Axis & Allies: 1939-1945 Game Review
Axis & Allies: 1939-1945, By Wizards of the Coast. Designed by Richard Baker (Design Lead), Paul Barclay, Aaron Forsythe, Devin Low, and Jonathan Tweet.
$16.99 MSRP – Starters; $10.99 MSRP – Boosters. For two or more players, ages 12 and up. Playing time: 30 minutes and up. Available now.
Axis and Allies has been a franchise game for three decades, and has captured the imagination of countless armchair generals and would-be commanders around the world. Several years ago, Hasbro division Wizards of the Coast, using their existing plastic figure production capabilities, launched Axis & Allies Miniatures game to some acclaim and solid sales. They were able to draw in a number of new customers, but made few inroads with existing miniatures fans. They may not have been aware at the time, but the lion’s share of the market for 15 mm scale, World War Two miniatures had already been successfully claimed by gentlemen in New Zealand producing a game and unpainted metal miniature line titled Flames of War. The problem with Flames of War is that its availability is limited; whereas Axis and Allies can be found far more frequently in hobby gaming shops.
Axis & Allies Miniatures is a simplified version of a miniature wargame. Because of the myriad strategic and technological options available to the modern commander, games with a modern-era setting tend to be more complex. Many gamers unfamiliar with wargame conventions may scoff at the term “simplified”, but in point of fact it is a much more basic game than most that are on the market dealing with a similar time frame.
Play begins by determining initiative; each player rolls two six-sided dice and adds in any bonuses provided by commanders in their selection of troops. The highest score chooses whether to go first or second in the round. The round then proceeds to movement in player order. Combat is then initiated, with Air Strikes after Combat, followed by the Assault Phase, and finally comes the Casualty Phase, where destroyed units are removed from the board and units that were disrupted have a chance to recover.
Stat cards outline everything about the unit; its movement capabilities, number of dice rolled on attack vs. both infantry and vehicles, its defensive strength, special abilities and points cost. In this way it’s a simple matter to match up two forces relatively evenly, points-wise, though as any commander can tell you, troops that are well-matched on paper don’t always stack up evenly in the field. Also included is a smidgen of flavor text, describing the unit in anecdotes or with interesting facts.
One of the major complaints with A&A Miniatures at the time of their original release had to do with the lack of cohesive scale. The vehicles were smaller than they should have been when compared to the 15mm-sized infantry, making them unsuitable for use in more hardcore wargame simulations. The Axis & Allies Miniatures line has recently undergone an overhaul. With the popularity of the 15mm scale for World War Two miniatures, one would guess that jumping on the bandwagon seemed like a good idea. Consequently, we now have Axis & Allies 1939-1945; a collection of previously released infantry, tanks, vehicles and support units from the Axis & Allies Miniatures game. A couple of major changes make this game a bit different than the previous version. To begin with, the tanks and vehicles are larger, and in better scale with the infantry. This clears up the previous scale problem. Likewise, the maps feature much larger hexes, though the stacking rules are unchanged from the previous edition. With the Axis & Allies Miniatures Expanded Rules book, available separately, players no longer have to squint to read small type of the rule booklet included in the starter kit, and the expansion rules for aircraft and fixed defensive features are now collected in one place, rather than spread out over a series of pamphlets featuring the set checklist on one side and new rules additions on the other.
Axis & Allies is a fast, fun miniatures game. It may lack the sophistication of a more exhaustive treatment of the period, but is no less exciting, and the pre-painted miniatures are not only a tremendous time-saver, but are quite nicely detailed. This is an excellent starter game for the budding armchair general, and has enough depth to make it appealing to even the most hardened veteran gamer. Significant support, in the form of dozens of scenarios in varying levels of troop requirements, is available at Wizards’ Avalon Hill site.