Starting at 2300 hours on 5 June 1944, thousands of Allied paratroops began to drop into occupied France. Their mission was to seal the approaches to the nearby Normandy beaches and to secure safe landing zones for the glider-borne infantry that was scheduled to come in behind them. Within a few hours, the follow-up glider infantry — along with heavy equipment and artillery — began to plow into the fields of Normandy. At about the same time that the glider troops were landing, waves of Allied planes were starting to appear over the French coast. It was now 0300 on 6 June, and flights of Allied bombers set about raining thousands of tons of bombs down on the German coastal defenses that bristled along the beaches of the Normandy Peninsula. At 0500 hours, the vast Allied naval armada that had escorted the 150,000 American, British, Canadian, French, and Polish troops who would shortly be assaulting Hitler’s ‘Festung Europa’ began to shell the hardened German coastal defenses that lay directly behind the beach landing zones.
All along a northern stretch of French coast, the same drama began to play out. In the deeper Channel waters just off one of the five beaches chosen for the main Allied effort, final preparations for the amphibious assault were getting under way. At 0620 hours, thirty-man American assault teams — all selected from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Division — began loading, one team each, into one of the twenty Higgins boats bobbing next to the transport that had carried them from England; at 0630 hours, the ramped-front, open boats began their run through the surf towards their designated landing area, code-named “Utah Beach.” The offensive to breach Hitler’s Atlantic Wall was finally under way; the Allied D-Day landings had begun.
AXIS & ALLIES: EUROPE is a strategic level (army/fleet/air force) simulation of the epic struggle by the Allies to liberate Europe and the Middle East from fascist domination. The game begins in the spring of 1941with much of Western Europe and North Africa already under Axis control and Germany set to invade the Soviet Union. The players control one or more of the ‘Major Powers’ that, as the game begins, are engaged in a life-or-death struggle over the destiny of Europe.
AXIS & ALLIES: EUROPE is played in game turns which are further divided into four segments, each of which encompasses the game operations of one of the four major belligerents in Europe during World War II. The order of national turns — whether two, three, or four players are involved — is always the same: Germany, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the United States. Each country’s game operations must be completed before the next country’s move. A typical national player turn will proceed in the following strict sequence of game operations: Purchase Combat Units; Combat Movement; Resolve (all) Combat; Non-combat Movement; Place New Units on Game Board; Submerged submarines resurface and damaged battleships are uprighted; and Collect Income.
Although AXIS & ALLIES: EUROPE is based on the familiar AXIS & ALLIES (1981) game design, there are a number of notable differences between the European Theater edition and the older, global version of the game. These differences are:
- Two new types of combat units: destroyers and artillery
- Allied IPC’s (Industrial Production Certificates) are subject to German naval attacks
- Players may not violate the territory or air space of neutral countries
- There is no ‘Weapons Development’ process
- Players may not build new Industrial Complexes
- Bombers conducting Strategic Bombing Raids may be escorted by friendly fighters and intercepted by enemy fighters
- Battleships and submarines have new capabilities
- If Germany captures the Middle East, the Allies must pay IPC’s directly to Germany
- Order of play for each country is different
- Each country receives a special cash advance before the game actually begins
- The Soviet Union has special control over Allied units operating in the Soviet home territories
Obviously, the biggest changes between the older and newer games arise in the area of Strategic Warfare, and in the elimination of the ability of any country to build remote Industrial Complexes as a means of moving production closer to the front. Beyond these changes, however, the game will deliver pretty much the same combat action and excitement as the original, only with a significantly more historical feel. The problems posed by the game are similar to those of the original; the main difference is that, in AXIS & ALLIES: EUROPE, the players are limited to more historically plausible solutions to those problems.
The mechanics of play for AXIS & ALLIES: EUROPE, as might be expected, are fast-moving yet comparatively simple. This feature of the AXIS & ALLIES Game System allows players to focus on the strategic elements of the war in Europe, rather than become bogged down by complicated and confusing rules, and overly-detailed game subroutines. In short, players direct their attention toward the type of campaign that they want to wage, their short-term and long-range strategic goals, and the units necessary to fulfill their strategic goals as the game progresses. Despite the relative simplicity of AXIS & ALLIES: EUROPE, however, the design still includes a number of rules that add greatly to the historical color of the game. These special rules cover important historical features such as: Convoys and the Battle of the Atlantic (U-Boats versus Escorts), Amphibious Assaults, and Strategic Bombing.
AXIS & ALLIES: EUROPE is won, in the case of the Allied player or players, by the capture and occupation of the German Capital; and, for the Axis player, by the conquest and occupation of two of the three opposing Allied Capitals.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
The first time I was introduced to the predecessor of this game — the original AXIS & ALLIES — was during a weekend at the Oregon Coast. My friend and I, along with our two spouses, all drove over together on a Friday evening. When we arrived at our friends’ beach house, our host, an old wargaming chum from my college days, pulled out a big game box that was still in its original shrink wrap. The game was AXIS & ALLIES. As soon as the box lid came off, I saw the plastic game pieces still attached to their frames and immediately decided that my friend — with whom, years before, I had spent hundreds of hours playing DNO/UNT (1973) and WAR IN THE EAST (1974) — had clearly lost his mind. “This game,” I observed sarcastically, “has little plastic soldiers and tanks. Are you sure that you picked the right game box?” My friend grunted noncommittally, but, nonetheless, proceeded to rapidly separate the game components in preparation for a match. “Read the rules,” he suggested, “and I’ll finish up with this.” Since I was his guest, I decided to humor him this once; there would, after all, be plenty of time for other things during the next few days. It turned out that I was wrong.
To make a long story short: my friend and I played AXIS & ALLIES all weekend long. Except for joining our wives for meals, and one short obligatory walk on the beach, we spent the rest of our time huddled over the game map refighting the later years of World War II, over and over again. Plastic game pieces or no, we both had a blast. As soon as I returned home, I immediately ran out and bought my own copy of the game.
AXIS & ALLIES: EUROPE, unlike the original game, is both more detailed, and much more historically grounded. Unfortunately, although I read the rules and even set the game up once, I was never able to play. Shortly after I bought this copy, my regular opponent for this type of “beer and pretzels” game had the bad manners to take a new job in another state and moved away before we could actually get a game up and running. For this reason, I really have no idea how this newer version actually plays, but based on the original AXIS & ALLIES, I suspect that it is an excellent choice for both the experienced and the casual gamer, and is probably an excellent introductory game for someone who has never played a traditional wargame before.
For those players who have the time for PBeM play, there are a number of internet groups that help organize and coordinate online matches for the various AXIS & ALLIES type of games that have come into the market since the introduction of the original, many years ago. For more information, or to contact one of these groups, visit: http://www.grognard.com/
- Time Scale: 3 months per game turn (estimated)
- Map Scale: not given (area movement)
- Unit Size: army/fleet/air force
- Unit Types: infantry, artillery, armor, aircraft carrier, battleship, destroyer, submarine, transport, bomber, fighter, and industrial complex
- Number of Players: two to four
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 3½ + hours
- One 20” x 30” area movement Map Board (with Unit Purchase and Convoy Boxes incorporated)
- 344 plastic Military Pieces
- 25 Universal Playing Pieces
- One 8½” x 11” Gameplay Manual
- Four 5” x 7½” National Reference Charts (one each for Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States)
- One 7¼” x 9½” National Production Track
- One 7¼” x 9½” Battle Chart
- 80 cardboard Control Markers
- One set of plastic chips
- One set of Industrial Production Certificates (play money)
- 12 six-sided Dice
- One 5½” x 8½” Avalon Hill Product Brochure
- One 3½” x 10½” x 16” Game Box (with 7 compartment Storage Tray)
See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; all of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.
THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU