"You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you."
-- General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Order of the Day, June 6, 1944
June 6th, 2004 marks the 60th anniversary of the greatest day in modern history, the Allied invasion of Normandy. Avalon Hill will mark that anniversary with a commemorative new release: Axis & Allies D-Day. This game uses much of what makes Axis & Allies great in a whole new way. In this series of ten columns, we will give you a pre-release look inside this Larry Harris-designed game.
As we work through the next ten columns, you should keep one mantra in mind. As you evaluate what's different about this game, always remember the following:
Axis & Allies is strategic, Axis & Allies D-Day is tactical.
The core game is the essence of global strategy. You control the wartime economies and military deployments of superpowers that can clash all over the world. This epic scale is what makes Axis & Allies the greatest of all World War II games.
D-Day, on the other hand, is not like this at all. It focuses on an area 100 miles on a side, smaller than most single spaces on the A&A map. Individual units represent actual forces that fought on the beaches and in the towns. Every important occupied village is seen on the map, and all of them can matter in the course of a game.
This is a different sort of game. If you get your mind in the right place, you will see that what Axis & Allies does on a global scale, it can do just as well in the fields of France -- but with a very different feel.
A Personal Feel
D-Day looks and feels different from Axis & Allies. When R&D started working on the Axis & Allies line, two packages came in from Larry Harris. The first was the basis for what became the new Avalon Hill edition of Axis & Allies, on store shelves now. (If you want to read more about that design process, you can read my last series of columns.) The second was the first draft of D-Day. It had planes on the box top, suggesting it would be similar to Axis & Allies Pacific, which also had a plane on it. That assumption couldn't have been more wrong.
Above is Lisa Hanson's box design for D-Day. Tommy Lee Edwards' cover illustration shows a few American infantrymen crashing the beach. They look resolute, but in serious danger. The men on the cover would become the symbols of the game. They weren't faceless legions, they were people whose lives were put in jeopardy for the sake of freedom.
In this game, every unit has a designator stating which historical military unit it represents, such as the 101st Airborne Division. When you lose a unit, you do not get it back. Ever.
Consider the effect of that in Axis & Allies. Imagine your side started the game with 10 tanks. As you lost them in combat, you couldn't build more of them. What would you do? Would you save them from combat? Would you try to get everything out of them you could? Would you even build the last one until you had to?
In D-Day, you get a certain number of units and no more. Some start in play, and others come in as reinforcements. You can never buy more units. In fact, you never buy anything at all.
A Shorter, Tighter Game
Because there is no economic activity in this game, you have only the troops at hand to make your victory happen. Worse, you must do it in a set amount of time. The Allies must launch their invasion and defeat the German forces within a limited number of turns or the Wehrmacht wins. The game can be played in less than two hours, meaning that if you have an evening free, you conceivably could play a tournament format, switching back and forth between playing the Axis and the Allies.
The game is for two or three players. The Axis is always played by one player. The Allies can be played by one player, or with one person as the Americans and one as the British and Canadians. That's right, the heroes of the Great White North make their first Axis & Allies appearance in this game.
The rulebook is tight. All the rules for the game are crammed into 24 pages. There's a lot in those pages, however, all of which I'll try to cover in the next nine columns.
The rulebook is flavorful, too, as you can tell from the quote that begins this column. It's salted with quotes from the leaders who participated in the activities around D-Day: Eisenhower, Rommel, Pétain, Churchill, De Gaulle. Whereas in Axis & Allies you represent all the decision-makers who control economies and deployments, in D-Day you represent these military leaders. Your decisions may mirror theirs, or you may approach them a different way. It's your call, for ill or for good.
What's In the Box
D-Day has a rulebook, map board, battle board, six-sided dice, and plastic pieces, just like Axis & Allies. That's where the similarity ends.
One of the pieces is the blockhouse, a brand new piece for Axis & Allies. A blockhouse is a machine-gun and artillery emplacement pointed at the ocean. It has a devastating effect in the game, which I'll discuss in a couple weeks.
Other than a single turn marker, there aren't any counters or tokens in the box. You don't retain control of territories after you leave them, so there are no control markers. Because each piece represents a historical unit, there are no counters on which to stack units. Similarly, there are no Industrial Production Certificates in the game. Instead of spending freely, you have to make do with the units you have.
D-Day also marks the first official invasion of cards into this great wargame line. I'll spend a lot of pixels on the cards in an upcoming column, but for now I'll just tell you that they're not like any cards you'll find in any other games by Wizards of the Coast. They are crucial to the game, and they will let you play four different games out of the same box.
There's a new, bigger type of card in the game, too: the reinforcement chart. Each side gets one. From the beginning of the game, you'll know what pieces you have to use. How you deploy those pieces is up to you.
In the columns for the revised version of Axis & Allies, we kept the map under wraps until near the end of the series. Not this time. Next column, I'll show you France like you've never seen it before.
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.