Axis and Allies is a boardgame for 2 to 5 people made by Milton Bradley that simulates World War 2 from 1942. Think risk and increase complexity 20 fold. The game peices include tanks, infantry, submarines, bombers, fighters, battleships, aircraft carriers, and more! All the fighting is done with dice and complex game rules. It's awesome because it's more involving than most boardgames, but at the same time it's not really a hardcore wargame where you need a calculator and 26 sided dice.

Axis and Allies (A&A for short) is a board game published by Milton Bradley that simulates World War II circa 1942. Up to 5 players can play the game, each representing a WW2 power: USSR, Germany, UK, Japan, and USA.

The game board is basically a simplified map of the world with large "zones" which are controlled by the various factions. Each zone is worth a certain number of points (Industrial Production Certificates, or IPCs, as the game calls it). Using a variety of military units (more on those later), players can attack opposing zones - the winner then takes control of the zone and obtains its IPCs. IPCs can then be used to buy military units or research technological improvements.

There are three types of military units: for land (infantry and armor, which is the same as tanks), sea (carriers, submarines, battleships, and transports) and air (fighters and bombers). Each unit has different offensive and defensive statistics, between 1 and 4. To succesfully cause damage, the unit must roll that number or lower on a d6.

Gameplay is perhaps a little slow. In the beginning, each turn may seem tedious to the casual player, but strategy is a harsh mistress at best. The game does speed up near the end as a definite conclusion becomes clear. There are many exciting moments, such as one lone infantry miraculously holding off two tanks, or a frantic matchup between two huge naval fleets.

There are different ways to win, depending on if you are the Axis or Allies side. Recently, Milton Bradley released Axis and Allies: Pacific and Axis and Allies: Europe, two new games based on the same basic game mechanics, but in a smaller geographical context. There is also a computer version of the A&A.

The computer game based on the board game was developed and published by Hasbro Interactive in 1998. As far as I can tell, it is only available for Windows 9x.

The game is, simply, the board game. It boasts AI players (of dubious intelligence), various multiplayer options (IPX network, Internet, and hotseat, the last of which is the most recommended way to play), support for both the second and third edition rules (or some things from the first), and a few "house rules" that can be turned on or off. Players of the original board game will probably be familiar with the second edition rules, while players of the two expansion games (Axis and Allies: Europe and Axis and Allies: Pacific) will probably be familiar with the third edition rules. A rule of thumb, if you're not sure which ruleset you've played with, is that in the second edition battleships are sunk in a single hit, while in the third they take two hits.

I'm not going to go into detail about the many rules options available, but you can play either the plain second or third edition rules, or you can turn on any of the individual changes from the second to the third editions. There are also about a dozen little other rules you can turn on or off, none of which are official board game rules, but can spice things up.

The AI is stupid. It's very very stupid. The UK, for example, will almost always build a factory on India on its first turn. A smart player of Japan would thus be able to take this factory, and march all over Asia. Also, a smart German player can unfailingly take the Soviet capitol on the second turn. If you've played the game before, you'll understand just how stupid this is.

So far, this game actually sounds fairly cool. This is because I have yet to make light of this game's weakness, which is this: it's buggy. It's extremely buggy. The release version was so buggy, in fact, that I'm not even going to acknowledge its existence, and I'm only going to talk about the patched version. It is fairly obvious that Hasbro's motivation was not to make a solid and enjoyable game.

One bug, a fatal one, goes as follows: suppose you wish to land troops on an empty territory from a transport, and the water square in front of the land contains enemy ships. In the game rules, you first move all the ships (the fighting ships or planes you use to kill the enemy ships guarding the water, plus the transports) to the water square and the units on the transports to the land square as a combat movement. Next you resolve the combat, with the condition that the troops only make it to land if the transports survived the naval combat. The actual claiming of the empty territory is considered to be part of the "combat" phase.

Where the game gets confused has to do with the fact that it's expecting an amphibious assault against the land territory (because you fought a naval battle to get there), except there's no one there to fight. Thus, it waits at the "choose combat" screen forever, because it expects you to choose to fight in the territory in question when there is in fact no fighting to be done. The only way to recover is to load the Autosave file, which it saves at the end of every round. This can lead to repeating a great deal of the game. Saving often is recommended.

The game has many other, less fatal quirks. It has been known to hang or crash the computer on occasion, though, I admit, mostly if the patch isn't applied. The save game feature can lead to odd inconsistencies if it's saved at certain times, but this is easily avoided.

This game does have a few advantages over playing the actual board game. Mainly, it avoids the lengthy setup time of the board game, as the placement of pieces is done by the computer and the need to fiddle with tiny plastic pieces is lifted. Also, no disputes over the rules arise because the computer handles all of that rather forcefully (indeed, if you want to get someone into the board game, getting them to play this first might be a good way to get them familiar with the rules rather than forcing them to read the lengthy rulebook). It's actually possible to pop off a whole game in the space of an hour with this PC version, something not quite possible with the board game.

On balance, though, playing with the real board is more enjoyable, and much more social. This is not a replacement for the board game, but can be a good companion to it. If only there were as many freeware A&A games as there are freeware Risk games...

Axis and Allies Strategy

In typical games of Axis and Allies, victory hinges on Moscow. The US and UK require overwhelming force to attack due to the ease of island defense. This overwhelming force is not available without considerable economic resources, such as all of Eurasia. Therefore, the Axis typically employ a Russia-first strategy.

The game is challenging because each country must balance their resources between a number of theatres:

Rossiya (Russia)
Karelia must be defended to keep the Wehrmacht's supply lines long while preventing the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere from becoming too prosperous.
Deutschland (Germany)
Can Moscow be taken with the resources available or is the economic potential of Africa needed first? And how much can be spared to destroy British offensive capability and protect European beachheads?
The Commonwealth (United Kingdom)
Forces must be balanced between the colonies in Africa and India, harassing the Germans, and defensive units on Russian soil.
Nippon (Japan)
The Pacific threat must appear significant enough to keep the Americans from focusing all their power on your ally however fancy boats aren't very helpful in mainland Asia.
The United States
Distant from the action, forces must be committed well in advance to liberating Europe (or at least taking pressure off Russia) or Pacific islands while defending allies.

Standard practices include heavy turnover of infantry and armor on the Eastern Front; meager forces being stretched in Africa and West Asia; someone building industry in South East Asia and everyone fighting over it; and the United States launching transports in every direction. The game generally boils down to the Allies racing to Berlin versus the Axis racing to Moscow and it is generally believed that time is on the Allies side (one guideline I've heard is that the Axis have lost if they don't "shake hands" in Asia by the third turn).

Non-standard practices generally involve decisively controlling out-of-the-way economic or transporation resources early in the game to fuel overwhelming force in the main theatres later. Maybe others (or myself in the future) will add specific strategies to this node.


Axis and Allies Tactics

In Axis and Allies, your country's industrial and theatre focus is dictated by strategy while the implementation of that strategy and collection of assorted tempo points falls under tactics. Without going into any specific strategies, some tactical manuvers that often come in handy:

Waves of Men and Tanks
Through friendly territory, armor moves at twice the speed of infantry, therefore if you want your forces to reach the Front at the same time, build them in alternating turns. This technique is particularly useful for offense on the Eastern Front although groups of just armor are particularly attractive targets.
Amphibious Assault on Egypt
If Africa is a priority to Deutschland then they may wish to take Egypt on the first turn using forces transported from Italy in combination with those from Libya. The landing force must first be ensured victory against the British sub in the Eastern Mediterranean which usually has the side effect of leaving the Gibralter battleship floating.
The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth
In the later stages of the game, seemingly useless units can be very effective at harassment. For example, the tank from Eastern Canada can liberate all of Africa if the British and Deutsch forces have died on each other's swords. Similarly, the transport from India combined with the infantry from Australia can MacArthur most of the Pacific if the Nipponese fleet is gone.
NATO Air Craft
The British can build an aircraft carrier and then have American fighters land on it before Deutschland gets a chance to attack. Once the decision to build it without British planes is made, it can be very difficult to switch, so such a combined unit is only useful for defending Atlantic transports. This sacrifice is often necessary due to the distance to American dockyards and the fact that the British usually can't afford to pay for the whole things themselves by the time they need it.
Retract Before Impact
If you know an enemy will attempt to capture a territory with offensive units, it may be beneficial to withdraw all but a skeleton crew so that the invading hordes will have to defend. Since infantry's effectiveness halves when switching from defense to offense while armor's is only increased by 150%, this is mostly useful only for its effect on air forces and the opponent's psychology.
Reverse Kamikazi
Of similar psychological power but dubious actual usefulness, all the units from India can attack (and usually win) Kwangtung on the first turn thereby splitting the mainland Nipponese forces and being generally annoying.

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