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.
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.
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!