How To Make a Long Board Game Bearable

The game in question? Axis and Allies.

Slow Game, Lost Weekends, Busy Lives

(skip down to the next bit if you want to get into the "How To")

Axis and Allies is a wonderful game that has been around for a while now. I'm not a scholar or competitive player, but after being introduced to it by a friend a few years ago, I've been a casual enjoyer of the game. It can take forever though. 5 players, 2 sides, dice rolling, rule disputes. Even if everyone's played before, the first two turns can take hours. Those hours, while they involve deep strategy sessions, interesting gameplay, and much more, are often spent waiting since you only are "going" for 1/5th of the time. Waiting can kind of stink. Especially after hour 4 or 5.


Use the Play By E-Mail System of Gameplay (PBEM)

This dramatically lengthens the overall time of the game while mitigating the time constraints of, you know, life. It is a chance for 5 friends to have an email chain of trash talk/strategy. It can adapt to you and your successful friends' busy lives.

Play by Email can be thought of like "Correspondence Chess" where moves are sent by mail, as has been done for centuries. Instead of letters, you send emails with a save file that can be opened by a (free) program that everyone can download and install.


How To Set It Up

Get Everyone Setup With the (free) Triple A Program

1. Find 5 people with whom you are friendly and agree to make their turn in reasonable amounts of time.

2. Determine who will play who. Some useful info can be found here.

3. Everyone needs to download this program. It's called Triple A (Axis And Allies) and it is a freeware version of Axis and Allies. It's available for Win/Mac/Linux. It is hosted on sourceforge and everyone should grab the latest version available.

Setup the PBEM Game (one time)

Now, if you want, you can send around a saved "local game" file. The problem with this is that people can easily cheat by loading the game file over and over on their turn until they get the dice to roll their way. To prevent this, you need 2 guardians to get emails from a dice rolling server. You'll get some spam in the email addresses you choose. The emails are to ensure that each player only plays once and isn't hacking. It's really easy to setup and you can create a label/filter to make sure the emails don't get in the way of your normal email.

1. Decide who's emails you want to use, you need (at least) two.

2(a). Enter both emails in this simple form (don't worry, you don't need to create an account or anything). It is just to make sure that the game doesn't send unwanted emails. You can unsubscribe and the server will take you off the list.

The email addresses will get gameplay emails like this:

2(b). Click the link they send to the email addresses.

3. Create the initial game/save file. You will be sending around a .tsvg file by email.

I suggest not saving the round or turn information in the game title. You can look up previous versions by your email archive attachments.

Game Time

Here's how each players turn will shake out.

Start by downloading the latest save file from the email sent by the last person, open Triple A and...

6. Now, the player will play their turn and STOP when the next player's turn rolls around. The game will not stop you from playing EVERYONE'S TURN. You can follow the rulebook or search online for how to actually play the game. If you get a dice roll error, make sure the email addresses are entered correctly on the game load page.

7. When you're done with your turn, save the file and send an email to the group with the new file. Let the person after you know that it's their turn.

ONE GAMEPLAY NOTE: You will have to choose your opponent's casualties. As a rule, there isn't much decision for them to make, however sometimes (in naval/air battles, usually) there are times when you might want to destroy a more powerful unit first. I usually stop, contact the person you are rolling against and get their preference. This is pretty rare... Your choices ARE kept via the PBEM system, so if you question the casualty selection of an opponent, you can dispute it.

Each time a player rolls some dice, an email will be sent to the PBEM emails. Every once in a while, make sure that the same player isn't opening the game file over and over again to get better rolls.

As a rule, you shouldn't ask cheaters to play games with you, so if you catch them cheating you should shame them and kick them out of your group of friends.


Problem: Player can't load the file, doesn't have the map installed.

The game should automatically include the map "World War II Revised", which is the basic A&A game that you might know and love, if you've played in the last couple years. If someone is having trouble loading the game, they might need to download the correct map. You download additional maps FROM THE GAME MENU, NOT ONLINE. It's super easy. Hit the "Download Maps" button after opening the program, make sure the url contains the defaulted '.xml' address and it will load up the available maps. Follow these steps.

Problem: Someone isn't taking their turn (for days).

Enter the game by setting expectations on how long people should take for their turn. I like a 2 or 3 day max. If they get past that point, have someone who is in charge of prompting the player for action.

Problem: You don't have 5 friends.

I should rephrase that...You don't have 5 friends who are willing to play a geeky board game with you for the next week/month. In this case, you can play with fewer players. Probably the easiest is playing with 2 people. One takes Axis, one takes Allies. Simple. You can break it down however you want. 1 Ally vs 2 Axis, 1 Axis vs 3 Allies. 6 friends want to play? maybe you should look at some other map options, like the "Pact of Steel."

Problem: Axis and Allies is just too short. I want to play with my friends for YEARS.

The beauty of Triple A is that you can load whatever map you want. The internet fanbase has created a ton of great maps, though be warned, most of them are bigger, badder, and will take more time. A basic game can take you a week or two. A bigger map, like "Big World: 1942" is going to take longer. Also, look at maps for the Civil War, the Great War, Feudal Japan, 270 BC, Game of Thrones, etc...

Hope this is useful to someone! Hey, anyone want to start a game?

Game link: