Axis & Allies: Global 1940
For many gamers the original Axis and Allies was their first introduction to board games and historical gaming. Axis and Allies Global 1940 combines the Europe and Pacific box games into a massive recreation of WWII starting with Germany’s blitzkrieg and attempt to deliver a decisive blow at Dunkirk. For veterans and nostalgia seekers the real questions are: Does Global 1940 scratch the A&A nostalgia itch and is it worth the considerable investment in time?
At Cangames in May, 2017 I met Lionel who was running A&A and was kind enough to show me his 50th Anniversary Edition of the game. As we chatted he mentioned A&A: Global 1940 which combines A&A: Europe and A&S: Pacific into a mega-game with more nations and much more detail than the original. We made a tentative plan to play.
Experienced players of A&A know that the base game itself is already a four or five-hour commitment, if players already know what they’re doing. Like yourself, perhaps, even when I’ve had the opportunity I’ve been reluctant to fire up a game of A&A (let alone a double sized version) because nostalgia isn’t enough to mask what have become major flaws in an evolving market of streamlined and high quality games. Today, deep game play with brevity are king and queen. For A&A the flaws are:
- Unequal playing time. If you get stuck with Russia you’ll be doing a lot of advising but getting little action beside rolling defense dice against the German onslaught. Germany usually gets the lion’s share of playtime as they are attacking and defending against two, if not three, opponents.
- Downtime. While we understand that the early and mid-game German turns are going to take a long time there’s only so much time the US and Japanese players can fill plotting and making their purchases in advance etc.
- Player elimination or, worse, getting sidelined. A badly mauled Russian, UK, or German player can’t take their game and go home but, really, when relegated to surviving by purchasing as many troops as possible to defend their capital there’s little for them left to do.
Surely, Axis and Allies: Global 1940 offers a better experience?
When we finally settled on a date to play A&A Global I had the same sense of anticipation as with the original, only magnified. Here’s what A&A: Global 1940 does better than the original.
- Increased historical accuracy. The inclusion of the Italian, Free French, Chinese, and ANZAC forces and well-thought out, time sensitive restrictions translates into greater historical accuracy without taking away the sense that you can write and rewrite history.
- All theatres fully represented. Europe, the Eastern Front, Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, China, and the Pacific are all developed and played out writ large. Italy and Germany will have to figure out how to handle Africa while the Brits, ANZAC, and Chinese forces will have to get a handle on Japanese expansionism prior to the turn 4 limit on US involvement. Germany has to decide if and when to open the Eastern Front.
- A larger playing surface. With added map space in all areas key battlegrounds – the Med, Pacific Ocean, China, and Africa – it’s a far more strategic and subtle battle. Japan’s Pacific island hopping and Italy’s seizure of Africa require several turns of movement and a greater level of commitment. No longer can a carrier group skip around the Pacific and still make it back to Japan in time to defend the homeland against a massed US fleet. As it should be.
While A&A Global promises a lot it struggles mightily with delivery.
All of the issues with the original game are compounded and magnified. As this was my first game I opted for Japan, a smaller role in game terms, so I could learn the ropes. It was only after the German player took one and a half hours on his initial turn of the game that I understood why the other three players had to dice off for who got to play Germany during setup. Massive differential in player time right from the get go! It wasn’t until the two-hour mark that I got to do something with Japan. Global 1940 has hours of downtime!
Ultimately, we got in about four turns in about six hours and I opted out of returning the next day to see how things turned out. Grand total, the game eventually took 16 hours to bring to a conclusion. I’ve written before about getting stuck in games with ‘that guy’: the smelly, foul-mouthed gamer who delights in rubbing people’s noses in their mistakes, and his victories. If you get a guy like that in the group you definitely don’t want to return for day two so you should carefully consider the people you’re playing with in advance as you’re going to get to know them, well.
Ultimately, I love the idea of Global 1940 and it scratched the A&A nostalgia itch, and then some. It was, however, not worth the time investment of six hours, much less the sixteen hours it took to conclude. One of these years I might be in a situation where I have two full days to spare and three other people I know, like, and get along with who could make the same time commitment, and make that time enjoyable. Until then, I don’t think I’ll be playing this one again but am thankful to Lionel for giving me the opportunity.
Any Axis and Allies memories or thoughts to share?