Working on the Next Move: Axis &  Allies 1942 SE Tournament

Tournaments are a great way to test your skills against other Axis & Allies players but it’s definitely a different experience than playing at home with friends for hours upon hours. I worked with Greg Smorey (Smorey Swamp), who has been organizing Axis & Allies tournaments for 20 years, to come up with this tournament survival guide.

Have Fun

Your primary motivation for entering a tournament should be to have fun playing Axis & Allies. Stressing about bad dice or proving that you’re the best player in the world will just distract you from meeting new an interesting players. If the dice are treating you badly, you can’t do anything about it so relax, think and who knows what the dice will do next.

Be Courteous

Be courteous and respectful of all players. A tournament is fun, challenging, and can be stressful. If you’re courteous, it will increase the fun and decrease the stress for everybody involved. It’s okay to give stern reminders about the time but do it politely.

Tournament Play is Not the Same

When you play Axis & Allies at home,  theoretically you have infinite time to complete a game. Sometimes your home games will end with surrender (or projection of a winner) or you fight to the end. In a tournament, the games must come to an end after a fixed period of time. No matter how close the game is, a winner must be decided. The rules for victory in a tournament are different. Sure you can win outright but it will usually not happen so change your strategy and your bid for the tournament victory rules. A winning strategy for a game with unlimited time may not win a tournament. In fact, you can be outgunned and on the brink of collapse but still win a tournament game.

If your opponent is playing the unlimited time game and you’re playing the tournament game, you already have an advantage.

Different People Play Differently

Not everybody plays the way you do so be open minded and flexible. Some people, like me, like to use poker chips for money while others like to write it down. Some like to use small dice to indicate how much movement each aircraft has remaining. Others like to keep track of income on the chart and some like to quickly count it up at the end of the turn. A few people have a color coded dice scheme so that they only have to throw dice once per battle round. If you don’t understand the color scheme, then use a few dice to create a key. If you don’t want to use their methodology when you roll your dice, then inform your opponent of that.

Play Quickly

Remember this is a tournament, don’t take forever trying to figure out what to do when it is your turn. The tournament materials should indicate about how many rounds you should be able to finish. Try to stay on track. When playing as a team, don’t spend your turn arguing about moves – save that for before or after your turn. Arguing the finer points of Axis & Allies, like order of loss, is for the forums not for tournament play. If it helps, assign one teammate as the captain to make final, quick decisions.

Be aware that the first two rounds take the longest but your first round moves should almost be done by rote. After the first two rounds, there should be less pieces on the board and fewer decisions.

Plan your turn ahead of time. Yes, things change but you should have at least your best guess purchases made and combat moves planned several turns ahead. When I finish playing a country, I find it helpful to do my purchases for the next round almost immediately. If something changes, it’s faster to adjust an already made decision than to start from scratch.

Another technique to keep things moving is not to wait to start your turn if your opponent is counting up their IPCs at the end of the turn. Just plop down your purchase and start your combat move.

Prepare Before the Tournament

Practice makes perfect. Read the tournament rules and re-read the out of box rules (even if it is the 10th time you’ve read them). Try to play a game or two using a timer and the tournament rules. Be familiar with how you win the version of Axis & Allies you are playing in a tournament. If you can memorize opening moves for both the Axis and the Allies, do it. You can find tournament rules here: Smorey Swamp Rules.

Finding a teammate in advance of the tournament is also a good idea. Not only is it a good idea from the standpoint of collaboration on decisions, which still need to be made quickly, but you also have help with logistics like being able to leave the table to get food, drink or going to the restroom.


Forgetting something. If at any point of the game you forget a move, as long as the other player has not started moving pieces or on their turn, tournament etiquette is to go ahead and move the piece. If it is after, tell the judges.

If you have a complaint or concern, come ask the judges and judges are the final arbiter on the rules. You may think you know the rules backwards and forwards but the organizers collectively know them better.

No drinks or food on the tables around games that are NOT yours. Especially, AA50, 1942 2nd Edition and any Global game. These games are way to expensive to ruin based on a accident.

The Dice

Tournament rules state that if you bring dice to the table, they are fair game for anyone playing in that game to use. If you don’t want your opponent to use your lucky dice, then don’t bring them.

It is preferred to roll in a box top or some other dice rolling device.

Don’t blame the dice if you lose. Everybody complains a little about bad dice rolls, it’s part of Axis & Allies, but in the end don’t go around saying I lost because of the dice. It’s just bad form and you look like a sore loser even if the dice truly treated you badly. Furthermore, if  the dice really did cause you to lose, then your opponent might realize it too and you can have a post game discussion about it. You won’t seem like a sore loser if your opponent complains about how bad your dice are.

Big Fish in a Big Pond

So you’re the best player in your group. The first time you go to a regional game con and enter a tournament, you may not be the best player anymore. There are a lot of great Axis & Allies players out there and they may have different strategies that you’ve never experienced.

So let’s say it turns out you are the best player in the region, when you go to a national game convention like GenCon, you may not be the best anymore. There are a lot of great Axis & Allies players that show up at these conventions. Just be prepared and don’t be upset if you lose, it can happen.

Little Fish in a Big Pond

If you’re a beginner, don’t be afraid to enter a tournament. You might lose on the first round or you might get lucky but you will definitely learn something new about how to play Axis & Allies. The only thing that you will need to know to enter a tournament is a strong knowledge of the rules of the game. At the end of the match, consider asking your opponent for advice on how to play better next time.

One More Thing…

Finally, Greg says that if you end up playing vs. Charles Michalek, you have our permission to annoy the heck out of him.