A Beginner's Guide to Axis and Allies 1940

  • Not sure if this belongs here IL, feel free to move it to the appropriate forum.

    So! With the release of Europe 1940 weeks away, it’s eventually going to be passed on that there’s this kool WWII board game that’s so titanic and epic in scope, it torpedoes Risk out of the water. What game is this?

    Axis and Allies 1940!

    But there’s going to be those that are going to ask “playing as Germany seems fun, but I have so many things to consider! What strategies should I do?” Well, I’m currently making a beginner’s guide to playing as all of the powers, even the minor ones. It’s a very, very basic guide, so hardcore players, don’t barf. I’m giving them an overall, strategic idea of how each side and power generally play as, not detailed, turn-by-turn hardcore descriptions.

    The reason why I post this here is to have you guys tell me what you think of it. Do I capture the spirit of every power? Should I add more detail or less detail to specific powers?


    General strategy: the Allies start off with an inferior military at the start of the game. The French Army is in its death throes, the British is mostly deployed in North Africa, the Americans start off far from the action, and the Soviet Union must position its armies. However, they start off with a much stronger economy. The Allies must work together to figure out who is going to do what, and figure out what needs protecting and preserving, and what does not.

    United Kingdom: My personal favorite power, the British start off with the most amount of territories in the game. Unfortunately, this means that they’re spread thin. Their possessions are constantly being threatened by air, naval, and ground forces. The British Army is stretched to the breaking point, with the majority of their ground forces in Africa, leaving the British Isles defended only by the air force.

    On the other side of the coin, them being so spread out means the British can also strike out almost anywhere, given enough resources. The navy starts off powerful, as does the air force in Britain. A smart British player can kick the Italians out of Africa if they play their cards right. The British player also has several roads he/she can go down. Does he use his air power to fortify Malta and harass the Italian Navy? Or do they divert what resources they can in Egypt? It all depends on the current situation of the ever-shifting balance of power in Axis and Allies.

    In the Pacific, the Japanese player will eventually turn his attention to India. At that point, you need to make sure that you turn Southeast Asia into a meat grinder for the Japanese to pass through. Make them pay for every step towards India. More likely than not they will take it if they divert enough resources to it, and Calcutta will fall–-but suddenly they have Soviets barreling down in Manchuria and the US Navy steaming in from the East! This will happen if the Japanese player isn’t careful, and it’s your job to make him NOT careful.

    Also bear in mind, the European and Pacific British income is divided. This is to ensure that the British player doesn’t dump everything in a single theater like a little kid does when he’s locked in combat against his sibling. If India falls, European Britain keeps fighting, and vice versa.

    The United States: They start off with the strongest economy in the world, easily giving them the ability to build massive amounts of war machines. What weakness does the Americans have, then? Well, at the start of the game the Americans are neutral and are in a peacetime economy (although even in peace, the Americans have huge amounts of IPCs). Once they go to war the Americans find they start off far from the wars raging in Europe and Asia. They also must constantly balance their attention between the Pacific and Europe; focusing all resources on one theater only could be lethal to the Allied war effort.

    The strengths of the US, however, are as big as its economy. Want to build a massive air fleet? A massive navy, army? A combination of all three? Go ahead, because you can. The Axis will eventually learn the hard way of the drawbacks of facing the strongest economy in the game.

    Typically you want to focus attention in Africa while slowly building up forces near and in the British Isles for an invasion of Nazi-held Europe. If the Axis haven’t overrun Egypt yet you’re in good luck. Otherwise, be prepared for a massive showdown in North Africa. If you want to get creative, invade Spain, forcing the Germans to divert units from the Eastern Front to protect France, although all other True Neutrals (Sweden, Turkey, etc.) will become pro-Axis, which means Germany can merely move a single unit into those territories, getting reinforcements that will probably be sent against the Soviets.

    In the Pacific, don’t count on defeating the Japanese early unless they make some truly stupid decisions. While the Japanese Army is busy tied down in China and Southeast Asia, coordinate with ANZAC to pick at the Imperial Navy. Any opening should be exploited ASAP. For example, if they leave the Caroline Islands open, take it. If they leave any part of the Dutch East Indies open, take it. Build up your navy to force the Japanese to have a naval cold war.

    Soviet Union: As in real life, the Soviet Union will be doing by far the most fighting with Nazi Germany in terms of manpower. Unlike the Western Allies, you only have on overarching goal: survive. At the beginning of the game the Germans are focused in the West, so you have some time to maneuver and build up the Red Army. When black and red figures clash on the board, be prepared to lose at least some ground. Don’t try to hold everything. Try to concentrate your units in three separate forces: North, Central, South. Trying to focus your power on one single massive army probably isn’t a good idea.

    You can certainly attack Japan if you feel adventurous. At the beginning of the game Japan and the Soviet Union are not at war with each other, and it’s in both powers’ interest not to attack each other. However, if Japan is slowly forced to divert power from Manchuria elsewhere, suddenly attacking would divert significant Japanese resources north, relieving pressure off the Western Allies and China.

    In past games, the Western Allies would try to help out the Soviets in the Eastern Front by invading Norway and pumping units in from there. This time, there is a National Objective that negatively affects the Soviets if there is any non-Soviet Allied unit in Red territory. So unless your teammates are feeling devious or you desperately need help, having non-Soviet Allied units in USSR territory probably isn’t a good idea.

    France: As a patriotic Frenchman, I can say with no regret that the French player will probably have a very boring game after the first few rounds, which is why France will be controlled by another Allied player. The French fate is pretty much sealed on Germany’s first turn unless the Germans get some truly atrocious rolls (and believe me, it has happened). While European France is still intact, just roll and hope that you inflict as much losses as you can against the Wehrmacht.

    When France falls, maneuver whatever fleet that survived into a single concentrated position and keep it that way. In North Africa, merge your three infantry into a single stack in Algeria (provided the Italians didn’t invade Tunisia yet) and then move said stack to Morocco to link up with the Americans when the arrive. Luckily for us, when Paris is liberated France can place 12 IPCs worth of units in the Paris territory, and can now start producing units for the Allied cause. When that happens, the Germans will be in a critical position: a power producing units right next to German territory is a big time threat.

    If, for some reason, the Germans are unable to take Paris in the first round, build a cruiser (or a few submarines) and move any surviving fighters to Britain. The French’s primary contribution to Axis and Allies will be its navy, and doing this will make that goal more realizable.

    The People’s Democratic Glorious and Most Exquisite Greater Empire of China: the Greater Chinese Empire is the most powerful country in the game. Its massive military and huge resources allows it to push the Japanese out of China relatively quickly, forcing the Japanese player to cower in fear behind its Imperial Navy.

    Yeah…all right. In reality, China starts off with only infantry and can only build infantry (unless the Burma road is open, in which they can build artillery). China, another minor power, will also be controlled by another Allied power. Generally, the Chinese tries to make Japan’s life very uncomfortable in its Asian conquests. Don’t make attacks that you’ll regret later, and try to defend more than attack. An exception would be to the Burma Road. While it’s open, you gain an additional 6 IPCs per turn. In that case, throw your hordes of screaming Chinamen at that territory, and be happy that you’ll get at least a temporary economical boost.

    China starts off with one fighter unit, representing the US Flying Tigers. This unit is non-replaceable, so use it wisely.

    Australian-New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC): Although normally played independently, ANZAC is considered a minor power like France and China. Its strategy normally consists of being a thorn in the side for Japan, capturing the Dutch East Indies or securing Dutch New Guinea for a National Objective. However, if played by a competent player, ANZAC can become a knife in the side for Japan instead of merely a thorn. If Japan has no fleet protecting the Dutch East Indies (and it’s captured all of the DEI at this point) then build up submarines and go on a convoy killing spree there. Of course you’ll probably be chased out but that now means the Japanese player must guard all of its shipping lanes.


    General strategy: My gods, who loves playing as the Axis? Many. They start off with a massive military force. Germany is the center of attention, and Japan will shock the world with its rapid conquests of everything that borders orange in Asia. Italy will force everyone in Africa to begin speaking Italian, or at least try to. However, this also means the Axis start off with a weaker economy overall than the Allies do. Your conquering will eventually pay off, but don’t overextend yourself.

    Germany: By far the most popular power in Axis and Allies, Germany has a huge army to start with and a huge amount of options of what it can do. To your West, France and the British Army is at your mercy. In the East, the Soviets are perhaps getting too drunk on vodka, and it’s up to you to sober them up. With tanks and bombs.

    However, you cannot try to do two things at once. Grab France first. As to who gets Southern France, Germany or Italy is entirely up to the Axis player(s) to decide. Do you want the Germans to send help to Africa quicker or does Italy need more industrial power?

    Once the French and British armies are crushed under your heel, you now have two options. One is to focus everything you’ve got to conquer the British Isles. The advantage to this is that you eliminate a very annoying Allied power that is a constant, very near menace to Germany and Italy. The disadvantage is that suddenly those vodka-ridden Soviets are becoming much more sober and trigger happy than they were historically. With your attention focused in the west, the Soviets will undoubtedly be preparing for an invasion of your eastern borders.

    Your second option is to throw every tank, soldier, plane, and beer cans at the Soviet Union, blitzing your way through Moscow. The advantage is that you, well, take Moscow! The USSR will suddenly become a much smaller threat to you, and you can focus your attention on those pesky Western Allies. The disadvantage is that the Soviet Union is big. And the Soviets have teeth. Moscow will not be as easy to take as Paris was.

    Speaking of the capital of Frenchie land, don’t sweat it if you do not beat the Allied armies in the West in your first turn. That does not mean the game is over, that means you probably can’t do an invasion of Britain. If you still have not taken Paris by the end of your second turn your dice officially hate you.

    As for Africa, send as little there as you can spare. The Italians are more than capable of handling themselves if you send them a tank and infantry or two. There is a National Objective of having German units in Egypt, so if you want, take advantage of that.

    On the whole, there are endless opportunities for Germany. Focus on building a navy? A great bomber fleet? A better army? It’s all up to you, which means that playing as Germany might not be the best to play as for novice players.

    Politics might seem boring, but in this game they’re important. Don’t have your Japanese player piss off the Americans too early. Keep the American giant sleeping for as long as you can. Once they wake up it’s going to get nasty real soon for all three Axis powers.

    Italy: Italy’s a interesting power to play as. It starts off with a decent army, a strong navy, and a weak air force. It doesn’t start off with a lot of money, and its territories are few. All this means that Italy is the perfect power to play as for new players to the game. Italy can quickly become a force to be reckoned with if played by a competent player who doesn’t lose his focus in Africa.

    Although it may be tempting to immediately take over Yugoslavia and Greece, be careful where you tread with that. The Yugoslavs will be no pushover, and the Greeks a little more so. You will need to commit significant power to those regions if you want to gobble up their resources. Otherwise, let your German friends up north handle them, and take Southern France instead.

    Africa and the Med will both be your main centers of attention. If the Brits turn Malta into Fortress Malta, you need to do something about that. Their taunting and farting in your general direction (i.e. aircraft) will be a constant headache to you as you try to bring reinforcements to your units in Libya. At the start of the game, the French and British start off with a fleet that, combined, can challenge your regional naval superiority. Because Britain goes before Italy in the turn order, what you want to do with your navy will probably be heavily influenced by what those crumpet-eating Britons do. They might link up with the French fleet, they might try to attack your fleet, or anything in-between.

    The space between Libya and Egypt will become a fireworks display for those viewing the battles in orbit. The British will not let go of Egypt easily, and your succeeds of taking it depends entirely on how creative you get. A tug-o-war battle in North Africa might not be enough: if the French are foolish enough to leave Syria unguarded, immediately invade it. Suddenly the Allies have to worry about a second threat to Egypt, from directly behind them. If you can, move troops into Iraq and get some Iraqis to help you fight the good fight.

    Historically, Italy never had to worry about their flank until 1942. Why? Vichy France was officially neutral and did not pose a threat on Libya’s western borders. In this game, however, Vichy France does not exist, and those Frenchmen manning those posts look awfully angry. If you can, try to get rid of the three French infantry in North Africa as soon as you can. If they manage to meet up in a single territory (especially Tunis), they can be a real problem.

    Once (if) Egypt has been taken, focus your attention south and drive on to South Africa. The Brits will still be pumping out units from there (unless London is flying the swastika) so don’t expect the fight for Africa to be over quite yet.

    Empire of Japan: Japan starts off with the most powerful navy and, some say, air force in the game. Although only at war with China, they have the power to take huge amounts of land in its first turn. The Allies will be powerless against your initial onslaught.

    The problem is, are you ready for an early attack? In the short term you certainly are. But the consequences for attacking immediately are there. For one, the United States will be a menace much earlier than it historically was, and once they get going they will not stop.  Attacking the Soviet Union in your first turn probably isn’t a good idea either.

    Am I discouraging you from attacking on your first turn? No. You just need to be prepared for the consequences and you need to ask yourself if you can handle it. It’s certainly tempting to attack in every direction with your massive Imperial Navy and Air Force, but a more conservative player can have just as much success as a player who is more aggressive than Bill O’Reilly. Spending your first two or three turns maneuvering your forces might mean that the Allies will secure certain territories (the Dutch East Indies, for example) and be able to pull their puny navies back to safer positions, but that also means that you’ll be in a better position for your Asiatic blitzkrieg.

    In the Pacific, you’re going to be the dominant naval power, whether the Allies like it or not. Be careful with where you put your ships though: ANZAC and the US will always be looking for ways to pick off your navy, so don’t overextend yourself. If you keep your fleet in several bastions of power spread over your maritime empire, you guarantee security for your territories, at least for the short term. Go ahead and throw everything at India and China if you wish, but realize that the consequences for that is an American/ANZAC invasion of your Eastern territories.

    In Asia, like I mentioned above, you’re more than welcome to throw every plane and ground unit you want in India’s direction on your very first turn. It’s certainly within your power to eventually march through Calcutta triumphantly. But, as always, there are consequences. If you divert significant air power from Manchuria and Japan, the Soviets will become much more interested in their Far Eastern Borders than they were historically. If you want to play it smart, you’ll need to find a balance of your air power in your territorial holdings. Over-aggressive players will find they will be able to take China and India rapidly at the expensive of rapid encroachment of the Americans and ANZAC. If you think you’ll be able to push them out of the Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere, you’re free to become that over-aggressive player.

    As with Japan, you have quite an array of options to work with, given how heavily militarized you are at the start of the game. It depends on the type of player you are, and what the strategical position is on what strategy is best for you.

    IN CONCLUSION: Axis and Allies changes. What do I mean by that? The dice. The dice can make a poorly conceived strategy into a winning streak that even Napoleon would appreciate. Yet the dice can also turn a brilliantly conceived strategy into a losing streak that even most Italian generals in WWII would appreciate. In short, don’t be surprised if the dice hate you one minute and love you the next. Much of the game depends on strategy, but much of it also depends on the luck of the dice.

  • Nice. Good luck with the Axis strategies.

    Maybe explain the regional capitals for the UK…?

  • Make sure you add to the German section that Sealion ought to be attempted since it looks to be overpowered G1.

  • @M:

    Nice. Good luck with the Axis strategies.

    Maybe explain the regional capitals for the UK…?

    I’m terrified of doing the Axis strategies. And if I asked what I should write I’m probably going to get bombarded with “G1 attack Wru 4 inf 3 tnk”, etc.

  • '18 '17 '16 '15 Customizer


    Make sure you add to the German section that Sealion ought to be attempted since it looks to be overpowered G1.

    Don’t listen to him UN! He’s crazy!

    No really… A Sealion, especially on turn 1 or turn 2, is (1) a massive and unwarranted gamble and (2) an advanced strategy and is unecessary to mention to a beginner… unless they are particularly bright and ask about invading England.

  • G1 Sea Lion is impossible because: there are 2 cruisers (1 British, 1 French) blocking the German’s fleet w/ transport from getting to the British Isles on the first turn.

  • '18 '17 '16 '15 Customizer




    Make sure you add to the German section that Sealion ought to be attempted since it looks to be overpowered G1.

    Don’t listen to him UN! He’s crazy!

    No really… A Sealion, especially on turn one, is (1) a massive and unwarranted gamble and (2) an advanced strategy and is unecessary to mention to a beginner… unless they are particularly bright and ask about invading England.

    G1 Sea Lion is impossible because: there are 2 cruisers (1 British, 1 French) blocking the German’s fleet w/ transport from getting to the British Isles on the first turn.

    Ah Ha! Backup… with the facts to prove it.

  • The dice gods hate me. I always roll 5’s.

  • '18 '17 '16 '15 Customizer


    The dice gods hate me. I always roll 5’s.

    I would retire from playing Axis & Allies then… you might be able to get away with Monopoly.

  • 2007 AAR League



    Nice. Good luck with the Axis strategies.

    Maybe explain the regional capitals for the UK…?

    I’m terrified of doing the Axis strategies. And if I asked what I should write I’m probably going to get bombarded with “G1 attack Wru 4 inf 3 tnk”, etc.

    Well you can’t stop now. You gave one side of the game, now you must finish what you started and give some strats for the Axis. Not everybody wants to play the Allies, so writing at least something up for the Axis would be in your best interests. And besides, you’re doing a good job anyway.

  • Hey UN, thanks for doing this.  I will definitely be using your guide when teaching newbies how to play.  I have found that teaching the rules is straightforward, but trying to coach someone on what strategy to use is much more difficult.  Your guide is perfect for this.

    Thanks again

  • I enjoyed reading this. It was well thought out, and had some humor splashed in. It is very Larry like, as he has set the table in a similar style.

    I agree that something more could be said about the the UK split capital/income. It is the first time that the UK can continue to build/fight if London falls through India and the Anz.

    You have to say something about Russia getting a BB (if its only to make fun of the situation).

    When you get to the axis I think the Sea Lion attempt is note worthy (even for beginners). Italy reaching its potential is also going to play into how well the axis do. Japan will have new challenges. Looking forward to seeing how the other shoe falls.

    By the way I like the color coding of the powers, but not sure if there are enough colors that will show up from what we are given. The shade of green for the Chinese opening doesn’t show up very well. UK should be more of a tan, but again not sure if the beige will show up.

  • I like this guide a lot, and I’m definitely going to show it to any new players to get them acquainted with the general strategy of the game. I’m looking forward to the Axis guide.

  • Got the Axis in. I tried to be as broad and general as I could with them, bear with me hardcore Axis players  😄

    I like this guide a lot, and I’m definitely going to show it to any new players to get them acquainted with the general strategy of the game. I’m looking forward to the Axis guide.

    Like your signature…but what about Napoleon?  😞

  • '22 '19 '18

    With the neutrality rules, I don’t think I would tell anybody to invade Spain, unless they want to give the Axis a huge manpower bonus.

  • @cond1024:

    With the neutrality rules, I don’t think I would tell anybody to invade Spain, unless they want to give the Axis a huge manpower bonus.

    I’m not saying they should, I’m saying if they want to get creative or unconventional they’re free to do so.

  • '11

    UN, thanks for the beginners guide. There is some great info in there and will give me a leg up when I finally get to play this weekend. I haven’t had a chance to play either Europe or Pacific for 1940, but will finally have the opportunity to.

  • '10

    This should be posted as an Article.

    Great Job!

  • Well I’m not sure if modifications are necessary or not since Alpha +2. But then again, I wasn’t exactly planning on writing a strategy guide, just a beginner’s guide, hence the title.

    But these are just mumblings of mine, thanks for the feedback guys!

    Also: this should have been in Global 1940 😐

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