Friday, March 20, 2009

Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures

I don't even remember how long it has been since I last wrote about one of my games. This is what happens when you travel non-stop for two months, I guess. Well, I finally forced myself to sit down and play another one. This time up I played Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures. This is a collectible miniatures game of World War II naval combat. The starter set provides the rules, maps, and counters, as well as 15 miniature figures to play the game. The figures are painted plastic models, and each one represents either one ship, one submarine, or a flight of aircraft. The miniatures look pretty good to me, though the smaller ones lack detail. For example, my Italian patrol boats appear to be about 5 mm long. As with many other games I am writing about on my walk through my game collection, I have never played this game before. I picked it up in 2007, I think, when I had a bunch of money burning a hold in my pocket while visiting my local game store. Then, late in 2007, the Game Nite on Crestwood Mall was closing, and I was able to pick up about 6 booster packs (each containing 8 figures) for half price. So, with that many figures, I can put together some good battles.

For my test game, I pitted a 60 point American force against a 60 point Japanese force. The Japanese force consisted of 2 auxiliary transport ships, so I put two islands on the map in the American zone to give them somewhere to deposit their supplies. This is a good time to mention one neat aspect of the game, the special abilities. Each figure comes with a related card, the same size as a sports trading card. One side of the card has a drawing of the ship, sub, or plane, and a brief historical note on what it did during the war. The other side contains all of the game stats. Your armor, your guns, your range, your speed, etc. In addition, each figure has at least one special ability, some way to bend the rules. For example, one of the American ships, when undamaged, can fire at a range of 4 sectors, even though most ships have a maximum of 3. One of the American subs can fire torpedoes at two different targets once per game. One of the Japanese cruisers has torpedoes that do extra damage (which is an insta-kill on almost any ship in the game!), while the Japanese auxiliary ships allow you to land them at an island, scoring extra victory points.

So, the real trick to the game is to figure out how to best align your units' abilities to maximize their strength, while protecting yourself from the enemy. The basic turn sequence consists of both sides moving, both sides having their aircraft fly missions, having ships fire guns, and having ships and subs fire torpedoes. I have to admit, the game rules are pretty simple, but the special abilities of the units adds the right amount of complexity to spice things up and turn a simple game into an interesting one. And the use of miniature figures gives the game a nice visual bonus that I like. The downside, of course, is that this is a collectible miniatures game, so you don't know what you are getting when you buy a set at the store. In the end, I don't like those kind of games anymore, so I don't anticipate getting many more ships, but I'm happy to play around with what I have.

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