Off The Shelf / On The Tabletop - Aeronautica Imperialis

Published: September 5, 2019 1:00 PM /


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This time the On The Tabletop Team are checking out Games Workshop's new Aeronautica Imperialis with the Wings of Vengeance boxed set.

Aeronautica Imperialis is a game of ariel combat set in the Warhammer 40K setting and the Wings of Vengeance boxed set acts as a starter set, featuring forces from the Imperium and Orks.


Off The Shelf / On The Tabletop articles come in two halves. In Off The Shelf we will look at what's in the product along with covering how the game plays. This is followed by On The Tabletop where we talk about our first playthrough games and finish with feedback from the On The Tabletop team.

The On The Tabletop playthrough articles catalog our initial experiences with a game; as a result, mistakes will be made. On The Tabletop should also not be taken as a full review. These articles are simply our first impressions of a game.

Off The Shelf

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The Aeronautica Imperialis Wings of Vengeance box acts as a starter box for Aeronautica Imperialis. It is possible to start playing Aeronautica Imperialis without buying Wings of Vengeance, as you would a normal wargame, by buying the rulebook and then miniatures as required. Wings of Vengeance is a great priced entry to Aeronautica Imperialis though and includes:

  • The full Aeronautica Imperialis rulebook
  • Token sheet
  • 2 Quick Reference cards
  • Double-sied play mat
  • 8 six-sided dice (D6)
  • Imperial forces of 2 Marauder Bombers and 2 Thunderbolt Fighters/Fury Fighters
  • Ork forces of 2 Fighta Bommers and 3 Dakkajets
  • Ork and Imperial Aeronautica Imperialis Transfer Sheet
The miniatures for Aeronautica Imperialis are superb. and while a smaller scale that Games Workshop's regular wargame, they are still full of detail.

The 2 Thunderbolts can both be built as Thunderbolt Fighters, or as the upgraded Fury variant. The Fury variant is armed with an Avenger Bolt Cannon, which rolls an extra dice for attacks at short and medium-range, and also has the extra damage rule.

The 3 Dakkajets can be built with variations of the 3 individual noses, central bodies, and tails, giving you several options for a unique look for each jet, even if you expand past the Wings of Vengeance box.

All 9 of the miniatures can be built with additional extra weaponry in the form of missiles and bombs. We built all of ours with full loads of missiles and bombs. Picking the largest and sharpest for the Orks, because large and sharp is the best right?


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Games of Aeronautica Imperialis follow an alternating activation system for movement and shooting, starting with the player who wins the initiative each turn. Each turn begins with a hidden movement mechanic. Every aircraft has an Ace Maneuver rating, which gives them access to some of the 8 available movement maneuvers like level flight, swoop and more advanced maneuvers like bank and wing over. The more maneuverable jets have access to more flexible movement options than the larger and slower bombers. Player's assign a movement number to each aircraft and then during the movement phase, can control the speed and altitude of their aircraft for more precise positioning.


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Movement distance is controlled by the thrust value of each aircraft. Each aircraft's movement value is carried over from turn to turn, and thurst is the amount each aircraft can change it by. Nimble jets can brake sharply, giving them more control over their positioning after their movement type is revealed, whereas bombers have less control over their movement speed.

After an aircraft is moved, they can also change altitude, which has the effect of speeding up your aircraft, if you move to a lower altitude, or slowing down if moved to a higher altitude. Hitting aircraft at different altitudes has a modifier to the roll, so changing altitudes is used for attempting to avoid enemy fire, or positioning for your own shooting.

Each aircraft also has a minimum and maximum speed, and going over or below these can mean stalling or your aircraft breaking up. Sometimes, in the heat of battle though, both of these are required in order to avoid accurate fire from your enemies.

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An Aeronautica Imperialis air battle over a cityscape.


During the shooting phase, weapons are used depending on their range and arc on the aircraft. Each weapon rolls a varying amount of dice at different ranges. For example, the Quad Big Shootas roll 8 dice at short range, 4 at medium and 0 at long, whereas the Avenger Bolt Cannon rolls 3 at short, 7 at medium and 0 at long. All the dice are rolled together and are modified by any difference in altitude at -1 per level. The standard roll to hit is 5+ on a D6, so any altitude variation of 2 or more makes it impossible to hit.

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3 Dakkajets trying to bring their weapons on target against a single Thunderbolt.

Before the movement phase, there is also a tailing fire phase, where aircraft that have an enemy's rear arc within its front arc and are at short or medium range, and within 1 level of altitude get a free shooting phase before the movement phase. This can be devastating after a previous turn of accurate fire.

Wings of Vengeance has everything 2 players need to get started with Aeronautica Imperialis. Alternatively, players can pick up the Rynn's World campaign book, which also has the full rules, along with a campaign section and 6 scenarios. It also includes the rules for ground targets, which aren't included in the Wings of Vengeance rulebook. Also available are the tokens sheets and packs of aircraft miniatures alongside Aircraft and Aces card packs for both the Imperial Navy and Orks, which include stat cards for aircraft and upgrades.

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A daring Thunderbolt swoops in on an Ork patrol.

On The Tabletop

Our test game of Aeronautica Imperialis saw Kit and I take control of the 5 Ork aircraft and Kyla and Ewan the Imperial forces. We used all 9 of the aircraft in the Wings of Vengeance set, without taking any additional weapons, which puts the Orks at 88 points and the Imperial Navy at 87.

Our game consisted of a lot of random movement, mainly from Ewan's side as he pulled off some extremely unexpected maneuvers as Kit and I tried to lay down a huge amount of ineffective dakka. Kyla pulled off some impressive moves with the nimble Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt Fury, managing to get some impressive shots on target.

Our game ended in a draw with both sides equal on victory points.

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A Fighter Bommer heads straight at at a Marauder Bomber.

Player Thoughts

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Adam - I really like the miniatures. As an Air Force veteran, they capture everything I love about aircraft. I'm a gamer over hobbyist, and painting has never been my priority, but I really want to get some paint on these and I will probably look at picking up several more miniatures.

The game itself is an interesting mix of hidden movement and vying for position. I've played a fair amount of X-Wing and this captures some of what makes X-Wing great, with a blend of 40K. The flexibility of controlling distance after picking a movement type works well and gives nimble aircraft a great advantage over heavier aircraft, which feels very realistic.

I think that it needs playing as full forces, with upgrades for aircraft and different options, as out of the Wings of Vengeance box, some of the shooting is very ineffective and you can roll a lot of dice and achieve nothing. Positioning is incredibly important and tailing fire, with the extra shooting phase can be game-winning.

I would like to play more of Aeronautica Imperialis. I feel like it is very technical for a pick-up and play game, with a focus on positioning over simply shooting, which may put some players off, but I think it's a game that rewards investment.

Adam is the righteous leader of the On The Tabletop Team and is an experienced tabletop gamer. He has played physical and online CCGs to a very high competitive level. He also has a background in roleplaying, board and wargaming and has playtested and produced content for several companies. A veteran tabletop writer who's favorite games includes Dark Souls the Card Game, The Legend of the Five Rings LCG, Shadespire and Bushido. You can read his work here on TechRaptor and follow his exploits on Twitter - @StealthBuda.

Kit - It was a cold windy night, I saw Adam turn up with the Aeronautica Imperialis box under his arm. Not gonna lie, I got excited. I've been a fan of 40k since Rogue Trader and I'm a fan of games like X-Wing, Blood Red Skies, Battlestar Galactica. This excitement was quickly destroyed when the hex-based map was unfolded. However, I kept positive. Now the models are amazing, even more so than I'd expect from Games Workshop. The rules felt like AI was conceived after a wild drunken night between X-Wing, Blood Red Skies and BattleTech then sadly the original Forgeworld version of AI had no idea who the father was.

The movement system is made overly clunky with the inclusion of altitude, I feel this could have been streamlined or even just removed. Plenty of other games have factored this in and done it better. But this ties me into the combat itself. Different altitudes give you a negative to hit where there are no negatives for orientation of firing or target plane. The high dice rolls to hit (5+) but low to damage (2+) makes sense, it's hard to hit but when you do, BOOM.

Lastly, the maneuvers again could have been done better. It should have been dials or cards, not little numbered tokens, it felt like there were just too many, even when controlling 5 planes.

In conclusion, I feel the need to paint the models but will never play this game again. Someone mentioned they may fix it in an FAQ but I feel that you'd have to remove the hexes and dramatically overhaul the altitude/maneuvers to fix it.

Kit is the owner of ABZ Games, Aberdeen’s gaming community hub. He has been playing board/card/war/role-playing games for near on 25 years. Currently, his favorite game is Wild West Exodus by Warcradle.

Kyla - As an RPG player, a disliker of strategy games and anything that relies too heavily on numbers, and someone who is definitely not the target audience for this game, I still went into this game with an open mind. Sadly, nothing in Aeronautica Imperialis has changed my opinion.

My main issues with the game were regarding accessibility; both as a new player starting out in the game, and just in terms of readability. Regarding the former, the quick reference sheets were not ‘quick’ and instead of presenting all of the most important information you would need, it often made references to pages in the rulebook which you would have to take time to locate in order to final crucial info. And regarding the latter, both the numbers on the aircraft stat pages and on the dials of the aircraft miniature bases are incredibly small. Leaning over the table to look at the numbers on the dials in order to plan my next move was awkward and I could only imagine would be made worse when playing using a much larger gameplay mat. Another option was to ask my fellow players to read the numbers off their aircraft but this would potentially inform them of the aircraft I was planning to attack and make them change their moves to try and stop me from doing so.

Aside from the problems I found during gameplay, I’m also not sure why players would choose to pick this game up over others. I believe there are other better and more established games that feature aerial combat, and as the game is not heavily Warhammer 40,000 themed, I don’t think that is enough of a draw to get people to play it.

I do have one positive from this game and that is the miniatures; I think for hobbyists this would be a great set of models to assemble and paint.

Kyla is a 3D Artist and VFX Compositor. She is also known around the UK convention scene for her costume and prop making work. She's been a regular DM and player of Dungeons & Dragons for the last 3 years, and when she's not busy writing her own homebrew campaigns she can be found playing Zombicide with friends. You can find her on Instagram at @HallowStudios, and on her website.

Ewan -This was my first aeronautical game experience ever and I was worried I’d really struggle to play but I was pleasantly surprised. Not being the most tactically minded I struggled to get my head around the movement. It would have probably been easier with more distinguishable facings on the bases. All the rest of the game felt like second nature pretty much after playing AOS and 40k. I personally feel they should of included a couple of pilots/crew member cards in the box to spice up the experience more, however.

From a visual perspective, I really struggled with the hex board as it didn’t stand out enough. The counter bases were fairly fiddly and I struggled a bit to decipher which orkish filth I could blast from the sky. The designs for the models and everything really fit their theme though and a bit of paint would probably fix most of my problems. All in all, I enjoyed playing and I’ll be giving this another go if they release some more of the Xenos aircraft.

Ewan is severely visually impaired, which makes playing some games difficult, especially when there is a lot of small text on the board. Having his input is very important to us as it can be something that is overlooked in gaming. He's been gaming for a while and enjoys Talisman and Camelot. He has also played a few CCGs and is currently loving Warhammer Age of Sigmar Champions. He tries to get some wargames in when he can.


This copy of Aeronautica Imperialis Wings of Vengeance used in this article was provided by Warhammer Community.

What do you think of the Aeronautica Imperialis miniatures? Are you picking up Aeronautica Imperialis? Let us know in the comments below.

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