Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 2
Amount of time to play: 60 min
Age requirements: 10+
Set-up time: 5-10 min
Wing Leader is an aerial combat game set during WWII. There are 23 scenarios for you and your friends to fly and battle through.
Wing Leader uses a sideways view of the action instead of a top down perspective like most aerial combat games. The scenarios put one player in the role of raider and the other in the role of defender.
You start by choosing the scenario you want to play. This will determine your aircraft and how you score victory points (VPs) as well as any other scenario specific conditions. Each aircraft token on the map is associated with an identifying letter on your Wing Display. It will help you keep track of your squadrons’ damage and current state.
Each turn is divided into five phases, set-up, tally, movement, combat and administration. Set-up is when you place units (or newly arriving units) on the map. During the tally phase each of your squadron’s may target one of your opponent’s squadron. You are successful if your roll on a d6 is equal to or greater than the distance to your target. Movement is what you would think. Each different type of aircraft moves a different number of spaces. You mark them if they climb or dive which will decrease or increase that squadron’s speed. In the combat phase you attack your tallied foes. Then you see if units can escape the map or resolve ground attacks on units in the administration phase.
The player with a tally on a target is the attacker and chooses whether to use the turn or speed stat. First you determine the combat differential based on these stats. The table ranges from -4 to+4. Then both players roll 2d6 and look at the result in the column associated with their differential. If any scores are hit you must check for losses. For each hit you roll a d6 and add that unit’s firepower rating. If that total is greater than the target’s protection rating you score a hit and mark the unit with a loss token. If it is less than the protection rating it is a miss. And if it equals the protection rating you mark the unit with a straggler token. Two straggler tokens equal a loss and if you have loss tokens equal to the unit’s max loss value the unit is destroyed.
All aircraft involved in combat, whether hit or not, must check for cohesion. There is a cohesion table you roll on and if a unit gains two or more levels of disruption the unit is broken. Broken units cannot attack and must retreat to their side of the map.
These are the basic rules of the game. There are rules for weather, line of sight, dogfights and more. You can even add more advanced rules for fuel limits, special tactics and weapons and flak attacks.
Wing Leader puts you in charge of fleet of WWII era aerial fighters. And whether you are the raiders of defenders, you’ll find it challenging to take out your opponent.
The components for this game are well done. The chits are thick and durable. The map is kind of plain but serves its function. And the art looks good. The rules are a detailed with lots of examples but might take a read or two to really grasp. The first scenario is pretty straightforward so you might try it then read them one more time.
I like the unique side view perspective this game uses. It makes climbing, diving, and vertical positioning matters. You must also factor in the horizon and sun. It is a fun experience trying to set up your attack and take advantage of these things.
This is a game where you’ll want to try both sides since their goals are usually pretty different. You tend to use different strategies based on your side and the scenario. You might even want to run a scenario again after you lose to try a different approach. This all adds to the replay value of the game.
I also like how you can add the advanced rules as you like and are used to the base ones. It is another way to change the experience and lets you get as detailed as you’d like.
There are a couple things to be aware of with Wing Leader. First it can be a bit fiddly. There are lots of chits and your Wing Display helps keep some tokens off the map it can still feel like a lot to administrate. And the game is not a level playing field for new players. Experienced players will almost always beat new ones.
If you like air combat games you should give Wing Leader a try especially if you are looking for something different. The game is modular enough and you can play with as much complexity as you like. And the era and theme shine through in the aircraft, tactics and details.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 4 out of 6
Luck 5 out of 6
Player Interaction 6 out of 6
Replay Value 5 out of 6
Complexity 4 out of 6
Fun 5 out of 6
Overall 5 out of 6