Evolution of Axis & Allies pieces – Take 2

  • Customizer

    Hello All,  A while back, I posted a topic on how Axis & Allies pieces have changed over the years from game to game.  Well, I found out that I didn’t quite have a complete set and it was also pointed out that I missed a few crucial items from certain games.  Since then, I have gotten a few more pieces and I finally got around to lining them up and taking some pics.  I’m still not sure it’s 100% complete, but I know I’m a lot closer than before.  This time I put some labels on the table in front of the pieces so you all can better identify which game each style of pieces came from.
    I am putting each country in a separate post with 3 pictures of each;  land, air and sea units.  I will give a brief description on how the pieces have changed and try to note any irregularities (such as mis-moulds).

    As most A&A gamers know, the Classic version put out in 1984 had rather generic pieces and except for the infantry the only difference between each nations pieces was the color.  When Avalon Hill took over in the late 90s and put out Europe (1999), Pacific (2001) and Revised (2004), they made country specific pieces (Panther tanks for Germany, Shermans for US, T-34s for Russia, etc.).  However, they seemed to have a problem settling on colors for the different nations.  Britain in particular experienced a wide variety of color changes from game to game before they finally settled on the current tan color.

    Well, here we go.

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    First, lets start with the good ole USA.
    In Classic, US pieces were a dark green.  Some games had a mis-mould on the infantry and got US Infantry in German Grey.
    In Europe, they came out in olive drab green and got artillery and destroyers.
    In Pacific, the shading seemed somewhat lighter and in some cases the pieces almost looked translucent.  That may have just been a case of improper adding of the color to the base plastic.  The US also got a darker green Infantry unit to represent US Marines and a Navy F6F Hellcat fighter for use on carriers.
    In Revised, the shading seemed somewhat darker but still basically olive drab.
    When BOTB came out in 2006, GMC Trucks were added to the US inventory for transporting supplies to front line troops.
    When Guadalcanal came out in 2007, the US had special green colored Anti-Aircraft guns.  Also, a number of Guadalcanal games were sent with mis-moulded cruisers in Japanese Orange color.
    Cruisers were also included in the big 50th Anniversary game, but the pieces were very poorly moulded and a lot of them really looked bad.
    When the 1942 game came out in 2009, WOTC apparently went with a new factory because the new moulds were very nice.  Also, they made the battleship pieces bigger.
    Finally, we come to Pacific 1940 and Europe 1940, which introduced Mechanized Infantry and Tac Bombers to the lineup.  The color of the pieces is still olive but somewhat brighter shade from Revised.

    US land 02.JPG
    US air 02.JPG
    US sea 02.JPG

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    Okay, now we move on to United Kingdom.
    In Classic, the pieces were a basic tan/beige color.
    In Europe, they came out with an odd cream color.  Also, Britain used US sculpts for tanks, artillery, destroyers, subs and transports.
    In Pacific, the Brits were a dark tan color, I think meant to represent the Australian forces.
    In Revised, I have seen two versions of British units:  earlier versions had them in a sea-foam green color, later versions had them in a pinkish-tan or salmon color.
    In D-Day, the Brits were a very light color, almost white.  I call it off-white and some refer to this color as blonde.  Only land and air units in this game, no ships.
    In Anniversary and BOTB, the Brits came out in the current tan color but still used US Shermans.
    Finally, in 1942 and both 1940 games, we have the current British army.  The Brits now have their own style tank, the Matilda II.  The Spitfire fighters are now flat across the bottom where earlier versions the wings were slightly curved upwards at the wingtips so the pieces sort of rocked side to side.  The Battleships are bigger, though still the Royal Oak class.  Also, the submarines are slightly different.  They are just a little bigger and the nose is thicker, where as on older versions the nose came to a point.  The British Tac Bomber is the Mosquito, a real British plane, but the British Mech Inf is simply a US M-5 Halftrack in tan.

    British land 02.JPG
    British air 02.JPG
    British sea 02.JPG

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    Next we visit the great Soviet Union.
    In Classic, Russian pieces were a dark brown color.
    In Europe, they came out with a burgandy or dull red color.  All Russian naval pieces were copies of British ships and they also shared the US artillery piece.  Only infantry, tanks, fighters and bombers were uniquely Russian.
    In Revised, the Russians came out in more of a maroon color.  This became pretty much the basic color for Russia through the Anniversary game.  Also, when they got cruisers, they were British style as well.
    The 1942 game actually saw quite a bit of change for the Russians.  The piece color came out slightly darker but still the same basic maroon color.  Big change is they got some of their own naval pieces.  While the Russians still shared carriers, subs and transports with the British, they got their own Gangut class battleship, Kirov class cruisers and Gnevnyi class destroyers.  One other thing is the bombers.  Now they have flat wings.  Older versions were severely curved upward toward the tips.  Personally, I like the flat wings better.
    The Europe 1940 game saw Russia getting ZIS-42 halftracks for Mech Inf and IL-2 Sturmoviks for Tac Bombers.

    Russian land 02.JPG
    Russian air 02.JPG
    Russian sea 02.JPG

  • Customizer

    Now on to the Axis.  And who better to start with than GERMANY.
    In Classic, the German pieces were a medium grey color.  Some games got a mis-moulded infantry in American green color.
    In Europe and Revised, the Germans went through a range of shades from a medium grey, to very dark grey to almost black.  I think the lighter shades were earlier versions of the game and as they went on, they just kept getting darker.  Personally, I wish they would have stayed with the medium grey, but they didn’t ask me.  Also, the fighter piece they used for Germany is a little Stuka dive bomber rather than an actual fighter plane.  I guess they felt that the Stuka was a more iconic German WW2 plane.
    In D-Day, the Germans only had land units;  Infantry, Artillery, Tanks and Blockhouses.  Blockhouses were a special piece that was set up on the coastline and could take pot-shots at Allied forces before they landed.  In earlier versions of D-Day, the German pieces were a dark grey with a distinct blue tint to them.  I’m not sure if you can tell this in the photo, but when you see the pieces side by side, you can certainly tell it.
    In BOTB, The Germans also got the Opel Blitz cargo truck for carrying supplies to the front line troops.  Also, the fighter piece was changed to the Me 109.  Piece color was a very dark grey, nearly black.  Also, Panther tanks are bigger than earlier versions with a longer barrel.
    In Anniversary, cruisers were introduced and the Germans got the Hipper class cruiser.  For some reason, they chopped off the aft end of the cruiser piece so they look odd.  Also, many artillery pieces in the Anniversary edition were not fully moulded so the base stands weren’t always complete.  Piece color now is black.
    In the 1942 game, piece color settled to basic black.  Battleship piece is bigger.
    In Europe 1940, the color is finally settled to basic black.  Mech Inf represented by the SdKfz 251 halftrack and Tac Bombers by the Stuka dive bomber.

    German land 02.JPG
    German air 02.JPG
    German sea 02.JPG

  • Customizer

    Next we visit the land of the rising sun, JAPAN.
    In Classic, the pieces were a basic light yellow.  I have found that some games even had the infantry in this light yellow color while others had infantry in a darker shade.
    In Pacific, early versions of the game had Japan in a bright red color.  Later versions came out with a light burnt orange color.
    From Revised through Anniversary, they came out in a somewhat darker shade of burnt orange.
    In Guadalcanal, the Japanese also got orange colored Anti-Aircraft guns (these are usually a neutral grey).  Also, some games came out with mis-moulded cruisers in US olive green color.
    In 1942, Japanese pieces came out in their final current color.  It’s still a burnt orange color which looks to me like it is at the same time a little darker and a little brighter than the Revised color.  Also, the artillery piece underwent a change in that it’s support struts are now open for firing position.  The older versions were closed like it was being towed.
    Finally, in Pacific 1940, they got Tac Bombers represented by Val dive bombers and Mech Inf represented by SdKfz 251 halftracks.  I guess WOTC thinks it makes sense that Japan would use German halftracks.  Oh well, I’m sure FMG will fix that problem.

    Japan land 02.JPG
    Japan air 02.JPG
    Japan sea 02.JPG

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    Next we have Italy.
    Italy is somewhat of a newcomer to the A&A gaming world.  They weren’t introduced until the Anniversary game in October 2008.  So, they have no pieces from Classic, Europe, or Revised and they were not included in the 1942 game either.  Basically, Italy is restricted to Anniversary and Europe 1940.
    In Anniversary, as many gamers already know, many of the pieces were very sub-standard.  With Italy, it got a little worse.  Not only were many of the pieces suffering from crappy moulds, most of them were not even Italian units.  Only the Infantry and the Tank (Carro Armato) were uniquely Italian.  The fighter and all naval units were German styles and the bomber and artillery were Japanese.  A very big disappointment indeed.  That being said, it was pretty cool adding Italy to the mix of the game.
    In Europe 1940, the piece moulds were a vast improvement in quality.  However, they still have Italy using foreign equipment.  Now only the Infantry piece is Italian.  Everything else is German.  They even replaced the Carro Armato with brown Panthers.  WHile it’s true Italy did share some German equipment during the war, they still had a lot of their own stuff.  On a brighter note, at least they aren’t using Japanese bombers and artillery now.
    Thankfully, FMG is going to fix this error very soon and all of us gamer will be deliriously happy.

    Italian land 02.JPG
    Italian air 02.JPG
    Italian sea 02.JPG

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    Finally, we have some of the smaller nations in the Axis & Allies world.
    First, a couple of new additions are ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) and France.  ANZAC came to us in Pacific 1940 in Dec 2009 and France with Europe 1940 in Aug 2010.  Since both countries were introduced in the latest versions of the game, they both have all the units that are now included in the games (ie. cruisers, mech inf, tac bombers).
    ANZAC is grey in color with a brownish tint to them.  All of ANZAC’s pieces are copies of British pieces.
    France is royal blue in color.  They have unique infantry pieces but all of their other pieces are Russian.  Why they chose Russian equipment for France is beyond me.  I would have thought UK would be a better fit.

    Next we have China.  China was first introduced in the original Pacific game and represented by dark brown Russian infantry in earlier versions (with the Red Japanese) and in later versions by bright red Russian infantry (with the burnt orange Japanese).  In the Anniversary game, the Chinese got their own unique infantry unit in a lime green color.  Since China was somewhat backwards and primitive compared to the other nations of WW2, they do not have any of the other combat pieces that other nations have.  Only infantry.

    Finally, we have the common pieces.  In other words, pieces that every nation uses.
    In Classic, there were Industrial Complexes and Anti Aircraft Guns.  They were white in color to show their common status.
    From Europe to 1942, ICs and AA guns were produced in a light grey color.
    The 1940 games introduced the concept of major and minor factories, as well as air bases and naval bases.  Actually, Pacific had air and naval bases but they were printed right on the board.  Now, ICs, AA guns, and bases are on little cardboard counters with little symbols to let you know what they are ( IC with a 10 is a major IC, IC with a 3 is a minor IC, AA gun is an AA gun, plane is an air base and anchor is a naval base).  I personally prefer the plastic pieces to the cardboard counters.  Pacific 1940 came out with very thin cardboard counters and they were hard to work with.  Europe 1940 went back to the good, thick cardboard stock and are much easier to use.
    Finally, the plastic piece to the right of the cardboard counters is not actually an A&A piece.  It’s a city piece from RISK.  I like to use them as Major ICs.  Just a personal liking.

    ANZAC & France 02.JPG
    Chinese 02.JPG
    Commons 02.JPG


  • @knp7765:

    Finally, in Pacific 1940, they got Tac Bombers represented by Val dive bombers and Mech Inf represented by SdKfz 251 halftracks.  I guess WOTC thinks it makes sense that Japan would use German halftracks.  Oh well, I’m sure FMG will fix that problem.

    The Japanese actually had an halftrack based on the SdKfz 251 called the Type 1 Ho-Ha

  • Customizer



    Finally, in Pacific 1940, they got Tac Bombers represented by Val dive bombers and Mech Inf represented by SdKfz 251 halftracks.  I guess WOTC thinks it makes sense that Japan would use German halftracks.  Oh well, I’m sure FMG will fix that problem.

    The Japanese actually had an halftrack based on the SdKfz 251 called the Type 1 Ho-Ha

    Really?  I didn’t know that.  Thanks for the info.  You learn something new every day.

  • Customizer



    HA HA HA.  Yeah, I got a few of the Carro Armatos from several copies of the Anniversary game.  Unfortunately, I got them on ebay about a year after the game came  out so I paid premium prices for them.  So, in a way, those little Italian tanks are probably the most expensive game pieces around.

  • Customizer

    Hey - excellent idea to post this evolution of the pieces,  😄 could include the chits from the Nova set as well, but they’re kinda boring.

    And I’m not sure, but I believe I have a set stored away that has badly sculpted Russians with the fur flap hats.  Though these may have been added from something else, don’t recall.

  • Great reference, k!  Thanks for posting the pics and explanations for us!

  • Dude that is awesome

  • Customizer

    Thanks for the kind words guys.  I’m glad you all like this topic.
    When I tried this the last time I got a lot of responses.  Unfortunately, I also found that I was missing several key pieces so it was not nearly complete.  So, after a few months of collecting little lots of pieces on eBay and such, and making some notes, I came up with a much more complete sampling of the piece changes over the years.
    One thing I found is how much the German tank piece changed from game to game, and sometimes just in different productions of the same game.  They were all the Panther tank, but some looked different from others.  The first ones I got in Revised and Europe were very dark grey, nearly black but not quite, and were kind of long and skinny.  The ones I got in my D-Day game were the same shape and size, but they were more of a very dark blue than grey.  I got some others from sellers on eBay that were also from copies of Revised;  one bunch were the same shape and size but were more of a medium grey,  the other bunch were darker, but were a little shorter and wider yet still looked like the same tank – in other words, NOT like the current Panther tanks from BOTB and beyond.

    On a personal note, I wish now that WOTC would have stuck with that medium grey color.  It is very close to the color of FMG’s German Combat Dice and will probably match their German Combat Units when they are released.  I thought about trying to get more on eBay or over at HBG, but then I would be stuck with Stuka “fighters” and wouldn’t be able to get cruisers, tacs or mechs in that color.  So, until FMG’s Germans come out, I guess I will stick with the black.

  • 2021 '18 '17 '15

    Cool history, i got the pacific set with the red japanese, thought it was standard until i got another set for more pieces. I also got the guadacanal with the mixed up cruisers.

  • Customizer

    Yeah, I was kind of late in getting these games.  I only had Classic until I happened across something related to A&A while surfing the Internet.  I did some more digging and found that Avalon Hill had taken over and the games were all new.  This was in 2006.  I got a copy of Revised, Europe, Pacific and D-Day.
    My copy of Pacific must have been a later version because the Japanese were orange and it had the correct piece number on the box (335).  The older versions that had the red Japanese had a piece count of 345.  Funny thing is, the picture on the bottom of the box showed red Japanese pieces even though the actual pieces in the box were orange.
    The copy of D-Day that I got had those really light colored British and the bluish grey Germans.  It was missing 1 British infantry and 1 German tank.  When I e-mailed WOTC for replacements, I got a beige British infantry and a dark grey, almost black German tank.  This was just as well because I have since replaced the original pieces with newer ones.  Now the British are tan and have Matilda tanks and the Germans are black, which does kind of clash with the pillbox pieces but I can’t help that.

  • Customizer

    Hey everybody, here is a new step in the evolution of Axis & Allies game pieces.  Introducing the new Field Marshal Games Italian Combat Units.  While these aren’t actually Axis & Allies pieces per se, in other words not produced by WOTC, they were basically made to replace the current Italian units in the game (all the brown GERMAN units).  So, I think this can definitely count as another step in the evolution of pieces.
    Italy, first introduced in the 50th Anniversary Edition of Axis & Allies, was represented with uniquely Italian Infantry and Tanks.  The fighter and all naval vessels were German models and the artillery & bomber were actually Japanese models.  On top of this, the plastic pieces were very poorly molded and many pieces had some major flaws (for ALL countries, not just Italy).
    Europe 1940 did correct the molding problem with much nicer looking units.  However, with the exception of the Infantry piece, they still didn’t have any uniquely Italian equipment.  WOTC replaced the Italian tank from Anniversary with the German Panther tank molded in brown color.  So now Italy has ALL German equipment, including the bomber and artillery.  At least they did fix that mistake.  During the war, Italy did use some German equipment, but I’m pretty sure they never used Japanese artillery or flew G4M “Betty” bombers.
    Finally, Field Marshal Games decided to fix this problem once and for all.  They gave Italy all their own unique equipment;  Italian tanks, artillery and vehicles.  All Italian aircraft and naval vessels.  They matched the color with their Combat Dice which comes out just a little darker than WOTC’s Italian pieces.  What’s more, FMG did extensive research into each different unit and crafted pieces with incredible detail, much more so than WOTC.  They are truly fabulous and I think will look very nice on our gameboards.
    I have attached pics showing the different units;  land units, air units and sea units.  Enjoy!

    Italians land.JPG
    Italians air.JPG
    Italians sea.JPG

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    Here are some comparisons with A&A board game pieces and their A&A Naval Miniatures counterparts.  I’ve got all 6 sets of the Naval Miniatures but in some cases, I wasn’t able to find the correct class of ship that is the same as the board game class so I used a ship that came closest in appearance.  Also, I didn’t bother with submarines or transports because there wasn’t enough of them in the Naval Miniatures sets.  First we go with Allies:
    USA - Carrier == Wasp Class
              Battleship == Iowa Class
              Cruiser == Portland class (A&A Minis didn’t have a Portland so I went with Pensacola class.  Looks close)
              Destroyer == Fletcher class (the book calls it a Johnston class, but I looked it up on Wikipedia and the USS Johnston was a Fletcher class ship)
    UK -  Carrier == Illustrious Class
              Battleship == Revenge Class (the book calls it a Royal Oak class, but the HMS Royal Oak was one of the Revenge Class)
            Cruiser == County class
            Destroyer == Fletcher Class (actually a US ship.  UK doesn’t have their own destroyer yet.  FMG will fix that.)
    USSR - Carrier == Illustrious Class (actually a UK ship.  USSR doesn’t have their own A/C yet.  FMG will fix that.)
              Battleship == Gangut Class
              Cruiser == Kirov Class
              Destroyer == Gnevnyi Class


  • Customizer

    Here are more board game pieces with their miniatures counterparts.  Again, in a few cases none of the miniature sets had the right ship class so I used something that looked close to me.  With Italy, I used FMG’s new pieces rather than OOB.  Here are the Axis:
    Germany - Carrier == Graf Zeppelin Class
                    Battleship == Bismarck Class
                    Cruiser == Admiral Hipper Class
                    Destroyer == Zerstorer Class ( I used what was called a 1936A type destroyer.  This one was hard to match but I think I got it about right)
    Italy -      Carrier == Aquila Class
                    Battleship == Littorio Class
                    Cruiser == Zara Class
                    Destroyer == Soldati Class
    Japan -    Carrier == Shinano Class (didn’t have a Shinano so I subbed the Akagi)
                  Battleship == Yamato Class
                  Cruiser == Takao Class
                  Destroyer == Fubuki Class (didn’t have a Fubuki so I subbed the Kagero class which looked very similar to me)


  • Customizer

    Interesting… thanks for posting Knp

  • KNP, great job on the evolution of the pieces. But you never mentioned that the original pieces for the infantry were a tab smaller than the ones released in the 1987 and later versions.  The smaller infantry also had flat base and “made in china” on the bottom. The taller infantry have “made in china” in addition to the abbreviation of the country e.g. “RU” for Russia, “AM” for America, etc.
    The present infantry piece’s bottom of its base is sort of indented in the middle and surrounded by a raised outer portion. I would post pics. of both types but I don’t know how to post pics or don’t have that capablity yet. If there is someone who can post pics maybe he can take a pic of both of the bottom of the pieces in question and post them, in addition to showing the relative piece size difference.

    P.S. I think this is the reason the FMG italian infantry is a tab smaller than the present axis and allies pieces.  It seems they must have used the original axis and allies pieces as a guide instead of the present infantry piece, size wise.  Hopefully it was fixed with the German and U.S. scupts but it does need to be addressed.

  • Customizer

    Hello Everyone.
    With all the recent releases of new A&A games from WOTC, and the new sculpts in them, I decided it was time for an update. This time I am going to list the pieces game by game.
    First, we start with the Original Milton Bradley version of Axis & Allies, widely known as “Classic” here on the forum. The release date that I have for this game was 1986 but I have heard some say it came out as early as 1981. A second edition came out in 1991 which mainly had changes to the rules with a few minor changes to some of the pieces, mostly the infantry.
    As most people know already, in Classic you had Infantry, Armor, Fighters, Bombers, Aircraft Carriers, Battleships, Submarines and Transports. The sculpts for all the non-infantry equipment were the same for all 5 countries just in different colors: Brown for Russia, Grey for Germany, Tan for UK, Yellow for Japan and Dark Green for USA.
    The Infantry were the only sculpts that were unique to each country. They were also molded with a somewhat softer plastic than the rest of the units and in some cases appeared just slightly darker than the rest of the units, but were still very close to the same color.
    One noteable difference is the Japanese infantry. In a few copies of the game, the Japanese infantry were a light yellow color almost identical to the color of the other Japanese units. Later they changed the color for the infantry and came out with a darker yellow color. The newer color seems to be somewhere in between the light yellow and the current burnt orange color of current Japanese pieces.
    Also, there were a few copies of the game that came out with an error in molding. The American Infantry were molded in grey and the German Infantry were molded in olive green. I don’t know how many of these copies were out there, but I have gotten these mis-molded infantry a couple of times on eBay.

    A&A Classic.JPG

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    AXIS & ALLIES EUROPE – Released 1999
    Sometime in the mid to late 90s, Avalon Hill took over the Axis & Allies franchise from Milton Bradley. They reworked the game and came out with new versions with nation-specific sculpts for all the non-infantry pieces. This was extremely cool to me when I first saw them in 2006 (yes, I was a late-comer).
    The first release for Avalon Hill was a European Theater version of A&A with the nations of United States, United Kingdom and Russia squaring off against Germany.
    They also added two new units to the Axis & Allies lineup: the Destroyer and the Artillery.
    Germany got all uniquely German sculpts, although their fighter piece was actually a small Stuka dive bomber. Since we did not have Tac Bombers yet, I guess they figured the Stuka was such an iconic German plane that they decided to use it to represent the fighter piece.
    As for the Allies, while they got a number of unique sculpts, they also shared many. All the USA’s sculpts were uniquely American. Britain and Russia ended up sharing the artillery, transport, submarine and destroyer pieces with the US. Britain also had the M-4 Sherman for their tank, while Russia got their own T-34.
    In addition, all Russian naval units were copies of British ships in Russian color.
    Early editions of Europe came out with Russians in a Burgandy color, which is basically a dark red. Later versions came out with Russians in more of a Maroon color, basically dark brown with a red tint.
    British pieces were a strange Salmon color, sort of a sickly pink/tan.
    US pieces were a light olive green.
    German pieces were mainly dark grey in color, although there seems to have been a number of variations in shading throughout the printing of this game.

    A&A Europe.JPG

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