Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Axis & Allies miniatures set -- models good, cards not so good

Picked up my first couple of boosters from the new Early War set of Axis & Allies Miniatures today.

I've been looking forward to this set because it provides a chance to highlight some of the lesser-known aspects of World War II. Besides being a good wargame, I've always liked the educational potential of the A&A series. This Early War set comes out just in time for the 70th anniversary of the 1940 Campaign in France on some other early war events such as Greece and the Balkans.

My initial draw from two packs was the following:

Rares: German Panzer II Ausf. F, nicely done if ordinary looking model and Slovak PzKpfw 38(t) which is a nicely detailed model with an eye-catching camo paint job.
Uncommon: German Panzer II Ausf. F, I'm glad this is an uncommon because many will be needed for 1940 battles and German Sd Kfz 231 armored car. Both are good models with the kind of basic paint scheme expected with uncommons.
Common: French Canon de 75 modele 1897, I think the trail is truncated, but otherwise a nicely done piece; Japanese Type 99 LMG, very nicely detailed; Belgium Officer, good detail and animated pose; Japanese Bicycle Troop, very unusual pose of the trooper firing while sitting astride his bike; and two South African Infantry, another nicely animated figure.
One change I didn't like is that the bases no long include any identifying information except for the set logo and the collector number, requiring players to reference the data card to find out what the unit is.

Overall I'm impressed with the modeling. So far it's some of the best yet.

On the other hand, the recent trend of skimping on the data cards has continued. The Eastern Front set abandoned the use of quality illustrations of the unit on the card, going with a standard set illustration on the back and a silhouette on the data side. Now, in this set the silhouette is gone as well, so players will have to refer to the numbers only to ID units. One improvement is that the special abilities are listed in a larger type and all the data needed for play is bright and easy to read. On the other hand the historical text is definitely a step down from previous sets, with much of the text banal mere statements of the obvious like "South Africa Declared War on Germany in September 1940" without providing any flavor about the unit depicted.

All-in-all the quality of the models is more important than the cards, so overall the set is an improvement over the previous set. I'll say more as I get more sets.

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