Board Wargame Review
Overview/BackgroundThe original Axis and Allies board game by Milton Bradley is one of the classic beer and pretzel wargames of the last 10 or so years, but the new Axis and Allies game revised by Avalon Hill is better. Starting in early '42 at the point that Germany is at the gates of Moscow and Stalingrad, and the Japanese are beginning their expansion across the Pacific, the game allows for the two Axis players and three Ally players: Russia, Britain, and the US. But two players can play if one is both Germany and Japan and the other the allies.
SystemFor those unfamiliar with this game, it normally takes 3-5 hours to play, and involves strategic as well as tactical decisions. Players receive income according to how many land masses they control, and with that money they buy weapons (fighters, bombers, tanks, infantry, artillery, and 5 types of ships) or spend points for the chance to improve their weapons (longer range planes, better firepower, etc). The game begins with each player's armies and navies at specific positions around the globe, and then each country makes purchases and initiates combat in their turn.
The original game had a number of problems that players got around by revising the rules. For example, in MB's game, Russia had about a 50-50 chance of defeating Germany if the Russians attacked right away from their strong initial position. Sort of if Stalin had attacked Germany a couple of months before Hitler did. Players had to create a "no first turn Russian attack" house rule to prevent this unrealistic event. But the new game fixes this issue in an elegant way by creating two territories where the one Karelian territory was. Thus Russia cannot strike deep into the Volksland because they are removed by one space.
Avalon Hill's new game has, in fact, more land and ocean territories than MB's did, which plays out well because it forces the pace to be a little more strategic. Another unrealistic rule of the original game that was frequently ruled out by afficionados was that of allowing bombers to attack with three dice. Provided the player spends the money and gets lucky, one possible weapon development was to allow bombers to attack with three rather than one die. In the current revision, if a player gets super bombers they can only attack with two dice, which is what the house rule became. Three-dice bombers proved too devastating, it would ruin a game.
ChangesRather than provide several paragraphs describing the current game's changes, here are a few of the most important differences between the two games in bullet form: more land and sea territories
SummaryThe group I wargame with unanimously vote that this Avalon Hill version is much superior to the original Milton Bradley game. AH listened to the fans and retained many of the common house rules that players instituted to make the first game play better. In addition, however, AH has put in a number of interesting options that take their game into new arenas. We are glad to see Avalon Hill reasserting its creativity in the board game marketplace. About the only other comment I would make is that we also hope AH creates a computer version modeled after this new Axis and Allies. For more information, go to www.avalonhill.com
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