29 June 2013

Axis & Allies: Angels 20 unboxing

A few weeks ago I ordered two starter sets for Axis & Allies: Angels 20, and picked them up as they arrived this Sunday. The following is the unboxing and overview of the content of a single such box (both boxes I got are identical).

First thing worth mentioning is the price, it is slightly more expensive than the X-wing starter set from Fantasy Flight Games. As such it is very interesting to see what you get for your money.

As you can see the box contains 5 fighters and 1 bomber, so 6 airplanes in total. These come pre-painted and are hard plastic and very durable. There is no risk of breaking them and they are a LOT more child/young gamer friendly than the tiny and fragile X-wing ships.

The pre-painted paintjob is "OK". It's certainly better on some planes than on others simply because of how the game differentiates between different pilots/pilot skills using different paintjobs (which is a bit of a weird way of doing things). Of the 6 planes you get in the box I think all but the dark grey ME-109 are alright, the dark grey ME-109 looks as if it unpainted when looked at from afar and you need to get close to see the difference in color tone between the wind screen and the color used for the upper fuselage.

With the planes you get hexagonal transparent plastic bases and transparent sticks on which you mount the planes. The transport part of the base is a nice feature, however I feel that you will need to paint or do something about the numbers because it will be hard to judge the altitude of an airplane unless you look at the base closely or in favorable lightning.

As you can see the planes have a ball mounting, inside the hole beneath the plane there are two plastic pieces holding the ball in place - and also make it easy to add or remove the stick. It's also tight enough not to slouch but not so tight of a fit that you can't tilt or turn your plane - something which is important due to the rules in the game and not just a matter of aesthetics.

You also get all the pilot/airplane cards for the game in the starter boxes, so if you buy booster packs you will not receive anything but the planes. Getting two start boxes and having two stacks of stat-cards may be a good idea so that both players can keep a track of the abilities and stats of their own and the enemy fighters. These cards are made out of thick cardboard stock but are worth putting into a protective sleeve. The pilot cards cover 16 Allied airplanes and pilots, and 15 Axis airplanes and pilots.

The rulebook is in color and well put together, printed on matt paper, it includes all the rules, charts and stuff you would need to know as well as a couple of scenarios to get you started and a few suggestions for how to play regular 100 point skirmish battles (just like in X-wing).
So far so good. The parts of the starter box which are a disappointment and of poor quality are no doubt the dice - of which (just like in X-wing) there just aren't enough to actually play without re-rolling them! What is it with game manufacturers and saving money on such a cheap component as a regular D6 die??!
These dice are on the other hand both too large and unbalanced for my taste so I will not be using them (they rolled horribly in the demo game I played a couple of weeks ago).

The thing worthy of critique are the status markers, which are printed on thin cardboard stock, well punched - but only printed on a single side... That is also a very cheap thing which bothers me a lot. These could have been made out of durable cardboard chits without raising the cost of the box too much I would think but I guess they'll do.

Finally the map, which was the second main reason I bought two starter sets. One was that I wanted the fixed airplanes of the starter set since the booster packs are all random airplanes. The other reason was the map, the map that comes in the starter box is made out of two pieces which are used together. The combined playing area is way too small for my taste - something which derives from the large hexes on the map itself. Using two full maps from two starter sets will give you a nice gaming area with room for maneuvers and to play with a "rolling map" where you take maps pieces from the rear and place at the front when planes move in a single direction during bomber escort scenarios etc.

(Pictures show a single and then both map pieces that you get in a single starter set)
Each map piece is 30x20" / 76x51cm. Each map has 4x7 hexes, these themselves are 4.5x5" or 12.5x11cm. As you can see on the pictures these hexes are quite big, bigger than the flight stands of the airplanes. You could argue for smaller hexes, but there is the wingspan to take into consideration and possible models clipping each other as they are all mounted on equally tall flight stands. Still the hexes could have been a tad smaller to provide at least one more row of hexes on the long and short side.

My main worry with the map however is that it's very thin, and printed on glossy paper. It's not very durable and will be ruined with frequent use. I'm considering to cut it up and laminate it like the guys who ran the demo had done with their maps, that would make it water proof, wouldn't risk it being torn apart when unfolding/folding it or any other player related accidents that may arise.

So what's the final impression of the contents and the "value for money" of Axis & Allies: Angels 20 on it's own and when compared to Star Wars X-wing?

Well just like with X-wing you will want to have 2 starter boxes. You can actually play fun and normal sized battles with the planes you get in the box - but you will want to have that double sized map to fly on. If you already have a hex based map of your own however you can easily skip out on the starter box and try to score some loose fighters from Ebay or Troll & Toad in the US (the later is from where I have ordered some dirt cheap extra fighters of my own choice).

Value for money in terms of "playability" 8/10
Value for money in terms of component quality 6.5/10 
(map and tokens bring down the score)
Fun to be had with the contents of the starter set on its own 8/10

Recommended: 2x starter sets or at least 1 additional map to make a larger playing area (you also can't get those BF110C bombers in the booster packs - only in the starter box).

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