Games That Teach – Axis & Allies and Short Term Planning

When talking about board games, games so old and still so loved as “Axis and Allies” are hard to find. With so many versions, updates, and house rules, defining the core that is “Axis and Allies” can be difficult at times. One of the core elements,though, is most definitely the controlling of factories to get points to build more units with. And while this mechanic (mechanism) might seem like it favors strategy and thinking over the long term, I’d argue that it really encourages planning in the short term, for your next turn and not for future turns.

The one I have isn't the greatest.

The one I have isn’t the greatest.

Let me try to explain before you scream at me for being wrong (or more likely just leave the page). The resources you get at the end of a turn will not be used until the beginning of your next turn or later. A player can save up for long periods of time but there is almost no point when you’re being punched in the face by you opponent’s pieces. The illusion of long-term consequences comes from this ability to save, but really the game is just about how many IPC’s (resources) a player can get at the end of this turn to have the most effective next turn. While a player deploys resources at the end of their turn, it still means that the maximum they are thinking is two turns ahead, and if they think farther than that (i.e. want a battleship or aircraft carrier, which are expensive) they are likely to get taken out by their opponent who didn’t do that and is fighting with superior strength.

This is also coupled with the fact that the ultimate goals of each side are placed only several spaces away, except for the United States, which is impossible to take and has to produce units and move them across an ocean to be effective (which is why they usually have China). Players don’t have the time to think about turns farther in the future because if they do they’ll be beaten by players who thought about the turn directly ahead.

Now I’m not going to say that this makes for a bad game, or an un-educational game. In fact, the game is quite fun and in certain cases even has the player going for historical objectives. I do think, though, that the idea of Axis and Allies being a grand strategy game is silly. It’s a tactical game on a strategic board, which in and of itself is quite a good way to teach people about proper resource uses in the short term. And saving a few IPCs each turn will lead to getting some more powerful units in the future if done right. I quite like the short-term resource management that Axis and Allies has. And I also like the fact that it has the realism of a series of tactical victories leading to a strategic victory. It definitely isn’t like chess where a series of tactical blunders could stumble you into a strategic success. I like games that reward short-term victories with long-term benefits, even if in some, if not most, will make you second-best to the person who thought through the whole game.

Really, though, “Axis and Allies” is just a good game for dice chucking and pretending to be some foreign super-power for a night with some friends. Even if it isn’t as deep as it looks, it still lasts for some time and holds one’s interest the whole way though (if the players like WWII.)

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