I’ve been playing a good bit of D&D Attack Wing recently and it has quickly morphed into one of my favorite games. With three waves of figures plus two sets of Organized Play figures/prizes released, I am constantly finding new reasons to be excited about this game.
First, a quick word about the play environment. The FLC/GS that I play at is a very accommodating environment with a focus on fun play over hyper-competitive. We are a group that knows each other well, have played many games together (Anachronism, Mage Knight, Heroclix, lots of board games), and while we all enjoy winning, we tend to play more, “this is a team I want to play” over “this is a team to crush my enemies and see them driven before me.” I mention this because it informs my views of the game. I’m sure that my feelings would be different if I played in an environment where the constant focus was on standing on the throat of the guy across the table.
Second… my favorite minis/war game of all time is Classic Battletech. Whether they play the same or not, I tend to compare my play experience of minis/war games to CBT. Classic Battletech is a game that hits all the right notes for me as a player and so I often will ask myself when playing a new game, “Why spend time playing this when I could be playing Battletech?” Thus, the comparison.
With those two disclaimers out of the way, let’s talk a little more about D&D Attack Wing. I previously wrote about DDAW when I had only played a few games and we had only seen the first wave of figures, including the first OP prize, the Ancient White Dragon. I was concerned before about balance in the game, but that seems to have been very adequately addressed. The two new Ancient Dragons to enter the game since then, a Silver and a Brass are both exceptional but properly pointed for their ability. The White is still overpowered, but again, through three waves (47 figure options total so far), to have only the Month One Prize Dragon feel openly broken is a pretty good run.
I’ll admit that I’m still trying to figure out how to make troops worth it – but that may just be me. I’ve put together a 120 point elven army that I really want to try out soon. It may revise my feelings about troops, we’ll see. If anyone reading this has played with Troops and had good luck, tell me about in the comments.
As far as the other figures go, while I certainly have preferences for my own legion building, I’ve seen that almost any army can present a fun challenge and winning can be a tight affair. This is a place where the game compares so favorably to Classic Battletech (in my mind) that it triggers the same “fun impulse.”
Those comparisons come down to pretty much three things. The first is the balance of fun issue. As I previously mentioned, almost any force given even a little thought can present a suitable challenge. I don’t have to agonize over my choices, I can grab a Harpy and a Wyvern and know that my opponent will get a good game. This is largely due to balance, but also due to the other factors.
The second is that positioning is vitally important. And, as with Battletech, since you alternate moving units in a turn, (even though movement is “blind” in DDAW) you really get a sense of stress and accomplishment when you line up that perfect shot. It’s pretty fantastic. This mobility angle really highlights a side benefit which compares favorably to CBT… which is that there is a place for all kinds of units. It’s not always about playing just the biggest, heaviest hitters in DDAW (or CBT). Often, the workhorses of your forces are those role-players who exist in the middle – but there is also no underestimating the value of a fast or finesse unit able to target your opponent with precision. That said, there is also an equal place for the army that just goes… “I wanna hit you. A Lot. Hard.” I love this aspect of the game. I love that all kinds of forces and play styles fit and work in the same game. I’ve played a lot of games where it was easy to pick out the “Good” strategies. I like this game (and CBT) because there are a multitude of good strategies.
The third big thing is that this game is rarely predictable at the time you put your forces down. When I play Heroclix, I often can predict how a game is going to go (barring some truly probability-bending dice rolling) from the composition of the two forces. It’s groan-inducing sometimes. I come to every game of D&D Attack Wing though, knowing that I’m facing a force that I can enjoy playing against and which will probably produce a fairly even match. There are exceptions (The White Dragon) and as per my disclaimer, I’ve yet to experience someone who made a point to exploit what loopholes there are to glean the very last glimmer of competitive advantage out of their force… so who knows, YMMV on this point. This is further aided by the fact that combat is partially simultaneous in DDAW. Even though you take damage (and possible critical hit effects) in level-based order of combat, you still get your attacks, even if defeated before your turn comes up. That’s huge and is one of the biggest strengths of the game in my mind because it leads to a final point which I’ll use to sum up.
To close, there is one other great thing about both of these games (CBT and DDAW). They reward aggressive play. Because forces are usually pretty well balanced, mobility is vital to success, and combat is somewhat simultaneous, the game rewards action over turtling up. The game thrives on mighty passes of sweeping hits followed by scrambling to maneuver and then winging in again. Once we got the hang of it and worked out our confusion spots, the game runs fast and sharp. And even though both games have a “cool down” mechanic of some sort (heat in CBT and countdown timers in DDAW), this adds an element of tension all its own as you scramble to do the most with the resources you have and then give yourself the space to recover. In other words, the emphasis on aggressive play really gives the game a rhythm which creates a good bit of enthusiastic drama for players.
I’m playing in my second Organized Play tournament tomorrow, so I’ve been focused on getting my team ready to go. I’m excited about the event and I’ll try to post pictures and a play report next week.
As always, thanks for reading. Now – back to dreaming about dragons.