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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Giants of the Sky on Target

By Mitch Reed

“The bomber will always get through” is a quote Stanley Baldwin made to the British parliament in 1932 where we warned the British Government that the next war would see bombers raining destruction from the sky. 

Baldwin was not alone in thinking this, an Italian airpower theorist Giulio Douhet also felt that future conflicts would consist of bombers targeting their opponent’s populace and industrial centers from the sky.  Both of these men developed these theories from seeing the advent of airpower during the Great War, where the bomber became a strategic weapon of immense potential.

Following in footsteps of their fellow Italian, Douhet;  Ares Games has finally released their most recent wave for their Wings of Glory system, ‘Giants of the Sky” which features two of the largest bombers to see action in the Great War.

From ARES Games, the new Giants of the Sky

Starting out as a Kickstater project in early 2015, the goals for Giants of the Sky were quickly met and with each goal more goodies were added to the pot.  While I did mention Giants of the Sky in my review of Wings of Glory, I did almost forget that these huge airplanes were on their way.

When they finally arrived I was very impressed with the commitment I made over a year before.
My first impression of the two new planes is that they are HUGE; I thought the previously released Gotha Bomber I had in my collection was big, now it looks just as small as my fighters next to these immense bombers.

Like all of the other releases by Ares Games, these new additions are so well done.   Even if you do not play the game, a collector may want these models for display or to hang from the ceiling in their son’s room (I told Patryk that this was not going to happen).  Each model came in two different paint schemes and you were able to pick one when the Kickstarter campaign ended.

The German Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI was part of their development of Riesenflugzeuge, (German for "giant aircraft") that could take the fight over the skies of London and break the will of the British. While only 18 were ever produced, they did conduct 11 raids on Great Britain from September 1917 until May 1918.  While this ‘Blitz” was not to level the British would see in 1941, it did have an impact on the people of London and of course on military theorists who took note of this new weapon of war.  The Zeppelin-Staaken of the Great War is excellently reproduced for use in Wings of Glory.

Not to be out done the British bomber released in this wave is another excellent model that looks great.  The Handley Page 0/400 was an early British attempt to create a large bomber to take the fight over the skies of Germany.

The 0/400 was an upgraded version of the 0/100 and about 400 were built during the war. It entered operational service with the Independent Air Force which was created by Sir Hugh Trenchard to conduct a strategic bombing campaign on Germany.  The HP 0/400 also served with Royal Air Force and the Royal Naval Air Service during the war.  The 0/400 was also deployed in mass, with raids consisting of 40 aircraft taking to the skies.  While listed also as a Giant of the Sky, the 0/400 is noticeably smaller since the wing span of the German bomber was 38’ longer in actuality.

Besides these two beautiful models, the Kickstarter campaign also supplied large super detailed maps for your bombers to roam, a magnetic aircraft card and card decks featuring some of the great aces of the war.

I just love the map that was included with the Kickstarter

So how do these models play in the game?  Well, from using them in a game I can say they do not add to the game as much as they become the game.  The new bombers come with scenarios specially created for use with these massive aircraft.  So while many of us played a simple no-man’s land patrol over the trenches with our fighters, the bombers become the focal point of Wings of Glory where one side has to get the bomber to the target and the other has to stop it. So like I said, the Giants of the Sky become the game.

My wingman and fellow WoG player Throck and I took our new giants out to a LGS for a flight check.  We decided to play one scenario that was dedicated for each of the aircraft so we would be able to see how these two bombers compare.

Scenarios for your new bombers included by the folks at ARES Games

In each scenario the bomber is teamed up with two escort fighters who are pitted against two enemy interceptors.  Each game ended the same way, with the intercepting aircraft going down in flames.  Maybe we were rusty on the rules and did not understand the new ones quite so well, but I feel that the bomber could handle the interceptors on their own.  These planes have machine guns sticking out of everywhere and can deal a steady dose of damage on the interceptors as they slowly plod towards their target.  Speaking of damage, I do not know how you are expected to bring these beasts down since they can absorb a tremendous amount of it.

The interceptor got a bit to close and got flamed for his troubles 

Followed by his wingman; game over

The scenario that featured the Zeppelin-Staaken took place over London, and I do not think they had escorts that had the range to make it out that far.  So maybe next time I can ditch the escorts and add another British plane to intercept the bomber.  While on the topic of bombing London, I absolutely love the maps that come with the kit, they look excellent and yes they are actual maps of London.

Now on the trench map

So while I was blown away by the models, I was less thrilled about how these will play in a game.  While I think developing tactics to bring these big suckers down will be fun, it takes me away from what I liked about the game in the first place, the raging dogfights above no-man’s land.  I do plan to make sure that these new aircraft get plenty of flight time; however the new scope of the game may not appeal to everyone.

I was able to get on the O/400's tail with ease

And destroyed just a easily! 

Much like the actual bombers of the period, the “Giants of the Sky” can only do one thing, and much like the quote by Stanley Baldwin above, they seem to always get through.

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