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Saturday, February 21, 2009

In which I just must bitch and moan a bit...

When I was a kid, I played several classic family strategy boardgames, like Risk, Campaign and Diplomacy. Older, and into wargames, my interest in WW2 and my taste for multiplayer games meant that I was keen to find a multiplayer WW2 strategy game featuring economic planning and development as well as battles.

Pretty much the only kid on the block back in the early/mid-80's was Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, designed by John Prados and published then by the old Avalon Hill. The merits of this game are evident in its lasting success - it's still available some 35 years after its initial publication, from Avalanche Press.

I must confess I never really liked the look of Third Reich, and my single, short play with someone else's set didn't change my mind. I might've liked the game more if, as is commonplace in today's digital age, I'd been able to study the rules in advance, thus having the 1st clue about what I was doing as the Russian player in those crucial early days of Barbarossa. But maybe not, because my main issue with the game was that the rules seemed to me to be burdened by too many special cases and exceptions, for the sake of being both historical and open.

Still looking to scratch my WW2 multiplayer strategic itch, I bought myself a copy of Udo Grebe's Blitzkrieg General at Claymore several years ago. That was a flop. I found the rules so opaque to understanding that I've not even punched out the counters, which sadly puts Blitzkrieg General in the same class of untouched unplayables as ASLSK#1 & 2, great title notwithstanding.

That past left me primed and ready when I paid my first visit to a new acquaintance's flat recently, there to find displayed on the kitchen table what I can only term the splendour that is the Axis and Allies Anniversary Edition, released to mark the 50 years of games under the Avalon Hill brand. I just knew it had to be mine as soon as I saw it.

Visits to my FLGS proved fruitless, both telling me that it was out of stock at the British distributors (quite remarkable for a game released only on 18th November last year). To ebay it was then. Purchase duly made, I began my wait for my goodies to wend their way across the Atlantic. And herein lies the fly in the ointment of this otherwise happy tale.

The pound has collapsed in recent months, with the result that this game and its postage and packing were expensive. I could live with that. No one was forcing me to click on the buttons confirming my purchase after all. But what ticked me off was having to make a 3-hour round trip to my local Parcelforce depot so that I could pay an additional 25% on top of all that, for customs duty and 'handling'. With attentions focussed on the giant scams of multi-billion dollar financial frauds and bailed-out bankers' bewildering bonuses, spare a thought for the smaller-scale but ongoing scam that is customs and excise. Curse them! ;)
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