Wizards of the Coast are quite prolific in the releasing of their miniatures sets, and this prolific nature only continues with their expansion to the widely played and often-enjoyed Axis and Allies War at Sea miniatures game. As one of the most popular naval warfare miniatures game in the world, War at Sea and can only benefit from the expansion that is the subject of this review: the Surface Action Expansion Pack. Bringing with it a moderately hefty selection of 40 miniatures - this includes a number of famous and iconic naval units that made a mark on naval history - this expansion pack deserves a bit of a closer look to see exactly what it adds to the base War at Sea game.
What the Pack Contains
Ok, so Surface Action is effectively a booster pack rather than a true expansion, and this is said here because of the lack of the expansion to the rules of the base War at Sea game; this is in contrast to the inclusion of the advanced rules seen in Wizard's 2-player Starter Pack. However, as long as you're not expecting a revision of the rules, you shouldn't be too disappointed.
In fact, it's quite hard to be disappointed at the contents of the Surface Action expansion pack when you consider the 40 pre-painted miniatures it brings to the table. Included are new aircraft, shore batteries, destroyers, aircraft carriers, cruisers, and battleships, all modelled on real-life designs that were used throughout World War II. Of the 40 models, you will receive models of varying levels of rarity, with models rating rare, uncommon, and common.
Quality of the Models
Each of the 40 models is constructed from a durable plastic material. All of the models are also pre-painted with what is claimed to be authentic outward design that reflects the real-life designs of the vessels, aircraft, and other hardware. If you are a true collector who enjoys putting personalised touches on your miniatures then the pre-painted nature of these miniatures may be frustrating, but there's always the option of giving them a re-touch or even a complete re-painting if needs be.
Wizards of the Coast is a prolific miniatures producer, but prolific doesn't necessarily equate to producing quality miniatures In fact, you're likely to find much better quality miniatures in other sets like Admiral's Order. However, when you consider that you're getting 40 miniatures in this pack, it's not exactly a bad deal. The plastic is also durable, meaning it will likely survive for longer whilst taking much less damage than more intricate models made from die-cast metals or wood.
This is a point that will probably divide many of this expansion pack's potential buyers out there, and a feature that true naval warfare enthusiasts will likely pay attention to over any other aspect of the expansion pack. It is quite pleasing to say that the level of historical accuracy in the model designs is quite commendable. You'll find some well-known vessels from naval history: battleships such as the Bismarck and the USS Montana; submarines such as the U2511; cruisers such as the HMS Sheffield and Japan's Mogami; all of these vessels played a part in World War II, and you'll find them here in this expansion pack. The stat cards that come with the vessels also represent the historically accurate performance of each one, ensuring that WWII buffs get a truly authentic experience when recreating legendary battles of WWII, or even when shaping their own battles.
This is a great expansion pack if you're looking to diversify the naval forces you already own in the Axis and Allies: War at Sea base game since this expansion pack contains vessels and aircraft from Candian, British, German, Japanese, American, Soviet, Italian, and Polish forces.
True collectors may very well be put off by the plastic models of Axis and Allies sets in general, and Surface Action makes no attempt to break the cycle since the models you get here are pre-painted plastic as well. However, they are durable, historically accurate, and great in number - 40 should be enough to supplement your naval capacity quite substantially. The inclusion of rare and uncommon models also makes this a great set for collectors, even if they're not planning on playing the actual game itself.