"Heavy fighting will soon begin and will continue without end, as we can push troops in and he can bring other troops up. It is, therefore, a most serious time that we enter upon."
Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
I ran through the first seven cards in order, but I'm going to diverge from that pattern now. The next couple of columns will cover the rest of the order cards but not in numerical order.
This week, I'll discuss the cards that deal with movement on land. These two cards are never removed from the game.
Order Card 8: Allies Move
The text of this Allied order is Move land units to adjacent zones. Do not move land units from beachhead boxes.
Three types of land units are capable of movement: infantry, artillery, and tanks. As in Axis & Allies, infantry and artillery can move one zone per turn, and tanks can move two zones.
"Which zones?" is the key issue.
A mobile unit can move into any adjacent zone. A unit can't move out of a territory, however, if that territory contains hostile land units, including blockhouses. These land units are considered "locked in combat" -- they pin each other in place. By extension, a tank must stop its movement if it enters a zone with a hostile unit (because it's not allowed to leave).
Also, a mobile unit cannot move into a zone if that zone already contains eight land units from its side (Axis or Allies). This is the first real stacking limit in an Axis & Allies game. No more than eight land units from any one side can be in a zone together. The stacking limit applies at all times, not just after all movement is finished. Air units and blockhouses don't count against the limit.
The stacking limit changes quite a bit about gameplay. Once a zone gets filled with units of your side, you can't move through there. Sometimes you can move around a logjammed space through other zones, but in other cases (say, on the beaches) you can't go anywhere. A bottleneck that stops your troops' movements will cost you time and, if you're the Allies, you need all the time you can get to capture those three victory cities. Some of our playtesters started calling this "the crush," because they couldn't freely move pieces as they pleased.
The stacking limit also has another effect: It forces you to make interesting choices about which forces to send where. If you have eight US infantry outside of unoccupied Caen, but eight artillery a space beyond that, do you send all the infantry into Caen? Maybe, maybe not. If you do, you won't be able to stiffen them with the artillery next turn. Without artillery, those infantry might get sliced and diced by the eight Panzers sitting two zones away, costing you your infantry and the city. The motto: Think before you reach your stacking limit.
Because each unit represents an individual military force in Normandy, no chips are used in this game like they are in Axis & Allies. A particularly crowded zone can look like the one in this photo.
As noted in the card text, the Allies don't move units in beachhead boxes yet. I'll describe that activity next time.
Also, this movement order doesn't apply to air units. They have unlimited movement, which they already exercised in orders 3 and 5. Now we'll see just how important those air moves were.
Order Card 12: Axis Moves
The text of this Axis order is Fighters strafe Axis land units moving into or out of zones they patrol. Roll one die for each fighter per unit that moves. A roll of 1 is a hit.
Several orders after the Allied move, the Axis takes its move. The Germans have a serious limiter that the Allies don't have. All those Allied fighters sent out on order 3 now prove their worth by strafing Axis land units that choose to move. Allied planes cut German convoys to ribbons in the actual invasion of Normandy, and they'll likely do the same thing here.
Any Axis land unit that moves into or out of a zone containing a fighter is strafed by that fighter. If two tanks move into a zone containing an American fighter, the US player rolls two dice, one against each tank, and hits on any 1s he or she rolls.
In certain circumstances, this can be a hailstorm of bullets. The limit of fighters per zone is four. The limit of mobile land units in a zone is eight. Imagine a column of eight German infantry moving out of a zone containing four US fighters and into a zone containing four UK fighters. That's up to sixty-four dice rolls against those eight infantry -- four in the first zone against each infantry and four in the second. A little back-of-the-envelope math shows that this move would be sheer suicide. A smart German player would not make this move unless he was absolutely desperate.
That's what the fighters do: they change the decision-making on the part of the Axis player. There are nowhere near enough fighters to cover the board, so the Allied side makes decisions about what movement paths the Allies want to defend and which they want to leave open. The German player can take the easy paths or run the gauntlets.
Sometimes, you must run the gauntlets. You might, for example, need to get pieces to a beach that the Allies have taken. Slowing them down is one of your most important tasks. Even if you must sacrifice men to get to the Allied forces, at least the enemy won't be walking into any victory cities.
Even though this is the last movement order for the Axis, the Allied fighters don't go home just yet. They have important business to do when reinforcements arrive.
The Piece Counts
Trying to maneuver in the face of such deadly Allied air superiority sounds rough for the Germans, but they do have one serious advantage: they have more pieces than the Allies. If you're playing the Germans, you can lose a lot of units and still win the day. Here are the unit totals for each side:
||British and Canadians
You can see that the Germans have many more tanks and artillery, and nearly as many infantry, as the Allies put together. They have no air units, but they do have those nasty blockhouses. Those, as it turns out, are the featured stars in my next column. I hope you'll return for that.
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.