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War to Axis: Warfare in Normandy» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Review of War to Axis, with Comparisons to Memoir '44 rss

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Kent Reuber
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Memoir '44, while a popular system for light wargaming, has been criticized for a number of shortcomings such as: card management can result in units being unable to react to nearby units, infantry and armor units are generic, there is no opportunity fire, etc. This review is intended to give an overview of Gio Games War to Axis, which, like Memoir '44 is a Euro/Wargame hybrid World War II game. However, War to Axis adds a number of mechanics that are lacking in Memoir '44 that may be more to experienced wargamer's tastes such as: opportunity fire, reaction fire, separate anti-personnel and anti-tank fire effects, Strategic Bombardment, and unit disorganization. For more information on War to Axis, see the Gio Games web site (http://giogames.it/), where the game rules and additional scenarios can be downloaded.

Game Components:

Map: Three geomorphic maps are included. Each is 30x48.5cm, with 10x14 30mm hexes, printed on both sides. Terrain overlays made of card stock are included for additional variability. Each hex represents 300-500 meters.

Rules: The rules are only 5 pages long, and are divided into basic and advanced sections. In addition, the Web site includes a set of rules for paratroops (1 page).

Units: Unlike Memoir '44 which has an abstract scale and unit representation, units in War to Axis represent battalions for infantry battalions and companies for armor and support units. Units are composed of a card stock stand-up figure printed with the unit type, movement and fire capability (with separate anti-personnel and anti-tank ratings) and a set of plastic chips representing the unit strength. Like Memoir '44, infantry stands typically have strength 4 (the stand-up figure + 3 chips), armor has strength 3 (stand-up figure + 2 chips) and artillery has strength 2 (stand-up figure + 1 chip). However, in War to Axis, there are many more types of units: for example, the Germans have infantry, engineers, and command units, 3 different types of anti-tank guns (including the 88mm), armored cars, half-tracks, StuG assault guns, and light, medium and heavy tank units.

Dice: Ten dice are included in the game: 5 black dice for anti-personnel (AP) and bombardment attacks, 4 white dice for anti-tank (AT) attacks, and one yellow die for formation activation. Like Memoir, each die face uses symbols rather than numbers. In the case of War to Axis, stickers must be attached to each die face before play.

AP/bombardment dice have 2 faces with Infantry, 2 faces with Radios, 1 face with a bombardment "HIT" symbol, and one Flag symbol. AT dice have 3 faces with yellow armored cars (hits on light vehicles), 2 faces with green tanks (hits on medium tanks), and one face with a blue tank (hit on heavy tanks). The activation die has 2 faces each marked "A" and "B" (which activate the "A" or "B" combat commands), 1 face marked with an "R" (which activate the Reserve command) and 1 face marked with a "?" (which indicate an event has occurred and the player may activate a command of his choice).

Event Cards: There are 32 cards included in the game: 16 event cards, 8 Axis reinforcement cards, and 8 Allies reinforcement cards. The scenarios specify how many of each type of cards are included. Some event cards must be played immediately, while others can be held for later use. If a player draws an event card which is playable only by the other side, he must give that event card to his opponent. This is a nice way of simulating reconnaissance: you know the enemy has reinforcements in the area, but you aren't sure when or where they will appear. The event cards in the game are printed in Italian; English translations are available on the Gio Games web site.

Scenarios: Six scenarios are included with the game. Additional scenarios are available on the Gio Games web site.

Pre-Game Mechanics:

Because of the brevity (3.5 pages for the basic game and 1.5 for the advanced version) of the rules, I suspect that many people will be more interested in the advanced game, so all descriptions will focus on that set of rules.

Before the beginning of advanced game scenarios, players must assign each unit one of three combat groups: "A", "B" or "R" (the reserve). To do so, each stand-up card stock figure is inserted into a plastic stand labeled with the appropriate group. (Note: the labels must be glued on the stands before play.) There is no restriction on mixing unit types within a group (e.g., it is perfectly legal to mix infantry and armor), but units must remain within 6 hexes of their group command stand in order to be considered in command and move and fight effectively.

Unit Activation:

Each turn in War to Axis represents 20-30 minutes of time. At the beginning of the turn, both players roll the yellow activation die and a single d6 (6 sided die). The activation die tells each player which combat group is activated, while the d6 result indicate the number of artillery batteries available that turn and also indicates a number of units of other combat groups that may also activate. If a player rolls the reserve (group "R") for activation, he may activate all units of the reserve, or he may choose one of the following actions: transfer units from the reserve group to groups "A" or "B", perform a recovery action with all groups in play, or request Strategic Bombardment. If a "?" is rolled by a player, that player draws an event card, resolves it, then activate the combat group of his choice.

A given group can only be activated two turns in a row; on the third straight occurrence (e.g., throwing 3 "A"'s in a row), the activation die is treated as having been a "?" (event plus activate any other group), which prevents players from being stuck on one sector while still allowing for some activation uncertainty.

A variant activation rule has been posted by the publisher (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/12197/wtavariant-doc) which allows players to roll the activation die twice, activating two commands per turn.

Movement and HQ Actions:

After the active groups have been determined, players alternate acting with one unit at a time. The rules state that the units in the activated group have "precedence", which I assume means that these units act first, followed by the 1-6 units of a different group as determined at the start of the turn. With the exception of AT guns, units in War to Axis are able perform limited movement and still be capable of fire, though at a penalty. All unis have Zones of Control, which requires that friendly units stop when they move adjacent to enemy units. In addition, a unit may not move directly from one Zone of Control hex to another. During movement, enemy units may engage in Opportunity Fire against moving units, though this uses their activation for the turn.

HQ's have the ability to perform special actions. First, they may call in artillery strikes against a particular hex. As given in the scenario, the HQ throws a number of dice. If at least one die shows a Radio symbol, the artillery attacks the target hex. Dice are then thrown with each "HIT" result causing a step loss. An HQ may also call for Strategic Bombardment, which uses the activation of the HQ and ALL the units in the group. In the case of Strategic Bombardment, if the artillery arrives, one strike is made against a series of linked hexes, one for each available battery. Finally, an HQ may rally adjacent units which are in cover or out of line of sight to enemy units. The HQ throws a number of dice, with each Flag result restoring one lost step to an adjacent unit.

Once a unit has been activated, it is turned to indicate that it cannot be activated later in the turn. (Unit facing has no effect in this game.)

Combat:

As mentioned previously, each unit has separate AP and AT ratings. For example, a German infantry unit rolls 5/3/2 black dice for AP combat at a range of 3/2/1 hexes respectively, while throwing 3 white dice at up to range 2 for AT attacks. Black dice are rolled for AP and bombardment attacks, while white dice are used for AT attacks. Artillery attacks against armor are performed using AP dice, with medium and heavy armored targets subtracting 1 or 2 dice from the total (with the exception of open top vehicles such as the M10 tank destroyer who gain no armor bonuses from artillery). As in Memoir '44, the terrain occupied by the defender subtracts from the number of dice thrown by the attacker.

For AP hits against soft targets, dice results showing an Infantry figure (2 in 6) are hits. Hits by artillery are scored only on "HIT" results. Hits against armored targets are scored with dice results equal to the target's armor ratings. (As mentioned, each armor dice has three faces with light armor, two faces with medium armor, and one with heavy armor). Each hit, regardless of target type, removes one strength point chip from the target unit. Units which take two or more hits from a single attack must retreat one hex for each hit beyond the first, and become Disorganized. Disorganized may not move during their next activation, but may otherwise fire normally. It is also worth noting that units in War to Axis suffer a one die penalty if they have taken 50% or greater casualties in terms of steps.

In addition to opportunity fire mechanics, units have not been activated or have remained stationary may also engage in "closing fire" against adjacent units. They do so at less than half their full fire dice, but at least units do not have to receive orders to fire at nearby units.

Overall:

War to Axis includes a number of mechanics that make for an interesting light war-game while still appealing to more experienced warmers. Those looking for a light wargame but with a little more detail than Memoir '44 will be especially interested in War to Axis. It would be nice to see Gio Games produce other WWII volumes to cover the Eastern, North Africa, and Pacific fronts.

Of special note to solo gamers is that the activation is done through dice rather than through card play, making War to Axis very amenable to solo play because of the relative lack of hidden information.
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brain machine
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To compare you need to update your information about Memoir '44. Now (2010) M44 has engineers, leaders, antitank, different kind of tanks, snipers, mortars, etc etc etc. M44 has a lot of different units. I only miss half-tracks (I hope they will be included soon). Sometines it has separate anti-personnel and anti-tank fire effects, but if it's important for you, yes, M44 remains without opportunity or defensive fire.

Anyway, very interesting review. Thank you for your useful info on War to Axis.
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Darren Dew
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brainmachine wrote:
...I only miss half-tracks (I hope they will be included soon).


Done!

brainmachine wrote:
...Anyway, very interesting review. Thank you for your useful info on War to Axis.


And I agree completely. Excellent recap and overview. Extremely informative and enlightening.
 
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Captain Nemo
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Zelif wrote:
brainmachine wrote:
...I only miss half-tracks (I hope they will be included soon).


Done!


What have I missed now?
 
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Larry DeStefano
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very good review you got me interested in maybe picking up a copy on ebay...
 
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