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AXIS & ALLIES: D-DAY

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Avalon Hill, 2-3 players, ages 12 and up, about two hours; $49.95)

 

On June 6, 2004, the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Europe was celebrated. Timed to that celebration was the release of Axis & Allies: D-Day, another member of the Axis & Allies family (which includes Axis & Allies: Europe [Summer 2000 GA REPORT] and Axis & Allies: Pacific [Summer 2001 GA REPORT), allowing players to recreate that critical World War II military operation.Axis & Allies: D-Day, designed by Larry Harrris with development by Mike Selinker (and contributions from Richard Baker and Bill McQuillan), comes large boxed with a 20″ x 33″ mounted map board, 240 plastic pieces, three sets of cards (order cards, fortune cards and tactics cards), reinforcement charts, eight six-sided dice and a 14 page rulebook.

The map board depicts the Normandy battlefield divided into 41 zones. Silhouettes of game pieces appear on the board and the Axis player places matching pieces in those areas. Allied forces (commanded by one player or split between two commanders in charge of either United States or United Kingdom units) begin off the board in “beachhead boxes” and “airborne boxes”, again according to matching silhouettes.

Although there are hundred of pieces, there are only a handful of types: Infantry (for Axis, UK and US forces), Artillery and Tanks (for the Axis and Allies), fighters and bombers (for UK and US forces) and, a new type of unit to the Axis & Allies series, blockhouses (fortifications strictly for the Axis). While this game bears similarities to the rest of the games in the series, one significant difference is the presence of order cards.

Order cards control the sequence of play. These cards, numbered 1 through 16, are placed in numerical order in the Orders box on the board. The cards are drawn in order and the instructions printed on each are followed by the players. (When completed, the card is placed in the Completed Orders box or, in some cases, removed from the game.)

Each side operates its forces according to the order cards. Land units can only move to an adjacent zone. Air units have unlimited movement capabilities. Should a land unit move into an area occupied by enemy forces, a combat situation arises but combat can only be resolved when the appropriate order card is drawn.aaddaypcs

Combat is simple and consistent with other A&A games. Opposing units are placed on the “battle board”, attacking units fire by rolling dice, defenders return fire and casualties are removed. Generally, each attacking unit rolls ONE die and scores a hit by rolling its attack value (usually a “3”) or less and the defender does the same and scores a hit by rolling its defense value (generally 2 or 3) or less. If only one player has surviving land forces in an area, that player controls it. Otherwise, that area remains uncontrolled. There are special combat situations too, such as the Axis use of blockhouses which can make an attack to the sea (through order card number 9).

Reinforcements enter the game as listed on each power’s reinforcement chart as modified by die roll. (Two dice are rolled and the total indicates how many units may enter on that turn.)

After all order cards are carried out, players check for victory. The Allies win if they manage to capture and hold the zones containing Cherbourg, St. Lô, and Caen for one complete turn. The Axis wins if they destroy Allied forces or, by turn 10, prevent the Allies from achieving their goal. (If no one has met the winning criteria, the order cards begin again, in numerical order, and play resumes.)

To “spice up” play, fortune and/or tactics cards may be added to the orders deck. Fortune cards, as might be expected, are chance cards that add more uncertainty to play. (They require die rolls to either aid one side or another – or have no effect.) Tactics cards allow new maneuvers to be taken for that particular turn.

Axis & Allies: D-Day manages to capture the flavor of the action without bogging down in too much detail. Limiting the amount of units per zone (only 8 land units per side per zone) is an excellent idea as it eliminates the huge stacks of units that can make playing so cumbersome. Also eliminated is the use of Industrial Production Certificates (IPCs) used for “buying” reinforcements. In its place are reinforcement charts to streamline play. Limiting the game to a maximum of 10 turns is another good idea as play does not drag out interminably. The introduction of order cards is an interesting change from the standard “phase” mode of operation in games of this type although you might wonder, since the order of the order cards remains the same from round to round, why the change in the first place? (One irritation here: the print on the order cards is unnecessarily small. Larger print for easier reading would be a smart revision in the next printing.) The combat system, as in all the games in the Axis & Allies family, relies heavily on dice rolls so luck is a factor. The inclusion of fortune cards is a matter of taste. Use them and you increase the impact of Lady Luck. But, of course, battles have been won and lost on whims of fate.

Axis & Allies: D-Day is a good looking, fast playing and well designed game of this critical battle of World War II. Players looking for an easily accessible, light, wargame will find this offering well suited to their needs. – – – Herb Levy


 

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