There is something special about the early aviators that appeals to me - possibly because for the first time in millennia the protagonists did not have a model to work from, they had to create everything, machines, doctrines, tactics, organisations, everything from scratch. That hasn't happened since we got on horseback, and probably wont happen again until we end up fighting in space.
I've always like WW1 Dogfight games, but I've never really found one I feel gets it right. I've played 1:72 scale with planed on sticks and 1:300 scale without, and board games and even books with numbered pages, and to be honest there was always two main issues - ok three, Altitude, Orders, and sticking the b*stards together.
So in order
You really need altitude - without it you are playing with strange ships
Orders - Trying to work out just how many degrees I'm planning to turn my plane on turning circle F at whatever speed was too much - combined with everything being on sticks that toppled over (see altitude) and resulted in breaking the models....
Sticking them together. 1:72 Plastics were ok, but broke if you looked at them the wrong way, and the metal stuff from Skytrex was a nightmare to put together, usually looked naff, needed painting and also could snap or bend at the wrong moment.
Then came Wings of War from an Italian board game company Nexus. They had an interesting table top game using cards to represent planes that had gathered a bit of a niche market.
- damned innovative and works really well. Nexus then brought out a "Deluxe" version with the cards representing the planes replaced with pre painted (because board gamers don't paint things) and pre assembled (ditto) 1:144 scale models.
WW1 air wargame buffs around the world went into paroxysms of joy at the sight of these. They were beautiful and pretty darned wonderful in every way, so we bought them to use with our Canvas Eagles or Paragon or whichever rules we were playing - nice models, pre assembled and painted, simple order system - great. I suspect we tend to forget that when they first were released they were not expensive either - you could pick the fighters up for a fiver, which was only a couple of quid more than the Skytrex versions and they were (are) massively superior. I remember watching some guys playing late into the night at Bovvy when they first came out, and next day I was out hunting for the rules and some planes. Having bought the rules, we played them, and found they were elegantly simple and play smoothly without too much dice rolling and no charts, turning circles or big telescoping poles for stands - so many of us dumped our rules and moved to WoW.
Problem is Wings of War (or Wings of Glory as is is now known) still has a few problems. It does altitude using a bit of a fix, and it is monstrously unforgiving as far as pilot survival goes so campaigns can sometimes be tense and short lived (which is I suppose a reflection of the real thing). The other issue is that it really isn't fish nor fowl. The game originated as a card game , and the beautifully painted and detailed models are actually game markers not wargaming models. I can hear heads scratching all over, so I think I need to explain a bit. Nexus wanted to produce some nice models that matched their boxed sets, not a historical slice of WW1 in the air. In that light, why would anyone want 4 of the same model? Surely they want one each so they all have a different marker? The first release of the Deluxe sold like hot cakes, so they followed it up with some single plane boxes that were different paint schemes of the original four in the box - no problem there. The Series 2 models followed, but these were two late war fighters, a DH4 late war 2 seater and a Roland CII from the early - mid war period. No problem to a casual gamer but to anyone with a wargaming \ historical perspective a bit of a blind alley. What's more, they followed the same process the card games had done, spreading the models widely by nationality, so one of the DH4s was in American colours. This continued with following releases, an SE5 in US colours FFS! and an RE8 in Belgian colours. This last one is a particular gripe of mine as the Belgians did use a fair few RE8s but replaced the engines with a Hispano Suiza which looks totally different to the model. What's worse, they (Nexus) seem to have known, but rather than choosing another version they simply removed the two upright exhausts from the RAF version, leaving a model which is neither one thing nor another. All that being said, they've gone through a couple of facelifts and some slips, but Wings of War - or Wings of Glory as they are now known, are very much top dog in the WW1 Dogfighting world.