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America in Flames: Democracy vs. Darkness
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Australian Design Group
Players: 1 - 6
Ages: 12 and up
Weight: 700 grams (estimated)
Language Requirements: Game components are printed in English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.
Harry Rowland's diligence in supporting this game from its inception, through numerous rule updates, upgrades and add-ons is legendary. WIF is a mini-industry, and is soon to be with us in PC form, whence it will find a new and enthusiastic audience. I await the Windows '95 rulebook with some trepidation.
Those familiar with WIF will breeze through this latest incarnation, but non-wargamers and the unconverted might appreciate this brief runthrough of the game system:
WIF is strategic/economic game of WWII. Its sub-heading is "Global Conflict:1939-1945". It is certainly that, because despite the familiarity of many of the terms and systems, the complete package covers practically every component part of war and the resources required to fund it. Consider the Sequence of Play, which runs from the traditional--Reinforcements, Initiative, Weather, etc., etc., through to financial dependence, whereby Resources may be lent and your Factories embark on production. There is also a unique section covering "US Entry Actions", which is governed by an Action Chart listing innumerable political objectives. And then there are the Partisans, the determination of Peace and the final Victory conditions (page 43 of the rulebook!).
But do not be daunted, because (and I followed my own advice), WIF can be played from the box by adhering to the superbly organised Sequence of Play. There are 10 scenarios to choose from, so a more modest objective can be adopted. Charts (in full colour) are clear and concise. Feedback and fine-tuning have enabled Harry to tweak the rulebook to an extremely high standard, although I doubt that he himself would ever consider it "finished" despite the moniker "The Final Edition". An excellent Index and Glossary will also help expedite queries.
And so to AIF (sub-heading Democracy vs Darkness), which requires ownership of The Final Edition rules.
The contents--three unit/chit sheets (sumptuous does NOT do them justice), rules, game charts and two exquisite map sheets, with the USA and Canada on one, and South America on the other.
The rules supplement starts with a "what-if" History written by Eleanor Roosevelt, dated May 4th, 1945. It assumes that Britain has been plundered, Pearl Harbour lost and the Nazis are at her back door. They were....
A detailed set-up is provided on the reverse of the rules, and this is one part of WIF that I have trouble with, because it is littered with abbreviations and looks cluttered. The very nature of WIF (ie BIG) means that this preliminary work will take a little time.
With the Axis forces poised "off-map", AIF looks quite spectacular as the opening sorties are instigated. The Italians have stuck with the Nazi/Japanese Axis, whilst America defends its territory with the help of Commonwealth and French forces. The Political Allegiance Track records the status of minor countries, and as influence pervades (from either side), significant support affords the use of their resources, factories and militia. Political Points also exert a potent effect, with attacks from opponents on minor countries conversely "earning" you points which can be "traded" for influence points in those minor countries. Clearly, they don't want to be invaded, and you reap a dubious reward.
There is no point is kidding you that AIF will be "out, sorted, won" in a couple of hours. The victory conditions--major objectives controlled--are difficult to attain. But if I offer "immersed" as an adjective, that is certainly what you will be when the action begins.