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Posted on Oct 3, 2006 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Airborne – Boardgame Review

By Mark Brownell

Airborne, 2006, is Avalanche Press’s introductory game to its Panzer Grenadier Series of platoon – level combat in World War II. In 2001 Avalanche Press originally released Airborne as the third game in the series behind Panzer Grenadier and the second game called Heroes of the Soviet Union. Both of these have now been replaced by Panzer Grenadier: Eastern Front, Deluxe Edition. I’ll compare the two versions, and add a little more about the series at the end of this review.

While it is supposed to be an introduction to the larger series of games, Airborne is a very entertaining game by itself. For twenty dollars the gamer receives an 11 x 17 inch cardstock map of the Normandy countryside with hedgerows, embankments, swamps, woods, clear terrain, and scattered villages. There is a river that flows across the map and this is crossed by a road and a railroad. The bridges at these crossings are the key objectives in several of the game’s twenty scenarios as the American paratroopers try to prevent the Germans from attacking the landing beaches of D-Day, while at the same time holding these bridges for the landing forces to move inland. The map is mostly various shades of dark green/blue and lighter greens. Personally, I prefer these darker colors to some maps with their fifteen shades of bright colors that make it impossible to see the counters. Everything on the map is easy to see and the counters blend nicely and are clearly visible. The map actually “feels” like the flooded fields of Normandy, divided by hedgerows. Each hex on the map represents two hundred meters.

Airborne contains one hundred sixty-five 2/3 inch counters. There are sixty-four German counters, fifty-five American, and forty-six markers. The counters represent infantry platoons, (2 – 4) crew-served weapons, vehicle platoons of three to five tanks or vehicles, strongpoints for the Germans, and individual leaders. The artwork on the counters is excellent. All the necessary information is clearly visible. All the combat units, except leaders, have pictures of the particular weapon or vehicle clearly shown.

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Airborne deals with paratroopers dropping into Normandy on the night before D-Day. The American counters include sixteen platoons of parachute infantry, five heavy machine gun platoons, an engineer platoon, a mortar platoon, and three counters of airborne artillery. The Americans also get a platoon of jeeps to tow the artillery. There are eleven different leader counters for the paratroopers. These range in rank from one sergeant counter to ten different officers – from second lieutenant all the way to a Brigadier General counter (The importance of leaders will be explained later). The American countermix also includes infantry and armor units that would have landed on the beaches and pushed inland to link-up with the paratroopers. Here the American player has six platoons of infantry, two heavy machine gun platoons, three platoons of Sherman tanks, and two platoons of Stuart light tanks. The American infantry are led by counters representing one second lieutenant, one first lieutenant, a captain, and a major.

The sixty-four German counters include eighteen grenadier infantry platoons, four heavy machine guns, two 81mm mortars, three anti-tank units, an engineer unit, a 20mm anti-aircraft unit, and four artillery units ranging in size from 50mm to 105mm. There are five platoons of trucks, a motorcycle unit, six strongpoint fortification markers, and four armor markers. The three tank units are one platoon of Panzer IVs, one of Stug IIIGs, and a light S35. There is also a Sdkfz armored car platoon. There are sixteen German leaders ranking from two sergeants to a full colonel.

Airborne also contains a booklet of twenty scenarios, charts, the Third Edition of the Panzer Grenadier rules, and three dice. The sixteen pages of rules cover the Panzer Grenadier Series of games, so not all of them apply to just the Airborne game. The rules are detailed, but clear, and once you become familiar with them you can jump right in to any of the other games in the series quite easily.

A typical game turn is made up of three phases: initiative determination, action, and marker removal. The initiative determination phase decides which player goes first and how many moves, or “action segments” in Panzer Grenadier terminology, he/she completes before the opposing players gets to go.

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