Axis & Allies Air Force: Angels 20 – Miniatures Game Review
Axis & Allies Air Force Miniatures: Angels 20. Miniatures game review. Wizards of the Coast. $39.99 (starter), $24.99 (booster).
Passed Inspection: Lots of variety, detailed rules
Failed Basic: Lack of bombers, lack of detail on models
Axis & Allies Air Force Miniatures: Angels 20 makes sure no two dogfights are the same. The game includes 31 different World War II fighter planes from Japan, Germany, Italy, the USSR, China, Britain, France, Finland, and the United States. The starter set is based on the Battle of Britain and includes 4 dice, 6 miniatures, 2 maps, rules, and counters. Booster packs offer three random miniatures.
A standard 100-point game allows a player to deploy 2 or 3 fighters—usually a veteran or ace pilot with one or two less experienced wingmen. Planes vary in firepower, armor, price and maneuverability.
Pilot experience is a key factor in the game, as it was in combat. and a corresponding increase in skill means a significant increase in the cost of deploying that pilot. For instance, a poor pilot usually costs 15–20 points and a veteran between 30–40, while an ace can cost as much as 50 or 55. Highly experienced pilots do not have extra firepower or agility but do have lots of special abilities and receive a bonus when attacking less-experienced pilots. Pilots can perform a variety of different maneuvers including climb, dive, turn, and roll.
Different planes are better suited to different maneuvers, such as a Zero, which excels at climbing but is less suited to a dive. Diving on an enemy pilot also provides an attack bonus, but a certain amount of luck is involved in each maneuver. The pilot must roll two dice when attempting to perform a difficult maneuver and adds a bonus based on the pilot’s abilities. Success means the maneuver is completed while failure may mean the pilot makes a wider turn or slower dive. Flying at high speed means tight turns or rolls are much more difficult to achieve.
Initiative is important, too, because losing initiative means you must move first—a serious disadvantage in a dogfight. "Tailing" the enemy provides a bonus to initiative, and once you’re on his six it’s hard for him to shake you. For instance, although my Hurricanes lacked the firepower of my opponent’s Bf110 fighter-bombers, I was easily able to turn faster and stayed on his tail for most of the game.
The disadvantage of losing initiative is offset somewhat by the ability to shoot first—damage is resolved instantly, not simultaneously. If you engage your enemy head-on and score the first hit, you have the chance to cripple or destroy him before he can return fire.
Once you line up the shot, a variety of factors affect your chances of scoring a hit. Range quickly diminishes your accuracy, as does making a "deflection" attack. However, diving on the enemy or shooting at an inexperienced pilot makes it easier to score a hit. The best position is, of course, above and behind your opponent!
If your crippled fighter is about to be destroyed by the enemy, you can retreat from the battle by flying off the board. Such a move means the opponent only scores half a victory, and this option is fairly easy given how small the maps are.
The basic rulebook includes a variety of scenarios based on the Battle of Britain—such as dogfights, bomber interceptions, and fighter sweeps—and additional rules for cloud cover, flak barrages and night combat. In addition, the models and rulebook are compatible with other Axis and Allies Miniatures games.
However, the only bomber included at this point is the Bf110 but that’s understandable, as the 1/100 scale means the miniatures are already five or six inches wide. Some players complained about the lack of detail on the miniatures as well, which lack propellers and clear plastic cockpits. But, the miniatures are durable and well painted. One other complaint includes the lack of identifying markings for different versions of the same fighter; it takes a little time to learn the difference between the veteran Polish Hurricane pilot and his less-skilled counterpart.
But, overall, Axis and Allies Air Force Miniatures: Angels 20 is an enjoyable game with lots of different scenarios and rules to try out. Although the basic format only accommodates two or three planes, pilots who want to battle a whole schwarm or sentai can easily lay out a few extra maps.
About the Author
Paul Glasser is a graduate student in Lexington, Kentucky, where he studies modern French history. His interests include comics, role-playing games, and home-brewing beer.