ARES GAMES: WINGS of GLORY "BATTLE of BRITAIN"
Andrea Angiolino & Pier Giorgio Paglia
The preamble cuts the Battle of Britain down to but three short paragraphs and from the first of these is the reason for my minor disappointment. In 1940, between 10th July and 31st October the Luftwaffe filled the skies over Britain with myriad aircraft. Bombers reigned down explosive death, first on our local fleet and shipping and then onto airfields, radar stations and anything remotely military.
Against this Blitzkreig of Messerschmitts, Junkers, Dorniers and Heinkels, the Royal Air Force took to the skies with many different styles and types of warplane, the most famous and most remembered of these being the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane.
WINGS of GLORY Battle of Britain is a two-sided aerial dogfight starter-set game that both excites and slightly disappoints at the same time. Thankfully the disappointment is only reflected in the planes that come with it. Although the four models in this pack are of the excellent detail and quality that Ares are renown for there is no variation in either the Luftwaffe or RAF with two identical Spitfires (the Mk1) from the 610 Squadron, and two identical Messerschmitts (BF 109 E-3) of the Jagdegeschwader 2 (Richthofen) fighter wing.
With the models already available in their superb range I honestly think ARES could have stretched to including one each of the aforementioned craft plus one Hawker Hurricane Mk1 (Polish 303) and one Junkers JU.87 B-2 (Sturzkampfgeschwader 77) .
The addition of these would double, possibly treble, the scenario value, certainly making a campaign more probable. Of course I realise that the idea behind this start-up set is to entice players to purchase more models, I just think that there would be more enthusiasm to build up a full battle if there was more incentive.
Obviously this is my personal opinion as a player. My knowledge of the schematics for setting up a Starter-Set is negligible (as in zero) so I accept that ARES know what they are doing - they are, after all very experienced in this area.
BATTLE of BRITAIN uses the regular rules and game mechanics of WINGS of GLORY. Planning, Movement and Firing. Players each select one movement card secretly, placing it face down until all players have chosen and then all are simultaneously revealed. Cards have movement arrows on them, long, short, curved, climb, dive and Immelmann, which will be the action of their planes for this turn.
Cards are positioned in front of their planes and lined up by the arrow markings and then the plane is moved accordingly. When all planes have moved a check is made using the Line of Sight marker to see if combat is an option and whether firing will hit and possibly do damage. Most damage is directed against the target but sometimes the crew may get hit. Special damage has to be announced immediately but other damage is kept secret until such time as the plane is destroyed (then you cannot hide the fact that the plane is in trouble).
There are cards, counters and markers that allow players to read the game visually. These include manoeuvre, damage, Ace skill, fuel, climb and speed etc. The most important visual markers though are the planes themselves. If you have some wargame scenery, maybe some from other games, for instance when requiring a city to fight over I employ the amazing card buildings of Dropzone Commander ™ and the floorplans from the same game, and also LOKE BattleMats.
Please note that for the purpose of the photos on this page I have posed the planes on a table mat to show their splendid design.
The booklet that accompanies this game has just 12 pages, including front and back covers. Four of these pages are a mini catalogue of other available model aircraft. The other pages are mainly Basic and Advanced scenarios that require players to use their imaginations if they don't own the necessary models.
For example the 'Hardest Day' is set on August 18th when a squadron of escorted Stukas headed for London. You have to imagine the Stuka and concentrate on defeating the escorting Messerschmitts. The scenario, like the others in this booklet explains the way the game plays out, but you have to understand the Winning Conditions to understand the action.
Other scenarios include the Blitz of London and Bursts in the Dark (Night Patrol) and they can all be exploded into larger adventures by purchasing other plane packs
Plane packs are available from ARES Games and from places like Zatu and Amazon online. They are made of light (quite brittle if mishandled) plastic and come pre-painted and stickered. They come with the necessary cards etc and are thus ready to use once out of the restraints of the box.
For normal home-playing family gamers they are quite expensive, from £10.00 - £50.00+, so trying to collect a couple of Squadrons for a massive wargame is more likely something games clubs rather than individuals would be looking at doing. The best way to encourage full scale air fleet action is to get some like-minded friends who each buy a couple of planes. Four other players plus the Battle of Britain box and you have 12 planes to track on (and above) your playing area. I have set up demo/participation games using ARES Wings of Glory WWI planes and let me tell you, it is visually hugely impressive.
The WINGS of GLORY: BATTLE of BRITAIN Starter Set can be found new, unopened, online between £48.00 and £60.00. Once you have this set you have all you need to beging playing and to grow from, so eventually you could recreate the entire WWII European Aerial Combat Theatre. It's not cheap but it's addictive and worth it!