Monday, May 2, 2011

Let Slip the Dice of War

Since the proprietor of this blog couldn't be bothered to update in a couple months, that apparently means it's time for me to make my debut on the Awesome Games blog. For blog purposes, you can call me Barbarossa, seeing as how that's who I was in my first appearance As was stated there, Havoc Jack and I have been gaming for nearly a decade and a half now, and while I wouldn't claim to have nearly as much gaming experience as he has I've certainly got my share.

Today I'm going to talk about Axis and Allies, the 1940 variant in particular which is really the only game I've been talking about for the past month or so. It's quite likely that this will actually take up two posts, one in which I discuss the games already played, and another based on strategies I'll employ in later games.

Axis and Allies is a venerable franchise of games representing, hopefully obviously World War II. We've played the original, revised, Europe and Pacific editions, and are currently playing the 1940 variant, which in addition to starting roughly a year and a half (I believe the original editions started around 1942) introduces several new units and strategies to the game, as well as actually being split up into Europe and Pacific theaters, which can be combined to form the Global map. (I'd also like to say that my record at the previous editions was fairly solid, and that I am also to my knowledge the only person in our gaming group who has won as Germany in the original A&A Europe. It's entirely possible that victory was due to poor luck on the Russian player's part than my good strategy, but I digress.)

Moving on, two of the other innovations in the 1940 edition include the fact that not all nations are at war when the game starts, and income bonuses based on meeting certain objectives, particularly the United States gaining an extra 30 IPCs per turn when at war. The desire not to have the US gain those extra IPCs, as well as Germany not attacking Russia immediately would be our downfall in the first game, as leaving them alone gave them time to build up too many forces for us to break.

In the second game, the Axis leaders (myself and Havoc Jack) did some pregame strategizing, and eliminated many of our errors from the first game. Germany attacked Russia immediately, losing one of their bonuses but gaining it back in land taken, as well as pushing them back and knocking out their more fortified border territories. The U-boat fleet was able to disrupt British shipping, and France (unfortunately, this game does include France as a playable nation) fell immediately. On the other side of the world, Japan moved into China, took out the US in the Philippines, and took out most of the Royal Navy and ANZAC forces. ...Italy? They were busy failing, as usual. In the two games I've played and one or two others I've heard of, Italy has done terribly in all of them. I don't know if I'd say it was entirely due to my poor dice rolling as Italy that we lost, but it certainly didn't help. After Italy lost terribly in an opening sea battle in the Mediterranean, and then failed to take Cairo, the UK had resources free to mount a successful amphibious assault on Normandy. Even though Germany had captured both Stalingrad and Leningrad, Japan's general lack of ground troops as well as real-world time limitations meant that we had to negotiate a partial surrender.

So, what lessons did we learn? First, if you're playing as the Axis, you have to hit hard and fast. In the first game, waiting to attack Russia meant that I never came close to seeing Stalingrad or Leningrad, where in the second game I was able to take them both. With Japan, the fear of the US gaining extra income in the first game meant that they were played in a cowardly fashion, allowing not only the US but the UK and ANZAC to be in a much stronger position when the attack finally occurred. In the second game, Japan was doing much better, although lack of ground troops and certain unlikely die outcomes were painful.

Secondly, to focus on your goal. The win condition for the Axis is to control 14 victory cities, and it's necessary to determine which are easiest to take and hold. Additionally, make sure you have enough forces to accomplish said goal, as referenced above, Japan had too few ground troops to take and/or hold the territory they were attempting to conquer.

Third, though not applicable to everyone: try to plan around Italy's failings and get them to be as worthwhile a nation as possible. As I said during the second game, Germany can deal with Russia easily, and if things go well, even hold off the UK, but that's it. With Italy threatening the UK's position in Africa, the Germans would have an easier time fending off their amphibious assaults.

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