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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Axis & Allies Global, the greatest War Game you’ll probably never play… but should

We have established over my many years of writing reviews for tabletop games, and wargames especially, that I have a bit of a thing for long games with lots of components and the common theme I always come back to when comparing said games to other behemoths, is Axis & Allies Global. But yet, having played it for 12 years now, and its smaller predecessors for over 25, I’ve never reviewed Global. Which is odd because it is, in my mind, one of, if not the greatest, board-based wargames ever to have been created; and I’ve played a lot!

I, therefore, am going to break this game down for you and show you why it’s the greatest board-based wargame and why you should play it; even if it is just on Table Top Simulator.

What is Axis & Allies?

So first up a quick explanation on what Axis & Allies is.

In short it’s slightly more in-depth, WW2 Risk but instead of having every man for himself and just relying on map placement, odds, luck and backstabbing. You have 2 teams, Axis and Allies, of 2-5 players (2-6 in Global) and the aim of the game is to take a certain amount of victory cities, using infantry, Tanks, artillery, Fighters, Bombers, Destroyers, Submarines, Battleships, Aircraft Carriers and transports to win the day. With the Europe, Pacific, and Global 1940 versions having Tactical bombers, Mechanised infantry and Cruisers as well. Combat is simultaneous and with casualties being taken off by both sides at the same time.

Each unit has an attack and a defence, Eg Infantry attack on 1’s (meaning you have to get a 1 or lower to hit ) but defend on 2’s, Fighters attack on 3’s but defend on 4’s and in some instances, having combined arms, like infantry and artillery together increase that number (eg Infantry attack on 2’s if accompanied with artillery)

I am aware that some of you are already turning off right now and think it already seems really complicated but stay with me, it’s not as bad as you think.

Now this franchise has been going since 1981 but the size and scale has always stayed relatively similar, only lasting about 2 to 3 hours, depending on how many players you have and with a board akin to the size of a standard Risk board.  That was until 2010 when someone had the great idea of releasing not one but two games that could be put together to create an ultimate third. Axis & Allies Europe 1940 and Axis & Allies Pacific 1940, married together to become Axis & Allies Global. A  Nearly 6 ft by 3 foot, World spanning board, with units for the UK, USA, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, China, and even the ANZACs. 2-3 hours went up to 14 hours+ (again depending on players) and additional unit types, factory types, naval bases and air bases were added; it is truly glorious to behold.

Are you crazy!? 14 hours+ a game that will take up most large gaming tables, new pieces and rules… If you were already about to turn off because of the above then this may have you grabbing your coat and readying to leave the building, but again, stay the course; let me explain.

What makes Axis & Allies Global so great?

Balance, simple as that, it has to be one of the most balanced games I have ever played and as many wargamers will know, is really hard to get. Especially in tabletop war games where there are no end of threads on different systems complaining about poor balance and power creep. This is not the case in A&A. All units have the same stats (albeit you can research upgrades, at a cost) and it’s a team game so you win or lose as a team.

Also at no point will you feel that a certain faction is overpowered because everything, even down to income and when countries can declare war, are set in a way to give each side a chance.  And even if one country, generally Russia and UK East are getting absolutely hammered it’s not game-breaking, and what was at one point a desperate rear guard can turn into a game-winning strategy, just by surviving, holding up attacks and tar-pitting advances. In some cases you can go from back foot underdog to liberating thunderdog. The Game swings from certain victory feelings to imminent defeat disappear quite regularly and just because a couple of turns have gone bad, doesn’t mean you are out.

Indeed, due to the length and size of the game it is quite forgiving in certain ways and you can come back from certain disasters as long as your teammates are putting enough pressure on the opposite side. Its all about pressure and counterpressure, balance and counterbalance. Giving ground in one area so you can focus on another, delaying one enemy to give you allies time to defeat the other.

Its not as complicated as you think it is .

Ok, so it’s not “simple” BUT it’s not dense either.

Because it’s huge, and there are a lot of different units, it can seem complicated and somewhat daunting but once you grasp it, you soon realise its not as complicated as you thought. All units have a specific movement, attack, defence and cost values written on the board itself and in the rules at the back. There are some special rules that you need to get your head around to prevent some embarrassing moments.. I’ve been there. But these, when understood, become second nature and there isn’t actually that many of them; roughly about 12 with each nation having some conditions on when they can declare war and who they are at war with.

Like Risk, gaining territory gets you more IPCs (the in game currency ) to purchase units, each territory has a number on it and that is the number of IPCs you get per turn for taking it. On top of this, each country has a set of additional bonuses, depending on what areas it holds and or captures. UK West gets 5 IPCs extra a turn just for holding all its original territory, Germany gets an additional 5 if it holds Norway and Denmark and so on. If you play a Multiplayer game each person looks at their reference sheet and remembers what bonuses it gets. If you are just playing with 2 people then just make sure you have a note of each country’s bonuses that you can check each time it’s that’s country’s turn.

You can try it out for next to nothing.

Ok, So maybe I’ve piqued your interest BUT, its expensive, 14+ hours is way too long for one sitting and you don’t have a table big enough to accommodate it. Now, this is a problem for a lot of people and one of the reasons many tabletop gamers, even if they are interested, won’t give it a chance. Well ladies and gents there is a cheap, easy, and enjoyable way to deal with all of these problems.. Table Top Simulator.


You should, of course, try it in person, if you can get a full day or a couple of days with your mates and a big table, its glorious but if you cant and it’s hard to herd the cats that are your friends into playing anything let alone something this huge then give Tabletop simulator a go.

And here’s why:

  1. TTS is like £14, sometimes cheaper when it comes up on offer on steam and you’ll get a lot of use out of it, even if you don’t like A&A. The workshop has endless games and a lot of them are scripted so no set up or messing around needed. (using TTS walkthrough coming at some point).
  2. When playing A&A on it, the mod is already set up for you, the board is set up, unit placement set up and your IPCs automatically go up when you place a control marker on a territory. It also has trackers, unit bags, rules and everything you will need as a player in your own area.
  1. Because it is on a virtual table top you can play for a few hours, save it and carry on another time.

During lockdown myself and a few friends played 2 full games of it, both getting to about turn 6 before one side conceded and it was great, if somewhat all-encompassing. We’d play for a full round, about 2/3 hours, save it and then the next week carry on. In between we had a Whats App group that we would use to strategize and a main channel where we would smack talk each other. It was loads of fun. The only downside to playing it this way is that it did take up a lot of your daily thought process. Thinking about what units you’d buy, where you would attack, what your opponent would do, working out the odds of success if you did X, Y or Z .

A long game short

So yes, it is a long game, it is a large game, it is expensive  (if you buy it, and you should if you can) and it isn’t basic, BUT! If you like wargames, especially board based ones you will find few of this size that are as so well balanced, engaging  and just great to play with your mates. Don’t have the money, the table space, the time or the ability to get all your friends down to play in one place, then TTS is your friend and you can play this glorious game with your friends, as and when you want.

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Matt Geary
Matt Gearyhttps://www.geek-pride.co.uk
From N.Ireland but now living in Manchester, England; Matt is the founder and CEO of Geek Pride. Interests: Photography, Music, Art, poetry, Military History, Model making and painting and of course gaming (table top and computer)

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