Monday, October 01, 2007

Axis & Allies - Trial Game Review

As I said at the time, for my birthday this year I was given the game of Axis and Allies. Haven't got it together enough to play it until earlier tonight, when Shaun, Paul, Wayne and Myself gave it a go.

None of us had played it before. We didn't finish our tiral game due to the late hour- I suspect it would have reached the agreed 'minor' victory condition within the hour if we hadn't stopped.

The mapboard and associated playing aids are utilitarian, sturdily enough built for the purpose. Rules aren't totally clear at several points, due to their being a little loose in their definitions by my professional opinion. The numerous plastic pieces representing armour, aircraft, infantry, battleships etc look good on the board but they all get a bit fiddly when you have large congregations of forces, besides looking cluttered. They do, however, serve their purpose quite well.

The game is, to a wargamer, easy to understand. A grognard would call this a 'light' wargame. A gamer, not familiar with classic wargames, might look at it as 'medium', and a non 'serious' gamer might call it 'difficult'. That would be my observation from watching tonight's trial game. I think it pretty well took us the four hours we were playing to settle the rules.

I suspect the fixed historical starting positions will lead to a finite number of replays for all but the most keen fans. I can imagine a limited number of ways any particular game could go from the beginning, with no doubt several 'best' strategies which would further constrict the game's iterative facility. Of course, the same could be said about such classics as Diplomacy and they certainly haven't suffered from the experience.

In tonight's game I was Germany and Wayne was Japan. I attacked through the caucasus to take Calcutta on my fourth turn, while my central european force swung ultimately over Leningrad. Paul (Russia and America) used his huge yank navies to tie up Wayne, and to transport an army from the East Coast of the US to invade German held france. In his Russian guise, Paul weathered the fascist hammer blows, developing missile technologies early in the game and subsequently setting missile batteries in Moscow with which he could hit german production facilities.

Shaun (Britain) spent his game making small and strategically insignificant raids with his fleets and airforces, while being rolled up by german forces through North Africa and into the Near East. Japan attacked pearl harbour, and successfully conquered Oahu to add to his conquests from Shanghai to New Guinea. At game end, he was threatening San Francisco.

There were mixed reactions to the game, with three of four of us likely to play it again. That's not to bad for a game that fits firmly within the dicefest subcategory of the 'classic wargame' genre.

It's nice to see the game is published under the trademark of Avalon Hill, the company that has produced so many of the wargames that I have played over the years. I went to look at their website and was very disappointed to see that with the company being bought and sold a fair bit over the last ten years, it has ended up in the hands of those that make Magic the Gathering cards and D&D, and has had its catalogue gutted to include not one classic wargame beyond 'Diplomacy'. Such a loss!