One of the UK's top hobbies in days past used to be making Airfix airplane kits. As your ceiling grew full of planes of all types, shapes, sizes and Nations, you needed somewhere else to put the numerous assembled pieces. So Airfix brought out their ground units, tanks, jeeps, gun carriers etc and then of course they created the world famous Airfix Soldiers. These were roughly 20mm and very thin and came in different colours for each Army and of course there were soon many different Nations and eras available from the Ancients with catapults and chariots through to WWII with Grenadiers, Infantry, Motorised Cavalry and so on. As a youngster I used to line up my toy soldiers and roll a die for each figure with a score of 6 meaning they had hit and killed one of the opposition, which was then removed back to the toy box; the army with the last man standing being the winners. I would like to think that I wasn't the only kid who did this, it would be real sad if I was.
MODIPHIUS ENTERTAINMENT have brought my childhood back for me with their AIRFIX BATTLES game. They have created a basic but interesting set of rules to allow players who still have their Airfix miniatures to put them to excellent use. Players who do not have any Airfix miniatures have several choices. The first choice is to use the counters provided in the game, the second is to buy some Airfix miniatures (eBay has a lot on sale at this moment in time) or do what I did (because I couldn't find my box of Airfix minis) and go to your local Bargain shop and checkout their toy shelves. In one of these I found a plastic bucket of slightly larger toy soldiers; 4 different armies (by colour) with 48 soldiers for each army, 192 soldiers for just £4.99. Yes they are a little bit large but I can fit a unit of 12 soldiers (10+2 Bazookas) into one square on the map and being the size they are it makes moving them around the board so easy, plus they look good.
AIRFIX BATTLES costs about £20.00 and is therefore amazing value for money. There are two double-side printed maps that can be used separately or butted together to form 16 (I think) end to end and side by side permutations plus the 4 solo maps make it about 20 possible map layouts. Then you have the terrain tiles that add additional features such as burnt out buildings, rough terrain and road and field blocking tiles of assorted rubble, all of which gives you almost uncountable ways in which to alter the maps.
The Leaders and units for each of the two Armies involved (Axis or Allies) are found on Force cards. The Force cards have "star" values and it is these stars, found in the top corner of these cards, that are used in two important ways; the first is when building an army for a freeform scenario, each army consists of N value of stars (like a points value for the majority of tabletop miniature war games though in AIRFIX BATTLES you are more likely to build an Army of 20 points than a thousand) and the second use is as Victory Points - for example in the opening scenario the winner is the first player to score 3 stars of kills.
AIRFIX BATTLES has 24 pages in the Rules Booklet. These include variations for your first scenario, Team Play, Solo Play and Advanced Combat, with the Basic Rules ending on page 11. Once you reach the end of page 11 you will already know how to play because the rules teach as they go. Page 12 explains how to set up the 10 scenarios found in the separate Scenario booklet where it is also covered, but in less detail.
Units are created from your miniatures or the Army counters according to the specific Unit Cards, and placed one unit per square (each square is marked on the maps by four +'s) along with one of the number tokens from the pairs of number tokens, the other token in the pair is placed on the Unit card; this way you can easily keep check on the Unit's identity. Obviously not so necessary in the first scenario where you only have 3 units each but definitely very helpful when you have several similarly formed units on the field at the same time. Unit cards are colour coded for ease of identification: Green for Infantry, Red for Vehicles, Orange for Commanders/Officers and Purple for Attachments (Specialists).
Once you have chosen your units, aka built your army, and positioned them on the field of play, you shuffle and deal the Command Cards (according to Force's Hand Value) that will make up your first set of orders. The back of each Command Card is the same (as you would expect from a deck of cards) except that you can play a card face down to give a Unit the Basic orders of Move, Fire and Reinforce, the front side of these cards are either Red (Interrupt) or Green (an Order). In alternating turns the players each play and action a Command card until both players have played a number of cards equal to their Force's Play Value - this is found on the Officer's cards along with the Force's Hand value (you use this number plus 1 to determine the Command cards you begin with).
I really like this game but it could be considered that the AIRFIX BATTLES title is a name that conjures up the memory of Toy Soldiers and yet the rules are somewhat similar to these best selling tabletop wargames, MEMOIRS'44 and BATTLE CRY, because this is a card driven game backed up by some dice rolling. It is actually a little more complex than these games and therein lies what could be a minor problem for people buying this from a shop that sells games rather than an actual specialist games store; older folk may well see the name AIRFIX and remember it from their childhood as a toy, and this definitely isn't a toy. It is easy to view AIRFIX BATTLES in the same way that people view the LEGO boardgames. People mainly buy them because they look like LEGO toys and they contain LEGO toy pieces. The game mechanics associated to the majority of the LEGO boardgames are fun but are not complex like a regular strategy board game. AIRFIX BATTLES are also fun but the scenarios are quite a lot more complicated than the majority of family games.
Also non-wargaming players may find the Unit cards a little over-bearing. There are four types, colour coded, with a lot of information on each. The Rules booklet shows a blow-up of a Captain card with ten text bubbles explaining parts of the card. These ten sections are described in enough detail for you to be able to quickly recognise them when you are playing. Well nine of them are; the tenth - The Weapon Stats and Abilities of the Unit is the main central section. The information is given in text and icons and it is the icons that are described throughout the book rather than in one specific place that cause the players a little memory problem. I think it's the fact that some of the icons are black and some which use the same icon are purple, and finding the description in the Rules booklet isn't easy - a reference sheet would have been helpful. The dice are all six-sided and coloured light and dark green.
AIRFIX BATTLES is subtitled "The Introductory Wargame". As I said previously it is more complex than some popular card-driven wargames, but it is less complex or complicated than a GMT game; it's probably on a par for complexity with a Columbia Games block game. There is a lot more to AIRFIX BATTLES than just playing a card and moving your Units. You have to take note of the terrain, whether there is cover or not - units can fire out of but not into cover. The buildings are on flat tiles but so well drawn to show that they look as if they would provide cover, however if you have some wargames scenery, especially if you are using miniatures instaed of the counters, then you can bring the game to the superb 3D life it deserves. Playable from the box, after some counter popping and rules reading AIRFIX BATTLES is a neat, fast-paced (once you are used to it probably after 3-4 games) war game which you can use to introduce players to both card driven and rules driven war games. The only thing missing from the box are some ziploc bags because there are a lot of small counters which you need to keep track of and to keep safely when you are stacking the game on your shelf.