Comparison of Axis & Allies games
Axis & Allies is a series of board wargames by Larry Harris, which was originally produced by Nova Game Designs in 1981 and later by Milton Bradley in 1984 and by Avalon Hill since 1999. Avalon Hill is owned by Wizards of the Coast. Since the Milton Bradley release (which has been retroactively titled Axis & Allies: Classic), many games by many designers (including games in the Axis & Allies series) have borrowed elements from A&A Classic and altered them to increase historical realism or enhance playability. Axis & Allies: Classic itself has gone through four major revisions, the 2004 Axis & Allies: Revised, the 2009 Axis & Allies: 1942, and the 2012 releases Axis & Allies: 1941 (geared towards casual audiences) and Axis & Allies: 1942 Second Edition (for hobbyist gamers). Furthermore, other games in the Axis & Allies series (which include the 2008 Axis & Allies: Anniversary Edition) use similar mechanics.
Though an exhaustive comparison is impossible, some of the more common variations are listed here. This comparison specifically excludes Axis & Allies Miniatures, whose genre and style of play is entirely different. There also have been two A&A video games published in 1998 and 2004. Each of which had an updated version release in 1999 and 2006 respectively. While the Hasbro video game releases diverge from the original spirit of A&A (More similar to Risk in many respects), Many of the Avalon Hill versions are available for interactive online play at www.gametableonline.com.
- 1 Objective
- 2 Game Board
- 3 Industrial Production Certificates
- 4 Units
- 4.1 Airbases
- 4.2 Aircraft Carriers
- 4.3 Antiaircraft Guns
- 4.4 Artillery
- 4.5 Blockhouses
- 4.6 Battleship
- 4.7 Bombers
- 4.8 Destroyers
- 4.9 Cruisers
- 4.10 Fighters
- 4.11 Industrial Complexes
- 4.12 Infantry
- 4.13 Mechanized Infantry
- 4.14 Naval Base
- 4.15 Submarines
- 4.16 Tactical Bombers
- 4.17 Tanks / Armor
- 4.18 Trucks
- 4.19 Transports
- 5 Gameplay
In Axis & Allies, the players representing the Axis powers must cooperate against the players representing the Allied powers in a recreation of World War II. If there are fewer players than powers, players may assume multiple powers, ensuring that the units and IPC supplies of different powers remain separate (though, of course, a player may not play both an Axis and an Allied power at the same time). Players take turns in a predetermined order (typically alternating between Axis and Allied powers) until one side can claim victory after an equal number of turns has been played by all powers.
The definition of what constituted a player and a power frequently varies between Axis & Allies games: while in nearly all cases an Axis power is represented by a specific player, it is considerably more complex with Allied powers: for example, the British player in Pacific is nominally in charge of two separate nations (India and Australia) that train one common set of (British) troops, while China has been typically represented as a power that plays by special rules under the command of another Allied player (typically the American player, but in Pacific 1940 Chinese forces may be commanded by any Allied player, or even by all Allied players by committee). Pacific 1940 also introduced neutral powers which are only represented by Axis or Allied troops when they come under attack, though it is to be noted that many Axis & Allies-like games have had specialized neutral player forces.
Each power typically controls one capital territory; in Classic, Europe, and Pacific, the objective of each faction was to capture opposing capital territories (Classic only requires the Axis powers to capture two of the three Allied capital territories, while Europe and Pacific only requires the Axis power to capture one of the three Allied capital territories, to compensate for the numbers disadvantage by the Axis powers). An optional rule, titled "Total Victory", also requires that the winning side control their own capitals as well. In later games, each power controls a number of territories called "victory cities" (for which the capital territories are included); players play until one side controls an agreed-upon number of victory cities. Pacific 1940 saw a hybrid of the Classic and Revised approaches, in that the Japanese player had to capture six victory cities while the Allies must capture Japan itself to win. Newer games such as Pacific 1940 have a hybrid approach, requiring the Allied players to capture the Axis capitals while merely requiring the Axis players to capture victory cities.
The Nova Games, Classic, and Pacific editions also adds alternate victory conditions in lieu of capturing opposing capitals; in the former two, the concept of "economic victory" (in which one side could generate so much income to compel the other side to surrender in place of further casualties) was in place (though only offered to the Axis powers in Classic). One of the motivations of Revised was to eliminate economic victory entirely. Pacific instituted a victory point system for the Axis power (Japan) in lieu of capturing any of the three opposing capital territories on the board. While not victory conditions, Anniversary had secondary "national objectives" (differing for every nation) that provided benefits if accomplished.
The objectives of the tactical games (D-Day, Battle of the Bulge, and Guadalcanal) differ considerably: D-Day requires the Allied player to capture and hold three strategic locations to prevent German victory, while Battle of the Bulge and Guadalcanal use victory points to determine the winner.
The game board is divided into land territories and sea zones. Most games use an irregular pattern for its board, while Battle of the Bulge uses a hex grid. In most cases, each territory is named, and in later Axis & Allies games all sea zones are numbered. Axis & Allies-like games based on Classic typically follow the Classic convention of naming coastal sea zones after the coastal territory they border (if such a case is unambiguous), while other sea zones remain unnamed unless they are of significance to the rules. Some Axis & Allies-like games may further divide land territories by terrain type, providing special benefits to units that may reside there. Territories are also divided by color in many of the games, based on which player has control of the territory in the beginning of the game.
Some territories in the game are not controlled by any power; these are referred to as "neutral territories". In the Nova Games edition, neutral territory may generate income for a player, while neutral territories could be invaded in the Nova Games and Classic editions for a nominal payment. In later games, neutral territories are impassible to all units. Some Axis & Allies-like games have also instituted neutral powers with their own standing armies and their own special mechanics, though it is not until Pacific 1940 when the Axis & Allies series itself adopted the use of neutral territories.
Each game begins with units positioned on the game board, with each power given a separate setup chart for their pieces; in Classic and Classic-based Axis & Allies-like games, confusion may arise due to the position of air units such as fighters on coastal territories (that is, whether they begin the game at sea on an aircraft carrier or on land), which is typically explained on setup charts. In may cases some territories may be too small for all of the units stationed there. In Classic and many Axis & Allies-like games, this was addressed by adding insets in different areas of the game board. Revised used "marshalling circles" for this purpose, while later games have come with larger boards or distorted maps so that pieces could adequately fit without the need for additional equipment.
Industrial Production Certificates
Industrial Production Certificates (IPCs) is the abstract unit of currency in the Axis & Allies series, representing one million man-hours of labour. Up until 1942, a pack of paper IPCs has been included with every copy of Axis & Allies (though the money used in Anniversary differs that from other games); they have not been included since 1942 partly to cut costs, and partly due to input from fans that it was easier to keep track of IPCs with pencil and paper. In these games IPCs were renamed as Industrial Production Credits.
The purchase of units, research, or repairs to industrial complexes (depending on the game) all use IPCs. IPCs are generated mainly based on the income generated by territories under the control of the player at a certain phase during the player's turn. IPCs and other material may not be traded between players, though some Axis & Allies-like games have instituted lend-lease mechanics to facilitate this (though no such mechanic exists in any Axis & Allies game to date). However, IPCs can be lost: strategic bombing raids may result in the defender losing IPCs, while a player must surrender all their IPCs if their capital territory is conquered. Pacific 1940 introduced "convoy hunting" which reduced the income of an Allied player in each turn, as well as a "wartime economy" mechanic for the American player.
Despite the limited supply of IPC notes that may come with the game, it is assumed in all cases that there is an infinite supply of IPCs available, so no power is ever denied any part of their income due to IPC exhaustion.
None of the tactical games in the Axis & Allies series uses IPCs; new units enter the game in accordance to reinforcement and/or supply mechanics found in each game.
Much of the combat is done with different units (spanning land, sea, and air). Each game comes with a supply of units for each power, and a supply of plastic chips, used to represent multiples of a type of unit. In the Nova Games release, players were not permitted to purchase additional units of a particular type if all of a type's pieces were already on the board (thus, for example, limiting players to only eight infantry units). Classic relaxed this rule somewhat, in limiting only the number of groups of units (for example, each power was given only two aircraft carrier figurines, and thus were limited to two groups of carriers, though players may have any number of carriers in a group). Later Axis & Allies games neither limited the number of groups nor the number of units per group. Some Axis & Allies-like games may impose unit limits on certain limits but not others. Typically, the number of figures included with each game reflects typical usage (for example, games tend to have fewer Soviet figurines compared to American ones).
Since Europe, figurines based on actual units used in World War II are used in the game; the Nova Games edition included cardboard pieces for the units, while Classic only had unique pieces for infantry (with early sets having them in 1/76 scale as opposed to 1/72 scale found since Europe) and generic pieces for all other units.
The colors used for the figurines denoted the power that they belong to: dark red units are Soviet (brown in Classic), tan units are British (various shades, depending on the version), green units are American, blue units are French, orange units (yellow in Classic and red in early copies of Pacific) are Japanese, brown units are Italian, black units (grey in Classic) are German, and grey units are ANZAC. Chinese units were given a dark red color in Pacific (brown in early editions), and were a reuse of Soviet infantry from earlier games (in the same colors as the Soviets), but were redesigned in Anniversary and given a pale green color thereafter.
The following table lists the various real-world units that are used as the basis of the figurines in the Axis & Allies series since Europe, along with the first game in the series featuring that unit. Names in green are figures that are used to represent each unit in the most recent game in the series (as of 2012, Europe 1940 Second Edition and Pacific 1940 Second Edition), while names in yellow are figures that have been used to represent the unit in past games.
Changes in the figurines used may be due to evolving game mechanics (such as the introduction of player-specific antiaircraft gun pieces in 1942 Second Edition necessitating the replacement of artillery units that were previously represented by antiaircraft guns), increased realism (For example, prior to Anniversary, many British and Soviet units were recolored versions of American pieces; in later games they were replaced with pieces representing units from their own armies. Similarly, most ANZAC and Italian pieces, including infantry, were replaced in Pacific 1940 Second Edition and Europe 1940 Second Edition, respectively). Airbases, naval bases, blockhouses, and industrial complexes have been generic pieces since their inception.
|Artillery||10.5 cm leFH 18||1942 Second Edition|
|88mm Flak 36||Europe||Europe 1940|
|105mm Howitzer||Europe||Europe||Pacific 1940||Europe||Europe 1940|
|152mm Howitzer||Europe 1940 Second Edition||Europe 1940 Second Edition|
|BL 5.5 inch||1942 Second Edition|
|Cannone da 75/32||Europe 1940 Second Edition|
|Ordnance QF 25 pounder||1942 Second Edition|
|Type 92 70mm||Anniversary||Pacific|
|Mechanized Infantry||M5 Half-track||Pacific 1940||Pacific 1940||Pacific 1940|
|Priest||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|Ram-Kangaroo||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|Sd.Kfz. 251||Pacific 1940||Pacific 1940||Pacific 1940|
|SPA Dovunque-35||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|Type 1||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|ZIS-42||Pacific 1940||Europe 1940|
|Tank||AC Sentinel||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|M15/42||Europe 1940 Second Edition|
|Matilda II||Anniversary||Pacific 1940|
|Truck||GMC 2 1/2-ton||Battle of the Bulge|
|Opel 3-ton||Battle of the Bulge|
|3.7in QFAA||1942 Second Edition|
|8.8cm Flak 41||1942 Second Edition|
|75mm Type 88||1942 Second Edition|
|85mm M1939||1942 Second Edition||Europe 1940 Second Edition|
|90mm M1||1942 Second Edition|
|L/70 40mm||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|Cannone da 90/53||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|Transport||Baltic Timber Ship||Europe 1940 Second Edition||Europe 1940 Second Edition|
|Hakusan Maru class||Pacific|
|Iridio Mantovani||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|Liberty ship||Europe||Europe||Pacific 1940||Pacific 1940||Pacific 1940|
|Monowai||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|Yamazuki Maru class||1941||1941|
|Gnevny class||1942||Europe 1940|
|Johnston class||Europe||Europe||Pacific 1940||Europe|
|Saumarez||1942 Second Edition|
|Soldati class||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|Tribal class||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|Marconi class||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|Ray class||Europe||Europe||Pacific 1940||Europe||Europe 1940|
|S class||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|Srednyaya class||Europe 1940 Second Edition||Europe 1940 Second Edition|
|Truculent||1942 Second Edition|
|Cruiser||Admiral Hipper class||Anniversary||Anniversary|
|Kent class||Anniversary||Pacific 1940||Anniversary|
|Kirov class||1942||Europe 1940|
|Zara class||Europe 1940 Second Edition|
|Aquila||Europe 1940 Second Edition|
|Illustrious class||Europe||Pacific 1940||Europe||Europe 1940|
|Majestic class||1942 Second Edition|
|Gangut class||1942||Europe 1940|
|Littorio class||Europe 1940 Second Edition|
|Royal Oak class||Europe||Pacific 1940||Europe|
|Warspite||1942 Second Edition|
|Fighter||C.202||Europe 1940 Second Edition|
|CA-12||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|MiG-3||Pacific 1940 Second Edition||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|Tactical Bomber||Dauntless||Pacific 1940|
|Mosquito||Pacific 1940||Pacific 1940|
|SM.79||Europe 1940 Second Edition|
|Stuka||Europe 1940||Europe 1940|
|Sturmovik||Europe 1940||Europe 1940|
|TB.Mk.I||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
|P.108||Europe 1940 Second Edition|
|PV-1||Pacific 1940 Second Edition|
- The Hilfskreuzer was referred to as the Danzig class prior to 1942 Second Edition.
- The Johnston class is sometimes referred to as the Fletcher class in some games; the two terms are interchangeable in reality.
- The Kent class was referred to as the County class prior to 1942 Second Edition.
- Up until 1942, when the P-38 Lightning was used exclusively, both the P-38 Lightning and Wildcat served as the American fighter unit. Guadalcanal and Anniversary used the Wildcat exclusively, and units of both types were included with Pacific.
- The Saumarez was referred to simply as the S class in 1942 Second Edition; the name change was prompted by the introduction of the various S class submarines in Pacific 1940.
- Though the Stuka was used as the German fighter and tactical bomber at different times, they are two different models, owing to tactical bombers being generally larger than their fighter counterparts.
- The Truculent was referred to simply as the T class in 1942 Second Edition.
- The Type 92 was available as two different models for Japan, depending on the game.
- The Zerstörer 1934 was referred to as the Fredrich Eckoldt class prior to 1942 Second Edition.
Airbases were a feature found in Pacific and later elaborated on in Pacific 1940: in Pacific, airbases were fixed on the board and confined to islands, and it allowed air units departing the territory to treat the surrounding sea zone as part of the territory itself, effectively giving them one additional movement point. In Pacific 1940, airbases may be built on any territory, as with industrial complexes, and also provide additional movement. Fighters and tactical bombers on islands (but not coastal territories) with airbases may also choose to scramble and defend the surrounding sea zone should combat arise. After battle, any surviving scrambled aircraft are returned to the island during, unless the island was captured, in which case the rules for stranded aircraft apply to them.
Since Pacific 1940, airbases also count as fixed antiaircraft guns, and are susceptible to strategic bombing: an airbase accumulating three points of damage is considered neutralized, and airbases may not accumulate more than six damage points.
Aircraft carriers allow air units to be transported over the seas. They tend to be good defenders (equal in strength to destroyers), but must rely on its cargo to attack due to its token (and, since Pacific 1940, nonexistent) attack strength. The Nova Games release allowed bombers to be transported by carrier (though bombers may not defend while onboard); only fighters (and, since Pacific 1940, tactical bombers) are allowed to be transported in every game since. Fighters attack and defend independently of any carriers they are on.
Classic, Europe, and Pacific prohibited newly deployed fighters from being deployed on carriers, as fighters must be deployed on land. Newer editions permit new or existing fighters to be placed on newly built carriers (for existing fighters, they must be located in an adjacent coastal territory; this subsequently counts as movement, so allied fighters may not immediately board new carriers). The same was extended to tactical bombers in Pacific 1940.
Since Pacific 1940, carriers are considered to be capital ships, which requires two hits to be sunk. As Pacific 1940 does not instantly repair damaged capital ships, there are additional rules regarding damaged carriers: damaged carriers may not carry fighters. If an allied air unit is stationed on the carrier, it may not defend, and is considered cargo (similar to land units in a transport). If a carrier carries fighters and is subsequently damaged, the affected fighters must land on a carrier in the same or adjacent sea zone during noncombat movement (as in existing rules for stranded air units after carriers had been destroyed). Because of this rule, air units on carriers are assumed to land on the carrier that they were transported in during noncombat movement unless specified otherwise.
Antiaircraft Guns are a special type of unit, that is only used in air combat. Up until 1942 Second Edition, they are a generic piece in a neutral gray color (except in Guadalcanal, which uses the same generic pieces but are coloured, and in Pacific 1940 and Europe 1940, where they are represented by cardboard markers). In these games, they are the only unit in the game where they are captured instead of destroyed (except in Guadalcanal, where they are destroyed like any other unit); as such, antiaircraft guns are only destroyed if they are lost as cargo on a transport. Antiaircraft guns do not change ownership if they cross into allied territory; a marker must be used to differentiate a player's own antiaircraft guns from allied antiaircraft guns. In Classic, a technology also allowed antiaircraft guns to be upgraded with rocket technology, which allowed antiaircraft guns to fire rockets, with effects similar to that of strategic bombing.
Earlier editions limited one antiaircraft gun per territory, though later rules relaxed this to allow multiple antiaircraft guns on the provision that only one is functional at any time. Antiaircraft guns do not attack, but only defend if air units fly over the territory. In Classic, aircraft in combat movement were susceptible to antiaircraft fire, while in Revised aircraft in both combat and noncombat movement were susceptible. Since Anniversary, however, only attacking aircraft were susceptible to antiaircraft fire (antiaircraft guns do not fire on planes en route to a different territory). In all cases, antiaircraft guns only made one attack, and it is treated as a priority attack.
Antiaircraft Guns were radically overhauled in 1942 Second Edition, where they were available as custom pieces in player colours like other units, and are destroyed instead of captured. In exchange, multiple antiaircraft guns may be operational in one territory at a time. Furthermore, antiaircraft guns may fire at three different units with one shot each, though no aircraft can be targeted by more than one antiaircraft gun at a time.
In Pacific 1940 and Europe 1940, industrial complexes, airbases, and naval bases serve as fixed antiaircraft guns, and only one of any of these four are functional at any time. 1942 Second Edition also had antiaircraft defenses for industrial complexes, but only against bombers making strategic bombing raids.
In D-Day, where antiaircraft guns are absent, regular artillery also serves as antiaircraft guns.
Artillery was originally introduced in Europe, ostensibly as a means to encourage attacking with infantry, which were otherwise cannon fodder: with the exception of D-Day (in which artillery acted as antiaircraft guns), each infantry (and later on, mechanized infantry) paired with artillery had increased attacking power. Since Anniversary, artillery may be upgraded (where research and development is an option) to boost the attack of two infantry instead of one.
Most Axis & Allies-like games had antiaircraft guns double as artillery, employing mechanics similar to those of rocket attacks.
Blockhouses were found in D-Day, representing pillboxes along the shores of Normandy. Blockhouses had token defense, but were excellent in making counterattacks. Certain blockhouses also had the ability to fire out to sea, allowing the German player to eliminate allied reinforcements for the next turn. Conversely, naval bombardment (represented by a naval bombardment phase in D-Day) allowed the safe removal of blockhouses from play.
Battleships are the most expensive units in Axis & Allies, but have unparalleled attack and defense capabilities. Originally the same as other units in the fact that a single hit destroyed the unit (making it an expensive proposition), a damage mechanic was added to the 1998 computer implementation of Classic which required that battleships be hit twice in the game to sink. Subsequent boardgames required that a battleship be hit twice in a single combat to sink. To show that a battleship had taken its first hit, the battleship was placed on its side (regardless of whether it is damaged in battle, it is always placed face-up at the end of the battle).
In Pacific 1940 and Europe 1940, however, battleships (and aircraft carriers) are not repaired at the end of combat, and must be moved to a naval base for repair. Other Axis & Allies-like games have further elaborated on the capital ship damage mechanic, such as limiting the attack and defense capabilities of damaged battleships or requiring IPCs be paid for repairing damaged ships. In Guadalcanal, whose combat mechanics are different, damaged ships follow the same principle: battleships (along with destroyers, cruisers, and carriers) are damaged on a roll of 2 and destroyed on a roll of 1; in the event that a ship is damaged and not destroyed as a result of combat, it immediately returns to the player's home base, where it cannot move until it is repaired.
Bombers (renamed "strategic bombers" in and after Pacific 1940 to differentiate them with tactical bombers) are, in essence, airborne attackers with token defense. Their specialties lie in the ability to perform strategic bombing raids. Strategic bombing raids in earlier editions of Axis & Allies depleted funds from opponents; since Anniversary they instead damaged industrial complexes, reducing the number of units that may be deployed there. Bombers could also be upgraded to Heavy Bombers in Classic and Revised, which permit bombers to make multiple attacks in both normal attack and strategic bombing raids, though in Revised losses from strategic bombing were capped to the value of the territory being attacked. Losses from strategic bombing prior to Anniversary was also limited to the IPCs the opponent has on hand, except in the Nova Games edition where players must disband units (with its costs refunded) to make up for any losses in excess of the IPCs on hand.
The Nova Games edition also allowed nuclear attacks to be made in place of strategic bombing. Nuclear attacks require the player to have built or captured an atomic bomb (which are otherwise stationary units with no attack or defense), and destroyed every unit in the territory being attacked. However, no Axis & Allies or Axis & Allies-like game has since implemented any nuclear warfare mechanic due to the potentially game-unbalancing effects.
One technology available for research (in games offering a research mechanic) is "heavy bombers", which enhanced the abilities of bombers when attacking. In Classic, this allowed bombers to make three attack rolls instead of one (attacking three times and potentially hitting three enemy units). Due to its game-unbalancing effect, Revised limited bombers to two attack rolls instead of three. Since Anniversary, heavy bombers make one attack like all other units, but may choose the better of two attack rolls when attacking.
Bombers as air transport
Most Axis & Allies-like games also allowed bombers to transport infantry, to simulate paratroopers. The Axis & Allies series itself saw three paratrooper implementations:
- The 1998 computer implementation of Classic allowed bombers to either attack or transport infantry, but not both
- In Anniversary, bombers may be upgraded to carry one infantry unit. Bombers could attack while carrying infantry, but must stop in the first hostile territory they encounter; the infantry is considered to have been "dropped", and may retreat with other units. Bombers carrying infantry may not conduct strategic bombing.
- The combined Global 1940 game had a research development that allowed the use of paratroopers; unlike previous implementations, however, this did not involve the use of bombers. Infantry stationed on territories with an airbase may, during combat movement, move up to three territories away to attack hostile territory. However, in doing so, they were subject to antiaircraft fire. Only two infantry per territory may be dropped in this manner, and infantry that were dropped in this manner may only retreat if they are attacking along with other land-based forces.
Destroyers were first introduced in Europe to fill the void between the lesser submarine and the more powerful battleship. The signature ability of destroyers is that it negates the abilities of submarines; that is, submarines do not have a priority attack over other ships in the presence of destroyers, can be targeted by air units in the presence of destroyers, and must stop for battle in sea zones with destroyers present. Note that since Anniversary, attacking in a sea zone where there are allied destroyers present do not negate the abilities of defending submarines, due to the rule that units attack separately and defend together.
In Pacific, Japanese destroyers also acted as armored transports, allowing the transportation of one infantry unit. This is extended to all destroyers in Guadalcanal.
Cruisers were first introduced in Guadalcanal as a middle ground between destroyers and battleships. Previously, in Revised, destroyers had slightly less attack and defense compared to battleships, neutralized submarine abilities, and could also be upgraded for shore bombardment, but cost only half of that of a battleship. Thus, two upgraded destroyers were preferred over a single battleship. Cruisers effectively took over the increased attack and defense and the shore bombardment capability of the old destroyer, while destroyers retained the submarine-neutralizing capabilities and were made cheaper and less powerful (presently, the cost of two cruisers match that of three destroyers, which in turn is slightly more than one battleship).
As Classic lacked any light or medium ships (there were no ships beyond the capital ships, submarines, and transports), many Axis & Allies-like games incorporated cruisers as a medium ship as part of their navy lineups, while Axis & Allies later settled on destroyers before subsequently adding cruisers.
Fighters are the main aerial combat unit in Axis & Allies, with excellent attack and defense value. In Classic and Revised, fighters could be upgraded to provide increased range and defense, the latter also rendering antiaircraft guns useless against them.
In Europe, Pacific, and Pacific 1940, as well as in optional rules in later games, fighters could defend against strategic bombing, and could escort bombers in strategic bombing to engage these defenders. In all cases, a round of "aerial dogfights" is conducted where only fighters may attack and defend (though at a reduced power), and any surviving bombers proceed to perform strategic bombing.
Industrial Complexes are the means to which new units are to be deployed on the map. Industrial Complexes do not exist in the tactical games, where an alternate mechanic serves to introduce new units on the map. At the end of each turn, newly purchased units may be deployed in any territory containing an Industrial Complex held since the start of the player's turn (for naval units, in an adjacent sea zone therein).
Depending on the game, Industrial Complexes may or may not be built: Europe and 1941 do not allow new ones to be built, while Pacific only permitted the American player to build new Industrial Complexes, while an optional rule in Classic limited the ability to build Industrial Complexes to the Axis powers. Industrial Complexes in Classic and the Nova Games edition may be deployed in any territory held by the player at the start of their turn, while later games restricted placement of Industrial Complexes to territories with income values. Once built, Industrial Complexes are not destroyed; they are simply captured.
The number of units that may be deployed in territories with Industrial Complexes per turn varied depending on the game: in Classic and Pacific, industrial complexes that were held by the player at the start of the game (including those that were lost and subsequently recaptured) allowed an unlimited number of units to be deployed, while Classic also had the rule that all Industrial Complexes allowed at least one unit to be deployed at its location. To prevent what is described as a "poison pill" tactic from placing Industrial Complexes in valueless territories (allowing the territory to be captured so that it can be targeted by strategic bombing), since Revised (and in all other cases not mentioned) the number of units that may be deployed could not exceed the value of the underlying territory. Any overbuilds (that is, unit purchases exceeding the deployment capacity of the player's Industrial Complexes) were lost in earlier games, and simply refunded in later ones.
In Pacific 1940, industrial complexes were split into minor and major complexes: minor ones limited deployment to three units per turn, while major ones limited deployment to ten units per turn. Minor complexes may be upgraded to major ones (though the total cost is slightly more than if major industrial complexes were directly purchased), though major complexes have greater restrictions on their placement. Furthermore, industrial complexes may not be built on island territories in this game. Industrial complexes, both major and minor, are also considered to be fixed antiaircraft guns in this game.
Industrial Complexes also serve as targets for strategic bombing. In earlier games, strategic bombing reduced the number of IPCs in a player's supply, while later games damaged Industrial Complexes. Damaged Industrial Complexes reduce the number of units that the territory may deploy, and may be repaired by the owner for a nominal IPC cost. The damage to an Industrial Complex may not exceed twice the complex's production capacity at any time. In 1942 Second Edition, Industrial Complexes have nominal antiaircraft defenses against strategic bombing.
Infantry is the main unit of Axis & Allies, with token attack and slightly better defense. Many rule changes over the years have been made to reinforce the need for infantry (as cheap defenders and potential cannon fodder in attacking forces) while trying to prevent overbuildups. Many optional rules altered the abilities of infantry, and Pacific also included the US Marine, a special infantry that has increased attack in amphibious assaults.
Mechanized infantry were introduced in Pacific 1940 as a hybrid of an infantry unit and a tank: it had the stats of an infantry, but could move two spaces as a tank. Unlike tanks, however, they are unable to blitz on their own, but a mechanized infantry may accompany each blitzing tank and keep pace. Under Global 1940 rules, mechanized infantry may be upgraded so that they may blitz without having to be accompanied by a tank; upgraded mechanized infantry instead gain an attack bonus when attacking with tanks.
Naval bases were introduced in Pacific, and were elaborated upon in Pacific 1940. In Pacific, naval bases were fixed on the board, and allowed allied ships in specific sea zones to move an extra space during noncombat movement. In Pacific 1940, naval bases may be built in any coastal territory, and allowed ships in adjacent sea zones the movement of an extra space in combat movement in addition to noncombat movement.
As Pacific 1940 does not repair ships automatically after battle, any allied damaged ships in sea zones adjacent to a territory with a naval base is automatically repaired at the start of the base owner's turn. Naval bases also serve as fixed antiaircraft guns, and are susceptible to strategic bombing: naval bases are considered neutralized if they take on three damage points, and may not take on more than six damage points.
Submarines are special naval units. One of their primary abilities is (since Revised) to allow submarines to cross enemy-held sea zones without triggering combat (prior to Revised, submarines were treated identically to surface warships), and one of their combat abilities was a priority attack. Submarines also have an early exit ability (an early retreat in Classic and submerging, which does not move the unit, in later games). All of these abilities, however, are negated by destroyers.
Though many Axis & Allies-like games had a similar mechanic of crossing enemy-held sea zones without triggering combat, it was only in Revised that it has evolved into the present-day rule, owing to a tactic known as "sub-stalling" in Europe and Pacific (where submarines would move into enemy territory and, provided destroyers were not present, submerge at the earliest opportunity, effectively limiting movement through territories with submarines). Since Anniversary, it conversely also meant that ships moving into a territory which contained only enemy submarines (and transports, which were given the same "undetected movement" powers) may choose to not engage them in combat (and thus such a move was also possible in noncombat movement). In any event, submarines (in both combat and noncombat movement) must stop their movement in the presence of destroyers (in combat movement, this results in combat, while in the latter case it would create a combat situation for the next turn).
The means in which the submarine's priority attack worked differently in each game: in the Nova Games release, submarines attacked and defended during combat movement, where defending submarines could fire at any passing ships, similar to antiaircraft fire. This was the only occasion where defenders make the first attack, and the defender may also choose not to exercise the attack, as it would allow ships to return fire. In Classic, the priority attack was only given to attacking submarines, and ships hit by submarines could not return fire. Later games allowed defending submarines to return fire if they were hit by the priority attack. In all cases, submarines were only able to hit other naval units. Since Europe, air units in turn could not target submarines in the absence of destroyers, except in Revised.
Tactical Bombers were introduced in Pacific 1940 as a unit representing dive bombers, fighter-bombers, and the like. Despite the name, tactical bombers behave more like fighters instead of bombers: they have the same flight range as a fighter, they may be carried on an aircraft carrier, and they have similar stats to fighters (though they cost more and have less defensive power). However, tactical bombers may have their attack power increased (in a manner similar to artillery and infantry) in the presence of either fighters or tanks.
Unlike fighters, tactical bombers may not accompany strategic bombers in strategic bombing raids.
Tanks / Armor
Tanks are the main offensive ground force in Axis & Allies, having the greatest attack strength of the land units. Tanks could also move two territories instead of one. Due to the improved mobility, tanks have an additional ability termed "blitz", where they may continue moving after attacking (and conquering) unoccupied territory. However, what constituted "unoccupied" has varied in different editions: Classic considers territories with only antiaircraft guns or Industrial Complexes to be unoccupied, while in later games this would stop the tank.
Trucks are found exclusively in Battle of the Bulge, where they serve as land-based transports. Trucks move only on roads in the game, and carry up to six infantry, artillery, or supply tokens. They are also the only units in the game that do not require supply tokens to move. Trucks not in enemy zones of control may be taken off the board, where they may be loaded with the next turn's reinforcements when they return to the board the next turn. Trucks on the board may load units and supply tokens as long as they have not moved, and unload automatically at the end of the turn.
Trucks may be destroyed by battle, but they may also be captured and used by the opposing power.
Transports are the means to which land units may cross sea zones and attack island groups or distant continents. The transport capacity differs between games: transports could carry any two land units in the Nova Games edition, one unit or two infantry in Classic, one tank or two other land units in Europe and Pacific, and one infantry and one of any land unit in later games. If a transport is lost, so is its cargo. Loading a transport costs one movement point in the Nova Games release and is free in later games, while unloading a transport ends the transport's movement in all games; in all cases transports may only load units if the transport is in a friendly sea zone. However, since Europe players may not unload a transport by placing two land units into two different territories at the same time. In other words, a single transport can only unload into one territory. Guadalcanal is the exception to this.
The combat abilities of a transport has differed between games: in all cases, transports have no attack. Before Anniversary, transports had a token defense. Since Anniversary, transports neither attack nor defend, but may only be taken as casualties if there are no other eligible targets. Because of this, transports, like submarines, were given the ability to cross enemy-held sea zones without triggering combat. Also, players may choose to not engage undefended transports, and all transports are automatically destroyed in combat if they are the only pieces remaining.
Gameplay is divided into a number of stages. Tactical Axis & Allies games tend to diverge greatly, thus this is only a comparison of the strategic games. In each player's turn, players first perform purchases, before performing "combat movement" (that is, moving pieces so as to create combat situations). After all combats created are resolved, noncombat movement is performed before income is collected. Though strategic Axis & Allies games generally use this formula, the specific details have differed between games.
In Pacific, Anniversary, and Pacific 1940, Chinese forces are held by special rules: Chinese forces may only produce infantry (though in all three games they begin the game with a fighter, represented by an American piece), and are generally confined to the areas which make up mainland China on the board (for example, they may not be loaded onto allied transports), which are either Chinese-controlled at the start of the game, or have been captured by Japan at the start of the game. Chinese forces may also attack or occupy territories that make up Hong Kong and Burma (neither of which are considered part of mainland China), which are British territories, though they may not control the territories themselves unless the British capital has been captured.
In Pacific, Chinese infantry are deployed using their sole industrial complex (the territory for which is considered to be their "capital territory"), as with all other powers, but in later games they may be placed in any Chinese-held territory because the Chinese do not use industrial complexes in the later games (correspondingly, they do not have a "capital territory"). Pacific 1940 treated China as a separate power with its own income supply (but different placement rules), and allowed them to purchase artillery if certain conditions are met.
Declaration of War
Axis & Allies had originally been a game taking place at the middle of the war, when all Axis powers and all Allied powers were at war with each other. Various Axis & Allies-like games have tried to put the setting at an earlier point in the war, in times where full hostilities may not have begun, though it is not until Pacific 1940 that the Axis & Allies series itself had such a condition.
Typically, when peacetime conditions between an Axis power and an Allied power exist, players may not engage each other in combat; units merely serve to blockade the progress of the opposing power. Either power may declare war on the other by making a combat movement against the opposing power. In Pacific 1940, any Japanese movement against any Allied non-Chinese forces will cause all Allied forces to declare war, while Allied powers may, at their discretion, attack separately. Finally, any allied unit may declare war on Japan in noncombat movement by moving a piece into Chinese-held territory.
Pacific 1940 also introduced neutral powers into the series: neutral powers are not at war with either Axis or Allied forces, and are considered impassible until attacked. When attacked, neutral forces are represented by pieces belonging to a power opposite the one attacking it. Neutral powers, if surviving an attack, remain "uncontrolled" with its neutral pieces remaining on the board, but any power on the friendly side may occupy it and control the territory and any income it may generate; in Europe 1940, some neutral territories begin the game in this state as "pro-Axis" or "pro-Allied". If a formerly neutral territory is lost, then recaptured by an allied power, then the new allied power assumes control of the territory.
In Europe 1940, as well as in many Axis & Allies-like games that predate it, France is represented as a power in decline at the start of the game, and likely to be overrun by German forces in the opening turns of play. For the simplicity of gameplay, Europe 1940 does not simulate the division of France between Vichy France and the Free French Forces; many Axis & Allies-like games, however, have complicated systems of dividing forces in the event that the French capital territory is lost.
Research, done during the purchase phase, was a mechanic that differed between Axis & Allies games where it was present - neither Europe nor Pacific include research, and since 1942 they have been eliminated entirely. Where it is present, there are six technologies in the game, each associated with a die outcome. In the Nova Games release (where it was an optional rule) and Classic, players must pay for "research dice", which are then rolled. If a 6 appears on any of the dice, then a research is discovered and the dice are rerolled to see which discoveries were made (if a player already has the discovery in question, they were permitted to reroll). This was criticized as a "grab bag", and many Axis & Allies-like games had alternative research mechanics that were more complicated but had eliminated the discovery of random researches. Revised also did this: players must name the research they wish to research, and any research dice that matched the number of the research resulted in success in the research.
Anniversary, where research is an optional rule, reverted to the "grab bag" style of research, with a slight modification: players purchase research tokens, and roll a number of dice equal to the number of research tokens they have. If a 6 appears on any of the dice, the research tokens are discarded, and players roll one die to determine which development is researched. If no 6s appear, then the research tokens are retained for the next turn.
Though research does not exist in either Pacific 1940 or Europe 1940, for the combined Global 1940 game, research exists as an optional rule, using the grab bag approach from Classic. Players, however, were permitted to choose from two sets of six technologies when a research development is successful.
The effects of research are in immediate effect during standard play, but for tournament play the effects of research do not take place until the start of the player's next turn.
Combat movement was originally limited to naval and air units in the Nova Games edition, as land units attacked from adjacent territories and were only moved in noncombat movement. Since Europe, combat movement has also included the possibility that remaining in place could create combat (for example, due to an opposing newly placed ship - in Classic, players could not deploy ships in enemy-controlled sea zones); disenaging the enemy counted as the unit's combat movement. To help reduce ambiguity from the combination of aircraft movement and carrier movement, later games also required all aircraft to have plans to land at a safe location (either on land, or, for fighters, on carriers): if, as a result of combat, an air unit is unable to make their original flight plan (and have no other alternative landing plans), the air unit is lost. This may also limit carriers to movement only in combat movement (if the carrier attacks and the player intends to land a fighter on the carrier after the battle, assuming the carrier does not retreat or is not destroyed) or noncombat movement (if the carrier remains stationary for combat and subsequently moves so a fighter can land). It is generally illegal to intentionally move air units so that they have no means of safely landing, though many Axis & Allies-like games relax this rule for the Japanese player, to simulate kamikaze attacks. (The kamikaze mechanic in Pacific and Pacific 1940, however, is done differently.)
Also noted is that in the Nova Games edition, only one of combat, nuclear attack, and strategic bombing may be performed on any territory.
Also notable in combat movement is the possibility of amphibious assault. In the Nova Games edition, amphibious assaults are treated as any other attack, except that the strength of units attacking from transports is reduced for the first round of combat. In later games, amphibious assault begins with naval bombardment (provided no naval battle took place), which allowed battleships, destroyers (in Europe, Pacific, and Revised), and cruisers (since Anniversary) to attack ground units before they are removed from battle and replaced by the ground units (Japanese destroyers in Pacific, in addition, could not perform shore bombardment if they were also unloading infantry). Casualties from naval bombardment could usually return fire against ground and air forces, but in Revised only they cannot, as the naval bombardment is considered a priority attack. Prior to Anniversary, there is no distinction between ground forces unloaded from transports and ground forces supporting the attack by land; all units were considered to have been unloaded from transports, and no ground forces were able to retreat (this also had the unintentional side effect of the increased attack of the US Marine in effect even if the marines were attacking by land); since Revised, however, units attacking over land are separated from those attacking from transports in combat, with units in the former group permitted to retreat. Since Europe, air units in amphibious assaults are treated as in any other combat situation. In Classic, surprisingly, air units in amphibious assaults could not retreat at all.
As 1941 is a simplified version of Axis & Allies, amphibious assaults do not exist in that game.