Reviews of Obscure but Interesting Games X – Whistling Death

whistling-deathContinuing the aviation themed saga, quite few years later, after Achtung Spitfire! and Over the Reich were almost beaten to death, I placed preorder for Whistling Death. Third game of the J.D. Webster’s Fighting Wings series concentrating on the Second World War.

This time it is set in Pacific theater of operations, and as usual, box contents were quite good but the art had admittedly gone a bit backwards and would have wished the components to look better. Box was filled with planes, ships, carrier operations, large and small, scenarios and all the goodies. Pretty much everything one can wish for. And then, there were the heavily rewritten rules that now exceeded ASL in complexity. Previously there were complaints about the flight model not being realistic enough, and that the pitch was too hard to determine.  Most significant changes were of course on this area – along with new modifiers for gunnery and other small details. And those small details there were a lot more than I though there would be.

However, new flight model meant that instead of keeping mind on bank angles, one would also need to keep mind on planes ability to change pitch. This in every bank orientation, inverse and upright. Now at least the roll and pitch were all in line, and followed same principle but flying just got a quite bit more complicated. Instead of being able to react in things relatively quickly, everything takes several turns. You have to think that you do not know what your opponent is going to do, yet you need to make best guess (remembering the opposing planes data sheet helps, but there is still plenty of surprises). Visual clue is limited in the plotting phase, and you would need to think, not one turn in advance, but about 3 to 5 to be able to pull off successful attack. It was hard then, but now, it just got few levels harder.

Of course, that is realistic – as far as three dimensional aerial combat can be in cardboard and maps. Flight and combat models are now really very good.

I like the system, and the way it pushes your brain to process complex multi-turn three dimensional moves inside your head. It is enticing, even though there has been a period of inactivity and other things have take precedence over the Fighting Wings. That said, my fear is now that the system has evolved into too much complexity. Reward from the pure spacial calculations is diminishing. Achtung Spitfire feels like beer and Pretzels game after Whistling Death, though the benefits of the latest rules are clear.

The trouble is that still some time ago, I was looking forward the Wings of the Motherland that ought to be out sometime soon (that said, soon has been subjective for past five years or more) and I am not really sure if I wish to enter the fray once more – or if this is the stop I take off.

Not that I would stop playing Whistling Death however. I like that brain burning occasionally.

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