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Ace of Aces: Handy Rotary Series - Board Game Box Shot

Ace of Aces: Handy Rotary Series

, | Published: 1980
14 2 5

Ace of Aces is an innovative 1-on-1 combat game that simulates a dogfight between WWI aircraft. Each player has a book with pictures of what they see out the cockpit of their airplane. Each player selects a maneuver (bank left, barrel roll, etc.) and tells their opponent a page number to turn to. This new page, when cross indexed with the maneuver made, gives the page number that shows the results of the chosen maneuver. The object of the game is to get your opponent in your sights and shoot them down.

There are advanced rules for fuel consumption as well as a campaign game.

User Reviews (2)

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Guardian Angel
Baron / Baroness
Miniature Painter
23 of 24 gamers found this helpful
“So, you want to be a WWI Flying Ace...”

(This review is for any of the three basic Ace of Aces sets – Handy Rotary, Powerhouses, or Flying Machines. I will also mention Balloon Busters, briefly.)

Ace of Aces has long been a favorite staple of mine. It’s a great game which can be taken and played almost anywhere as it involves NO DICE.

It’s strictly a two player game and each player takes on the role of a WWI pilot in either an Allied and German plane of the era. There are three sets to play with, and each is fully compatible with the others; although if you took a plane from the Flying Machines set up against a plane from the Powerhouses set, you’d be going down in flames.

Each player gets a small book. The pages of these books are all made up of pictures of what your pilot sees from the cockpit of his plane, and a series of available maneuvers which you can perform along the bottom of the page. Under each maneuver is a number; a page number.

Play works like this:

Each player decides what maneuver he wants to make with his plane. He looks at the page number under that maneuver. He then tells the other player what that number is, while his opponent does the same. Now, you turn to the page number in your book which YOUR OPPONENT gave you, while he does the same with the page number you gave him.

This is the mid-turn page; not the final position of the planes. On this page, you each look at the maneuver YOU performed and see what the page number under it is. This number should be the same for both players. This is now the page to which you both turn in your respective books.

This is where both planes are now that both maneuvers have been completed. Look at the picture. What do you see?

Most pages are a view of where your opponent is now – off to your left, for example. But some will show you shooting at your opponent, some show him shooting at you, and some show you shooting at each other. There’s even a page for a mid-air collision (ouch!). Damage is based on the weapon mounted on you plane (specified by the set you are using) and the range of the shot (determined by the picture). It’s pretty self-evident how much damage you’ve done/taken.

All you do is keep track, and when your plane has taken the full amount of damage it can sustain (again specified by which set you are using) you’ve been shot down.

It’s that simple. As such, each game boiled down to a contest of flying ability – in this case, the ability to visualize where in space your opponent was in your head and try to out fly him. As you played the same opponents you might get to know their style of flying – who likes to side-slip, or try an Immelman turn to get behind you. Winning and losing is literally in your hands, not the random chance of the dice.

At the time, Nova Games (the creator/original publisher) was the only manufacturer to have ever Patented his system. This remained the case until WotC tried to patent CCGs. This same system is used in the all the Nova/Flying Buffalo ‘flip book’ games including the Wingleader (WWII version of AoA), Jet Eagles (modern day version), Star Wars: X-Wing vs Tie Fighter game (published by West End Games), the Lost Worlds (mano a mano version with orks and such; also had books for Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader – always fun to have Vader fight a hobbit…lol), and the often overlooked Bounty Hunter: Shootout at the Saloon (wild west gunfight) and Dragonriders of Pern versions.

In the Pern version players competed to see who could stop a set number of threadfalls first rather than ‘shooting’ at each other.

Lastly, for completeness, I mention the AoA Balloon Busters set. This set was fundamentally different from the other three AoA sets in that one player – the Allied player – was flying a plane and trying to shoot down German observation balloons while the German player was trying to shoot the Allied plane down from a ground based AA gun. I tried BB once or twice and didn’t really enjoy it very much.

For my money the sets to stick with are the 3 original AoAs (in order of pub Handy Rotary, 1980; Powerhouses, 1981; Flying Machines, 1983), and the X-Wing vs Tie Fighter sets. Any of these sets included both books needed to play and came packaged in a slipcover which held them (as did Balloon Busters).

The Handy Rotary Deluxe edition, Wingleader, and Jet Eagles all came in standard boxed sets and included various charts and tables to help simulate different planes, or advanced systems such as missiles. I liked Wingleader well enough, but JE was too complex and lost a lot of the feel of the game.

And this sequence from the film The Blue Max is what the game is all about!

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2 of 7 gamers found this helpful
“Capsule Review”

Perfectly captures the fight for the sky during World War I.

While it may a little daunting to learn how the page system works, after a few plays, it becomes second nature.

The only thing hampering this game is it can not be played solo.

The same designer has designed a fantasy fighting game system called Lost Worlds, a World War 2 version of this game, more World War I expansion games with additional airplanes, a jet version and even a Star Wars version.


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