed three cards to clear something (sputtering engine).
As we circled, I fired a shot from outside his arc. All of a sudden, BOOM! Dan received the special explosion card and his Siemens Schucker D III fluttered to the ground in a million streaming pieces. Notch another Hun for the Allies.
My Spad XIII makes a turn using one of the maneuver cards. Dan’s D III in range and in arc of my guns, so I drew a card for him. To our surprise, it was the special explosion card – instant victory for me!
It’s a clever little game and plays pretty quickly.
About the Author
Russ Lockwood has been bouncing around the wargaming world for the last 25 years in one capacity or another. Most know him as creator and CEO of MagWeb.com (on-line archive of 162 military history and related magazines from Coalition Web, Inc. from 1996-2009). He appeared on camera on The History Channel (Modern Marvels), ABC, NBC, Fox, and various cable TV shows. MagWeb was also covered by the NY Times, USA Today, and other newspapers, a variety of trade and consumer magazines, and a multitude of on-line sites. He’s given lectures at various HMGS conventions, Origins War College, and various professional meetings and seminars. Although MagWeb closed in 2009, those white MagWeb rulers still appear on wargaming tabletops across the country.
On the prior professional front, Lockwood was Editorial Director of AT&T’s web division, Senior Editor at Personal Computing Magazine, Assistant Editor at Creative Computing Magazine, Telecommunications Editor for A+ Magazine (Apple), tech writer at AT&T, Staff Writer (Financial) NY Times Information Service, and freelancer for PC Sources, Windows Sources, PC, MacUser, Byte, Restaurant Business, Hotel Business, Computer Buyer’s Guide and Handbook, and other magazines. He also hosted a radio show, ComputerWise, for five years, and was an on-line editor for ZiffNet on Compuserve and Ziffnet on Prodigy.
He is currently a freelance editor and writer covering financial and defense news, with a concentration on the retail industry. If you are really interested, go to Linked In, where he maintains a profile.
On the miniatures front, you may have seen his byline in various hobby publications in the 1990s and 2000s. Lockwood is also the author of: Snappy Nappy: Simple, Subtle & Ultrafast Miniature Rules for the Napoleonic Era, and, Hyperspace Hack: Ultrafast Spaceship Fleet Battles with Miniatures (both published in 2009 and available from http://www.onmilitarymatters.com and http://www.caliverbooks.com). Lockwood is also the editor of the Secrets of Wargame Design series, releasing the fifth volume in 2015.