After a long winter’s hiatus, DKC and Alex are back with their unwanted opinions. Now remember how this works. You have until Midnight of the end of the month to get a comment logged to have a chance to win the demo copy we used! So, get to commenting.
First, a little history lesson: Dogfights originated at the very beginning of WW I where even the aircraft weren’t as yet armed. It’s believed the victor for the first dogfight was a South African Lt. Norman Spratt. The amazing thing is he did it without firing a shot! He simply kept flying his aircraft, a Sopwith Tabloid, forcing his opponent down. The pilots of that era soon began carrying a sidearm up with them taking pot-shots at one another. Eventually, of course, the evolution of air combat developed into the imagine-grabbing epic feat that we all know.
Axis & Allies Air Force Miniatures – Angels 20, is a collectible pre-painted air combat miniatures game where two or more players pit their air forces up against one-another. The scale for these ship are unique to say the least. With a wingspan of 4 or more inches, the planes are a sight to see. In the starter box, comes everything you need to play a game with two players. Uniquely, the starter will have all the stat-cards for the set of planes. When you purchase a booster, all you’ll get are the planes.
The clear plastic hex bases are designed as the altitude counters where each side of the hex is marked with number 1 through 6; 1 is the lowest altitude while 6 is the highest. As you climb or dive turn the base so that your plane is pointed toward the appropriate altitude number. Altitude is one of several aspects that come into play when determining combat successes. Unfortunately, these clear bases don’t lend themselves well to be easy to read. I’ve seen other players in the store that have dry-brushed paint over the raised molded numbers to make them more distinctive.
If you’ve ever played the A&A minis games War at Sea you’ll quickly recognize a great deal of the system used here. Six-sided dice based, roll to hit a modified target numbers based on many factors; pilot skills, facing of attacker to defender, position of target(turning, diving, etc.). Sixes are still count as double hits—like the War at Sea minis game.
The two scenarios we played seemed lacking but that’s pretty typical in my experiences in other flying games. Usually, for me, these games turn into just line up on the opposite side of the map and shoot each other down.
Which brings me to the maps in this game. They’re great for getting your feet wet but for playing the game… find something else. The hexes on the printed map are nearly 4 and a half inches across. If you can find a viable substitute, get it—preferably something that would cover more than 30” x 40”. At a standard speed of 2 – 3 hexes while high speed is 5 – 6, it’s extremely easy to cover that small area in a turn or two.
All-in-all I liked the game. I own a 2-player starter and a booster. I could see myself buying another booster or two-there are some really good looking planes in the collection! However, I didn’t love it. It has it’s flaws most notably the small maps and the odd scenarios. But, then again, I’m a sucker when it comes to aviation games. If it has flying in it, I can guarantee you that I’ll at least give it a once over.
My Score: 2.5 out of 5.
Having never been the biggest fan of aviation games like Wings of War, I had mixed expectations going in to Axis and Allies: Angles 20. On the one hand, I didn’t expect to like what I found: more hexes, more insufficient methods of tracking altitude, etc. On the other, I was hoping this game would surprise me. After all, its been very popular since its release and I’ve been hearing positive buzz about the game. So Alex and I cracked it open and set out to learn.
The components are cool, I thought the map and planes were of a high quality, the sort of thing I wouldn’t mind looking at over and over as I played. We set the map up, figured we’d start with the first scenario in the book. He divvied up the planes, figured out who was an evil Nazi and started trying to figure things out. I was getting pretty excited at this point.
Then it all crashed and burned. As soon as we started immersing ourselves in the mechanics of the game the hits just kept coming. The movement is clunky and the shooting is too heavily luck based. Don’t even get me started on the rule that states that if one of your planes would move off the hex map it is destroyed. Sometimes moving off of that map is unavoidable, heaven forefend you fail a maneuver check while facing the edge of the hex map. Rolled snake-eyes? Too bad, get that plane out of here!
Let’s go back to the clunky movement, because that is the part of the game I found the most egregious. In an air combat game movement and maneuverability are the most important aspects of the game. This isn’t a game like Warhammer 40k, where there is cover to hide behind, vehicles to screen your troops with (or vice versa), and, overall, a lot of stuff on the board that effects the game. An air combat game typically has nothing of the sort. There are no buildings to hide behind. No flank charges to set up. No vehicle wreckage to hide inside. There’s just you, the enemy and a big hex map full of nothing.
With that being the case, the onus falls to the movement system to keep the game exciting and tactically satisfying. This game’s movement system accomplishes neither. Anything beyond moving straight forward and turning 45 degrees requires a maneuver test. Typically you have roughly a 50% chance of success on one of these rolls. Maybe a little more if your plane is good at a particular maneuver. Fail that roll and you just move one little hex straight forward. This applies to thing that sound like they should be easy tasks like increasing or decreasing your altitude. I felt constantly constrained by the movement system, fighting against it to try and find a way to use my ships against my opponent.
The scenarios were horribly balanced as well, so those two scenarios we played felt like jokes, like they were written by someone who didn’t know how the rules of the game worked. I could go on but as I type this I realize that I have practically nothing positive to say about this game. Unless you are an avid WWII air combat fan, I cannot think of any reason to recommend this game to anyone. It was a disappointment nearly across the board.
DKC score: 1.5 out of 5.