In previous articles, Bunnies wrote about how to get the most out of your IPC, some of the dangers in thinking only of the immediate IPC payout of an action, and some of the common mistakes players make when thinking about probable outcomes. In this article, Bunnies defines then describes tactics as they apply to Axis and Allies Spring 1942.
Tactical level thinking is about the effective use of all available resources. In past articles of this series, we have considered battles for single territories, considering unit cost, attack, and defense, but we have not yet considered other properties of units, the map, turn order, or the deterrent factor.
TANKS AND MOBILITY
If the game map consisted of a string of territories like a string of pearls, the game would be about a straightforward clash between armies, with each army pushing forward or being pushed backward, the only consideration being strength of offense and strength of defense.
But the game map is a web of territories connected at different points. An army that is strong but slow cannot use its strength at all the different points on the web.
Tanks can do what infantry and artillery cannot because tanks can move two spaces, infantry and artillery only one. For example, suppose Germany had a stack of infantry and tanks on Eastern Europe, that Russia had a stack of infantry and tanks on West Russia, and that Karelia, Belorussia, and Ukraine were being attacked and controlled by Germany on the German turn, then Russia on Russia’s turn, and so on.
Suppose Russia fails to take control of Ukraine on the Russian turn. Germany can then use tanks to blitz through Ukraine and attack West Russia or Caucasus. This option would be completely unavailable to Germany if Germany only had infantry and artillery. Infantry and artillery are more cost efficient attackers than infantry and tanks, but the movement range of tanks makes tanks far more useful tactically.
The movement range of tanks makes them much more useful on defense as well. Suppose UK and US both have fleets of transports in the north Atlantic that they can use to attack Western Europe, Germany, or Eastern Europe. German tanks on Eastern Europe help defend Eastern Europe from Allied invasion, and also threaten any Allied landing in Western Europe. Contrast with the case if Germany had only artillery but no tanks on Eastern Europe. Without tanks on Eastern Europe, the Allies could land on Western Europe without having to worry about a strong German counterattack.
Air units have unique strengths. Flight lets an air unit reach its target regardless of obstacles that stop ground and naval reinforcements. Air units retreat to safety after attacking, can attack either naval or ground targets, and have good range. Fighters can be used for naval and ground defense. Bombers can strategic bomb regardless of an opponent’s strength. But air units also have unique weaknesses. They are vulnerable to antiaircraft guns, and cannot fortify newly occupied territory.
Transports are useful solely for transporting cost-efficient ground units. They are particularly useful for the tremendous threat range they give to ground units they carry. A transport near London can unload to Algeria, Western Europe, Germany, Eastern Europe, Karelia, Norway, or Archangel.
Destroyers are the cheapest naval unit capable of blocking enemy fleet movement and that can be used as fodder against enemy air or naval attack.
Submarines are the cheapest naval unit. They are excellent on attack considering their cost, but are not much use on defense because of their low defense and inability to hit air units. Subs cannot be hit by enemy air unless the air is attacking along with a destroyer, so subs can often be used to control sea zones even if an opponent has plenty of air power. The fact that subs can only hit naval units can be used to a player’s benefit. If subs attack a battleship, carrier, and fighters, the defender must lose the expensive battleship or carrier instead of the cheaper fighters, because subs can’t hit fighters.
Carriers have the ability to carry fighters. A carrier-fighter combination gives the most defensive hitting power for IPCs spent. Fighters can be used against ground targets or can leave a fleet entirely if needed.
Battleships and cruisers are not suitable for most games of Spring 1942. The support shot ability is useful when attacking into superior numbers, when a player doesn’t want to commit valuable tanks and artillery to an attack, and/or when the defending territory has an antiaircraft gun. The ability of battleships to heal between combats is useful in some situations. But considering the situations likely to come up in any given game of Spring 1942, destroyers, carriers, and fighters are almost always much more effective.
A player can use the turn order to get more use out of units than normal.
Sequential attack is the simplest example. Suppose Germany defends Karelia with 10 infantry 8 tanks, that Russia holds West Russia with 10 infantry 4 tanks 2 fighters, and that UK can hit Karelia via amphibious assault with 5 infantry 3 tanks 2 fighters 1 bomber. If UK attacks Germany at Karelia, UK will probably fail. If Russia attacks Germany at Karelia, Russia will probably fail. But if UK attacks then Russia attacks, Russia will probably succeed, as the failed UK attack will likely inflict enough casualties on the Germans that Russia will be able to succeed.
Suppose Japan controls Persia and India with 1 infantry each. If UK attacks Persia, then Russian tanks at Caucasus are cleared to hit India.
Suppose Japan controls Kazakh and Novosibirsk with 1 infantry each. US could attack each territory with 1 infantry and 1 air unit on the US turn. Even if US failed to take control of the territory, if US destroyed the Japanese infantry, Russia could blitz the territory on the Russian turn. Even if US failed completely, Russia could attack on the Russian turn. Either way, the Allies have a second chance at regaining control of Kazakh and Novosibirsk.
Defense can also be sequential. Suppose Germany takes control of a territory but doesn’t have enough strength to hold that territory against Russian counterattack. Japan can fly fighters in on Japan’s turn to reinforce the territory to make the Russian counterattack much more costly.
Sequential movement can extend fighter range. Suppose on UK’s first turn it places a carrier in the sea zone northwest of UK. On the US turn, US can fly two fighters onto the UK carrier, and fly the US bomber to London. On UK’s second turn, it can move the carrier to the sea zone west of Algeria, carrying the US fighters. On US’s second turn, US can attack the German battleship and transport with those two fighters and the US bomber.
Suppose Germany holds Karelia with enough units to deter any Allied attack, and that over a few turns, Germany maintains control of Karelia, using a few units to trade Norway and Archangel, but keeping the bulk of the German units at Karelia. Although most of the units at Karelia are not actually used on attack or defense, their mere presence allows Germany to retain control of Karelia.
If Germany has enough power at Karelia, Russia may even retreat from West Russia.
This is the deterrent factor. A unit not actually involved in attack or defense is still useful because of the threat it poses.
Similarly, Germany can have a large airforce that will deter UK and US from landing ground unit in Europe via transports, or Japan can build subs that will deter the US from venturing deeper into the Pacific.
IN OUR NEXT EXCITING EPISODE
The next episode concludes this series of articles. Bunnies defines strategy as it applies to Axis and Allies Spring 1942.