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A&A for iPad

The iPad can be a nearly perfect game tool. Computers corrected some of the grievous flaws of the tabletop wargames – insane tedium in setup, overly (if sometimes necessarily) complex rules, and difficulty in modeling the fog of war. But they also took away the physicality of the games – of being able to walk around the game. The touch aspect of the iPad brings back some of the physicality of the games, while the computer handles minutia. Although what would really be awesome would be an entire tabletop running the iOS…

As the proud owner of an iPad, I’ve been waiting for someone to come up with a good Axis and Allies game. It looks like my wait may soon be over. Here’s a demo of a new game called wwTouch, which looks to fit the bill.

Axis and Allies is the perfect middle ground. Complex enough to be interesting, but not so complex as to be unwieldy. Streamlined rules, moderately easy (compared to say, Panzer Leader) set up and clever design of the board and pieces. And still, a physical game, but one whose rules you could easily keep in your head – which allows you to actually act like a general in that you can have an intuitive idea of how things should turn out, and act accordingly. If the matter of the game and how the pieces interact is too complex, you can’t internalize your knowledge of the game quickly enough – which means that unless you have hundreds of hours to devote to the game, you’re not going to really enjoy it, or learn from it. Personally, I don’t have hundreds of hours to devote to anything anymore, let alone wargaming.

As much as I love civ, with its city and empire building, it lacks any incorporation of strategy in the combat mode. It’s all a matter of mass and gaming the idiosyncrasies of the combat system. Axis and Allies comes the closest of any game I’ve played to balancing the economic and strategic aspects well – though I’d dearly love someone to invent a game that really combined the two.

This post was inspired by something Instapundit linked to – an article by Jonathan Last in the WSJ about a new game called Making History II, made with the connivance of historian Niall Ferguson.

[...]where players choose a country and, beginning in 1933, guide it—diplomatically, economically and militarily—through the great conflagration. The new version boasts many intriguing features, not the least interesting of which is the involvement of historian Niall Ferguson.

Prof. Ferguson, author of “The War of the World,” says that he spent a lot of time playing World War II games over the years. But he often found these games lacking.

“What drove me crazy was the way economic resources were so arbitrarily allocated to countries,” he explains. “Rather in the same way that Monopoly is economically unrealistic (there ought to be a central bank with the power to vary short-term interest rates) all these early strategy games would greatly exaggerate the resources of countries like Japan and Italy, and underestimate the vast wealth of the U.S. so one had a completely false impression of the odds against the Axis.”

So Mr. Ferguson worked with the developers at Muzzy Lane to realistically map material resources and economic frameworks. As such, Making History II may be the apogee of a breed which has been quietly beloved of boys and men for half a century: the war-strategy game. While computers have added a level of mathematical sophistication to the genre, the older, hands-on war-strategy games retain an elegant charm.

Sounds interesting, but the game is Windows only, can’t download it, and the Amazon reviews say the early version is buggy.  I think I’ll wait.  The article also notes that Prof. Ferguson is also a big A&A fan – another point in his favor. I may have to load up my old version of A&A Iron Blitz on the windows virtual machine…

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  • 1

    Axis + Allies is good stuff. Though I spent more time, I think, on Illuminati and Diplomacy.

  • 2

    I played lots of games – Illuminati and Diplomacy among them. I rarely played one game for any length of time. The one exception was A&A, just because it was convenient as well as fun. We ran the college coffee shop, and we’d play after hours, with plenty of space, free from interruptions and with large supplies of coffee and smokes. We played a couple times a week for months on end.

    We developed over time a set of house rules for tech development, added new unit types, but most of the time we played it straight. The one thing we proved over and over again is that when one person playing the axis played two or more people as the allies, you had a decent chance of winning through a coordinated strategy. Also, Germany can take England on the first turn, and Eastern US by the third if they’re lucky.

  • 3

    I never got into Axis and Allies. Maybe just because no one in my circle of friends happened to own it.

    I hugely enjoyed Victory Games’ stuff- 2d and 7th Fleet’ NATO: The Next War in Europe. One called Air Cav was fun but I don’t recall if it was a Victory product. A little more accessible was Supremacy- that game had alot of potential and I wish I could play it online today.

    NATO I played all the way through (and that was the short, 12 turn scenario) precisely once- took Joe and me about 12 hours and an entire tabletop for the mappage. I mean, once the balloon goes up and things are really complex, it can take an hour to execute your turn.

    Even with the computer doing the housekeeping in a NATO-Pact scenario in, say, “Operational Art of War”, it still takes a good 2-3 hours without trying that hard.

  • 4

    I intended to pick up the first Making History, after reading about it in Wired a couple years ago, but games have dropped precipitously off my list of priorities. Sigh.

  • 5

    One thing I love about the iPad is that I can squeeze a little gaming in spare moments. The number of really interesting games is limited, but I think more or on the way. I miss the days of two week long civ binges.

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