Alliance Dynamics and Teamwork

| November 2, 2014 | Board Games | 0 Comments

Yalta Conference

Written by Hobbes on 20-11-2010 at Axis and, edited by Rorschach at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming

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, Battle of the 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:


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.


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
China I M M

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

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’).

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