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Posted on Jan 21, 2010 in Boardgames

Axis & Allies Miniatures: Early War – Miniatures Game Review

By Paul Glasser

Axis & Allies Miniatures Game: Early War. Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. $14.95 per pack.

The set offers improved ability to recreate and fight battles from 1939 and earlier but lacks anything to truly set it apart.

Passed Inspection: Expands battles in Poland and France; high-quality sculpting and paint jobs

Failed Basic: Sense of deja vu in the figure mix

The new 50-piece expansion set focuses on units from minor nations between the years of 1939 and 1941 and includes artillery, airplanes, tanks and infantry from Belgium, France, Slovakia, Poland, Greece, England, South Africa, Australia, Germany, the Soviet Union and Japan. The lack of any American units will be an asset to some players but liability for others.

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Unfortunately, some of the new nations, such as South Africa and Slovakia, only get a token force. South Africa gets a standard rifle squad, an armored car and a reprint of the Valentine tank. Slovakia can field a motorcycle scout team and the Pz 38(t) tank.

Australia and Greece get one unit apiece.

The set features several highly sought-after units, including the JU87 B Stuka dive-bomber and Finnish ski troops. Russia and Greece can now deploy hard-charging cavalry units while Belgium and Japan receive soldiers equipped with bicycles.

Players can now recreate the battle of Poland and France much more accurately. The Polish can call upon a new commander, anti-tank gun and tankette. The French can field the famous 75mm gun, the MS 406 fighter plane, a half-track and several more tanks.

Although the MS 406 and Soviet MIG 1 fighters are important additions, they are also unremarkable and undergunned in terms of gameplay. Inexplicably, the Stuka sports higher attack values against infantry even though it was armed with only two forward-firing light machine guns. Although the MS 406 and MIG had a heavier armament, that is not reflected in their ability to strafe soft targets.

The bomb-equipped Stuka also has good attacks versus enemy tanks. It excels at ground attack but is extremely vulnerable to other fighters unless escorted.

The Marmon-Herrington armored car is another peculiar element because it’s the only AC to ever be designated “rare.” That status is usually reserved for tanks and airplanes, and the Marmon-Herrington’s abilities don’t merit being reclassified.

Many players have commented positively on the detailed paint jobs and high quality sculpts of the new set. However, a lack of innovation is still evident. Overall, the set recycles much of what’s been produced before. There are few new abilities and many repeats – for instance, the Belgian officer is the fourth unit to receive the “pinpointer ability.”

Many tanks are also reused, including the Valentine and Pz III Ausf. F, which are both seen here for the third time. Yawn.

This set also highlights the continued lack of support from Avalon Hill, which had previously printed scenarios and maps on the web. However, the site has not received any major updates for months and the traditional “opening salvo” previews were totally absent for this set.

Overall, the set offers players improved ability to recreate and fight battles from 1939 and earlier but lacks anything to truly set it apart from previous products.

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