Warhammer 40K goes gunning for X-Wing, and its aim is true

Games Workshop contributes significantly to the world’s small-sized plastic spaceship population. Aeronautica Imperialis: Wrath of Angels. This latest version of its tactical combat game includes aircraft piloted by both Space Marines and Eldar — but how does it stack up against its biggest competitors? Polygon tested an early copy of the game to see if it was worth its while.

For the past 10 years, dogfighting has been controlled by Star Wars X-WingYou can find them here. Drop into your local game store and you’ll likely find an entire wall covered with a selection of its beautiful pre-painted miniatures. After a second edition reboot, the nearly decade-old franchise is still quite popular, but it’s not without its shortcomings.

Star Wars X-WingEssentially, he is the dogfighter in dogfighting games. There is a ship for every skill level. Each one has its best variation. With three to six ships on the table, it’s an absolute blast Scale that up beyond just a handful of models, however, and you end up with something truly chaotic — like a 64-player version of Overwatch.

X-Wing Miniatures Force Awakens starter set gallery

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Aeronautica ImperialisOn the contrary, presenting its ships as more of a work-aday vessel is what. They’ve got some tricks up their sleeves, to be sure, but not in the form of exotic mines or Force-sensitive pilots. To fly them you’ll actually need a fair bit of skill to keep from crashing.

Even though Aeronautica Imperialis models terrestrial aircraft — not spaceships — the game is still much more dynamic than X-WingYou can. That’s because ships aren’t locked to a two-dimensional plane. The game has five levels, so players need to be within one another’s reach in order for them to score a hit.

A nightwing in green and a Xiphon interceptor done up like a 30K Dark Angels fighter.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Furthermore, Aeronautica ImperialisIt simulates how you can use a throttle on your aircraft to increase or decrease speed. The throttle number for each ship in the game is a limit on how fast it can accelerate or slow down. The maximum speed and minimum speeds of ships are also set. Go too fast and you’ll break up mid-flight — go too slow and you’ll stall and potentially auger in.

I am reminded a lot of Simulated throttle and Altitude. Battlestar Galactica: Starship BattlesAres Games released a rare gem in 2018, called “The Out-of-Print Gem”. The game used momentum and inertia simulations, which allowed players to face in opposite directions while flying in the same direction. Aeronautica Imperialis abstracts that concept quite a bit, relying instead on a set of eight “ace maneuvers” that ships can pull off each turn. This is because not all ships have the same ace maneuvers. It creates a very asymmetrical wargame. This also gives each of the game’s factions their own thematic feel.

Because of the rules complexity, Aeronautica ImperialisIt’s a small, crunchy miniatures game. Because it doesn’t have the same exotic power as a similar game, however. X-Wing, there’s no uber-abilies to throw off the balance or steal the objective at the last moment. This allows the game to scale extremely well. It is possible to have fun and fast games with only a handful ships within 45 minutes. You can also fill up a table with 4 players and get 12 or more ships each. Then you could spend an entire afternoon playing. It is easy to learn and practice with new factions thanks to the abstracted rules.

A miniature airplane painted black.

A Storm Eagle transport gunship with just a coat of primer and Turbo Dork’s new Black Ice paint. This play mat is reminiscent of an infi-fiction monitor display. I think I will go monochromatic to replicate an infi-fiction holographic display.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Wrath of AngelsEach aircraft includes 11 different versions, one for each faction. Adeptus Astartes get the venerable Xiphon interceptor and the enormous Storm Eagle transport gunship. They are both built as flying tanks. The Asuryani Eldar also get the Nightwing fighter as well as the Phoenix bomber. These can fly around the Space Marines.

The quality of all the models in the box is excellent. You have the option to build three or four of them. The Nightwing models also come with movable wings, which can be folded back in order to display their silhouette during supersonic flight. You can even bank the models during flight to show their attitudes. A single model was also built after weeks of hard work. Warhammer 40,000, it’s a real treat to spend roughly the same amount of time and end up with two full squadrons of tiny ships instead.

An Asuryani bomber painted metallic brown.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

If you’re looking for a new 40K franchise to get invested in, or just want to spend a little time assembling and painting some satisfying little miniatures, Aeronautica ImperialisHighly recommended. It is also possible to find older copies of the game that have similar rules, but with different factions. Aeronautica Imperialis – Wings of Vengeance This includes Ork factions and Astra Militarum, Aeronautica Imperialis – Skies of Fire features Astra Militarum and T’au.

Aeronautica Imperialis: Wrath of Angels Games Workshop supplied a retail edition for the review. Vox Media also has affiliate relationships. Although these partnerships do not impact editorial content, Vox Media could earn commissions for products sold via affiliate links. Here are some links to help you find. additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here

Aeronautica Imperialis – Wrath of Angels

These prices were correct at the time of publication.

• 2 players, age 12+

• Playtime: 45-90 minutes

• Game type: Skirmish game, wargame, miniatures game

• Category: Competitive, narrative campaign, two-player game

• Similar games: Star Wars X-Wing

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