The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Buffalo “Wild” Wings

Way back when I was playing games in grad school, I dumped a lot of my Magic cards for store credit … among the games I got was Over the Reich — me and several other potential grognards gave it a go.

It was less than a success.

There’s a reason it takes a few years to train a fighter pilot. A game that models flight mechanics this  well is tricky. (I suspect that this is about as good as you can get short of actually solving differential equations on the fly). It’s tough to figure out how to maneuver. As I recall we had a few low probability shots on the first pass and then even with several pilots trying to engage nobody else got off a shot. And with all the bookkeeping the turns take a while. 4 seconds of combat time in a mere 30 minutes? I think we may have tried a second time, but I doubt it. Off in the trade pile.

And yet.

One of my first lifestyle games was Star Fleet Battles which I played obsessively for a year and on-and-off for 5 more. And how different are they? A big spreadsheet to track energy (Star Fleet) and momentum (OTR), odd charts, and a three hour play time.

Oh, WWII actually happened.

Now that I think about it, the big difference between the games was that Star Fleet Battles had a well-documented set of tips, guidelines and articles that would give an interested newcomer a way of learning the rules and how to apply them.

So, with some trepidation I tried Buffalo Wings last night. It’s a simplified version of the same system. We did a 2 on 2 dogfight (Russian vs Finland … I didn’t realize Finland had an Air Force in WWII, but that’s mainly just because I never thought about it).

Having played Over the Reich (and glanced at the free Quick Start rules to Whistling Death a few years ago), I was pleasantly surprised at how intuitive things work. (A lot of the rules complexity makes intuitive sense … if you climb and then go to inverted and continue to roll back to level, of course you are going to do a 180 on the map). But tracking all that and handling 3 D movement on a 2D map is a bear.

Playing the game with people who had played the system a few times made things much easier than our game with all novices, and I’m tempted to dig into it. Apparently there are a good number of solitaire scenarios and the ability to play games by EMail means there’s a good venue for learning the game. But back when I had to grok things out by myself it was too much.

These games clearly aren’t going to appeal to most gamers, but right now I was pleasantly surprised. I can clearly envision the dogfight we had last night. (Even if we got a rule or two wrong). I’m not a cult of the new person anymore, and I’m not averse to spending time getting to know a game system. So if I decide to play Air Combat games, may as well go whole hog. I want to borrow a copy of the full game and run the training scenarios and full rules. Perhaps PBEM. So right now I’m intrigued.


Written by taogaming

January 31, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Reviews

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7 Responses

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  1. OTR, SFB,…. and I would even throw ASL in this pile: I totally invested my dollars and brainpower chasing a doomed relationship with each. In the end though, when playing the game takes orders of magnitude more time to execute than real life (or real cinema for SFB) I am left cold.

    Ben Kindt

    January 31, 2012 at 6:36 pm

  2. There was a computer game version of OtR and Achtung Spitfire that I remember playing for many hours in the late nineties. I think the computer game simultaneously gives you a better feel for the boardgame and make the boardgame almost unplayable with the slower pace.


    February 1, 2012 at 9:43 am

  3. I’ve been getting the Star Fleet Battles itch lately. After so many years, I don’t know why. I pretend I don’t even like those kinds of games any more (deep tactics are better played against a computer).

    I’m annoyed that nobody has put together a decent computer version of it but I guess Paramount has to protect their IP and they are already annoyed with SFB and I think Steve Cole doesn’t encourage independent development. Starfleet Command was great and all but I’d love to see the tactical game.


    February 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm

  4. Games like these always make me wish I could spawn multiple universes and multiple copies of myself to enjoy them all. I read through the Whistling Death rules thinking I wanted to play that game, but knowing there was no chance in hell I could devote enough time. SFB is the same way. I have fond memories of playing Mad Jack’s Hole, or 6-player Black Hole Mania scenarios that took up all of a Saturday. Now there’s so much competition from a) real life, b) shorter games and c) other media. But a part of me *yearns* to dive into a system like these.

    The only way I get by is to imagine that retirement will be a veritable Mecca of wargamey goodness.

    Jeff C

    February 3, 2012 at 3:30 pm

  5. I actually had the opportunity to meet Steve Cole of SFB fame at BGG.con a few years ago. ADB had a small booth no one seemed to be paying attention to. I walked up and started chatting only then to realize I was talking to THE MAN himself. I have to say he was in a very foul mood at the sparse (essentially zero) interest being given to his product by the ~500+ attendees, and Mr Cole was not particularly friendly. I asked him if he was up for a game of SFB or FC, and he essentially told me to buy something or buzz off. I left him alone to sulk in peace.

    Ben Kindt

    February 8, 2012 at 9:03 pm

  6. Really excited you enjoyed it. Tim and I play an online massive multiplayer WWII flight simulator and were looking to get the same feel in a board game. This means I kinda learned in reverse, on my turn I would tell Tim I wanted to do a hammerhead maneuver or the such and he would explain how it works in the rules. I absolutely loved that I could do in the board game pretty much everything I could in the video game. The downside is that Tim and I use the same tactics as we do in the video game so he knows that I’ll flee into a vertical roll and will compensate….

    I am up for playing this whenever you want!

    Ryan 2.0

    February 10, 2012 at 5:36 pm

  7. Perhaps your own experience may be a clue as to why no one was showing any interest.

    Eric Brosius

    February 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm

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