YORKTON - Air battles between squadrons of fighter planes hold a sort of romanticism of the two great wars.
Of course in the first war it was the somewhat awkward biplanes doing battle at speeds pilots and could almost shake hands had they not been shooting at each other.
By the second war the planes were faster, deadlier, and names such as Mosquito and Mustang became famous.
The battles are still remembered, spawning movies such as the 2012 Red Tails and the 1995 TV release The Tuskegee Airmen, the mid air dogfights making exciting film scenes.
So it’s no surprise the dogfights of old would be something gamers would want to play out on their tables.
The challenge of course is that board games and game tables are flat, one dimensional fields, and air battles take place in the sky. How does a game deal with the movement of plans in two dimensions?
The double challenge is having a system that captures flight, and at the same time is something players can grasp easily. It is a bit of a mind-twist getting your head around planes being at different altitudes.
Red Skies from Warlord Games does it by having the planes tilt. Level they are sort of at a base altitude with other craft in the air. Nose down they are in a dive, and nose up they are at a higher level. What the orientation of a plane is to another determines which has the better ‘shot’ in the dogfight.
It’s a slick and simple system but you have to wonder if the plastic stands would last through repeated changes over a lot of play.
Similarly, the planes sit on the raised plastic stand through a small insert attachment, and again how long before that wears and makes for a loose fitting is unclear, but the suspicion is it will wear.
Another interesting aspect of airplanes is that they are never stationary, so every turn they must move at least somewhat. Think about it and it of course makes sense, but it still is a bit of a mind shift in-game.
A lot of mini skirmish games, and Red Skies is simply one in the air, run into an issue of the various factions ending up all being largely the same in game play, and in this one it is even more noticeable.
Fighter planes were all generally the same. Yes, the American Mustang was a tad faster and the Japanese Zero a little less armoured, both reflected in the game stats of Red Skies, but there is a sameness here.
Having different pilot skills, for the best fliers helps, but only marginally.
The miniatures are pretty basic, not that there was a lot of difference in the actual planes either. They do come in different colours for ease of immediate play, but dedicated Red Skies players are going to want to paint their models.
Our group is sort of split on this one.
One among us really likes the game and has bought a few packs of different planes.
A couple of others are a bit less enthusiastic. If it is on the game table and he is supplying a squadron we are not averse to playing, but to buy a box and suggest Red Skies – well it’s not likely happening.
It should be noted Warlord Games has created a lot of product for the game, including unique pilots, different country’s planes and extending the game into other eras such as the Korean War.
War buffs who game, and there are lots who like to re-enact battles in miniature, will want to check this one out, (www.warlordgames.com), especially if they are into the battles in the air.