World War II was undoubtedly an iconic period in history where for the first time technology had developed to the point that true aerial warfare (namely dogfighting) was possible on such a grand scale. Over 70 years later we still pay tribute to those that lost their lives as well as commemorate the events that took place. Axis and Allies Air Force: Angels 20 isn't the first WWII warfare game to offer players the chance to own some deightfully detailed miniatures, but its fast pace and intricate detail allows you to get an idea of the strategy involved in true aerial combat.
Out of the Box
Upon opening the box, aside from the full set of 31 stat cards, 2 battle sections on the map, the rulebook, 4-sided dice, and counter sheet, you'll most likely be most interested in the miniature models that come as standard with this starter set. You'll notice that there are a total of 6 miniatures that come with the set for the price (which is a little on the high side compared to say the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures game ).
The aeroplanes that you get with the set are 5 fighter planes and 1 single bomber plane. These models are all made out of tough, durable plastic and are pre-painted (though the keen creative people out there will no doubt want to apply their own paint jobs as soon as they possibly can). Plane mounts come as standard - these consist of a plastic hexagonal base with a vertically-protruding pole that enters the hole in the bottom of the aircraft. The planes are ball-mounted to ensure that you can tilt and manoeuvre the planes around their own axis as well as moving the plane and stand laterally across the board.
With the starter pack also comes all of the possible pilot and aeroplane cards possible with this entire set. This means that firstly any expansion pack you buy will consist of models only, and secondly you realise that to enjoy the game to its fullest and against other people you will probably need to invest booster packs, or perhaps even buy two starter packs so that you are better equipped to keep an eye on the particulars of your own pilots/planes.
It is recommended that you check out the Axis and Allies Angels 20 Booster Pack (this contains the full 31 models to go with the cards that come with this starter pack) as well as this 2-player starter set that expands the game to include ground-based warfare as well.
The Rules and Gameplay As with many games that involve battle manoeuvres, Angels 20 requires that you move in a hex pattern across the map. You'll be rolling D6 dice in order to facilitate shooting, aerial manoeuvres, and turn-based concerns. You'll move along in the game in a turn-based fashion, taking it in turn to make active one plane at a time. You'll find that turns last between 15 and 20 seconds, a point which reiterates the earlier mention of the game's swiftness compared to many other board-based games of this type. The advantage in this game comes from winning the initiative and getting to move and fire second; the player that has to move first is obviously at a disadvantage.
Simplicity abounds with the mechanics of the game as well: you simply pay attention to the pilot and aircraft cards that contain the stats necessary to inform the performance values and abilities of the individual planes. The cards work on the basis of a set of numbers. A large number denoting the points value of a plane of any chosen type sits on the corner of each card. The speed of the aircraft is indicated on the card and will dictate whether you are able to move at normal or increased speed. Attack value (from 1-3 hexes away) indicates the number of dice you will throw, with 3 hexes being a larger distance and therefore fewer dice shall be thrown.
Other values apply to the game such as armour value, vital value, and also hit point value. Manoeuvre attributes also apply and include the ability to either dive, roll, or climb. These manoeuvres allow you to get the advantage over your opponent by finishing in a favourable position. Status moves are the final move you will make and include tilting upwards or downwards. Situation-specific rules also apply and these dictate procedures in night-time combat, clouds, and other such conditions.
Though the rules may sound complex, once you begin playing you will get into the swing of things and it all becomes quite intuitive. The positive points about this game include the sheer variety of battle types and planes to manoeuvre (provided you get the booster pack of course). On the contrary, the starter pack alone has only 6 planes and of these there is only one bomber in the whole pack. The paint is also lacking in detail, though this can be corrected by the player if they have the equipment.