I’ve been playing the board game Axis & Allies since forever. My kids grew up watching me play it and were hooked as well, at least the men, and soon it became a family tradition. Something we do over Christmas holidays, or whenever there will be at least two of us together with enough time and enough table space.
A lot of the appeal of the game is the sheer size of it. It is a big box game in every way; large map board, lots of secondary mats and boards, and a couple hundred detailed miniature soldiers, military vehicles, ships, and aircraft. The pieces are not only detailed, but accurate; the American side has miniatures based on US World War II gear, the British have visibly British gear, the Germans have miniature Panzers and ME109s, etc.
It has big rules too, many pages, with many opportunities for argument over precisely what each sentence means.
Most of all, it takes a long time to play, sometimes all day and into the night. It is a big, big game.
Something about the game is men-only. Women just hate the game, it is not fun for them at all. Throughout my life, various woman have heard me say this and insisted they wanted to play too, only to fail to last the first turn. This has happened more times than you would believe. My own Gamer Girl gave up while we were setting it up and never made it into the actual game at all. It is a war game and for whatever reason it is men-only.*
Maybe we could write a paper on the way that Axis & Allies proves that there is a real difference between men and women.
* I didn’t personally see this, but I have been told that my niece recently completed a game all the way through – as far as I know this is the women’s world record, one completed game – and played well while she was about it.
But I digress. This is not really about Axis & Allies, only vaguely, this is really about a phone app my son found named 1941: World War Strategy. Because it is Axis & Allies, exactly and perfectly, except on my tiny phone. All of the pieces, all of the map spaces, all of the rules, everything, exactly perfectly Axis & Allies. I have no idea how the game designer is allowed to sell this, I would think Hasbro would be all cease-and-desisty about such an obvious derivation of their intellectual property. Maybe they don’t know. Maybe they don’t care.
Regardless, the designer has captured the entire game. On my tiny screen. The designer made some really clever UI choices to present this big, big game on such a tiny medium. It is not always an ideal fit; I have difficulty telling some of the units apart. There is one segment of the game where you purchase units and it is so tiny that I need my reading glasses AND a magnifying glass to see how many units I am attempting to buy.
And there is no undo. That is probably the worst thing, if you do fat-finger something (and you will fat-finger something) you have to live with it. Maybe those kinds of mistakes will even out as both sides make them? Unless you are playing my son, who estimates that he has over 100 completed games to his credit and does not seem to make those sorts of errors.
Meanwhile, I spent three turns buying transports and putting them into an ocean space that was full of enemy subs. I thought I was buying destroyers, which would take out those subs, but no, I was buying defenseless transports. Uselessly. For three turns in a row.
And I skipped my purchasing phase and bought no units. On two different occasions.
And … well, you get the point. I make some sort of tiny-UI-based mistake on more turns than not. Maybe it is because I have a small phone (I do, the smallest in the store). Or maybe I am just not equipped with the proper tiny-UI skill set.
But I love the game in spite of all that. I am able to play Axis & Allies, with my son, from 1500 miles and two time zones away. I can take my turn between meetings at work, with errors of course, annoying errors, but still I can take my turn while waiting for other things to finish. It doesn’t matter how long I take, no one is standing across from me impatiently. Eventually, I will finish, and he will be notified. He might spend all day taking his turn, or overnight, or whatever. It doesn’t matter.
Placing this giant game onto my tiny phone is not always a great fit. But translating it into a casual pace, where I can take as long as I want, even days, without worrying about other players or cats getting the pieces or any of that, that part is a wonderful fit.
Axis & Allies in your pocket, whenever you have time for it.
That is pretty brilliant.
🙂 😀 🙂