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English version of our Andrea Angiolino's interview, talking about Sails of Glory (by Andrea Angiolino & Andrea Mainini) and its antecedents.
 
Sails of Glory          Andrea Angiolino

 

10 years ago, on March 11 2004, the first edition of Wings of War was publiched (in Italy). And the Spanish edition of Sails of Glory is going to be published by Devir next week. 

To celebrate all that, we have talked with our friend and designer Andrea Angiolino.

This interview is part of the full Spanish article you can find here: Velas de Gloria con Andrea Angiolino.

 

Andrea Angiolino

Jugamos Tod@s: How did you become a wargame lover?

I started playing with toy soldiers when I was a kid. There were mainly two brands of 1/72 plastic soldiers available: Airfix, luxury ones coming from England, and Atlantic, far cheaper and made in Italy. They both had a wide range covering many ages. I started playing with them inventing rules to move each vehicle at a different speed, measuring movement and firing ranges in handbreadths and fingers, and giving each weapon a different number of coins to toss head-or-tails to see if they hit their targets: one to rifles and pistols, three to sub-machineguns, five to heavy machineguns. Rough simulations indeed. When in 1980 I discovered real wargames and war-boardgames, I was more than ready to become a passionate player. And after a while, a designer too.

 

JT@: What is the origin of WoW?

I then played a lot of wargames, back in the '80s and '90s. Some were utterly complicated, in their effort to simulate reality in every detail. Loving old airplanes, many of the games I collected and played with my friends were air war simulations of the first and second world war. Some recent titles, as Blue Max, started to simplify game mechanics - but the real work of genius has been Ace of Aces by Alfred Leonardi, a couple of booklets with more than 200 drawings where a plane was seen from another in every combinations of relative positions and facings. With a very simple mechanic, you would go from a page to the other shooting the enemy when it was depicted in front of you, and being shot when the drawing showed bullets coming.

With my friend Pier Giorgio we played it a lot, but we regretted that it was just a two-players game with one plane each, getting far more complicated when it involved more than two planes. How to get the same feeling of a very immediate but satisfying game, but with a mechanic that could allow many players to fight each other at the same time?

In a night of February 2002, in my home in a medieval village close to Rome, the inspiration arrived. Game mechanics were noted on a leftover of paper taken from the basket near my fireplace. Some decks of blank cards that I got as a gift from Carta Mundi for my prototypes were grabbed. With a few felt pens of different colors the first two rough airplanes, a Sopwith Camel and a red Fokker Dr.I, were drawn, and their manoeuvre decks too. At sunrise, the prototype was ready.

Andrea Angiolino

After the first game session against Pier Giorgio, we started editing it looking for more elegance. The game seemed to work well. Since it was so simple we imagined it as a little cheap game, sold in packages of 66 cards and a piece of string, each package with different planes and their specific manoeuvres.

I involved Dario Calì too, a professional illustrator that I knew him in 1993: he had drawn a comic with a detective quiz for some game pages I did for a famed weekly magazine. After that we worked together on many games, game magazines and books. One was La Squadriglia degli Assi, a classical hex-grid war-boardgame I designed with aviation historian Gregory Alegi for the magazine of the Italian Air Force Ministry: The landscape of the map has been later used as the background for Wings of War cards. With him, we made a more professional prototype to be shown around. It included both World War 1 and World War 2 planes, to leave the would-be publisher the choice of the best setting depending also on its specific national markets. Working titles were Cockades & Crosses and World War Wings.

As a first possible publisher I contacted Roberto Di Meglio from Nexus Editrice: their X-bugs, later Micro Mutants, was then a pioneer in the conquest of world markets by Italian firms and designers, having had several different foreign editions. X-Bugs was a serial game based on a collection of different game sets, the same marketing model that we had in mind. Roberto liked WoW and brought it to the GAMA trade show, where several foreign publishers showed interest. The very first offer we received was anyway turned down - A US publisher offered us 500 dollars as a flat fee for all the rights for the whole line for several years! To be shared between Nexus, two designers and the taxes for the Italian state...

But several more serious firms showed appreciation. Contacts were slow anyway, and in the end Nexus decided to go alone and sew what would happen. So on the 11th of March, 2004, the first copies reached the Italian shops. It has been an immediate success and foreign distributors immediately queued to get licenses for their languages.

 

JT@: How did you and Pier Giorgio Paglia work together?

At first we spent quite a lot of time speaking together, researching and playtesting, to streamline the system and refine it. But after the game has been released, the need of further expansions and development forced us to share tasks and work in parallel, each one on his own. Game design is a real job for us, not a hobby. And soon we were responsible for one of the main lines of the publishing house, giving work to many people along the line from illustrators and editors down to many dealers and shop owners: A huge responsibility.

 

JT@: One big point in WoW is the airplane miniatures. How do you convince a game company to produce it?

Of course this was our dream since the very first reprints, when we saw that the game kept on selling out every print run. We joked about that with Nexus, but it was an impossible choice for a small publisher. Anyway people started making their own miniature versions, fixing 1/300 lead miniatures of WW1 planes or Micromachine Star Wars fighters on top of plane cards. Somebody even enlarged cards to fit 1/72 plastic kits. In the meantime, reprint after reprint, the game became far more popular and widespread than we expected. So it was pretty natural to propose miniatures ourselves, as soon as the fan base was large enough.

 

JT@: How big had been the success of WoW?

The success has been truly immediate even with the very first cards-only box, "Wings of War - Famous Aces". The first foreign distributor to get an exclusive has been Fantasy Flight Games, just after the Italian release: Their first print run sold out in 13 days, the second one was quickly reprinted but sold out again just with pre-orders even before reaching their warehouse so a third one was hastily made while the second was still on the boat. When I went to Gen Con in August 2004 to present the game on the US market, we did not have any copies at all in place since the first two runs were already finished and the third one still on its way...

Overall, from the start to December 31st, 2010, Nexus Editrice and NG International sold 107.738 basic boxes of Wings of War. A total of 506.704 items, adding them expansions and accessories. I haven't done a cumulative calculation of the Ares Games' sales, but they are going on at a comparable speed anyway: the success continues.

JT@: How many international editions?

Many indeed! From Italian, the game has been translated into a dozen of languages or so: English, Spanish, French, German, Greek, Dutch, Russian, Czech, Finnish, Swedish, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese. In some nations as Germany, France or Greece we even had more than one edition, when some publishers replaced others.

 

Various WoW prototypes and a pre-production mock-up at the exhibit about Angiolino's games, No Sólo Parchís - Eutopía 2008 (Cordoba, Spain, 27th of September 2008).
 
 

JT@: We must ask about the X-Wing affair… What happened?

I have always been convinced that the Wings of War system could be successfully applied to other settings. On publisher's request Pier Giorgio and me concentrated on air combats, but since the release of the first box many fans developed a wide range of alternative versions ranging from Harry Potter's Quidditch to Temeraire Napoleonic flying dragons, from Japanese manga to a solitaire King Kong scenario. The first Star Wars WoW variant was already on BGG in summer 2004, with special rules for specific vehicles as the X-Wing or pilots as Darth Vader.

in 2007, for the first time we had an occasion to make an official retheme. Fantasy Flight Games, our distributor for the English version, asked to license Wings of War for a Battlestar Galactica dogfight game. They gave up soon for fear of being unable to develop the Battlestar Galactica boardgame at the same time. But in early 2010 FFG asked again to license our system, this time in a Star Wars setting. Bargaining went on for one year, while in the meantime we checked the release plan and the list of possible starships. On February 2011 a contract was finally sent by FFG to NG International. In the end they offered to buy WoW's mechanics so that FFG internal staff could use some or all of them to develop an X-Wing line signed "Game Design by Andrea Angiolino & Pier Giorgio Paglia". But after a quarrel with NG over the rights for another unrelated game, FFG withdrew the still unsigned offer.

When we later ceased relationships with NG, in spring 2011, I told FFG that we authors were free to give him a license in a direct relationship; they answered me that he would of course ask for one if he intended to use WoW's mechanics, but that they decided to design an entirely different system instead. At that moment FFG was very interested in being the new publisher of Wings of War, and even in the new sailing ships game. In Summer I was invited to visit their office in Rosenville to speak about that possible deal. But in the same days, their X-Wing prototype was shown at Gen Con 2011 for the first time, and all that announced difference with WoW was not seen by quite many people. Their failure to acknowledge anything for the use of WoW's mechanics in X-Wing brought negotiations to an immediate stop. I never went to Roseville and here we are with a different publisher.

 

JT@: After the end of Nexus, the game had a parenthesis. Continuing to Ares was easy?

Actually, the passage has been a quite weird moment. Several publishing houses were interested, small ones and huge ones, and we had to choose the one that would be quicker to bring back our game on the market, but also the one more respectful of our already existing players and of our role as designers. I did not want a publisher that would make all the stuff already in the hands of players obsolete to try to sell everything again from scratch, as let's say Hasbro when they bought Subbuteo - a legitimate move, but I preferred to do otherwise out of respect for my players. Timing was essential, since unpleasant things were happening - the change of mind of FFG about X-Wing was just one of them. To give you an idea, I even had a phone call by the CEO of a quite large industry, asking me to sign the new contract with them: He said that if we did not, he would reprint Blue Max calling it Wings of War instead and putting our Wings of War miniatures in the box, without acknowledging anything to us! Of course it was a bluff and all that was clearly impossible, but it gives you an idea of which kind of unbelievable pressures we were exposed to.

Ares Games was a brand new company, being founded with Wings of War as one of its most important projects. They hired the Nexus Editrice team that made a success out of the game: Roberto Di Meglio, Fabrizio Rolla, Fabio Maiorana. They had the knowledge and the passion to keep the game alive and successful. We chose them, and in a few months the game was in the shops again.

Of course a great help came from players and fans of the game. Their love, their passion, their dedication to keep the game alive while it was out of commerce gave us designers the strength and optimism to avoid panic and do the right choices.

 

JT@: Now WoW is returning as Wings of Glory. What will be new?

Wings of Glory has been around for some time now and it already brought several news. There are new miniatures for new planes, including multi-engine bombers for both WW1 and WW2: More will follow soon with the huge four-engine planes as the B-17 "Flying Fortress", the Lancaster, the HP O/400 and the Zeppelin Staaken. There are now a "Rules & Accessories Pack" for each line including, in a single and tidy manual, all the rules previously scattered in several different boxes, plus more - as skills for WW1 pilots that has never been officially released before. There is a Duel Pack for WW1 with two miniatures, basic and optional rules, and a range of scenarios, that allow you to start playing with our system investing a limited amount of money. There are modular mats that can be put together in any number, for a far larger playing area.

More stuff will follow, especially for scenarios, campaigns and tournaments. A point system to match sides is already available online for WW1, but we are working on far more...

 

          

 

JT@: But first we will play to Sails of Glory. What can you say about naval war games?

I played several naval wargames, both with miniatures and war-boardgames. I found modern ones interesting and I even had the chance to bring back into print an old WW2 system by Alberto Santoni, one of the most famed naval historians in Italy. But in the end I enjoyed the modern era mainly when special scenarios or situations were involved, as the hunt for the Bismarck in an old Avalon Hill boardgame that I really liked. As a general theme, sailships and triremes are more interesting to me.

 

Winds of War (Sails of Glory) prototype hamdmade by Andrea Mainini.
 

JT@: SoG is co-designed by you and Andrea Mainini. How was the team this time?

I met Andrea at the first IdeaG, an Italian meeting where authors test each other's games and publishers can have a look at them. It is held in Piossasco, near Turin, where Andrea and Walter Obert live. In the evening I showed the pre-print mock-up of Wings of Glory. On the next morning, Andrea had a perfect project for a retheme. Some time later he brought me to Rome a beautiful prototype. It perfectly fitted the spirit of the game, a thing that is not true for many fan projects and even for some professional attempts by colleagues.

His prototype was not published but years later I called him to develop Sails of Glory, since Pier Giorgio was not interested in the project. Besides, Andrea is a sportman and a sailor so his knowledge of handling sails has been helpful too.

 

Andrea Angiolino with Sails of Glory.
 
 
Andrea Mainini playtesting Sails of Glory.
 

JT@: Why did you use Kickstarter?

This has been decided by Ares. Actually it has been a good choice since it allowed a new company, a startup, to make not only the basic game but a good range of additional ships and accessories. They would maybe have been published anyway, but in a year or so. While with the support of players, it has been possible to have most of them immediately and several more very soon.

 

Winds of War (Sails of Glory) prototype hamdmade by Andrea Mainini.
 

JT@: SoG starts in Napoleonic times. The air-war is limited to modern centuries, but with sea-war you can explore many historic periods. Will we see SoG thought the human history?

I hope so, with time. As I told you I see a limit from 20th century onward, when manoeuvring lost importance and fleets started firing their guns from rotating turrets at many kilometres of distance - maybe a system like ours could work well for small WW2 boats, but not for real battleships. Anyway I think that advancing in 19th century ships could be interesting, and going back through Middle Ages to ancient times represents a very promising direction. I think that we will see something relatively soon.

 

JT@: What is different and what is similar in SoG to WoW?

The thing is common is what I call "hidden complexity". Things that in older simulation games were made with many points, charts, tables, rules are now made as easy as possible to the player. You do not have to check how many movement points your specific plane or ship has to move, nor study how many it spends to change facing of a certain amount of degrees: just take a deck of manoeuvre cards with the same blue letter that's on the base and choose one of them (three in WW1 Wings of War). Do not roll dice on different charts to see if you hit the opponent, and then how many damage points you deliver taking into account range, relative inclination and more, and if there are special damages and which, and then record on paper with a pencil all that happened, and then check again to see if airplane machineguns jam or if the ship's statistics decrease because of the damage... Just ask the target to draw a few chits or cards of damage and keep them as a record - everything will be on them.

The general systems of the two games are similar. Everybody plans moves for each plane or ship with manoeuvre cards, there are also the templates used to physically move the model on the table. Every move is revealed and applied at the same time, so that there is no downtime and even 100 people can play at the same table without slowing things down. Then each model can fire to targets in their firing cones. As easy for the players as possible.

In Sails of Glory, tactics vary a lot from the plane game for a number of reasons. In movement, the effect of wind is strong even with the basic rules. In combat, having to fire sideways instead than in front changes everything. It is a pretty different game... as it was different to command a sail ship in the Napoleonic era instead than piloting an aircraft in the 20th century!

The effort has been to include all the main factors of a naval battle of that age, and this of course distinguish the two games a lot. From wind to scarcity of crew, to guns reloading, to different kinds of ammunition, to training, to morale. Overall you can tell that Sails of Glory belongs to the same family of Wings of War and Wings of Glory, but every single rule helps the chrome. You do not feel that in these games you drive vehicles that can become just planes or ships or tanks or motorbikes just changing the drawing on the card.

 

 

JT@: The ship miniatures are gorgeous, have been you involved on the details?

Yes, as with Wings of War and Wings of Glory I followed every step of production from the project to the first 3D renderings, to prototypes and paint tests. I am not actually an expert as I am with airplanes, so my contribute has been far less incisive. But I am glad that I could follow every step.

The person that really deserves the merit for these ships is Roberto Di Meglio, who is in charge of the production and repeatedly intervened on the factory work to make it better and better. It took more time than expected, but in my opinion it was worth.

 

JT@: Who are the illustrators and what part has done each of them?

Francesco Mattioli from Venice did all the game artwork: ship drawings, game mats, card backs, icons for counters and so on. He is an appreciated illustrator in several fields and already made other boardgames, starting with X-Bugs/Micro Mutants. He also helped with the historical researches and the colour schemes for the miniatures.

Donald MacLeod is the cover artist, with his gorgeous painting "Victory at Trafalgar". He lives in Cornwall and he is specialized in coastal landscapes and naval battles from the age of sails.

Dario Calì made islands, reefs, coastal batteries and all other terrain features for the Starter Set and the two Terrain Packs available as expansions. All the landscapes on the cards and game mats for Wings of War and Wings of Glory are by him too.

Even if they did not illustrate anything, two more artists have to be named. Fabio Maiorana is the graphic designer and art director that brought the project to life, deciding every detail of its visual impact. He did the same with every box and accessory of Wings of War and Wings of Glory. Andrea Mainini, my co-designer, is also a professional graphic designer - he makes the best prototypes I ever saw. His original layout for the test game materials helped noticeably to shape the game as it is now.

 

JT@: The Spanish edition is the first international edition of SoG. Did you show the game to Devir editors?

I met the people from Devir several times along the years, both in Nuremberg and Essen. Actually they liked Wings of War a lot, when they saw it before the release, but in the end Edge was quicker to decide and get the rights. I did not show Sails of Glory to them directly, it has been Ares Games to do that. But I am not surprised that they decided to make it in Spanish, because of their previous, long standing interest in my other game. And I guess that we could maybe see a Devir edition of Wings of Glory too, sooner or later.

 

Sails of Glory proto.
 

JT@: What will we find in a SoG basic box?

First of all, four miniatures: two 74 guns ship of the lines, one French and one British, and two frigates, one per nationality again. With their playing bases, their manoeuvre decks and their ship cards and mats. These are double face, so that the same French ship-of-the-line can be played as Généreux or Aquilon, the British one as HMS Defence or HMS Vanguard, the French frigate as Courageuse or Unité, the British one as HMS Terpsichore or HMS Melager. This adds variety to the game and if you have two starter sets in your circle or friends makes both of them useful, since you can play with all the 8 models at the same time with no duplicate ships.

The set also includes 4 consoles to plan moves and keep track of everything, 5 groups of damage tokens, more tokens to remind special damages, counters for different kind of ammo and for different actions that you can order your crew to execute, a wind gauge to tell the direction of the wind, counters to change it or to modify wind strength, a couple of attitude indicators to check how the wind strikes your sails making you quicker or slower, a few islands and reefs to be used as obstacles and goals, a couple of rulers to check firing ranges... Let's add to it a 64 pages, full colour rulebook that you are luck enough to have in Spanish and I think that's all.

 

JT@: In WoW there was a deluxe starter box. Can we wait something similar in SoG too?

Well, actually this Starter set is already the equivalent of WoW's Deluxe box, whose peculiarity was to have miniatures in it. I think that it is Deluxe enough! Even if you can add some more luxury buying a few accessories separately, as bags for damage chits and game mats, not needed to play but very nice. What we don't have any more is the "cards only" version that Wings of War had - the old Deluxe set was called that way as compared to that cheaper edition with no models.

 

 

JT@: Similar to WoW, we could buy more ship miniatures in expansion little boxes. That’s the way?

It is exactly the same. New ships will come in series of 12: four different models with three different paint schemes each. These ship packs have all you need to play: bases, manoeuvre cards, the ship mat with the ship statistics.

Each model represents a class of ships, while painting scheme refers to a different ship of that class: for the moment even two, thanks to double faced cards and mats. So for example the second series of models will include, among the 4 subjects, the Ocean class of French 118-guns ship-of-the-lines. There will be three paint schemes in three different ship packs, and one of the three will for example include statistics both for the Orient and for the Austerlitz ships.

Special off-series packs will be available for particular ships, as the HMS Victory and the USS Constitution, with multiple statistics to feature them in the game as they were historically fitted in different years.

 

 

JT@: Anything else you want to tell us about SoG?

Well, honestly it's fun! I played it several times, and I always enjoyed it. Overall, I am very pleased of the outcome. I think that it has been a very good team work: all the people involved in the development and production of this game did his part well.

Another thing is: Stay tuned, Spanish ships of the Napoleonic era will arrive soon.

 

JT@: You are an active game author and you have talked on BGG and Italian forums about HQ25 Spanish project by Gamezone. What do you think now?

I am amazed that, out of love for a game, its fans could support with so much enthusiasm a sort of remake made by unknown designers for a firm that has no experience in boardgames, that takes inspiration from a classic but changing it with the main goal to make it different just for the sake of difference, to avoid copyright problems, not to make it better. And with such a blurry situation from a legal and a moral point of view.

In any case, I hope that this precedent will not start a new trend among the gaming industries. If just registering a name in a country where a trademark is expired becomes a feasible way to remake a game without getting the proper rights, it will be chaos soon. Even from a consumer point of view. Think next year how it could be hard for a gamer to choose between the Italian, the Greek, the Finnish, the Korean, the Maltese and the Cayman Islands edition of Space Crusade 25th Anniversary, proposed by six different publishers that never made this boardgame before!

 

 NoSóloParchís - Eutopía08     NoSóloParchís - Eutopía08
WOW on the table and on the ground (giant version) in Córdoba.
 

JT@: How do you remember Córdoba? (We know you will come back…)

Great city, great people. A warm hospitality and friendship that I will never forget. And a game environment that is very lively, rich and organized: The events I took part, "No Sólo Parchís" and the unpublished games contest, have been very professional and at the same time playful and fun. Congratulations! Of course I will come back. My 5 years old daughter is becoming a fond boardgamer and she appreciates Spain a lot: Give us just some more time and you will see us there!


 

Spanish edition of Sails of Glory is going to be presented this week by Devir.

This interview is part of the full Spanish article you can find here: Velas de Gloria con Andrea Angiolino.

¡Nos jugamos!

Jugamos Tod@s

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