D&D Attack Wing: A Few Thoughts

I like minis games. I’m not hardcore about it or anything, but I enjoy them. I play Heroclix at my local store and I have, at one time or another been into Warhammer 40K, War Machine, Malifaux, Mage Knight, and a few others. I like simple minis games (which is why Mage Knight appealed so strongly to me when it was first released) and I like skirmish style games over “army” style games.

All this is to say, I was determined not to get into another minis game.

Attack Wing changed my mind. I’ve been playing since it came out – probably have about ten games under my belt at this point and I’ve yet to even come close to winning one – and I’m hooked. Is it a perfect game? No. Is it a great game with a lot of potential? Absolutely. So here’s my two cents about D&D Attack Wing.

First, if you are interested in the game, you can download the rulebook here.

So, Attack Wing is this crazy idea for a game based off a similar system used for the Star Wars X-Wing game of starship battles. The starter set comes with a Red, Blue, and Copper Dragon (the forces of good are so far underrepresented in this game) and the game plays decently right out of the box. That’s a major plus in its favor. You can play with just the starter items and have a good experience and you can play against another player if you both just own a starter and have a good experience.

The system is set up in such a way that you build a force (as you would in most minis games) based on point values from the various creatures you command. There are no “factions” and alignments can be mixed on the same team. This is a big thing for me. I like that I can play a Frost Giant and my Elves together or a Hobgoblin Troop with my Copper Dragon. I can see value in factions and team-building restrictions but for a D&D game they always feel somewhat artificial (like the factions in the last iteration of Chainmail). The basic creatures or troops come in two versions — a “named” version which is unique and more powerful — or a “generic” version which is less powerful, you can play multiples of, and which costs fewer points. Again, I’m fond of this set up as it allows for greater customization and allows for playing interesting combinations. For example, if I ever had the pieces, I’d love to try a build that is just the “named” Frost Giant and two “generic” Frost Giants with a few upgrades. Just to see how that would go.

You then further customize the force using upgrades from various categories. Dragons have some of their own upgrades, some upgrades only work with hobgoblins, some only with wraiths… but each pack also includes several abilities with broad application – such as arcane spells that can be used by other casters, etc. One of the coolest parts is the extra troops that can be added, like an Elf Leader or a Hobgoblin Shaman that are upgrades to a troop unit. It will be interesting when other troops are released because the upgrade to the troop can be added to other troop units – as long as they match alignment.

Once you build your force (Attack Wing uses the term Legion Building) you then play on a 3×3 board (for an average sized game) using measurement rulers to measure out the movement from predetermined maneuvers. If you’ve played the X-Wing game or any of the Wings of… games, then this will feel familiar to you. You maneuver, do actions, do attacks, and then do it all over again. Ground and air forces interact well and in interesting ways, and the mechanics of level as initiative for movement and attacking are well thought out.

I am not the most spatially-aware person, and I am not particularly good at guessing what another player is going to do… as I said, I have yet to win a game… but despite this, the game has really captured my imagination and I have enjoyed every game, even while losing, which is important.

That said, there are a few little things which don’t entirely line up. Troop units seem a bit overpriced for what they do. It is too easy to reduce their utility before they ever have a chance to act and then you probably only get about two-thirds or one-half value out of them for the game despite paying the full cost. As more troop types/units are added, it might be interesting to try out some troop on troop battles to see how those work out. Troops are one area where the game is well written, (seemingly) well-thought out, and really interesting but the strategy of troops seems unformed at this time.

Also, we have seen only the wave one sets so far, along with the White Dragon LE figure and overall, I think the balance in the game is decent but may stand for a little more tweaking. In a typical game, the Blue Dragon and the Copper Dragon seem inadequate. I think this has a great deal to do with the fact that the game highly prioritizes offense over defense and the Blue and Copper are more about maneuvering and defending themselves.

On the subject of the White Dragon. I’m certainly hoping that all the LE figures don’t turn out this way but the “named” White Dragon LE is so overpowered compared to everything else that is out right now that we’ve all pretty much agreed just not to play it anymore at my usual shop. It is so much better than anything else in the game that it can take on any two dragons and stand a very strong chance of winning.

My only other gripe is that I doubt I’ll ever see my personal favorite D&D monster make an appearance in the game. As this game lends itself to fairly intelligent combatants who can fly or have good ranged attacks, it seems unlikely that there will ever be an Attack Wing Owlbear. And this illustrates a constraint of the game – that it will have to focus on certain types of combatants – but it’s a small constraint because the number of exciting options still available could last a while.

As an aside, the game designers who created the actual playing pieces did something brilliant. The figures you use for the game are standard D&D minis on plastic bases – but they slot into the plastic figure bases used to play this game. So you can swap out your troops for any basic D&D mini. One of my friends runs the Elf Wizard with a Pathfinder Battles Lich mini on the base and I’ve swapped my hobgoblins for the 3.5 Edition minis I still had around the house because those are my favorite renditions of those monsters. It’s a little harder with the dragons… but even those could be switched with a little work.

Overall, it is an extremely fun game with an upcoming release schedule which is both exciting and manageable (the monthly waves of new figures are small) and I have some great people to play it with, which makes a huge difference to these kinds of games.

If you enjoy simple but fairly deep tactical minis games and the thought of playing out battles between Frost Giants and Red Dragons on the tabletop, Attack Wing is a good choice for a fun game night.

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