I had opportunity to play Aerodrome 2.0 for the first time at the recent Fall-IN! convention, hosted by the designer of Aeordrome himself, Mr. Stan Kubiak. Stan was running Aerodrome 2.0 all day long on Friday. I actually was planning on attending a different event, but as the GM did not deign to show up, I had some free time, and since I like Air games and this game was open at the next table, why not.
The game plays almost exactly like Aerodrome 1.0, which is his World War One game that came out first. Essentially the player plays the pilot of the airplane which is represented on the table by a model on a stand. Each plane has a series of maneuvers which are conducted on a hex grid. Players program three phases of activity in advance, then move the plane models to see if they guessed where the enemy plane would be in time to shoot it down. This is a mechanic common with many airplane combat games, such as Wings of War and Blue Max. Players program movement and attacking using a very visual aircraft pilot display.
Players conduct maneuvers per three phases, left to right, using a series of pegs and .22 cartridge casings for gunfire. All of this is pretty much like Aerodrome 1.0– the real difference between 1.0 and 2.0 is the speed of the airplanes and the maneuvers they can conduct.
As for my own experience, I have played Aerodrome 1.0 many times under the expert eye of Hal Dyson, a past master at this system. He has cheerfully ran Aerodrome games at every convention (local to me) for most of the past decade and a half I’ve known him. I like the system a lot, the guessing and counter-guessing and projecting where you would be 3 turns from now is a fun element of these mechanics. My Japanese pilot rose up to meet the oncoming Wildcat, jinked left through a cloud bank when it became clear I was setting him up to be riddled with bullets, flew parallel to the Allied plane (see “pilots wave at each other” in the slideshow), did a barrel roll to reverse and fly straight to gain altitude, another reverse, and then a series of complicated hard right turns. Each time you pull a hard right you have to roll a 1D6 to see if you go into a spin, and my luck ran out on the second try– I was spinning down into the ocean, and thus a sitting duck. At this stage most of us were running out of ammo, and the Americans (save one) and Japanese (save me, in a spiral) headed to the edge to exit the battlefield. The last American DID have ammo and managed to save me from an ignominious fate of plunging into the sea by blowing my airplane to bits. YAY!
I had a great time, and was pleased to meet Mr. Kubiak and play the latest iteration of his system. It plays fast and well. Mechanically, it is not very different from Wings of War for me, though– the two games are very similar in that both players have limited maneuvers– in Aerodrome you use a Blue Max style chart, in Wings of War you use a series of three maneuver cards. Of the two, I’d choose Wings of War for the cost savings– you can have a pretty good game of WoW for a lot less investment than Aerodrome. For convention games, however, I still like Aerodrome for the visual appeal.