Games Workshop has come out with a lot of games in the span of their existence – and I mean a lot. Between Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, Necromunda, Age of Sigmar, Warcry, Kill Team… It's a lot to handle.
So, when Games Workshop came out with their primary airspace-combat game Aeronautica Imperialis and sent it our way, I was a bit skeptical of the design space. How different could a dogfighting game be from something like Kill Team or even the old Warmaster game? Turns out, it's way different.
To begin, this game is different from many of the other titles in Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 repertoire in that it's strictly grid-based. This game doesn't come with any widgets or tape, as it simply doesn't need them. Instead, the board is based solely on a hexagonal grid system to measure two-dimensional distances.
On the topic of dimensions, the third dimension for altitude is included in the game mechanics, and it creates a bit more complication than I'd want to forgo talking about overall.
A quick look at a simple stat card for a Dakkajet (one of the Orks' planes) can fairly quickly showcase how complex this game is:
Not counting weapons or points value (a factor that actually does matter past the stage of army building!), a given plane has nine stats for players to worry about! Transport and Fuel aside, this particular minor plane has seven stats. Individual weapons have at least four factors to consider beyond their names. Since every aircraft has at least one weapon, that's eleven to thirteen factors already.
And then there's points value, which is crucial to army building. To further complicate things, every points value of a destroyed plane goes towards the victory points of the opposing team, meaning there will most definitely be times where you will want to min-max by looking at what planes you have and their points value.
The game itself is beautifully-crafted, however, and the plane designs, while seemingly rote to an untrained eye, carry a lot of interesting features which are quite stunning on the field (even unpainted).
The main concern I have heard from prospective players of Aeronautica Imperialis, however, is in the bases of the models, which have dials built-in that can measure speed and altitude. The fact that they aren't able to be opened or altered in any easy fashion is a detriment to the community where the hobby portion is concerned.
The starter set for Aeronautica Imperialis comes with eight standard dice, an Area of Engagement board, a set of tokens and markers, a rulebook, and nine models for the Imperial Navy and Ork factions. It's a decent game in theory, and I am sure that I will get the hang of it in time. For now, though, it's a bit overwhelming to consider. There are aerial maneuvers to memorize, rounds within turns to memorize (regarding the order and contents thereof), there are victory conditions to look into… Like I said before, this game is a lot of work.
Fortunately, Games Workshop came out with a handy video explaining most of the rules to players looking to inquire…
If you want my take, I say it's worth your time to try out and see if you enjoy Aeronautica Imperialis. It may have a tough learning curve but it seems well worth it in the end. Happy trails!