I’ve been thinking about this topic a bit, and have used a few different options in recent games, so I decided to lay things out.
Starting with 32 IPCs, here are your basic options:10 inf [save 2] 9 inf, 1 arm 8 inf, 1 trn 7 inf, 1 spy [save 1] 4 inf, 4 arm
Spying Game (7 inf, 1 spy [save 1])
Generally the reason to buy a spy as Western Europe, is to essentially give the NATO team one more bullet in the cylinder, in terms of countering whatever they presume the Soviet spies are trying to do – whether that be counter-intel, influencing China, or trying to get minor neutrals on-side to beef up Soviet attacks (particularly in Europe). Now, this last one is, IMO, the worst use for the WE spy in particular.
Think of it this way: if WE gains Spain, that essentially means they get enough IPCs to place 1 more infantry, per round; if the US or UK gets Spain, that means they can place 3 more infantry directly onto the continent – never mind adding an industrial complex, if they so choose. I could potentially see WE influencing spaces like Thailand or Ethiopia in order to give a tiny, safe income boost and to better facilitate the movement of UK troops towards India, but those still wouldn’t be my first choice on a spying success, as WE.
The other issue is that once that spy gets killed, WE doesn’t really have the means to replace it; after rd1, you’re generally only putting out 7-8 infantry per turn, and I feel like placing 3 less than that to replace a killed spy just isn’t worth it. YMMV.
Mare Nostrum (8 inf, 1 trn)
My opinion is that you can play WE in two broad ways: as France, or as Italy. (If there’s a 3rd option, it’s basically “playing as Indochina” and supporting the UK in India – more on that later.)
Playing as Italy essentially means trying to dominate the Mediterranean – in close co-operation with the UK. You want your infantry in Italy for defense, but also so you can amphibiously assault Greece or Turkey, using a shuck-shuck. If you move your transport from Indochina to Pakistan on rd1, it can then reach the Cyprus SZ on rd2, potentially adding 2 inf from Indochina to an amphibious assault into Turkey, coming from the other direction; if the USSR attacked/influenced Iran, you can also fly your fighter from Indochina over, to add to the attack.
With 4 transports in the Mediterranean, WE can pack quite a punch – and because they own Greece and Turkey, liberating these territories themselves means more cash on hand. It’s also worth mentioning that, as a 4-IPC territory with an industrial complex, Italy can put out 8 infantry every round (enough to fill 4 transports) as long as you have the cash to do it. (Worth noting, if you are only down Norway, West Germany, and Greece, your income will be 24 – exactly enough for 8 infantry. This is why liberating Turkey can be so potentially lucrative, in addition to opening new lanes of advance.)
The reason to not go this route is if the USSR positions planes close to the Mediterranean, at the end of their first turn. In this case, it’s my preference to scatter the fleets out of range of Soviet planes; the riskier alternative is to send the lone WE sub with the planes from France to try and take out the Black Sea fleet (the fighter having to land on the UK carrier, afterwards.)
If you choose to gather all of NATO’s navy around the Algeria SZ or Italy SZ to beef up your defense against a Soviet naval attack, the problem is that either your transport from Portugal will be out of position, or the UK carrier won’t be positioned to help with the Turkey attack – meaning on WE2 you might have to settle for attacking Greece, or not attacking in the Mediterranean at all.
Spend it All! (9 inf, 1 arm)
As the name implies, the reason to go this route is that it allows you to spend all of your money. The tank gives you a little extra offense on land; ultimately, what you need to quickly determine is whether your tanks should be in Italy or in France, to counter-attack Yugoslavia or West Germany, respectively. If the Soviets have a bad S1, they may be weak enough in West Germany to be counter-attacked right away, but generally Yugoslavia will be the easier target on WE1. However, because of its central location, often the USSR will opt to drop their stack down in Yugoslavia after the first round, so WE needs to make sure their tanks are positioned where they can actually strike back, long term.
Armor Doctrine (4 inf, 4 arm)
Since WE is generally not ever going to be richer than they are at the start of the game, WE1 is when you need to make your expensive purchases – if at all.
Going with this option essentially gives you 2 less units on defense than if you go with all infantry, but the offensive power can be particularly potent against a weak West Germany position for the Soviets. Ultimately, the trick is to inflict as many casualties in as few rounds of combat as possible, and to spare as many of your own infantry from your attacks as you can manage. That’s how you gain the economic advantage in this dead-zone management microcosm. Now, you could position your armor and infantry in Italy (particularly in a strategy where the US and UK are bankrolling France’s defense) but overall I view this strategy more as a “playing as France” type of move.
The other consideration when playing as France, is what is your secondary target (if your primary target is West Germany)? Two distinct options present themselves:Greece Norway
Now, either territory can easily be within shuck-shuck range of France (either in the Mediterranean, or in the North Sea / Barents Sea, respectively) however, a fighter stationed in France is more easily able to hit Norway, and return back to France for defense – which is why I would recommend this tact, when playing as France. In either case, you will need to coordinate naval coverage with your allies, so make sure to take that into consideration. Also, a single US transport can feed 2 infantry from Iceland into Norway every round, in addition to any support the UK can quickly provide, from their capitol.
Read and React (10 inf [save 2])
Obviously, this is the generalist approach. I would argue that if you plan to support the UK in India by placing 2 (or even 1) infantry in Indochina, this is probably the build you’re going to use – not to say that you couldn’t use one of the other high-inf options. With that in mind, you can also use this build if you’re just going to focus on defending Europe; maybe the Soviets don’t give you a good read one way or the other, but you know (for example) that you don’t want to drop down an extra transport because there are too many planes circling around.
If you are going for an India focus as WE, my suggestion is to use your transports to immediately route your tanks through Africa. From Algeria to Sudan is 2 spaces, so with the right planning and maneuvering of transports, you can get a tank from France to Pakistan or India by WE3. Sending the starting tanks from both Italy and France (plus getting the infantry from Africa over to Pakistan) will keep your transports occupied for a while.
As such, you need to decide what you’re going to do with your transports afterwards: are you going to pivot to “playing as Italy”, or do you want to use Mozambique and Madagascar to shuck 2 additional infantry to Pakistan every round? You’ll need to have a good read of the map, and know what options will work for you. (Alternatively, if you went the “Spend it All!” route, shipping a 3rd tank over might give you an extra round to decide on your next move.)
One thing I like to do when I focus on assisting India as WE, is to send the bomber (with a paratrooper) to Pakistan on WE1; you can then send the bomber to New Guinea on WE2, and bring the infantry from there, as a paratrooper back to Pakistan (or India) on WE3. This might not be the best use of your bomber (so feel free to do something more aggressive, if the opportunity arises) but it does free up your transport from trying to pick up that lone infantry, FWIW.