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GMT Games: Into the Wild Blue Yonder, At Last

posted Jul 30, 2012, 10:14 PM by Douglas Sun
Originally posted: June 7, 2011

Through the miracle of electronic mail, word arrived the other day that Wild Blue Yonder, GMT Games’ proposed repackaging of the first two games from its Down in Flames series of WWII dogfighting card games, had finally “made the cut—” meaning, in GMT’s parlance, that it has now received 500 pre-orders and is thus eligible to enter their production queue. 

As of this writing, the running count on GMT’s website only shows 499 pre-orders, but I’m not going to quibble. I have argued for years now that a reprint of at least the first two Down in Flames titles was in order. I know that Zero didn’t sell according to GMT’s projections because they eventually flogged off their remaining copies at a drastic discount, but when you have used copies of Rise of the Luftwaffe selling on eBay for northwards of $60, it’s a good sign that there’s strong residual demand out there. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s about darned time.

And in fact, I like to think that I had something to do with Wild Blue Yonder reaching this important milestone at this particular time. Over Memorial Day Weekend, I taught Tom Gin, Dave Okuno and Dave’s daughter Siena how to play Down in Flames. A good time was had by all — and young Siena had such a good time that Dave had almost no choice but to pre-order a copy, with me leaving my copy of Zero with them to pass the time until it actually ships.

It will probably be a while before I can get my game back from them. As Down in Flames guru Mike Lam has pointed out to me, a lot of new campaign material is slated for Wild Blue Yonder, so there’s still some development work left to be done it will probably be a while before it’s ready to ship. But maybe if we can gin up some more pre-orders — get it up to 700 or so, let’s say — it will persuade the GMT brain trust to accelerate the process. Whaddya say?

One of the remarkable features of Down in Flames — and one that seems to be little remarked upon — is its utility as a family game. It’s not hard to learn, it’s fast-paced, and it just works really well as a card game. So whether you’re a grognard or not, Wild Blue Yonder will be a good game to have in the closet if you have a family game night. I’m not really surprised that Siena Okuno took to it; she’s a whip-smart kid with a killer instinct to match, so she’s a fine gamer gal in-the-making. But she’s far from the only youngster I’ve seen play the game with both cunning and enthusiasm, nor is she the youngest youngster to do so. All three of Gene Billingsley’s children grew up playing Down in Flames, and all of them are accomplished players. And they’re just part of an entire generational cohort who have cut their teeth on the game, having tagged along with their fathers to play in Mike Lam’s Ace of Aces Campaign at GMT Games Weekend. I know those kids — some of whom aren’t really kids anymore; I’ve played against them; I’ve been shot down by them.

If you haven’t discovered Down in Flames yet, this is an unbeatable chance to check it out. Put in your pre-order. You won’t regret it, and you’ll bring happiness to a deserving kid and relief to her dad. And I’ll be able to get my copy of Zero back.