Last Week, I Killed the Red Baron In my Living Room

What a coincidence. No sooner does Crecente spend the weekend playing tabletop games than I go and do something similar. Only instead of fighting a messy, dirty ground war, I took to the skies with Fantasy Flight Games' Wings of War.

Why? Well, I had a taste for biplane combat, and since nobody has made a better Red Baron since 1990's Red Baron, a board game was going to have to fill the void.

Wings of War, first released in 2004, is a combination of tabletop miniatures and what's essentially a card game. There are two versions, a WW1 and a WW2 edition, but we opted for the former because the latter's rules were a little more complicated, and we just wanted some good, clean fun.

Players take control of one (or more) little plastic planes whose moves are governed by a deck of cards, each representing a particular direction of movement or aerial manoeuvre. The game runs on turns, where each player selects three cards in advance of the turn, then everybody lays down one card at a time, moves their planes on the table, then places the second, etc.

What this means is the game is a brilliant blend of strategy and blind luck. You can plan for general manoeuvres, but by the time you're on your third card of the move the battle may have shifted so much you're relying as much on good fortune as good planning.

Last Week, I Killed the Red Baron In my Living RoomS

Combat is governed by distance. The game ships with a small ruler, and each plane has an arc of fire printed on its base. If at the end of a move there's an enemy plane in your sights and it's close enough, the target must draw a damage card, two if the range is close, one if they're farther away. Each plane has a certain damage threshold, and if it's exceeded, then you're dead.

Again, this is strategy mixed with luck. You of course want to shoot down everyone but yourself, yet the damage value on the cards is random. So for example, on Saturday night I actually won the game despite having picked up the most damage cards. I just had the good fortune of picking up a lot of low-value damage cards, while other guys lucked out and were dead after only a few shots.

And that's it. There are more complex rules out there if you want them (things like altitude, wildcard damage cards, etc), but the beauty of the game is that it's modular, so you can strip it back to all but these most basic of rules and have an absolute blast. It also helps that these days (it used to be a cards-only affair) the game ships with awesome little miniature planes, and that if you end up getting suckered in with some friends, there are dozens more available to bolster your fleets and shake things up (each plane has different stats and movement cards).

For those sold on the idea but not the cost/constraints of the actual board game, a few years back there was supposed to be an XBLA/PSN adaptation of Wings of War. Sadly, it was never released, as the developers (Big Rooster) went bust before it could be finished.

Finally, if the concept above sounds promising but not the period, know that a Star Wars version of the game will be out early next year.

(Top image courtesy of Dan Becker)