Axis and Allies 15mm: Head shot or near miss? | Print |  E-mail
Written by Don MacVittie   
Sunday, 04 May 2008


The figure contents of the A&A Starter set.

When we were told that version 2.0 of the Axis and Allies Miniatures game was to be made with 1:100 vehicles, we became curious, and added them to our list of things to look at some time in the future. Several readers in many different forums have expressed an interest in these models and how they fit in with their existing miniatures collections, so before too much time went by we decided to move them up the review list. 

We went to our FLGS and picked up Axis and Allies starter and booster boxes for review. This is one of those miniatures areas that our FLGS is just fine for – they stock them as part of the Wizards/Hasbro selection. While we were running the review, the Africa expansion was released, so we journeyed back and picked up one of those boosters also.

Sourcing for A&A minis is as easy as can be – most hobby stores and many toy stores carry the full line of starters and boosters. Because of this you will not find sourcing at the end of this article.

 

What are they and what is this all about?

Axis and Allies Miniatures game is one of the line of prepainted plastic miniatures games that Hasbro has released using the names of some of their existing properties and tacking “miniatures game” on the end. For version 2.0, the starters all come with the same mix of figures – a Cromwell, a Sherman, a T34/76 and a Panzer IIIE for vehicles, US rifle, bazooka, and commander; and German MG34, sniper, and rifleman. All boosters come with five models/figures in a pack and are truly random within their set, with only the rarity of the figure determining the likelihood that a figure will be included in any given box. If you’ve never played a Collectible Card Game or a Collectible Miniatures game, the point is that the rarer items are harder to find on purpose. This is great for selling product and pretty good for people who collect, but not real grand if you’re a wargamer and they made the vehicle you need rare. The starter has the rules for a very simple hex-based game that can be played in a short amount of time but left this author with an unsatisfied feel. For those who own A&A v1.0 miniatures, these rules are essentially the same as those for version 1.0. The rules are free for download on Wizards of the Coast’s website, and you can use them with any 15mm miniatures, so if you’re interested in checking them out, go here. http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=ah/downloads 

The Boxes and Sample Contents.

First and foremost, there’s the question of what comes in a box. Because the boosters are five randomly selected miniatures, we can’t tell you specifically what will be in every box, but we can show you samples of what we found in ours, which is some indication of how the “luck of the draw” goes. Of course there are hundreds of thousands of these boxes, so this should not be treated as any kind of scientific sampling, just an example of what selection is like.

We purchased two boosters from the base set, and one from the Africa expansion. Each set represents an arbitrary division on Hasbro’s part covering certain periods or locations during the war.  What the criteria for these divisions are is unclear, and outside of noting what units haven’t been included, the divisions muddy the picture of a future release schedule. But let us take a look and you’ll see for yourselves. 


Our two core set boosters. Note the ripped tops are bad if you’re in a store ;-) 

Our first booster was a bit of a disappointment – a single armored car, three figures, and a Japanese Airplane. The airplanes are not 15mm, so we’ll leave that figure out of this discussion – though note that the stands for these planes are nice, grab some if you get a chance.


The first booster’s contents. 

The armored car is a Humber Scout car. The figures are a US Red Devil Captain, an early war British Lee Enfield Rifleman, and a Japanese knee mortar. The wheels on the Humber are monstrous. It is more like something we’d expect to see at a monster truck rally than an actual fighting vehicle.

The second booster was, in our opinion, just great. While the vehicles are both German, they’re pretty standard bits of gear at least. A Stug IIID and a Panzer IIIF. The figures are Japanese and French Riflemen and a Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) captain. That gave us two solid tanks that we can add to our early war or eastern front German armies. 



The second booster’s contents.

The Africa Booster was, for us, a serious disappointment. There is so much good stuff in Africa that we were looking forward to a pulling out a portee or a Tiger or T30 or something. No such luck. That set came with a British fighter plane (again, we’re ignoring it for this discussion), a Kubelwagen, and three figures. The figures are US and  Greek soldiers, and an Australian officer. While figures are cool enough and we do like the paint jobs, at $10.99 USD a booster, this downright sucked. Even if you count these as “prepainted”, that’s still more than $2.00 USD each. 

Quality and Measurements

The vehicles we received are all easily identifiable as at least their base type just by eyeballing them. The figures are a little less clear, but are all easily identifiable as people at least. The models themselves are nice enough looking, with the paint jobs being passable but not much more. If you own some Gaming Models models, they are pretty similar in paint quality, with some more details (like treads) on the A&A models and a wash giving them a slightly more complete look than the Gaming Models products. The figure paint jobs are on par with what we do for 6mm figures, but no more – flesh, guns, boots, and single-color uniforms. Straps and leggings, etc are on the figures, but they’re not painted. 

The measurements for some sample vehicles are as follows:

Model

Length

Width

Height

Notes

Sherman

5.8cm

2.1

2.1

Height w/o MG

T34/76

5.9cm

3.05cm

2.5cm

 

Cromwell

6.2cm

2.9cm

2.85cm

 

Pz III ausf F

5.5cm

2.85cm

2.5cm

 

Stug III Ausf D

5.5cm

2.85cm

1.8cm

 

Kubelwagen

3.7cm

1.5cm

1.4cm

Highest point.

Humber Scout

5.7cm

2.3cm

2.4cm

Width is at widest point, height is not counting AAMG

How this compares to the actual measurements and the major vendors is available for the T34/76 and the Sherman

Figures measure in at 14mm to the eyes, 17mm total for the early war British soldier, 14/16 for the Red Devil captain, 13.5/15 for the Australian officer. The MG34 team measures 15mm from the toes to the edge of the helmet – in line with the figures in our MG34 team review.

But nothing works so well as some pictures, particularly with vehicles where size means there’s more room for variation… Here comes. 


Kubelwagen with CD and QRF models.


Cromwell with BF Cromwell


Panzer IIIF with the QRF Panzer IIIE


Sherman with a BF Sherman painted for Africa. 


Sherman with the PP Sherman


Sherman with a really rough CD Sherman 


Stug with a BF Stug


T-34/76 with a CD T-34/76

Useful or Not?

It’s never that simple, but we’ll touch on the bases we think are important to your decision making process. Hopefully we’ve included enough pictures that you can come to your own conclusions if we haven’t considered your decision points.

One thing to remember is that these are all plastic. If you despise Gaming Models because of their weight or were disappointed with the plastic tracks on BattleFront’s newer tanks, these are definitely not for you. There is plenty of space to weight most of these models down if you would be happy with that option. A washer or two inside the hull would do wonders for most of them. 

The big negative to these figures is the crap shoot of buying them in random boosters. Frankly, that makes them rather unappealing to us, but if you can find a source like on Wargames Market  or ebay, they’re much more appealing. But buying them randomly could net you with 500 Japanese infantrymen and no Pz IVs when you’re a European gamer.

The figures are nicely mounted on (unfinished) disks of uniform sizes – 1.5cm for upright and kneeling figures, 2.5cm for prone figures. This got us to considering how useful they would be for games like I Ain’t Been Shot Mum! by Too Fat Lardies or The Face of Battle  That work best with singly mounted figures would work really well with these figures. If you can find a source that would let you build the force you desire, this is a good option. 

But How Do They Paint Up?

Of course this review would be incomplete without looking at the option of repainting the figures to match the rest of your army. We chose the absolute worst paint job of the lot – the Sherman – to repaint. 

We learned from our D&D Miniature repaints article and just jumped straight to the primer. Our primer picture is a little fuzzy, apologies, this was snapped on the fly.


Primed and ready to repaint. 

We gave this model a quick once-over with some Vallejos, basing it in Brown Violet then highlighting with a 50/50 mix of Brown Violet and Khaki and painting in details. We smirked as we realized that, much like some of the other 15mm vendors, there is no hull MG in this vehicle. As with others, a piece of floral wire would fix that, but we skipped it for this simple review. We then applied some Skytrex allied stars and gave it the final dull coat. It’s certainly easier to paint the tracks and road wheels on these figures than most vendors (though the new plastic BF vehicles are just as easy because they also have no gunk built up in them).



From angles. Note the AAMG and the main gun relative sizes. 

In the end, we think the model is viable. We loathe the AAMG on this vehicle because it has no base and is nearly as big as the 75mm main gun. We didn’t try to remove it because this problem doesn’t apply to most of the A&A vehicles. Let us know how it goes if you remove it and we’ll add it to this article.


Flat out side shot. 


Zipping across the tabletop.

In the end, as miniatures go these are mediocre, not great, not horrible. Their strengths are prepainting – which is better than Gaming Models, but still not up to most wargamers’ standards (road wheels and tools are unpainted, for example), and price in certain circumstances (four tanks plus six infantry for $16.99 USD and you know what you’re getting for the starter pack). Their weaknesses are price in most situations (if you need anything not in the starters you’ll be paying $10.99 USD a pack to see if you get one) and the bare minimal prepainting. They also lack detail in some cases. The Sherman as delivered for example reminds us more of plastic tanks bought in a convenience store than miniatures. They’re “good enough”, so if you find some where you know what you’re getting and the price is right, it’s worth picking some up. Otherwise, we’ll save our money. To a wargamer, nothing is more annoying than shelling out $11.00 USD just to get five figures from five different armies and not a single vehicle.

 

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