Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year, Old Games

Games were a big part of college for me. With hours to fill, often snowed in or without transportation off campus, and before the internet was anything more than some ASCII interfaces and screeching modems we spent a lot of time after class dealing cards and rolling dice. When I got to school I found a deeply houseruled local version of "Spades" was the lingua franca across campus. Everyone I met at school either played or quickly learned just to be able to fit in. A few months later another card game showed up in our dorm, but to a crowd that was already accustomed to playing cards late into the night, "Magic: The Gathering" was not alien, just novel. Nobody had heard of it, but "flat crack" spread like a wildfire across my dorm, all before the stigma of Magic players being a bunch of neckbeards and cat piss men had laid hold of CCGs. Everyone I knew played: the brogrammers, the former marine, the coke dealer, the usual assortment of geeks and nerds, and my roommate the Insomniac.

Eventually we all got burned out on Magic after sinking to much money into preorders of an awful expansion. Packing away our cards we looked to new diversions. I veered off towards the geekier side of RPGs and Battletech, while my insomniac roommate pulled some of his old boardgames from storage, the most popular proving to be "Axis & Allies ". It's a classic, and I'm sure you've played, but briefly it was one of the big box games released by Milton Bradley during the 80s allowing up to five players to play out World War II at a grand strategic level. It's fairly simple compared to the hex and chit or block wargames but to college kids who didn't even know such things existed A&A was a titan that frightened off lesser players by the sheer size and scope of the rules, the huge board and the thousands upon thousands of tiny plastic men, tanks, planes and ships. We played it a lot, but after graduating real life responsibilities gradually encroached, curtailing our ability to get five people together and play massive 5 hour long boardgames. I still stay in touch with the Insomniac, who's been trying to schedule another Axis game for a few months in vain, but it was his wife who managed to rope enough of us together to play this year on New Year's day. What a gal!

The New Year's Game

We drew straws and I wound up with Germany, the one nation I had never played in Axis. I faced off against frequent opponent Mike in Russia. Scrambling for a plan, I attacked too cautiously in the first round, perhaps the worst mistake you can make with Germany during the early blitzkrieg years. Oops! I managed to recover and threw the bulk of my strength into an attack on Karelia, seizing it and leaving the Russians bloodied and falling back to protect Moscow. In Africa, my panzers routed the brits and were poised for an attack into Syria. In the east, the Japanese had a field day, destroying the U.S Pacific fleet and securing the ocean for themselves before running rampant across Asia. Of course, I had to take a pic of our victories which only seemed to rub salt in the Allies wounds.
Panzers and Luftwaffe ready to descend on Moscow.

Germany demilitarized.
"Hey! Hey dude, take a picture of THAT!
Where's your Instagram now?"
My fortunes began to reverse over the next few turns when the Brits dropped an industrial complex in South Africa, the Russian transport I had failed to knock out dropped a tank off in west africa, and the U.S. turned her entire attention to building a European invasion force. I continued to attack, but quickly the Allies began landing multiple amphibious assaults into France. I struggled to hold on as the Japanese army overran Asia and began to mass tanks just south of Moscow, but after the "Battle of the North Sea" (I sent four fighters to take out six, virtually unguarded transports. I knocked out one, but all of my fighters were shot down by TRANSPORTS), it was clear Germany's offensive was done. The 6th Army could only watch in horror as the Allies overran the depleted rear guard in Berlin. As part of Germany's reparations, they were forced to take a photo of their defeat. Sadness.

Still, what a fun game. I'm a little wary of playing these large strategic WWII games anymore out of fear of simply seeing history repeat itself. Luckily in this play through things went pretty bonkers. Russians in Africa, Japanese threatening the Middle East, the Pacific ceded to the Rising Sun. It's nice when a game I've played dozens of times with the same guys can still offer a surprise. Hope your New Year was as full of gaming shenanigans too!


  1. Sounds like you guys had a blast. I need to track down my old A&A buddies for a game now . . . . ;)

  2. It was! We're already discussing a refight, but looking at combining the two newer A&A Europe and A&A Pacific versions for a more detailed game.