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Axis & Allies

I have been watching the phenomenal YouTube channel "World War Two" - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP1AejCL4DA7jYkZAELRhHQ - which has been covering the events of the war in 'real time,' with one episode per week covering the events of whatever happened that week 79 years ago.

(The same people also have a series covering WW1, and another called Between Two Wars, and various side projects. They're neato.)

This has been making me want to play some good old Axis & Allies, probably the most 'mass market' board game related to World War 2. The last time I played was probably 23 years ago, and I had only the barest sense of what the real war was like back then.

So I'm curious, does anyone still play this game? I know they've had new editions. How are they? What would you recommend? Or should I find a different game to scratch the itch of smashing nations against each other?
 

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Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
I have been watching the phenomenal YouTube channel "World War Two" - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP1AejCL4DA7jYkZAELRhHQ - which has been covering the events of the war in 'real time,' with one episode per week covering the events of whatever happened that week 79 years ago.

(The same people also have a series covering WW1, and another called Between Two Wars, and various side projects. They're neato.)

This has been making me want to play some good old Axis & Allies, probably the most 'mass market' board game related to World War 2. The last time I played was probably 23 years ago, and I had only the barest sense of what the real war was like back then.

So I'm curious, does anyone still play this game? I know they've had new editions. How are they? What would you recommend? Or should I find a different game to scratch the itch of smashing nations against each other?
It's been a while for me too, but the last edition I picked up was the "Anniversary Edition". The various editions over the years haven't changed the game much, just mostly tweaks to the rules.

Axis & Allies 1942 is the basic game you know and love, using the 2nd edition of the rules. A good place to start.

The Anniversary Edition has a much larger game board and allows you to play Italy and China, in addition to the countries from the original game.

There are also 1914 and 1941 versions of the game, but I'm not familiar with them. I'm assuming 1914 is a WWI variant? Not sure of the difference between 1941 and 1942 editions.

A fun (but expensive) version is the combo of A&A Pacific 1940 and A&A Europe 1940. Two games each focusing on a different theatre, but the boards can be placed side-by-side for a "global" game on a giant board!

More recently is Axis & Allies & Zombies, which adds . . . . . . clowns to the game! ;) I haven't purchased or played this one yet, but it's on my want-list.

All of the above are all essentially minor variants of the same game.

There is also A&A D-Day, A&A Battle of the Bulge, A&A Guadalcanal, and the A&A Miniatures game . . . all of which are completely different games from the original and each other, just a part of the same franchise and all set during WWII. I have no experience with any of these.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Still a great game. There are different versions that have significantly different feel based on the scope, so you kind of want to pick the game that fits the scale you want to play.

If you want a more casual game, Axis & Allies 1942 2nd edition is probably the way to go (or, if you want super-casual, Axis & Allies & Zombies). On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Axis & Allies Global 1940, which requires that you put together A&A Europe (2nd edition) + A&A Pacific (2nd edition). Global is comparatively massive and granular in scale and gameplay reflects this.

A&A Anniversary edition is a middle ground (though closer to casual, I’d say). It got a reprint a year or few ago and is therefore affordable.

Personally, I’d look into Nightingale Games’ War Room, which (being designed by A&A creator/designer Larry Harris) has a lot of great things that make A&A fun, plus other great things (team-coordinated secret orders/movement/bids for initiative). It’s really great, if you can get a copy. And play in person.
 

Or should I find a different game to scratch the itch of smashing nations against each other?

I would - and do - play a board game called Quartermaster General instead of Axis and Allies.

It's fun, it's interesting, it sets up in 5 minutes, and you can play the entirety of WW2 with 6 people in under two hours.

If anyone has ever gotten in two complete Axis and Allies games in an evening, including setup, I have never heard of it.
 

payn

Adventurer
I find Axis and Allies to be a bit fiddly. I do really like the game Diplomacy and think online is the best format for it.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
We used to play it a lot years ago, with the original, it often came down to the USSR building infantry while Germany built tanks, and while probably somewhat realistic, it wasn't a huge amount of fun. They may have fixed that in later versions.
 


Rune

Once A Fool
We used to play it a lot years ago, with the original, it often came down to the USSR building infantry while Germany built tanks, and while probably somewhat realistic, it wasn't a huge amount of fun. They may have fixed that in later versions.
Not really. Turtling and building stacks of units that stare at each other over a border is a thing that happens in all versions of A&A (except, maybe, the campaign-scale games – and the miniatures games, which are a different thing entirely).

The aforementioned War Room fixes this by focusing the game on waging a war while war-fatigue creeps up on all of the powers. Also, the secret movement orders and the secret build orders.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
The aforementioned War Room fixes this by focusing the game on waging a war while war-fatigue creeps up on all of the powers. Also, the secret movement orders and the secret build orders.
That stuff sounds fun, kind of like Diplomacy.
 


TerraDave

5ever
Played the classic version recently. Holds up surprisingly well.

As noted, many versions. There is a fan made set of computer versions, all the official ones and many, many variants, called TripleA.

Be careful though, unless you have a lot time to kill.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Played the classic version recently. Holds up surprisingly well.

As noted, many versions. There is a fan made set of computer versions, all the official ones and many, many variants, called TripleA.

Be careful though, unless you have a lot time to kill.
TripleA is meant for online play and works very well (or, at least used to years ago – can’t say I know it’s current state). However, last I checked there’s no mobile version, which is unfortunate for me, as my computer is a phone.
 
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TerraDave

5ever
TripleA is meant for online play and works very well (or, at least used to years ago – can’t say I know it’s current state). However, last I checked there’s no mobile version, which is unfortunate for me, as my computer is a phone.
Would be pretty hard to do as a phone game.

The AI is now quite good, so you don't have to find online opponents (or want to practice to beat online opponents).
 


I played a good amount of this in the 80's and 90's, but now I prefer games that are a little more generic, where it is not icky to have people playing as Nazis and trying to conquer the world.
 


GreyLord

Hero
The best version of A&A to play today is the Anniversary edition. Other versions ditch money (they still have it, they just don't provide it, you have to track it yourself in whatever way you decide), research is not as integrated into the game, and various other detractors. A&A anniversary is probably the CLOSEST to the traditional A&A experience that you can get today if you grew up with it many decades ago.

A&A 1941 is the greatly abridged version (tanks may cost 6 dollars, but as Germany you only get 7 dollars, etc) with smaller incomes and less nations. It can be played and won in a third of the time of any other version which makes it easier to get to the table but FAR LESS satisfying to play. It's just not the epic game the other versions are. It also skimps on components far more than the other versions (for example, you do not have mini-poker chips, you have small cardboard bits to mark more armies).

A&A 1942 2nd edition (make sure it is 2nd edition and not 1st) is the default version people lean on in playing today. It's meaty enough and has a few more units than A&A did decades ago, but it is also missing a few elements of the game from decades ago as well.

A&A 1940 Pacific and A&A 1940 Europe are great games in the style of A&A 1942 (so no money included) which if you combine the two can make the largest A&A game of them all. Each is more of an Theater game dealing with the theater it's title is based on (one on the European War, the other the Pacific War ) which means they are more limited on what they cover alone, but if you combine them they become larger than any other A&A game. Combined together as one game they have more detail overall than any of the others. It is called A&A global. I've played games that last more than 15 hours. It's is a monster of a game and will take you a ton of time.

Zombies can be played on it's own or combined with another A&A version. It has money but lacks many other aspects. It changes the foundation of the game. In this one, when soldiers die they can rise up again to be zombies which attack everything and everyone. It's a combination of a War game with a alliance game because if the Zombies win, everyone else loses.

I have also played 1914, and the more Battle based A&A games of Battle of the Bulge, D-Day and Guadalcanal (which someone mentioned above) but most of them are out of print and cost exorbitant amounts of money. D-Day can be still gotten for a retail amount so I'll cover that briefly (others I can cover at request, but as they are really expensive, probably no need). D-Day covers the D-Day landings and that is it. You have a specific amount of troops you start with and land with and specific goals to achieve depending on which side you play. It uses the combat system of A&A, but it's approach is vastly different as it's just covering one operation.

There are other games that are similar to A&A but most are out of print. Shogun/Samurai Swords which later was called Ikusa is one that was mentioned above. Great game, but expensive now as it looks like it is out of print. Others in the same boat would be Conquest of the Empire, Buck Rogers, Conquest of Nerath (D&D game), and others. The only other ones I'd consider right now are still expensive (but in print as far as I know) but completely different themes, those being War of the Ring and Twilight Imperium 4th edition.

If I had a choice of just one of the A&A games, it would A&A anniversary edition. It has everything you need for an A&A like the past and doesn't skimp on anything. Of all of the above, it's the one I consider the best version of A&A that's either in print or recently been in print.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
The best version of A&A to play today is the Anniversary edition. Other versions ditch money (they still have it, they just don't provide it, you have to track it yourself in whatever way you decide), research is not as integrated into the game, and various other detractors. A&A anniversary is probably the CLOSEST to the traditional A&A experience that you can get today if you grew up with it many decades ago.
Since we’re getting granular:

Anniversary is definitely the version with the best components (at least the first print was; I’ve heard the second has less-hefty pieces, but no first-hand experience). It is also is the first to have modern transport rules (that prevent them from being used as cannon-fodder). Also the first to use cruisers, if memory serves.

It does not use the same anti-aircraft unit rules as the other modern games (1942 2nd E and all versions of 1940 2nd E). It does include the destroyers and artillery units first introduced in the original Europe and Pacific games, as well Armor units that defend at 3 instead of 2 (as all games since Revised have done). Still priced at 5 IPC, which makes them crazy powerful.

Anniversary also comes with two set-ups: 1941 and 1942, I believe, but my group never much cared for the 1942 set-up. It looks a lot like the set-up of most games that start in that year, but in order to get there from the 1941 set-up, Japan would have to make some pretty dumb logistical decisions. I think – it’s been a while.
A&A 1941 is the greatly abridged version (tanks may cost 6 dollars, but as Germany you only get 7 dollars, etc) with smaller incomes and less nations. It can be played and won in a third of the time of any other version which makes it easier to get to the table but FAR LESS satisfying to play. It's just not the epic game the other versions are. It also skimps on components far more than the other versions (for example, you do not have mini-poker chips, you have small cardboard bits to mark more armies).
1941 is a great pick-up game (if you give USA a destroyer off the east coast and 3-5 extra infantry in Moscow; the out-of-box set-up is significantly unbalanced). I personally like the low-income/few units aspect of the game, but the rest of my group feel as you do. (It’s also a far swingier game because of the dearth of units; each battle has the potential to change the course of the game.)

Germany starts with 12 IPCs, though. USSR is the only one to start with 7. Also important to note that a misprint (in two places, if memory serves!) gives USA 17 IPC when the territories total 15. So look out for that.

If you’re (general you) looking for a super-casual/introductory game that is roughly the same scope, Axis & Allies & Zombies uses almost the same map, but with more resources. It can be played without the zombies (but I personally like the mechanical and logistical variation that the zombies introduce).
A&A 1942 2nd edition (make sure it is 2nd edition and not 1st) is the default version people lean on in playing today. It's meaty enough and has a few more units than A&A did decades ago, but it is also missing a few elements of the game from decades ago as well.
Worth pointing out, 1st E used the same map as Revised (essentially) and old anti-air rules. 2nd E expanded/zoomed into the map a little (less than Anniversary). Haven’t personally played it.
A&A 1940 Pacific and A&A 1940 Europe are great games in the style of A&A 1942 (so no money included) which if you combine the two can make the largest A&A game of them all. Each is more of an Theater game dealing with the theater it's title is based on (one on the European War, the other the Pacific War ) which means they are more limited on what they cover alone, but if you combine them they become larger than any other A&A game. Combined together as one game they have more detail overall than any of the others. It is called A&A global. I've played games that last more than 15 hours. It's is a monster of a game and will take you a ton of time.
Global is where my group was at (before War Room). And probably most hard-core players. It is very granular. It introduces tactical bombers and mechanized infantry as units. As with Anniversary, Italy is a separate power, but unlike in Anniversary, can do more than just be a liability. Also a separate power: France. But if that’s still true by the end of Germany’s first turn, the Axis have already lost.
Zombies can be played on it's own or combined with another A&A version. It has money but lacks many other aspects. It changes the foundation of the game. In this one, when soldiers die they can rise up again to be zombies which attack everything and everyone. It's a combination of a War game with a alliance game because if the Zombies win, everyone else loses.
Zombies uses a deck to trigger events and new zombie uprisings. It also includes a deck for 1942 2nd E, although I suspect there wouldn’t be quite enough zombies to cover the map.

The zombie dynamic changes the game in fun ways, but as I mentioned earlier, plays well without the zombies if you’re looking for a better version of the quick, super-casual A&A experience that 1941 provided.
I have also played 1914, and the more Battle based A&A games of Battle of the Bulge, D-Day and Guadalcanal (which someone mentioned above) but most of them are out of print and cost exorbitant amounts of money. D-Day can be still gotten for a retail amount so I'll cover that briefly (others I can cover at request, but as they are really expensive, probably no need). D-Day covers the D-Day landings and that is it. You have a specific amount of troops you start with and land with and specific goals to achieve depending on which side you play. It uses the combat system of A&A, but it's approach is vastly different as it's just covering one operation.
Of these, I only have personal experience with 1914. The way they managed to make the A&A combat mechanic feel like trench warfare is neat (one cycle of combat only, land units kill on one number higher than in other A&A games). Unfortunately, the Central powers have almost no chance of victory in that game (even with the quicker tournament rules), so replay-ability is low (and disappointing).
 


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