Tag Archive: Axis & Allies


Review by C.J. Bunce

If you ever needed a big, fun, family game, it’s probably now, right?  We’ve just previewed Avalon Hill’s forthcoming summer release Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion, arriving in stores later this month, and it’s a winner–no doubt it will go down as the season’s best tabletop game.  With dozens of throwbacks to the classic animated series featuring Scooby-Doo and the Gang, it mixes elements of Clue, Monopoly-like strategy levels, and staples of the roleplay game genre including its own Monster’s Tome game book.  Twenty-five impressive mysteries and dozens of possible outcomes for each will keep your family busy this summer with your favorite sleuths: Velma, Fred, Daphne, Shaggy, and, of course, Scooby-Doo.

You won’t play this game without piping in with your own ruh roh and jinkies along the way.  Clues, objects, and events all point back to elements of the TV show.  Colorful tokens (like Scooby snacks, pizza, flashlights, and treasure) are provided specific to each of the 25 mysteries that work together with clue cards (like a painting with eyes following you, a mysterious letter, and a locked box), layout tiles to build 28 rooms inside the haunted mansion and spooky areas outside, along with 8 dice and three guide books, all to set 3 to 5 players on their way to sleuthing out a mystery, Mystery, Inc. style.  Everyone plays one of those famous “meddling kids,” then one player steps out to play the monster, ghost pirate (or is that pirate ghost?), masked neighbor, werebeast, alien, witch, henchman… you’ll have plenty of familiar baddies to take on, challenging each other in the style of previous roleplay games like Magic the Gathering with upgradable strengths and dice roll battles.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

To understand the scope of celebrated Chinese author Cixin Liu′s 2005 novel Supernova Era, finally available to Western audiences in an English translated edition by Joel Martinsen, it helps to look back to its influences, and those works published since its original publication in China.  At its core, this is a classic science fiction novel of the Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury school.  It’s a work of speculative fiction, at once arguably both optimistic and dystopian that reads almost like an alternate history in the vein of Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.  Disturbing and horrifying at points, philosophical, and filled with global, international, and political intrigue, it’s also squarely a young adult title, featuring almost exclusively middle grade aged kids tasked with surviving an interstellar holocaust–the actual “supernova” of the title–that quickly fries the DNA of anyone older than the age of thirteen.  The solution?  In the face of their imminent deaths, the world’s adult leaders begin to select youth leadership based on the classic “model United Nations” competitions.  It’s a jarring, but ultimately interesting and clever mash-up of some great tropes of science fiction.

Since the initial publication of Supernova Era in China, we’ve seen parts of the story replayed–possibly even inspiring–many other genre works:  Only last year in we saw Jeff Lemire’s Sentient–a comic book series where the adults on a ship are killed in a sabotage leaving kids to run a spaceship.  Here, we follow two small groups of children, the cabinet who must lead China and the cabinet who leads the United States, without the help, advice, education, and other benefits of adults or adulthood, on a global stage.   At first, the children default to letting an Internet-like artificial intelligence computer–the Digital Domain–help keep society in order, something like the robot in last year’s Netflix movie, I Am Mother, where a computer system’s robotic surrogate fulfills all parental duties to children.

When the daily toil of work grinds the kids in the Supernova Era into a state of boredom, they reach out to a massively multi-player online roleplaying game (MMPORG) and begin to build their real lives around it, as we saw in Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel, Ready Player One, where a future society allows itself to give up life in the real world to become lost inside a virtual reality MMPORG.  And the world’s kid leadership ultimately decide they need to compete with other nations, creating a worldwide version of Suzanne Collins’ 2008 novel The Hunger Games (also inspired by Stephen King’s novel, The Running Man) with a society relying on a new world construct with quirky contrived, artificial new rules of survival, battling wars with gameboard rules to the death.  Were these authors aware of Liu’s internationally known and respected work?  Possibly, but it’s the earlier works that served at least in part as influences on Liu’s novel.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The classic wartime strategy board game is back, but this time with the strangest update yet.  It’s Axis & Allies & Zombies.  Just released, the game is playable as a standalone game featuring a 1941 scenario, and if you’re a fan of the original and think you’ve exhausted all the scenarios under past editions, you’ll love the included new rule modifications for the 1942 Edition of Axis & Allies.  It’s a great way to reinvigorate your game play (even if zombies aren’t your thing).  Why?  At its core, Axis & Allies is a heavily dice-driven game.  The update really offers some random changes in circumstances thrown at you as you defend the Americans, the Soviets, the British, the Germans, or the Japanese, in an alternate universe battle to win World War II (we reviewed the new Axis & Allies 1942 Edition last year here at borg).  If you love the zombie genre, even better, as no other game will give you this kind of real-world zombie battle, outside maybe your town’s annual zombie run.

Everything you need to play the game under the 1941 Zombie rules–the standalone game–are included in Axis & Allies & Zombies.  Blood-spattered money (Industrial Production Credits), a stained deluxe game board, six new zombie game dice, ghostly zombie characters, new zombie control markers, a set of 60 zombies (plus an 86-card expansion deck for the 1942 Edition), and all the game pieces from the original game are included here.  A big difference is this game can be played on a standard card table as opposed to the 1942 game board which requires far more space to play–this edition of the game includes a smaller game board than the original, but it still has plenty of room for play.

Zombies are created whenever a nation’s infantry unit is destroyed or via a directive from a zombie card drawn during each turn.  Every zombie gets to attack in each round.  Even neutral territories have gameplay–as a “Desperate Times” zombie card may indicate zombie infiltration via those locations, unlike their lack of utility in the classic game.  Optional play of “Desperate Measures” rules can result in good or bad actions, like the ability to use newly conceived anti-zombie technology.  And don’t expect an air attack by zombies.  Why?  Zombies can’t fly airplanes (of course!).  You also can’t deny the cool factor of another new feature–Chainsaw Tanks.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Axis & Allies is a classic wartime strategy board game that you’ve likely encountered either yourself or found a good friend playing over the years.  First released in 1981 by Nova Game Designs it has continued to be re-released from the likes of Milton Bradley, and it currently is a game produced by Wizards of the Coast and Avalon Hill under the Hasbro umbrella of companies.  Thirty-six years after its release it remains a fun and competitive game in various versions of play with a loyal following, continuing to be the focus of tournaments at Gen Con and other venues throughout the year.  This month Wizards of the Coast is releasing an updated edition of the game celebrating the 50th anniversary of Avalon Hill.  The company had tapped Axis & Allies original game designer and creator Larry Harris to take another look at the game and develop a special anniversary edition with updated features and gameplay.  The result is the Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition, a giant, beautifully designed edition featuring plenty of extras, including two completely different games in one box as compared to the classic standard edition–one with a scenario beginning in the Spring of 1941 (the Axis attack) and the other beginning in the Spring of 1942 (from the traditional version of the game).  The detail and complex strategy allow for an unlimited level of historicity depending on the desires of the players.  The out-of-the-box version will test players’ skill in planning, including short-term battle tactics and long-term strategy, and as with the original game there’s also room for luck to have a hand in the outcome.

The Anniversary Edition, originally released in limited quantities in 2008 and out of print since, includes more than 650 game pieces, including some updated sculpts of tokens compared to the standard edition.  It’s housed in a deluxe sturdy box that features a gorgeous painting when the eight game piece boxes are housed together.  The gameboard is a whopping 24 x 46 inches.  Recommended for players 12 and up, 2-6 can play, each representing one or more of the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom for the Allies, or Germany, Japan, or Italy for the Axis.  As compared to the standard edition Italy is feature of the Anniversary Edition, which balances out the board 3 to 3 (allowing for more players than prior editions).  As with Italy during the real war, the prospects of a single player representing Italy winning the game in a six player game will be a real challenge, but we figured a cunning or lucky player may be able to make it work.  China also has a different configuration in this edition, allowing for further twists to the game depending on how it is used to manipulate the balance of power across the board.  The key update for 2017 is an updated rulebook correcting past errors.

You really get your money’s worth with the giant board, extra features, and 650+ playing pieces in the Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition.

We set aside an afternoon to try it: my friend (who is a regular gamer, but hasn’t played Axis & Allies in years) and I (new to wargame/combat board games) made it through two complete rounds in 6.5 hours, but that time included initial board set-up (punching out pieces, etc.) and reading instructions.  Those familiar with the standard game will have no problem completing 4-6 rounds in this time, which appears to be the norm for a complete game.  The winner of the game is the first to capture a set number of major city capitals.  Each side starts with a designated number of cities (based on which scenario you play) and players decide in advance whether 13, 15, or all 18 capitals is the goal, which may shorten or extend the time of gameplay.  Paper money is used as IPCs or “industrial production certificates” and each of the six major countries is paid each round to represent a rough correlation of the actual military spending during the war.  We played the Spring of 1941 scenario and this meant Germany was powerful with Japan in a good position to strike, but the United Kingdom is entrenched upfront by design as a military stronghold with resources that, along with the resources of the United States, kept the balance in favor of the Allies for the first round.

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