axis & allies
Elfboy, his fiancee, and our friend Amie joined us for a bit of a cookout las night. The chicken was ready just before the rain hit, so we all migrated inside to eat. It was an enjoyable meal, and the company was excellent.
Elfboy brought Axis & Allies, at my request. He's a huge A&A freak. We used to play in high school together, and he'd trounce me (and everyone else we were playing with) with ruthless abandon. In college, he and a few friends came up with their own expansion rules, and game variants. He plays the PC version (for which I cannot find an official URL now; although www.axis-allies.com seems appropriate) a lot, and is generally able to defeat the computer opponent with little real effort. No doubt part of this is simple familiarity with the predictable computer tactics.
I played the Allies, and Elfboy took on the Axis. The Axis are harder to play, because Japan initially has to do so much island-hopping in order to deploy units; and Germany has to strike a difficult balance between agression (either against USSR or in Africa) and defense (against the same, and against the British navy/air force). The U.S. is undoubtedly the strongest nation in the game, and it's hard to lose with them. Britain faces many of the same challenges as Japan in terms of deploying units; and the USSR starts so weak that they really just need to play a strong defense against German expansion.
It's always entertaining to play Axis & Allies with Elfboy, because he spices the game up so well. As a history major, and a war buff, he peppers each move with little comments about real WWII skirmishes, and always announces his moves in terms of the country he's controlling ("The Fatherland advances into Karelia..."). It's not side-splittingly funny, but it does make the game more entertaining.
We called the game off after several hours (a short game for us -- his fiancee and my wife were horrified to hear that we'd played games lasting 20+ hours before!), with Elfboy admitting defeat (my first victory!). An early rules violation on my part resulted in the exploitation and occupation of an unguarded Germany, robbing Elfboy of his cash and completely shaking his long-term planning. Japan probably could have held on for a long end-game (what with two factories deployed on the mainland churning out tanks), but it was clear that once Germany was eliminated, Japan would be unable to defend against a unified Allied strike.
it was great to play A&A again. It's been several years since I last played. I'm still surprised at how easy (and fun!) it is to focus on such a complex, time-consuming game. Several times the twins wandered over to look at the game board, and asked "Who's winning" or "Did you win, yet". Each time they were dismayed to hear that we'd really only just begun, or that the game takes a long time to play. I hope Carina and I can raise them to appreciate and enjoy spending time on an involved task that they enjoy. I hope we can stave off at least some (most!) of the "quick fix culture" we live in.