Axis and Allies and its Offspring - the Box of Toys Invasion!
Leo Zappa
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I wanted to write an ode to the oft disrespected, much maligned red-haired stepchildren of the gaming world - the Box of Toys genre of war(like) games popularized by Axis and Allies. However, I really don't know what an "ode" is, so I'm making this list instead.

Ah, the Box of Toys sub-niche of games...considered too lengthy and unelegant by Euro gamers, dismissed by hardcore wargamers as too light and fluffy. Where is the respect? Where is the love? Well, I'm here to proclaim loudly "I LIKE AXIS AND ALLIES AND ALL OF ITS OFFSPRING (well, almost all of its offspring). Give me a war to fight, a map of some part of the world (any world) to fight over, and a bunch of plastic warmachines to fight with, and I'm happy. Oh, and throw in a bucket of dice for good measure.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with a Euro - quick playing, slick mechanics, gorgeous playing pieces - that's fine stuff. And hardcore, OURAH! hex and counter affairs, love'em - the counters packed with numeric information and arcane symbols, maps with countless hexes, rule sets that are as thick as a New York City phonebook with subsections of rules numbered 4.1.12.a.2.x - used to play these until the wee hours of the morning.

But nothing does it for me (so far as gaming is concerned) than the Axis and Allies model - area control, plastic pieces, relatively simple rules, 3-7 hour playing time. I can finish World War II in 6 hours with Axis and Allies - try doing that with World in Flames!

Anyway - here is my list of my Box of Toys - area control - plastic soldier games - feel free to comment and add as you see fit! Also - there have been numerous earlier geeklists assemble that were similar in many respects to this one, and if anyone want to post links to these, be my guest - the more information, the better!
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1. Board Game: Axis & Allies [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1220]
Leo Zappa
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Ah - the one that started it all for me! Or more precisely, restarted it all for me! I had played wargames since I was 10 - the old Avalon Hill classics like Waterloo, Battle of the Bulge, Midway, and others. But about the time I turned 18, I went off to college and discovered partying! So much for gaming (or studying, or anything else) for the next four years. Years later, I was walking past a toy store in Pittsburgh and saw Axis and Allies in the window! What a cool looking game - little plastic army men, and fighter planes, and battleships, and tanks! Had to have it! Broke it out with my old wargaming buddies and we all fell in love (with the game, not each other - yuk)! After many, many plays, the old gal started to get a bit too familiar, but then!
 
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2. Board Game: Axis & Allies: Europe [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1818]
Leo Zappa
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What a great idea - reinvent classic A&A with a Europe only version! And new pieces! Wow - everybody now has nation-specific pieces - Stukas for Germany, P-38's for the Americans, Spitfires for the Brits! And now, there were more regions and special rules like convoy boxes - now German U-boats actually meant something! This was like getting a playable-in-one-sitting Third Reich, minus 30 pages of rules (and I LIKE 3R)! But wait, there's more...
 
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3. Board Game: Axis & Allies: Pacific [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:1683]
Leo Zappa
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Well, naturally, if you are going to do a European expansion, it only follows that a Pacific version should also come forth, and so it did! A built-in mechanism puts a finite time limit on the game, and the Americans have to move with great urgency in order to win! Some claim the game is broken with Japan able to concentrate ahistorically on taking out India to win - we've played a number of times and that only worked once, but even so, we can play with a modified Japanese set up provided by Avalon Hill to mitigate this issue - a great, great game!
 
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4. Board Game: Axis & Allies [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1091]
Leo Zappa
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Coming full circle, the best features of the European and Pacific versions were harvested to inject the grand old classic itself with new life, and boy did they succeed! The new Axis and Allies is nearly perfect! Victory cities, variable levels of victory, cool bits, loads of optional rules to spice things up - Woo Hoo!
 
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5. Board Game: Axis & Allies: D-Day [Average Rating:6.42 Overall Rank:2190]
Leo Zappa
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Avalon Hill's relentless push to maximize their A&A brand led to this interesting game, using a much modified Axis and Allies system to simulate a portion of the war at the operational level, rather than the earlier strategic games. For the most part, I think they did a nice job, even if the system is not quite as well suited for modeling this level of warfare. Hey, what the heck, you get black SS Panther tanks - panzer pushing at its finest!
 
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6. Board Game: The American Civil War [Average Rating:5.68 Overall Rank:14014]
Leo Zappa
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While playing all of these iterations of Axis and Allies, I stumbled accross a new company touting an A&A-like American Civil War game, entitled originally enough "The American Civil War". So, what was up with this "Eagle Games" company? Opening the box revealed a stupendous (there's a word not used nearly enough) treasure trove of bits! Awesome plastic soldiers, cavalry (and these ones actually stood up by themselves, not like the ones we played with as kids), and cannons, and HUGE map! So, how was the game? Not bad at all, but truth be told, the rules did seem a bit hazy at times, but (in contrast to many opinions on this fine website) we never really had cause to throw up our hands. A darn good first entry by Eagle.
 
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7. Board Game: War! Age of Imperialism [Average Rating:5.60 Overall Rank:13399]
Leo Zappa
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We all decided that Eagle's first attempt was good enough to merit another go, so I plunked down the cash and picked up War! In the Age of Imperialism. Even MORE cool bits! And the game mechanism provided ultimate replayability - each territory had a hidden resource and hidden "native" army (the thought of grass-skirted, bone-thru-nose "natives" prowling the forests of Prussia is one that I can never get out of my head). You could spend more time fighting pesky native contingents than other players, but such great fun. The book-keeping could get a bit tedious, but being the industrious gamers that we are, we created simple scorekeeping sheets to make the accounting easy!
 
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8. Board Game: Attack! Expansion [Average Rating:6.54 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.54 Unranked]
Leo Zappa
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We had to have more, and so Attack! was next. By this time, I was on BGG and reading all the reviews I could, so everything I saw told me that to make this game really shine, you had to have the Expansion, so I bought both at the same time. This is quite a game when you are using the expansion. Each player gets assigned a political system, such as Communist, Fascist, Democracy, or Monarchy. This time, the book keeping was improved by using cards for controlled resources. Many cards in the game, and many plastic bits. If there is a downside to an Eagle's game, it is the preparation prior to the first game - unlike the Axis and Allies games, the Eagle pieces come still attached to the sprues. Hundreds of soldiers, tanks, planes, ships, cannons - all clipped, cut, and twisted off - hours and hours! Oh the pain! But it's worth it!
 
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9. Board Game: Napoleon in Europe [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:3053]
Leo Zappa
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Couldn't resist - this is a relatively recent pick-up and we haven't played it yet (and, as it is still in shrinkwrap, I haven't invested the requisite hours of army-sprue separation!) It's got all of the Eagle trademarks - bits, big maps, the whole shooting match, and the Napoleonic theme which I love - can't wait to play!
 
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10. Board Game: Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame [Average Rating:5.60 Overall Rank:14068]
Leo Zappa
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Well, why not? I got the second edition, I loved the computer game (I am a sucker for any empire building game - I STILL play Master of Orion II - eleven years after its release!). Long game - that' fine, bring it on!!!
 
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11. Board Game: Ikusa [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:713]
Leo Zappa
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When Axis and Allies was released in its plastic soldier form (as opposed to the original Nova cardboard counter verion) by Milton Bradley, it was the first of their "Gamemaster" series of battle games. Samurai Swords (also originally known as "Shogun") was another in this series, and may be the best of the bunch. I bought it new in the store (Toys 'R' Us) and our group loved it! Building up your Armies, increasing their experience levels, and sending them crashing into each other in a bid to consolidate your grip on feudal Japan - now that's fun. And don't forget the bidding for turn order, the hiring of mercenary Ronin, and, of course - NINJAS!
 
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12. Board Game: Conquest of the Empire [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:3238]
Leo Zappa
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My first interest in history as a child was the Roman Empire! I remember the colorful and detailed maps that were contained in the World Encyclopedia that showed the relentless expansion and eventual fall of the Empire (do they still make hard-bound encyclopedias any more? I hope so!) I missed this game when it was in the stores, but thanks to BGG for exposing me to this game and eBay for making it possible for me to buy it, I now have it. Are the catapults a bit problematic - yeah, but since everyone who plays understands how they work, we usually see a balanced arms race to obtain these weapons and for the most part, no one player ever corner's the market on the deadly rock-throwers. The problem of some of the starting positions can be more troublesome, but we have some house rules to help that situation as well. A point about these Box of Toys type games - they are very well suited to the introduction of house rules. There are people who have written extensive sets of additional rules and variants, and there's never a problem that can't be solved or at least mitigated by a quick-thinking house rule writer!
 
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13. Board Game: Fortress America [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1377]
Leo Zappa
United States
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The last of the original Gamemasters series that I wanted, I had to buy two copies on eBay in order to cobble together one complete game, but now I have extra bits! (game bits, obviously!) The theme seems so cool - just oozes "Red Dawn" with cheesy Patrick Swayze lines! And yes, I have the "Saddam" box - why did they ever change it to that generic looking warlord anyway?
 
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14. Board Game: History of the World [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:629]
Leo Zappa
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Back to Avalon Hill. When History of the World first came out, published by the old original Avalon Hill, it was a cardboard counter based game. Seemed nice enough, but I could never get excited enough to buy it. But wait - what's this? The reanimated corpse of the Avalon Hill, resurrected by the necromancers otherwise known as Hasbro, re-released History of the World! And now, YES - PLASTIC BITS! That's all it took - I had to have it (yes, I'm that easy AND that shallow). Build an empire, get crushed, but that' OK, you get another round, and another, and more! A nice design where no player is ever truly out of the running.
 
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15. Board Game: Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1770]
Leo Zappa
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Aliquippa
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Oh no, now I've gone and done it - I've mentioned Risk! On BGG, this is akin to Linus giving a speech about the Great Pumpkin on the eve of the class president election - never a good thing. But with Lord of the Ring Risk, much that was not to like about the original was vastly improved. The game was now not necessarily about eliminating all the other players, just finishing with the most territories. A clever mechanism to provide a finite playing time (the movement of the ring to Mt. Doom) was installed. Card play was made more interesting, and the artwork was very nicely done. A very solid and fun game, but be warned - you MUST buy the Trilogy Edition - the first edition was missing Mordor! For HEAVEN'S SAKE, YOU CAN'T HAVE A LORD OF THE RINGS GAME WITHOUT MORDOR!
 
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16. Board Game: Risk: Star Wars – The Clone Wars Edition [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:3860]
Leo Zappa
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Aliquippa
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What Risk did for Lord of the Rings, now they did with Star Wars. More interesting twists in the rules of the original game were added, including more options with the card play - you could turn that set in for reinforcements, OR maybe you want to buy a Trade Federation Battleship? Hum???
 
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17. Board Game: War of the Ring (First Edition) [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:84]
Leo Zappa
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Wow - a definite advancement in the genre! The sheer attention to detail results in a game dripping with theme. The action dice combined with the card play system is innovative and provides great tension. Is the play scripted - I don't really think so, although it does seem that the most obvious approach for the Free Peoples is to get that Ring in the Crack of Doom - it is difficult, though not impossible, to go toe-to-toe militarily with the Shadow. I have seen plenty of session reports that have noted Free Peoples' military victories however, so it can be done! And come on, you get big plastic Oliphants for gods sake - how can you NOT love such a game!

Well - that's my start on this list, my "ode" to the big, dumb, goofy, Box of Toys games that are far and away the favorite of my gaming group and for good reason - they are FUN!
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18. Board Game: Risk [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:15593]
Robert Wesley
Nepal
Aberdeen
Washington
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surprise With the latest versions of this, you'll have some 'Troops' of Cavalry, Infantry, & Artillery 'bits'.


thar's TANKS in that last 'one'!
 
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19. Board Game: Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:577]
John Bennett
United Kingdom
Coventry
West Midlands
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MULE - 1983 - never surpassed!
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Queen's Gambit - another from AH.
Very good game with three simultaneous battles going on - popular with my 11-yr old
 
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20. Board Game: Broadsides and Boarding Parties [Average Rating:6.16 Overall Rank:4424]
William Paris
United Kingdom
Straiton
Midlothian
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I believe that this was the first of the MB Gamemaster series and its very hard to find (in decent shape at least).

I've always liked the minitures type boardgames and would love it if they would make the likes for a game like ASL or SL. But, with that said, the sheer number of pieces and the different type would make this sort of game offering pretty costly.
 
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21. Board Game: World in War: Combined Arms 1939-1945 [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:6440]
Jonas Gustafsson

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This one introduces some kind of weird wheel. But has lots of bits none the less.
 
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22. Board Game: Broadside [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:5488]
Darrell Hanning
United States
Jacksonville
Florida
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I think what actually precipitated the "invasion" preceded A&A by a number of years - MB's original "American Heritage" series.

This also included Dogfight and the first game named Battle Cry...
 
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23. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:114] [Average Rating:7.55 Unranked]
Paul Day
Wales
Llandrindod Wells
Powys
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No Memoir '44 or Battle Cry? You suprise me!

You can have all the plasticky goodness and have several good games in one evening (even with beer dulled senses)

You're my kind of gamer - bits rool OK! (as long as the game's good too)

 
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24. Board Game: Battle Masters [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:2748]
Dana Zinsmeister
United States
College Station
Texas
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Piles of figures especially if you start combining sets. The rules tended toward the simple and the game seemed to have quite a bit of luck involved but it sure looks great.
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25. Board Game: Conflict [Average Rating:5.29 Overall Rank:14453]
 
Dana Zinsmeister
United States
College Station
Texas
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Spaceships vs. the Great White Fleet? This was from 1964 and catered to a growing desire to turn games into boxes full of toys. Perhaps in this case the choice of toys made little sense but it was nice to see the Monopoly token ships put to good use.
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