Generally speaking, I’m a bigger fan of the idea of miniatures games more than I am their actual implementation, and that is based on one thing: I really don’t enjoy painting minis. I know lots of people love it, and I’m glad for them, but try as I might I just can’t bring myself to spend hours even preparing to play a game.
And that’s why I am a big fan of the miniatures games made by Italian game design shop Ares. My first introduction to them was through Sails of Glory, a fantastic game of Napoleonic-era sailing ship combat that uses absolutely gorgeous ship miniatures. From there, I discovered Wings of Glory, which uses a mechanic similar to Sails but applies it to World War I and World War II aircraft, complete with aforementioned gorgeous miniatures. So I was quite excited when I heard about Ares’ planned companion to Wings: Tripods and Triplanes.
What Is Triplanes and Tripods?
The year is 1918, and the Martians have attacked Earth. But unfortunately for them, they chose to invade just after the development of one of humanity’s more significant military advances: the airplane. Now, brave young pilots, fresh from the horrors of the war, must once again take to the air, this time to defend the whole world.
Tripods and Triplanes adds a new, fun twist to the Wings series. Based oh-so-loosely on H.G. Wells’ famous novel The War of the Worlds, Tripods allows players to take the side of either the human pilots in their bi- and triplanes or the side of the invading aliens.
The game is really designed for 2 players, but more can definitely join in, so long as you own enough models. The Kickstarter campaign, which is already funded and ends in a little less than a week, allows backers to get a starter set that includes one Martian tripod and a single biplane, and is perfect for two players. Higher pledge levels include more tripods and planes. Assuming that Ares follows the pattern of past product lines, more tripods will continue to be released down the road.
A $45 pledge will get you a starter set. $80 gets you the starter set, two additional tripods, and an additional plane. $140 adds the Wings of Glory Rules and Accessories Pack and four more planes. However, those are currently available products.
It’s important to note that Tripods is not an expansion to Wings. Instead, it’s a stand-alone game that is compatible with Wings. If you currently own Wings, you can incorporate the tripods into your battles, using all of your existing models. But if you don’t own Wings, that’s okay, too, as the Starter Set for Tripods includes everything you need, including biplanes. (It’s also worth noting that while Tripods and Triplanes makes for a better title, the majority of planes available in the Wings series are actually biplanes.)
Also, a Kickstarter stretch goal has already been unlocked to include rules and counters that will allow players to use the Tripods with the World War II models. I wasn’t able to test that, but I’m very excited to see the finished version of that as I have a lot more WWII planes than I do WWI.
Tripods and Triplanes Components
The starter set (the $45 pledge level) includes:
- Rulebook and Scenario Booklet
- 1 Tripod (Mk.I Locust) and 1 airplane (Navarre’s Ni.16) minatures
- 4 Tripod control boards
- 2 Airplane control boards
- 1 Tripod Maneuver deck
- 1 Airplane Maneuver deck
- 4 Airplane Damage decks
- 3 Tripod Damage decks
- 1 Airplane Combat ruler
- 2 Heat-ray and 1 Black Smoke rulers
- 4 sets of Tripod Action tokens
- 4 Objective counters
- 2 Black Smoke markers
- 100+ Assorted tokens
Each additional Tripod pack includes:
- a fully painted and assembled miniature;
- a maneuver deck
- a vehicle reference card
I was given a prototype for testing purposes, and I have to say I was very impressed by the quality, particularly of the Tripods. I’m used to reviewing prototypes where the components are little more than cardboard markers, but Ares sent four highly detailed Tripod miniatures. I almost want to just put these on a shelf and display them.
The prototype also included a set of maneuver and damage cards that, again unlike most prototypes, were nicely printed on heavy cardstock, making them very easy to play with. The other components, such as the tokens, were more of the quality I expect from prototypes–roughtly printed and glued on cardboard. However, after having played other Ares games, I’m very confident in saying that the final quality of all of the games components will be at the highest levels.
How to Play Tripods and Triplanes
To begin, you need to select an area at least 3 feet on a side. Just about any flat, smooth area will do, just as long as you do something to mark the boundaries. Then, the human player takes their plane models and places them on one side of the play area. The Martian player takes their tripod(s) and places them opposite the human player. The human player will then take and place one or more objective markers on the table, based on instructions provided in the scenario the players are using.
Each player then takes the maneuver deck and console that matches their models. The damage decks that correspond to the models in play are shuffled and placed where everyone can reach them. The Martian player also takes a number of energy tokens matching the tripod’s energy rating (printed on the model’s base) and a set of Action tokens. The human and heat-ray rulers are placed in easy reach.
To begin, each player secretly selects three maneuver cards and places them face-down on their console. This is one of the great things about the Wings mechanic: you have to think multiple moves ahead, because you can’t quite be sure what your opponent is going to do, and you can’t change any of those actions once you have selected them.
Tripods does introduce one new phase to the game. Before the first action cards are revealed, the Martian player may choose to place one action token on the first card. These allow the tripod to change its facing, recharge its energy, destroy an objective, or fire its heat ray. (Advanced rules also provide for them to fire deadly Black Smoke.) There are some rules around these, such as a prohibition on playing a token if the planned maneuver is Stop.
Once the Martian player places the action token, all players simultaneously reveal their action cards and then move their models. All movement is considered to be simultaneous, to there’s no turn order here. To move a model, you place the select maneuver card in front of the model’s base, and then pick up the model and align it with the arrow at the end of the maneuver. As with any miniatures game, doing this without accidentally moving other things on the table takes a bit of practice.
Once everyone has moved, players may choose to open fire. The planes measure the distance from the pole that attaches the plane to the base to any part of an enemy’s base using the human ruler. As long as the enemy is in that range and within the firing arc, the plane can fire. The opponent draws one or more damage cards from the deck. They look at the damage on the card and then place them, face down, on their console. In this way, each player knows that their opponent has taken damage, but they don’t know exactly how much damage (and there are “zero” cards in the deck, which represent misses.)
The Martians have more powerful weapons that are a bit more complex. In order to fire, the Martian must first have placed the Heat-ray Fire Token during the action phase. Then, they use the heat-ray ruler to see if a plane is in range. These aren’t fixed weapons, though, so the firing arc is determined by the different angles on the ruler, giving the player more options to hit the planes. Assuming that a plane can be reached by the ruler, it is hit, and damage proceeds as described above. However, while the planes have unlimited ammunition, the Martians only have a limited number of energy tokens, and so may not be able to fire every round.
To make things more interesting, the Martians are also protected by energy shields that mean that damage to them costs them energy. Thus, getting a plane in behind the tripod isn’t going to kill it, but it will drain its energy so that it has a harder time shooting back.
The Wings system simulates the 3D space planes can fly in by allowing them to overlap on the table. Tripods, though, are ground-based. Thus, when two tripods overlap, they may topple over. Tripods can also be toppled when certain damage cards are drawn. When this happens, the human player needs to hope they have one or more planes close by, as a toppled tripod is basically a sitting target, limiting its movement and disabling that pesky shield.
The game continues until the humans destroy the tripods, or the tripods destroy all of the planes, or the tripods achieve the objective outlined in the scenario.
Why You Should Play Tripods and Triplanes
As I mentioned at the offset, I was inclined to like Tripods and Triplanes from the moment I heard of it, simply because it combines a whole bunch of my favorite things: historical battles, gorgeous miniatures, and science fiction (and in this case, classic sci-fi to boot.) Thankfully, the game didn’t disappoint. As with Wings and Sails, this game is ready-to-play right out of the box. And it’s quite accessible, and a great way to introduce potentially reluctant friends to give miniature gaming a try. The games tend to be pretty quick–all of the ones we played lasted about 30 minutes each, so it’s quite easy to play again and again in a single sitting.
I’m happy to be a backer of Tripods and Triplanes, and I’d recommend you check it out as well.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.