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Posted on Jan 24, 2011 in Boardgames

Axis and Allies: War at Sea, Set V – Miniatures Review

By Paul Glasser

Axis and Allies: War at Sea, Set V – Fleet Command. Collectible Miniatures Game. Wizards of the Coast. $14.95.

Passed Inspection: New night-fighter units and what-ifs.

Failed Basic: Crowded roster.

Dec. 7th, 1941 is that date which lives in infamy but Dec. 7, 2010, was a day of joy for many Axis and Allies: War at Sea players.

The newest expansion set of miniatures, Fleet Command, hit store shelves that day. Fleet Command includes 39 ships and airplanes from 11 different navies, including the United States, England, Australia, Canada, France, Sweden, Finland, USSR, Germany, Japan and Italy.  The German commerce raider Atlantis is one of the most popular ships in Fleet Command. Atlantis was one of the most successful commerce raiders – sinking 16 and capturing six freighters and transports. Not designed to go-toe-to-toe with an enemy warship, the Atlantis is highly prized for its special ability to deploy anywhere on the map.

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Frederick der Grosse and Sovyetskiy Soyuz have attracted both criticism and praise. Casual gamers applaud the addition of these massive battleships for Germany and the USSR respectively; however, historical grognards decry the inclusion of incomplete ships, calling them a “fantasy.”

Frederick der Grosse was designed as part of the 1939 Kriegsmarine Plan Z but was never completed. Sovyetskiy Soyuz was laid down in 1938 but construction was only 20 percent complete when Germany invaded in 1941.

In Fleet Command, both ships are portrayed as fully complete and statistics similar to those of the Yamato and Iowa-class battleships.

The Red Fleet also receives the IL-2 dive-bomber, a submarine and cruiser in the new set, making them a much more competitive faction.

The heavy cruiser Blucher, U-552 and destroyer ZG-3 round out the Kriegsmarine order of battle.

American commanders also receive several important reinforcements in Fleet Command. The heavy cruiser USS Quincy features an interesting but currently useless ability that offers improved firepower against shore batteries. It foreshadows the shore batteries which will appear the sixth expansion set due for release in August 2011. Other additions include the destroyer Bagley, battleship Nevada, aircraft carrier Essex and the PBY Black Cat.  The Black Cat is one of two new units that encourage players to explore the optional rules for nighttime engagements.  PBY Black Cat squadrons attacked Japanese convoys at night and the game rules give this unit a bonus during night-attacks.

The A6M2-N “Rufe” floatplane was less maneuverable than the carrier version but this variant receives a bonus during night battles. Other air units suffer an attack penalty in darkness.

Japanese commanders can also deploy the heavy cruiser Atago, seaplane tender Chitose, destroyer Nagatsuki, battleships Kirishima and Ise, carrier Kaga and a submarine. In the game, the Ise is portrayed as a battleship/carrier hybrid, the result of a 1944 refit, and may deploy a dive-bomber squadron once per game. The Chitose will likely only see action in larger battles because it functions best as a support ship. It can field two seaplane squadrons that lack firepower but can harass enemy submarines and destroyers.

The Royal Navy gets a destroyer, cruiser and aircraft carrier but many advocates decry the lack of submarines. For example, the Royal Navy eventually deployed more than 270 submersibles during the war but only the HMS Truculent is available currently.

Finland makes its debut with only a fighter, the B-239 Buffalo.

The Canadians and Australians receive one ship each, a minesweeper and cruiser respectively.

The Italians get a destroyer escort, two cruisers and a battleship.

Overall, many players praise the addition of new ships and reprinting of popular units like the PBY. However, some question the decision to continue expanding the game to include minor powers and “what-ifs.”

For instance, France – the fourth largest fleet at the start of World War II – only receives one unit, the heavy cruiser Algerie, in Fleet Command.

However Sweden, a relatively small naval power that saw little action during the war, receives three units – a destroyer, cruiser and coastal defense ship.

In an addition, the set was designed to include 40 units but the Polish cruiser Dragon was removed at the last minute. According to senior game designer Rich Baker the cruiser was cast in the wrong scale.

He also promised 8 Royal Navy units for Set VI in August.

Solitaire suitability: 5

About the Author:

Paul Glasser is a newspaper reporter from Frankfort, Ky. He enjoys traveling, miniature wargames, and roleplaying.


 

5 Comments

  1. Is it really so difficult to substitute the term ‘Britain’ for ‘England’ in the correct context?

    • Set V had some wonderful new units. P-40, Black cat etc were great. I have all 5 sets and the more the merrier. I am even going to be palying on line threw Avalon Hill forum (Wizards of the coast). Looking forward to it as I have never done that before. The general concenses is tha W@S is the best all around naval game to date.

      • The general concenses is tha W@S is the best all around naval game to date.

        Are you serious?! It is so hard to spot sarcasm with text-speak. Surely you jest, because if not, I fear your horizons have been quite limited. Check out General Quarters 3 at least. Then maybe take a look at the Admiralty Trilogy or Seekrieg 5. Then you may want to re-evaluate that statement. W@S is a poor imitation of Mongoose’s Victory at Sea at best.

  2. Oh, and the whole ‘collectible miniatures’ gimmick is a joke. No other manufacturer produces that 1/1800 scale so you are left to only choose what they deign to put out.

    If you like the rules, at least buy the minis you want in a scale that gives you a choice. I’m sure the ship stats could be divined, as the ‘system’ is not that deep.

  3. I tend to think what will help is battles based in fact to bring the minis out, the other games mentioned have these and there has been serious discussion with WOTC to produce them, yet to no avail. it has beenleft to the forums to pick up the slack and most of those are controlled by WOTC themselves.

    My suggestion is for you the gamer to llook for the new battle guides being realeased on the web and use those for WAS and then see if you think it is dead.

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