Once again, Stuart “The Judge” Platt steps up to check out another game. This time a copy of the newest version of Axis & Allies landed on his gaming table, but how did his experience of this long-running franchise go down?
I would imagine most in our hobby will be aware of Axis and Allies. This, along with Risk, is the more mainstream face of area control games, also known as the ‘dudes on a map’ genre. A&A is a legendary war game with a somewhat fanatical fan-base who analyse each new release and modification of the rules with a passionate scrutiny normally reserved for Games Workshop’s cash cows. Where would a beginner start? How does a rank amateur with no previous experience get into this legendary series? Well, their 2012 release claims to be a beginner version – let’s see what Wizards of the Coast hype has to say:
1941: THE WORLD IS AT WAR!
Quick and Convenient: Axis & Allies 1941 is designed to be set up and played more quickly than any previous A&A game. In essence, this is a simplified A&A experience that will introduce players to the A&A mechanics and play style. Play time runs between 1.5 to 2 hours.
Set up was pretty easy – once you identify the minimal differences between the miniature boats that are provided for each of the 5 factions (US, UK, Russia, China and Germany are the players in this scene) the board is laid out and ready to go.
Game flow consist of players committing resources to buy troops which will arrive at the end of that turn, then moving every unit on the board. Firstly those that are fighting leading to a whirlwind of dice and retreat or destruction, then your models who are not fighting will move. Next, reinforcements are added and you hand over to the next country.
Sounds simple enough, and it is – but it’s also very, very, very slow and tedious.
As you have a relatively limited amount of troops and resources, every move you make is vitally important. Also, because of the irregularities of dice, you feel compelled to over-commit to each combat to make sure you come out on top. So you’re pretty much doing ONE important thing each turn, and moving the rest of your troops round to defend and you’re finished. For a very long time.
As everyone else plans out their turn, executes and rolls numerous dice in a tedious, outmoded and luck heavy combat system, you sit and watch and wait and because the board can change so much between one turn to another, any sense of planning your next move is pointless.
In our playtests, people left the room between turns to check on other games, make a drink and read the unabridged Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
I gained NO pleasure from this gaming experience whatsoever. I wanted to feel like I was playing with toy soldiers within a framework of rules feel fast, fun and fair. Instead A&A is an antiquated, rigid, boring mess of a system that doesn’t allow fun to come to the surface.
So what’s wrong? Well, gaming has moved on in the last 30 years and no one appears to have told A&A. The combat system is awkward, fiddly, time consuming and ultimately only marginally better than flipping a coin. Also, the current trend for the micro-turn appears to have spoiled us. Modern games (both in the Euro and Ameritrash styles) now lean towards shorter turns and a faster pace. Axis and Allies is such a dinosaur in this respect. It neither fulfils a quick, fast, war gaming fix (something that Memoir ’44, for example, does much better) or is deep or strategic enough to satisfy the heavier war gamer crowd. It just doesn’t work.
Let me help you out, WOTC, and rewrite your hype for you.
1941: THE WORLD AT SNORE!
Slow and Impotent: Axis & Allies 1941 is badly designed to be set up and played more slowly than any game ever. In essence, this is a tedious A&A experience that will introduce players to the A&A mechanics and play style. Play time runs between forever and the end of existence itself (which may come as a relief.)
The original Axis & Allies was designed by Larry Harris back in 1981, but the version Stuart looked at was released in 2012 by WOTC. If you’re feeling somewhat masochistic, Gameslore have it in stock for a shade over £20.