Wings of War WWII: The Dawn of World War II lets players simulate tabletop dogfights in period aircraft, gaining some sense of the chaos and danger of aerial combat while still enjoying an easy to learn game. Designed by Andrea Angiolino and Pier Giorgio Paglia of Nexus Editrice SRL in Italy, the game has English language distribution through Fantasy Flight Games.
The successor to the popular World War I aerial combat game, Wings of War, puts players at the command of Messerschmitt Bf109s, Spitfires, Grumman F4F-4 Wildcats, Hawker Hurricanes, Mitsubishi A6M2 Reisens, and other aircraft. Up to six aircraft can fly at once with the basic set; let each player have their own plane or give a player the command of a pilot and wingman to better coordinate maneuvers.
Cards represent aircraft, each with its own maneuver deck for that kind of airplane. Maneuver cards plot out where and how an aircraft card moves around the playing surface, showing two moves, one at low speed, one at high speed. Players plan their maneuvers two turns in advance, placing maneuver cards face-down in sequence with a face-down speed marker indicating how fast they’re going. All players reveal their maneuvers simultaneously, plot them out with their aircraft card, then see if any enemy airplanes are within their field of fire and range. If so, the target player randomly draws damage chits (based on damage ratings for the attacking plane), which indicate how many points of damage it takes. Reach or exceed your plane’s points and it goes down.
Those are the basic concepts in broad summary. The game includes these basic rules and more advanced rules for varying altitudes, mechanical damage complications (rudder jams, engine damage, crew hits, fire), ace pilots, campaigns, bombing, photo recon, and strafing. Eight scenarios provide ideas for missions beyond the game’s basic dogfight action.
Wings of War WWII: The Dawn of World War II includes everything needed to play -- 24 airplane cards (12 Axis and 12 Allies), six maneuver card decks, bomb and target cards, damage and other markers, two range rulers, and six airplane consoles on which players plot their upcoming, face-down moves and speeds -- all quality components for a $34.95 price tag.
The game offers a host of other accessories to enhance play. Squadron packs include additional airplanes plus three associated maneuver decks. Perhaps the best visual play aid, actual scaled airplane miniatures each come with their own stand and maneuver deck ($12.95 each, $15.95 for large planes like the Stuka and Val dive bomber). Players can also use the play mats for the World War I version of the game; these are pricey at $39.95 considering players can create their own customized play surfaces with appropriately colored craft store felt and a sponge dappling of crafter’s paint.
A second game set, Wings of War: Fire from the Sky, introduces new rules for dive-bombing and additional planes, including bombers like the Ju87 Stuka, Aichi D3A Val, SBD Dauntless, plus more fighters. This boxed game stands on its own (complete with rules, counters, etc.) or you can combine it with the earlier set. A Deluxe Edition, costing $69.95, includes all the necessary rules, counters, rulers, and cards, plus miniatures of four different aircraft; the set might have included two pairs of similar aircraft (two Spitfires and two Messerschmitts, for example) for squadron missions instead of one-on-one dogfight dogfights.
Game fans might check out the Wings of War Aerodrome website for a host of other resources they can download free with simple registration at the site. Here you’ll find additional target cards (rail lines and yards, ships, airfields, even a German u-boat), scenario and campaign ideas, and additional aircraft cards for those not covered in the main game.
Wings of War WWII demonstrates some basic tactical concepts from the period through its innovative gameplay. It gives participants some idea of what fighter pilots faced without actually placing players in danger.
Maneuvers: Each aircraft has a different maneuver rating corresponding to one of four maneuver decks. These help demonstrate the technical limitations of the aircraft, especially when compared against different models.
No Plan Survives Contact with the Enemy: No matter how much one plans out maneuvers in advance, or collaborates beforehand with fellow squadron mates, as soon as enemy aircraft engage in combat, everything dissolves into a frenzied dogfight as planes try to maneuver around each other to line up targets in their sights.
Combat Is Deadly: Wander into an enemy aircraft’s range and field of fire? Take damage. End your maneuver with your card or miniatures base touching another? You’ve collided…take damage. Try a special maneuver (like an Immelman turn) without the correct maneuvers preceding or following it…take damage (for stress on the aircraft). Pilots might last a little longer in one-on-one dogfights, but add a few more players and the action gets chaotic and deadly rather quickly.
Check It Out
Wings of War WWII offers great tabletop gameplay with historically accurate aircraft and extended playability with combinations of different planes and missions. Start with the original Wings of War WWII: The Dawn of World War II box set to get a feel for the rules and the aircraft. Once you’ve found a few planes you enjoy flying, purchase a few miniatures, create your own play surface, and download some extra resources to continue your World War II aerial missions.