A friend picked up a copy of Aeronautica Imperialis Wings of Vengeance and asked if I’d like to play a game. I said, “Sure, why not?”
This game is a starter set which allows you to fight it out in games of air combat between the Imperial Navy and an Ork Air Waaagh. Wings of Vengeance, out of the box, supports air-to-air combat between a handful of opposing aircraft — a typical flight.
The aircraft are 8mm scale. The plane to the left is a dakkajet, which is a fast, pretty agile fighter with a large number of forward-firing machine guns that put out a hail of bullets if you can get close enough to the enemy.
I enjoyed the game and found the rules easy to pick up yet full of tactical possibilities, which is always a good combination to my way of thinking. Players roll initiative with the winner picking who goes first. Then players secretly assign a maneuver for each of their planes using numbered chits. Once that is done, the player with initiative moves one plane according to the parameters of the maneuver they’ve chosen, adjusting speed and altitude as they go. Then the other player moves one plane and so on.
Speed and altitude are tracked on the base of the models with dials and each plane can perform certain maneuvers such as “Swoop” or “Level Flight.” There is a fair amount of possibility within a maneuver for how you move so I didn’t find it too limiting: a swoop can take you quite a few different places. I also appreciate that each player gets a page explaining the maneuvers graphically on one side with a summary of the rules on the other. The maneuver page was particularly helpful and by turn two I was swooping and snap turning like a real Flyboy.*
Once all of the planes have been moved the turn shifts to the shooting phase. The player with initiative shoots all available weapons for one of their planes and then the other player does the same, alternating planes until all aircraft have fired. If a plane is shot down before it fires then it doesn’t get to shoot.
I like that the game is played on a grid. I’ve played airplane games before where everything is measured out by inches or centimeters and it can become very fiddly and imprecise, which to my way of thinking isn’t so good in games where a plane being angled a few degrees either way can make the difference between it getting to shoot or not shoot, particularly in the case of fighters that only have forward-fixed guns.** I also like that the forward firing arc is molded right into the bases. All of this makes movement and shooting very easy to resolve.
Shooting is fairly simple. Weapons get a certain number of to hit dice at various ranges. The ork planes are most effective at short ranges while the imperial planes are more effective at medium ranges, which makes for some interesting maneuvering battles. The ability to hit is also influenced by relative altitudes with the best results being achieved if both planes are at the same altitude band. If a die achieves a hit then you roll for damage with each weapon having its own damage probability. Most ork guns damage on a 5+ on a D6 if they hit while the imperial autocannons and lascannons generally hit harder.
Also, the Imperial Navy planes are structurally more resilient than the Ork planes, which is to be expected.
“Tailing,” or a situation where one plane has its front arc in an enemy plane’s rear arc, while being at short range, is handled nicely. At the start of the turn, before anyone moves or does anything, a tailing plane gets to shoot for free and then the turn begins as normal. So in the picture above the two ork fighters get free shots at the large Imperial Navy plane they are following. Since the imperial plane has rear-facing tail guns it can also shoot back, which makes sense.
The models are nicely detailed, as one would expect from Games Workshop, and I imagine they’d look great painted up. The game also features bombers and ground assets, and the planes can be given different weapon loads, including rockets, missiles, and bombs. GW sells planes of other factions besides the Imperial Navy and Orks, such as the Tau, Asuryani, and of course the Adeptus Astartes and Astra Militarum. There are also campaign books to expand on the official scenario possibilities. My own interest would be in Chaos Space Marine planes but I suppose nothing is stopping one from painting the loyalist marine planes appropriately if one chose to do so.
The game as it plays out of the box seems fairly balanced based on the first dogfight scenario we played. I obviously can’t speak to the other missions or to the other aircraft one can purchase as expansions to the boxed set.
If you like airplane combat games where it is easy to get up and flying quickly while being tactical enough to be interesting, I think you’ll enjoy Aeronautica Imperialis. All in all, I enjoyed my return to the 40K Universe with this little game and would certainly play it again.
* Given my friend’s and my many past battles between his Imperial Guard and my Orks it went without saying that for our first game I played the orks.
** This can lead to a lot of arguments and confusion that simply don’t come up with a grid.