Miniatures gaming is a world of board-based re-enactment of some of the most historically significant battles and conflicts throughout human history. Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance periods are some of the most commonly-covered periods of history, but no period brings with it quite the same societal, economic, or technological weight as does that of World War II. So forget about games like Armati, Mage Knight, and Ancient & Medieval Wargaming for a second – it’s time to read a review that explores some of the greatest board-based attempts at reproducing scenarios and situations typical of one of the greatest and most recent wars in human history.
Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe
World War II may be a time period which is competitively represented by many board games companies, but if you’re after an all-round positive experience with both detail and accessibility, it’s going to be GMT Games’ Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe.
Looking at the game board from the get-go should demonstrate the attention to detail by the game’s creators. Unfold the maps to be met with a Lambert projection of the world, overlaid with a hex grid. The map itself is dramatically colourful, the counters are practical but not too showy, and the rulebook is no more than 50 or so pages in length. Accessible is one word that can summarise the experience for a beginner.
This doesn’t mean that there’s not content here for experienced gamers. There are plenty of pre-arranged scenarios to be enjoyed, as well as the main rules laying out very concisely (without too many exceptions/stipulations) the ground work for self-made scenarios. An altogether cracking game that deserves the acclaim being thrown its way.
Flames of War
Flames of War is a game that has received mixed reviews. On the one hand, it has been slated for being a little too light on the realism and somewhat heavy on the marketing/money-making side of things. These accusations are, to an extent, quite correct. There are problems such as issues with the assault scenario modelling – these result in the game jamming up and coming to a virtual halt if you don’t take out your enemies in the initial long-range fire round. It is hard to disagree that the game’s rules indeed lead to some, shall we say, unnecessary complexity in the gameplay.
As a result of the above flaws, Flames of War isn’t an ideal game for die-hard fanatics of realism and accurate detailing in their board games. However, viewed/played from a more casual perspective and a willingness to look the other way when it comes to the minute details Flames of War becomes an excellent experience.
Axis and Allies: Early War 1939-1941
Early War is a 50-piece expansion set for the notoriously ready-to-play Axis and Allies series of miniatures games. This is absolutely the set for you if you’re looking to experience various scenarios played out by the minor nations of WWII in the early years (1939-1941). Nations covered include Belgium, Slovakia, France, Poland, Greece, and South Africa).
Focusing on the smaller nations of the early war period is most certainly welcome feature, but as a result of the heavy focus on such small nations, you’ll find that some of the forces you assume control of are fairly bare-bones in nature. Most come to Axis and Allies for the miniatures however, and these people shall not be disappointed. The usual care and detail has gone in to the paint jobs of each of the 50 miniatures in the set, making this even more of an ideal set from a collector’s point of view.
Axis and Allies: Counter Offensive 1941-1943
Wizards of the Coast’s close focus on pivotal sub-periods of WWII continues in its Counter Offensive 1941-1943 booster pack. This pack contains a hefty quantity (50 in total) pre-painted miniatures, cast in resin and with great detail in the paintwork as has always been the standard for Axis and Allies.
This expansion set makes the gameplay of the core Axis and Allies rules even more inclusive, representing 14 of the participating nations. Territories such as Yugoslavia, Croatia, and New Zealand make their debut here whilst we see yet more miniatures representing nations already present in the rules such as Japan and the USSR.
Axis and Allies: Eastern Front 1941-1945
This expansion set offers even more than many of the other expansions – you’ll find a total of 60 miniatures residing in the box. Because of the heavy focus on the Eastern front, you’ll find that a majority of the models included are either German or Soviet in their design. Pieces range from German and Russian tanks to ground troops and mounted machine guns. As usual, the paint detailing is very impressive and the models highly collectible, even to the extent that you’ll find them for sale on the internet, such as in Miniature Market’s Eastern Front collection page.