Got this game for quite awhile, 20 years to be exact. Played it a few time after that, but was never any good at it. The box cover of the pilot and the amount of data on a ½ inch counter was enough to encourage me to play this game. 20 years ago, there was not many game of its kind. The complexity, the numerous types of aircraft and the amount of scenarios within was really a treat.
I’m not a pilot/air-battle kind of wargamer, but after movies like ‘red flag’ and ‘top gun’, you tend to fantasize about the F15s and even becoming a Mig pilot.
Flight Leader was a good game in the past, even till this day, games tend to mimic a certain level of its complexity, either into a semi-miniature format with velocity calculations and inertia OR simplified to a euro mechanics that is low in avionics physics. I agree, each has their own ‘plus’. For me, besides wings of war....Flight Leader is one of those games that gets tabled more if friends are in the flying mood.
FL comes in the standard wargame box of old AH. Within contains a Basic Games Rule sheet, an Advanced Rules booklet, Aircrew Aid Cards (AAC), a BEAUTIFUL mounted mapboard, over 200 counters of different planes from all over the world and the all important, Aircraft Status Cards (ASC).
Are written like they were all standard AH games of old. I thought they were quite well written then, but as games improved all these years with colored examples. They were lacking during those days. What can be done with a simple pictorial example, came with a whole section of rules in English. Some, unfortunately gets repeated, to remind us of exceptions to some rules.
The Basic rules is 4 pages long, and the Advanced rules are about 20 pages, most of which are optional rules. The actual Advanced rules are only about 6 pages more on top of the Basic rules of 4 pages. So you can start to fly pretty fast.
The basic rules include the idea of using the Aircraft Status Card, which is how you control the plane, like holding onto the control stick of a plane. It also teaches you how a plane maneuvers, with reference to the ASC indications.
Lastly, it gives the basic idea of shooting guns/cannons as well as Narrow and Wide Aspect heat seeking missles. To give a simple idea, to score kills, one has to get good Probability Kill number (PK) when your plane is in good position. (usually behind your enemy plane.)
Advanced Rules give experience of pilots, flight formations, spotting, radar lockons for homing missiles. Optional rules include Bogeys, supersonic speeds, impulse movement (I recommend to add), electronic warfare counter measures and campaign gaming.
Each plane counter has data such as Size/Acceleration/Afterburner/supersonic values on the left upper corner. Number of missile rails/internal guns on the lower left corner. Radar/Counter measures/ Crew size and canopy type on the upper right corner. Different planes from different countries have different colors. US, Russian, French, USMC planes and more are included. Commonly used planes get 4 of each. Other not so common planes are given 2 counters. Nevertheless, there are extra ‘blank’ plane counters to represent extra planes of any type.
The Aircrew Aid cards
There are 2 large A3 aid cards that provide charts for easy references. Formation charts to maneuvers, PK values for various conditions to damage charts. It has summarized most of the rules into a simple to use chart.
The Aircraft Status Card
5 sheets of this ASC is provided. Its sufficient to use 1 ASC per plane, in a small skirmish. But if there are more planes used in the scenario, or if there are more players, you might need to share 2 planes to 1 of these ASC. Remember to use different statuss markers for each plane, for easy of identification in such cases. THIS ASC is the heart and soul of your plane’s flight path, fuel gauge and altitude tracking. It also includes the ammunition you have left, so don’t be too trigger happy. (This is not Wings of War, where every turn, you get shots!)
It is a plan-view of a beautiful town and its surrounding area, with hexes super-imposed on it. There are some colors to be used in advanced game to help identify hills and levels of ground. It looks very much like what a war-room commander would hover upon during a mission where the planes had scrambled and he is counting on the seconds before his ‘boys’ make contact with the bogeys.
My View on the game
Its simple to learn the system, but takes time to ( a game or 2) to get the hang of flying. As turning left (on the ASC) does not mean that you can’t turn right during this flight sequence. With only the basic rules learnt, you can start playing gunnery combat flight (Korean War). Later scenarios would require the missiles rules to be read in proper.
Every shot that you take has PK values. Its these values that make your decision count, if its worth that ammunition to try that shot. I believe that’s the part that makes this game shine.
What I felt lacking is the ‘chase my tail’ situation in basic games, where both sides try to make circular turns to get in behind for that shot. The wing man and a second flight of planes does eliminate such situation, as turning will expose your tail to either enemy flight. Another way is to use impulse movement (optional rule), to plot your path.
The other part that feels lacking is the ‘role play’ idea. The ASC does make you feel that you are pulling on your plane’s control stick. But once the missiles comes flying towards you, you do not get the feels of ‘banking hard right/left’ to outwit the missile’s flight paths….its just on your enemy’s luck of getting that PK number rolled. That takes out quite abit of fun.
Nevertheless, a good simple game that could be done in an hour for 2 planes a side game. The variety of planes and scenarios was a great bonus. A solid 6 from me.