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Subject: Gearing up for a first play with my group... rss

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Anthony Lazaroski
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Hello all,

I am gearing up to play A&A for the first time with my group of 3 others. This is the first time we are playing any board game together (new group!) Basically we were looking to play something like Risk but slightly more complex...so I dug up my old copy of Axis & Allies. Seems to fit the bill.

That being said, with all new folks, I am worried about play time. How long do you figure a first game might take? 3 hours? 5 (eep)?

This hopefully will be the start of a longer standing group and I have prepared several other games for the future...just don't want some of the guys to be scared off due to long play time on this.

Thoughts?
 
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True Blue Jon
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Don't play "to the death". Once it looks inevitable, call it quits.

Otherwise, you could be looking at 5 hours.
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Anthony Lazaroski
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ahh good rule of thumb =)
 
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Leo Zappa
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Similar to what Jon said, you could simply all agree to play 3 hours, and stop at that time, and, based on the situation on the board, decide what the most likely outcome would be (e.g. overwhelming victory for one side, or perhaps a stalemate that would result in a negotiated end to the war). It's more important to enjoy the play of the game, and not focus entirely on grinding through to the bitter end. I've played A&A in one form or another (there are many versions out there) for 20 years, and I don't ever recall actually playing the game to the point where one side or the other was utterly eliminated. We've always been reasonable to call it when the outcome was obvious.

 
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Benjamin Maggi
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My four suggestions for your group:

1. Make at least one photo-copied set of rules for each person and distribute them in advance. Not having to teach everyone the rules word for word will save lots of time. Then, when you get together do a quick review and start the game.

2. Don't have the person being Russia be stuck with it alone. Pair up Russia and the UK, and have the other three people play the remaining three countries. Russia alone sucks and is boring.

3. Don't let each set of allied countries have one person dictate what the other teammate must do. Let them confer, but make it clear that each country's leader (player) controls the destiny of that country.

4. Set the game up in advance. This alone can take about 15 minutes per person if you have all 4 setting up their own countries, OR about 45-60 minutes if you do it all yourself. However, the advantage of having it ready to go when they show up is that as you go over the rules they can picture things on the board. It also lets them plan their strategies out while waiting for others to arrive.

5. (Bonus) Make sure that you have other things to do while people take their turns. Usually, for unexperience players, have turns last 20 minutes a person isn't unusual, and for all five countries to get one turn in can take over 90 minutes! Bring a book, being a Gameboy, bring some food.

HAVE FUN! It is an amazing game!
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Mike Bauer
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In game theory, many wargames like Axis & Allies utilize a "slippery slope" game play (in contrast to Eurogames that use "perpetual comeback" so that players rarely or never get eliminated until the game ends...Power Grid is a good example of this)

If a game has slippery slope, it means that falling behind causes you to fall even further behind.

For example, imagine that every time your team scored in basketball that the opponent’s team lost a player. In that game, falling behind is doubly bad because each basket counts for score AND it makes the opposing team less able to score points of its own. The actual game of basketball does not have this screwy feature though, so real basketball does not have slippery slope. Scoring in real basketball puts you closer to winning but does not at all hamper your opponents’ ability to score.

Slippery slope is another name for positive feedback, a loop that amplifies itself as in a nuclear reaction. Slippery slope is usually a bad property in a game. If a game has a powerful slippery slope effect, that means that when one player gets a small early lead, he is more likely to get an even bigger lead, which in turn makes him more likely still to get yet an even bigger lead, and so on. In a game like this, the real victor of the game is decided early on, and the rest of the game is futile to play out (or to watch).

Chess (obviously a good game, despite this anti-climactic property) has a slippery slope. In Chess, when a player loses a piece, his ability to attack, defend, and control space on the board is slightly reduced.

This is why there are a lot of forfeits in Chess. Good players don't actually play out the pointless part of the endgame when they recognize the opponent will definitely win. Chess players would say that forfeits being a regular part of the game is fine and not awkward, but it’s a disappointing quality compared to games without slippery slope. Still, Chess is a pretty good game anyway.

So, if you see the USSR player conquer the capital of Germany and take all his money (IPCs in hand), it's going to be that much more difficult for the remaining Axis player (Japan) to come back from behind and win the game.
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Anthony Lazaroski
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Thanks for all the great replies! Didn't figure to get many folks weighing in on the topic.

Seeing how this is a newly formed gaming group and a renewed interest for me, sounds like putting a stoppage time on the first game will be worthwhile.

We definitely will have beer and pizza to occupy our time =)

I was planning on setting up the game a night before, so that should help, and making a few copies of the rules is a good idea, though I have missed that window of opportunity. Maybe for the next game night should this one be successful.

I hope to get a few plays of A&A in over the next 2 months, but I already have the next few games lined up to like Conquest of the Empire, Age of Empire will be next in line...

I'm excited as is the 3 other guys (one has no idea what to expect as he has never even played Risk, but I am hopeful that he will enjoy himself). Just guys being geeky guys with drinks and food. Can't ask for much more than that as long as everyone is enjoying themselves. =)

Thanks again for the useful tips!
 
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Benjamin Maggi
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A couple more suggestions:

1. Get extra dice from other games ready. This game has battles with lots of units against each other, and rolling for 20 infantry with 6 dice will take a long time. More dice = good!

2. Get a second color of chips or something if you have them. Gray chips go very fast. I happen to have blue and white ones that I found somewhere, which helps make the chips last longer.

3. DON'T let your friends roll on the table if they are the type to send dice all over the place. Having loose dice go through the board will be a disaster in trying to repair. Thankfully, the box top works well for capturing dice rolls.

4. Instead of using a time limit (3 hours), use a turn limit (each country gets 3 turns). A time limit isn't fair to Japan and USA, which have to go last, because they might not get their second or third turns. Additionally, the tension will grow if people know it is their last turn and that motivation to "go for it" will break up any attrition stalemate lines that usually form between the Russian/German ground units, and the Japanese/USA naval units.

Finally, if you see Russia even reach for something like a Battleship on his first turn and you are allied with him, hit him over the head. If Russia buys a Battleship on its first turn, the game is over!
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Anthony Lazaroski
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More dice? Actually after unboxing the game for the first time in like 20 years, there were a crapton (a new metric measurement) of dice in there... must have been for that same reason you mentioned =)

Yeah a designated rolling area will be ideal...dice-induced chaos would be bad.

Maybe a turn limit is ideal...is 3 the ideal? That seems short to me. 5 maybe?
 
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Leo Zappa
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mantooth012 wrote:
More dice? Actually after unboxing the game for the first time in like 20 years, there were a crapton (a new metric measurement) of dice in there... must have been for that same reason you mentioned =)

Yeah a designated rolling area will be ideal...dice-induced chaos would be bad.

Maybe a turn limit is ideal...is 3 the ideal? That seems short to me. 5 maybe?


I would recommend a turn limit of no less than 5. Any fewer, and I would fear that the game will not have really developed yet and it would be difficult to make a case for who would likely win.
 
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Benjamin Maggi
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As for dice, I think the games came with 12 total (6 for each side).

As for my suggested 3 turns, I think that this number isn't a good number UNLESS you want the game to end in around 3 hours. In that case, I doubt you will all get 5 turns in. I doubt you will all get 4 turns in. Hence, 3 turns.

In my games, usually by the end of turn 3 countries know how they will fare in the game. By that time, the German/Russian battles have taken place with maybe a last assault on Moscow left. In the Pacific, both navies are either eliminated OR stacked up facing each other off in a game to see who will bridge the 2-space gap between them first. That being said, it isn't an ideal place to call it quits. To play more of the game requires more time. However, I still stand by my statement that to allow some countries one turn more then other countries really messes things up.

As for Great Britain, they don't seem to do much in my games within the first two turns except attach the German navy and work on Africa. To call it quits for them after turn 3 would leave them very dis-satisfied in my opinion.

One solution is to play it in two sessions. After 3 hours, write down everything that is on the board and have SOMEONE FROM THE ENEMY ALLIANCE verify it and sign it. Then, resume the game at a later point. I learned this game in High School when it was actually a class offered... play Axis and Allies in School! It was during a "free block" when non-traditional classes were offered. This was to teach history. We would meet twice a week and get 90 minutes of play in. That meant we had to set up, play, and break down in that time. It can be done. And I am not kidding when I suggest you require someone from the opposite alliance to verify your break-down list! :)

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Anthony Lazaroski
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So just as a follow up.

I set up the game ahead of time as well as read the rules so it would be an easier explanation.

Before we started we set the turn limit to 5. Then we played.

Game flow wasn't bad after the first turn or so. I ended up being Germany, and by the 5th turn I had already claimed all of Africa though the US had just landed troops on the west coast and set up a factory. I had also with the help of Japan, managed to wipe out all of Russia and capture their capital.

It was a unanimous decision to crown Axis the victor...albeit not a super strong one.

Hoping to bring this to the table at least for one long go this next game session now that everyone has gotten their hands dirty.

Thanks for all the ideas gang as they really helped.
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