A recent GMT P500 purchase for me was a WW2 air combat game called Wing Leader. Designed by noted air game expert Lee Brinnecombe-Wood, Wing Leader offers a look at wing level air combat in WW2. LBW has made other air combat games, usually covering a strategic campaign such as Bomber Command (British night bombing over Germany), Nightfighter (plane to plane combat at night) or Downtown (the air war over Vietnam). Wing Leader focuses instead on the area in the middle. Each scenario is not an entire campaign nor are individual planes represented. Pieces represent squadrons and half squadrons and each scenario is a famous action involving at least 4 and sometimes up to 10 squadrons.
The game is also unusual in that the game board is a side view of the air space, rather than a top down view as in most other air games. This becomes important as altitude plays a huge factor in the success or failure of air to air combat. Another key factor represented is the relatively short duration of the actions. In some cases, entire squadrons scatter and are forced to break for home after barely being engaged with the enemy.
The game has a large rule book that over describes the game. It is a pretty simple game. I used a video review to teach me the basic flow and then only did a quick reading of the rules. There really weren't too many questions once play got started. So at a recent wargame night, we played the learning scenario to familiarize ourselves with the basic flow and then got into a meatier scenario that simulated a German raid into England during 1940. We were able to complete both games in about 3 hours.
After I viewed the video review I was all set to dislike Wing Leader. The reviewer used the term fiddly and certain games by a certain designer came to mind. There is a great deal of die rolling in the game and it seemed at the time to be an excessive amount. However, while playing the die rolling became second nature and with purpose. I found myself totally engaged in the game, noting several times where the system elegantly handled some aspect of air combat with a minimum of rules overhead. So rather than it being fiddly, the game actually flows very well.
This is the first of two planned games. It covers the 1940 - 1942 period. The second game will cover 1943- 1945 and will illustrate the advances in air combat techniques and technology. I liked Wing Leader, so much so that I placed a preorder for the second game. Unlike some of LBW's game, this one is playable solitaire and it covers just about every theater of WW2, including the Pacific, the Med, Russia and Britain. This would be a great two player game to break out at a game night when there are two players too many for the main event. It can be learned in a few minutes and played to completion in a relative short period as compared to other war games.
Wing Leader is definitely a keeper.