Friday, June 24, 2011

Griping about Carriers

With the amount of thought we've put into strategies over here at Awesome Games, you might not be surprised to learn that the occasional punctilio of the rules gets on our nerves. I'll try to keep the other surprising revelations about the wetness of water and all until you've had a chance to steady your nerves. Whatever, let's get to the carriers.

Under the traditional A&A movement rules, a carrier moves two spaces and a fighter moves four. They have to start their movement in the same space; the carrier can't haul the fighter for two spaces and then have it launch. They also end in the same space as each other. (Well, technically the fighter can land other places, but for the purposes of this thought experiment let's assume you want to keep your fighter on your carrier). The point here is that the movement effectively allows you to project your fighters one space further than the carrier is able to move; the fighter go three spaces forward, and then one back, meeting up with the carrier which only moved two spaces forward. They also have the advantage of staging your planes out in the water to begin with; Axis and Allies deducts a movement point for moving over coast lines, which a carrier neatly sidesteps.

In Axis and Allies 1940, they added a refinement; naval bases. If your ship starts in a sea zone adjacent to a territory with a naval base, you can move that ship three spaces instead of two over the course of a turn. The trouble with this is that there isn't any corresponding advantage for your fighters on your carriers. The carrier moves three spaces, but the fighter still only moves four; therefore the carrier's original mission of projecting force further than other naval forces is compromised. It gets worse; a battleship actually does better in those situations since you can move it those three sea zones and bombard a land target, where the fighters can't get there and participate in combat.

To take a concrete example, if Japan chooses to attack on the first turn (like I did in the provided narrative), they can move a fleet three spaces to the waters surrounding Hawaii, but if they invade they can't bring in any air support. By contrast, if in the original you were to invade Hawaii, the distance was only two spaces, and you could bring in planes.

The 1940 versions offer a similar refinement for planes; air bases. Air bases allow a plane taking off in that territory one additional space of movement. This also obviates part of the reason for carriers. If you're leaving your carrier in the sea zone around Japan, then it makes no difference whatsoever if you land fighters on it or not; any territory the fighter could reach in four spaces from the carrier is one the fighter could reach in five from the airbase. In the event of a fleet invasion, you can always scramble the fighter. It's a case of redundant mechanics, and games can ill afford to have more rules than are strictly necessary.

On the other hand, I have to point out that the choice isn't always arbitrary. If Italy has a carrier outside of Rome, whether the fighter is on the carrier or in Northern Italy with the airbase isn't a trivial decision; since Italy is part of a continent you can't scramble the fighter to defend the sea zone, but contrawise the airbase gives you move movement options on the northern side of Europe should you need to exercise them.

I gotta admit I feel somewhat churlish complaining about mechanical changes that only benefit the players.

1 comment:

  1. I believe you mean mechanical changes that only benefit the 'Allies', not players.