Friday, September 18, 2009

Axis & Allies miniatures Crusader tanks

I will be posting, on an occasional basis, musings about particular pieces in the Axis & Allies series of miniatures.

As with most early war British tank designs, the Crusader only managed to be good in one of the three defining characteristics of a tank -- mobility, firepower and protection. It's forte was speed, but it was badly underarmed and ill-protected. This stemmed from the British tank doctrine which divided armor into two roles heavily armored but slow "Infantry" tanks for breakthroughs and infantry support and speedy, lightly armored "cruiser" tanks for exploitation. This might have worked better if the British had been able to provide their tanks with a good gun, but the 2-pounder gun used on nearly all early war British tanks was simply too small to reliably penetrate the armor of medium tanks and it lacked a high-explosive round making it nearly useless against infantry.

Later versions of the Crusader had the 6-pounder gun, which was an improvement over the 2-pounder but compared poorly with the 75mm/76mm guns being used on equivalent foreign tanks.

The Crusader had a substantial production run, with more than 5,000 of all versions made. In Axis & Allies Miniatures the Crusader is identified as the Crusader II, although the model in the Base Set actually appears to be a Crusader I because it has the small machine gun turrets of that mark. The North Africa set version does appear to be a Crusader II.

Base Set Crusader II


Rarity: Rare

Speed: 4

Defense: 4/3

Cost: 11

Attacks vs troops at short-medium-long ranges:


Attacks vs vehicles at short-medium-long ranges:


Special abilities

Vanguard — After both armies are deployed, this unit can move at speed 4 before the first turn begins.

Prone to Breakdown — This unit can’t move while damaged.

North Africa Set Crusader II

Historical text:

Thanks to their speed, many Crusaders fought in the North African Campaign despite being mechanically unreliable.

The unit in history: The Crusader was meant to be an improvement on earlier British cruiser tanks as a "heavy" cruiser tank. compared to earlier cruiser tanks it had more armor, although it was still vulnerable to the most common German antitank weapons. Unfortunately the new tank proved to be unreliable under desert conditions with problems with the air filters and fans. Overall it was an interim design in the continuing British search for a fast tank that still had reasonable combat power.

The unit in the game: The Vanguard special ability allows the player to get a positional jump on the enemy, but the combat power of the Crusader is really too marginal to make optimal use of the ability. It's defense is too weak to hold any objective it might seize and it's firepower inadequate to deal with either tanks or infantry. About the best thing that can be said about the Crusader is that it's an inexpensive unit and the player can afford several. Overall though, the Vanguard ability is put to much better use by the Cromwell tank. Unfortunately that's not available until 1944 and the Crusader has to do until then.

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