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Subject: Dusting off the classic rss

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Christopher Lawrence
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Let it first be said that I'm largly "over" Axis & Allies. Many fun games of it over the years, but also many long, repetitive games as well. After my lovely wife bought me no less than four really cool games for Christmas, I was hoping to give some of them a whirl when a couple of friends dropped by for gaming.

Alas, it was not to be, as the lure of zombies (Mall of Horror) or Arthurian questing (Shadows over Camelot) was not enough to dissuade them from really wanting to dust off Axis & Allies for a spin. I'm a gracious host, so I gave in with only minor gnashing of teeth. I put on a soundtrack of Russian and German WWII music, plus Japanese Koto music and kodo drums. I just need some Glenn Miller and we're all set.

It was a three-player affair: Germany, Japan (me), and the Allied Powers.

If I must play A&A, I prefer to play as Japan. I typically concentrate on the land war in Asia (Vizzini would be displeased, I know) rather than a protracted naval war with the U.S. It looks terribly weak to start, but with a lot of boldness (I have that in abundance) and a bit of luck (I have none of that), Japan can be quickly on its way to building the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The game unfolded in typical A&A fashion with only a few minor variations.

Russia consolidated its forces to fend off Germany in the west and Japan in the Far East. Germany lunged into the Caucausus rather than Karelia (much to my horror), but somehow this paid off as the Russians soon responded with (pointless) counterattacks. The Allies were swiftly swept from North Africa, leaving the Germans to roam freely across the continent gathering resources.

The Imperial Japanese Navy launched Pearl Harbor II as usual, and was almost completely eliminated when my two battleships, two fighters, one carrier and one submarine achieved ZERO hits in the first wave. Although victory was achieved, there was little left after the battle. Still, Japan had accomplished its objective: setting the Americans back a few turns from threatening the home islands. Most importantly, I built an industrial complex (Hong Kong!) on the first turn.

The Pyrrhic victory in Hawaii was enough to slow down the Americans and divide the Allied strength as hoped. The Allied player launched spoiling raids from Britain against Germany, but that wasn't going to hinder the Germans. After the victory in the Caucausus, the Germans took Karelia with little effort. The panzers rolled into Moscow on turn three as Japanese forces overran Siberia and India. By that point the Axis powers had sufficient territory to claim an economic victory.

The Allied player was never able to concentrate his forces effectively to defeat either Axis power, and allowed himself to get distracted by faints to his periphery and lost sight of his objectives. In his defense, three player games are awkward and place a lot of burden on the single player (one brain vs two).

There were many 'Banzai!'s shouted during the game, certainly, but it still seems like a lot of set up and playing time for not so much fun. I'm hoping this one can gather a bit more dust before I have to break it out again.
 
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Leo Zappa
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I understand your feelings with the old Axis and Allies - play could become scripted after repeated plays. However, if you like the general idea of the game but need something fresh, I would recommend Axis and Allies Revised (2004). This revision, by Larry Harris, the original designer, definitely breathed new life into the game. The board has been modified with additional territories, impassable territories, new unit types (destroyers, artillery), and new optional rules. The modification of the territories was the most important change, as it rendered the traditional invasion routes obsolete, especially on the German-Russian front. Although this game may become scripted over time with enough playings, it currently seems very fresh even after a dozen sessions.
 
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Valdir Jorge
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Hi Christopher!

Did you play with any compensation for the Axis? I mean, did you guys start with any more pieces or money than the setup gives the Axis? I ask this because you don't mention anything like that and I can't imagine the Axis winning a game of the original A&A with the regular setup. If that happened, then the Allied player really misplayed his hand.
 
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Christopher Lawrence
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desertfox2004 wrote:
I would recommend Axis and Allies Revised (2004). This revision, by Larry Harris, the original designer, definitely breathed new life into the game.


I'll have to give this a try - thanks!
 
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Christopher Lawrence
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ValJor wrote:

Did you play with any compensation for the Axis?


The biggest compensation was the relative inexperience of the Allied player compared with me. I refrained from giving advice to my German partner as a measure of play balance, but the Allied player didn't know all the loopholes in the original game to exploit them (e.g. the Anglo-Soviet combined army, etc).

ValJor wrote:

If that happened, then the Allied player really misplayed his hand.


Definitely. As Leo mentioned above, if everyone knows what they're doing, the original version is really heavily scripted towards an 'historical' ending for the Axis.
 
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Robert Eno
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ValJor wrote:
Hi Christopher!

Did you play with any compensation for the Axis? I mean, did you guys start with any more pieces or money than the setup gives the Axis? I ask this because you don't mention anything like that and I can't imagine the Axis winning a game of the original A&A with the regular setup. If that happened, then the Allied player really misplayed his hand.


A well managed attack by the Axis can result in a victory. The strategy that was used here of a land war in Asia pushing through to moscow is the exact strategy needed. It goes to show that not attacking Russia was one of Japan's biggest mistakes in WWII. While the US was able to fight on two fronts, all the fighting was an ocean away, not in the homeland. I don't think the USSR could have survived a two front war.

 
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Leo Zappa
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I would be a bit hesitant to derive a historical lesson from Axis and Allies, especially the old version. While the Japanese invasion of Asian Russia in cooperation with the standard German invasion of European Russia does offer an excellent chance for success in the game, A&A neatly neglects the issues of logistics. The Japanese would have had to find another great army (other than the one bogged down in China since 1933) to land in Asian Russia, then move it across a vast expanse with long supply lines over territory with significant terrain obstacles and horrendous weather. Add to that that Japanese armored fighting vehicles were terribly inferior to their Russian counterparts, and it is hard to picture that a real life version of this particular A&A strategy would have been successful. The Russians also had significant forces in Asia until their spies, specifically Richard Sorge in Tokyo, confirmed that Japan was going forward with the Pearl Harbor attack - only then were these units withdrawn to aid in the defense of Moscow and the winter counteroffensive.

Now, arguing against myself somewhat, I would say that if Japan and Germany had at least communicated their plans to each other, Japan could have held off the Pearl Harbor attack a month or so, which perhaps could have forced the Soviets to hold those Siberian armies in Asia long enough to allow Hitler's panzers to have taken Moscow. However, this is still short of actually committing a Japanese invasion of Russia. Also - this ignores the fact that Japan's oil reserves were dwindling fast and if they did not seize the East Indies oil fields around the time that they did, their fleet might not have had sufficient fuel to carry out the operations at all!

In any case, the Japanese invasion of Russia is always a good A&A game strategy for the Axis, even in the newer revised version.
 
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Christopher Lawrence
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desertfox2004 wrote:
I would be a bit hesitant to derive a historical lesson from Axis and Allies


I know we're only in the first week of January but that may win the Understatement of the Year award.

Quote:
it is hard to picture that a real life version of this particular A&A strategy would have been successful


Hahah those cheap bicycle tanks of the Japanese peddling across Siberia is a really funny image, though.

Great historical context, Leo. Even though A&A is very much a game (on the 'game vs simulation' scale), I'm glad to see it provokes some good discussion on the topic.
 
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Trenton
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Robeno wrote:
A well managed attack by the Axis can result in a victory. The strategy that was used here of a land war in Asia pushing through to moscow is the exact strategy needed. It goes to show that not attacking Russia was one of Japan's biggest mistakes in WWII. While the US was able to fight on two fronts, all the fighting was an ocean away, not in the homeland. I don't think the USSR could have survived a two front war.

In the original A&A, without a modified setup, only dice can ensure an Axis victory. If the Allied players are doing what they're supposed to do, then the Axis, regardless of a Japanese push through Asia towards Moscow, will not win. That strategy has been tried by many people many times. Japan has to expend a massive amount of resources in Asia to effectively push to Moscow. The Russians only need infantry and a couple of counter attacks to fend off the Japanese. Americans and British will put sufficient pressure on Japanese and German forces, respectively, to stop them from having a one-track path to victory.

Trent
 
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