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AXIS & ALLIES MINIATURES

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 30-90 minutes; Starter set – $24.99; Booster Packs – $14.99 each)

Back in the 1970s, Milton Bradley produced a few mass market wargames. (Anyone here remember Chopper Strike? Or Tank Battle?) Without a doubt, they are best remembered for their nicely molded plastic pieces. With the success of Memoir 44 (Summer 2004 GA REPORT) undoubtedly stirring up some of those old memories, Hasbro (who now owns Milton Bradley) has used its Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast imprint to launch a new entry in their Axis & Allies series: Axis & Allies Miniatures.

The strong selling point of the game is the nicely detailed miniatures of tanks and soldiers, available in two player Starter Sets and booster packs. The complete Axis & Allies Miniatures Base Set consists of 48 miniatures: 25 Allied units and 23 Axis units. Each Starter Set contains 2 tanks, 2 anti-tank guns, 1 commander and 5 infantry units plus 1 randomly selected “rare” piece. Also included are four double-sided battle maps, 8 six-sided dice, stat cards, a “Quick Start Guide” as well as an Advanced Rulebook.

World War II is the setting and the miniatures reflect that time with forces from all of the major combatants represented. All units have a matching stat card containing pertinent information about the piece including its speed, offensive and defensive ratings and cost (in “points”). Each player constructs a force equal to 100 points. A die is rolled and the 8 battle maps are arranged in the matching configuration (found in the Rulebook). After deciding who will go first (a coin flip is suggested), the first player deploys his units followed by the second player arranging his forces on the opposite side of the battle area. Now, the battle begins!

A die is rolled with any bonus received from a commander in play added. High total gives that player initiative, giving him the option to go first or second for that turn.

Any or all of your units may be moved during each movement phase. A unit may move a number of hexes equal to its speed subject to terrain modifications. (There are eight terrain types: clear, forests, hills, marshes, roads, towns, streams and ponds.) There can be no more than two friendly units in a hex or no more than four units (enemy and friendly) in a hex. In either case, only ONE of those units may be a vehicle. Units may pass through hexes even if the hex is at its limit but, of course, may not stop there. Once all movement is finished, the assault phase begins.aamin1During the assault phase, you may activate any or all of your units. Activated units may either MOVE (as they did in the movement phase) OR attack.

Attacks are dependent on several factors including range, defensive fire, type of unit under attack and line of sight. Range is the number of hexes between the aggressor and the target. Defensive fire happens when enemy tanks move into or adjacent to an occupied hex. (Soldiers can move around enemy tanks without triggering defensive fire.) You can only make one defensive fire action per turn so it may be to your advantage to wait until a juicier target approaches your sights.

The number of dice rolled is figured by the type of target (soldier or vehicle) referenced with the range of the target. As might be expected, the attacking unit must be able to SEE the target. If its Line of Sight is blocked (by terrain, for example), no attack is possible. If multiple targets are in a hex, the attacker may choose which one to blast. Both attacker and defender roll the appropriate number of dice. A die roll of 4 or higher is a “success” but you compare the successes of both sides in scoring hits. If the attacker has fewer successes than the defender, you MISS! Equal number of successes results in ONE hit on the enemy. More successes results in TWO hits. Roll successes equal to or greater than double the successes of the enemy and you are rewarded with THREE hits!

The first hit will “disrupt” a unit. (Defensive fire attacks can only cause disruption.) Disrupted units suffer -1 penalties to each attack die and in defense. They also are unable to move and cannot make defensive fire attacks. A second hit will destroy a soldier unit and damage a vehicle. Damaged vehicles are -1 on each attack die, -1 on defense and -1 on speed. It takes a third hit to destroy an enemy Vehicle. As hits are sustained, hit counters are used to keep track of the damage. Once the smoke clears (during the casualty phase), destroyed forces are removed while hit counters keep track of the status of active units. And now we do it all over again.

When the seventh turn is completed, the player who has achieved the objective (as denoted by the scenario chosen) wins. If no winner at that point, play continues until turn 10. If still tied, the player with the most unit points on the board wins. If STILL tied, the battle rages on. Keep playing until someone meets the objective (or has the most points) at the end of a turn.aajagd

While the game is heavily dice-oriented, Axis & Allies Miniatures is fairly simple and straightforward in play aided by a well written rulebook filled with many helpful charts and stat cards with all necessary information readily on hand. This, coupled with the nicely detailed miniatures, will make the game appealing to the teenage market (which is probably its main targeted audience). Which is not to say that the game does not have strategic appeal for more serious gamers. Basic wargaming concepts of terrain effects, line of sight, defensive fire and the like are present and capture a nice “wargaming flavor”. Two scenarios are provided but, of course, you are encouraged to provide your own. Customizing your armies (with the addition of booster packs containing 9 additional miniatures) add another layer to planning. Of course, the downside to this for many is the “collector” aspect of the game. You are, essentially, buying “blind” when you buy booster packs and can only purchase desired specific pieces on a secondary market or trade for them. Not necessarily an appealing prospect for a gamer who prefers a “complete package” with his purchase.

Axis & Allies Miniatures is not a hardcore entry in the wargaming field. But, then again, it doesn’t try to be. As designed by a whole team (with Richard Baker credited as “design lead”), this is the sort of game that will appeal to gamers who enjoy a good looking, light, wargame with a significant amount of luck to modify armchair general planning. As such, it scores a hit! – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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