Axis & Allies: Countdown to Invasion
Week 13: Brave New World
"And the map ... well, the new map is something else entirely."
--from the New Orders rule-changes sheet in the revised game
I'm no idiot. I'm getting out of the way right now. Look at this beautiful thing, designed by cartographer Todd Gamble.
That's a mighty fine map board. There are more than a hundred subtle (and some not-so-subtle) changes to this map, so many that I can't hope to cover them all. Besides, I'm not sure I want to. Part of the beauty of a revision like this is discovering new possibilities during play. You wouldn't want me to spoil all those for you.
Some I will talk about, not only because they'll spark discussion but because I want you to know why we made them. Here are some details about the new Axis & Allies map.
A New Look
Art directors Ryan Sansaver and Pete Whitley wanted a map that looked like it had been through the war. The map has fold lines, inlaid compasses, and even fingerprints. The borders show which western spaces line up with their eastern counterparts.
Todd's new map is dark and ... angry. The ocean is no longer pastel blue. It's a bluish-black, and the sea zones are outlined in ragged white lines instead of thick black ones. (Take a look at the Milton Bradley map for contrast.)
The new map matches territory colors to the piece colors. The Milton Bradley map had three colors of brown that you needed to keep straight. This map has bold green U.S. territories, pale brown U.K. territories, deep red Russian territories, solid gray German territories, and dark orange Japanese territories. These match the new piece colors.
The Japanese piece color may surprise some of you. We decided to get away from the yellowish color scheme of the MB edition, because we didn't like the associations that brought. (Look, we don't call World War II-era Germans "Krauts" either.) The Russian red pieces from Axis & Allies Europe and Japanese red pieces from Axis & Allies Pacific couldn't appear in the same game. Burnt orange stood out as a great choice. We really like the new Japanese pieces.
New Names for a New Era
A bunch of territories got new names. In most cases it was because the old territory name was two country names run together. An entire generation of hobby board gamers may have grown up believing there's a place called "Borneo Celebes" in the world. Not the next generation, though. Here are a few territories with new names:
A couple of these changes were harder to make than others. We struggled over what to call the territory west of Persia, for example. Syria didn't cover that entire area, and Iraq had modern connotations that we preferred not to address. For a while, we called it Middle East, but that seemed sterile. Eventually we borrowed the flavorful name Trans-Jordan from Axis & Allies Europe, riffing off the fateful agreement after World War II that cut up the Mideast.
The hardest change to make under the "one country" rule was Finland Norway. It wasn't about choosing. It was that longtime players had a delightful shorthand for that territory: "Finway." I had to let it go, though. A real-world game deserved real-world names.
Still, even though we cared a lot about accurate names, we didn't try to make territories match their real-world size. The United Kingdom and Germany territories are vastly out of proportion to their sizes in the real world. That's because we wanted the pieces to fit where we set them up. Todd originally had a scale of miles and kilometers on the map, and I asked him to remove it to avoid an expectation of geographical accuracy. We wanted a game board, not an atlas page.
Six Areas that Matter
As I said, I can't cover every area on the map. Six areas, however, merit special attention.
1. The Russian Front
This is the most dynamic area of the new board. Germany starts with several new territories crafted by halving some of its old territories horizontally. Most interesting of these is West Russia, which begins in German hands. The Soviet Union player is well advised not to leave this territory unmolested on turn one.
One interesting aspect of this area is the tradeoff of industrial complexes and victory cities. Russia has one of each, but Karelia has only a victory city and Caucasus has only an industrial complex (in a 4-IPC territory). The Soviet Union player has some tough decisions to make about where to reinforce.
2. The North Atlantic
The United States starts with a pair of fully loadable transports on turn 1. Where can they offload? Just two territories in the Eastern hemisphere, really. They can make it to the United Kingdom and Africa in one move, either preparing for D-Day or launching Operation Torch. Because they can't motor back and forth from Washington to Normandy (what many longtime players call the "shuck-shuck"), they must coordinate with their allies.
You can also land in Greenland. Its first appearance in an Axis & Allies game is allowed by the removal of the Gibraltar blowup box. We sell a lot of copies in Greenland, I'm guessing.
North Africa is split in half in the new edition. Sahara is an impassable territory just like Switzerland, thanks to the new definition of "neutral." That means German tanks dropped off from Italy can't just drive south to cherry-pick those British-controlled African territories. Anglo-Egypt becomes a fulcrum for control of both southern Africa and the all-important Suez Canal.
A second geographically impassable territory is Himalaya in Asia. Those Chinese nationals just got one less border from which they can be attacked ... or reinforced.
4. Central USA
You can't fly a bomber from Washington to Tokyo any more, unless you've got Long-Range Aircraft. The new territory of Central USA not only gives 6 IPCs to the United States, it slows down the western movement of eastern units. Infantry in the Eastern USA needs two turns to walk across the country.
The new sea zone configuration means that sea units built off Washington will take three turns to get to Hawaii. This makes it much more likely that they'll focus on the German threat. It is also now impossible to sail to Western USA from the Caribbean except by going through the Panama Canal.
5. Soviet Far East
The four eastern Soviet territories (Evenki National Okrug, Yakut S.S.R., Soviet Far East, and Buryatia S.S.R.) are now worth 1 IPC each. If the Japanese violate the Russo-Japanese non-aggression treaty, they won't get many IPCs for their efforts. The more tempting route to Moscow is from the victory city of Shanghai through China, a much higher priority for the Japanese in World War II. The industrial complex at Caucasus makes defense of this route a priority for the Soviets.
A new optional rule allows the Soviets to take advantage of the Trans-Siberian Railway and shuttle defenses to the Japanese border much faster.
6. The South Pacific
The Japanese needed some IPCs to get their battle fleet going, and we put them all in the South Pacific. Those two 4-IPC territories, Borneo and the East Indies, are major prizes for the Allies because capturing them will shut down a transport or submarine a turn.
With Australia more active, the United States and Britain can launch strikes against the Japanese military units on South Pacific islands. Capturing places like New Guinea and the Philippine Islands will bring the Allies deep into the heart of Japanese conquests, perhaps making the Japanese player regret expanding into the Subcontinent, China, or Russia.
Obviously, there's a lot more I could talk about, but I'd rather see what you discover on your own. Next week, I'll discuss the biggest change we made to Axis & Allies, one that will change the nature of every game you play. Until then, enjoy your new map.
Catch up on any previews you missed!
Mike 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.
©1995-2007 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Wizards is headquartered in Renton, Washington, PO Box 707, Renton, WA 98057.