Last night Ben, Borching and I took my brand new copy of Axis & Allies: WWI 1914, the recently released First World War edition of the classic strategy war game franchise, on a bit of a shakedown cruise. The resulting entire day of board gaming was a memorable affair, with lots of swing battles and epic rolls of the dice. I really enjoyed the revised combat system, which I thought nicely reflected the grinding realities of trench warfare, as well as the new alliances and opportunities for innovative strategies. I also appreciated how the game puts an emphasis on the principle of combined arms, by encouraging players to plan campaigns with a diverse range of units, rather than simply send stacks of infantry to their eventual demise.
The game definitely is not without its share of flaws, though. Like with other recent incarnations of the series, Axis & Allies: WWI 1914 takes many regrettable production shortcuts, by omitting industrial production certificates and simply not providing enough units. The resulting game occasionally feels rather clumsy, at least until a few turns have passed and many of the initial forces have been laid to waste. Regardless of these obvious shortcomings, I do feel as though Axis & Allies: WWI 1914 has a lot to offer, particularly for any devoted fans of the franchise. Since it was our debut round I really have no idea yet as to whether the Allies or the Central Powers enjoy any noticeable advantage, but Ben, Borching and I all felt like both sides were reasonably balanced, and parted ways eager to try our hands at recreating the First World War again soon. The game truly does feel different, and will probably continue to challenge players for quite a while – at least until designer Larry Harris coerces us all into buying the latest edition!
As far as the match specifics went, I played as the Central Powers: Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire. Ben and Borching split the Allies: France, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, and the United States. We played with the optional Russian Revolution rules, and by turn four I’d managed to topple Tsar Nicholas II and make peace with the new Bolshevik government. By the time I began swinging my forces west, however, the Americans were firmly entering the picture, and there was simply no way for me to bring enough force to bear to knock either France or Great Britain out of the war. I eventually conceded, certain that there was no way for me to win. Great game, Allies! I’ve included several photos of the game, which hopefully illustrate the monumental scale of Axis & Allies: WWI 1914.
Trenches across Europe.
The Ottoman Empire battles back the British.
Austria-Hungary and Italy slug it out.
War in the west.
Constant fighting in the Balkans.
The Allies contemplate liberating Denmark.
The Allies assemble a massive joint fleet and enjoy victory.