For various reasons, we simply failed to publish our Opening Salvo articles for Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures set 3, Flank Speed. Well, I hate to see something I wrote go to waste, so I'm going to post the pieces myself. Photos of the models and the stat cards are already available in various places on the internet, so I'm not going to try to reproduce those here. Mostly I'm interested in sharing with you folks some of the design notes about role and gameplay for the units we intended to preview.
Anyway, enjoy! I'll put the remaining three articles up one per day.
Flank Speed Opening Salvo, Part 1
Welcome to our first Opening Salvo preview for the third set of the Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures game, code-named Flank Speed. Booster packs of Flank Speed will be available on September 1st, 2009. So let's get underway with a look at two aircraft from the upcoming set--one a new model, and the other a much-desired reprint.
The Curtiss Helldiver began to replace the much-beloved Douglas Dauntless as the US Navy's principal carrier-borne dive bomber in late 1943. "The Beast" was a larger, faster, more rugged airplane that could carry a heavier bomb load to a greater range, but many pilots disliked its rough handling. Despite its lukewarm reception, the Helldiver played a crucial role in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and went on to sink more enemy shipping than any other airplane of the war.
Gameplay: The Helldiver is tough, like most US aircraft, and carries a devastating Bomb attack. It lacks the Dauntless's ability to Press the Attack, but it has a different special ability that's almost as good: Finish Him Off. At 14 points, it's quite expensive-but you can't get a better dive bomber.
A mid-war improvement on the A6M2, the A6M5 was fitted with a more powerful engine, better machine guns, and some basic protection for the pilot. It was a significant improvement by early-war standards, but it entered the war at a time when superior Allied fighters such as the Corsair and the Hellcat were making their appearance. Worse yet, by the middle of 1943 Japan's elite naval air arm had been decimated in the carrier battles of 1942 and the grueling Solomons campaign, and Japan's pilot quality was steadily declining. It wasn't until the arrival of planes like the N1K1 "George" that the Japanese caught up to the second-generation US fighters.
Gameplay: The A6M5 is a very good Axis fighter, but it's still a notch below the fearsome US Hellcat. In keeping with its historical role as a fighter flown by pilots of diminishing experience, it lacks a couple of key tactical interactions that many other fighters rely on-Combat Air Patrol and Escort. However, even without these it outmatches early-war Allied fighters such as the Hurricane or Wildcat, especially with its first turn Surprise attack. If you don't mind playing a little fast and loose with the historical restrictions, you can use the A6M5 as a stand-in for a highly skilled early-war Japanese air unit more interested in aerial duels with enemy fighters than unit tactics.
That's it for today. Come back tomorrow for the next one!