Saga of obscure aviation games continues. After having a lot of fun with the Kights of the Air, I could not pass through Air Force and it’s supplement, Dauntless. At the time when Air Force was published, it was probably the peak of aerial warfare board game development. It was simple to play, and not overly taxing to control multiple planes.
However. Those maps, and counters really killed me. Really. If there was a vote for worst game maps ever, Air Force would be winner by far.
But there were interesting concepts in Air Force. It was (in all probability) first serious attempt to create WWII aviation game that could be played with sufficient numbers of planes, in such a way that players had only limited information about the opponent. Maneuvering into position was as much guesswork than knowing the opponents capability. Dauntless further improved the system but while doing that, it also added few complications.
Not denying it, Air Force was, still in 1990 very good game of the subject, and we had lots of fun playing it. One reason I moved on, was because the system had limits. Flight model was not terribly realistic, nor it allowed full span of creativity. To overcome that, I had to move on to something that did not have those artificial limitations.
However, Air Fore / Dauntless is brought up from the obscurity, not because it is excellent but obscure game. It isn’t by modern standards. Many systems do the things Air Force did at the time better and more eloquently. However, because of those few innovative things that Air Force / Dauntless had, like plotted movement it guided me to look for other games which had same strengths and avoid it’s weaknesses.
That said, if there is opportunity to try Air Force, it still today has it’s appeal (regardless of appalling components). It is still very light, easy and straight forward game that offers tense moments and entertainment. However, one will probably grow out of the system, and the limitations will start to first bother and then annoy. For me it did not take all that long, but because we played it a lot, it may be that we just accumulated enough experience faster than the norm.