Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Review: Best Board Game Ever

I found it difficult to pick a subject for review today.  Should I do the latest episode of Doctor Who?  A book I read recently?  A board game?  A restaurant I had lunch at?

Doctor Who was certainly tempting.  In the Forest of the Night was an interesting episode.  There were quite a few positives aspects to it, not least being the fact that they got great actors to play the kids.  Unfortunately, the negative aspects pretty much exemplified everything I haven't liked in an otherwise entertaining season.

So I decided not to do that.

So how about a book?  I've read several Middle Grade children's books recently: The Castle in the Attic, a growing-up adventure story; Touch Blue, a quirky growing-up story; The Cay, a growing-up historical-fiction adventure story; Among the Hidden, a growing-up adventure story; and The Royal Ranger, an adventure story about growing up, and a little bit about loss.*

But I've done a few book reviews recently.  Might be time for something different.

How about a game, then?

I have the classic Milton Bradley version.

Introduction: Axis and Allies is a World War Two strategy board game for 2 to 5 players.  These players command either the Axis (Germany and Japan) or the Allies (the UK, the US, and the USSR).**  Beginning spring of 1942, the board's initial set-up is representative of these nations' actual military positions at the time.

Game play is turn-based.  The first to play is the USSR, followed by Germany, then the UK, Japan and finally the US.  On each country's turn, they can try to develop new technology, buy new units (ground, air and sea), attack enemy territories, make non-combat movements, and place their new units, in that order.  At the end of their turn, they are given money according to how many territories they control.

You win by capturing two enemy capitals and holding them for a round.  The Axis can also win by making a combined 85 'dollars' or more - once they've got that kind of money, it's only a matter of time.

My Review: I love this game.  I've been playing it since I was in sixth grade, I think.  This game is fun whether you win or not.  (I should know - playing against Dad, I've lost more often than I've won.)  Every game has the potential to be very different from the last, as you and the other player(s) try out different strategies.  It's quite possible for either side to win, which is nice in a board game.

Overall, this game is excellent.  Although the outcome of combat is determined by rolling dice, it's much more strategy-based than Risk.  I play a lot with my dad, and his only real complaint is that Heavy Bombers, one of the optional weapons developments, gives too great an advantage to whomever develops it.

The 50th anniversary version of the game alters a few rules, adds Italy as another Axis nation, and adds two new units: artillery and Cruisers.  This changes game play considerably, and makes combat more realistic than the original.

Warning: This is not a quick, half-hour game.  I wouldn't recommend starting a game unless you're prepared to invest some serious time and thought.  This is not, in my view, a negative, although you will need to commit significant table space for the duration.

Manufacturer: Hasbro, via Avalon Hill, formerly made by Milton Bradley
Genre: Strategy game; board game
Players: 2-5
Game time: Depends on the game and the players. Hours, not minutes.

My rating: 5 stars

*I'm sensing a common theme in these books...

**I'm sensing a common pattern in Allied country names...

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