Attack!10 Dec 2003 0
The Attack! basic game by Eagle Games came along just in time. Every Christmas, my family gets together for a couple of days. One of our favorite traditions is gathering all the boys together to play an all-night strategic boardgame. Since some of my kin are not hard-core gamers, and some are fairly young, our choices are somewhat limited. We need a game that is strategic in scope, isn't too difficult, and allows for at least five players. With games like Totaler Krieg! and Streets of Stalingrad thus out of the running, we are typically left with two options: either Risk or Axis and Allies. While we've always enjoyed these games, we've also come to know their limitations. Risk is a little too simple and depends way too much on blind die-rolling luck. Axis and Allies requires a bit too much fiddly bookkeeping and is handcuffed by its historicity: the game almost always revolves around a dull-as-dirt Russia vs. Germany slugfest that leaves the other players feeling a bit marginal. The Attack! basic game manages to avoid these pitfalls. It's deeper than Risk, with a combat system that rewards at least a bit of skill and thought, and, unlike Axis and Allies, it manages to maintain a World War II "feel" without limiting the player's strategic options and thus the game's replay value.
While Attack! improves on both these games, gamers should keep in mind that Attack! does have a lot in common with them as well, including some serious down time between turns, more dependence on luck than some gamers might like, and game length; a game of Attack! can take several hours to play. There are work-arounds for all these problems, for players who see them as such, but frankly we don't. We use down time to make turkey sandwiches and complicated rum drinks, figure the "luck" factor eventually evens out and is the only thing that keeps our hopeless brother-in-law in most games, and we want the game to last a long time. We'll sleep when we're dead, or whenever our wives allow us to take a nap the next day.
Not only does Attack!'s gameplay run rings around its competition, it's also, in the Eagle Games tradition, a darn good-looking game. Therefore, Attack! is my official choice for this year's family Christmas all-nighter game, and I'd recommend it highly to anyone looking for a fun "beer-and pretzels" strategic wargame.
As usual with Eagle Games, the components are stellar. Attack! comes with six plastic runners (each in a different color) chock-full of cool game pieces, including figures for infantry, tank, artillery, and airplane units. The figures are very well done, and reflect the game's quasi-1930's setting. There are over 600 of these figures in total, so t there's a lot of bang for the buck. Of course, players also get to cut them from the casting sprues. This takes a while, so players shouldn't expect to play the game "right out of the box". The only quibble I have with the game pieces is that the larger ones, which are used to represent five units, rather than one, are not quite big enough, and it's easy to confuse them with their smaller versions.
The game's 20" x 34" map is terrific. It shows the Western Hemisphere, and is divided up into different land and sea areas (though the sea areas only matter in the Attack! advanced game). Eagle Games has learned from some of their earlier missteps, and printed a map board that is not only beautiful, but also unambiguous and efficient. Gone are the space-wasting though artsy gameboard borders of Napoleon in Europe and Civilization. This map is focused on expediting gameplay, and though some land areas are smaller than others, even large armies will fit inside their borders. The map is also clearly marked; through repeated playings, we've never had a single map question come up.
The game also comes with two decks of cards: a set of economy cards and a set of navy cards. They're attractive and, more importantly, resilient. They've held up well so far.
Eagle Games has taken a bit of flak over their rulebooks in previous games, and not without reason. I'm happy to report that the rulebook for Attack! is excellent. The 20-page book is colorful, well-written, comprehensive, and offers extended examples of play for both land and sea combat. Any rules disagreements can usually be solved by an application of common sense, and if that fails the answers can typically be found on the Eagle Games forums.
Attack! also comes with eight six-sided combat dice and two six-sided "regular" dice.