Starting Aeronautica Imperialis

Wave three of Aeronautica is hitting preorder, bringing Space Marines and Eldar to add to Orks, Imperial Navy, Imperial Guard and Tau. This brings the playable factions to 5 (with Guard being sort of 6) and injects two new factions with new playstyles into the meta. It also introduces two popular factions, with Space Marines being the most popular range across all of Games Workshops products and people openly playing Eldar.

What you need

To play you will need the following:

  • The rules.
  • A map.
  • Order counters.
  • Models
  • Some d6s.

The various starter sets have all of these items, and depending on which faction/s you want to play will inform which set you buy.

You can obtain all of these things separately though, and the campaign books (Rynn’s World and Taros Air War) contain the full rules as well as a set of scenarios and lists for their factions. However the saving vs buying individual components makes getting the starter set for the faction you want a good idea even if you get the relevant book as well.

For the full list for a faction, you would need the relevant campaign book.

For factions the following books contain the rules for:

  • Orks – Rynn’s World
  • Tau – Taros Air War
  • Imperial Navy – Taros Air War and Rynn’s World
  • Imperial Guard – Taros Air War
  • Space Marines and Eldar – will be in a future book.

If you want to get in and try the game and play reasonable sized (100-150 point) game at home or in the club, then you really only need a starter set. This makes Aeronautica one of the cheapest GW games to get into, and with Space Marines being added a lot of players are getting off the fence and getting into it.

My advice would be to build and paint a starter set worth. This will be at most eleven models.

Credit Games Workshop

Building a Community

So you’ve built and painted your starter set. It’s time to get someone to play with you.

All the starter sets include the standard dogfight scenario, and Skies of Fire and Wrath of Angels include an additional scenario booklet of more balanced generic scenarios.

To run introductory games, it’s best to keep them simple and quick, with one type of plane per side combined with a small points game. I would recommend 50 point dogfights, which would give two planes per faction for everyone except Orks, who’d be running three Dakkajets.

The club demo games I ran were 2 Thunderbolts vs 3 Dakkajets, but 2 Barracudas, 2 Lightnings, 2 Xiphons, 2 Fighta Bommers and 2 Nightwings would be forces that you could use. You can create two of these forces from a single starter box.

Some of these forces are easier to fly. Thunderbolts, Dakkajets, Fighta Bommers, Barracudas all have reasonably low numbers of manoeuvres, Nightwings, Lightnings and Xiphons more.

What you’re after here is a limited sized game, where you can demonstrate maneuvers on the 2 1/2 foot paper mat from a starter set, and play 30 minute games where a pair of wingmen face off against each other. You can balance for a less experienced player by giving them some missiles or rokkits or upgrades (Barracuda turrets or afterburners are an example).

Being able to do 30 minute demo games means that you can hang out at the club or local store for an evening and give people little taster games to see if they like it. The obvious comparison is X-Wing, but Aeronautica is simpler to play with fewer niche rule interactions, and does not have the card-chasing meta. Some people enjoy those things, but I like buying a Starter set and not really having to get anything else unless I want to. I will, but I choose to, I don’t have to.

The same rule applies as historicals and other niche games: paint up two forces. The starter box forces are perfectly fine, and with the exception of Orks, provide forces of over 100 points.

Gaming is a social activity, and the perceived value of miniatures games (you need someone else to play with you) means that confidence from your local community is built by seeing people play. You may end up running a few games with just your miniatures, but Aeronautica is very easy to get into and cheap to collect. There’ll also be a bunch less fence-sitters now that Eldar and Marines are available.

The new Marines vs Eldar starter set.

What size is a typical game?

There is no competitive format for Aeronautica yet, so people will give you different answers.

45 minute quick game – 80 point dogfight. This gives 3-5 planes per side (Orks can cram 5 dakkajets in there, but 3 planes is normal) and can be played using the paper mat from the starter set. You’ll also almost always have everything you need for this from your starter box contents.

1 hour game – The Straggler – 100-120 points – A lot of forces can play this using starter box contents, as you try to defend a slow bomber and fend off fighters trying to down it.

2 hour game – 200-300 points – you will want at least a 3ft by 3ft map, possibly a 4ft by 4ft map, or joining at least two paper mats together. This will take a couple of hours to resolve.

Other stuff you can buy

More planes

With your starter set painted up you can buy more planes. Most boxes are at least 100 points of planes for fighters and 60-90 points for bombers (depending on load out). To play every scenario you need fighters, transport and ground attack, and a starter set will generally give you two of these. A box or two of planes (like adding Fire Raptors to your Marine starter set planes, or a Thunderhawk) lets you play bigger games and all scenarios.


A lot of historical plane games use 4 by 4 or 6 by 4 mats, and you can find these online from companies like Deepcut. Joining two GW maps together is actually probably the cheapest way of getting a large mat (6 by 3 or 5 by 2 ½). If you want to play super big games, you’re going to need bigger mats.


For low level flight games (rules are in Taros Air War) you will want some terrain. The Adeptus Titanicus terrain is perfect for this, and one or two boxes covers this nicely.

In addition there are numerous STLs online for AT-scale terrain that can be printed out and painted up. You will want to think about how many hexes terrain takes up, and if you are setting up a low level flight table make sure planes are still able to move around the map.

Something to keep your stuff in

A box for your counters (I got one for £1 with individual compartments from Poundland, but other places to get cheap boxes exist) is useful.

There is laser cut foam storage available online, and I’ve found it pretty good for keeping my painted planes in and the paint jobs safe.


Aeronautica is one of the cheapest and easiest GW games to get into, and gives you a genuinely complete experience with just a starter set.

If you’re getting into it there are now 5 factions to play. It is more of a narrative game and there’s no agreed-upon competitive format at the moment, but this may change in the future. Games don’t take super long to play unless you want to go absolutely crazy and play giant air wars, and it’s not a lot of models to paint. You can play fairly large games or even a campaign with a dozen or so painted models.

Aeronautica remains one of my favourite systems, and the low model count is a massive plus to me, as it lets me get forces finished to a reasonable standard and on the table. If you’ve not played it before, give it a go.