Review – Dogfight!

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Designer Carlo A. Rossi

Artist Paul Sizer

Publisher PSC Games, Floodgate Games

Category Ship-to-Ship Combat

Length 20 minutes

Release Date 2023

Player Count 1-2

Dogfight! is the third entry in PSC Games’ 20 Minutes line, following Blitzkrieg! and Caesar! In this game, 2 players are air aces trying to shoot each other out of the sky. Let’s check it out!

Review

Dogfight! is a head-to-head battle set in World War I. As players pilot biplanes around a ring of spaces, they try to get behind each other to line up a shot. The game is played over 3 rounds, but it can end sooner if a plane is shot down.

A round is divided into 5 turns, each of which involves a movement phase and a shooting phase. During the movement phase, both players choose a token from their hand and simultaneously reveal it. The planes are then moved the chosen number of spaces.

During the shooting phase, players check to see if they can fire at the other plane. In order to shoot, a player must be 1-3 spaces behind their opponent, on a space of the same color, and the movement token they played must show a shooting icon. If a player meets all these criteria, they shoot their opponent, dealing the amount of damage shown on the movement token.

Red is hot on blue’s heels, and within firing range.

The 3-value tokens are special—they allow players to perform a loop-the-loop, if they wish, instead of moving normally. If a player does a loop-the-loop, they follow the colored paths, temporarily deviating from the main, white path. 

The game continues like this, with players moving and shooting each other, until someone’s plane gets destroyed, or until the end of the third round. If someone shoots down their opponent, they win immediately, and if the game timer runs out, the player who has sustained less damage wins.

Damage is tracked on player dashboards.

Dogfight! also includes a variant board, 4 advanced scenarios, and 7 other planes, each with their own token distributions and special abilities. The scenarios are a great inclusion, and I actually prefer them to the base rules. They introduce new tactics and enhance the theme; in scenario play, someone has a specific mission like bombing an enemy factory or escorting a damaged biplane. There is also a solo mode, which adapts the rules for a human-vs.-bot match.


My opinion of Dogfight! is somewhere in the middle. On one hand, it manages to capture the feeling of an aerial shootout, with players trying to outguess and outmaneuver each other, but on the other hand, it doesn’t feel nearly as strategic as Blitzkrieg! or Caesar! Whereas those games emphasize long-term planning and weighty decision-making, Dogfight! feels more like “try to guess what your opponent will do, plan your move accordingly, and hope you guessed correctly.”

I suppose this could be considered thematic—after all, real-life aerial dogfights are about split-second reflexes—but in terms of player engagement, it leaves something to be desired. The decisions aren’t nearly as excruciating as in the earlier games in this series. (This is why I prefer the scenario play in Dogfight!; it adds extra strategy layers.)

Production-wise, Dogfight! is right on par with Blitzkrieg! and Caesar! I really like how these games look and feel like a cohesive series. The rulebook is clear and concise, and the inclusion of extra planes and scenarios provides variability.

I have enjoyed my plays of Dogfight!, and I think it’s a decent game, but in my opinion, it doesn’t stack up to the other games in this line. It feels much more luck-based—if I win, it’s probably not because I strategized better, but rather because I guessed better what my opponent would do. Admittedly, this act of trying to read the other player can lead to some interesting psychology, and I do like that aspect.

Bottom line, I would always reach for Blitzkrieg! or Caesar! before Dogfight! This is not a bad game, but it pales in comparison to its counterparts. If the theme of aerial dogfighting appeals to you, then this might be one to check out, but otherwise, I’d stick with the earlier games in this series.

A review copy was provided by Floodgate Games.

The Bottom Line

Dogfight! is a decent game, but I would always reach for the other two games in this series before it.

 

6

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.