Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Axis & Allies 1941 -- what's up with that?

The Axis & Allies universe is getting pretty complicated. While the era of A&A  branded battle games and tactical miniatures games seems to be coming to a close, there have been a confusing series of elaborations on the traditional grand strategic theme, with an Axis & Allies 1942, Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition, Axis & Allies Europe 1940 and Pacific 1940 (that can be combined into a giant Global A&A) a Second edition A&A 1942 and now an Axis & Allies 1941!

Overall there seem to be two divergent trends in the Axis & Allies line occurring. On the one end, we see a grander, more involved and very long-playing line of development from the Revised Edition that started with the one-off Anniversary Edition and has culminated in the huge, 4-map extravaganza of the 1940 twin games. While A&A would never be confused with a detailed simulation wargame, the Global 1940 is a fantastic grand strategic wargame in the grandest scale. It takes hours to play, requires a team of players and is absorbing to the Nth degree.

On the other end of the spectrum, Larry Harris and Hasbro obviously believe there's s need for a shorter, simpler introductory level of the game that can be played in an evening. The first stab at that was the A&A 1942 edition that came out a couple of years ago. This stripped out a few of the more involved elements of the regular A&A game compared to the Revised Edition, and not to universal acclaim, either. It was cheaper, although I'm not sure it completely succeeded in the aim of playing quickly. The 1942 A&A was still a little long by contemporary standards.

So now the current (Second) Edition of A&A 1942 has added a bit back in as far as rules, pieces and intricacy for what i assume is meant to be the new "standard" edition of A&A and there's a new Axis & Allies 1941  to fill in the super-cheap and very fast playing version of the game for newbies.

It does this by ruthlessly stripping everything down to just the essential core of the Axis & Allies system, slashing the number of units and the number of IPCs and going back to the very simple capture-enemy-capitals Victory Conditions. Industry Complexes are now printed on the map, so you can't build any new ones. The unit types are back down to the basic 9 -- Infantry, Tank, Fighter, Bomber, Sub, Transport, Destroyer, Battleship and Carrier. Even the plastic poker chips used to represent additional units have been replaced with cardboard.The board is also much smaller, with fewer spaces.

There is a small inducement for existing A&A players to pick up the game by providing some new sculpts not seen before such as the HMS Hood, the P-40 and the Tiger tank. In a step back from previous trends, however, all the factions on the same side share the same sculpts, so the Japanese have Tiger tanks and the US and USSR battleships are ALSO the HMS Hood, etc.

The idea seems to have been to create a version that could be played in an hour or two, whetting the appetite for more. I haven't played yet, so I can't opine on whether it succeeded in that.


  1. I've always thought the (first) 1942 version was meant to be the "standard" and mass-market version, i.e. successor to the 1984 edition, 2004 revised edition, and I guess the anniversary edition too (which was supposed to be a one-time special edition thing). So the new 1942 edition is just a slightly updated new print run of the 1942 edition. The 1941 version I think is the first "simplified" version of global scale A&A.

    What I do wish is that Larry Harris would go back to designing some battle-specific A&A games. I really enjoyed A&A Guadalcanal.

    1. I think his design efforts have been largely taken up with the new Global and the revised 1942 and new 1941 strategic games. Now that all these projects are coming to fruition maybe he'll turn his attention to some more of the "battle" games.