Iíve always appreciated the study of WWI far more than WWII. Part of it is just being fascinated with the late 19th, early 20th century in general, part of it was the cool looking fighter planes, and part of it was the technological innovation. I always wanted to have a board game on it. Sadly, Avalon Hill died before I could score a copy of Guns of August and itís successor company, Avalon Hill Hasbro thinks history started and ended with WWII.
About a month ago I came across the absurdly priced Axis and Allies 1914. Priced at $100, this is a game designed to simulate the war debt at a household level. But I was doing good financially and a WWI game appealed to me greatly so I forked over about 20 less and got it off Amazon. Now it was just a question of whether the quality would live up to itís price tag.
1914 works pretty much like the regular A&A. Invade, slug it out, roll dice for units. But with some changes. First, combat only occurs for one round like Guadalcanal. One exchange and then itís over unless itís naval or aerial. Second, combined arms is a little more encourageable since arty and aircraft not only shoot individually, but boost other units. And that will come in handy because that 1 round of fire rule is designed to simulate trench warfare and this game will take for freaking ever if youíre not careful (or too careful)
The Board and Pieces:
As is to be expected with A&A the board and the gaming pieces are pretty sexy. Africa is a little squashed but that is inevitable. Unfortunately the game has the one downside of the board being too damn big. It comes in handy for space but it creates a couple of problems. First, you have to stretch or practically stand if youíre short to reach the other side. If you do invade deep, your back will be hurting. Second, the game is almost impossible to shuffle. This game is garanteed to consume at least a day if not more yet it is so huge, you canít find a place in your average house where it can be set up and left out unless you have a purpose built gaming table and a big one at that.
My friends and I experimented with using the Diplomacy board though. It almost worked but was a little too small.
The game fudges history in one major respect. When the game begins, Italy starts out swinging for the allies. And while this may appear at face value to be a gimme to help the allies out on the gameplay front, Italy starts out weak. Instead of having a year to build up her army and then the option of choosing sides, Italy is thrown into the mix with pants about ankles, which frequently results in her becoming Austriaís prison fraulein. In short, Italy is a walking liability. I recommend house rules.
The gameís biggest problem is a lack of parts. Counters run out fast but that problem is easily solved with pennies and dimes. Not so easily solved are the pieces. Map spanning countries like England will be perpetually short on available pieces to crew all their territories.
The game has itís good points to be sure, but as many bad ones to offset it. As far as whether itís worth the purchase, not really. For an even 100, not even having the common courtesy to provide you with enough parts is a big detractor. Unless you can find it on sale for $50 or preferably less, Iíd advise all but the most diehard and wealthy WWI aficionados to steer clear. You just donít get quality sufficient to match the price. I liked the gameplay, I liked the parts, but not enough to appreciate the loss of $100 and the parts shortage and strained shoulders that came with it.
Sexy box art but that's likely 50% of what you're playing for. Summed up in one word, my review is "meh".