Thursday, January 5, 2012

Planes, Planes and More Planes

Despite currently being half a world away from home and my gaming hobbies I am eagerly awaiting the release of two air combat games that are both due to release in January and February.

The first is an old favorite, Wings of War, being released by a new manufacturer, Ares games, with a slight name change, Wings of Glory.  Those that know me or have read some of my other articles already know that I am a huge fan and supporter of Wings of War. 
I currently own the complete collection of both WWI and WWII products that were previously manufactured by Nexus games.  I was disapointed to learn this past summer that Nexus was suddenly folding due to poor fiscal mismanagement.  As a result I evaluated my collection and decided to procure the few missing items I did not yet own and complete my collection of what Nexus currently offered for fear it would ot be available later.  Before I deployed the news broke that the game designer had retained the rights to Wings of War and was looking for a new game company to manufature it.  At the time I figures it would be at least a year before any new releases came out.  I am happy to report that I was wrong. 

Wings of Glory is now scheduled to release this month, January 2012, and pick up right where Wings of War left off with a WWII Set 3 (8 new models)  and new WWI bombers set (4 new models). 

In addition, they are releasing a new deluxe starter WWII starter set.

As I understand it Wings of Glory will be completely compatible with all the earlier released Wings of War products.  The designer has taken this opportunity to slightly revise the cards (mostly art work) as well as modify a few of the advanced optional rules such as altitude.  I know the above deluxe starter as well as a complete set of the planes will be on my wish list.  I am eager to see what all the changes are and how they will affect game play. 

On the WWI front the new bombers have long been awaited (Gotha G.V. and Caproni CA3) by the die hard WWI Wings of War fans. There are only four new models being release (2 models with 2 paint schemes) with this first release and they will compliment the previous flight of the giants boxed set that was the last WWI release from Nexus.  I know they will be a welcome addition to my WWI squadrons.

The second game I am looking forward to is Axis and Allies Angels 20 (AA20).  This will be the third WWII miniature related game produced by Wizards of the Coast (WotC).  The previous two games Axis and Allies Miniatures (WWII Land Combat) and Axis and Allies War at Sea (WWII Naval Combat) both enjoyed immense success in their own right.  They both are centered around the concept of providing players pre-painted miniatures and a simple gaming format.  The other unique aspect to both these games unlike any other WWII miniatures game is that they are a Collectible Miniature Games (CMG) where players buy boosters and receive random units.  Of course if you are a die hard like me you purchase the boosters by the case so you ar sure to get them all and in multiples.  Needless to say I am a huge fan of both games and own complete collections.

Although I have completely bought into both of the other WotC product lines I am approaching AA20 a bit more cautiously.  This game will again be a CMG, but I am not convinced that is a wise move for a WWII air combat game.  Like the other two games AA20 will have a starter set (includes six non-random planes) with a complete set of rules, a paper map for the planes to manuever around, and a complete set of statistic cards for each plane they produce in the first set (30 models). 

Like AAM and WaS, AA20  will also  have random boosters each conatining three random planes.  The Starter MSRP is $39.99 and each booster MSRP is $24.95.  This is the first mistake I think WotC is making with this new game.  They are entering a market that already has well established pre-painted aircraft models.  By charging $24.95 for a chance to buy the plane a gamer wants I fear they will not achieve the sales they desire especially when there are other games (see above) that offer similar or better quality models at the same or lower price and the gamer can choose which models they want to purchase.  Due to the fact that there is already a well established market I do not think making this game a CMG is a smart move.

The other thing that concerns me about AA20 is the scale of the models.  The planes will be 1/100 or 15mm plastic models.  Based on the pictures I have seen it appears the quality will be about the same or slighlty better than the aircraft models they provided for AAM only bigger.  In my opinion 1/100 scale is just to big for a table top WWII aerial combat game.  Then I have read that some play Wings of War with 1/72 scale models, so I guess anything is possible.

As you can see from the above picture the quality seems OK, but the lack of a clear canopy and prop tell me that WotC is cutting corners when the established competition already does not.

The other issue that concerns me about AA20 is the fact that it was recently announced that key members of the design time were laid off right before the holidays.  In my mind this creates doubt for the possibility of future expansions for AA20.  Sure there is the possibility that the game designers can be hired back as free-lance contractors, but announcing they were let go 60 days prior to the release of a new line does not give most alot of confidence.

My hope is that the saving grace for AA20 will be the rule system.  Not having played the game yet I really cannot speak to it.  I have read a handful of posts from people that have play tested AA20 and they really liked the dice based system using stat cards similar to the systems used in both AAM and WaS.

The other possible saving grace for AA20 may be the many devoted Axis and Allies fans who seem like they will buy anything made by WotC and get into the collectible aspect of these games.  This has definately been the case with War at Sea and for a while AAM.  I have been one of these players in the past.  I hope WotC is not counting on this factor too much as I fear price and competition as well as being late the to the scene (others like me already play other air combat games) may keep some away especially in a poor economy.

As for me I will definately be giving AA20 a try and buying at least a starter and if available a few select planes as singles on the secondary market.  Unlike previous WotC prodcuts I have no plans to buy these by the case.  This is 100% due to the competition factor as I already own a product with which I a very happy.  I have no plans to sell off my Wings of War/Wings of Glory collection at this time or any point in the future. In fact I plan to expand with the new releases coming out.  If I really like the AA20 rules when I get home I will find compatible stands (Most likely litko) and use my Wings of War Air armada with these new rules on occasion.

Either way I am hoping AA20 will be a success for WotC because I fear that if it fails WotC may fold on all the their hsitorical games.  The Avalon Hill line of games has always been a secondary effort for WoTC which is a shame as I and many others really enjoy them and will continue to support them if they continue to make them.  Mostly I hope AA20 will relase on time so I can get a copy and enjoy some relaxing game time while I am deployed.  It will also give me the opportunity to write a detailed review of the game for a future blog post.

More to come......


  1. Thanks for the excellent preview, Afilter. Very tempting, must steel myself against accumulating yet more stuff.


  2. Thanks for the great preview and commentary. My son just turned seven, might be time for Wings of Glory.

    1. Iain,

      Great game for youth as you can play basic rules and add optional rules as you go along. My daughter started playing at an early age, she liked the WWI. AERES just announced WWI game will be re-released as well. WoG as well as the other minis games by WotC coast have been popular with all my children.

      Have fun!