According to Wikipedia, Axis & Allies was designed by Larry Harris and came out in 1984. It was created for 2 – 5 players, preferably ages 12 and up. Setup time is anywhere from five to fifteen minutes, and playing time can run up to 10+ hours. Required skills include tactics, strategy, economics, teamwork and logistics.
What the hell was I doing playing a tactical war game based on strategy? Allow me to explain.
Andrew’s been planning a movie/drinking/board games night since he moved into his own place a couple months back. He cordially invited Jo, Simon, Eliot and myself to swing by on November 3rd. (Eliot, by the way, was a no-show. I gave him a momentous amount of grief about it since I’ll be departing in a month’s time.) While waiting for Simon to arrive, I learned the important lesson that three isn’t actually a crowd when two of them are girls. We had great fun mercilessly teasing Andrew for admitting that he’d been to a strip club “less than ten times”. Personally, I’ve always been interested in attending a show at such a place, if only for the athleticism. I imagine it takes a great deal of muscular fortitude to wrap oneself around a pole without crunching one’s face off the shiny, glitter-encrusted floor. (Clearly, I’ve never been to a strip club, I simply IMAGINE they’re encrusted with glitter rather than some other nefarious substance.) He had fun defending himself and his entertainment choices.
Immediately upon arrival, I had been offered a beer. Ah, Alexander Keith’s — the drink of champions. I quite enjoy a beer, and so I downed mine frighteningly quickly, especially in comparison to my companions. They appeared to be of the “nurse” persuasion. I prefer to drink beer as though it’s water and I’ve been in the Sahara for the last three months. I should probably also mention that I’d neglected to eat anything since early that morning, so by the time Simon showed up toting Axis & Allies, I was already enjoying a pleasantly warm glow.
When he brought out that intimidating board game, I swallowed hard. Tactics and strategy are not things I enjoy, nor do I have an affinity for them. Games like Yahtzee and Monopoly are more my speed, and being a good little Newfie, I’ve spent my fair share of time playing card games like Crazy Eights and Flop. Being a good sport, however, I asked how the game worked. That was a mistake. Andrew and Simon took turns explaining how the game is played as I struggled not to hiccup in their faces. Jo was at an advantage — she was well-versed in the game of Risk, and therefore had a leg up. A&A is apparently similar to Risk (which I have also never played). Explaining the game became a history lesson courtesy of Andrew, and I’m not sure which I enjoyed more: the lesson, or the way he delivered it. He should’ve been a teacher.
The game begins in that fateful spring of 1942, the Second World War in full swing. I pictured Nazis just following orders, lives being lost and land being occupied. Andrew and Simon spun quite a yarn between the two of them, and I was riveted. But Wikipedia informs me that the game itself neglects to be historically accurate. Japan is already in position to attack Hawaii, and Germany is pressed into the Soviet Union. Had A&A remained true to history, the Axis empires would be at their apex in 1942, just about to be pushed back by the Allies. I suppose it has something to do with giving the Axis a fighting chance? In any case, baffled by the rules and explanations, I elected to remain a passive participant. I would watch. I declared myself God and settled back to watch the war drama unfold.
Jo chose the Soviet Union. Andrew informed her she would be losing this game, since Russia begins the game surrounded by enemy forces and with a fairly low number of IPCs. “But Russia has vodka!” I exclaimed. “They should win.” Inspired by my outburst, I was offered vodka, which I diluted with Coke and slugged back. Simon chose Germany and Japan. Andrew chose the UK and US. I have a feeling Wikipedia lied about the setup time — it seemed to take a lot longer than fifteen minutes.
Drinking might’ve had something to do with that.
For each turn, the players announce how they’re spending their IPCs (Industrial Production Certificates, for those not in-the-know). They can buy planes or tanks or more men. Then they send their men into combat, rolling a set of five dice to either attack or defend. Their final move during their turn is a non-combat move. The player then places whatever units they bought before combat wherever they like on the board, and collect or lose IPCs, whichever the case may be. The rules are much more complicated than that, I’m sure, but my memories are a little foggy.
The first time she had to attack Simon, Jo declared that she was “good at rolling dice”. I took this to mean she’d either spent time in prison (not likely) or that she’d been shooting dice in the alley since she’d been a kid growing up on the mean streets of Newmarket. In my role as God of A&A, I took great pleasure in inventing a backstory for her dice-rolling skills, none of which were remotely based in reality. I suspect she’s a Yahtzee fan too, just like me. If we’d played Yahtzee, it would’ve made a lot more sense to me. Apparently, she won the battle. As the game went on, my compatriots became increasingly concerned about my entertainment level. Jo offered to let me look at cute cat pictures on her iPhone. As tempting as that was, I found I was actually enjoying myself. They have no idea how entertaining it was to listen to them strategizing or how amazing Simon’s German accent was. (I’m being honest!)
After many dice-rollings, the Allies won. Again. History really did repeat itself on Nov. 3, 2012 when WWII was reenacted in game form. The game seemed to take hours, but time moves very slowly when you’re at least one and a half sheets to the wind.
So how did I make Axis & Allies into a drinking game, you ask? I simply drank every time someone took a turn. Simple, effective, and incredibly efficient at getting you drunk.