Tag Archives: World War II

Shoot You Down – Wings of Glory WWII Starter Set review

The whole story of how Wings of Glory came to be is a bit all over the place. Originally released as Wings of War back in 2004 by Italian company Nexus, Fantasy Flight Games picked up the English language license. Cue loads of editions and expansions based around the fighter planes of World War I and II, lapped up by a loyal fanbase who were more than a little shocked when FFG announced they were dropping the game last year. A killer blow then fell with Nexus closing down, only to see the whole thing relaunched like a phoenix under a new name from a new company. Ares Games are now responsible for the game worldwide… so how does the new Starter Set measure up?

Pretty well actually. If you’ve had any experience of Wings of War you’ll find everything pretty familiar – in fact there’s very little apparent difference between this new version and the old stuff. It’s still the same card-based air combat game that everyone knows and loves; there’s a fair bit in the box and with three sets of rules (plus extra optional ones!) it’s accessible enough to both experienced fliers as well as those new to the game – think of it like beginners playing arcade mode, but you’re also allowed to head all the way up to tactical simulation.

No matter whether you’re playing by basic, standard or advanced rules, the objective is normally the same – destroy the enemy through dogfights! Players take a fighter plane (or sometimes more!) and a deck of movement cards then prepare for battle in the skies. Each turn will see you use a card from your hand that shows a manoeuvre: place it in front of your plane and follow the line, showing where you will end up. Should you be within range of an enemy, you attempt to shoot them out of the sky – they’ll be trying to doing the same to you, of course – and try not to crash and burn.

A very exciting movement card. The blue arrow is for it you're going at full pelt, the white for a more sedate pace.

The simple version of the game can easily be picked up within a couple of minutes – the rules only take up a few pages – and they lead you into the more complex levels beautifully. With the introductory instructions you’ll only be dealing with movement, firing and damage, but when you take the step up there is a lot to keep an eye on. However, it never feels like you’re being swamped with too much information; the way the game holds your hands through the levels is incredibly well thought through, but you’d expect that from a game system that’s been around this long. It’s had the time to be refined over the years and all those potential kinks have been ironed out.

One of the big pulls of Wings of Glory are the frankly awesome little 1/200 scale planes (the WWI planes are 1/144)  that give the game that extra something special. Back in the day, starter sets just came with cards to represent your planes – perfectly fine, the game played in exactly the same way – but having these wee things zipping around your tabletop is brilliant. Again, all the old WoW planes are cross compatible, so if the four fighters that come with the base set don’t get you excited there are plenty of others out there. The level of detail on them is incredible and they really add to play experience. A minor downside – they’re a bloody nightmare to get out of the packaging. One of my planes came a cropper trying to take it out of the box, but that’s nothing a little superglue can’t fix.

Little planes! How could you not think these are AWESOME?

I was always interesting in checking out WoW, but there was something that made me not want to pull the trigger on it. Now that I’ve got to try out Wings of Glory I’m kind of kicking myself that I didn’t take the leap earlier – it’s a fun little game that can be played on so many levels. I’m still feeling my way through the advanced rules, but the great thing about the game is that you can go as complex as you like. Experienced gamers will be overjoyed at the fact they can get into the most intricate details – everything from fuel, different types of damage, various altitudes – but newbies will still find a satisfying game when playing by the basic rules. It’s perfect for a quick blast but also very tempting to throw yourself into the deep end and should you choose to go there, you’ll be rewarded with something surprising.

Why surprising? Well, when I first opened the box and saw the planes, I thought it’d be quite light and fluffy. Then I looked through the instructions and saw that there was so much more to deal with. Rules for two-seater planes. Acrobatics. Hell, there’s even missions to complete that can all be tied together to make a campaign! All in one box! Throw in the fact there’s a thriving community over at wingsofwar.org and you’ll never be short of new material to keep the game fresh. One word of warning: it’s not exactly cheap, but you do get everything you need for up to four players in this one set. Should you choose to go in for expansions, fine, but you don’t have to – however, knowing what most gamers are like it won’t be too long before there’s lots of tiny planes taking up shelf space all through your home. Not that I’ve ordered any. No. Not at all. Ahem.

Wings of Glory was originally released as Wings of War by Nexus back in 2004, but this latest version comes from Ares Games. Designed by Andrea Angiolino and Pier Giorgio Paglia, the new WWII Starter Set plays with between two and four players (though the game does cope with up to eight fliers). An iOS port is also planned for release before the end of 2012. A copy of Wings of Glory will set you back around £45 – now take to the skies!

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Still Fighting It – Memoir ’44 review

It’s got to be said, I’ve always been a little wary of war gaming. The genre strikes me as pretty complicated and – despite the patience of friends who’ve attempted to teach me a couple of them – they have a tendency to fry my brain. Of course, regular readers of the site will know that occasionally the planets align, pigs fly and I somehow manage to understand how a game works. Admittedly, the game needs to be reasonably straightforward for this to happen, so thank heavens for Days of Wonder and their excellent Memoir ’44.

Based on Richard Borg’s Commands and Colours gaming system, Memoir ’44 was actually simple enough to pick up despite the initial daunting feeling I got when I first opened the box. I’ve actually played another one of the games in this series before – Battlelore – but despite the fantasy theme (which I normally enjoy) I really didn’t get on with it. Admittedly I didn’t get the chance to get it to the table as much as I would have liked, but Memoir seems to have hit the spot – right place, right time, I suppose. Over the past few years I’ve become more interested in (relatively) recent world history and this game, of course, is steeped in the stories of World War II.

This is a two player effort (unless you’re taking part in an Overlord game, more of which later on) that sees one side taking the role of the Allied forces, the other Axis. The game’s rulebook contains a selection of scenarios based on actual events for you to play through, seeing if you can either keep history as it occurred or change the past. As well as the rulebook (as with most DoW products) the production values are ridiculously high and you get an awful lot packed in the box. The double-sided board is where your battles will take place, one side a beachfront , the other a countryside setting. You also get a stack of large hex tiles, printed up with all manner of rivers, towns, forests and hillsides – these will be placed on your board before the game starts as mapped out in the scenarios from the book.

An awful lot of stuff in a relatively small box!

Of course, the thing that makes a Days of Wonder game are the quality of the pieces included and Memoir doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. There are nearly 150 actual army units, split between infantry forces, tanks and artillery, along with a stack of wire bales, sandbags and hedgehogs (those spiky things made out of three planks of wood). Everything is remarkably detailed considering their size, and it’s all shared equally between the two colours. It really appeals to your inner 5-year-old, evoking memories of playing with your toy soldiers. Speaking of playing, Memoir is actually rather easy to pick up – the trick is to win through strategy.

Each scenario is explained in the rulebook, complete with a map of where both players’ forces begin. There are objectives to complete in order to claim victory, normally meaning that you have to collect a set amount of medals. These can be attained by occupying a certain area of the board or (more usually) by wiping out an opponent’s unit. The whole game is card driven, with each player manoeuvring around the board using one card per turn. The board itself is divided into three parts – general movement cards show a highlighted section and how many units can be selected, while special actions could mean anything from all armoured units attacking to a sole infantryman running riot.

Combat is resolved using dice and is dependent on a few factors – what you’re attacking, the unit you’re using, the distance between you… thankfully, after a couple of turns it all becomes quite straightforward. If you’re attacking infantry, you’re looking for as many soldiers to appear as possible. Rolling tanks will destroy armoured units, grenades take down anything, while green stars mean no effect. You may also be forced to retreat if a purple flag appears. Explanations in the rulebook are clear and I soon found myself working out rolls myself with no problem. However, if you’re not someone who enjoys a little randomness in their gaming, Memoir ’44 is probably a game you should pass on. You’re reliant on luck, and even the most strategic mind can be scuppered by poor dice. On the flip side of that, games are quick, with simpler scenarios often coming in under an hour – ideal for that quick gaming fix that’s a little meatier – and you can plot your revenge swiftly!

I mentioned the Overlord game earlier, which is a variant of the standard game that allows for more players. Of course, with more players comes more equipment, meaning you’ll need more than one set to use. Multiple people on each side are led by a General who secretly issues orders which are then performed on the now-oversided board. These battles are much longer but take an already excellent game and turn it into something truly special. If you get the opportunity to try out an Overlord game I really recommend you do so – the investment of time is more than outweighed by the experience.

However, two-player Memoir ’44 is how it will normally visit your gaming table, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better introduction to war games. Sure, it’s a far cry from the deeper simulations like Advanced Squad Leader, but Richard Borg’s vision of WWII battles is in no way a throwaway affair. Going up against an experienced opponent will challenge even the most hardcore – after all, you never know what the enemy is thinking. If you still need convincing, Days of Wonder currently have an online version of Memoir available from their website. Download it from this page, register for the open beta test and away you go. See you on the battlefield!

Memoir ’44 is produced by Days of Wonder and was first released in 2004. Designed by Richard Borg, the base game is available for around £30 both online and at your local game shop. If you enjoy it, you may also like the huge range of expansions, from Air Support units to new boards depicting other battlefields from World War II, as well as a book detailing full campaigns. These expansions are in no way necessary though, and that base game will keep you entertained for a long time.

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