Thursday, October 25, 2007

REVIEW: Aeronautica Imperialis

Aeronautica Imperialis by Warwick Kinrade. Published by Forge World. £35. Aerial combat in the 41st millennium.

This book has 10 sections and is in the usual Forge World large, glossy format. The book is crammed with the same type of photoshopped model photography and vehicle diagrams and paint schemes found in the Imperial Armour books. This will either delight you or appall you, depending on your sensibilities. For me, the price is not such an issue, so I like that the book looks and feels expensive, kind of like an upmarket Games Workshop publication.

The book opens with the game rules. They are relatively short and simple, with a turn consisting of choosing manoeuvres, initiative, tailing fire, movement, firing and the end phase. Many players will be happy to learn that this isn't an I-go U-go system, players instead alternating their actions between planes in the same turn. The advanced rules are only two pages long and could easily have been incorporated into the regular rules. Squadron lists for all of the races in the game finish off this first section. The lists are small and basic, with little real choice - the Chaos list has only two options, for example.

Section two contains the aircraft data sheets. These include all the profiles of the aircraft (type, hits, manoeuvrability, speed, thrust, weapons, etc). This is where the differences between the aircraft start to emerge, where even a slight variation in an aircraft can have big consequences on playing style and tactics on the tabletop. By all accounts, the Eldar seem to have a very powerful set of flyers.

The following six sections detail each individual aircraft used by each of the factions in the game. There are flyers for Imperial forces (by far the largest section), Orks, Tau, Chaos, Eldar and Space Marines. For someone simply wanting to play a game, these sections are largely superfluous but for a fluff-junkie like me they are one of the best parts of the book. The format is usually a photoshopped picture of the model in action, some background on the aircraft, it's specifications, some technical drawings of the flyer and then several variant paint schemes. The only criticism I have, and it's a big one for me, is that there is no background on the higher organisations of any of the air forces. I'd love to know how fighter groups are organised, how many aircraft form a wing and a squadron and how aircraft fit into their faction's overall battle plan. It's not that there is little information on this, there is nothing at all!

Scenarios are outlined next, and they are presented as historical encounters. There is some background fluff, a note about choosing non-historical forces, set-up rules, special rules and the victory conditions are described. The scenarios cover pretty much every possible mission, from search and rescue to ground attacks and convoy escorts. They look like a lot of fun and will add to the game immensely, given that the number and types of aircraft themselves are limited.

The penultimate section contains rules for a campaign. It supposes that the air forces are battling for supremacy over a warzone. The rules look like they would add another dimension to the game without bogging it down in loads of extra rules. Forge World seem to think less is more in this regard and it is a sentiment I agree with. There is even a one page example of a campaign which illustrates the rules very well.

The final section contains quick reference sheets, combat record sheets and photos of models and boards.

I enjoyed reading this book. It seems to me that it will attract two separate types of audience; the inveterate fluff-monkey and the gamer looking for something new to play. There is something for both, but there are reservations for both.

It sheds some light on new background material in terms of individual aircraft but I think it could and should have gone even further with the bigger picture. Fluff-monkeys may be left wanting more.

Similarly, out and out gamers may find the force lists limited and the rules basic, but at it's core this could be a good little game to pick up and play once in a while. It's not a game for people who like 'chrome' as Jervis would put it.

These are relatively small quibbles, though, so I give Aeronautica Imperialis a solid 8/10.


All of my reviews end in a score out of ten for the product. The table below explains what that score means.

  • 10/10 Perfect, absolutely nothing better
  • 9/10 Excellent, highly recommended
  • 8/10 Very good, recommended
  • 7/10 Good
  • 6/10 Above average, some problems
  • 5/10 Average, some good points some bad points
  • 4/10 Below average, some redeeming features
  • 3/10 Poor, major flaws
  • 2/10 Very poor, avoid if possible
  • 1/10 Absolutely appalling

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