Aeronautica Imperialis, Wings of Vengeance

"There goes the siren that warns of the air raid. 
Then comes the sound of the guns sending flak. 
Out for the scramble we've got to get airborne
Got to get up for the coming attack."

Aeronautica Imperialis: Wings of Vengeance is a tabletop game, by Games Workshop, that pits two air forces against each other in the skies over various war torn worlds of the 40K universe. It was released in 2019, and would be my first ever completed box set. Not that it had a lot of models(only 9). 

For multiple reasons I was immediately drawn to this game when I first saw the previews. I grew up on or near naval air stations for most of my youth. And a few years after high school, I would live and work on another one as a Navy air traffic controller. So I have been watching the skies for planes, helo’s, and fighter jets for most of my life. I have fond memories of jets like F-14’s and EA-6’s flying at very low altitudes over my homes. So low that I could see into the cockpits at times. The sound a Tomcat(F-14) made at low altitudes, is still music to my ears. Though nowadays it is limited to videos and movies, as that airframe was sent to the boneyards many years ago. I also still love the smell of jet fuel to this day. Nostalgia aside, the idea of buying  a tabletop game that actually had a system in place to simulate dogfighting was a no-brainer. I had to have it.

In the lead up to Wings of Vengence’s release I was doing a little research into the game and the setting. I would learn that this was actually the second iteration of Aeronautica. The first was released by Forgeworld in 2007. It would make complete sense that I did not know about that game. As I was completely separated from hobbying at that point. This second-go game, pits the Imperial Navy, with their Thunderbolt fighters and Marauder bombers, against an Ork Air Waaagh! contingent of Dakkajets and Fighta Bommas. 

Like most boxed games, this set gave you everything you needed to get going. After, of course, you build your fighters. 

Included in the box is:

  • 4 Imperial Navy Jets (2 Marauder Bombers, 2 Thunderbolt fighters)
  • 5 Ork Jets (3 Dakkajets, 2 Fighta Bommas)
  • Hexagonal flight bases with thumb-wheel dials and flight stems
  • A rule book
  • A tabletop mat
  • Quick reference cards
  • Tokens
  • A set of dice
  • A sheet water slide transfers.

For the most part, the jets were easy to put together. The missiles attached to the underside of the wings? Not so much. Tiny pieces, shaky hands, and old super glue made for a frustrating time. Tweezers, save me! But once everything was glued they looked pretty cool. I really like the Dakkajets. As they look like real fighters. The Imperial Navy planes look cool. But I question their airworthiness. Well, I question the Ork jets too. I mean… Orks… I wouldn’t exactly put any Orks on a list of renowned aerospace engineers.

I opted to not glue the models to the flight stems, for ease of transport. Also, that affords you the ability to move the jets for more dynamic posing.

When I got around to painting everything, I decided to rely on contrast paints for that job. That paint line had released earlier in the year. And I was itching to give it a shot. The models have a lot of nooks and crannies, perfect for contrast. And I think they came out pretty good. The box came with transfers for markings. I do not use them for any models. I cannot stand transfers. I do not care how many people say they are easy. Or what foolproof techniques they have. I suck at them. So I spare myself the frustrations. I also opted not to paint the bases. I saw online that some people were painting them. I worried that the paint would get into the dials and gum stuff up.

Imperial Navy Thunderbolt fighters and Marauder bombers
Ork Air Waaagh! Dakkajets and Fighta Bommas

Around the same time, I also picked up the ground assets add-on box. This added various ground based weapons like missile launchers and cannons. As well as markers for objectives that are used in various missions. I would paint those up at the same time as the jets.

Move in to fire at the mainstream of bombers
Let off a sharp burst and then turn away
Roll over, spin round to come in behind them
Move to their blindsides and firing again

The Game


I had plans on introducing this game to Tyson during my visit in the fall. But before I could do that, I needed to read over the rule book multiple times to learn to play, myself. I also watched a few how-to videos. I even took everything to work on a midnight shift and had a couple games against myself while on breaks. Which was kind of laughable. Playing alone and trying to outsmart myself. I remember the custodian peaking around the corner. He was probably wondering why the hell I was talking to myself, or saying “Pew Pew” so much.

Me vs Me. I lost.

[note: the following is based on the day one Wings of Vengeance rulebook only. This does not reflect any FAQ’s or new rules released since late summer 2019. While I do own the new box set and rules, I have not yet done a comparison. I will make an update for this game at a later date.]

Prior to the start of the game, both players muster their squadrons based on a point limit. As is usually the case with Games Workshop games. You can also take extra weapons or missiles and make upgrades to your jets, as long as you have the points to spare, of course. 

Each aircraft has its own profile with various stats. And while the individual profile cards are in the rulebook, it helps to purchase the extra Aircraft and Aces card sets. Having these lets you dedicate an individual card to each aircraft. This helps you keep track of the individual aircrafts ammunition. Things like missiles are not unlimited. You have a finite amount of them. It also has cards for Ace Pilots.

In the Aircraft and Aces cards sets you get plenty of small cards for bombs and missiles. This visual aid helps keep the game honest. Use the missiles, remove the card.

The data cards themselves have a lot of information about the abilities and limitations of that aircraft. Let’s take a look at the Imperial Navy Thunderbolt’s basic stats and discuss what it all means.

  • Structure: This value is your jet’s health. If it reaches zero then this aircraft is destroyed.
  • Throttle: When adjusting speed, you can increase or decrease your speed up to this value. So for a value of 2, you cannot increase your speed by three or more values. Slower aircraft have difficulty outrunning a fighter.
  • Ace Maneuvers: These are specific movements that can be used to give yourself an advantage or to escape a sticky situation. A Thunderbolt can select an action 1 through 6. I’ll discuss this later.
  • Handling: The lower this value, the easier it is to maneuver this aircraft. This value is key to recovering from Spins and Stalls.
  • Min/Max Speed: These values indicate the velocity that this aircraft can safely fly at. If you exceed the max, or go below the min, you could find yourself out of control. Or worse, destroying the jet.
  • Max Altitude: This is kind of self explanatory. If you exceed this value, you can enter a stall. 
  • Transport: How many troops you can haul. Much like you would find in a 40K codex. This rule wasn’t used in the day one box, because there were no transports yet.
  • Fuel: Some aircraft have fuel limitations. Run out of fuel and you crash.
  • Fire Arc: The Fire Arcs are based on the hexagonal bases. These are the zones in which you can target enemy aircraft. Some aircraft have multiple fire arcs.
A fighter jet does not have any side or rear weaponry. So it is limited to only target what is in front of it.
  • FPR: Firepower. There are 3 values here. From left to right Short, Medium, and Long ranges. This is how many D6 you roll to hit. The distances are in terms of hex spaces.
  • DMG: Damage. The value you need to roll, at or above, to hit and damage the target.
  • AMMO: The amount of Ammunition that is available. In this case UL means ‘Unlimited’

“Bandits at 8 o'clock move in behind us
Ten ME-109's out of the sun
Ascending and turning our spitfires to face them
Heading straight for them I press down my guns.”


The game of Aeronautica Imperialis flows similarly to 40K. In that there are turns and phases. However, you alternate with your opponent within each round. As opposed to a single player completing a full round before the other player does. 

To start you place your jets on the board based on the mission you have chosen. Most likely within a couple hex spaces from the edge. As you take turns placing your aircraft, set the starting altitude and velocity for that model.

  1. Chose Maneuvers

The first phase is choosing your maneuvers. Using the chart, you and your opponent select a move that each of your jets will accomplish. You place a token with the corresponding number face down near the jet. This keeps your choice secret from your enemy. Thus adding an element of surprise. After all, you are trying to outwit your opponent.

  1. Initiative

A D6 roll determines who will make the first action.

  1. Resolve Tailing Fire (from round two)

If, in the last turn, you ended directly behind an enemy, you can take a free shot at them here. This showcases the vulnerability some aircraft have. So you really need to plan your movements. Aircraft with rear mounted weapons, like bombers, can return fire.

  1. Movement

This is where the chosen maneuvers get executed. Players, starting with the initiative winner, flip over their tokens and move their jets in accordance with the chosen move and the speed of the aircraft. Higher speed means more hexagons traversed.

  1. Firing

Again starting with the initiative winner, you begin your attacks. And then alternate each model. 

  1. End Phase

Here players resolve a few things. Particularly whether or not their jet recovers from stalls. Also, Tailing Fire is established for the next turn. A token placed for memory. 

The phases really do well to explain the basics. And obviously there are many nuances that make this an exciting game. Let’s look at a couple of those.

I have mentioned Stalls a few times above. You may think a stall is the same as an automobile. Not exactly. 

In real world terms, an aircraft stall is what happens when an aircraft moves in such a fashion that it negates the aircraft’s ability to maintain lift. Lift being super important to flight. Lift is flying really. Wings are designed to maintain lift during flight. It’s one reason I question the airworthiness of the jets in the 40K universe, but i digress. If you move in a manner that messes with the airflow over the wings by/and/or improperly adjusting the throttle, then that disruption of airflow causes the aircraft to rapidly lose altitude. Or, to put it bluntly, fall out of the sky. 

Aircraft have Stall Speeds. This is true in real life and in-game. These are the minimum speeds that an aircraft can remain in the air. Stall speeds can be reached a number of ways. Either by reduction of speed, or climbing so fast that the plane cannot keep up the speed to compensate for the climb. 

This is represented in Aeronautica Imperialis by the minimum speed stat. If you dip below your minimum speed, your aircraft cannot properly maintain it’s altitude, and will stall. Thus falling out of the sky. Like noted above, in the game, if you climb your aircraft your speed begins to dip down. 

So to see an example, let’s take a look at the Ork Dakkajet.

When you climb an aircraft your speed will decrease by one. Conversely, if you descend your speed will increase by one. The Dakkajet has a minimum speed of 4. If you have set your speed at 4 and declare you will climb up one level, your new speed will become 3. Below your listed minimum speed. You have now entered a Stall. If you stall, you are unable to make any other actions that turn. It is not until the End Phase where you must try to recover from the Stall. 

If you fail the recovery, you fall into a Spin. And are now out of control. Pretty neat. I really enjoyed this rule. As it, in a roundabout way, is realistic. And you can totally do this to yourself by accident if you are not paying attention to your speed. 

Pilot Error. To use some more real world lingo. You did this to yourself. Knowingly or not.

Another risk to speed control is exceeding your maximum speed. In exceeding your maximum speed, you run the risk of causing structural damage to your aircraft. Remember, your jet was only designed to go so fast. 

Let’s use our unfortunate Dakkajet from above once more. It has a maximum speed of 8. If you set your speed at 8 and dive with that aircraft, after making your maneuvers, your speed will increase. 

Now with a value of 9(because you increase speed when diving), you have exceeded the maximum speed that your machine can handle. And you run the risk of fatal structural damage. Let’s also not forget that Orks built this thing… 

To represent this, you roll a D6. On a 3+ you recover and your speed slows back down to its maximum value. Phew…

But on a roll of 1 or 2 your Flying Speed Waaagh! may come to a fiery end. As you begin to break up. You immediately take 1 structural damage. You were moving so fast that the vibrations caused cracks in the fuselage. This can be catastrophic if you only had one structural point left to begin with. It is a gamble. But one that could pay off if you are trying to get out of Dodge with the quickness. 

Of course, this could also be triggered by accident, just like stalling. Pilot error can be triggered a lot of different ways in this game. And I think that is awesome. 

This game can have a feverish pace. Or it could be a cat and mouse game, in which you and your opponent are maneuvering for that perfect shot, but in doing that keep outsmarting each other. The introduction of different types of aircraft also makes it more complex. 

Your mission may be a bombing run. And your fighters must protect the much slower and less agile bomber. 

As you can see, the Marauder is limited in its Ace Maneuvers, and is slower than a Thunderbolt. But it also is more structurally sound. It is a flying tank after all. With much more armaments. The bomber can fire into all quadrants, including above. And of course below. It is a bomber. But that technically counts as the Rear arc. You are moving forward when flying and bombs don’t fall straight down relative to your jet. If that were true then you would miss your ground target probably 100% of the time.

So that is Aeronautica Imperialis in a nutshell. There is a lot more to the game, of course. And if you are interested, definitely check it out! You can build a small squadron with one box of jets for a small game. Or you could build a whole fleet. I really enjoyed this game, but unfortunately it fell out of my scope. As I do not have anyone to play with. So, I really haven’t been paying much attention since Wings of Vengeance. 

Though I will say, this recount has given me a little spark. I have looked into, and picked up, some of the newer stuff. They have really expanded the line. Adding additional aircraft and armies. As well as more in-depth missions. I’m going to make a White Scars squadron using the new Astartes Xiphon Interceptor’s, Storm Eagle’s, Thuderhawk’s, and [man, dammit…] Fire Raptors.**

Maybe someday there will be tie-in missions with Adeptus Titanicus. That would be wild. But entirely doubtful.

After completing this box set, I ended up buying a few more models to take with me to teach Tyson how to play. Which felt odd, me teaching him how to play something. It has always been the opposite. Since high school. But we had a good time. And he would even buy his own copy of the game. 

Still in his pile of shame, as I recall. [cough]

November 2019

"Rolling, turning, diving
Rolling, turning, diving (doing it again)
Rolling, turning, diving
Rolling, turning, diving
Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die
Won't you run, live to fly, fly to live. 
Aces high"

Iron Maiden - Aces High
(Powerslave, 1984. Written by Steve Harris)

Up The Irons! When I first saw this game, I almost immediately thought of ‘Aces High‘. Like many of Iron Maiden’s songs, it is historical in nature. It was written about the Royal Air Force and their allies mettle during the Battle of Britain. The World War II conflict that took place from the middle of 1940 in the skies over Great Britain. This conflict pitted the Royal Air Force’s Hurricane’s and Spitfire’s versus the German Luftwaffe’s Messerschmitts. Historically, this was the first battle fought entirely using aircraft, and almost 4,000 ally and German planes were destroyed during these engagements. The history established some forty,or so, years before this song was even written is very interesting. Particularly around the Polish 303 squadron, who were flying for the RAF in defense of England. A group of aircrew displaced from their country by the Nazi’s invasion. The 303rd had the highest kill rate among all the ally squadrons in this conflict.

Go get ‘em, Eddie!
Image source: Wikipedia

*Cover photo was provided by Tyson. My box for Wings Of Vengeance was unfortunately destroyed some time ago.

** As of the time of publishing this entry, I had actually already bought, built and primed my entire White Scars Squadron. But it has been set aside as a project for another day.

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]


All of these are true except for one:

Robert is: a Hobbyist, a Music Lover, an RPG Gamer, a Mustard Lover, Chaotic Neutral, a Japanese Speaker, a Veteran, an Otaku, a Table Tennis Player, an Anime Fan, an Aviation Professional, a New York Rangers Fan, a Chaos Lover With Loyalist Tendencies.

More about Robert | Robert’s contributions