Upon the announcement of Aeronautica Imperialis, I found myself at an unexpected level of indifference. Dogfighting above the skies of the 41st millennium sounds like good fun to me. Regardless, the announce simply failed to grab me by the lapels. I managed to get my sky-faring fingers onto the Wings of Vengeance box and after thoroughly inspecting the goods, I have attained mixed feelings. With Aeronautica Imperialis, Games Workshop have locked-on to a very cool idea, but failed to stay on target in a number elements.
Ready for Take-off
I’ve never been overly keen on playing these aerial dogfighting games. I have dabbled in X-Wing, though, to a lesser extent compared to some of my fellow writers. I’ve even took Warlord’s Blood Red Skies for a spin for a little while and enjoyed it. Alas, I was still not immediately taken by the idea, despite Aeronautica Imperialis being set in my beloved Warhammer 40,000 universe. However, I’ve sunk some time into the box and can say that it does some things very, very well. Unfortunately, some things are not so well-executed, but we’ll get to that in a little while.
The aesthetic style of the box art is thematic and a nice departure from the expected grimdark Warhammer 40,000 setting. Artwork all over the box and within the rulebook exhibit a fun, war-time style. This includes details such as stamp prints, medals and sepia-tinted images of aircraft soaring and battling in the skies above. It’s quite refreshing to see some artistic flexing that isn’t so grimdark for a change. This alone helps Aeronautica Imperialis stand-out a little more as its own entity.
Packing A Punch
The box is nicely populated with all the staples of a standalone Games Workshop game. The models come on densely-packed sprues, alongside a rulebook, tokens and building instructions. Nifty bases bespoke for the game come individually bagged alongside a small bag of dice, so you have everything you need to play within the box. The box isn’t filled to the brim as with other recent releases such as the Warcry starter set, but the amount you get in the Aeronautica Imperialis box is respectable.
Undoubtedly, the best part of this box is the miniatures. This will come as no surprise to those of you who have been aboard the Games Workshop train of the last half-decade or so. Despite their small size the miniatures exude an astonishing level of detail. The aircraft all stand out from one another and will look spectacular zooming across the board in aerial dogfights. Although, some parts are quite fiddly when it comes to assembly. Each bomb that sits under the wings of your aircraft are individual pieces and are quite tricky to fit. Building the kits was far more fun than I anticipated, despite the fiddliness. I found myself becoming more and more betrothed to the models as they started to take form.
Unfortunately, gaps, holes and issues started to appear once I started leafing through the rulebook. The rules for playing the game themselves aren’t strictly at fault. The game plays vastly differently from your more typical Warhammer game systems. It is actually very, very similar to the aforementioned Blood Red Skies. You’d expect some similarities, of course, with both games focusing on dogfighting between aircraft. Manoeuvres deliver a fun and apt mechanic to the game providing a sense of unpredictability and risk to/for your opponents.
Whilst the game itself plays fine, despite the games taking a little long sometimes, it’s the supporting rules that start to sound my alarm klaxon. For instance, Aeronautica Imperialis comes with a single scenario to play, which is simply dogfighting. Games Workshop’s boxed releases unexpectedly release with numerous ways to enjoy them and is something I’ve enjoyed about many of them. This is typically via a variety of gameplay types, missions, scenarios, etc. Titanicus is a good example of this, as well as the wonderful Kill Team.
You may see no issue with this as it’s a game where dogfighting is the sole premise. However, the box betrays this sentiment from the beginning. The box comes with bomber aircraft for both sides (Orks and Humans). The special rule for bombing ground targets even states “rules for this will be provided in a future supplement”. This left a particularly sour taste in my mouth as it feels like an unfinished product has been shipped. I’d determinedly think that a wider variety of fighter craft included in the box would be better for the consumer. This would offer more variety of gameplay, then some supporting bomber materials could release at a later date. Shipping the game with a chunk of aircraft whose primary directive cannot be fulfilled simply feels tawdry.
As a matter of fact, Games Workshop have already confirmed a supplement will be up for pre-order imminently. Rynn’s World Air War comes with lore and additional rules, but also includes rules for missions including bombing ground targets. It even comes with models to represent ground targets! This feels almost under-handed to me. Shipping the box with elements stating you’d need a future supplement to use comes across as a tacky method to sell additional products. With this in mind, it feels as though the Aeronautica Imperialis box exists to teach players how to play the base game, but if you want the “full” experience, you’ll need to buy the Rynn’s World Supplement, too.
Further to this, the Rynn’s World supplement comes with a card battle mat at a larger size than the paper variant included in the core box. Again, I’m accepting that the core box is cheaper than some of the other boxed games released over the past year, but this feels like a step in the wrong direction from wargaming giants Games Workshop. Funnily, I’ve been saying for a while now that Games Workshop should be taking more risks. Whilst I’m happy to see them expanding their games repertoire, some of these decisions feel misplaced or poorly thought-out.
It could be that with games like Adeptus Titanicus and Aeronautica Imperialis they are playing a long-game, possibly in some grand build-up to the old Epic-style conflicts. Regardless, it feels as though Aeronautica Imperialis has been given a needlessly you rough kick-off. We’ve been informed that the game will be supported through future supplements and releases, but if this is a sign of things to come then I fear the game will find itself in a tail-spin, hurtling towards the ground before it ever had a chance to flex its impressive and otherwise compelling armaments.
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