Tag Archives: completed

Axis and Allies Spring 1942 : Soviet Strategic Defense

Axis and Allies Spring 1942 : Soviet Strategic Defense

 

Written by Hobbes on 24-04-2011 at Axis and Allies.org, assembled and edited by Rorschach of I Will Never Grow Up Gaming

Welcome Comrade! Here you will find a guide to understand the Soviet Union (USSR)’s position and role in the game.

Part 1 – Soviet Strategy

There are 3 factors that make the Soviet Union the weakest country in A&A: •Its position in the middle of the two Axis powers, forcing it to play a defensive two front war.
•It has the lowest starting income of all powers, limiting its purchases to ground units and the occasional plane/sub.
•It is the best target for the Axis to achieve victory due to the conditions above.

However the USSR also possesses 2 key advantages to balance its initial disadvantages:•Russia is at the center of the board and is the only country with easy land access to all of its starting territories, plus several key map areas. This allows it the benefits of quick reinforcement of its defenses and the ability to easily switch armies between fronts.
•Russia plays first – it can take advantage of any opening created by the UK against Germany or any opportunity created by an US attack on Japan. And any Soviet moves against Japan can also create openings for the UK to explore against Japan. The UK-US-R combination against Germany and the US-R-UK combination against Japan can be one of the Allies’ greatest assets, if you know how to use them.

Within these conditions, the Soviet Union’s objectives are here defined as:•Defend the Russian Motherland against the combined aggression of G/J.
•Increase its income by conquering Axis territories and liberating Soviet ones (with UK/US assistance).

These 2 objectives are the center of the Soviet strategy presented on this article. It is a defensive strategy but that requires an aggressive attitude towards the Axis. Or, in other words, mess with the bull, you’ll get the horn. By itself, it does not assure an Allied victory but it can make an Axis one long and costly.

Objective 1 – The Motherland

The Motherland consists of the territory of Russia and the six territories adjacent to it (its main line of defense). Control of that line will protect Russia from any attacks on Moscow and give it a combined income of 21 IPC. If the Axis move an invincible stack into any territories of the defense line it is usually bad news for the Soviets.

The six territories of the main line of defense are:•Caucasus – Usually the main target of the Axis thrusts against Russia. It can be attacked by either Germany or Japan from several land territories (Ukraine, Kazakh, Persia) and SZ16 (with the Dardanelles open). If captured it allow either G/J to build units right next to Russia, if the Allies don’t recapture it.
•West Russia – The pivot territory of the Eastern front, giving access to six land territories, including Russia. German control of this territory will allow it to directly threaten Russia/Caucasus and to force the USSR to abandon Caucasus.
•Kazakh S.S.R. – Kazakh is very similar to West Russia, although a less important because of the different Asian geography. Due to the ICs on Russia and Caucasus, Kazakh can be transformed easily into a ‘dead zone’ for the Axis – any stack of units moved there will be destroyed by the Allies.
•Novosibirsk – While it can be harder to turn it into a ‘dead zone’ than Kazakh, Novo is the key territory to block Japanese advances through Yakut/Sinkiang.
•Archangel – Besides its value this territory is strategic to any Allied reinforcement of the USSR.
•Evenki National Okrug – Sometimes may not be worth the effort of being retaken by Russia, however it can be used as a gateway for Japanese tanks to strike into Russia.

Objective 2 – Increasing Income

The 2nd aim for the Soviet Union is to raise its income to 30 or more, at the expense of all other powers. The higher the number, the lower the Axis income and the more units G/J will have to spend to retake territories away from the Soviet Union. Besides keeping the Axis units away from the main line of defense, the higher production will also allow the Soviets to replace destroyed units and build up its forces, specially armor.

The main territories for the USSR to increase its income are:

•Karelia – 2 IPC. This can be the easiest since either the UK/US can liberate it through an amphibious assault after Germany has taken it.
•Ukraine S.S.R. – Its 3 IPC value makes it important, however its position makes it easier to be fortified by Germany/Japan against a Soviet counterattack.
•Yakut/Buryatia/SFE – 1 IPC each, for a total of 3. Bur and SFE are very unlikely since J usually takes those territories on the first turns and it is not worth it to send units just to retake them. Yak is more possible to maintain/retake, depending on the number of Japanese units on the area.
•Norway – 3 IPC. Norway is usually taken by the UK/US but you might want to reconsider it, especially since Germany tends to leave it empty of units after the first rounds. If the German transport on the Baltic has been sunk then a single Soviet tank in Arc/WR can take Norway after the US/UK liberate Kar.
•Belorussia – 2 IPC. The Soviets will need to have available forces on WR, although attacks from Kar/Ukr are also possible.
•Eastern Europe/Balkans – 3 IPC each. Not that uncommon, depending on dice results, the overall situation and the position of Soviet/German units.
•Manchuria – 3 IPC. A long shot, depending if the USSR has massed its 6 infantry on Buryatia on R1, if J does not attack that stack on J1 and how much units are left there at the end of J1. Usually the best chance to take Manchuria happens on R2, after which any Soviet units on Buryatia face destruction by Japanese amphibious assaults.

Imagining on R3 that the Soviets have lost the 3 Far East territories (-3 IPC) but has control of Kar/Nor/BR/Ukr (+10), it will receive 31 IPC. Of course if G/J are pushing hard against the Soviet Union this number might be impossible to obtain but the ’30’ should be kept as a reference.

Finally, one very important thing to remember is that any Soviet infantry moved into those territories is effectively removed from the defense of Soviet territory for one full game turn.

Secondary Objectives

Finally, the following are the territories that the USSR can conquer/liberate, in case the opportunity presents itself. They can greatly help the overall Allied strategy but most are special/rare occasions where it is necessary to weight the benefits/cost for Russia.

•India – While it may not look worthwhile for the USSR to spend units, specially armor, to liberate it, there are very good reasons to do so: the UK will receive critical income from it and Japan will not be able to place an IC there on the next turn.
•Persia – Like Evenki it may not be worth the effort of being liberated by the Soviets, however it can be used as a gateway by Axis armor on India against Caucasus.
•Trans-Jordan- Rare for the Soviets to liberate it, usually happens to prevent the Axis from using the Suez channel.
•Sinkiang/China – Unless Japan can’t retake them, it is useless and a waste of units for the USSR to liberate any of them, since the US will never receive any income from it because Japan plays before the Americans. But if Japan has left the corridor empty them it can be used to threaten the Japanese coastal territories.
•Southern Europe – 6 IPC. Somewhat rare for the Soviets to take it, usually happens when the UK/US take Balkans and Soviet armor blitz to S. Eur.
•Kwantung/French Indochina – 3 IPC each. Rare, unless the Allies are pushing Japan hard.
•Germany – 10 IPC. Very rare situation, unless the combined UK/US assaults will fail but there’s a Soviet armor stack within range to conquer Berlin.

Like the previous territories, Soviet units moved into those territories will be most likely unable to assist in defense of the Motherland during the next game turn(s).

With the objectives defined, I’ll now go over the geography to explain the dynamics of Eurasia and how the USSR can achieve its goals.

Part 2 – The Gameboard

Looking at the illustration provided on the bottom of this post, the first map shows the attack routes used by the Axis towards Russia (full arrows primary routes, dotted arrows secondary paths). Achieving the 1st Soviet objective depends on the Allies’ ability to stop/delay Axis advances through those lines and disrupt the coordination between both Axis powers.

There are five main Axis attack fronts, two in Europe (through Karelia and/or Ukraine) and three on Asia (Sinkiang, Yakut and Persia), each with a lenght of four spaces from the starting grey/yellow territories and Moscow. Caucasus is the only Motherland territory that is on the path of both German and Japanese routes. As long as Russia can turn any of main line of defense territories into dead zones (spaces where the enemy can’t move a force large enough to defend itself against counterattacks) it will be able to stop the Axis before they reach Moscow.

The second map shows the key areas for Russia to hold back the Axis advance and perform counterattacks into German held territories. The full arrows show the custom Soviet attacks on Europe, to slow the German advance and to achieve the 2nd objective, raising income. The dotted arrows should secondary options to raise income or to strike at other important territories.

Finally, the third map shows the usual positions for Axis stacks (defined as a pile of units that can’t be crippled/destroyed by an Allied attack) as they advance towards Moscow and reach the outskirts of the main line of defense. Soviet survival depends on how the Allies manage/react to the presence of Axis stacks on those locations and the level of initiative and coordination show between the German/Japanese forces. Each position offers special challenges and the presence of 2 or more stacks in those locations can and most likely will limit the Soviet response(s).

Even though the defense of the USSR should be considered as a whole, there are major differences between Europe and Asia.

European Theater

•Germany is the strongest threat to the USSR at the beginning, due to its starting power and units.
•Allows Soviet income to significantly increase by the capture of several original German territories.
•Axis units can easily switch units between both the Karelia/Ukraine routes.
•Expected UK/US assistance with amphibious landings.
•Karelia – Allows German attacks on Norway, WRus and Archangel. Can shut off Allied reinforcements to Russia landing on Karelia/Archangel (the blue arrows). Secures victory city for Axis.
•Ukraine- Allows German attacks on Caucasus and WRus. If combined with a Japanese stack on Persia/Sinkiang it can effectively lock the Red Army in defending the Caucasus, at the expense of abandoning the other territories of the Motherland.

Notes on Europe:

•The ideal situation at the beginning is that Germans keep their stack on Eastern Europe, either by German ‘combat shyness’ or the Soviets turning Karelia/Ukraine into dead zones. Later this can be achieved through the threat of an UK/US invasion in Europe.
•However, against an experienced or aggressive German player this won’t happen. His main goal will be exactly to create a stack in either position and be looking into advancing further.
•The Allies completely stop the German advance if they are able to move a stack to Eastern Europe, freeing the Soviets to deal exclusively with Japan.
•The first step to this usually involves creating an Allied stack on Karelia. The Soviets should help, if possible by contributing with its armor and fighters. However, it will divert the armor from the line defense line for 1 turn.
•Karelia can and should be liberated by the UK/US, to allow the USSR to conserve and redeploy forces.
•On the beginning of the game the USSR should keep a stack of its own on West Russia to contest Karelia, Belorussia and Ukraine from the Germans and try to turn those territories into dead zones, slowing the German advance.
•There are two ways to deal with German stacks on Ukraine or Karelia. The first is to create a stack of your own in front on it, either West Russia or Caucasus. The second is to turn the territory into a dead zone for the Germans.
•If West Russia has to be evacuated, it may be possible to redeploy some units from those territories, in order to deal with Japanese stacks that were able to move into the Motherland – or to trade away territory while dealing with more close threats or to crush unsuspecting Japanese units.
•However, the Germans may be able to move a stack strong enough to West Russia, defended by Japanese planes, preventing the creation of a dead zone. If this happens, the Axis are very close to controlling the entire Eastern front.
•Regarding Caucasus, it’s the same lesson the Germans learned at Stalingrad during WW2 – you shouldn’t hang the entire fate of the war on a single city. If the Germans move a stack to West Russia, retreat. If a combined G/J attack can take it or Moscow is about to fall, retreat. As long as the Soviets can turn Caucasus into a dead zone and the Allies keep contesting it, it won’t be as bad as seeing the Axis producing units there.
•Archangel can be usually overlooked but it can be a crucial territory on occasion. If the Germans have a stack on Karelia they may be able to move it to Archangel, forcing the Soviets to call units to its capitol. It will also completely block any land reinforcement of Russia by the UK/US.
•G1 naval/air purchases are good news for the USSR – those units will be used also against the UK/US. Naval purchases are the best, since those are IPCs not spent on ground units that will have limited or zero effect on land and most likely will be destroyed by the other Allies.

Asian Theater

•Japanese aggression against the USSR is limited during the initial rounds due to geography.
•The Soviets can trade space on Asia for time against Japan, with a smaller loss of income than in Europe.
•Japan’s armies are limited on their strategic moves by the impassible territories present, creating 3 axis of attack that cannot support one another on the middle.
•UK/US assistance restricted to the starting units, reinforcements brought in from Europe or ICs built on India/Sinkiang.
•Yakut – The easiest route for Japan to use (and usually the 1st one), by landing units into Buryatia. Allows attacks on Evenki/Novo.
•Sinkiang – Usually used by Japanese units on Manchuria/Kwantung/FIC. It is usually the least effective to use since Japanese units built/landed on FIC will have to be split between it and Indian. It allows attacks on both Novo/Kazakh.
•Persia – The longest route, until Japan builds an IC on India. A Japanese stack in Persia can turn into a big threat to Caucasus, especially if the Germans move a stack to Ukraine. On the other hand, Japan can also use the route to hit Africa, diverting units that would go otherwise to Caucasus/Kazakh.

Notes on Asia:

•Asia is almost useless to the Soviets regarding income, as long as they keep control of Kazakh/Novosibirsk. The other territories are all worth 1 IPC but the distance and proximity to Japan make their liberation unlikely, except for Evenki. And conquering any of the Japanese territories on the coast is usually very hard and dependent on being prepared if the occasion presents itself.
•The liberation of UK/US territories on Asia is usually not worth if the liberating Soviet units will be destroyed in counterattacks, since the money goes instead to the UK/US.
•Not depending on territories for income actually give the Soviets more options on Asia. They can afford not to attack isolated Japanese units on Yakut/Sinkiang/Persia or further away from Russia. However, if they do attack them it needs to serve a higher goal than retaking the territory.
•The more efficient way to deal with the Japanese is to let them advance piecemeal through the 3 routes and destroy them when they advance to Kazakh/Novo with a force that can’t be destroyed in a counterattack.
•The UK/US shouldn’t never build ICs on India/Sinkiang unless the Japanese are being defeated on land and the sea. Building ICs during the first round can be specially bad because: 1) The Allies can’t lose them – they are on the middle of the Japanese advance on Asia and will give Japan the ability to cut by half its travel time. 2) They extend too much the Soviet defense line and place a burden on its defensive flexibility. 3) They can’t support one another and Japan can choose to direct its strength against a single one – once it is conquered, the other usually falls afterwards.
•The presence of a Soviet stack on either Kazakh/Novo will also can stall the Japanese advance in two of those routes and if units in Russia are also able to create dead zones on Yakut/Sinkiang/Persia they will force Japanese units to retreat, delaying them even further.
•If Japan is able to create a 1 stack on any of the territories above that projects a dead zone on Kazakh or Novo, the Soviets can prevent it from creating a 2nd one by moving a stack to the other Motherland territory. Example: a J stack on Yakut creates a dead zone on Novo. USSR creates a stack on Kazakh that prevent Japanese units from advancing on the Sinkiang/Persia ones and also contributes to Novo becoming a dead zone for the Japanese stack on Yakut. Japan has to reinforce those routes and Yakut.
•Japan’s actions against the USSR will be dependent on two factors: its need for income and the presence/absence of the US on the Pacific.
•Soviet ability to be on the offensive against Japan is limited by the geography and the distances involved. As long as there are Japanese transports operating on SZ60 and/or ICs on Manchuria/Kwantung/Indochina it can be impossible to reach the coastline.

Finally, the Soviet player needs to take into consideration events on both theaters when planning his/her moves.

 

Part 3 – The Two-Front War

One way to picture the USSR is to imagine a boxer standing on the middle of the ring, surrounded by two opponents on each side. By himself he can hold out against one of them but if both advance at the same time he’ll have problems.

Next, I’ll describe a series of possible situations of Russia against one or both Axis powers, illustrating them on map sequences and explaining the rationale behind them.

Example 1 – Forcing a Japanese Retreat

•Germany has 1 stack on Karelia, while Japan has moved 2 smaller stacks to Yakut/Sinkiang. Russia has 1 stack on West Russia facing the German one – both can’t attack one another.•The Soviet player looks at the board and realizes that the Germans won’t be able to advance the Karelia stack into West Russia because it will lacks both enough attack power against its stack and it is possible to create a dead zone on West Russia.
•On Asia the situation is more worrisome because if both Japanese stacks merge in Novosibirsk it will force the Soviets to destroy them, taking away its initiative by forcing it to react to Japan.
•The Soviets decide to deal with the Japanese first – they attack both Belorussia and Ukraine for the income and to destroy German units but move their armor to Novosibirsk to join the infantry from Russia to create a stack there. It also pulls back its infantry from West Russia/Caucasus to prevent their destruction since the movement of the armor to Novo turns the area into a dead zone for the Soviets.
•Germany wants to advance its stack into West Russia but it is unable to do so, because there’s not enough defense against the Soviet inf/art on Russia/Caucasus and the armor on Novosibirsk. The Japanese could land some fighters to help but the territory would still be a dead zone for the Axis. Germany decides instead to retake Ukr, Belo, WRus and Archangel while waiting for further reinforcements to arrive its stack on Karelia.
•Japan now has a problem – even though it can reinforce Yakut/Sinkiang both territories are now dead zones. The Soviets cannot attack both but they can destroy all units or make a strafe attack on one of them. Japan decides that it can’t lose the units so it attacks only Kazakh and retreats to Buryatia/China.
•Due to its movements the USSR has now temporarily delayed the Japanese advance by 1 turn, at the expense of Europe, but on the next turn it can refocus against the Germans and retake the territories it lost, with the exception of Belorussia.

Example 2 – USSR Gets Cornered

•The UK/US have managed to land a stack on Karelia and turning the territories around Russia into dead zones, stopping the Axis advance. Control of Novo/Kaz/Evenki has been contested between the Soviets and Japan for a couple of turns and the Japanese have been able to steadly move reinforcements to Sinkiang/Yakut.
•Soviet options are limited since the presence of the German stack on Ukraine pins most of the Red Army to the defense of Caucasus. It prevents them from performing a similar move to the one on the previous example, to move a stack to Kazakh and turn Sinkiang into a dead zone, forcing the Japanese units there to retreat or preventing them from conquering Kazakh.
•Instead, the Soviet Union can only retake West Russia, Kazakh and Novosibirsk. It doesn’t retake Evenki or Persia because it would cost too much precious attacking units for the gains.
•Next round, Axis keeps the pressure on the defense line, taking back the territories lost to the Soviets on the previous turn. But due to the reinforcements and most of the Soviet army being on Caucasus, Novosibirsk is no longer a dead zone for Japan.
• Japanese units pour into Novosibirsk, creating a stack, while armor produced/landed moves in to Yakut/Sinkiang and position itself to strike into Moscow.
•The Soviet player discovers that Japan has turned his/her capitol into a dead zone. It will have to move part or all of its army back to Russia. And that can also create a dead zone for any Allied units on the Caucasus because of the German stack on Ukraine. It can possibly retake West Russia and Kazakh
•The USSR can possibly retake West Russia and Kazakh but it is facing now a combined Axis death grip. Its income will drop below 20s and the Japanese will keep the pressure until they are able to conquer Moscow. Unless a major change happens, the Soviet Union is now limited to contesting the former defense line territories and waiting that the rest of the Allies can achieve victory.

 

Part 4 – Game Progression (WORK IN PROGRESS)

Finally, this part will describe the possible actions for the Soviet Union during its first turns.

1st Turn Purchase Options

•3 inf, 3 arm – Replaces armor used to attack Ukraine on the first round and gives the Soviets some attacking power to prevent the Germans from creating a stack in Karelia on G1. 2 armors can also be placed on Caucasus to liberate India in case of a successful J1 attack.
•5 inf, 1 art, 1 arm – Less offense, more defense and 1 more unit than the previous buy.
•4 arm, 1 art – All offensive buy. In case you really want to prevent a German stack to be formed on Karelia on G1.
•1 ftr, ground units – To augment the airforce and threaten the German Med fleet or to replace a fighter used to attack Norway on R1.
•1 sub, ground units – To be placed on SZ16 (if the Dardanelles are open) and attack the German Med fleet on R2.
•8 inf – All defensive buy. If you are attacking Ukraine on R1 you shouldn’t do this purchase since you’ll be left with few attacking units for the 2nd round.

Subsequent Purchases

•It is useful for Russia to always have at least 1 artillery when trading WR/Belo/Ukr to preserve armor.
•Armor is crucial – the objective is to create a growing strategic fast reserve that can be used afterwards to switch quickly between the European and Asian theaters and/or to be used in specialized strikes (against India, Norway, etc.).
•The submarine purchase on the 1st round can be very helpful in sinking the Med fleet and/or preventing the Germans to amphibiously attack Egypt on G2. However, this means that the Russian fighters will not be available to clear out Karelia/BR/WR, requiring instead art/armor. The Germans can also react to a sub/plane purchase in several ways, such as a strong push on the Eastern front to try to overwhelm the Russian response (see the Case Blue Axis strat article for more details).
•Finally, when deciding between buying infantry or armor you need to decide the number of attacks you’ll make, how many units you’ll use and whether they can be counterattacked. One good benchmark is to be able to begin your next round with the same number of units or attack/defense power that had on the previous round. There are also a few ways to do this already described above: use the UK/US to liberate Karelia to lower the number of attacks Russia has to make, apply overwhelming force on Asia, etc.

1st Turn Combat Options

West Russia-Ukraine

•Russia attacks WR with at least 11 units to kill the German units and position a stack to contest Belorussia/Karelia (reinforced with an AA during non-combat). It also uses all of the units on Caucasus plus 3/4 armor/fighters to clear Ukraine of German units and conquer it.

West Russia-Norway

•This attack aims to kill the German fighter to prevent the sinking of the UK BB on SZ2. The fighter from Russia is sacrificed, either taking it as a loss or by landing it on Karelia. Regarding WR, the Soviets usually needs to keep some forces back to evaluate the situation after combat is resolved and reinforce either WR/Caucasus against a German counter attack.
West Russia-Belorussia

•This is safest of all combinations, destroying part of the German army and saving the starting Russian armor. However, it also allows the 2nd largest pile of German units at start to be spared from destruction by not attacking Ukraine.

West Russia-Ukraine-Belorussia

•This attack has very high odds if playing with low luck but if playing regular dice there’s about a 2/3 odds that at least 1 attack will fail. Which can leave the Russians units at West Russia vulnerable to a German counterattack.

West Russia-Ukraine-Norway

•If successful, this combination of attacks destroys 2 German fighters and prevents the sinking of the UK Battleship on SZ2. However, it only has 1/3 odds of all 3 attacks being successful. And it may also be possible that Germany retakes all the 3 territories again on its counterattack.

Note: there are quite a few more choices for the Russians. I’ve seen twice Russia opening the game by making strafing attacks on Norway and West Russia and then retreating everything to Karelia and landing the fighters there. Either you are very lucky or the entire German army and airforce will wipe out the Russian forces at Karelia on G1.

1st Turn Non-Combat Moves

•Submarine from SZ4 to SZ2
•Infantry to Soviet Far East and Yakut to Buryatia – puts pressure on Japan to defend Manchuria, let it fall to Russia or try to destroy the Russian units. Or you can also retreat those units back to Russia.
•Infantry on Novo/Evenki to Russia, on Kazakh to Caucasus – to form a strategic reserve of infantry to use against the bigger threat of Germany. Or you can send them to try to stall Japan as much as possible.

Axis and Allies Anniversary Edition : A Beginners Guide to the 1942 Scenario

Axis and Allies Anniversary Edition
A beginner’s guide to 1942

Written by Darkman on  21-11-2010 at Axis and Allies.org

Since the 1942 is a map that gains more and more players, I will try to give you a short guide for beginners here.

This guide will include the basic strategies for Axis and Allies in ’42, along with separate advice for every nation, and some common openings.

General advice:

I don’t advise this map for a player who is completely new to Axis and Allies. Get used to the game by playing Classic or Revised, which have smaller and less complicated maps. Then play 41 or 42 a few times and try to use this strategy guide. Be familiar with the game mechanics and the rules! The game is usually played with national objectives (NOs), which are very important since they give additional income if you have them.

Basic setup: The bid

As in WW2 v3 1941, the Axis have an edge in this map. To compensate that, Allies should get a bid of mostly 9 or 10 IPCs.
The most common way of spending the bid are Russian ground units on the German border for the initial attack, possibly you might want a unit in Egypt to make sure you keep it (especially if playing with dice).

Strategy guides

1. General team strategy

1.1. Overall Allies strategy guide:

The momentum is clearly on the side of the Axis, the advantage in production is on your side though. Try to consolidate your positions and stabilize the Russian front. You have two basic strategy options: 1) Kill Germany or Italy first and neglect Japan. This will mean that you have a race: Kill Germany or Italy before the Japanese kill Russia. 2) Try to slow Japan while you try to kill Germany or Italy. This leads to a more balanced game, but you will need a very good teamwork on both fronts.

1.2 Axis strategy guide:

Your goal is use your momentum and conquer territories to get even in production. Your overall strategy depends on the Allies: If the Allies choose to neglect Japan, you will have to build up forces on the mainland and advance towards Russia as fast as you can. If the US builds troops in the Pacific, just get enough fleet to deter them while you try to advance on the mainland. The game is usually won or lost on the Russian front, keep that in mind!

2. Strategy guide, opening buys and opening moves by nation

Japan:

Since you start before the US does, you make sure you gain momentum on the mainland and then choose your strategy depending on the US.

Aims:

Early game: Make sure you get troops and production capacities on the mainland. Place a factory in French Indochina or Burma and establish a transport bridge to Manchuria. If the US neglects you, build more factories, the interesting territories are Burma and French Indochina in the early game, later India and East Indies along with a small transport bridge. If the US goes Pacific, make sure you max out your carrier capacities and get some subs to deter them.

Mid and late game: Depending on the US strategy, either build factories in India and East Indies to ship a load of troops towards Caucasus each turn, or deter the US while you build up a smaller force on the mainland. If the US neglects you, Germany and/or Italy might need your help, so you can either get your fleet in the med sea or send fighters over for defense.

Strategically important territories:

India is a National Objective for Japan. You could also take Australia or Hawaii, but India has a better production and you should build a factory there. Make sure you take it turn 3 by latest (unless Allies defend it hard, that’s possible). Apart from that, always watch your transports!

Common opening moves:

Kill the UK fleet and the US fleet. Take as much of China as possible while you try to avoid too many losses. The Chinese air unit should have a high priority. If you can, try to hold Burma.

Common opening buys:

3 transports, 2 tanks or 2 transports and 1 factory or 2 factories.

Russia:

As the starting power and at the same time the crucial point of the Axis and the Allies strategy, you need to find a good balance between aggressiveness and defense.

Aims:
Early game: Push Germany back to make them lose income and to establish dead zones on your front.
Mid game: Try to move the dead zones west and gain income of the territories while you build up a stack to deter the Japs that are getting closer.
Late game: Send more troops towards Berlin or Rome, gain your 10 IPC NO and defend your main territories against Japan.

Strategically important territories:
Karelia and Caucasus are German National Objectivess. Karelia is very hard to hold against Germany. You might choose to give it up turn 1 and establish a dead zone there. Make sure you don’t lose Caucasus, if you lose it for a whole turn and cannot take it back this can lead to a fast decay for Russia!

Common opening moves:
Take Belorussia, Eastern Ukraine and Ukraine (alternatively, Baltic can be an option if you try to hold Karelia turn 1). You can also try a bomber gambit in SZ13 to weaken the German ambitions in the med sea and against the British fleet.

Common opening buys:
8 infantry, 4 infantry and 1 bomber, and most common 5 infantry, 1 artillery, 1 tank. Later, make sure you have enough infantry.

Germany:

Germany has an easy objective: Throw down Russia. An attack on UK can only succeed if the UK player makes some major mistakes. Germany and Italy have to play as a team.

Aims:
Early game: Depending on the Russian opening, take Karelia if possible. Kill as much of the UK fleet as you can, you don’t want to play against 2 UK transports. Also, make sure that the UK fleet in SZ12 doesn’t survive and kill the Italian fleet turn 1. Reinforce Africa if possible and try to take it turn 2 with Italian help. Try to avoid too many losses on the Russian front early on, the Russian support lines are shorter than yours. Either hold France or threaten to kill any UK sea units that enter SZ7.
Mid and late game: Find a balance between advancing against Russia and holding France and Germany. If you bought a carrier turn 1 to keep the Baltic fleet, you will lose that fleet in the mid game unless you spend a lot of credits on fleet, which will help Russia to break your front. If all the Allies play against Germany, make sure you get enough defensive forces as well as the help of Japanese fighters and try to hold long enough to allow Japan to kill Russia.

Strategically important territories:
Karelia and Caucasus, which is your National Objective (see Russia). Keep in mind that the UK navy can attack you in Karelia. France is important too, do not give UK or US too much income by trading it back and forth. Egypt is the key to gaining income in Africa.

Common opening moves:
As said, kill as much of the UK fleet as you can. Hit either SZ12 and either SZ1 or SZ2. Take Karelia if you can and stabilize your eastern front. If you did not buy a carrier to keep the Baltic fleet, it might be interesting to spread your ships.

Common opening buys:
1 carrier and ground troops or 1 carrier and 1 air unit and ground troops or all ground troops. You will need infantry as cannon fodder on the Russian front!

United Kingdom:

The power that is spread all over the world needs to find a way to avoid getting crushed on all front. Try to hold Egypt and, as long as you can, India. Your allies will have to help you, but in exchange UK is the nation that needs to take pressure from Russia.

Aims:
Early game: Consolidate your forces from all over the world. After a ‘normal’ German opening your fleet will have had heavy losses. Bring your transport from Africa towards the med sea, your Australian fighter to India, Hawaii or Madagascar, and stabilize your fleet around UK. Your attack options can be France or Norway, but be aware that your fleet is vulnerable.
Mid game: Build up a fleet with transports. Once you have a fleet Germany cannot sink and 4 transports, you build 8 land units each turn in UK and land in France or Norway, or if you want to help Russia, in Poland, Baltic or Karelia. If you can afford it then, you could build an IC in the colonies.
Late game: Stick with your playgrounds and look for options to invade Germany or team with Russia.

Strategically important territories:
Egypt is important, you don’t want to lose Africa. India can hardly be held over a longer time, but should delay Japan as long as possible. Your main playground should be France, while you try to fulfill the other National Objective of holding Gibraltar, Egypt, South Africa, Australia and Canada.

Common opening moves:
Hard to say because it depends on the German turn. Common landing targets for turn 1 are Morocco, Norway, France and Karelia, but they depend a lot on the board. Sink the German Baltic fleet if you can; and make sure that Germany can neither sink your fleet nor land in UK if they bought a carrier turn 1. Don’t forget to move your units that are spread all over the board (Australian fighter, transport near South Africa) and to consolidate Africa and India.

Common opening buys:
Building ICs in India or South Africa is usually a bad option unless you got very lucky against the Japanese or kept a lot of your fleet. Most common are a carrier buy along with destroyers, a fighter replacement (you usually lose one when you attack the German Baltic fleet) or transports.

Italy:

Italy’s role as Germany’s little helper is limited to few options: Help to defend France, help to get Africa and help on the southern eastern front. Its resources though usually allow to support two of those three objectives at most. Because of it’s limited resources, Italy is the most fragile part of the axis, but it’s also hard to reach for the allies.

Aims:
Early game: Try to help Germany, see above. Always be aware that your fleet is not killed.
Mid and late game: Make sure you do not get pressured too much because you spread your forces too far. Focus on the most important objectives. If the US comes into the med sea, make sure that you get German or Japanese help.

Strategically important territories:
Egypt (see Germany) as well as everything that you need for your National Objectivess. You need all income you can get.

Common opening moves:
Depending on the German and British moves, attacks on Egypt, Trans-Jordan, Gibraltar or Ukraine are possible as well as just transporting units to Libya.

Common opening buys:
2 infantry and 1 artillery or 1 transport and 1 infantry or 2 tanks.

United States:

As the nation with the biggest resources, you need a good plan on how to use them. If you opt to go Pacific, you will most likely need air units, carriers and subs to fight the Japanese. If you go Atlantic, you get just as much fleet as you absolutely need to protect the transports.

Aims:
Early game: Do not lose too much time. Your possible targets are Solomons to get a National Objective, as well as landings in Morocco. Build up a fleet and make sure you max out your transports and their capacity.
Mid and late game: Establish a steady flow of landing units. You will need at least 8 transports if you want to fight Germany or Italy. If you capture Italy and you can make sure that Germany cannot take it back in its turn, that is usually game. If you attack Japan, make sure you have enough cannon fodder (subs) for sea battles.

Strategically important territories:
Solomon and France as National Objectivess. In the Atlantic, SZ1, 7 and 12 are important for a transport bridge; in the Pacific the Carolines are in range of everything that’s important.

Common opening moves:
Depending on what happened before, landings on the Solomons (beware of the Japanese counter) or Morocco are possible, but often you only prepare landings.

Common opening buys:
2 transports, 2 tanks and 1 carrier (Atlantic attack) or 2 carriers and 1 fighter (Pacific attack)

China:

I’ll keep this short… without massive support of the allies, who usually cannot afford that early on, China is dead by turn 3 or 4 against a good Japanese player. Use it as a brakeshoe as long as you can.

Axis and Allies, Spring 1942 Edition : Principles for Intermediate to Advanced Players

Axis and Allies, Spring 1942 Edition : Principles for Intermediate to Advanced Players (Part 1)

 

Written by Bunnies P Wrath on 19-12-2010 at Axis and Allies.org

This article was written for intermediate to advanced players of the Spring 1942 edition of Axis and Allies. For ease of reading, detailed math is not included in this article. Throughout this article, when describing a combat, I always list the attacking force first, e.g. “4 infantry vs. 2 tanks” means 4 infantry are attacking 2 tanks.

1. Cost Efficiency on the Attack
2. Why Attacks Fail In Spite Of The Odds
3. Concentration of Force
4. Dissipation of Force

 

Section 1: Cost Efficiency on the Attack.

Infantry is the most cost effective defensive ground unit for two reasons. It is cheap; each casualty costs only 3 IPCs. It also gives the most defensive hitting power per IPC spent.

In combat, the most cost effective fodder attack unit is the infantry. Again, each casualty costs only 3 IPCs.

The defensive value of infantry is readily understood. That given, the question for the defender is, can a player employ infantry so their opponent must deal with the infantry at the infantry’s strongest point, and if so, how? More on this later.

The offensive value of infantry is often overlooked even by players with a fair to moderate understanding of the game. I will give three examples, each with 30 IPCs of attacking units going against 6 defending infantry.

10 infantry vs 6 infantry; probable outcome is 4 attacking infantry (12 IPCs) surviving.

5 infantry and 3 tanks vs 6 infantry, probable outcome is 1 attacking infantry and 3 tanks (18 IPCs) surviving.

5 tanks vs 6 infantry, probable outcome 2-3 tanks (10-15 IPCs) surviving.

The clear winner in cost efficiency in these scenarios is not the one relying only on cheap infantry, or the one relying on more expensive but hard hitting tanks. The winner is the one mixing cheap infantry with tanks. With the offensive value of infantry understood (i.e. its inclusion making an attacker’s attack more cost efficient), the question for the attacker is, can a player employ infantry so their opponent must deal with the infantry, and if so, how? More on this later.

Section 2: Why Attacks Fail In Spite Of The Odds

Let us say you roll a die, and want to see 1, 2, 3, or 4 come up, and do not want to see 5 or 6. Most of the time, you?ll be fine. But sometimes you will not be.

Now let us say that you roll three dice. Say again that you want to see 1, 2, 3, or 4 come up on each die. It’s true that any *particular* die will probably come up 1,2,3, or 4. But the odds are low that *all* of them will end up with a good result for you. In fact, about seven out of ten times at LEAST one of those die is not going to come up the way you want it[/b].

When planning battles in Axis and Allies, remember that although you may engage in multiple combats, each of which is individually likely to end in your favor, the actual outcome will likely see you failing at one or more of those combats.

Section 3: Concentration of Force

Suppose you have twenty tanks attacking twenty tanks. There’s a good chance both sides get wiped out.

But suppose that you have twenty tanks attacking just ten tanks, with the surviving attackers fighting another ten tanks in a following battle. Now, the attacker will survive the first battle with about fifteen tanks, and the second battle with about nine tanks.

Clearly, whenever convenient, the attacker should attack with superior power and numbers, and the defender should defend with superior power and numbers.

Section 4: Dissipation of Force

Although attacker and defenders do best in combat when their forces are concentrated, success in Axis and Allies requires attackers and defenders to spread out a bit, to control or contest territory that’s needed for income.

Axis and Allies : Alliance Dynamics and Teamwork

Alliance Dynamics & Teamwork in Axis and Allies

Written by Hobbes on 20-11-2010 at Axis and Allies.org

Any A&A game that contains a coalition(s) of countries will require their player(s) to cooperate in order to achieve the goal of their side winning the game. The objective of this article is to explain turn-based game mechanics to in order to improve teamwork while playing most of the A&A games, with the exception of D-Day, Bulge or Guadalcanal.

Force Multipliers

To explain some characteristics of teamwork lets start by looking at the original A&A Europe (AAE) and its turn order:

Germany
Russia
UK
US

Russia plays right after Germany so its actions will largely be determined by the need to respond to German attacks/moves. It can however create opportunities for both the UK & the US to exploit against Germany. As an example, when Russia captures a German territory, it is potentially allowing for both the UK and US to reinforce that territory from German counterattacks counterattacks or to move through it in order to strike other German held territories. And, in the same way, the UK can take advantage of any opportunities created by Russia and create new ones for the US through its moves.
Both Russia and the UK are what is usually called as ‘can-openers’ since they can create new opportunies for the rest of their coalition to exploit. Here I’ll call them force multipliers, to represent their potential to increase the striking power of the other Allied countries. Usage of this potential requires close cooperation and vision between the members of each alliance. And also that the other side isn’t gain allowed to use its own multipliers during the game to gain initiative over you.

Initiative

The moment the game starts both sides are involve in a contest for initiative, defined as ‘the ability to force your opponent to respond to your moves’.

to/vs Germany Russia UK US
Germany initiative
Russia multiplier multiplier
UK initiative multiplier
US initiative

On the AAE example above, Germany has initiative over Russia due to being the 1st to play with Russia following but has no other Axis countries in the gameto act as force multiplers through teamwork. However, the potential initiative of Germany’s position in the order of play will most likely force Russia to respond to German moves, thus limiting the Russians own initiative.
As for the Allies, the US has the most potential initiative over Germany since it plays right before it and can exploit any moves made by both Russia and the UK against the Germans. The American initiative over Germany makes its actions hard to predict by the German player and with possible disastrous effects. Finally, The UK also has initiative over Germany since Russia can act as a multiplier for it.

Another example of this can be seen on the same chart applied to AAP & AAP40:

to/vs Japan US China UK ANZAC
Japan I
US M M M
China I M M
UK I M
ANZAC I

Like AAE or any other game, the position of the turn order is very important when considering how to most effectively use your multipliers through teamwork. On AAP/AAP40, if the US played last it would be able to benefit from any China/UK/ANZAC moves and due to its starting power it could give it major initiative over Japan. Instead, the last position has been given to one of the minor powers, Australia/ANZAC. And allthough ANZAC’s position would give it the biggest potential initiative over Japan, in reality its small armed forces, large distances and reduced income all limit its real initiative, making it a still a thorn to Japan but without tilting the game balance towards the Allies.

A final aspect to notice on the charts above is that when you have 2 or more countries of the same alliance playing consecutively you the force multiplying effect can be even greater. This article will describe it as a buffer effect, meaning the ability of the 1st country to be used to soften and absorb enemy blows and be a force multipler to its allies playing right afterward.

The A&A 5 Powers model

Now, let’s take the initiative and multipler concepts and apply it to the Classic/Revised/Spring 42 games.

to/vs Russia Germany UK Japan US
Russia I M (J) I
Germany I M (US/R)
UK M (G) I M (G)
Japan M (UK) I
US M (G/J) I M (J)

Quick Comments

•Starting with the Allies, Russia has potential initiative over Germany, due to playing first and the potential UK/US multiplers. It can also be a multiplier for the UK’s fight against Japan. Moreover, since the US plays right before Russia it can create a buffer for the actions of any Axis power against the Soviets, allowing Russia some initiative over Japan.
•Germany has initiative against the UK, but its potential multiplying effect to Japan is more complicated to explain. For instance, Germany takes Caucasus from Russia then it creates a situation where Japanese units can move there to reinforce it against a US/Russian counterattack. But since the UK plays between Germany and Japan it is possible for it to attack Caucasus to retake it or destroy enough German units to make a combined G/J defense impossible against the US/R counterattack.
•The UK is the best placed to face Japan, especially with US/R assistance, although that can be limited by Germany’s own initiative. The worst threat to the UK is Japan acting as a force multiplier to Germany, especially in critical areas such as Africa/Med/Atlantic/etc, although the Americans/Russians can reduce that threat. But the UK can also be a very effective multipler to the US/R against Germany and start a buffer effect. An example of this would be a full landing on W. Europe, followed by US and Russian reinforcements.
•Japan has potential initiative over the US and possibly Russia, depending on the presence/absence of US units. Japan can also be a multipler for Germany against the UK. But Japan can be very vulnerable to a combined US-R-UK move.

•Finally the US has initiative over Germany, which can be furthered with the UK but reduced by Japan. The US can also both support the UK and Russia against Japan and also support Russia against Germany.
•The end result is that in any game situation where the Allies have the 3 powers into play can result into 2 of them acting as multipliers allowing the 3rd to increase its initiative over both Germany and Japan. And, if well played, Russia can turn into the most dangerous of the Allies since it can hold the initiative over both Germany and Japan, if the US and the UK can cover it from any Japanese or German moves.

However, while this chart can be useful to have a general idea of how the alliances can work, it will not represent the reality of an actual AAC/AAR/AA42 game, except for the limited situations where units from the 5 powers will be present (the defense of Russia, for instance). Instead, an actual game will be a dynamic mixture of smaller scale situations, depending on the geographic area and the presence/absence of each country.

As an example, the starting situation in Africa only involves Germany vs UK, a simple duel where the 1st power has initiative. If the US/Japan also bring units to Africa then it will change into a ‘2v1’ and it will continue to change as units are brought over and/or removed.

Besides the 1v1 there will be several situations where both sides will be balanced in numbers. There are 2 main types of balanced schemes, the ‘1v1v1v1’ and the ‘2v2’, with the main difference being the potential ‘buffer effect’ present on the 2v2 scenario.

For instance, if on a ‘1v1v1v1’ the US or Russia are absent there won’t be a predominant country, but each will have initiative over the next opponent and be a multiplier to its partner against the other enemy.

to/vs Russia Germany UK Japan
Russia I M (J)
Germany I M (R)
UK M (G) I
Japan I M (UK)

But in a ‘2v2’ with the UK is absent then the situation will be a double buffer effect: Germany can be a major multipler to Japan against the US/Russia but its own initiative will depend on the action of both Allied powers; and while the Americans can multiply’s Russia’s initiative over the 2 Axis countries their own initiative can be reduced by the combined action of Germany and Japan. In short, without the UK, the US is Russia’s can opener while Germany is Japan.

to/vs Russia Germany Japan US
Russia I
Germany M (US/R)
Japan I
US M (G/J)

AA50 and AAG40 also allow for the possibility for a potential ‘3v3’ situations but those are rare to see in practice. Regardless of the number of countries on any game the starting major powers will have better initiative, force multiplying effects and acessability to geographical areas than minor ones. Thus a situation like the ‘6v3’ of AAG40 or the ‘4v3’ of AA50 will devolve into a series of balanced (‘1v1’, ‘1v1v1v1’, ‘2v2’) and unbalanced contests (‘2v1’, ‘3v2’).

Potential vs Real Initiative

The side who has the ability to use more countries in a game theatre/area will usually have the edge on potential initiative. The more countries/buffers the major side has the more the multiplying effect can be amplified against any enemy power. For instance, in AA50, on the 1941 scenario Germany starts by playing right before Russia and has potential initiative over it, which can be increased by Japan and Italy opening holes on Russian defensive lines for German armor to bust through or reinforce any German territorial gains.
The UK/US can reduce this effect but only if they have forces capable of doing so on the European theatre. And since Germany can also have initiative over the UK because of the Italians can act as multiplier against the British, this might further limit the Allies’ options to help Russia by reducing the German initiative.
As mentioned, another crucial element in to achieve real initiative is the presence of forces capable of reaching and achieving the necessary objectives. As an example, if both Germany and Japan’s airforces are based on Western Europe on AAR/AA42 it will change the naval dynamics of the Atlantic sea zones bordering Europe. It will transform a ‘2v1’ situation (UK/US against Germany) into a ‘1v1v1v1’, where the naval initiative where all powers can be modifiers and hold initiative over 1 opponent. But now the UK and US will have lost part of their their ability to protect themselves from Axis air attacks.
However, the Axis won’t be able to fully use this naval striking ability unless both Germany and Japan’s airforces are powerful enough to force the Allied fleet to respond to them. The final factor in achieving real initiative is then lethality, or the ability to inflict sufficient force to damage/destroy the intended objective.

Reducing Complexity

To summarize some points before, the 4 main factors that have a direct influence on initiative/multipliers are:
•Turn Order
•Number of Countries Involved
•Force Presence
•Lethality

Larger A&A games, such as AA50/AAE40/AAG40, also possess other game features that influence potential initiative, such as specific political game rules that limit deployment outside certain areas (like China) or delay the entry of the country into the war, effectively limiting its initiative towards future enemies. And the size of their maps combined with the initial deployment are also limiting factors. As mentioned before it is possible to have German units on the Pacific during an AA50 or AAG40 game but it is a rare situation.

But regardless of the number of countries on any game, the key is to identify the dynamics behind any game situation and recognize the potential initiative and force multiplier abilities of each coalition on a certain area, with teamwork focusing on maximizing your overall side’s initiative while reducing the enemy’s own. In conclusion, whenever a side succeeds in fulfilling its initiative potential through teamwork it can exert more influence or even control the flow of the game.

Practical Tips

•In an area where units from several countries can intervene, the side with the more countries will have a bigger initiative.
•In situations where a single country is facing a number of enemies, the most dangerous may not be the one who plays immediately but all the others, specially the one playing right before the single country, i.e., ANZAC to Japan on AAP40.
•Initiative depends on the lethality of each country/side on that area. In the previous example while the US/China/UK create opportunities against Japan, Australia/ANZAC may not have sufficient force to exploit its intiative.
•Buffer effects (same side playing 2 or more nations one right after the other) can be exploited to multiply the 2nd/3rd/etc. country’s initiative.
•initiative can be used to perform follow up attacks or reinforcing key territories/SZs and preventing enemy counter attacks, in order to remove their own initiative. Retreats can also be used to reduce enemy initiative and/or protect a power’s forces in the area from destruction.
•Eliminating all forces of 1 country from a specific area can have completely remove the potential teamwork initiative for the other side on that area. As an example, the Allies removing all German forces from the Med/Africa, leaving the Japanese/Italians fighting alone.
•Since combat can be either for possession/control of a territory or SZ, initiative can also be divided between ground and naval initiative. Land, air and naval units can contribute to ground initiative (the latter through amphibious assaults) but only air or naval units can act on naval initiative.
•Fighters and bombers can be the best units to gain ground or naval initiative due to their range allowing then to quickly reach distant contested areas.
•Amphibious landings also help with naval initiative by establishing territories to act as airbases.
•In general armor, planes and ships are the best units to use while exploiting the initiative due to their extended range. Infantry is also crucial during amphibious assaults or used to reinforce critical areas just retaken.

 

Feedback from Bunnies P Wrath : A few practical examples would ease first-time readers’ understanding.

For all of the following, I am writing only in context of the Spring 1942 version.

For my own part, I don’t understand exactly what you’re getting at. It seems to me that you’re assuming the readers already have a firm grasp of how to apply force multipliers and initiative, and that you wish to initiate discussion of the unexplained theoretical principles that must be understood to make fully sense of your article – as well as, of course, the practical application of it all.

So what ARE these necessary theoretical principles? Well, I’m just gonna throw a few words together.

1. Defense is more cost efficient than offense.

In other words, suppose you have UK (which goes after Germany) attack a German territory, kill all the German defenders, and take control of or liberate the territory. On the attack, the attacker will have had to bring superior numbers of more *expensive* units. For example, using 2 UK infantry to attack 2 German infantry will probably mean a loss (6 IPCs attacking 6 IPCs), but 2 UK fighters and 2 infantry attacking 2 German infantry will probably mean a win (16 IPCs attacking 6 IPCs).

Very well, the UK paid the price of having to attack with more IPCs worth of units than defenders, to make for a cost-efficient attack.

Now, US and USSR can move in infantry. That territory will now have the “defender’s advantage” of cheap defensive units.

2. It is my opinion that force multipliers should never be considered abstractly. Hobbes acknowledges this in his quote

 “. . . can be useful to have a general idea of how the alliances can work, it will not represent the reality of an actual AAC/AAR/AA42 game, . . . an actual game will be a dynamic mixture of smaller scale situations, but I think it’s worth especial note.”

In other words, in most situations, I’m not going to be thinking “I have units from three nations in that region! With this mystical Triforce, I will SURELY defeat Gannondorf!” (Zelda reference). Instead, I’ll be thinking “I have Russian units of 15 infantry, 2 tanks, and 2 fighters, UK units of 6 infantry, 2 tanks, and 4 fighters, and US units of 2 infantry, 2 tanks, and 2 fighters and 1 bomber to work with in that area. Germany has 1 infantry in Karelia, 1 infantry in Belorussia, and 20 infantry and 1 artillery at Ukraine, with 2 infantry, 10 tanks, and 2 fighters at Eastern Europe, 3 bombers and 2 fighters at Western Europe.” It’s the numbers of units that I’ll be thinking about more than the numbers of national powers represented in the area.

This is why I object to the term “force multiplier”, since it seems to indicate one side’s forces will have some multiplicative effect by virtue of allied forces being in the area. I’d say the practical application of using turn order to best advantage is less a “multiplicative” effect than it is a “manipulative” effect. Namely, the attacking power of any one nation is not increased in an area in which multiple allied powers are present; rather, the presence of multiple powers and appropriate action in turn results in the attacking power of one nation being able to be bolstered by cost-efficient defensive reinforcements from its allies.

3. Now I’ll address the application of turn order with what I’ll call the “Can Opener”.

Plenty of players have discovered this on their own; I simply call this “can opener” after a principle outlined in a paper by the now-dissolved Caspian Sub Yahoo group. What I refer to with this is one nation’s attacking a territory to help its partner, whether to clear a path for that partner’s next turn, or to weaken that territory for its partner to claim.

To illustrate the idea of weakening a territory for a partner to claim, suppose Japan has a large force at Novosibirsk (adjacent to Moscow), but does not quite have the numbers or strength to make an attack on Moscow favorable. Now suppose that Germany has a large force at Archangel (adjacent to Moscow), but also does not find an attack on Moscow favorable. Germany might choose to attack Moscow anyways, just to weaken it. In so doing, Germany could choose to trade 20 infantry and 20 tanks for a mere 25 infantry – normally, this sort of trade would be a disaster for Germany. But if UK isn’t in a position to reinforce Moscow enough, Japan will probably be able to take Moscow on its turn, and those 25 lost Allied infantry could change the odds of success for Japan’s attack from 10% to 95%. Again, the key is that the German attack would be a bad idea if Japan were out of the picture, but with Japan in the picture, the move is a good one – so it’s a “can opener”.

To illustrate the idea of clearing a path for a partner – by the way, this is useful against careless players, or even careful players because it forces them to consider additional attacking possibilities they need defend against – suppose, for example, that Germany has three subs at sea zone 7 (west of Western Europe), and three bombers on Western Europe, and that UK has a destroyer at sea zone 8 (southwest of London), and UK forces of two carriers, four fighters, and four transports at sea zone 2 (northwest of London). Germany would like to hit the UK fleet with its subs and bombers, but the UK destroyer at sea zone 8 blocks the German subs in sea zone 7 from reaching sea zone 2. Suppose, though, that Japan has a bomber at Western Europe, and that the U.S. and Russia have no naval forces in the Atlantic. (This sort of thing may well happen in a KJF, or Kill Japan First plan). In such a case, Japan could attack the UK destroyer with its bomber; if the Japan attack succeeds, Germany would be free to potentially annihilate the UK fleet on the German turn, before UK got to go.

To illustrate the idea of how a “can opener” can be inefficient because of turn order, suppose it’s Japan’s turn, and that Germany has 8 tanks and 2 fighters on Eastern Europe, 3 bombers and 2 fighters on Western Europe, and Russia has 4 infantry, 2 tanks, and 2 fighters on West Russia, with one Russian infantry on each of Karelia, Belorussia, and Ukraine, with 4 Russian infantry at Russia and 2 Russian infantry at Caucasus. Germany would love to hit the West Russia stack with its tanks and air, wiping out Russia’s offensive capability, and forcing Russia to retreat to Moscow to stop the tanks from grabbing Moscow next turn. All that stands in Germany’s way of crushing the Russians is 1 Russian infantry, whether at Karelia, Belorussia, or Ukraine. Suppose now that Japan has a bomber and couple of fighters in the area. Even if they clear, say, Ukraine, Russia goes after Japan, and before Germany, so all Russia has to do is move one infantry into Ukraine to stop the Germans from wiping out West Russia.

A lot of Spring 1942’s play comes from the choices each player takes on his or her first turn, before other players have gone, in turn. (This is part of why I like the game so much). Some actions that a player may take may be considered “preemptive can openers”, although I don’t like the way that sounds (usually nothing’s being “opened”). I suppose a more accurate description of the following Russian-attack-on-Norway would be “good teamwork”.

For example, the Russian player may choose to attack Norway with maximum force on R1. This means the Russian fighter starting in Moscow must land in Karelia (if it survives), and inevitably be destroyed. The Russian tank sent to Norway is almost always destroyed as well, by immediate German assault on G1 via the German transport in the Baltic.

If Russia manages to claim Norway (requiring at least one tank surviving), Russia’s loss of a fighter and probable loss of a tank are offset by Germany not having the Norway fighter available to attack the UK battleship with, and losing Norway as a landing spot for its bomber. These factors combine to mean the UK battleship will probably survive G1.

One G1 attack worth considering is German bomber, Norway fighter, and submarine from sea zone 8 attacking the UK battleship and transport. With the Norway fighter, the attack favors Germany surviving with at least its bomber 95% of the time. Losing the fighter cuts the odds to 53% or so. Losing the fighter and the bomber from the attack (the bomber needs to land in Norway) cuts the odds to, well, pretty awful.

UK can then threaten a UK1 move of battleship and transport to attack Norway (assuming the Germans took it back), building 2 aircraft carriers for a defensive fleet of battleship and two loaded carriers (2 UK fighters and 2 US fighters). Or, considering that Norway can’t be used

Even if Germany reclaims Norway, it can’t land air there, which means the UK can produce navy at sea zone 2 (northwest of London), only having to worry about 2-3 German subs and the German bomber, leaving the UK free to build 3 transports 3 infantry for a UK2/US2 landing at Algeria (Africa).

Personal note I consider the Russian Norway attack to be at least moderately risky even if successful; fighters are very expensive (so I usually consider infantry a better buy for Russia), and Germany can push hard and early, making that loss of 3 infantry really hurt. There is also the 21% “failure” rate of the Russian attack mission on Norway; 9% of the time leaving at least the German fighter surviving (having lost 2 Russian fighters and a Russian tank for nothing, and early retreat still loses a Russian fighter and a tank to a German attack in Karelia); 3% of the time everything dying (losing BOTH Russian fighters and allowing German air to land on Norway at end of G1, again with retreat being costly), 9% of the time leaving a single Russian unit surviving (if choosing to lose its second Russian fighter, Russia’s handicapped to trade territory; if choosing to lose its tank, Russia doesn’t take Norway and leaves the UK battleship/transport open to attack, which was the opposite of what was attempted with the whole costly attack in the first place; I consider either to be effective ‘failure’).

The Balance of Sportsmanship and Competition

The Balance of Sportsmanship and Competition (Among Axis and Allies Players)

Written by “Young_Grasshopper” at Axis and Allies.org forums, compiled and edited by Rorschach of I Will Never Grow Up Gaming

What does it mean to play fair in Axis and Allies?

In a game like A&A 1940 Global which has hundreds of units, a vast complexity of rules, an order of sequences that must be obeyed, and a guaranteed slew of errors from everyone, can sportsmanship and competitiveness share the same stage?

In the past when discussing sportsmanship on these forums, the phrase “it’s only a game” comes up quite often. Well of course it’s only a game; which begs the question, what is the socially acceptable level of competitive behavior allowed if it’s just a game?

OK, enough with the questions, we all agree that the most important thing is to have fun and to contribute in the fun of others, but it helps to have unwritten rules to ensure fun and remain competitive. I’m going to go with the assumption that the players at my table and yours are not cheating scoundrels; you know the kind.  The players that take extra money, lie about dice rolls you can’t quite see, or place extra units on the table when you’re not looking. That said, if you catch a cheater red handed and he meant to cheat, teach him a lesson and never play against or with that person again.

Human Error

In our games we have unwritten rules about what errors are forgivable, and what is irreversible. Using the example of 1940 Global throughout this article, the rule book states that all players must look for and point out convoy disruptions even if it is against you. That is quite the precedent in a game like this don’t you think?  It means that if my opponent has an opportunity to convoy me and he doesn’t see it, the rules demand that I make my opponent aware of his chance to harm my war effort.  Now I know what you’re all thinking; that I am some kind of hard case and a jerk to play against. On the contrary, I just think that the rule is interesting.

In our games we forgive almost everything.  For example;

  • If you have begun your combat movement phase, but forgot to purchase new units first, you may do so.
  • If you have collected your income but wanted to make another non-combat movement, you may do so.
  • If other players have completed their turns after you, and you had forgotten to place your units or collect your income, you may do so.
  • If you forgot your nations entire turn, you may do it!

We even help figure out the game conditions at the time of the missed actions. Imagine it’s Japan’s player turn and they reach for their money, but quickly realize that they forgot to collect their income last turn. Well, we all do our best to calculate the income that player should have received before the tracker changed after a full round, and that’s what they can use to begin their purchase new units phase. I remember a Japanese invasion of Sydney where I scrambled 3 air units, and when it was all said and done, I managed to hold the ANZAC capital with one unit. After a few rounds went by, I noticed that there was only a naval base on Sydney, and no air base making my scramble move illegal! What a head ache! Should I tell him and declare the game broken or should I just play coy and pretend I didn’t know? Well of course I did the right thing and told him.  And I know all my opponents would do the same. Never the less, it was embarrassing, but we back tracked and saved the game (after a re-do, I still managed to save Sydney, but I was prepared for the worst, and ready to accept it).

All these type of errors and miscues are pretty standard and forgiven in all friendly games, however, in our games once the dice are thrown in the resolve combat phase, you may not purchase new units, you may not roll research dice, you may not walk into an empty hostile territory or declare any other attack for that matter, you may not pass go, and you may not collect $200 dollars.

In fact most recently we have even spotted a loop hole in our system that caused a bit of a stir our last game; During America’s combat movement phase which saw them move units into the Philippines for an amphibious landing, the Japanese player said “OK lets go… this is an amphibious landing so we do that before general combat”. His teammate, who was playing Germany, blurted out “wait… you have Kamikaze units available and that’s a kamikaze zone”. The Japanese player says “OK, I’m putting three on each of those aircraft carriers” and he began to roll his dice hitting both of them. The American player who didn’t say anything until this point says”what the hell are you guys doing? I’m not even finished my combat movement phase and your rolling dice, who told you to do that?” at which point he began to pull back his units to reevaluate his attack. This was a fortunate, yet simultaneously unfortunate situation. Unfortunate for the Axis who would have crippled the American fleet if not for the premature outburst. What they should have waited for was some kind of confirmation that one phase had ended, and another begun. Fortunate for the Americans who obviously didn’t see the kamikaze attack capabilities before his opponent explained it, which allowed him to avoid the certain doom of his loaded aircraft carriers, not to mention the loaded transports that would have been sunk by the scramble threat. We learned from this lesson that even if the American player verbally declared his combat movement phase over, the first act would be to launch Kamikaze units due to the mandatory amphibious assaults before general combat rule. At that time the American player could argue that he has not yet rolled any dice which is how our house rule is understood, and could therefore retreat to rethink his strategy based on this new information.

I know that some of you may say “what’s the big deal if he didn’t see the attack option, just let him take it back to rethink his move, it’s only a game”, but our club doesn’t play like that. Our collective perception is that the Japanese player saw an opportunity to strengthen his war effort using rules within the game, and we congratulate that move. We don’t punish him for seeing something his opponent didn’t. The American player knows that he dodged a bullet, because if the roles were reversed, he would have wanted to be rewarded for his savvy awareness as well. The rules don’t state that all players must look for and point out Kamikaze opportunities, even if they are your enemy sailing blindly toward your kamikazes (faint pictures on the board are not an excuse with our group, because my custom game board has enhanced symbols for easy visibility). Never the less, our group has adopted a new system, instead of a hard line of “when dice are rolled”, each nation will get a combat card (solid red) which will be placed anywhere on the game board so players can formally indicate when their combat movement phase has ended, and when their resolve combat phase has begun. Once it hits the table, all is fair in war and there is no going back.

Dealing with Discrepancies

There are other areas of discrepancy in games of A&A Global 1940, such as scrambling orders. In the example above the attacker had a momentary lapse of awareness, but it can go the other way as well. If a defender finishes a sea battle during an amphibious assault, but realizes before the land battle that they had 2 fighters on an air base that they could have scrambled they can’t now say “I want a redo… I didn’t see the option, and I wasn’t given scrambling orders”.  The rules don’t say that it’s the responsibility of the attacker to point out scramble opportunities that will ultimately harm their war effort.

I fully understand that their are groups out there who are dealing with a significant gap of skill and experience between players, or don’t wish to see a game in it’s infancy become greatly unbalanced due to game changing mistakes. There are friendly games out there between father and son, or between good friends that make long trips to play each other, and don’t want to see a game end from such trivial details. I totally get your social logic behind the phrase “it’s only a game”, but this article is not for you, it’s for those who wish to play a competitive friendly game where their strategic genius (or their opponents lack of attention) is recognized without losing all their friends.

Learning from your Mistakes

I don’t know about you guys, but when I was in chess club nobody ever said to me “don’t move your queen in that position, because my bishop can take it”, instead, they were licking their chops while they watched in slow motion as my fingers released the prized token. That said, I learned from mistakes that I’m not allowed to take back and I’m privileged to play with a group that is of the same school of thought.  Although we are strict about 10% of the game mechanics, we are very forgiving when it comes to the other 90%, and we are not monsters, when new players game with us we give them all the rope in the world. However, when the veterans meet and a mistake is made, when all those involved know that it’s irreversible, and it’s clear that one has out witted the other then there is no argument.  What’s done is done.

A Balancing Act with FUN as the pivotal point

In such a complex game of strategy that can take as long as 14 hours to play, mistakes become as tangible as the plastic pieces in your hand, and in our games if one of those mistakes fall within the unforgivable 10% category it could be game over. That’s how our wars are waged but our games couldn’t function without basic decency and respect.

We all know the type; jerks who are incapable of fun because all they see is the importance of winning. If the balance between sportsmanship and competitiveness was a see-saw, than the center pivot point would be “fun”. There are some people that can suck the fun out of a room by bullying others when they say “I’m losing because you haven’t helped me with reinforcements” or “If you did what I told you to do, we would be winning by now”. Or how about those immature players who throw their dice across the room swearing because they rolled a few sixes. This kind of behavior has no place in friendly table top games, and say what you will about our club’s hang ups and strict house rules, none of us treat each other like that. I’m sure players who can’t conform to having fun in a social environment because they are so consumed with the goal of winning have migrated to forum play due to their alienation of fellow table top players. However, like minded people have an uncanny way of finding one another, and those are the games you hear about when boards gets flipped.

Conclusion

It’s safe to say there has been, and always will be, a difference of opinion on what is considered “socially acceptable competitive behavior” when playing Axis and Allies (or any tabletop game for that matter). Sure our group hears the odd outburst of “In your face France!” or the soft praying chants “miss, miss, miss, miss, miss”, but if it’s all done with good intentions, a bit of humour and that all important ingredient called fun, than I believe sportsmanship and competitiveness can function harmoniously when playing this great game among friends.

Axis and Allies : The Joy of Combat

The Joy of Combat

 

Written by “Make_it_Round” on 14-09-2010 at Axis and Allies.org forums,  edited and compiled by Rorschach at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming

In my two previous articles on the conduct combat phase, I covered (1) how to make sound casualty choices, and (2) how to avoid making bad casualty choices. Today, I want to discuss something completely different: how to engage with Axis & Allies as a game in the fullest way possible. It believe that it is within the conduct combat phase that the greatest dramatic potential of the game is unleashed, in the pathos and the joy of combat, and that realizing and celebrating this fact can help us get more out of our games.

Let’s Get Physical (& Social)

The dice-rolling part of the game in the conduct combat phase is a welcome relief from the intellectually challenging task of strategizing. Here, players can truly relax and just have simple-minded fun. After all, the only real physical action in the game is dice-rolling (and, I suppose, piece-moving), so it’s unique in an important regard. In fact, the majority of players I game with prefer to stand to roll their dice, or even to passively watch others roll. When the ‘action’ starts, everybody stands, even though no one is under any obligation to do so by the game’s rules.

In this way, combat is also an ideal icebreaker, whether you’re meeting for the first time or the hundred-and-first. Combat gives players reason to stand around and talk to each other, whether to share their assessments of the current situation, or just engage in smack-talk aimed towards enervating each other. However, as all players presumably have a common interest in the game, they are often well-disposed to be friendly to each other, and to express mutual appreciation of ‘good rolls’ and moves well made.

Johnny Drama

Partly they do this so that all players can see the roll results, but partly it’s because combat represents that magical moment when the fate of your units and/or your enemy’s units are sealed. This invests rolling the bones with a dramatic quality which is quite apart from the drama of building or moving units. The drama of pushing a big stack of your units into a big stack of enemy units is really just anticipatory of the resultant imminent combat phase. It is, for all intents and purposes, a potent in-game ritual, replete with its own punishments and rewards. And the reactions of the players to the results of their rolls directly reflects that underlying dramatic potential. As I’ve said before, one of the things that makes A&A special–as opposed to other strategy games such as chess, for example–is that you’ll see grown men hopping around on one foot swearing after a bad roll, or screaming and pumping their fist after a good. That’s a lot of fun to do, and a lot of fun to watch.

Additionally, there are the pleasures of handling the dice themselves, as dramatic props. Lots of energy goes into the style and physical force of the throws: they can (indirectly) reflect both the players’ character and state of mind. Sometimes players feel the ‘heat of battle’ during the conduct combat phase, and in some part this relies on the manner in which the props are handled: the clatter and boom of the dice as they are rolled and thrown can simulate, to some extent, the rattle of the machine gun and the roar of the cannon. The sounds are simple, immediate, dramatic, noisy. And not altogether unpleasant.

Risk Management

Combat in the game is essentially resolved randomly (albeit constrained by probability), so there will always be surprising battles where things go better or worse than expected. You might see some games where battles are won or lost by a statistical ‘fluke’; and some people may get upset by this. Here’s where you have to either (i) swallow the surprising result and assume that things will even themselves out in the course of the game, or (ii) choose another game whose outcome doesn’t rely on chance (see chess). In A&A, there will on rare occasions be high pay-outs for improbable, daring moves, and heavy punishments for relying on what looked like it should have been an overpowering weight in numbers. I suspect, however, that removing this element of triangularity in the game’s risk management decisions, by removing the dice from the combat system, would destroy a lot of the fun and challenge inherent to the game. Psychologically, people want the possibility of a huge disaster occurring so that they can be relieved when it doesn’t, and they want the possibility of an unlikely win so that they can cling on to the hope of a reversal when everything is looking dim.

“I Never Hit With This Battleship!”

Generally, the value of a hit is determined by the cheapest unit (in terms of IPCs) that the opponent can be forced to destroy in response to it. The lowest value is 3 IPCs for land battles, and 6 IPCs for sea battles, but you can improve this by choosing your targets wisely during the combat movement phase. However, this value is modified by the type of unit you’re attacking with. A destroyer, for example, hits 1/3 of the time, and the cheapest possible target, a sub, costs 6 IPCs. This means that the minimum IPC value for a destroyer shot is 1/3 x 6 IPCs, or 2 IPCs per salvo. Thus, theoretically, a destroyer would have to get a chance to fire 4 times in order to ‘break even’ with the amount its purchaser paid for it. (In practice, it would actually need to take down an enemy destroyer to do this; the four theoretical salvoes might be fruitless in actuality.)

Taken in these terms, the expected value of a bomber or a battleship getting a hit in combat is 2/3 x 6, or 4 IPCs per salvo. However, the perceived value of the same is much higher, because these are the most powerful units in the game, the units with the greatest possible chance of hitting: with these units you are almost certain of a hit. This is why some players may get upset or feel let down when these units are seen to under-perform, i.e. when they don’t get the hits that players think they should. It is always conspicuous when the best units miss: it is a source of glee when your enemy’s battleship misses you, and a source of outrage when your own battleship misses. In thereby noticing how much you rely on the ‘performance’ of your units (something that is ultimately out of your control), you as a player betray a deeper level of engagement with the game.

Tell Me A Story

To recap: It is in combat that the maximum level of identification with one’s pieces takes place, because it is only in these circumstances wherein they are directly threatened, and wherein they can be individuated, via their good or poor combat performances, from all of their nameless doppelgangers which populate the main board. A lot of pleasure can be taken from this, as some people will keep their eye on ‘special’ units and mentally track their histories in subsequent moves and battles. Thus combat also serves as a story-producing machine, producing sub-plots within the grand narrative of the greater strategic game. Take for example the games of Gargantua, who plays by forum on this website. He uses multiple media (typically old photos and movies) in his posts to convey his impression of each individual battle (or at least the major ones); to illustrate the alternate history that he and his opponent are co-creating. Without this dramatic identification with one’s pieces, a lot of richness would be missing from the game, as the story would be ‘flat’ without characters (individual units), and ‘shallow’ without emotional content (concern about their combat performance).

A Most Palpable Hit

In battles where I have very bad luck, which is a rare occurrence, the only thing that can save me is if my opponent also has very bad luck, which is also rare (this is why battles rarely ever exceed three salvoes–because at least one player in the combat will have an at least average hit rate and will cause casualties to the other’s forces). If I never hit my opponent, it doesn’t really matter how often she hits me–whether her rate of successful hits is good or merely normal–all that matters is she is sometimes capable of doing it… and eventually, if I keep missing, I will be defeated.

So causing casualties, or ‘getting hits’, is the main purpose of units. Although by merely existing some units may take over territories, which yield more IPCs, which in turn yield more units, what their main job is–what they’ll be doing most often–is attempting to kill enemy units. If my units don’t do that, then I’ve wasted my money in purchasing them, just as I’ve ‘wasted’ my money buying a lottery ticket if I don’t win the lottery (although it would be impossible to win the lottery without doing just that). However, if I have merely normal luck, while my opponent has good luck, it may warp the predicted results slightly, but still shouldn’t affect me that poorly, as I’ll still be causing my share of enemy casualties. Thus the enemy’s good luck is not the killer–it only makes a difference, and a slight one at that, when you have merely normal luck–because if you’re unlucky then you’re indifferent as to whether the enemy has good or normal luck; and if both players are really lucky then it’s a fair fight. It is only your own bad luck which can truly sink you: and this will only happen, in all probability, in only a minority of cases. Now when you’re ahead, your bad luck is actually good for the game: it keeps the opponent hoping for a reversal, and indeed makes this a bit more likely; it produces good tension and balance in the game (by degrading your dominant position in it). When you’re behind, as well, your bad luck still good for the game: it sweeps away the last pretense that you had any chance of winning, and mercifully speeds your inevitable end, so that you can finish the game and move on to a less punishing pursuit. It is only when the game is relatively balanced that bad luck is at its most execrable, as it is seen to have had a determining effect on the remainder of the game. With these facts in mind, hopefully you will find it (generally) easier to enjoy combat, even when you’re on the receiving end of some particularly poignant bad luck.

Feedback

Conduct Combat is the phase wherein the most visible progress occurs: you can see how many units you and your enemy have left on the battle board, as well as how many have already been removed, and you can see at the end of battle whether or not any territory changes hands. The feedback is immediate and obvious, which is very satisfying for the players. In a game which otherwise consists of alternating repetitions–my turn / enemy turn / my turn, and strategy / combat / strategy–visible progress is a very important feature of the player’s experience. There is a lot to be said from the joy of getting good feedback (indeed, it’s my vain hope that this article might generate some… please post your responses below!).

Conclusion

When playing Axis & Allies, it’s important to ask yourself: “What is my aim?” Is it destroying the largest possible number of enemy units? Taking as many enemy territories as you can? Maximizing your income? Building the perfect army?

Perhaps you said ‘yes’ to one or more of the above, or perhaps none. Although I’ve made certain aims salient, these and others can all be subsumed under a greater ‘meta-aim’. This is because, like any game, there will be those who play A&A simply “To have fun.” And for the players who take this as their main goal, no phase is as enjoyable as the conduct combat phase. They simply like ‘the fight’ on its own merits.

And while many of those sub-aims listed above may be fun to achieve in and of themselves, most players do not consciously pursue these in isolation. Nevertheless, each of these aims is important, and are connected with “Winning” (another meta-aim candidate). More importantly, none of them are ultimately possible without success in the Conduct Combat phase. The stakes in combat are therefore high, tension inevitably results, and when it is resolved in our favour we’re ecstatic (or at least mildly pleased with ourselves).

In brief: Winning is fun, and we need to succeed in combat to win. Since combat is an instrumentally ineliminable and intrinsically rewarding part of the game, we should learn to appreciate and enjoy its nuances, rituals, and pageantry. We should learn to develop The Joy of Combat.

Axis and Allies : The Psychology of the Conduct Combat Phase

The Psychology of the Conduct Combat Phase

   

 

Written by “Make_it_Round” at Axis and Allies.org, edited and compiled by Rorschach at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming

A Game of Two Modes

In the last article, I contended that Axis & Allies is best understood intellectually as a game of six phases. Psychologically, however, I believe that this is not the way we actually see the game. From the player’s point of view, Axis & Allies is psychologically much simpler: it is a game of two modes. The most carefully-analysed mode, the ‘Grand Strategic’, occupies phases #1, 2, 4, 5, and 6. The less-considered mode, the ‘Tactical’, occupies only phase #3 ‘Conduct Combat’ and it is how to avoid the nuanced pitfalls of this mode that I will be examining once again today.

As previously discussed, some players see very little interest or challenge in this mode; indeed, they consider the choices that need to be made here to be self-evident to the point of being automatic; and thus of no more real significance than phase #6 [Collect Income], which is a simple function, requiring no decisions on the part of the active player. Phase #6 typically doesn’t register as an exceptionally important one, except that players have their eyes on capturing certain territories due to their projected IPC payoffs, which they cannot receive until the end of this phase. In other words, the central importance of Collect Income is a psychological one: players get the reward of handling their play money, and daydream about what they’ll buy with it next turn. [This may be part of the reason that some fans complained so vociferously when paper IPCs were conspicuously absent in the recent 1940 games.]

I’ve also mentioned a popular, persistently fatalistic conception of the tactical mode, i.e.: The dice speak, and that’s an end on it; players have no real agency here. This psychology of futility can, I contend, have a very negative effect on one’s level of play. One effectively surrenders one’s ability to make meaningful choices during combat, and so misses chances to optimize their in-game decisions. In this article I will show that games can be won or lost via such choices, and that understanding the psychology of combat can make a difference to recognizing and acting on those moments where good judgement is required. Just as a general might die in battle because his horse trips, because its shoe is loose, because the blacksmith couldn’t fix it, because horseshoe nails weren’t delivered to the battlefield on time, so too can a power lose its capital, because the stalling battle in the adjacent territory was unsuccessful, because there weren’t enough units holding it, because some were squandered due to previous bad casualty selections, which were due to psychological effects inherent to the tactical mode (and not having read this article in time to counter them!).

Combat: A Sub-Game wherein Destruction is Made Possible

So what makes phase #3 constitute a mode of its own, psychologically speaking? Why is this terminology helpful? First, let us look at what happens during the Conduct Combat phase. Units from both sides are removed from various spaces within the grand strategic game, and spirited away to the battle board, to a sub-game where tactical decisions regarding choices of casualties are required (this shift happens theoretically even if the combat is simple enough to not physically line up units on the battle board). The effect is one of zooming in: what were previously anonymous constituents of the big picture take on a new significance; they become unique and important, because the current battle will be won or lost depending on their immediate efforts (represented as die rolls). Thus, units don’t just look differently in the smaller world of the battle board, they also behave differently: they have numbers lined up and attached to them, and their controller gets to roll dice for them. On the main board these units are frictionless, insubstantial icons gliding along the board; on the sub-board they become tangible: they can remove others units, and be removed themselves. Destruction, in other words, becomes possible on the battle board, in contrast with simply shifting pre-existing units around, and producing new ones. Without the tactical mode, there is no way to get units off of the board, and there is no way to win the game without this being accomplished (compare this to chess, wherein the rules for combat are elegantly–but less interestingly–contained within the rules for movement). The tactical mode is essentially a sub-game, and thus parasitic, but without its rules machinery the grand strategic mode could not function. The tactical mode is thus ineliminable, as well as being importantly distinct from the rest of the game in terms of rules and board (also referred to as a battle strip in the new games; a decidedly less evocative nomenclature). After the sub-game of combat is concluded, the survivors of this gladiatorial encounter are returned to the main board where they once again register as frictionless pawns in the strategic game, rather than as substantial heroes of the tactical game. We zoom out again, in other words, until the next battle.

Two interesting points arise from this analysis of the tactical mode: (1) we are confronted with the symbolic death of units under our control, and (2) we know that, once entered into, there is–barring trick dice-throwing and exercising good casualty selection principles (as discussed in the previous article)–almost nothing we can do that will affect the ultimate outcome of the battle. In other words, there is the possibility of an undesirable or negative outcome in any battle–weaker or stronger, depending on how sound our choice of attacks in the grand strategic mode was–and, typically, an accompanying feeling of helplessness about how it will proceed. This is why you’ll often see players really let themselves go and behave somewhat irrationally during this phase: some will pray their gods, while others will threaten the dice; some will speak in funny voices or take on personas, while others will employ odd physical techniques–particularly violent or exceptionally light throws, or standing on their tiptoes as they drop the dice from a great height–in order to feel as if they have some power over the results of their rolls. If everything that could have rationally been done has already been done, one might think that the only recourse left to them is irrational behaviour: indulging in these little rituals couldn’t hurt, right?

Wrong. They have the option to remain emotionally uninvolved. Not apathetic, but guarded; reserved. Although behaving in a wild way during combat might be cathartic (which is undoubtedly the reason that some players enjoy playing this family of games), indulging such whims can actually harm your chance of winning. How?

The Importance of a Good ‘Dice Face’

Just as a good ‘poker face’ in poker helps players conceal information from their opponents, and so make better plays, so too does a good ‘dice face’ in A&A keep important details from the other players. Contrary to this contention, one might think that the two games are disanalogous: after all, poker is a game where some parts of the game-state are hidden from all players, whereas every bit of information in (straight, out-of-the-box) A&A is publicly available to all players. This is mostly true: except for the fact that in A&A–as in chess–your overall strategy is private. Private, that is, until you reveal to the enemy how important (or unimportant) a certain battle, or even a certain piece in a certain battle, is–by letting it show via your reactions in the conduct combat phase. The manifest psychological phenomena of the tactical mode–I’m sure we’ve all witnessed our share of panic, delight, and despondency–can give away players’ intentions in the grand strategic mode, as surely as if their enemies had intercepted a series of critical coded transmissions. Of course, this is generally a worry only if you’re playing against someone of equal or greater skill, or someone close to you who knows you well enough to properly read your reactions (e.g.: “I know that he’s swearing at me because this battle is crucial for his plans, and not simply because this is the third ‘1’ in a row that I’ve rolled with my AA gun.”). Nevertheless, controlling your reactive feelings is still something to practice in games of lesser importance, if only for the chances to therein further improve your ‘dice face’ in anticipation of more important games in the future.

Once an appearance of overall inscrutability is mastered, you can move on to bluffing or double-bluffing your opponent, via counterfeited reactions of your own conscious design, into thinking they’ve won an important battle when they actually haven’t, or that they’ve lost an insignificant battle when in reality it is the crucial turning point of the whole game, if left unremedied. You should know, of course, that you yourself are susceptible to identical techniques of manipulation employed by other players, and be on your guard against them. If your opponent is unable to read your intentions, is unable to tell what areas and units are of subjective importance to you, the more likely they are to become nervous and confused, and thus make strategic errors of their own while off-balance. The details revealed–or concealed–in the microcosm of combat can thus have serious ramifications for strategic conduct in the macrocosm of the greater game.

“Carry-Over Down the Strategic Mode”

The phenomenon of emotional carry-over from the tactical to the strategic mode is another thing to be on guard against. Let’s say that a player has incredibly bad luck, and loses a battle that should’ve been a sure win: such a player is, prima facie, more likely to make worse moves than usual in the future–either overly cautious moves, using too much force to achieve his ends (because he wants to [over]compensate for the effects of predicted bad luck), or overly reckless, not using enough force (because, reckoning that all of his efforts are cursed, regardless of the logic of his strategic plans, he gets frustrated and throws all of his plans to chance without bothering to calculate the probabilities of success). This is partly due to our tendency to over-identify with the results of the dice rolls–we (wrongly) feel we are due both praise and blame when desired numbers come up, or fail to do so–and our tendency to put stock in observed patterns being stable and reliable (if three tanks were enough to take the objective last turn, for example, then they should be enough to take an identical objective this turn, probability be damned!). Once again, self-control and reason are the keys for overcoming these negative and/or misleading psychological cycles. One must remind oneself that each battle is, in a sense, artificially probabilistically isolated, and despite appearances, what subjectively looks like a ‘bad turn’ due to an unexpected failed attack or two might actually be–statistically speaking–better than what could be probabilistically expected upon closer examination, considering all engagements in total. Another trick for keeping one’s perspective healthy and choices effective is to zoom out every time one is asked to remove a casualty from the board and consider the likely strategic ramifications, e.g.: “Will I need that bomber on the attack next turn, or is it more important to have another tank in that territory on the defence?” This way, the psychology of loss doesn’t have a chance to get at you: you’re already thinking about your next scheme, and the fine details of your current predicament won’t seem as overwhelming.

Conclusion

I hope that this article has helped you to become aware of some of the psychological baggage that we can bring with us to the tactical mode, the pitfalls that can arise from blindly submitting to this, and a few techniques to outcome them and help keep your play tight. However, I am aware that not everyone enjoys playing A&A in a serious way; some want to play it to maximize the social fun that can be had, and are not primarily concerned with winning or playing their best game. This is the level many of us start playing the game at, and I still feel a great affinity for that breed of casual gamer. The last article in this trilogy on the ins and outs of the conduct combat phase will focus on the “The Joy of Combat”: how players can and do derive the more enjoyment from this phase of the game than any other.

Axis and Allies : The Four Main Principles of Combat Casualty Selection

The Four Main Principles of Combat Casualty Selection

 

Written by “Make_it_Round” at Axis and Allies.org, edited and compiled by Rorschach at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming

Today I’d like to discuss something that most Axis & Allies players take for granted: casualty choices made during the Conduct Combat phase. With combat–especially naval combat–approaching a new height of complexity, and with the recent explosion of new unit types and abilities, one’s choice of casualties is becoming more nuanced and complicated than ever before. Understanding the basic principles behind the various casualty choices that players can make will, I believe, help guide both novice players and experienced players who have come to rely on faulty doctrine toward tighter decisions in the combat phase.

The Six Phases

Generally, people think about Axis & Allies in terms of phases: the six phases that, taken together, encapsulate all the permissible actions that constitute the game. These phases vary slightly with each published version of the game, but the most recent iterations are: (1) Purchase & Repair Units, (2) Combat Move, (3) Conduct Combat, (4) Non-Combat Move, (5) Mobilize New Units, and (6) Collect Income. With the exception of #6, which is, for the active player, a simple mechanical calculation of accounts due, each of these phases is a potential repository of meaningful choices for the player. Since the game is played in accordance with these phases, the majority of which are important reflections of in-game choices we make, this is a natural and obvious way to conceptualize it.

Conduct Combat: A Sense of Futility?

There is occasionally a sense of helplessness, disaffection, or lack of interest demonstrated by some players during the Conduct Combat phase. This is quite natural in those instances wherein one is being attacked by a numerically superior force, and are eliminated in a single salvo [a complete round of the dice rolls of both players] without having a chance to make any meaningful decisions. This, of course, might occur quite a bit in the other player’s turns, as it is generally good practice to deny one’s opponent access to meaningful tactical (in-combat) choices, usually by stacking the odds overwhelmingly in your favor. Very few battles indeed exceed three salvoes, so the mere brevity of combat might discourage active intellectual engagement with the choices it generates. However, since both you and your opponent should always be asking yourselves the question “How many attacks can I initiate this turn without a serious risk of failing at one or more of them?”, there should be plenty of instances in either of your Conduct Combat phases wherein the odds are close enough for the potential for meaningful decisions to emerge. Even players who choose low-risk, low-reward strategies like dog-piling isolated enemy units may still find themselves occasionally surprised by the outcome of the dice rolls. The unpredictability of these rolls keeps both hope alive in the heart of the defender, and fear alive in the heart of the attacker: in other words, it is the element of chance inherent to this mode that makes the game exciting and emotionally involving for players. This is one reason that low-luck or no-luck Axis & Allies variants fail to arouse my serious interest: they prohibit unlikely outcomes that are dramatically satisfying to witness and play through. Though a dice-averse player should probably avoid Axis & Allies in the first place, she ought to take some comfort in the odds that bad luck experienced in one round will be balanced out by good luck in the next. You can lose many single battles without losing the war.

Exclusive Reliance on a Single Casualty Selection Principle: Replacability

Let’s say that you accept my point that the chance outcomes of the combat phase are actually good for the game. Let’s further assume that you don’t feel helpless in the conduct combat phase, or, if you do, that you realize that you can make your opponent feel equally helpless during your attack phase. Even with these caveats, you might think that the process of casualty selection is generally flat and boring, even if the dice results themselves are exciting. This is largely due to the fact that most players employ one main principle–and often only this one–to the selection of casualties in the conduct combat phase: “Where possible, the units with the highest IPC costs should be removed last”, or, equivalently, “The units with the lowest IPC costs should be removed first”. That’s it. Let’s call this the replacability principle, as the main or only consideration as to the order of casualties chosen is how expensive a unit will be to replace. But this calculation is not as simple to perform as it seems on the surface, and there are many instances wherein other considerations will supersede this principle.

While the replacability principle is easy to memorize, and works well enough most of the time (it is especially useful for teaching new players how to play the game well as it is, roughly 85% of the time, exactly the right way to proceed), it does have its faults. First, sorting units by their simple IPC value does not take into account many factors which may serve to effectively modify their value: location, for instance. A US battleship in SZ 10 is worth exactly 20 US IPCs, while a US battleship in SZ 6 is worth more. How much more is a matter open to debate, but I would approximate in excess of 26 US IPCs, because it directly threatens the opponent’s income (via interdiction), shapes their purchasing decisions, and impinges greatly on their potential movements. Thus, when choosing a destroyer or a fighter as a casualty, the calculation of replacability shouldn’t be as simple as “The destroyer is the cheaper unit, therefore the destroyer is the logical choice”, but also considerations about how troublesome it would be to get another destroyer that far out from your industrial complex. It may turn out that in terms of true replacability, it would be ‘cheaper’ to take the fighter off as a casualty and keep the destroyer in enemy territory hunting down their subs.

[As a side note, this is one factor which makes defending economically advantageous in the game: as your opponent approaches your factories, each of your units’ value increases dramatically in terms of their potential utility, because as soon as they are placed on the board they are put in the line of fire and thus get to roll their allotted dice; while your opponent must spend some valuable movement time to get their units into that position. In other words, your 8 IPC destroyer has a chance to immediately destroy your enemy’s positionally value-enhanced 14 IPC destroyer: while you can replace your destroyer in the same SZ next turn, it will take your opponent another three turns to build and move her destroyer back to the same SZ. On paper, you are both spending the same # of IPCs for the same value of units, but this is deceptive. Of course, if you’re this deep on the defensive, you’ve probably lost a good deal of territories, so this factor in and of itself can never, on its own, swing games against an attacker. The fact that infantry are cheaper than transports, tanks, and bombers might, however.]

Alternative #2: Pips Principle

A second casualty selection principle, the pips principle, considers the value of a unit to rest solely on the number of die pips it contributes to the battle at hand, regardless of whether it is a defensive or an offensive battle: “Take the units with the fewest pips off of the battle board first”. While this principle generally aims at maximizing enemy casualties, and thus at winning a particular battle (which, of course, ties in perfectly with the greater overall goal of winning the game), it also has some shortcomings. Taken in isolation, the pips principle would advocate taking the first hits off attacking aircraft carriers, because they contribute literally no pips to the battle. However, if aircraft carriers take hits, they cannot have planes land on them (at least not for a turn), which means that the defensive pips of the air units will be shaved off of future sea battles (and, of course, the planes might not even be able to land after a successful attack, if you’re in an empty sea zone or off of an enemy territory). The pip principle thus ignores the interrelatedness of present and future combats, as well as the replacability principle (although the two are usually in accord, due to the general, but not universal tendency of units with higher costs to have higher pip values). The destroyer / fighter choice scenario mentioned above also applies here, as a fighter has 3 pips on the attack as compared with the destroyer’s 2. Nevertheless, if you need a destroyer post-combat to clean up enemy subs, then reliance on the pip principle will lead you as far astray as simple reliance on the replacability principle: the fighter must go, number of pips be damned.

Alternative #3: Hardiness Principle

In combat wherein victory is immanent, but a counterattack in the same space is predictable, the hardiness principle comes into play. This principle takes for granted that the battle will be won by the current attacking units, and instead concentrates on selecting casualties based on how well these units will perform on a future defense. Instances of this include killing a bomber instead of an infantry on the last round of combat in order to better protect that space against the enemy. The hardiness principle can be seen as a future-oriented variation of the pips principle, but is importantly distinct because applying these two principles at the same time will offer differing casualty recommendations. In an attack against an enemy tank with a bomber and an infantry, the pips principle will always recommend taking out your bomber last–even if that means you don’t capture a territory you actually need, like a capital or victory city, or a national objective. Let’s say that in this sample battle you hit the enemy tank on the first salvo, and it hits back. At that point, the hardiness principle would recommend taking the bomber off instead of the infantry, because the infantry will do better in holding off potential counterattacks.

Alternative #4: Mobility Principle

Finally, there is a fourth main casualty selection principle: the mobility principle. If you’re fighting distant enemies, or enemies in many different surrounding territories or sea zones, you might find that it’s not the cost or the combat effectiveness which shapes the units you purchase and choose to conserve in combat, but those that are able to cover the most board spaces possible, and thus give you maximum flexibility in your potential initiatives and responses. Aircraft are generally the most versatile and mobile units from such a perspective, as they can strafe behind the lines on land, and have great reach at sea as well, especially with the aid of aircraft carriers and/or air bases. Sea units are typically second in terms of mobility, though occasionally they will outperform air units in terms of reach, especially if aided by a naval base. Take, for instance, a navy occupying SZ 33, surrounding the Caroline Islands naval base: if there are transports with land units available there, the victory cities of Honolulu, Sydney, Manila, Shanghai, and Tokyo can all be threatened simultaneously–a feat of mobility that most air units in the same position simply could not achieve due to their need to land in a previously-owned friendly territory.

We have seen, then, that there can different alternate principles of casualty selection in combat for every attribute a unit has: cost, movement, attack / defense values, and special abilities. Without getting into too detailed a series of explanations, if you require a unit’s ability to blitz, bombard, strategic bomb, torpedo attack, or even capability of taking over enemy territories, then it may be exempt from every principle of selection mentioned thus far. Even ‘fitting on available transportation’ might be considered a special ability in some instances. Consider a battle wherein you have two tanks and one infantry battling a small enemy force on land. If you receive a casualty, you might choose to destroy a tank over an infantry if there is a lone transport hovering in an adjacent sea zone and you have an amphibious assault planned for the next turn, because while an infantry can fit on that transport with a surviving tank, the other tank cannot.

My point is not that every principle is flawed or incomplete, but rather that by applying each of these principles in turn to particular combats, as filters, the chance of making a better choice of casualties is increased dramatically. Let us take some concrete examples of when various principles might be applied, and exceptions to these.

Special cases

Transports must be chosen last. Thus the only meaningful choice regarding these, and this will happen only rarely, is if you’re given the choice to sink loaded vs. unloaded, or differently-loaded transports (say, in a naval attack gone wrong where you can retreat 1 transport to safety and choose the other as a casualty). This is one of those relatively straightforward cases where it seems most plausible thing to do would be to choose on the basis of the cost and/or pip value of the loaded land units (excluding the tricky choices surrounding AA guns, which causes some wrinkles even in this choice).

Important territories (often) ought to be taken, and if possible held. If I am attacking Moscow as the German player with 3 infantry, 3 tanks, 3 fighters, and 3 bombers, then the replacability principle is out the window: nothing will need to be replaced if I win this battle, and thus–most probably–the entire game. I will probably employ the pips principle until I am certain of a win, and then turn to the hardiness principle. Even before I am certain of a win, however, I will take off fighters rather than tanks in all instances, even though they are more expensive, more mobile, and defend better. This is not only because tanks have the ‘can take over land territories’ ability, but also because fighters–known for their exceptional defense values–actually have ‘0’ hardiness where I need it, which is in defense of the capital city I am hoping to acquire. Indeed, in the ultimate, and perhaps even penultimate, salvoes I would start to remove any air units instead of infantry, in order to retain the largest possible land force on the ground.

Principles in Practice: Scenarios

Let’s look at a couple interesting scenarios now, to demonstrate how the casualty selection principles we’ve discussed can be used as filters for making good decisions in the tactical mode.

Scenario A:
Japan attacks Malaya by land with 2 tanks and 2 infantry, taking two casualties in the first salvo, and the battle is concluded in its favor. The Japanese player plans to move a nearby empty transport there during the non-combat movement phase, to ship the remaining units from Malaya for an amphibious assault on India next turn. In this case, due to the need to exert maximum force on a major objective, the special ability ‘fits on a transport with a tank’ (which contributes to ‘mobility’) outweighs ‘replacability’, ‘pips’, and ‘hardiness’. So the casualties should be 1 tank and 1 infantry, rather than the 2 infantry choice that most principles would advise, because even though the destroyed tank costs twice as much, adds an extra two pips on the attack, and defends better than an infantry, it cannot fit on the transport with the other tank. The second tank is dead weight, in terms of the next major objective, and should be removed.

Scenario B:
In sea zone 17 surrounding Iwo Jima, a Japanese aircraft carrier loaded with 1 fighter and 1 tactical bomber is being attacked by a lone US cruiser, which hits on the first salvo. In terms of mobility, replacability, pips, and hardiness, at first glance it looks like the first hit ought to be taken off of the carrier. However, the undamaged status of the aircraft carrier allows it to add mobility to the fighter and tactical bomber it carries; as well, the defensive strength of the carrier is greatly impaired when damaged, as its aircraft will have to seek refuge on Iwo Jima and will be unable to subsequently defend the SZ (this is particularly troubling if the UK or ANZAC have units in the area that are in position for a follow-up attack); overall hardiness will be reduced by a total of 7 pips. Since the cruiser is likely to be destroyed by the defending fire, pips for this turn’s defense don’t matter so much anymore. So we can discount the simple pips principle. Indeed, if a follow-up attack that threatens the carrier is possible, then hardiness should be our overriding concern. The simple replacability of a plane is much better than that of an aircraft carrier–10 IPCs vs. 16 IPCs–even though on the first attack it looks like no unit is actually lost due to the carrier’s ability to soak up an extra hit, so no unit will need ‘replacing’, due to the secondary threat it is likely that the carrier will be destroyed if damaged (the calculation depends on the strength of the follow-up attack, and its purpose: if the UK force is huge, then perhaps it would be best to sacrifice the carrier and allow the planes to shelter themselves on Iwo Jima; if the UK will invade Iwo Jima with several transports full of land units, it is better to concentrate all resources to the defense of the SZ and hope for victory there). Finally, in terms of mobility, the planes will be severely hampered in their operational utility without a functional carrier upon which to land, making the planes actually worth less if the carrier is damaged. Thus it looks like the casualty ought to be either the fighter or the tactical bomber: but which ought we choose? Pips still don’t matter to our calculations for the moment; we’re assuming we’ll hit the US cruiser, as our defending rolls [(4+3+2)/6] should generally yield 1.5 hits on average, and we only need 1 hit to kill the cruiser and survive. The mobility of the two units is identical–4 movement points–and thus not a deciding factor. In terms of replacability, the tactical bomber is 1 IPC more expensive: but in terms of hardiness, the fighter is 1 pip more effective. Given the expected counterattack, and that the function of units is essentially to cause enemy casualties–the cheapest of which will be 8 IPCs in a naval battle (an enemy destroyer, as hitting subs isn’t possible for ‘blind’ planes unescorted by their own powers’ destroyers), considerations of hardiness outweigh considerations of replacability in terms of utility. To summarize, the tactical bomber costs 1 IPC more to replace, but the fighter has 1/6 more chance to sink an enemy unit of 8 IPC value: a net utility of 1.3 IPCs, which doubles (or better) with every additional salvo it survives (as it takes even more shots, at even more expensive units). Thus, the tactical bomber is the logical choice of casualties, all things considered.

Conclusion

Contrary to the generally accepted view, the Conduct Combat (or ‘tactical’) phase can, indeed rather frequently does, offer up many rewarding opportunities for clever choices between potential casualties. By explicitly recognizing the principles of casualty selection that we already implicitly employ every time we play the game, we can actually increase the number of salient casualty choices at our disposal, and so lay bare the means by which more careful, rationally-considered–and even surprising–decisions can be made. Good strategic play is, of course, essential to victory in Axis & Allies: but without principled tactical recommendations in combat casualty selections, inefficiency and waste will result; in this manner, initiative can be lost, and ultimately one’s strategic goals may be thwarted.

In my next article, “The Psychology of Conduct Combat Phase”, I will further highlight the importance of the Conduct Combat phase on the strategic workings of the game. I identify typical in-combat A&A behavior and experiences, and show how these can positively and negatively influence one’s planning flow. As well, I offer some strategies for compensating for and overcoming the more pernicious of the psychological distortions and skews that switching between the tactical and strategic modes (as the game requires us to) can produce.