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Hitler's War» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Avalon Hill's attempt to slow down Axis and Allies rss

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Clifton Holland
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I can remember when the Game Master Series appeared in the early eighties from Milton Bradley. I admit to not taking it all that seriously, as at the time I was a 'serious' war gamer! I finally was introduced to Axis and Allies and then shortly afterward to Shogun. Both were outstanding games, although I am sure at the time I said they were both above average...for games with little toys. Deep down those toys were really cool to have in the game but I wasn't playing along quite yet.

A few years later, with sales dragging a bit, Avalon Hill acquired the rights to release Hitler's War. I remember the local game store (which I later worked at and even later managed) was touting this game as the 'answer' for serious gamers to Axis and Allies.

Well...no. What we did get was an interesting game. Not a great game and not a game that accomplished either of the goals it really set out to do. First, the game was to supplant Axis and Allies as the 'easy' WWII game from a 'real' game company. It was from a 'real' game company but was inferior to Axis and Allies in most ways. The playing pieces, the rules, the time to play and the satisfaction. Neither game plays all that realistically but I often feel the game play of Hitler's War lends itself to feeling less real than it really is. By that I mean, it just seems odd to have a limited number of armies you can construct and each can only have a certain amount of power. The reason behind this never really worked for me. And thus, the first goal wasn't really met. Axis and Allies continued on as a much more popular game. Now to the second goal.

Goal two for Hitler's War was to get gamers, the ones that shied away from those 'real' games of Avalon Hill's breeding, to try Avalon Hill. It simply didn't fly. The issue was that, while very simplistic it was still far too difficult to grasp for a non war gamer or a non die cut counter game player to figure out. I don't know why, but it just never worked for any of my friends who didn't play those sorts of games. The little men in Axis and Allies made sense to them, the counters...no. While failing to bring in the new gamers as it was hoped it would do it also tended to drive away the 'real' gamers that Avalon Hill already had. They didn't leave Avalon Hill they just scoffed at the idea of playing Hitler's War.

With that spelled out, the few that did play Hitler's War found it so different from Avalon Hill typical material for WWII that they either loved it or hated it. I found it interesting. The quirks were odd enough alright, but once you got used to them and the fact that they really didn't make any sense you got over it and moved on. The game was fun with the right players. How many times have you heard that? Yeah, me too. But I mean it this time. Really.

The actual game play was pretty simple and direct. Turns went Germany (I guess poor Italy gets to just be German again) then Allies and then the Soviets. I did enjoy that the Soviets were not part of the Allies as it more or less really was. But whatever. The standard Move, Fight, Build construction might be the one arguable advantage over Axis and Allies in that you get to have your turn prior to building. Of course, they (the designers) had to go and lose all the ground they just gained with the odd redistribution and different types of troops in an army rules. This is most likely right where the non war gamers said; "Nice looking game chaps, time to go."

Then there is combat. Once again, non war gamers were found running for the doors with initial attacks and air attacks and landings and parachute drops and exploitation attacks and advancing...you get the picture don't you? I thought so.

I will give the game this. It is unique. I like that about it a lot, not a little. Once I got used to it (I think I mentioned that before) I really started to like it. This didn't happen until after the game was already dead. For that matter, so was Avalon Hill. Only to be reborn again, releasing Axis and Allies with the big AH right on the box. I bet you didn't see that coming?

I can't say I recommend this game to everyone...for that matter, maybe not that many more than just a few. Again, it has many good things in that box, but most casual gamers won't want to play it. If you want a light war game that is just as unique as a dinner party with the chaps on the box, then this is for you.
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Mattwran
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I just traded this game off, but I have fond memories of it since it was my first hex-and-counter game. The ability to research technologies during the course of the game to either reduce unit cost or permit you to build units that you once couldn't (V2s, atomic weapons) is what makes the game unique for a WWII game even more so than the odd combat system and army limits. This was good fun years ago, but I'm not sure I would ever chose it over something like Europe Engulfed.
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Robert Wesley
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More accurately, then it was originally produced and released at around the same time-line as the original version for "Axis & Allies" by 'Nova', although I'd have considered "HW" as being an EPIC & quicker version for Rise and Decline of the Third Reich.
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Chris Valk
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Insightful review of one of AH's more neglected titles. I have mixed feelings about this game, as well, but am positive overall. Hitler's War is great solitaire; movement is so fluid that it's likely you'll surprise yourself more than once with a countermove you never anticipated.
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Clifton Holland
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Robert,

Yes HW was produced by Nova about the same time that A&A was released is true. Avalon Hill acquired it in an attempt to stem the tide of A&A.
 
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Greg Niswonger
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Robert,
I agree that I considered "HW" as a quicker version for "Rise and Decline of the Third Reich." Along those same lines, the Vassal Hitler's Global War variant could be considered a quicker and simpler version of GMT's "A World at War."

It's on the ConsimWorld Hitler's War forum:

http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?50@459.QC90eYk8Hk7.2@.ee6d7...
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Steven Strayer
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Resurrecting this thread from the dead, I know, but I owned and played this game from AH when it was fresh and new in the early 80s... Haven't played it since then, but it is in a box somewhere in my attic.

To be perfectly honest... I don't really recall how the game played (it's been 30 years and a million lifetimes ago, it seems), but two things I do remember...

One: I played and LOVED this game a ton... I remember playing this game over and over and over in the 80s and I remember how I thought it was the perfect balance of "not too complex, and not too easy". Of course, I was coming from a long line of hex and counter AH games, so I wasn't exactly graduating from Risk either.

Two: while I can't remember all the details, I do remember considering Hitler's War "the playable version of Rise and Fall of the Third Reich"... Third Reich from AH (which I also owned and had played) was a great game, but it was just too monstrous... I considered Hitler's War a lighter and more playable version of Third Reich.

Of course, the early 80s were a different time... with different life priorities, and gaming and gaming options were a lot different then... today, I do play the current versions of A&A from AH (when I can find someone who wants to play) and of course there's the internet and computer gaming which wasn't a thing back in the early 80s. I don't think if I broke it out, I could get into it again.

For its time, Hitler's War was a great game, considering the competition and state of gaming in the early 80s... but today, I don't think I would play it again like I did then... somethings just don't age well... as much as I also loved Missile Command and Asteroids in the 80s, they're not my go-to computer games anymore either. Sometimes fond memories should be left as just that... fond memories.
 
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