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Jim Robertson
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The War Game: World War II » Forums » Reviews
First Impressions of The War Game
My gaming club was sent a copy of the War Game to demo at our convention (GASP-Con) back in November 3-4, 2007. Having been a huge Axis & Allies fan back in the 80's, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one.

When I received the game and opened the box, I wasn't disappointed. As others have reported, it is absolutely huge, and there are bits out the yahoo. With little delay, I grabbed a beer and went at the pieces with a utility knife. It really wasn't all that bad to get them cut out. I think I was done in under two hours, and I was being very careful about cutting off all the flashing, and not damaging any of the pieces. Most of the pieces came off without a fight and were pretty resilient, the only exception being the artillery, which are modeled after German 88's. The base is in the shape of a + sign, and it was really easy to break off one of the legs. In fact, a few were already broken when I got to it. Not a big deal though, they are still able to stand with three legs.

On to the rules... Not too bad. Axis & Allies on steroids is a very accurate description. In fact, if you've played A&A, you pretty much already know how to play this game. There are a few rules which differ from A&A, and that causes some confusion for ex-A&A players, but the majority are pretty similar, with some more detailed rules thrown in. Generally speaking, the new rules are pretty intuitive, and are explained pretty well, but I almost think they go into too much detail in the examples, which ended up confusing me. The naval passthrough rules are the best example I can think of. I thought I understood how they worked, but they jumped into a very complex example that would probably never happen in a game, and it just made my head spin. It would have been nice to have an example of a common scenario and then the really complex one. But, that was a pretty minor issue for me.

Time to play! I wanted to get a feel for the game before I ran it at the convention, so I invited some friends over to give it a go. Luckily I have a game room with a Ping-Pong table. This game seems like it was made to be played on a Ping-Pong table, because it's the only table big enought accomodate it! It worked out pretty well, since there was about a foot of space around all sides of the board for the players to store their pieces, etc. For this first game, we had 7 players, and only two of us had played A&A before. None of us had ever played The War Game. Oh, I was also using a laptop with the Game Accountant from the game's web site to keep track of territorial holdings and unit purchases. The game started at 8:00 PM, and we played until about 1:00 AM. During this time we only finished two turns! Now, granted, we had a lot of distractions going on that night (there were other people at my house that weren't playing, my three year old was running around, etc.). Plus, none of us had ever played the game before. Needless to say though, the game moved very slowly. Even though the game can play up to eight people, I would not recommend playing with any more than five. Even though Italy, China, and France are seperate powers, their forces are very limited, and it becomes very boring for those players. When players are bored, they tend to wander off, and then don't know what's happening in the game when it gets to be their turn again. Still, I thought the game had a lot of potential, and I thought with a better game accountant spreadsheet and some quick reference sheets, it could be a really good time.

On to the convention! Luckily, I was able to get the game setup the night before the convention, but unfortunately, a Ping-Pong sized table was not available. The ones we had just barely fit the board length-wise, with a little room on each side for the bits. Bad thing is, there was no room and no power for my laptop, so after my battery died, I was forced to walk a few steps away anytime I wanted to update anything. Including myself, we had five players (and many spectators). One guy had played a few times before, one had played A&A, and the other two were total rookies. With a little bit of experience under my belt, another experienced player, a quick reference rule set (which I've uploaded here), and a new spreadsheet (which I've also uploaded here), things went a little smoother than the first game. The game still moved a little too slowly for me though. We played from about 9:00 AM until 7:00 PM, and got through five turns.

All in all, I liked the game, but with a time committment like that, I won't have many opportunities to play it. I would like to see how it goes with five players that know the rules and are committed to playing the game. I'd give this game a 7 out of 10. The pros being a beautiful game set and intuitive rules, the cons being very long play time, and the difficulty in keeping track of game related items (territorial control, until purchasing, etc.)
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RJD
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Nice review! I'm definitely curious about this game.

I had a quick question: what happens with China, Italy, and France in a five player game? I'm assuming they each just get absorbed into one of their bigger allies, ala' Axis & Allies? Or are they somehow shared by the players of each side?
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Hugh G. Rection
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yoodle wrote:
We played from about 9:00 AM until 7:00 PM, and got through five turns.


TWO HOURS average per TURN??? Yikes!!! surprise

It sounds like an interesting game, but I doubt I could talk anyone into that kind of time commitment for a single game.
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Jim Robertson
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UnluckyNumber wrote:
I had a quick question: what happens with China, Italy, and France in a five player game? I'm assuming they each just get absorbed into one of their bigger allies, ala' Axis & Allies? Or are they somehow shared by the players of each side?


Well, we just had them run by the owner's of the larger allies, just like in A&A. i.e. Britain runs France, Germany runs Italy, and U.S.A. gets China. Their turns are actually simultaneous in the game anyway, so it really doesn't affect much. The differences are that they can't share some resources like Aircraft Carriers, and (I think) transports. There is some difference between the powers because units have different costs for each power. So, infantry is cheaper for China than the U.S.A. The U.S. is allowed a lend/lease option where they can give money to each of their allies (and UK can give money to France). So, the U.S. can give money to China and get infantry in mainland Asia quicker and cheaper.
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Jim Robertson
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Hugh_G_Rection wrote:
TWO HOURS average per TURN??? Yikes!!! surprise


Yeah, that was pretty rough, and my biggest criticism of the game. I'm not sure how to fix it either. There were some distractions around the convention, and there were some delays because we were unsure of some of the rules, but in all, everyone that was playing was making a pretty good effort to keep things moving. There was one player that was dilly-dallied far longer than the rest, but I don't think that all the delays could be attributed to him.

And, to be honest, there is a LOT that happens during each turn. In those five turns, mainland Germany and Russia both fell and were re-taken (mostly because of something the defending players overlooked). So, it's not like you're playing for a long time without any progress being made. I think if everyone knows the rules and you get players that are committed to keeping things moving, then you could get the turns down to an hour each. Using the 1942 rules, the game is only supposed to last for 7 turns, after that, you are supposed to declare a winner. According to the rules, you can keep playing after that, but the Axis can no longer recruit infantry because of attrition.

Speaking of infantry, I thought I'd also mention that I do really like the rule where infantry can be recruited anywhere (with limitations). They do not have to be produced at a factory like in A&A. The higher the IPC value of a territory, the more infantry that can be recruited there. There are also major and minor factories. The size of the factory determines what can be built in that territory and how many can be built.
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Jim Robertson
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hbj79 wrote:
This is the logical solution. But I would question if the player who controls Russia will have enough to do over the course of the game? Thoughts?


You're right, Russia doesn't have as much to keep track of as the US or UK, but normally China would be run by the US just because they move on the same turn.

And, Russia is forced to have some more options than they did in A&A. If I remember correctly, in A&A Russia just bought infantry every turn if they wanted to survive. In the War Game, you are limited in how many infantry you can buy with Lend/Lease money from the US (I think the limit is 15 IPC). So, if the US gives Russia 40 IPC on one turn, they can buy 15 IPC worth of infantry, and the rest they can buy airplanes, tanks, artillery, etc. So, there's a little more thought that needs to be put into where those things are going to go to better defend the German front and possibly launch a counter-attack.
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Fred W. Manzo
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As Russia I always bought infantry to the limit and then switched to artillery. Artillery has the next best IPC to Defensive hit point ratio, it can be used for triple A and it can fire in support. When Russia survives the initial push I buy infantry and tanks, as armor has the highest IPC to Offensive punch ratio. I've played this game 4 or 5 times. Each turn is at least 2 hours long, but we had so much fun that never mattered. But play it with people who want to play. If you play with anyone who wanders away it spoils the experience and makes the game slow to a crawl. I once played this mano-a-mano for 17 hours straight and it was great. Time flew by and we didn't even stop for dinner.
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Eric Larson
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The 2 hours per turn will keep me from buying this game. I like WWII games, but this is just too slow.
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James Schubert
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I just finished game number 2 and we had six players. We had the sixth guy play France and China.
It actually worked out well, since he had two turns per round, even with the limited resources, he had a good time.
We played from 11:30am until 8:00pm, and didnt finish, but the war was moving rapidly in the Axis' favor.
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Jim Robertson
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Raptorov wrote:
We played from 11:30am until 8:00pm, and didnt finish


Do you know how many turns you completed?
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James Schubert
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I believe we made six turns. We discussed it at work today, but the last turn was sort of rushed as everyone had to go. We probably had an Axis victory, as most of Africa was held by Germany, and much of the Pacific was held by Japan. China was a struggle however. Its a bit difficult adding up all the points since there are so many territories.
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Kristian Eriksson
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I dont know what game you're playing.. We play this from 1939 with full diplomacy rules and each turn takes 30-60 minutes. But yes, it is fun
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Lawrence Gamehappy
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I cant speak from experience with this game, but as a long time A&A player. Please Everybody don't get turned off by the previous statement on time limit for this game.

Any A&A game, the Milton Bradley or Avalon Hill editions will play five people in 50 mniutes per turn max. Even Beginners. Give both these games a second look.

Lawrence
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Phil Hatfield
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We're playing through the game now. Granted we're playing with add-on rules from various modules, but the turns are still taking around 1 to 1 and a half hours each. Only way I could see speeding this up would be if there were major powers not in play because they were knocked out early.

It IS a long game, that's for certain. But it's a LOAD of fun!
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Lawrence Gamehappy
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A time saving concept is to have a simultaneous turn play for nations not involved with with each other. I wait along time to wait while I Germany planned and built. Russia had to wait for my placement . But Japan could possibly have attacked.

Buddy nation can also plan build for you while you roll attack dice.
 
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