Have you ever imagined what you would do if you could command a world power? Well, Axis and Allies puts you in the shoes of one. Made in 1971 by Larry Harris, the creator of Risk, Axis and Allies takes place during the Second World War. There are different versions you can get depending on the year, but today I will talk about Axis and Allies: 1940.
There are ten countries you can play as: three Axis powers and seven Ally powers. The Axis powers are Germany, Italy, and Japan, while the Allied powers include China, the United States, Australia, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the British Raj.
The Allied powers’ goal is to eliminate one of the Axis powers’ main capitals, like Berlin or Tokyo. The Axis players’ goal is either to control eight capitals, such as Cairo or Leningrad, or to capture an allied power’s principal capital, like London, Washington DC, or Moscow. The only countries that you can’t seize the capital of are France, Australia, and China. The game has 13 different types of troops that fit into one of these three subclasses: ships, planes, and ground units.
The combat of Axis and Allies is dice-based and quite complicated. At the start of every game, the board is set up, with troops already in position. When it is your turn, you start by buying units like troops, planes, and boats. You can purchase multiple units per turn, but you place them at the end of your turn. Then, after the pre-battle portion of your turn, you can begin maneuvering, attacking, or moving. Different units can carry a different number of spaces. For example, a fighter plane can go five spaces while a tank can only go one space; this part is not based on chance.
When attacking, there is a defender zone and an attacker zone. Different units go to other places depending on whether they are attacking or defending. Attacking and defending is done by rolling the dice. The defending player has a casualty zone in which their defeated units go for the attack before they are taken out. Then, you place your units; all countries except China must place their units in an area with an industrial complex because China cannot buy industrial complexes, due to the political landscape at that time. You end your turn by collecting money based on the territories you control. Then, it’s the next person’s turn to go. After everybody has gone, the turn ends.
Recently, a group of ninth-grade students played the game. “I’d rate the game an eight out of ten,” said James Wagner ‘27, a first-time player. “The only reason it’s that low is because it takes seven hours to get through six turns, but the combat’s fun.” Gibson Buffa ’27, an experienced strategy game player, said, “The combat was enjoyable. And it felt much more skillful compared with Shogun. But in this game, what you invest does have an effect. And so you can get a multitude of everything [troops] and strategize [using upgrades].”
There are some obscure rules that make the game more complicated and enjoyable. One exciting rule is that the United States can’t enter the game until the third turn. Another is that Italy gets ten extra dollars if they are the only one with boats in the Mediterranean. A final exciting option is that China cannot attack outside its borders or buy anything but infantry.
In my opinion, Axis and Allies is an intricate mix of many board games, like Monopoly or Risk. The game has a well-thought-out and reasonably simple combat system. The game is based in history and really makes you feel like a world leader. The one fault of the game is how long it takes. The game says on the box it takes 6+ hours, but I have never played a single game of Axis and Allies that did not last 11+ hours. That amount of time is a massive commitment and, in my opinion, is the only reason that Axis and Allies is not more popular.