Axis and Allies Variants

 

Axis and Allies appears to be a popular game judging by the variants that have appeared for it. It also boasts a good few web sites, close but not as many as ASL. The game is however considered biased to the Allies unless certain optional rules are used. It is odd that a declared unbalanced game should attract this level of interest, the big box and plastic bits may explain some of this. I cannot comment on game play as my sole live game ended in about 5 minutes at the MBG club due to poor Axis play and my usual cavalier attitude to the rules, it makes a pleasant solo outing. Despite the balance problem (and its some problem) Axis and Allies is played in tournaments in the States using bidding to balance play. Looking at the $ and £ price of the game it is a lot cheaper (£15 or so cheaper) over there making it a better buy for the bits to the colonial boys.

 

I do have the World at War variant that deserves a few words and Central Powers that demands a warning. It is an air box, I got burnt. The rules are a list of new unit functions and the set up is almost the same as WW2 including the same players in the same places. I was stunned, what could I do? I had to write my own WW1 rules but what with this and that never got around to testing them. As usual with this sort of fringe thing I can send off copies for 50p. The counters are rather good if less than relevant, too many ships. Anyone wanting a go a WW1 with Axis and Allies is advised to spend £10 or so on some plastic cavalry and metal 1/300th tanks, artillery and machine guns and sort out some rules. I trawled the web and found 1939 and 1941 variants plus a Fortress America tie in for the true plastic head. Naturally I have not gone so far as to try them but they do exist. It would also not be too hard to invent WW3 or Tomorrow the World variants. I have not seen any though. Another approach is to use the new "plastic pieces" Risk, draw some sea zones, make up a few ships and have it away in the late 19th. I looked up Risk on the net; it does not boast the variants that Axis does but I note that some sad souls play it by e-mail. Continuing to divert even further from the subject there is rather a good Shogun expansion that uses random event cards to add some realism. Its on the net but I have downloaded it and converted it to Word file (event data pasted into text boxes that can be cut out as cards) if anyone fancies a bash.

 

I bought Axis and Allies as an antidote after some heavy World in Flames gaming. My aim was and still is to find some way of playing WW2 throughout the planet in a few hours. I sold my copy of Buck Rogers (TSR) so unfortunately cannot play WW2 through several nearby planets, shame. Naturally Axis and Allies as sold will not do either. Toying with the various expansion rules is some attempt to do that. Even these variants leave some problems but given time they can be overcome.

 

World at War (Xeno),

playings 4

 

This product is hard to describe, it is not a game but an expansion for Axis and Allies, which it cannot be played without. It has just been released as the 3rd edition but I have been using the 2nd. To really confuse the situation it is sold as a boxed set, rules alone, rules + map and counters alone. To ice the cake the plastic counters are the same as those used in Xeno’s Europe at War. Cutting through this cunning marketing strategy you need Axis and Allies plus the Xeno map and rules. The counters are very handy but not of high quality, they could be replaced by Airfix figures, paint and the odd home conversion. The original Axis and Allies pieces are available quite cheap form MB. If these were to arrive intact (or at all) this would be a better source of extra units than the Xeno offering. They will need spraying and few extra 1/300th minatures to complete the set. Buying World at War and Axis and Allies gives a total entry price of over £80 to start from scratch.

 

The Xeno variant has a new map, which is pretty good, I would advise people who like meddling with games to get it. The game now starts in 1939 that is a big plus from 1942 although this requires new counter colours for France and China. There are a few new rules but the basic system remains the same. Only 1 player’s units can remain in an area after combat, which is determined by rolling lots of D6s. The score required depends on the units, infantry attack on a 1 and defend with a 2. Thankfully there are not too many new units, some specials such as paratroops and SS Panzers can safely be ignored. The significant new units are half battleships that allow some more flexibility at sea and German U-boat pens that prevent subs from being bombed out of the game.

 

Different nations now pay different rates for the same stuff, infantry usually costs 3 but China and the USSR get to pay 2 resulting in big infantry armies over there. Not surprisingly these nations are going to build a lot of infantry, the USSR have a bottomless pit. This is not too good as more units means more die rolling and more stalemate. It makes sense to cap building by allowing infantry to be built only up to the IPC income of that nation at the income stage. If you earn 40 then infantry can be built up to 40 but no more. If you already have 40+ then no more infantry can be bought that turn but the excess remain in play. This is my idea and not Xeno’s it is based on the theory that the USSR did not have a limitless supply of men and might indeed have run out. Another idea that I admit to having stolen is to tie production to factories. The 1st 2 (non-infantry) units of the same type produced in each factory are bought at the regular cost, the next 2 at +1 IPC, then +2 for units 4 and 5 and so on.

 

Like World in Flames this is a production game, you have to build the right stuff. This will be some mix of good units and cheap ones to soak up losses. As nations expand they get more points to build more units, the Axis can win an instant victory if they pass a set number of build points. There are quite a few points tied up in poorly garrisoned Africa, this leads to a lot of action here as the Axis tries to swoop down to South Africa and across to the Middle East. There are some handy political rules that try to keep some concept of history. When France falls some of the territory will be Vichy that gives build points to the Axis but cannot be easily attacked. The rest is Free French and fair game. There is some concept of time with the USA and USSR initially out of the game and having their production pegged. The Axis can win before these 2 enter if the USA has poor luck in sending cash to Britain and in influencing neutrals to join the Allies. Certainly it pays the Axis to make the most of the war before the USA or USSR join and it does not pay to declare war on either of these two early.

 

World at War is definitely more of a game than a simulation although it has enough history to give some feel of the war, a lot more than Axis and Allies. There are more than a few problems to the simulationist, the only concept of land terrain is the size of each area. In such a case poor terrain should be made up of many small areas. This is generally not the case. Areas are smaller where the action is pivotal allowing the game to home in on Europe. If a player does break through into Africa or America advances will be relatively easy. Both cases are likely as the Axis is doing well, Africa can see both players swooping up and down especially north of the equator. This compares well with action in Libya but rather poorly with Ethiopia that held on well with a small garrison. These poor terrain areas would benefit from some intrinsic defence (to both sides from the environment) and the ability of both players to co-exist in the same area.

 Global Crisis (Axis & Allies Expansion) Playings, 1, 5 hours (Allied win) I found this on the net at www.connect-a.net/users/drshades. It is an html file so you can print it out but be warned that the rules are 53 pages long with another 4 of charts. Having said that I have the highest regard for this module which does a good effort at historicalising Axis & Allies. You ought to have the basic Axis & Allies to play this but the game could be played having made up some generic counters and copying the map. There is an image of the original map on the web site. Most Axis and Allies expansions add new rules for more units or different scenarios but the approach of Global Crisis is to reflect the strategic situation with no new units and no changes to the map. If I happened to have a spare map it would have helped to mark the new starting territories, the extent of the Pacific and the areas that can be partially controlled but I got by. The game starts in 1939 so some of the old colour-coded territories are wrong and 3 can be partially controlled. Southern Europe includes the Balkans that reduces the overall area income by 2 until Germany invades. Finland Norway can be partly taken over by the USSR to get 1 income and Japan can occupy the Indo-China part of Burma. The Pacific sea zones restrict the interception range of ships to 1 compared to 2 elsewhere due to their larger size. Like Axis & Allies this is a production game but less units will be produced because research is now worth buying and combat rewards the maximum mix of different units encouraging more of the expensive units to be built. Production charts have to be checked off with the number of points dedicated to each unit type or research. To change the type of unit deployed a point has to be paid this turn to re-tool and the point is dedicated to the new unit for the next production phase. To skim through the sequence of play, nations begin by checking that they have enough oil to go around. This is most likely to affect Japan when the USA restricts its oil supply and the East Indies are not conquered. A route has to be drawn back to an oil supplying area or the unsupplied units are penalised. As the route can be traced across seas it is not hard to get oil if you can find a friendly source but these routes are subject to strategic warfare which will not affect the oil status of units but will restrict the overall income available for the next turn. This is one of the abstractions that crop up in the game, the broad effects are correct but the method of getting them may not be as clean as in a more complex or merely bigger game. Declarations of war follow, pretty self explanatory followed by checking off production and getting the new units ready. The USA and USSR start as neutral but will increase in readiness as the Axis take over real estate. They will probably be declared war on before they get to this state as there is a steadily declining surprise bonus. I skimmed through the maths and found that Japan could do a Pearl harbour in 1941 if she kept out of China but not otherwise. Strategic warfare units are then allocated, submarines and battleships attack and transports and battleships defend although battleships cannot fight submarines. For the air units bombers fight fighters. Each attacking unit rolls 1D6-1 and removes that much income from the target’s total for next turn. Air units need to be able to fly to the target and ships have a –1 if they did not begin in the same zone. There is no interception of strategic warfare units but they do fight each other hitting on a 2 after resolution of strategic warfare. In truth the units are merely moved into place at this stage and the die rolling occurs after everyone has moved and fought but here is a good place to describe the action. Britain can lose a lot of points from strategic warfare. Next the 2 teams move and then fight, all the Axis as 1 side and then all the Allies. Most units can only move 1 area and there are no overrruns. Empty or nearly empty territories have a single chance to hit on a 1 but other combat is a matter of rounds. All units in a combat are grouped in 4s with 1 group of the odd units and a D6 is rolled for each group. The total is based on 1 for each different unit type with a +1 for attacking infantry or defending armour. The best a group can do is a total of 5 with all land and air unit types. This is a simpler system that Axis & Allies but does involve more sorting of units before you start. Naval combat is more complex with the possibility of surprise and interception before the dice are rolled and there is no grouping so the system is similar to old Axis & Allies. You cannot just sail out and attack a fleet but you can attack its port and probably get bounced on the way in which amounts to much the same thing. The range of Naval interception is at best 1 in the Pacific and 2 everywhere else significantly changing the fleet actions from Axis & Allies. It is only possible to attack Pearl Harbour with surprise as the 1st action of a war against an unprepared USA. Later on the only way to get to Japan by sea is through areas such as the Solomons, Caroline Islands, Okinawa and the Philpines. Those names sound suitably familiar. New units are placed after combat but before the next team move. There are restrictions on where new units can be placed that will pretty much tie them to original high income territories so unless your back is to the wall the new Axis units will not appear ready to repel Allied units in their upcoming turn. After the Allied turn units from both sides can be moved around the board through friendly territories with relatively large movement allowances. This is when fleets move around half the globe and new units head for the front. A nation’s income restricts how many units can be moved like this although newly placed units get a discount which can be rather hard to keep track of. R&D is worth using unlike in Axis & Allies; as no die roll is involved you get what you pay for but some developments cancel out others making them worthless unless the research is kept up. This notably effects the code breaking between Germany/UK and Japan/USA, a factor that is used in naval interception and surprise. You can build the A-Bomb and it is worth doing it although it will take years and also requires some sort of advanced rocket or bomber to drop it. Even then success depends on luck and having reduced the target nation to below its original territory income. If the USA grinds down Japan and has a couple of bombs to spare it should do the job. Bangs for bucks this module is the business. The only area that I might disagree with is the old concept of a captured territory giving the same income to its new owner as it did to the old. This is common to this sort of game although World In Flames does reduce the bonus through red and black factories and Kreig dares to use a different production regime. It would be easy to experiment with reduced production although I have no idea how that might affect balance.

1