This is an homage to one of the first great things I found on the internet: Don Rae’s essays on the board game Axis & Allies 2nd Edition.
I played this game near-constantly throughout high school, with my friends, my English teacher (and debate coach), and most importantly with my dad. It was almost always set up on the dining room table (to my mom’s chagrin), and we even took it on vacation. Beyond an obvious bonding experience, the game held lots of lessons: what is a strategy and how do you execute it, the difference between strategy and tactics, how to deal with uncertainty, how to understand probabilistic events, and how to cope when you get unlucky and things don’t go your way.1
But a key part of learning to enjoy the game was this revelatory set of essays I found on the then-new World Wide Web (probably using AltaVista, since Google didn’t exist). The other day I saw my copy of the game in the coat closet and wondered whether the essays were still online. Surprisingly they were, so I learned to use
wget and scraped a copy for posterity.
My original plan was to repost them here with minimal editing,2 but I’d forgotten that foremost they were polemics, and poorly written at that—full of needless repetition, hopelessly organized, and heinously typeset. So I started
editing with a firmer touch rewriting.
I ultimately took two passes: the first stripped the source material to the useful content but kept the structure (almost nothing from Essay 5 made the cut); the second pass restructured what was left into a single essay and incorporated new material, such as pictures of the board at key points and a more detailed description of first-turn moves. I like the result—Don Rae’s Axis & Allies Essays Redux—it makes me want to play again.
This was the lesson that took me the longest to learn. I would get so upset when a set of rolls would go particularly badly and ruin my grand plan. I’d get pouty; I’d yell; I threw dice. These were not my proudest moments, and I’d like to think some of it can be chalked up to teenage hormones, but I’m grateful to have learned this lesson in the privacy of my home and not on the job. ↩
Changing the font from Comic Sans, fixing typos, normalize the formatting, etc. ↩