[Review] World in War
- I like the Axis and Allies series, as well as other plastic
miniature-filled games such as Attack! There's just something about
commanding large forces and moving them across the board to attack
your opponent that I find thrilling. Yet I play these games rarely
nowadays - mostly because of the time they take up. Axis and Allies,
although the revised edition streamlines many of the rules, still
takes up to six hours to complete. I'd rather play a couple or more
games in that time frame; and although I like longer games, I usually
prefer that they have a lot of "meat" and are truly engaging (like 7
Ages.) Therefore, it was with great interest that I saw what appeared
to be an Axis and Allies clone on the internet - World in War (Spel
Tuanst, 2005 - Jonas Jepson). The tagline read "Combined Arms", and
the pictures showed some interesting battle boards. World in War also
came with only two ten-sided dice, instead of the myriad needed for
Axis and Allies.
I was intrigued, and got a copy of the game. After reading over the
rules, I was a bit under whelmed. The game seemed too simplistic and
was only a recreation of the European War. But I determined to play
it, as many times I've been wrong in my initial impressions on reading
the rules. And this was one of those cases. While purists may argue
over the exact combat rules, or the fact that the game simplifies what
was a rather complicated conflict down to rules a novice can
understand, I enjoyed the game thoroughly. It was fairly quick,
extremely involving, and I heartily enjoyed the combat system - it was
unique and interesting. The game has a bit of a mathematical feel to
it, and I think after a dozen or more plays that similar strategies
might be used; but I am certainly glad to have a light war game that
has such a streamlined system. Everything was fast, and more
Two to four players can play the game, each taking one or more of the
Russian, Allied, Eastern German, or Western German armies. A board is
placed in the middle of the table, showing the 1939 map of Europe,
split into many different territories. On many of the territories, a
number in a circle is printed (the production number), and different
units are pictured. Each army places the pictured units onto their
starting territories, placing the rest of their units in front of
them. Allied and Russian players must also place "-1" markers in each
territory they control whose production number is higher than one,
until the sum of each of their territories is one. Many of the
territories on the board have white units pictures on them. These
neutral territories have no armies placed in them at the beginning of
the game. Each player places a victory marker on a victory point
chart equal to their total production value. The Soviet Union goes
first, then the eastern German army, then the western German army,
then the Western Powers. A time marker is placed on a fourteen-space
track, and the game begins.
On a player's turn, they follow three phases - Production, Movement
(battles), and Retreat. In the production phase, a player produces
units in every territory they control, as long as they have one unit
already in that territory. The player can produce units equal to the
production number, less any "-1" markers in the territory - and can
pick any combination of units they want. Each unit, regardless of
type, costs "1". Alternatively, a player can withhold production in a
territory, and instead remove one "-1" marker.
During the movement phase, a player may move all of their units into
new or currently held territories. Ground units may be moved one
space; ships may be moved two spaces, and aircraft three spaces.
Transport ships may move ground units over sea areas. When enemy
units occupy the same space, a battle occurs. The defending player may
move in aircraft from other territories from up to three spaces away,
but each airplane can only participate in one battle. All units
involved are placed on the appropriate battle board, land and sea, and
each player prepares for battle. The battle boards show, via arrows,
which units can attack other units.
- Airplanes can attack tanks, other airplanes, infantry, destroyers,
submarines, and transports.
- Tanks can attack other tanks and infantry.
- Infantry can attack other infantry and artillery.
- Artillery can attack tanks and airplanes.
- Submarines can attack destroyers, transports, and battleships.
- Battleships can attack other battleships, destroyers, transports,
- Destroyers can attack other destroyers, airplanes, transports, and submarines.
- Transports can't attack - they just sit there.
Each player in the battle rolls one ten-sided die for every five units
they have and chooses the best result. This is the amount of
casualties they inflict on the opponent's forces. Starting with the
player who rolled the lower number, each player removes one unit from
the board that they are able to kill with their existing units. This
continues until either both players have taken off the maximum
casualties that they can, or until the players' units left on the
board cannot kill any of the opposing units.
If a player attacks a neutral territory, then units equal to those
pictured on the board are placed in as a defending force and must all
be defeated, otherwise they "respawn" for the next attack.
After all battles are over, retreats must occur. All planes must
retreat up to three spaces away, and whichever side has more tanks and
infantry forces the other side to retreat out. Territory can only be
captured by a force including either infantry and/or tanks. If a
player captures a territory that has a production number, they
increase their victory point marker as indicated. As soon as one
player reaches a certain amount of victory points, the game is over;
or whoever has the most victory points after a certain number of
(There are other rules, but are mostly minor things.)
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: The game comes loaded with plastic miniature pieces
in four colors (blue - Western Powers, brown - Russia, and gray and
black - Germany). The models are nice, although not as good as
Hasbro's, and some were a real pain to get off the sprues. They were
easy to distinguish and move about the board, however. Other than
that, there are no other pieces, save for the cardboard "-1" counters
and victory markers. Everything fits well in the box, but plastic
bags are a necessity. The board is nice, having a striking similarity
to Axis and Allies: Europe - but then again, both are about the same
way. I like how the starting pieces are printed on the board; it
makes setup extremely fast and easy. The battle boards are fantastic,
they really help players remember what units can attack what, and
moving pieces to them isn't as fiddly as other games.
2.) Rules: Two rule booklets come with the game. One is a seven-page
rules booklet, made out to be a boring "report". Another is a
"Bazooka Betty" comic book type booklet that has pictorial
illustrations of the major rules and shows details of a battle. The
comic book was very useful and helped show a visual representation of
the rule set. The rules themselves were very quick, and it was nice
to know that most of the units had no special powers - only the
aircraft, so new players didn't get confused easily.
3.) Combined arms: There are two pages in the rules that explain why
the game is historically accurate, so I'll leave that for the
historians to debate. I will say this, however, that the combined
arms system is very elegant and refined. The only problem is that it
can be a little "too" elegant, and occasionally feel like one is doing
a mathematical computation. This doesn't decrease my enjoyment of the
game at all, and in fact, I like the fact that you need to have
combined arms to do well at all. The rolling of the dice adds some
luck to the game, but a canny opponent can have a small combined arm
force hold off a larger force that is low in a certain area. Having
large armies allow a player to roll two or more dice, picking the
best, is also an innovative idea, and sometimes players will even pick
the lower number, if only to go first.
4.) Simplicity: My mind has a sort of "Axis and Allies" mindset, so
it was hard for me to think of battleships and submarines as equal, or
tanks and men. But in this game, they are fairly similar, as the
price for all units are the same, and no single unit seems more
powerful than the rest. The planes have a lot of uses but are easily
stopped by artillery, which is easily stopped by men, etc. This is
not to mention that production is just so simplistic, as you simply
pick 1 - 3 units per territory. Simplicity sometimes makes a game too
random and boring (Risk), but in this case it helps make the game play
5.) Strategy: Knowing whether to build units or increase production
is a tough choice for the Allies. Do I need two units NOW in Moscow,
or should I wait for the three units next turn? Germany starts the
game in a more powerful position, but must quickly control as much
land as they can before the Allies become too powerful. Players must
determine quickly what units they need and what combinations to keep
in certain areas. The game's strategy is a step up from Risk; and
while it may seem initially inferior to Axis and Allies, Attack!, and
other light war games, I will hold forth that it's actually more
strategic, just in a more subtle way.
6.) Time and Players: The game plays easily with two through four
players and transforms easily between each. No one player has too
much downtime, as turns are fairly quick, and battles are many,
keeping all players occupied. The box states that the game lasts
between three and four hours, but I've found that most of mine last
about two hours - a nice time for a light war game.
7.) Fun Factor: I really enjoyed this game; it was a refreshing
"light" game, yet one that allowed me to think about mathematical
probabilities. Does it take into account the rationing of munitions,
the bombing raids on London, the treachery against Hitler, and the
French spies? No, but I don't need all that minutia in my games to
make them fun. All I ask for is a playable World War II game that
doesn't take long, but does feel like a fairly accurate simulation of
the war. World in War accomplishes this goal.
As you can tell, I really did enjoy this game, a lot more than the
rules led me to believe. This is the first time I've encountered a
combined-arm system such as this, and it is elegant, fun, and
impressive. It works well in the game and gives it a slight
historical feel, yet remains a fun GAME. Risk has grown tiresome for
me, as it is entirely too lucky. Yet, I enjoy luck, and elements of
it remain in World in War. A scattering of luck, a nice battle
system, and streamlined rules all combine to make a fun World War II
game - one I recommend any fan of light war games to pick up!
"Real men play board games."