Monday, January 7, 2008

Featured game: Richthofen's War

Richthofen's War was part of Avalon Hill's rebirth in the early 1970s. After SPI turned into a rising competitor and not just a design house for it, Avalon Hill took steps to rebuild an in-house design staff for the first time since the Roberts era. A key member of that team was Randall Reed and one of his first designs was Richthofen's War.
RW took advantage of AH's printing resources to create a nice-looking design, especially the map, which was very attractive.
The red plane counters for the aircraft flown by the Red Baron, v. Richthofen, were also a nice touch.
The game was Dunnigan-like in its attention to primary sources and had an excellent and informative design booklet. By keeping the focus on v. Richthofen the game narrowed its scope a bit, but the overall design was still flexible and provided plenty of options. Fortunately the Red Baron was active during the most dramatic portion of the war, so it worked out.
Like most aerial wargames it didn't quite capture the physics of flight correctly, but it was serviceable and didn't lead to any really laughable results. It may have been technically incorrect, but it was tactically valid, for the most part.
The game was one of my favorites for a long time. I was even able to get some of my high school buddies to play in the school library. It also saw quite a bit of play in college. The game does seem a bit dated now, even with the addition of the maneuver cards, which is an improvement. Still, most people interested in the topic these days would probably prefer to play Wings of War, so I think RW's time has passed and it's mostly of interest as a collectible or for nostalgic play between grognards.

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