COMPASS GAMES, $185
WORLD WAR II RATING: 4/5
THE BASICS: Absolute Victory is a board game that allows players to control one of the major warring nations of World War II, or, if playing in groups, the collective Allied or Axis powers. Players can command naval, air, and ground forces, control industry, or make strategic decisions on the conduct of the war.
THE OBJECTIVE: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the objective is to win the war. Players, as leaders of their nations, can decide what constitutes winning. One can fight for unconditional surrender or negotiate peace—an innovative concept that adds to the fun and authenticity.
HISTORICAL ACCURACY: Absolute Victory is nothing if not genuine. Depending on what nation players select, they will have historically accurate wartime capabilities and restrictions. Players will be confronted with many of the same conundrums national leaders faced during the war. However, players are not constrained to making the same historical choices, allowing for alterations. You can even win as the Axis.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY: The game is beautifully rendered, with detailed pieces and a gorgeous map. It captures the scale and scope of the war in a playable format. One unique twist is that rather than waiting for their turn, players can counter an opponent’s tactical moves. There are, however, a lot of rules—making the game somewhat complex. And the introduction of new terms and definitions for common gaming concepts adds nothing but confusion.
PLAYABILITY: Because of the game’s myriad strategic possibilities, reflecting the real conflict, and its over 2,500 events from the actual history of the war, players will never have the same experience twice. The game mechanics choose events randomly and will sometimes alter reality. That may be significant—such as Spain joining the Axis— or minor, such as Greece surrendering before British intervention.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Few games really capture the essence of World War II on a strategic scale—even fewer do it well. Absolute Victory does. Random events provide a new and exciting aspect of the game, reminding the players that they, like the generals, are not the masters of all. —Chris Ketcherside, a former Marine, is working on a PhD in military history.
This review was originally published in the August 2017 issue of World War II magazine. Subscribe here.