Axis &Allies is a classic game that is in the game library of many strategy and history enthusiasts. Since it’s first release in 1981, the game has had several editions and variations released that cover different conflicts of WW2 and a spin-off dedicated to WW1, Axis and Allies: 1914. Sadly, this can easily create some confusion as to which edition you should get. The standard Axis & Allies is now called the Anniversary Edition, while two other editions 1941, and 1942 have variations to their game play. For this review I’ll be talking about the Axis & Allies: Revised edition (20th Anniversary) specifically, but it is the same as any other editions marked classic or anniversary minus a few exceptions.
My love for Axis & Allies stems from playing it constantly as a kid with my father and older brothers. We would turn the kitchen table into a war-zone and it would be us versus dad. Sometimes my older brother would attempt to take us all on, but who doesn’t like beating their dad? I almost always played USA, it took a while for the US to get into the fight, and since I was the youngest it was also one of the more easier countries for strategy.
After years of Axis & Allies drought, Erika surprised me one Christmas with a copy of Axis & Allies Revised, and we pulled it out to play. Now Erika, had never played Axis & Allies before, but she did beat me during her first game of Risk, and my sore losing made her a little skeptic to ever play a strategy game with me again. So I put myself into teaching mode and walked her through how to play.
Aside: I’ve found more and more in years of playing, that helping everyone succeed is often best for new games. You don’t have to give away grand strategies, but offering suggestions when someone is going to make a rookie mistake can make a new board game more enjoyable and relaxed. Since then, we’ve played a couple times here and there, but I haven’t played as much as I did before. I am still interested in other versions, and do own Axis & Allies: Europe (1st Edition) now as well.
Understanding the Components
- Anti-Aircraft: Anti-Aircraft are crucial in defending key territories against air attacks. Most of the Anti-Aircraft pieces will be used on setup of the game board, you can however purchase them at a later time.
- Industrial Complexes (Factories): Each country will start out with at least one factory. You can place a new factory in any territory with an income value greater than 1. Factories can only mobilize the amount of units equal to the territory’s income value, meaning if you build a factory on a territory with a value of 3, you can place up to three units in that territory or surrounding ocean territories per turn.
- Industrial Certificates (IPC): Industrial certificates are essentially cash. The more territories you takeover, the more you get at the end of your turn. You spend certificates only at the start of your turn, spend it only at the end, and can loose it from industrial bombardments or losing your capital. There are three denominations: one, five, and ten.
- Marshaling Cards and Markers: Marshaling Cards and Markers are one of the new additions to the game, and a nice one at that. While the old board had small areas along the edges that acted as enlargements for certain territories, this revision does that with the Marshaling Cards. Now, if you have a territory that is bulging with units, you can put them on a Marshaling Card and then put the corresponding Marshaling Marker on the board. Naturally, that means you have to be aware of other players Marshaling Cards so you don’t attack an area that is stronger than it seems on the boat
- National Production/Weapons Development Chart: This chart is your tracker to see what each nation produces in Industrial Certificates at the end of each turn, as well as the weaponry they have researched and been awarded.
- National Production: Whenever a territory changes hands, it’s territorial value is added to the new owner, and subtracted from the previous owner. At the end of a players turn, whatever their new National Production Value has become is the amount of Industrial Certificates they will earn.
- Weapons Development: Developing new weapons for your nation can give you an edge on your opponents. Each nation has specific developments that will benefit them more, and it’s important to try and single in on a development that works with your strategy. Development is expensive, and has a hard chance of being rolled correctly, so choose when to develop wisely.
- Battle Board Chart: The Battle Board Chart is a chart that will be used on occasion when large armies collide (*cough* Russia and Germany *cough*).
- Victory Cities Chart: The Victory City Chart shows everyone’s default city points, 6. To make a game move fast there are three different types of victories: Minor – 8 cities, Major – 10 cities, and Total – 12 cities. Minor victories can happen fast, especially if Russia falls to Germany quickly. As you conquer a city, you place your marker on that city, and you would remove a token if the city is liberated. At the end of the US turn, if a side has the necessary number of victory cities they win.
- Dice: The game comes with 12 dice, 6 black and 6 white. The black dice are used for offensive rolls, the white for defensive.
- Air Movement Markers: The Air Movement Markers are a new addition to the Revised game. These markers allow you to chart your projected course for the airfact and help to reduce some confusion as to what an airplane is doing. As you get more used to the game, the need for these markers will diminish.
- Plastic Chips: The plastic chips are used to notate larger numbers of a unit. Red chips mean 5 units, gray chips are one unit. It’s not uncommon for areas like the Eastern Front to have hordes of Russian and German infantry, and the chips are perfect for keeping the chaos to a minimum.
- Infantry: Infantry are the basic unit of A&A, they’re the cheapest to purchase and they are often used as a cushion to protect more valuable units during battle. One new feature with Infantry is that for each artillery unit, one infantry hits attacks at two instead of one.
- Artillery: Artillery are one of the two new units in the Revised edition. Artillery cost one IC more than Infantry, but are almost the same as infantry except they always attack and defend at a roll of two.
- Armor: Armor, or Tanks, are your core ground unit. As you expand, armor will help you get to key locations faster. They’re also great for blitzing unoccupied territories for extra IPC’s at the end of a turn.
- Fighters: Fighters are key to keeping powerful points of interest. Wtih a defense of four, they are one of the strongest defense units, and equally important during offensive attacks. Fighters are able to land on your own or friendly carriers making their use around the map important. One thing to note about fighters, and air units in general, is that they can’t capture territories, nor can they land on a territory that was captured that turn.
- Bombers: Bombers are a very strong offensive unit, but one of the worst defensive units. Bombers attack at a roll of four, and can also perform strategic bombing raids on enemy factories to earn additional IPC’s while hurting your opponents IPC.
- Aircraft Carriers: Aircraft Carriers by themselves are not the strongest unit. Their defense is alright, and their offense is poor. However, the ability to carry up to two fighters make it a strong force to be reckoned with when loaded. Keeping a destroyer with a carrier will help to reduce submarine threats.
- Battleships: Battleships are the strongest unit in the game. A battleship attacks and defends at four, and can take two hits per battle before being sent to the bottom. Battleships are also able to conduct shore bombardments during amphibious assaults.
- Destroyers: Destroyers are the second new unit that is available in the revised edition of the game. Destroyers are important for stopping submarines from passing through a zone submerged, and prevent submarines from ever submerging.
- Submarines: Submarines get an extra round of fire at the start of a battle without reprocussions of a counter-attack, making them great for antagonizing unguarded aircraft carriers or transports. Destroyers however, get rid of this special ability. Submarines cannot attack air units however, which can make them easy targets when they’re closed to land.
- Transports: Transports have the worst value for attack and defense, meaning they need escorts as much as possible. They are however crucial for getting units across seas (USA). Transports can carry one infantry and one of any other land unit per turn (including another infantry)
- Control Markers: The Control Markers are placed on territories that you conquer thorughout the game. If you liberate an allies territory, you remove the control marker of the enemy, but do not place your own marker down. Your ally gets control back of their territory.
Starting Out:Each game starts the same way. You will use the reference cards to place all the necessary units in their places. The game itself starts you out in the Spring of 1942, although there could be some differences, for example, Japan is setup to attak Pearl Harbor (or in this case, do it again). There are plenty of discussions on some of the popular Axis and Allies fan websites to discuss alternative starts, but for now just stick with what the game suggests. Page 5 of the Operation Manual also has great information on deciding what nation might be a good fit for you. Appendix Two of the Operation Manual also has an example of the first turn for Russia, a nice way to get to understand the game a little more.
Continuing the Game:Axis & Allies has a lot of ways to grow your strategy, expand your knowledge, and find new ways to play the game. As you progress through this game, take a look at Appendix Three which introduces alternative ways to play. You can also look to get any of the variations that are available for the game such as Axis & Allies: Pacific, Axis & Allies: Europe, Axis & Allies: 1914, Axis & Allies: 1941, Axis & Allies: 1942, and even Axies & Allies: Zombies (which is one I don’t know if I can get on board with). The A&A franchise also has a Miniature line, which could be worth it for those interested in miniature games over board games. There’s also online versions of the game and alternate versions for mobile such as 1941: World War Strategy or World Conqueror 2. Additionally, there’s plenty of apps to help make your games easier to track and manage. Finally, there’s plenty of website out there to help you with strategies and information. I’ve found the Avalon Hill website to be very disappointing with information. You’re better off going to axisandallies.org, axisallies.com, or Board Game Geeks to get details on the different versions, strategy help, or find meetups near you!
Closing Thoughts:I do wish it’s starting turn ran you through the entire first round for all players, but it still gets the job done, and I wish Avalon Hill’s website gave you more information instead of just tell you what’s active, and not even let you buy it. You’re better off buying it on Amazon, or heading to your local board game shop! That being said, the game can be quick if you do the 8 city rule, but can last days if you decide to do all cities, or even say you have to destroy all enemy units (that’s what we used to play).
Axis and Allies is a game that takes some time to learn, but it’s also a great tool for getting to understand more about World War 2, has some amazing artwork for it’s units, and it’s great to get to know some amazing people through it!