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Axis & Allies: Countdown to Invasion
Week 2: Imports from Europe and Pacific
by Mike Selinker, Lead Developer

"Kamikaze Attacks: A terrifying development was the willingness of Japanese pilots to fly their planes directly into U.S. ships...."

-- from the optional rules in the revised Operations Manual

Last week in my column on the upcoming Axis & Allies revision, I intimated that we took some material from Axis & Allies Europe and Axis & Allies Pacific, the expansion games by Larry Harris and his Hasbro co-designers. Now I'll end the speculation ... and probably start some more.

First, though, there were two things we definitely wanted to borrow from Europe and Pacific: the size and basic design of the box. Here, for the first time, is a look at the new box cover for Axis & Allies. Illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards and graphically designed by Lisa Hanson, this may be the best-looking Axis & Allies box top ever. I think so, anyway. The box is the same size as Europe, meaning it will fit on your shelf.

Axis & Allies Revised Box Top

Bring On the Artillery

Candidate number one for inclusion was Europe and Pacific's 4-cost land unit, the artillery. (Note that I didn't say "artillery unit." The game's had a terminology facelift too. You can now send an artillery against an infantry without having a bunch of extra words in the way. Some longtime players will never get used to this, I know.)

Would you pay 4 IPCs for a 2-attack, 2-defense land unit that raised an accompanying infantry's attack to 2? Europe's players did, a lot. The price was right so that if you had enemies on all sides and 7 IPCs to your name, you'd want an infantry and an artillery. If you had 9 IPCs, would you buy two artillery and stash one IPC? No, you'd probably buy three infantry. That seemed exactly where we wanted artillery: a great support unit but hardly one that would obsolete our beloved infantry.

In playtests, people bought more artillery the closer their industrial complexes were to the Russian front. In a high-conflict game, buying artillery in Moscow meant that they could go toe-to-toe with German infantry the next turn. This encouraged more conflict, which we liked. The artillery became our first new piece to Axis & Allies in two decades.

US Destroyer and Artillery

The Destroyer Dilemma

Now we had another piece to consider, and this one's fate was less clear. The destroyer is a 12-IPC, 3-attack, 3-defense ship. A big price gap lay between the low-cost submarine and transport and the high-end carrier and battleship. The destroyer fit nicely in that gap but was the destroyer really the piece to go in that gap? Some people argued for the destroyer to be busted down to 2-attack so that there would be room for a proposed new cruiser piece.

The destroyer from Pacific came loaded with special abilities that made it an attractive choice for players. First, it inhibited submarines in key ways. Second, it could bombard in an amphibious assault, like a battleship. Third, it could transport infantry but only if the destroyer was Japanese (the "Tokyo Express" rule).

That was a lot to burden a piece with in the base game. We wanted pieces to have only one main special ability (e.g., tanks can blitz, and that's it). The destroyer from Pacific was too complicated.

Trouble was, we liked all of it. We made the decision to add the destroyer and keep as much of its essential nature as would allow for a fairly simple piece. The first property, "turning off" subs, came along in a vastly different form (trust me, that's a full column, which I'll write in a few weeks). The territories were too big to allow destroyers to bombard all the time ("I can hit Saskatchewan!") but we put destroyer bombardment into weapons development for those who wished to pay for it. Since we had room for thirty optional rules, reserving one for the Tokyo Express seemed flavorful.

Sorry, cruiser fans. No cruiser this time.

The Shape of Things To Come

I liked the original Axis & Allies pieces except for one thing. I hated that I couldn't put my fighters on my carriers without the planes falling off. I kept trying to do it, and each time I'd get more frustrated. (This could indicate that my opponents were taking too darn long to finish their noncombat moves, but I digress.)

Once we'd added the destroyer and artillery, the decision became obvious: We'd import the pieces from Europe and Pacific in sufficient quantities to make a playable game. This got us a huge advantage: Each power would have different pieces, appropriate to what the nation mustered in the field. For those who've never played the expansions, look at that Sherman and Panzer from Europe. Those are TANKS. That little Soviet tank next to them is from your Milton Bradley version. Not much of a choice, really.

New and Old Tanks

Now That's a Battleship

The easiest decision about what to bring from Europe and Pacific was the battleship's special ability. For 24 IPCs you'd better get something that can survive a submarine patrolling the waters off your industrial complex. We've all lost battleships this way -- well, those of us who've ever built battleships, that is, given how gun-shy players are about buying them.

Europe and Pacific battleships -- that's another story. The battleship's special ability is that it can take two hits before sinking. After the first hit, you turn the battleship on its side. Only after the second hit does it become a new coral reef. Otherwise, if it survives the battle, it turns back up, totally healed. That means you're going to need a lot of submarines before you hear me utter the phrase from that other Hasbro game.

A lot of people still won't buy battleships, of course. They're a luxury purchase, usually reserved for the United States or a successful Japanese player. When you get pinched between two Japanese battleships off Hawaii, however, you'll see that they've returned to their rightful place as the kings of the sea.

A Place for Your Forces

Task Force and Marshalling Cards

It'll be a while before I discuss the new map but I can say one thing now: Those blowup boxes across the top and bottom? Gone. I know I said the Milton Bradley edition was nearly flawless but those boxes made me crazy. Gibraltar should be in the Mediterranean, not floating in the North Atlantic. Still, players needed a place to stack pieces when they wanted an Allied invasion force ready to transport to North Africa.

Pacific gave us a way to get these boxes off the map. (Actually, I trumpeted for a full day that I'd invented a solution to this most vexing of problems. Then somebody took me aside and reminded me where I got the idea.) Pacific has six task force cards that hold ships to represent fleets in convoy. I stole this idea and took it to a general application.

We created ten numbered marshalling circles, each of which you can place on any space you control. Each matches a larger marshalling card on which you can place any pieces you want to put there. If you want eight tanks in Panama, put marker number 1 on Panama and your eight tanks on marshalling card 1. Nice and clean, and our beautiful map is now reserved for things in their rightful geographical places.

More Yummy Options

Like the Tokyo Express, a few flavorful rules from Europe and Pacific made it in as optional rules. Here are four that appear in some form:

1. Marines were too impressive to ignore. Who doesn't want to Semper Fi?

2. We couldn't put out a World War II game without some mention of the horrifying Japanese kamikaze tactic.

3. Air bases sure made island-hopping the South Pacific a lot more interesting.

4. Fighter escorts for strategic bombing raids ... well, that rule didn't really fit, but there will be Stukas bombing England in a lot of games, I promise you that.

All of those came from Pacific and Europe with significant alterations as four more of the thirty optional rules. (Whew, only twenty-five more optional rules to reveal. I've got thirteen columns left. I need to slow down.)

Next week, I'll talk about money and what it's good for. See you then.

Mike


Catch up on any previews you missed!


Mike SelinkerMike Selinker has been playing, designing, developing, and just plain loving games of every variety for many, many years. He is a gamer in the very best sense of the word. Mike lives in Seattle.










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