Paolo Mori’s Blitzkrieg takes the terrifying enormity of the whole of the Second World War and boldly boils it down into a pleasantly crunchy but brisk 20-minute, lunchtime abstract. Bag-drawn chits representing armies, navies and air forces vie for control of the principal theatres of operation, winning VPs until one side has hit the magic 25 and wins the game.
How to play
Axis and Allies start with identical bags full of 22 chits; predominately they contain army, navy and airforce chits valued from 0-3 (as well as a couple of special generals and admirals). You draw three and put them behind you player screen. In your go you pick one and place it, trying to edge closer to victory in a campaign in one of the 5 theatres of war. Each theatre has 2 or 3 campaign rows, each of 2 to 5 spaces.
The spaces are coloured brown or blue or a brown-blue split. Armies go on brown, navies on blue and airforces anywhere. You can only place a chit in a space on the uppermost open campaign, which is the the one with spare spaces left. When you place a chit you move the control track (which sits above the theatre) the number of spaces in your direction equal to the value of the chit, and you activate the special symbol on the space.
These vary from extra control in that or another theatre, to instant VP, adding to your chit pool behind the screen or reducing your enemy’s. Or, to my mind the most exciting, drawing a face-down special chit and adding it to your bag. If placing a chit completes a campaign row you check the control track and the dominating player gets the VP indicated at the end of the row. The next campaign row is then open for business.
If you ever manage to get the control marker right to your end before all campaigns are finished, the theatre closes and you get all the VP from any unfinished campaigns. Once you have placed your chit you take a replacement from the bag and that’s the end of your go.
You win by getting to 25 VP first, but you lose if in your go you can’t play a chit when required. Usually this happens because you have been bombed and had your chits reduced. Then maybe the one chit you have left can’t be placed on an open square as it’s an army for example and the only open spaces are sea. However you can also lose by using certain chits’ Blitzkrieg powers, which in effect give you a second go at placing, but thus reduce your chit pool by one.
How does it play?
A lot simpler than my rules description! You draw a chit and place one, move some tracks, next go, repeat. But in amongst that are some thoughtful and highly satisfying little decisions. Where am I focusing my efforts? Which theatres am I most interested in, and which campaigns can I afford to lose? What spaces do I want…am I trying to build my chit pool or am I more interested in special chits in my bag? If I finish this campaign, what do I open up to my opponent?
It’s all woven together really elegantly allowing for greater tactical depth than might seem possible for something so simple and short. There’s a juggling act between managing your progress in the different theatres: sure you want to bring campaigns towards a successful conclusion, but you don’t want to let your opponent get too strong in any one place and sneak an early closure, with the extra VP in any one theatre.
The special actions on the spaces are really though fully designed and distributed on the board – I have played games where I went all out for bonus VP, more perhaps than worrying about campaign victory, and I have played other games where I (unsuccessfully) tried to force a quick win by targeting bombing spaces to reduce my enemies chit pool. I have played games where I went big on special chits and enjoyed the dubious pleasure of deploying a nuke; this has a value of 7 (!?!) but forces you to lose 2 command points in every other open theatre.
20 Minute War
As it says on the box all of this happens in about 20 minutes. And this is it’s principal strength, but also it’s limitation. It can feel like your really getting into it and then it’s over. Mind you, if this is the biggest criticism, then that really speaks highly of what they have achieved.
Production values are pretty high – the board had a striking design, chits are sturdy stock and the bags are printed rather than plain. The screen is a bit flimsy, but it does the job.
I have played this with hardcore games, friends who are more casual gamers and my daughter – all have enjoyed it as a 20 minute opener/filler. I guess the theme could be off-putting for some, but really it’s sufficiently abstracted to be effective yet incidental. It also comes with solos rules which I have enjoyed a few times – again, a brisk but satisfying puzzle.
Plenty to recommend this. It comes out regularly and will keep its place in my collection. Not stellar but a very accomplished and enjoyable piece of design. Definitely worth giving it a go.