By Eric T. Baker

To celebrate its 50th anniversary [we now pause for a second while we all feel old], Avalon Hill has released an anniversary edition of its most successful game: Axis and Allies. This edition contains the largest map ever made for an A&A game, 24 x 46 inches. It also contains two new countries: China as an Allied power, and Italy is as a power the Axis can control or that a sixth player can run in the regular game. Both these new powers have new pieces designed just for them.

Players can now choose to start the game in the spring of either 1941 or 1942. A cruiser unit has been introduced and submarines are now both cheaper and cannot be attacked by airplanes unless they are supported by ships. There are other rule changes that further balance the game without adding to its complexity. A&A remains more of an abstract game with a WWII backdrop than an actual simulation of the conflict, but it also remains one of the most entertaining board games ever created.

Last year the Call of Duty series took a one-game detour from its familiar WWII setting to take on modeling Modern Warfare. This year the designers have used that same game engine to take the series back to the 1940s for modeling the World at War. The single-player story mode follows two parallel stories: a Russian infantryman fighting his way from Stalingrad to Berlin and an American infantryman fighting his way across the islands of the Pacific. Both of these fights have been explored in other games, but at least they aren’t as worn out as D-Day and Pearl Harbor.

As with its predecessors, Call of Duty World at War is a first-person shooting game that models the war from the view down an iron sight. In both stories, the player’s character actually starts without any weapons and on the brink of death, which lends an extra tension as he struggles to just survive, escape, and then to counterattack. Between each level are cutscenes employing archival footage and photographs to put into perspective just what the real battles were like.

Even with two stories, the single-player game is relatively short. It can be played by up to four players cooperatively, which is great fun but actually makes the campaign shorter since it takes out the sniping and gunnery levels. There is also a co-op mode that places up to four players in a bunker and pits them against Nazi zombies. The players get points for killing zombies and rebuilding their defense. Points unlock powerups and more rooms in the bunker, but each wave of zombies is larger and tougher than the one before. Death is inevitable, but the test is to see how many points can be racked up before it happens.

To balance the co-op modes, there are online versus modes. CoD’s experience system allows the players to unlock more weapons, better health, etc. It also grants them perks like the ability to leave a live grenade on their corpse when they die. There are also rewards for completing certain challenges. For example, if the player manages seven kills without dying himself, he gets a pack of war dogs. Yes, CoD not only lets players kill Nazi zombies, it also lets them unleash the dogs of war.

Back to the issue this appears in