I have loved and played Axis and Allies since I received the original board game for Christmas in… I want to say 1985? I’ve played it ever since, with my friends, in tournaments, in person and online, every variant and expansion. With the current Covid19 quarantine in effect, the new Online version is perfect for my friends and me, scattered as we are from New Orleans to Minnesota to Holland. I desperately want this game to grow and succeed. With that in mind, I’ve been playing with my friends and running solo games every day and keeping notes. I would be absolutely thrilled to help with the development of Axis and Allies Online in any way that I can.
My recommendations at this point fall into general flow and style of the online game, and the rules and gameplay of this version.
I’ve completed 62 games so far with another 4 in progress. The bugs and freezes are noticeably less now that when first released, but some of that is also since disabling all animations. The game still crashes every so often when logging on to an online multiplayer game and I need to quit via taskbar and reload. I’m running on a new 2019 Dell with a 10th Gen Intel Core i5.
A good addition to the game would be a novice/expert toggle to switch off the numerous notifications that slow down the game. Right now, whenever a player moves between phases it asks for confirmation. You have to click to enter combat, roll the dice, roll again, assign the hits, confirm the hits, submarines roll even when there are no legal targets. The games asks if you want to retreat, even when you only have amphibious units left that can’t retreat, and then reminds you of this. Then at the end of combat you have to close combat twice. Many of these steps are unnecessary.
In a similar vein, if the USSR is eliminated, the game takes you through each of their turn phases, where you can’t do anything, and then asks you to confirm that you don’t want to do anything. Just a little clean up to skip phases that are pointless or impossible would move it along faster and help flow.
Drag and drop units to a transport would help, especially if they then appeared next to the transport so players could see what was on them. Freedom to deploy all, none, or half the units would also be helpful. Right now there is too much worry about combat movement and non-combat. Just allow units to move to their normal limit during any phase. The most common time this is an, admittedly minor, issue is for large naval movement. If a player wants to move a loaded transport for an amphibious assault they naturally want to move the entire fleet along, just let them bring along a destroyer even if it isn’t taking part in the landing.
Choosing which combat to run is also nice, and occasionally strategically important. Let players click to choose the order.
Now onto rules.
The new online adaptation follows the 1942 board version fairly closes, which was itself a big departure from the original board game. The rules adapting for asynchronous play are fine. Unfortunately, a lot is still lacking. The original game had a slight Allied advantage which was later compensated by rules variants. The new version has a profound and distorting Axis advantage and no editor to allow house rules and variants. In the 62 games played so far, I have 49 wins for the Axis and only 13 for the Allies. The reasons are integral to the game as it stands now in development, not to individual players or tactics. Many of these test games I’ve been running, just have a standardized control set of moves for the Axis the reach the same result no matter what the Allies do.
Reasons for the Axis advantage:
The map is larger and more detailed. The US is now farther from the Axis powers and it takes longer to project force. America can no longer build a fleet and invade mainland Europe the next turn, for example, or fly fighters direct to the UK.
Naval combat is wonderfully improved with 2-hit battleships, destroyers and cruisers added, and larger seas. But transports being non-combatants together with larger seas and cheaper aircraft has made amphibious operations, the main method for the US to engage the Axis, slower and more vulnerable. Also the sub rules are inconsistent. They are not supposed to block enemy movement yet they will prevent an amphibious landing (it doesn’t give you the option to ignore them even though it says, “You have chosen to engage with ignorable units”) and they don’t recognize the destroyers of allied countries on a different allied turn. If Germany has a U Boat in the north sea at the end of their turn and the UK buys and places a destroyer in the same sea zone, the US bomber should be able to engage. Coordinated allied operations were key in the Atlantic in WWII and should be allowed.
Units are cheaper and budgets are bigger. Germany used to have to make painful decisions about where to focus and they frequently lost the territories on the periphery and had to make do with a budget in the high 20’s when fighters were 12 IPC and bombers were 15. All this meant that if Germany needed to rebuild their air force to counter the British they had to make real sacrifices in the ground war. Now Germany starts with plenty of subs and aircraft, and a bigger, less-vulnerable budget. Germany can easily buy 4-5 tanks and an aircraft every turn.
Related to budgets, Strategic Bombing is greatly weakened and needs to be reinvigorated. A viable strategy in the old game was for the UK and US to devote a bomber each to Strategic Bombing of Germany with noticeable effect. Now, it takes longer for the US bombers to get there (see above) and the budgets are bigger so the effect is weaker. For what it’s worth, the last 9 attempted UK Strategic Bombing runs resulted in the bomber being shot down 8 times and destroying 1 IPC on the other run. Maybe just bad luck, but Strategic Bombing could and should be an important and fun part of the game.
My suggestion here would actually be a big innovation, but assuming that you are free to do that, it would add a great element to the game. First, allow escort fighters on Strategic Bombing runs. Then, lose the built-in AA battery idea, make the AA units more useful so people actually buy them. Then there is a battle for air superiority, including any fighters in the defending territory, much like in the Civilizations franchise. A combat phase is entered, where defending AA guns roll, hit on a 1, but casualties assigned by the attacker like any other combat, then the attacker rolls for bombers and fighters, with casualties assigned to the AA guns and defending fighters. The defending fighters roll. Casualties removed. Surviving AA guns do not fire on subsequent rounds, if any, but can be taken as casualties. If all defending units are destroyed, the remaining bombers roll and the number is taken BOTH from the defending player’s IPC’s which they can do nothing about, as well as from the productive capacity of the complex which can be repaired. All of this would result in a whole new type of combat, add a fun element to the game, allow for UK/US vs Germany to interact short of massive invasions, and rescue Strategic Bombing.
Think if turn 1, after Germany sinks most of the Allied fleet as usual, UK launches a bombing run like this with a bomber and 2 escort fighters. After combat Germany has lost a fighter, an AA gun, 3 IPC and 3 productive capacity. It would invite a response and take some pressure off of USSR, and the game could go in an entirely new direction depending on how the early battle for air superiority goes.
Finally, Weapons Development and Unit Customization. The ability to leverage the higher budget of the Allies into short term risk but long-term reward was a treasured staple of the old Axis and Allies. Please bring that back. Also, the ability to customize units was a good way to handicap certain countries and make games more fun and fair.