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Subject: Very cool-- 'Nuff Said rss

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Moshe Callen
Israel
Jerusalem
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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1. Introduction

Well, okay, in spite of the title of this piece, if I am to do a review, I do need say more than just very cool. One of the reasons I am writing this review is because as of this writing, all but one of the existing reviews come from the period when this game was very new, and that review I strongly disagree with. While I too got this game when it was new (actually as a bonus from my boss of the time) I have not previously felt I've played it often enough to genuinely review the game.

As one might be able to tell from this list, I am and have been for years a big fan of the Axis & Allies series. So, when this game came out, I just had to get it-- in spite of then US$100 cost added to shipping the monster here. As it turned out, my boss in the company I then worked for (who was located in the States even though I am not) was planning to fly here and so I asked her if I could buy the game, have it shipped to her and then she would bring it with her; of course, I had no idea at the time of the size of the game. My boss (a lady I had good reason to like) insisted on buying the game for me as a bonus. She delivered it to my desk when she arrived in the office, and I found it when I came to work. Therefore this game has lots of good mental associations.

Nevertheless, this game stands well on its own merits. The game can be described as a re-development of the intrinsic concept of the classic game Axis & Allies of the Gamemaster Series. (Yes, I'm aware of the Nova Game Designs edition.) Some therefore are inclined to say that the designer has used many years of experience to create a game to supersede previous game of the series, but I think that view misguided because the games are markedly different games. No, this game does not replace the classic game in my mind, but I do think the game destined ot become a classic in its own right.

2. Rules summary and components overview


The rules can be downloaded freely from the WotC site here. I do not intend to discuss all the rules or components in detail, but I will highlight the portions needed to understand the basics of gameplay.

The game consists of two scenarios, one dates 1941 and the other dates 1942. In the 1941 scenario, Germany plays first and in the 1942 scenario Japan does.
The board is marked for the 1941 scenario and so the 1942 scenario has some territories starting with control markers on them. The board itself consists of three separate panels. The sole complaint with the board IMO is that some borders are difficult to see, but I've found this has much less effect on gameplay than I would have expected. The set-up cards, which have information of the reverse side as well, are marked for each scenario; so is the information on the other side of the card where need be.



The battle board, IPC tracking chart, control markers and research tokens can be seen below.

The units are the usual quality for an A&A game. This game is the first A&A game with six powers, three for both Axis and Allies. Thus the Axis powers are Germany, Japan and Italy, and the allied powers are as usual in the series the Soviet Union, UK and US. For those who like such things, the units are country specific, although frankly I would prefer an abstracted form constant across the countries for functionality and simplicity. Although I can distinguish them, the colors for the Italian, Soviet and Japanese units are rather close together.


Research has been made an optional rule officially, but the system has been markedly revamped. Players buy research tokens which can be kept and one die is rolled for each research token. When a successful development is made, all research markers are discarded and the player involved chooses either of two charts listing possibilities. Which advance a player achieves is then determined by a roll of the die.

As usual in the series, a player buys units at the start of his turn but places them at the end of the turn. All units must be placed at an IC that player has controlled from the beginning of the turn, but the number of units which can be placed on a territory (or in the sea next to it as well) cannot exceed the IPC value of the territory-- even for home territories. Strategic bombing raids (SBRs) additionally restrict the number of units which can be placed in the sense that a successful SBR results in damage markers placed under the IC. Each IC can accommodate one unit less for each damage marker until the number because zero, although an IC can take damage markers up to twice the total of the territory's IPC value. Removing a damage marker costs one IPC and must be done at the start of one's turn.

Then the standard A&A sequence of combat movement, combat and then non-combat movement occurs. One thing player may note is that subs can submerge rather than fire in the absence of an enemy destroyer, but the defense value of a submarine is reduced to one and artillery can support only a single infantry. More importantly, transports have neither attack nor defense value and can only be taken as casualties last.

Winning the game requires controlling 15 of the 18 victory cities at the end of the round; the total number of victory cities by all powers on either the Axis or Allies side is used.

National objectives do not count toward victory per se but allow a country to receive extra IPCs for accomplishing certain goals, usually related to control of certain territories by either the Axis powers or Allies respectively together as the case may be.

Finally, like Axis & Allies: Pacific, the American player controls China (expanded into several territories) which acts as a separate power that cannot earn IPCs or build units other than infantry, those units also being limited where and how they can move. The Axis players can however earn IPCs for taking Chinese territory.

3. Gameplay

When the system of victory cities (VCs) was introduced in A&AR, I had strong misgivings. They seemed to shift the focus of the game and not in a good way. Yet this game got the balance right. Admittedly economic victory no longer exists, but the game works without it.

The combination of having national objectives which get significant extra IPCs, winning the game by control of victory cities and still having the IPC values associated with territories creates a hierarchy in the importance of territories which differs for each player. Paramount are territories including victory cities, and especially within those one wants to control territories with one's own or enemy capitals. National objectives add another tier and finally the territories gain their basic IPC values. Thematically it works and more importantly as a game it works.

While Japan does not get special advantage from taking Chinese territory, the Chinese are a hostile force sitting on Japan's doorstep, and taking Chinese territory also gains IPCs Japan vitally needs.

Italy plays a vital role IMO by letting the Axis concentrate on the Mediterranean, including southern Europe and North Africa, in a way that in previous games of the series the Axis have rarely been able to do.

The Germans have a longer path and more territories to deal with in their front with the Soviets. Meanwhile they can't ignore the very real possibility of Anglo-American invasion or North Africa and/or western Europe.

The Soviets are forced to make more thoughtful decisions in their tactical purchases than simply buying as many infantry as possible, but this by no means indicates that the Soviets cannot hold. They just have to be smarter about it.

The British control a significant number of VCs and territories which either potentially would give the Axis bonus IPCs or which gain the Allies bonus IPCs. The trick is knowing how to hold these. Personally I favor building up India and/or Australia including an IC-- so long as one does not hand an IC to the Japanese in the process. A careful balancing act is required.

Finally the Americans have a genuine reason to go island hopping. Yet their role of striking hope at Japan and distracting the Axis by invading North Africa and Europe from the west.

Where research advances come in is pushing the balance of power in the desired direction and mopping up if one chooses to play out to the actual conclusion. In my games this rarely happens. For example, the last game I played (1942 scenario) saw the Soviets annihilated and the British marginalized to being only able to play defensively, and yet the Axis only had 11 VCs because the Americans were doing well in the Pacific.

Finally the two scenarios differ in relative starting balance of the Axis and the Allies respectively. For those who think the Axis too powerful, the 1941 scenario starts with the Axis having remarkably few VCs. For those who think (like myself) the game has a shifting balance which overall favors the Allies if anyone, the 1942 scenario offers a more balanced beginning. The difference of the turn order in the scenarios also makes a vital difference.

If short, this game presents players with a very different war than the original because the goals are different and yet this game is recognizably A&A on the global scale at the same time. This game like the original is classic. Moreover the two are by no means mutually exclusive; I own, play and enjoy both games.
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Jan Ozimek
Denmark
Aalborg
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Must resist M:tG. Boardgames are my methadone :)
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whac3 wrote:
...
Finally the two scenarios differ in relative starting balance of the Axis and the Allies respectively. For those who think the Axis too powerful, the 1941 scenario starts with the Axis having remarkably few VCs. For those who think (like myself) the game has a shifting balance which overall favors the Allies if anyone, the 1942 scenario offers a more balanced beginning. The difference of the turn order in the scenarios also makes a vital difference.
...


Actually most (experienced) players think that the Axis are favoured in the 1941 scenario. They may be holding fewer victory cities at the beginning but the composition and position of their forces means that they will steam roll the Allies for the first turns, quicklly making up for the Allies' head start in VC's. Still it is an interesting scenario to play as either side, as important decisions are also made on the retreat.

Anyway, thanks for a nice review.

The A&A environment has changed quite a bit since Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition came out, but I think Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition has aged very well.

The entry level ("default") A&A game has been updated from Axis & Allies Revised to Axis & Allies: 1942, and the latter has adopted many of the rules improvements that were introduced with the Anniversary edition, even though it is greatly reduced in size and complexity.

Also an even BIGGER global game has been released, as the two newest A&A games can be combined into one MASSIVE game. (Axis & Allies Pacific 1940 and Axis & Allies Europe 1940). Still I think the Anniversary edition has it's place in between the accessability of Axis & Allies: 1942 and the crazy playtime of said combined game.
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Jan van der Laan
Netherlands
Leeuwarden
Friesland
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ozimek wrote:
Also an even BIGGER global game has been released, as the two newest A&A games can be combined into one MASSIVE game. (Axis & Allies Pacific 1940 and Axis & Allies Europe 1940). Still I think the Anniversary edition has it's place in between the accessability of Axis & Allies: 1942 and the crazy playtime of said combined game.


To me AA50 is the "pocketsize" AAG40 (sounds odd considering the measurements of the AA50 box) for its "portability" and people with less tablespace can still enjoy a great (and big) game.I must admit, since AAG40 (AAP40 + AAE40) came out AA50 hasn't hit my table.
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John M
United States
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Thanks for the review - my group still favors AA50th over the new Global A&A, as the global has veered too distant from the original A&A and has some serious balance issues (and it takes a lot, lot longer to play).
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Chad Pethybridge
Australia
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I really love the new weapons tech trees. And the fact that money spent is not necessarily wasted as you can continue to roll in the following turns after you have purchased weapon development points.
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