Axis and Allies Europe: History, Rules and What to Expect

Larry Harris offering Axis and Allies game to Marc LeFevre

Take those childhood nights spent building makeshift forts out of pillows and blankets and crumpling up paper to attack your enemy fort to the next level with the spin-off board game, Axis and Allies: Europe. This strategy game takes the concept of the 1980s original and centralizes it to the European front. Fight to control your territory and conquer the opposing forces in this history-inspired board game.

Axis and Allies: Europe's Origins

Written by Larry Harris, the author of the original Axis and Allies board game, Axis and Allies: Europe was first published in 1999 by Avalon Hill Games. The game was a hit with history buffs and strategists alike, and though it briefly went out of print, it was reintroduced in 2010 in an updated format. You can find copies of this newer edition between $70-$100, depending on the retailer.

Axis and allies 1914 box art

What's Included in the Game?

Designed for four players, though it can be played with 2 or 3, the game includes enough pieces for four different countries: Russia, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Among these pieces you'll find:

  • 1 game board
  • 1 battle board
  • Industrial production certificates
  • 4 national reference charts
  • National control markers
  • National production chart
  • 12 dice
  • Plastic chips (red and gray)
  • 100 infantry
  • 42 artillery
  • 12 anti-aircraft guns
  • 40 armored tanks
  • 44 fighter planes
  • 15 bombers
  • 12 battleships
  • 28 destroyers
  • 10 aircraft carriers
  • 24 transport ships
  • 28 submarines
  • 12 industrial complexes
Allies vs Axis cards

How to Set the Game Up

There are multiple steps to setting the game up, the first of which is to pick the world power you're going to be. If you're only playing with 2 players, one player should be Germany and the other should be all of the Allied powers at once. If you're playing with 3 players, one player should be Germany, one player should be the Soviet Union, and one player should be both Great Britain and the United States. If playing with four players, each player gets to pick one of the four nations in the game.

From here, you need to distribute the national reference charts and the national control markers. Designate one player as the scorekeeper (consider choosing someone good at math as they'll also serve as the game's banker); it's their job to move the national control markers up and down the chart as the territories switch control between players.

Lastly, set up the appropriate number of starting units in their designated territories. You can find this on the national reference chart. Note - plastic chips can be used in place of actual pieces for overcrowded areas.

  • 1 gray chip = 1 unit
  • 1 red chip = 5 units

The Game's Objective

According to the rules, the objective of the game is to hold enemy territory by capturing their capital and retaining control of it until you get to play your next turn while also keeping control of your own territory. For the Allied powers, this means occupying Germany and for the Axis powers, this means occupying either Great Britain, the United States, or the USSR. If the Allied powers win the game, the individual winner among them is the player with the greatest increase in IPC income.

How to Play the Game

As you try to accomplish this massive task, you're expected to complete up to seven things during every turn. These seven things will help you move troops, engage in combat with enemy forces, activate submarine forces, collect money, and so much more. Not all players will be able to accomplish every task on every turn, and that's perfectly all right.

Keep in mind that this board game is a highly involved, complex strategy game with several specific instances and special cases. For more information about these unique situations, take a look at the rule book in full.

Purchase Combat Units

At the start of the first turn, the banker will distribute 40 IPCs to the United States, 25 to Great Britain, 40 to Germany, and 24 to the Soviet Union. Using these IPCs, players have the opportunity to buy more combat units for the prices listed on the national reference charts. Once players have handed over their money to the banker and received their pieces, they'll place the units on the space Action Sequence 1 Purchases until the fifth step of their turn.

Engage in Combat

Players can move their units into enemy territory either by land or by sea, creating combat situations. Allied powers cannot attack each other, and combat units can only be used once per battle per turn. Movements are dictated by if things are being attacked by land, sea, or air, and by what strategy (if any) players are employing. Visit the full manual for more information about these specific maneuvers.

Resolve Combat

To resolve these combats, players place the units onto the battle boards, and 'fire' at each other using the dice. Mostly, the attacking player fires first by rolling one die for each attacking unit. Rolling numbers on the die that correspond to the combat pieces pictured on one or multiple of the four sections of the battle board awards you hits against the enemy player's units.

The defending player collects the pieces that were casualties and moves them to the casualties area, and then fires back, including the units that were moved to the casualties area. This process continues until either:

  • The attacker retreats - In this case, the defender holds the territory.
  • The attacker is destroyed - In this case, the defender holds the territory.
  • The defender is destroyed - In this case, the attacker gains the territory so long as they have a surviving land unit that is not a plane.
  • Both the attacker and the defender are destroyed - In this case, the defender holds the territory.

If territory changes hands, the new player in control needs to remove the defender's markers (if there are any) on the board and place the surviving units from the battle board into the territory. Don't forget to adjust the national production chart accordingly.

If you're an Allied player and the territory you acquire was once owned by an Allied player, you're considered the liberator and that territory returns to its original owner.

Move Non-Combat Troops

After you've finished with combat, you have the chance to move units that weren't involved during the combat to different parts of the board that are not occupied by enemy territory. However, air units that were involved in combat and survived must now land into a friendly territory within range of the battlefield.

Place New Units on the Gameboard

During this phase of your turn, you can move the units you purchased in the beginning onto the board. You can place as many units into your home territory, but you're not allowed to place more units than the IPC income is of a captured territory elsewhere. Additionally, Great Britain has the opportunity to place air and land units in Canada thanks to it being a part of the British Commonwealth.

Resurface Submarines and Upright Battleships

If you have any submarines or battleships which were tipped over onto their sides during the game, they can now be turned upright on the gameboard.

Collect IPCs

In the last phase of your turn, you can collect IPCs from the banker according to your current income level as listed on the national production chart. If Germany has captured territories in the Middle East (which is originally in Allied control), then that should be indicated on the Middle East section of the national production chart, and that money is given to Germany from the Allied players and NOT the bank.

Strategies for Winning the Game

Ultimately, this back and forth of collecting money, placing troops, engaging in combat, and resolving combat continues until the aforementioned control of an enemy capital and home capital occurs for an entire rotation of the board. Given its multi-layered gameplay, Axis and Allies: Europe can be a bit of a daunting undertaking. So, don't overlook the importance of having strategies that can help you feel ready to take on the game from your first go around.

Don't Invest too Much in One Unit

Take into consideration your territory and its needs, and don't be carried away with investing a lot of IPCs in one type of combat unit. For instance, the USSR isn't going to need to amass a giant naval army, but rather a lot of land units to protect its massive border.

Allied Players Should Play Together

While you certainly want the most IPCs in the end to be considered the winner of the winners, the Allied players should combine their forces to attack Germany in a strategic fashion. If you're on the Allies team, you want to coordinate with your other players to create an impenetrable defense and strong offense.

Grab Territories Along the Way

Don't become too focused on the mission of capturing an enemy capital. Half of your country's strength comes from the IPCs that it has to continue buying reinforcements, which only increases with the number of territories that it controls. So, be sure to grab a few territories along your path towards the capital.

Axis and allies europe

World War II Is Waiting for You

Axis and Allies: Europe is definitely not for the easily distracted, but it's highly detailed and strategic gameplay will keep you coming back again and again. With four different countries and thousands of warring styles to choose from, Axis and Allies: Europe brings World War Two through your front door and onto your kitchen table.

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Axis and Allies Europe: History, Rules and What to Expect