Sunday, January 26, 2014

Angels 20

I've been searching for good air combat games for a while. I found Wings of Glory and enjoyed it, but didn't get too far into it. It's a great game with a lot to recommend it, but I've recently found another game that I like better: Axis & Allies Angels 20 Air Combat.

This is an enjoyable, easy-to-learn game that doesn't rely on guessing mechanics like Check Your Six or Wings of Glory. I much prefer that to planning two or three moves ahead, but that's just individual preference at work. The core of the game is centered on rolling 2d6 plus various pilot skills to perform maneuvers and rolling a d6 to hit target numbers. Initiative goes back and forth, with the winning player moving second ( a definite advantage in this game) and shooting first. Planes are modeled on their historical roles and I think they work fine. I'm not an aviation expert and can't say how well they did in that regard.

Like all Axis & Allies, this is a collectible game. I've read a lot of complaints about this aspect of it, and frankly that kept me away from the game for a while. However, it should not be a concern. Starter boxes are reasonably priced and come with a good selection of planes (Brits and Germans in one, and Japanese and US in the other). While you can buy booster packs, you can easily find the planes you want on eBay or Miniature Market and other stores. The individual planes are cheap, and the start set gives all the cards you need for every plane in the game (for that starter's series, of which there are two).

The fact that the game is no longer supported is both good and bad. It's good because now you can collect the planes you want on eBay, etc. However, one big con is that the game doesn't have a lot of the famous planes you might expect to find, and so if you want those you'll have to house rule them and find models.

The models are 1/100 scale and look great. I've got both starters and two booster packs worth of planes and already have a decent-sized collection. I'll be adding in individual planes from eBay to get what I want.  Here are the planes with their pilot cards kept under the bases.

The game is played on a hex map which they include. It's made of paper and is a prime candidate to be replaced with something better. Unfortunately, those hexes are about 5" wide and so finding a replacement is not going to be easy. For now, I make do with the starter box maps and hope they don't rip.

So I took pictures of a game I played with just the contents of a starter box. I did a standard scenario, with a little more than 100pts in planes per side. Victory points are awarded by the cost of the planes destroyed, and the first side to score more than 60VP wins.

Here's the set up, with two German BF109E and one BF110 versus two British Spitfires and a Hurricane.  Initiative is rolled for each turn, with both sides enjoying a +2 to their initiative rolls due to their planes. This can change as planes are destroyed, as we'll see later.

Turn one
The Brits win initiative, meaning the Germans go first. The Bf110 has to move first due to a special rule. Planes can move either high or regular speed, with more restrictions on maneuvers and turns when going high speed. For now, the Bf110 moves up at a  cautious 3 hexes. The model is then banked to the 2 o'clock position to show it is evading. That's a cool part of these models, being able to articulate their positions for in-game results.

The other planes on both sides swarm forward, with one of the Bf109E pilots climbing to altitude 4. There are six altitude bands shown on the bases and this game started at altitude 3. When a pilot climbs you rotate the plane on the base so it's nose is over its altitude. Slick!

Here's the set up as we move into T1 shooting.
The Spitfire threatening the Bf110 misses on all rolls (evasion wasn't even necessary). To-hit targets are determined by the "firing aspect" of the plane. So here the Spitfire is in the Bf110's 10 o'clock aspect and therefore needs sixes. However the Bf110 has good range to the Hurricane only 2 hexes in front of it and on the same altitude. The Brit did not evade, but it needs to also roll sixes to hit (the 2 and 10 o'clock aspects are the hardest to hit). In this case, the Bf110 does six hits!  Each natural six rolled does 2 hits. The goal is to exceed the plane's armor rating to score a wound. If you exceed the plane's vital armor rating, you destroy it out right.  The hurricane is armor 3, but vital armor 7, so it takes a damage. It can take only two more hits before being destroyed.

More shooting takes place and the Hurricane damages the regular Bf109. The Ace Bf109E does a dive attack on a Spitfire and scores damage. Here's that exciting attack in action. Looking at this picture now, I see the Bf109 could not have made the shot because the Spitfire was out of the Messerschmidt's firing arc. In the excitement, I guess that was overlooked. Well, live and learn!
Turn Two
The Germans have the initiative, so Brits move first. There's lots of zooming past each other and some maneuvers to gain altitude and advantage.  The damaged Bf109 fails a climb check because he's moving fast and therefore remains at the same altitude and advances a hex.  When it comes time to shoot, all planes are out of position, except for the Bf110 which an fire 4 hexes. This is very long range for this game, where most planes max out at three. Of course, the shots were ineffective at that range.  With nothing more to do, here are the planes at the end of the turn.

Turn Three
The Germans win initiative once more, and Brits move first. There's a lot of maneuvering happening in this turn, and since both sides are trying to catch the other it's happening at high speeds. This results in a few failed attempts to turn and climb. The damaged Spitfire climbs to altitude 5 to line up a dive shot on the damaged Bf109. The other German ace makes a tight turn to line up at the undamaged Spitfire ace. Here's the set up, with Spitfire and Hurricane banking to evade.

When it comes to shooting, Germans go first and the Bf109 ace shoots at his Spitfire target. Even with the -1 to evade the German ace scores 10 hits in one go! The Spitfire's vital armor value is 7, so this blows the plane out of the sky! As if to retaliate, the diving Spitfire shoots down the damaged Bf109E Messerschmidt!  Two planes on both sides are destroyed. In game terms, they're removed from the map, but if you were running a story campaign you can decide some other fate for the planes.

Turn Four.
Now that the Brits have lost a plane, their special initiative bonus is nullified. So the Germans roll at +2 and easily win again. There's lots of frantic circling and banking to adjust positions, but it ends up looking bad for the Brits.  The damaged Spitfire is sandwiched between the German planes and the Hurricane is at a bad angle to help (due to a failed maneuver check). Here's a picture.

Despite tailing and having the easiest shot in the game, the Bf109 only scores one damage on the Spitfire. This now cripples the plane, which is a bad thing. Crippled means the plane has one hit point left. Everything that plane does is going to be at -1, and it can't perform hard maneuvers or go at high speed.

The Spitfire shoots at the Bf110 in front of it, but with only two hits it's not enough to damage. The Bf110 returns fire, a stunning 8 shots, and lands three hits. Damage on the Spitfire is enough to down it, and the plane spins to earth. The final Hurricane lands two hits on the Bf110, again not enough to equal its armor, and so the turn ends.

At the end of each turn VPs are counted, and the Germans have scored 92 and so win the dogfight.

So that's a game of Angels 20. Even if you're a fan of Wings of Glory, you really need to check out this game. The planes look awesome and the game play is very satisfying. Don't let the collectible aspect put you off, as a starter is inexpensive and individual planes are available for cheap. I will continue to buy into this game, and am hoping to start lining up some historical flights for my games.

There are more advanced rules for clouds and other conditions. You can easily house-rule a few other things for added complexity or realism. I recommend combining these rules with Squadron Forward to add in pilot personalities and some back story. Highly recommended game!


Da Green Skins said...

Have you checked out Sails of Glory. It is a Napoleonic Naval combat game. It is based off the Wings of Glory system with the card movement but the games has different levels you can play. You might want to check it out.

Jerry said...

Sails of Glory is on the list of games to try. I'm looking forward to that one.

Dean Vuckovich said...

I am sure you are already aware of this company, but Hotz Matz makes 5" hex mats.

Jerry said...

Thanks for the tip, Dean. I've heard mixed reviews about Hotz service and delivery time. They do look good, and if I end up playing this a lot it may be something to look into.