These board games test military strategy with rules that replicate the conditions of actual wars. Players decide battles by weighing relative strength of the forces and rolling dice to decide the outcome. Popular in the 1950s and 1960s, war games have retained a loyal band of players. Participants enjoy investigating the "what ifs" of history and trying out their own strategy ideas.
We often have the idea that the outcome of a great conflict such as World War II was predestined -- that the Allies' victory was inevitable. A game like Axis & Allies teaches that victory is really the result of hundreds of strategy decisions and that at many points the course of the war might have changed.
Axis & Allies is a board game that recreates the campaigns of the war on a strategic level. Up to five players in two teams control the forces of the key countries involved. They maneuver hundreds of pieces representing ground, air and naval forces around a large map. At the same time, they have to pay attention to production of and research into new weapons.
The game was released in 1981 and has spawned many variations that put the focus on various aspects of the war -- the Pacific, D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge [source: Axis and Allies.org]. Learning the basic rules is not difficult, but players quickly realize that managing forces on a grand scale can be a formidable and mind-bending challenge. Though dice are rolled to decide battles, the luck element is minimal because so much of the rest of it depends on strategic decision-making.
Strategy in the game reflects history. The player controlling Germany should probably attack Russia early. Japan must secure Asia, Britain can do well by staking a position in Africa. Games typically last four hours, but some can last much longer.