Miniatures Review: Bombs Away!
Wings of Glory - Heavy Bomber Packs Game Review
"Against 20 Russians trying to shoot you down or even 20 Spitfires, it can be exciting, even fun. But curve in towards 40 fortresses and all your past sins flash before your eyes." -- "Fips" Phillips, a 200+ Eastern Front Luftwaffe Ace
Wings of Glory is the successor to the extremely successful line of Wings of War World War I and World War II cards and miniatures game which has been available since 2004. While the game started as a card game where each card represented one airplane, anti-aircraft gun or balloon, it has evolved in to a non-collectable, non-randomly packaged, air war game where players could purchase a starter set and then purchase “booster” packs with individual airplanes or even large models of observation balloon and bombers.
Ares Games new Wings of Glory Heavy Bomber air plane packs bring a whole new level of World War II combat action to this fantastic game system.
The first of the Heavy Bombers to be released are 1:200 scale B17s and Lancasters. Each fully painted bomber comes with a variable altitude stand and base, data cards, heavy bomber rule booklets, maneuver and level bombing cards, damage counters, industrial targets and, for the “dam buster” Lancaster, rules for skip bombing with bombing aids and even tactical target maps for two different dams.
First off, let’s look at the two Lancasters. The Lancaster was the primary heavy 4 engined bomber of the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. It was a tough, dependable plane with a crew of 7 or 8 men depending on the mission. Its 4 Merlin engines gave this plane a maximum speed of 280 miles per hour although, depending on the bomb load, it would probably fly slower than its max speed. For most of the war, it was armed with .303 machine guns although, later in the war, crews demanded it be up-armed with 50 caliber machine guns as were used on American planes. Lancasters were used in a variety of mission profiles but, like most British bomber missions, were used during the massive night time raids of 1942 to 1945. While the Lancaster could carry a larger bomb load than the B17, it was not as well protected. A notable weak spot on the Lancaster is its lack of a gun position on the underside of the plane. With no “belly turret”, the Lancaster is extremely vulnerable to attacks from below as German night fighter crews quickly found out.
The two versions of the Lancaster released in Wings of Glory include the Avro Lancaster B.III “Grog’s the Shot” and the Mk.III Dambuster “Popsie”. “Popsie” does not include the dorsal turret position but it is armed with an externally mounted “bouncing bomb” as were used to destroy the Ruhr Valley dams in 1943. The “Dambuster” version includes a double sided full color target map sheet of two of the Ruhr dams as well as full rules and play aids for dam busting with the “bouncing bombs”. Using these bombs is trickier than it looks and the players should practice a few times before attempting a “real” mission. Popsie can sustain 40 points of damage while Grog’s the Shot has 42 hull points and the previously mentioned dorsal gun turret for added protection. The B17 was nicknamed “The Flying Fortress” and for good reason! The two most heavily produced types of B17s had between eleven and thirteen 50 caliber machine guns mounted to cover almost all attack angles of this massive bomber. The B17 is, arguably, the most famous bomber of World War II and Ares has released 2 different variants.
The first variant is the most famous Flying Fortress thanks to being featured in two films, the first a documentary and the second a major Hollywood release – The Memphis Belle. The Belle is a B17 F and is modeled with its two tone green camouflage pattern. The F model had between 9 and 13 machine guns. It is well protected from all but a head on pass. Over 3,400 of this model of B17 were produced. The Belle was the first B17 to complete a 25 mission tour over Europe. Coincidently, the Memphis Belle is being restored where I work at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. It is expected to be completely restored in the next two years. (http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=6740)
The other B17 in the release is the B17 G “A Bit ‘o Lace” which flew 83 missions over Europe. Resplendent in its silver base and yellow trim, “A Bit ‘o Lace” is bristling with machine guns and the G model makes up for the F’s vulnerability to frontal attacks by adding two machine guns mounted in a forward firing chin turret.
Both B17s have 50 hull points and can dish out massive damage to any aircraft trying to attack them.
Don’t expect speed from either of the bombers, they just weren’t built for that. Escorting fighters will have to make sure they don’t get drawn so far away from the bombers that they can’t respond to an attack. In my test games, the Germans crippled a Lancaster but were unable to drop the B17s below 20% of their hull points. In each mission, the Germans lost one fighter to the bombers for a 50% casualty rate during attacks with either an FW190 or a Bf109 supported by a Me110.
Rules are provided for high altitude bombing but are incomplete. The master rule book must be referenced for the rest of the rules. Complete rules and play aids are provided for the dam buster missions and are fun and very challenging to master.
Overall, these four planes are a wonderful addition to your Wings of Glory fleet. Now come out with B29s, Ju88s, Do17s and Betty bombers, jets and night fighters I’ll feel complete!
Publisher: Ares Games Designers: Andrea Angiolino and Pier Giorgio Price $34.99 each
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Richard Martin has written film and game reviews for over 20 years and has been playing war games and role playing games since the days of Ogre and Basic Dungeons and Dragons. Additionally, he writes screenplays, games and works in the legal profession. (Don’t tell anyone but Richard prefers writing games and movies to law work any day.)