Friday 5 Nov 2010 was Deepavali, a public holiday in Malaysia. Instead of lazing at home or wasting our youth at shopping centres, Allen, Heng, Wong and I spent a productive work-like 9-to-5 day at Allen's place, playing for the first time Axis & Allies Global 1940 (AAG40), which combines Axis & Allies Pacific 1940 (AAP40) and Axis & Allies Europe 1940 (AAE40) into one monster of a game. I have played half a game of AAP40 once, but have not even played AAE40 by itself. Here's how our game went.
We all reached Allen's place before 9am, all having already eaten breakfast. They have even printed out the reference sheets that I sent just a day ago. I had originally planned to arrive slightly earlier to set up the game, but Heng and Wong arrived very soon after I did, and we ended up all setting up the game together. Setup plus a quick overview of the rules took us an hour, I think about 40mins for setup, 20mins for rules.
Note: Sorry that some of the photos are blurry. Many were taken in a hurry while playing.
In AAG40, Russia and USA are initially not at war, and may only join the action in Round 4, unless provoked, by being attacked, or USA may also enter war if Japan attacks UK or ANZAC. This is one of the key differences between the 1940 series and previous A&A games. You start at an earlier point in history.
The two British battleships were tilted to one side to show that they had taken damage and needed repairs.
that caramel truck at the centre is a mechanised infantry, a new unit type introduced in the 1940 series. Cost $4, attack 1, defend 2, move 2.
In the 1940 series there is now a new type of plane, the medium sized tactical bomber. Cost $11, attack 3, defend 3, move 6, and attack becomes 4 when paired with a fighter or a tank. It's cheaper than a bomber and more expensive than a fighter. You can think of it as getting a cheaper bomber with better defense, though shorter range. Pretty decent.
All the above happened in Round 1 of the game, and it took us slightly more than 2 hours.
The British troops (biege) had slowly advanced to Burma and Shan State. ANZAC (grey) had sent their fighters to South East Asia. Some British ships from the Mediterranean had reached West India. They would eventually combine with the Indian Ocean fleet to fight the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). This was Turn 2. Hong Kong had not fallen because the Japanese had not attacked yet.
The Japanese/Russian front had been very quiet after the first skirmish. Japan was planning to advance towards Moscow via China and not Siberia.
A British fleet had assembled in India, preparing to take on the IJN.
One new concept introduced in AAG40 is that the British European funds and British Pacific funds are tracked separately. Money for one arena can only be used for purchasing units in the same arena. This means less flexibility, but one advantage is if a British capital falls, you will only lose part of your money. The other arena is not affected. Calcutta is the British capital in the Pacific arena.
In the Middle East the Italians had a small army, and they had gained the support of pro-Axis Iraq. The Russians had presence in the Middle East too, having gained support from the pro-Allies Persians. China was now completely overrun by the Japanese. Japan was coming at Russia from the backdoor. Japan was also eyeing Calcutta. They still had a huge air force, but one difficulty was the shortage of ground troops, and the distance to Calcutta. Half the Japanese navy was gone, and the other half was about to clash with the British Indian fleet. The small ANZAC fleet, which had been so painstakingly built up, was utterly destroyed by the IJN off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The freshly built (and now rather lonely) aircraft carrier had to run away to Adelaide to keep itself out of range of the IJN.
My thoughts after this marathon 8-hour game session is: I had a wonderful time, but I am actually not keen to play AAG40 again. The problem I have with it is its ROI - Return on Investment. Given the A&A game system, I feel playing AAG40 is too much time and effort spent for the amount of enjoyment gained. The game is too long. I don't have any problem with any specific element changed in or added to the 1940 series games. However all these things add up and make the game longer than I like. In A&A there is a lot of "work" - buying stuff, calculating money, moving troops, rolling dice to resolve battles etc. To play A&A well, you need a longer-term perspective. It is an economic game. You need a strong economy to build troops to fight. You often need to plan quite a number of turns in advance, making sure you buy the right unit types to send to the right fronts. There is long-term strategy, and it is important. However, there is a lot of work involved in executing your long-term strategy. That's how the system is.
To complete a full AAG40 game will probably take 12 - 16 hours, likely longer if all players play well. In that amount of time, I'd rather have played 4 games of Indonesia, or Die Macher, or separate AAP40 and AAE40 games, maybe even do a marathon of Axis & Allies Battle of the Bulge, Axis & Allies Guadalcanal and Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition (AA50). In 12 hours I can probably play 5 games of Through the Ages. Not to say that AAG40 is not fun. Just that there's too much effort you need to invest. If I want to play a global A&A game, I'll play AA50. It's not that much more complex than A&A Revised (2004), and I think it also isn't that much more complex than A&A Spring 1942 (the current more mass market version of the global A&A game).
I may be a little biased by the fact that we did not finish our game, and did not even reach a point that one side could concede defeat. Overall the Axis did better, but reaching 14 victory cities was not exactly on the horizon yet. They had 10 - Berlin, Rome, Warsaw, Paris, Cairo, Archangel, Tokyo, Shanghai, Manila and Hong Kong. The next 4 would probably be Moscow, Stalingrad, London and Calcutta. The rest would be a little hard - Ottawa, Washington, San Francisco, Honolulu (no IJN), Sydney.
I wonder what's next in the A&A franchise. I hope it will be a battle specific game, like Axis & Allies Battle of the Bulge or Axis & Allies Guadalcanal. The A&A family is still my wonderful justification for playing with toy soldiers.