Game: Biplane Barmy
Publisher: Fat Jonny Games
Series: Biplane Barmy
Review Dated: 24th, October 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
Tally ho! I say old boy, this game’s a bit whiz, wot?
Biplane Barmy is one of those games which just seem to count as roleplay. You “play the role” of a biplane captain. I suppose. At a stretch anyway. You pick up experience points. In truth Biplane Barmy, from Fat Jonny Games, is a very simple biplane war game. It’s the sort of game that roleplayers are naturally drawn to.
Biplane Barmy is certainly the sort of game you can play between roleplaying sessions or just after lunch or dinner and before you resume one long session. This isn’t a minutely accurate system, a war game that strives for perfection through detail or validation through precision. This is a war game that’s fast, fun and friendly.
Biplane Barmy does not have the super gloss of some of the “I’ll Do This For A Living” professional PDF products currently available on the market. It’s a simple PDF with line drawings for biplanes and a fuzzy image for a front cover. Biplane Barmy kind of gets away with this cheap but cheerful approach. The Fat Jonny logo is a particularly good example of the worthy-to-sell-but-still-a-hobby limbo that Biplane Barmy lives in. The logo is on every page of the PDF, watermarking it in the style of a protective professional and yet the logo is two circles with irregularly sized lines for arms and legs. It’s a fat stickman. Biplane Barmy is one of the first sallies by Fat Jonny Games into PDF publishing and has the typical signatures of that – no bookmarks, for example. That said; Jon Clarke has caught on to the strengths of the PDF industry immediately. Just as Biplane Barmy has that value for money feel to it you can easily print off the black and white tiles at the end of the 38-paged product and arm yourself with the beginning of a grid map and tokens for sundry different biplanes, anti-aircraft guns and balloons.
It’s the ability to buy, read, print and play Biplane Barmy in the space of a few hours (in one hour if you’re good) that ensures the game is a contender.
The rules are simple but effective; use dice to track the altitude of the biplanes, to roll for damage and one for manoeuvres. Manoeuvres are easy to do (just roll the dice) as there are charts which show which squares the plane flies through and whether the altitude changes. Of course, manoeuvres quickly become very interesting because you need to have enough altitude to pull off some of the fancier turns (unless you fancy landing) and you need to pull off some of the more complex guns to avoid your enemy’s firing arch whilst getting him in yours.
I think the size of the “map” is important. The size of the map in comparison to the number of planes in the air and how many other interesting features like balloons and anti-aircraft guns really do impact on how tactical each manoeuvre is and what the best strategy might be. I’d have appreciated a little more help from Biplane Barmy on getting the balance right.
Biplane Barmy will appeal to gamers in the wide sense of the word. You’re likely to have an appreciation of game mechanics and game play before you can see the best in Biplane Barmy. I think some gamers, used to gloss and shine, will find this particular offering to be a bit too basic to impress. I like Biplane Barmy. I see it as a stocking filler game, something to play over lunch or when gamer friends unexpectedly turn up.
It’s worth noting, as a trailing point, that I think there is a big niche for PDF “game games”. Cheap but good, friendly and fun but not necessarily with all the surplus packaging games could easily be delivered over PDF. We just need to find a publisher who can do the hard part, think up the ideas and deliver. Fat Jonny might be one to watch.