Hot seat multiplayer games seem to be a relic of the past. Most of the games nowadays being real time, you can play over LAN or the internet, but that's just not as much fun as playing a cool game while sitting in the same room. So when you've had enough Heroes of Might and Magic III (which happens sooner or later), you'll find that there just aren't many multiplayer games that are really exciting.
And then you see this one, "Dogs of War". To those who don't know Axis & Allies, the board game, it may seem really really dull. But looks can be deceiving. Why some games have atmosphere while others don't is a mystery. With Dogs of War, it's not the graphics (plain and simple), it's not the sound either (boom! parf! peep! scrhgrhg!no, it's definitely not the sound) and it's not the gameplay (you move pawns - what gameplay?). But Dogs of War is one of the most exciting and addictive ways of kicking your friend's ass.
As with Axis & Allies, playing with two (Axis vs. Allies) or five (creating alliances along the way) players is the most fun. When you have some experience with the game, playing against the computer is not really a challenge unless you give yourself a handicap. The interface can be a little annoying now and then (if you put five tanks and a fighter plane on Midway Island, trying to select your fighter can take a minute or five...) but overall it's satisfactory. And if you're looking for a really good multiplayer game (like I was once), nothing I've seen so far beats Dogs of War.
Dogs of War is an excellent shareware wargame unofficially based on Axis & Allies, a popular Milton & Bradley boardgame of the same name. The story of how the game came to be abandoned (or 'orphaned' if you prefer) by its creators, Software Engineering Inc. (SEI), is one that is both interesting, and a stark reminder of how possessive companies are of their intellectual property. Dogs of War is based on A&A the board game, but with some minor differences because SEI did not have the official sanction from Milton Bradley. After getting some loyal following in the wargaming community, M&B (by then a subsidiary of Hasbro) threatened to sue for copyright infringement unless they took it off the net and stopped selling the game. It's not surprising that MB's threat came right before Hasbro began selling the official version of Axis & Allies, but it is ironic that the official version is much more inferior to the fan-made shareware game, with many critical bugs and a weak AI (at least until the patched version, Iron Blitz, was released).
For anyone who is not familiar with the board game, here is a short synopsis of the game. Axis & Allies simulates World War II on a strategic level, abstracting away small unit tactics and bringing the strategic, economic and full scale logistic problems of global conflict into focus. Each player assumes control of one of the five major historical powers of the War: Russia, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and the United States. It begins in the Spring of 1942, well into the War where the battlelines and political alliances are clearly drawn. The strategic questions confronting all players are what do I build, how much do I risk in weapons research, and what do I do with the resources I have to carry out the war without depleting the 'economic stamina' of my country. Despite amateurish graphics, Dogs of War excels in spades in the gameplay department, offering a challenging AI, many alternate options from the board game version, and best of all - multiplayer support to play over the Internet. If you enjoy strategic-level wargames, Dogs of War is simply a must-have, and a welcome change in the genre that is typically dominated by tactical-level titles.
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