In Clouds of Glory
Last friday I had the great pleasure and privilege of playing what must surely be one of, if not the best WWI dog-fighting boardgame in the world: Clouds of Glory. And believe you me, it is truly something to behold.
ICOG, as it is abbreviated, was created from the ground up, rules, planes, boards… Everything, but some Danish guys lusting for some serious WWI dog-fighting action back in the 90’s.
It’s a bit hard to explain, but I’ll see if I can’t do it justice.
First of all, you have the board, which represents the land underneath you. It is built from styrofoam and painted to look like rolling French hills, fields, an airstrip, a bridge, a village and so on. There’s even a couple of trench-riddled ‘front’ boards. All the boards can be moved back and forth, so you can have a rolling dog-fight which goes beyond the board, if need be.
Now the fact that the boards are made from styrofoam is quite important, as it facilitates the brilliance of this game over any other commercially available dog-fighting game. If any such exists (which I’m sure it does).
And this is where it gets tricky. The planes you see, are mounted on pieces of pianowire. A piece of wire, bent at 90 degrees, attaches the front of the plane to a piece of cork, which can slide up and down the pianowire… Here, have a look:
It’s not immediately understood, but you then stick the pianowire into the coardboard ‘ground’ below, and presto, you have a plane that ‘flies’. Now here’s the genious; the bent wire between the plane and the cork allows the plane to pivot and tilt in all directions…
Yes, 360 degrees of rotation and height!
No longer is it a cardboard piece that has an image of a plane on it and a ‘+2 in height’ next to it. This is like a snapshot of WWI right there in front of you… though with weird metal pillars next to all the planes. Close enough though!
You’ll notice the pianowires have a small dot at the top of them. This is to minimize the risk of anyone bending forward to adjust their plane and poking out their own eye… Ouch.
Now, each plane has a pilot, and each pilot has a range of stats. Playing as the german side, tasked with protecting an observation baloon, I was lucky enough to be playing for two, which granted me the hand of Rudolph von Klein, Ute Mäclich and two other guys I can’t remember. Rudolph was my ace, Ute… not so much.
The rules, which are quite detailed and offer a great deal of realism, cover pretty much everything. They should, seeing as how they seem to be tweaked every time the game is played.
To move, turn and roll, transparent measuring instruments that would make even Dr. Mengele proud are used. This is no joke, some moves literally require three sets of hands to perform properly.
The great thing about this is that even though the game relies heavily on measurement-by-eye, you all have to be in agreement for a move to be made, and as a result no one feels cheated.
All the planes have been meticulously created, both in model and in stats, to represent a perhaps slightly more movie-like WWI than the one in the history books, but the result is a game with some serious depth, which, if it could be mass-produced, would bring tears to the eyes of dog-fighting enthusiasts everywhere.
Take for instance the Sopwith Camel, of which two flew against my tripple deckers. Because of the engine-torque, they could turn sharper to one side than the other! Brilliant :D
I’m sad to say that those pesky tea-loving English managed to fire down my observation baloon, perhaps as a pre-emptive strike ahead of an invasion. But not before I incurred some serious losses, downing two planes and evening the score (literally, 4 points to each side), with only Ute MÃ¼clich having to bug out after a too-close-to-home encounter in Clouds of Glory.
PS: In the name of posterity, I had the unprecendented audacity to rip off the Løffenator’s gallery and put them into my own flickr account.