[Review] Aeronautica Imperialis

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T0nkaTruckDriver
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[Review] Aeronautica Imperialis

Post#1 » Feb 04 2007 10:49

Here's a link to the book:

http://www.forgeworld.co.uk/acatalog/RU ... ORIES.html

The book arrived a couple weeks ago, but I only got to play my first game last night.

For those with IA3 looking for more of the same, you'll probably be disappointed. No new fluff or tech-info on Tau air units. In fact some of the text and images are taken direct from IA3 too. That being said, the new pictures are of the same great quality and exhibit some great photography and editing work. The dogfight photos are top notch, I found myself making all sorts of swooshing noises ;)

For those without IA3 (who don't know what you're missing), you'll be impressed. Detailed info on Tau air units, their typical battlefield performance, as well as some historic info referring to keystone battles described in detail in IA3. Photoshopped images of well painted minis make the photographs look "real". In fact, you'll have to work hard to convince yourself that Forgeworld isn't stashing away a lifesize Barracuda somewhere.

The rules occupy ~15 pages of the 175 page tome. The fleet lists another ~10. There are also ~10 pages of scenarios to play. The rest of the book is fluff, pictures, and modeling tips. There are even some nice terrain tables showcased towards the back. The book is hardcover, and well made in typical Forgeworld fashion. The book is well edited (in contrast to IA3), although I've found a slim few typos in my first few runs through.

My first game was a standard 'dogfight'... i.e. straightforward duke-it-out match. We played at the minimum recommended size of 60 pts which left me with 3 Barracudas and my friend with 3 Thunderbolts. Ships are purchased, upgraded, and moved independently; there are no squadrons in this game.



Gameplay resembles an interesting combination of BFG, Epic and 40k. At the begining of the turn, players roll off for the initiative. They then run through their fleet list and select in secret a "maneuver" for each of their ships from a deck of available maneuver cards provided with the book. Examples of maneuvers include things like turn, sharp turn, really sharp turn, half loop, power dive, side slip, spiral, etc.

Once each player has written down a maneuver for each of their planes, the player with the initiative begins by moving one of their models. Movement distance is determined by your speed (Tau ships are very middle of the pack here). Note that you can't choose to move less than your speed... you must always move the full distance dictated by your speed. At any point during your move, you can execute the maneuver that you've preselected. While you've selected your maneuver card ahead of time, there's still a fair bit of flexibility in how you execute your maneuver. For example, you can perform the maneuver early or late in your move; you can frequently climb or dive during the maneuver. Furthermore, if you've selected a maneuver that involves turning, you can select which direction you turn at the time you play the maneuver. This means that although you need to pre-select maneuvers for each of your planes, a clever player can leave themselves a fair few options in how they execute their selected maneuver allowing them to react to up to the minute happenings.

Once the player with the initiative has moved his first plane, the other player then moves a plane. Players alternate moving until all planes have been moved. Once all planes are moved, the player with the initiative selects a plane to shoot. The shooting phase progresses in a similar fashion to the movement phase with players alternating firing until all planes (who wish to) have fired. Note that if a plane is shot down which has not yet fired, it does not get to shoot!

When firing at enemy planes, all planes hit on a 5+ if they're at the same altitude level, and hit on a 6+ if they're up to 1 level apart. Planes more than 1 altitude level apart cannot fire at one another. Any hits must then roll to wound the target. The roll needed to wound is determined by the weapon being fired. For example, a LasCannon wounds on a 2+, an IonCannon wounds on a 4+ and a Burst Cannon wounds on a 6+. Additionally, some weapons roll more dice. For example a LasCannon gets 1 shot, while a Burst Cannon gets 4 shots. Finally, there are 3 range brackets: short (6"), medium (12"), and long (18"). Each weapon might roll more or less dice in each range bracket. For example, a LasCannon is rated as 0-1-1 meaning it gets 0 shots inside 6", 1 shot at 6"-12" and 1 shot at 12"-18". An IonCannon is rated as 3-2-1, while Burst Cannons are reated 4-0-0. Any successful rolls to wound remove hits from the target plane. Most 'standard' fighters have 2 wounds, while bombers generally have 4 (or 6). The Manta has 14 hits :evil:

Another big part of the shooting phase is firing arcs. Being played using hex bases, the front firing arc is only 60 degrees. Since you must pick your maneuvers beforehand, it's important (but difficult) to anticipate your opponent so that you can end up with your planes in a position to fire on their planes given the very limited firing arc of the weapons. That being said, weapons with all-around firing arcs are very valuable. I have a strong suspicion that a large reason for the relatively similar cost between the Barracuda and the Thuderhawk is on account of the fact that Burst Cannons can fire all-around... because in a straight up firefight the Thunderbolts vastly out-gun the Barracudas.



The book includes rules for ground attacks, flak units (Hydra, Skyray, Firestorm, etc), bombing runs, landing and taking off, and blasting into orbit. The game is clearly meant to occupy the gap between BFG and Epic, and I suspect the game systems would interract quite well. Although the lack of terrain initially put me off, the added strategic import associated with anticipating your opponent and selecting maneuvers at the begining of the turn more than makes up for it in my opinion. I could see the game getting a bit repetative the second time we played, but I chalk that up to the fact that we were playing each with only three planes, and with no variety in our lists. I firmly believe a more varied list at a slightly higher point value would bring the game to a sufficiently complex level to make things interesting for quite some time.

In conclusion, the book is well constructed, the text is clear and concise, the pictures are inspiring, and the minis are first class (as always). I enjoyed my first Aeronautica Imperialis experience and am looking forward to playing again. The opportunites for making swooshing sounds in this game are near endless :D
Last edited by T0nkaTruckDriver on Feb 05 2007 08:48, edited 1 time in total.

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Post#2 » Feb 04 2007 11:21

Thanks for the review. About how many secret moves are there? You make it seem as though they have the same effect on how many spells etc there are in an RPG.
For now I don't write Tacticas, I inspire them.

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Orange-Bell
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Post#3 » Feb 04 2007 11:24

Cheers for that T0nka, it sounds really interesting. I've a few questions though... :)

Not having seen IA3, is there a lot of variation in the different lists? You need special bases, don't you? Are they easy to make or improvise?

Also, is there any scope at all for terrain? I'm thinking of cinematic dog fights through canyons and that sort of thing, like in Independence Day.

Could you also fight in space, around BFG ships (though they're probably too big, yeah?) or asteroids or some such?

Thanks again for your review!

(ps I had a look through IA4 recently--man that's a beautiful book. The artwork alone comes close to justifying the price.)
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Post#4 » Feb 04 2007 11:26

Excellent! I look forward to being able to play this game!

One thing I've sort of considered for the lack of terrain is flak clouds. So you could randomly pop up flak clouds at random altitudes and they would block LOS across a couple of altitude ranges that look through them. Like I said, I haven't looked at the rules, so I don't know if it would work, but it's something I've thought of. I really wanna play this game. Anybody got a PDF version? Haha.
Uh-Huuuuuhhhhh!!!

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T0nkaTruckDriver
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Post#5 » Feb 05 2007 07:29

SS, there are 10 maneuver cards, however not all ships can play all the cards. Ships have a maneuver rating (low, high, or very high) and each maneuver has a listed difficulty (low, high, or very high). Ships with a 'low' maneuver rating can only play maneuvers that are also rated 'low'. Ships with a 'high' maneuver rating can play maneuvers rated either 'low' or 'high'. Ships with a 'very high' maneuver rating can play any maneuver. There are 4 low maneuvers, 4 high maneuvers, and 2 very high maneuvers. Interestingly, the Tau don't have any planes rated 'very high', and Barracudas are our only 'high' rated plane.


OB, they sell special bases with clickers in them to keep track of speed and altitude. They're not strictly necessary though as we kept track of speed with a d6 (both Barracudas and Thunderhawks have a max speed of 6) and altitutde with a d10 (both ships have a max altitude of 9). If you're reasonably steady, you can sketch on the front/side/rear firing arc lines and be good to go.

There's not a lot of ship variety. We're pretty much limited to Barracudas, Tigersharks (both varieties), Orcas and Mantas with the Skyray providing ground support. Some ships have weapon upgrade options... although for the Tau we're pretty much limited to Seekers or no Seekers :roll:

They do have advanced rules for interracting with ground terrain. We didn't play with them though. A quick glance through suggests they're mostly for zooming around buildings and such, although I imagine large-ish canyons would be fair game too. Playing a game in space might need some house rules for the terrain, but it sounds doable.


Orion, I'd also considered trying to add clouds as a kind of terrain (just moisture ones :smile: ). The thing that kept me from worrying about it though is that I have to imagine that in the 41st millenium they've got sophisticated enough sensors to not have to worry about that sort of stuff.

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Post#6 » Feb 05 2007 10:24

It's great to hear this from you, TOnka - about 5 of us from my gaming club had planned to get this game and your review will go a long way to convincing us to get it for sure.

Regarding the swooshing noises - what about the "nnyyyyyoooowwwwdakkadakkadakka" ones?

E.

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Post#7 » Feb 05 2007 02:57

This game is really a lot of fun to play! I tried it out the other day with my friend and although the rules are only a few pages, the play gets pretty intricate and involved once you get started.

Moving and shooting are nice and simple. The hard part is anticipating where your opponent will be next turn and avoiding the same from happening to you. The game has a very dogfight-feel (as it probably should) with fighters banking back and forth to stay out of their opponents' gunsights.

My first impression is that manueverability is way more important then firepower. Since any fighter can shoot any other fighter down in a single volley, getting the shot is critical. There's usually a lot of turns though where nobody is firing at each other, instead trying to out-turn the other. Limited fire arcs means you have to be lined up almost perfectly to get the shot.

Tonka: Did you get the feeling that it's usually better to lose Initiative, as you can watch your opponent manuever first and then chase after? Shooting second didn't seem that big a penalty as most of the time only one plane could shoot.



The Barracudas' Burst Cannons are the deadliest weapons in the game so far. :) With fighters crisscrossing right over each other looking for the frontal shot, the Burst Cannon's 360 degree arc of fire means the Tau can shoot you down from the side.

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Post#8 » Feb 05 2007 06:27

spmusubi: That bugged me as well. The "winner" should move second and shoot first. I think they did it to counter balance the power of bad die rolls in the init phase. The effects of loosing 3-4 times in a row must have made them nervous.


To me the game plays much more like a modern era combat than a WWI or WW2 dogfight in that the merge is the most dangerous phase of the combat. A flight of missile armed Imperial fighters flying line abreast are a Barracuda pilot's worst nightmare. Once you get in close it's all about initiative and which units you choose to move when.

What I found the most fun was that even basic fighter ACM tactics can be replicated and pay off when done properly. That and most 40K gamers think very 2D and a little altitude changing leaves them very confused.
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Sa'cea Mont'yr
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Post#9 » Feb 05 2007 07:36

Curse you, TOnka, for making me interested in getting this! :P Thanks for the review.
Shas'el Sa'cea Cal'Ka Mon'tyr

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Post#10 » Feb 09 2007 03:27

Or mabey lower initiative is better kinda like an armour save. I dunno.
For now I don't write Tacticas, I inspire them.

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Post#11 » Feb 09 2007 06:29

The canyon idea is nice. All you have to do is allow altitudes with negative values (Use D20 and 10 is lvl 1). Abacadabra, double the flying area. Terrain can as simple as patterns and shapes cut out of paper or whatever.

A crater base on a moon etc.

That manta and its holding 4 epic skyrays etc forced me to make a shopping list and save it. I will own a manta even if for 40k it is only suitable for some house rules regarding UAV's in a strange friendly game.

Im having a hard time desciding on getting AI or another 40k army. I will most likley get another 40k army first for the obvious fact that I would like to be able to play at home with people regardless of weather they have their own army or not.
For now I don't write Tacticas, I inspire them.

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T0nkaTruckDriver
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Post#12 » Feb 09 2007 08:24

For those teetering on the fence, here's a quick teaser photo :D

Queue Top Gun theme...




Image

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Post#13 » Feb 09 2007 08:42

Damnit nooooooo....I pop up my FW browser page again and hit the save button the cart list then close it (It's been open 2 hours as I fiddle with my credit card) then back to ATT and this is here.

It looks so fun though....Canyons of doom with independece day action.
the Pilots can bail out into a 40k game.

You could use it as a Campaign helper. A mini battle inbetween that might descide special abilitys ar extra units earned/lost.


The worst part is its reasonably priced!
For now I don't write Tacticas, I inspire them.

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Post#14 » Feb 10 2007 01:22

How many points is that force? That manta must cost a lot in points. And those are regular tigersharks, no?
You're only a war criminal if your side loses.

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maximuspandem
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Post#15 » Feb 14 2007 06:21

Thank you very much for the review, i saw this at GD:UK but didn't get a chance to play it.

I have been sitting on the fence on as to whether or not buy it, and after a good review like that i have been pushed further in to the "go on buy it its only money" side....
If aragorn had a boltgun, could he kill a steam tank?

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Eiglepulper
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Post#16 » Feb 15 2007 03:32

Go on, Maximus, it's only money - sure you have loads of it! :P

E.

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Post#17 » Feb 15 2007 04:30

Im sorry, you seem to have confused me with another wealthier maximuspandem... :D
If aragorn had a boltgun, could he kill a steam tank?

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Eiglepulper
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Post#18 » Feb 15 2007 04:50

Just to encourage you even further with spending your money - at least four of us from Bad Company Gaming Club are getting it.

Sounds like it's a good game from TOnka's review.

E.

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