Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Wings of War: Session and casualty report
One of the pitfalls of a public gaming day is the risk of mishaps, and so it was on a fine July afternoon that my Werner Voss Albatros D.III met its end in its maiden flight. Sigh.
The day's inaugural battle at the redoubtable Arkham Asylum was a small version of my "Lafyatte, We Are Here' scenario. On the Allied side were a rocket-armed Nieuport 16 and a Nieuport 17, both from the Lafyatte Escadrille. On the German side was the above-mentioned Albatros, defending a Balloon with the help of three ground-based machine-gun nests.
As the balloon-busting mission is inherently challenging, I took the two Nieuprots while a rookie player (one of the Magic: The Gathering crowd at Arkham Asylum) took the Albatros.
It was an entertaining battle, as the rookie flew decently enough and I, too, am really a rookie, having just a few game under my belt as well. I'm pretty familiar with the rules, but like a newbie out of flight school I still need some seasoning in battle. In any case I was able to get qute a few shots on the balloon, but not enough to down it. My planes took a few hits, but neither was in danger of going down, barring an unlucky hit. I hadn't been tracking turns, but my guess is that were were close to or slightly past the 12-turn stand when the German player announced this would have to be his last turn. Ah, if only we'd just ended it there. While willing enough, the rookie was rather obviously much more comfortable rifling through cards than handling miniatures gently and there had already been a few close calls when somehow his hand brushed across the table and the Albatros went flying (I didn't see the move). Instinctively he did the wrong thing and stepped back and there was quite a loud crunch as Voss' plane became a compete wreck.
He gallantly offered twice to pay for the model, but I refused. I had invited him to play, after all, and frankly, I blamed myself because I had allowed the model to be too close to the table edge -- it was actually off of the playing mat and should have been replaced with the card, hindsight (and my future practice) tells.
There was a break in the action and when we resumed I ran through a couple of solitaire games with Frank Luke alone in his SPAD 13 against the balloon and its machine guns. The first mssision ended in the first shot as the balloon blew up! Fun, but not really very instructive. So I played through again and managed to down the balloon in just under the 12 turns on the second play through. This is an indication of how challenging the balloon busting mission is -- even unopposed it can be tough.
At left, Frank Luke lines up for a shot at the balloon.
A new rookie pilot, intrigued by the balloon busting (and thankfully much more adept with his hands) took up the challenge of defending the balloon. This time it was Luke and Rickenbacker against a Fokker D.VII. I gave Luke incendiary bullets and made him a bullet-checker, so he'd have less change to jam.
The new rookie, while new to Wings of War, was another experienced Magic player and also has played a few of the other wargames I've brought to the store on occasion. While not a wargamer, he's a smart dude and a quick learner. And, as I found out, the Fokker D.VII is areal nasty foe. Indeed, this was the very first time I'd seen it on the board nad it's shockingly maneuverable. It has several maneuvers that I haven't seen available to any other plane, as matter of fact.
Still, things got off to a decent start. While the Fokker nicked Luke on the way in, he and Captain Eddie were able to get multiple shots on the balloon and start to whittle it down. The ground fire wasn't too bad . I was able to wiggle Luke in through a gap in the anti-aircraft ring and Rickenbacker's direct challenge to a gun resulted in a couple of "0" damage draws. So far so good.
At right, the Fokker just misses a shot at Luke.
Meanwhile the Fokker was able to draw a bead on Rickenbacker for a close range shot. The first card drawn was another "0" but the second was the dreaded explosion! Captain Eddie was gone, just like that. Naturally this cahnged the tnor of the fight considerably. Luke doggedly made passes at the balloon, which stubbornly refused to go down, despite being set on fire a couple of time. Luke managed a couple of passing shots on the Fokker as well, including a few nicely lined up on the tail. (After the battle the German player revealed that all the Fokker hits were "0" or "1." ) Finally Luke scored with an "explosion" card and the balloon was down -- but Luke himself got caught up in the blast and his battered SPAD 13 went down as well. The Fokker was also within the blast zone, but survived with a total of 11 hits.
The nice thing about Wings of War is that it's easy to pick up, and I plan to host another round of battles in a couple of weeks --although with a little more care to prevent real casualties .
The balloons are tough to take out -- I think next time I'll let the Germans try their hand at it. The Fokker D.VII was a shock. It's clearly far better than a SPAD 13. I'll have to throw a Snipe into the mix next time I use those.