Matthew W. brings us a review of the Aeronautica Imperialis game!
The Speed WAAAGH takes to the air to challenge the might of the Imperium. Matching reckless speed and quantity over quality, read on to learn more about the starter kit and how the two forces play!
I recently picked up the starter box of Aeronautica Imperialis, as did my mate Wright. We promptly exchanged sprues – with him taking the Imperial forces and myself the Orks. In one day, we built all the planes and played three games. The sprues themselves are fairly straight forward. Each box contained 3 Ork Dakkajets and two Fighta Bommers, as well as two Fighters (which can be built either as a Thunderbolt Fury or just a Thunderbolt ) and 2 Marauders. There are also plenty of options for arming all the planes with missiles, extra guns and bombs as appropriate. A rule book, building guides, play mat, tokens, and some dice fleshed out the set (you will need more dice).
Building the planes was quite quick. Took us about an hour and a half to build all the fighters, with an additional hour to the bombers. The Ork bombers gave me some real issues at first. I struggled to understand the first step on building the nose cone, and exactly what the depth of the pieces as they fit together should be. Once I built the second step, the body of the plane, the first became much more apparent. I would suggest anyone first building the ork bombers to start with step two before doing step 1, as it all made sense then. Overall the building of the planes was quite fun – and I may have put far to many bombs on one of my Figtha Bommer (they can take 3 wing bombs or 2 big bombs).
The Basic Rules
The game is played on a mat, referred to as an area of engagement, that is 14 hexes by 16 large. Seeing as the max movement a plane (currently) can go is 9, this gives a fair bit of space to work with. Each plane has a series of stats, min and max speed as well as min and max altitude. Imperial planes cap at speed of 6, while the Orks can, with an upgrade, ratchet it up to 9! The Orks however, are stuck at an altitude of 4 max (unless they wish to risk stalling) while the Imperial planes can cruise up at altitude 5. This is important, as changes in altitude result in a -1 to hit penalty. Seeing as you are hitting on 5’s this makes a pretty large difference. A max of 12 turns is played, although in our games we never got past turn 8.
Each game is played in alternating activation. Both players place markers face down by each plane for which of the 8 ace maneuvers the plane will attempt to perform. In the starter set the Imperial fighters can use maneuvers 1-6, while the marauder can only use 1-3. The Orks, while faster, are a tad less maneuverable on their fighters, using maneuvers 1-5 while their Fighta Bommers can use 1-4.
Just between the speed, altitude, and maneuvers between the Ork and Imperial factions opens up a lot of tactical plays. The last piece of the puzzle is the weapons. Ork Weaponry wants to stick right at close range (1-4 hexes) getting extra shots at this range. Imperial weaponry really wants to sit at Medium range (5 to 7 hexes), picking up extra shots there. Due to the speed of the Orks, it is easy for them to close the gap, but it is hard for them to down the Imperial flyers, only wounding on a 5+ at best with their basic weaponry. Imperial guns however, wound on a 4+ or 2+ for most of their weaponry. This means, while it is much harder for the Imperium to line up their shots, if they can catch an Ork plane at medium range, it tends to die. Orks, meanwhile, tend to need multiple planes ganging up on a single imperial plane to hope to down it.
Points wise, in the starter box, both forces if taken stock come out to 88 points, giving the Orks a one plane advantage. Upgrades and extra weaponry adds a fair number of options, and feel quite thematic as well for both forces.
Playing the Game
We played 3 games in pretty quick succession, ranging from 100 pts to 200. The first game we were just figuring out the game and got a number of rules wrong. Game 2 and 3 went a lot smoother, with game 3 taking 90 min total. The Movement phase quickly became extremely important – jockeying for positioning, height, and firing position. The player with initiative gets to move first, revealing one token and enacting the Ace Maneuver. This is a decided disadvantage. The advantage comes in that the player with initiative gets to shoot first. Each player will move one plane at a time, alternating between players until all aircraft have been moved. Even though an Ace Maneuver is fixed before the plane is moved, there is still a fair bit of flexibility in exactly how the plane moves along the preselected maneuver.
Shooting definitely favors the imperium, but much of that can be blunted if they are kept at short range. An Ork Dakkajet at short range can pump out 8 shots (10 with an upgrade) hitting on 5+ wounding on 5+. At short range, a Thunderbolt is only able to put out 2 shots hitting on 5+ wounding on a 4+. Compare that to medium range where the same two planes are looking at 6 shots for the Thunderbolt and 4 shots for the Dakkajet; this is ignoring the thunderbolt’s lascannons, which get two shots at medium range and if they hit are almost guaranteed to cause the dakkajet to lose a structure point,.
In our third game, at 200 points, it really felt like a major engagement in WWII. The first two turns saw so many planes on the board it was nigh impossible for there to not be good targets. By the end of turn 2, only a handful of planes were left to each side and the game became extremely tactical with 6 more turns going by trying to get good firing positions and having to push the aircraft to their limits – taking checks for going to fast in dives or stalling too high up.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game. It is quick to play, the models are easy to build and have some beautiful details. There is already a campaign book, which I will be picking up soon, as well as hints of things to come. Special pilots, weapons, ground targets, and I will make a prediction: I think Ork Deff Kopta’s will be making an appearance. There are rules already for hovering aircraft, and the idea of taking a squadron of ‘Koptas (maybe with Killsaws?) excites me to no end.
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