Where Axis and Allies meets Diplomacy –

I recently got a chance to play another all-day game of the global WWII game War Room. And by all day, the game continued on for about 8 hours before folks decided to wrap it up because it seemed inevitable that the Axis were going to win in one to two turns. After 8 hours, we had taken seven turns, so it could conceivably have continued for another one to two hours — and it was getting late already. I’ve played this game twice already, and this time I was on the Axis’ team as scrappy little Italy holding on to assist stronger Axis powers and being a big pain in the butt against Great Britain’s navy in the Mediterranean. 

War Room is a 2-6 player game where players take on nations during WWII: three people will be the Allies as the U.S., Great Britain and Russia, while the rest will play as the Axis: Japan, Germany and Italy. Players can also play only the Pacific theater with 2-3 players if you can’t manage to round up enough folks for an all-day game. While it plays similarly to Axis and Allies (with some streamlining during combat), the preplanning of military orders and discussing strategy with teammates are very reminiscent of Diplomacy — but without the backstabbing!

War Room is so large that players need command staves!

First off, to play War Room, you need a very, very large table, and preferably another side table or two to place the battle boards. The player board is a puzzly configuration of a giant circle, similar to those world maps you’ve seen in war movies. Each player receives a slim rectangular box containing command markers and flag tokens, as well as a cardboard pegboard and pegs keep track of their resource tracks.

The game also comes with a million plastic pieces, representing infantry, tanks, planes and bombers, and an assortment of ships, from submarines (yellow ones specifically!) and aircraft carriers and others in between. For those who opted for a game upgrade, the game also comes with large branded sand timers and command staves to move your forces across Europe.  

Each stack of units is assigned a number, which will come into play when you assign orders for them.

There are seven phases of War Room: Direct National Economy, Strategic Planning, Movement Operations, Combat Operations, Refit and Deploy, Morale, and Production. 

Game play isn’t too difficult, if you’re familiar with either Axis or Allies, but there’s plenty of room to make errors. During the Strategic Planning phase, players secretly write out orders on their O&P chart to reveal simultaneously at the end of this phase. Some countries have more command boxes than others, so you’ll have to strategize which units you want to move to which location, and orders can’t be changed once the phase ends.

These fancy sand timers will tell you when time is up!

During this time you’ll also be bidding with your oil resources to pick turn order. Sometimes it’s better to go after everyone has made their move, while other times you want to first so that your troops get pinned. 

Players write down commands on their O&P chart. Italy has 6 commands; others have more.

Pinning happens when an enemy unit moves into your location. If you had planned to move that unit out during Strategic Planning, it now is stuck. During the Movement phase, armies can move one space, or many spaces along the train rail route in friendly spaces. 

You can see the railroad tracks going through Germany and other countries.

As forces move into contested areas, battles happen! Players move their units to the provided combat boards, both both sea battles and land battles. Each side places their forces based on the chart and they roll color-sided dice to determine who is the victor. Various units give you a different number of dice (increasing your odds of winning), and they also may take more damage, while others will get wiped out upon immediate hits. The chart makes it so easy to figure it out. Player roll all their dice and assign hits. If units are damaged, players can spend resources to keep them in play. If they’re destroyed, they go to the Morale Board, which then calculates stresses for the next round. 

This combat board simplifies battles. It tells you how many dice to roll and how much damage units can take.

A country suffers morale penalties when it receives too much stress at the end of the round. Such penalties include no rail usage or disrupted supply lines. These are not good, and it’s hard to lower these penalties once you’ve moved into a higher category, which can be seen in a circle on the turn order track in the middle of the board. 

After the stresses are calculated, players can order new troops or forces by buying them during the production phase. You can write down the calculations for these on your player board. When you put new pieces of plastic on the board, they enter the game at your factory locations, and the factories’ smokestacks show how many items may be placed there for production. But they are not quite available yet to your armies. They’re being “produced” and will be available for use in two rounds. When you produce forces, you move your resource markers down based on how much you’ve spent. 

Units that were destroyed get placed on the Morale Board, which is used to calculate a nation’s stress level.

Then so begins the next turn, which is the first phase: Direct National Economy. You calculate your income based on all the territories you control. This is really easy to figure out because you’ll have the individual card for that territory and it’ll tell you how much oil, iron and OSR (other strategic resources), and you’ll move your little peg up your box. 

Each player gets one of these boxes, which stores your command markers underneath the peg board that tracks your resources. These were all the territories I controlled at the time.

The game continues until the Allies control both Greater Germany and Japan, or the Axis controls two of the following areas: the Eastern United States, Great Britain or Moscow. Players can also play a 6-turn variant if they are unable to devote that much time for a full game.

I’ve quite enjoyed my two plays of War Room, with each game being completely different. I’ve learned that moving across the Pacific takes a long time (I played as the United States in my first game), and Italy, while small, can be strategically helpful to Germany and Japan. War Room is such an epic game — to look at on a table and to play! The tension never eases up, and while it does require a time commitment, the game moves quickly and there’s never a dull moment! 

Meeple Lady

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