The first game is probably going to be a massive allies victory. Japan can easily win with a J1 attack using the original setup, but they can’t afford to make any mistakes the first two or three rounds. One successful assault on Japanese transports and the game can remain out of reach for them. The alpha setup looks like it makes a J1 attack less fruitful for the allies.
I have played one game with the alpha setup. I played as though Europe was going on, so didn’t attack until J3. This ended up being a landslide ot Japan. You just need to make sure you are able to hold Yunnan fairly quickly (read here, first two transports worth of trooops to FIC. I would also recomend building a minor IC on the mainland turn 1. When global, I like to put it in the territory north of shanghai (so can get to Manchuria and defend quickly, if need be). When just Pacific, maybe in Shnghai. If this is placed J1, it can produce J2 (3 men) and transports that unloaded in J1 in FIC can head north and pick them up (and one unit from Manchuria, and head straight back to FIC, take HK, or the Phillipines. Of course, good dice and conservative play is helpful.
I also think, if you don’t do a J1, a minor IC in FIC is good. Maybe even good J1 if you do attack then. You basically want to make sure you have many men and transports to take DEI and malaya when you do finally attack. It helps to be able to leave a couple behind on the islands so ANZAC and UK can’t just waltz on in. Also, make sure you can send at least one carrier with planes and a battleship to Japan if the US builds up in Hawaii. Usually, by the time the US can do this, Japan can afford to spend a big chunk of it’s income on destryers to defend against the US navy. Maybe leave one destryer (or build) in Japan, so it can block any uUS advance towards Japan from Hawaii.
By this stage, you should have most of China, most of DEI (if not all - asusming a J3 attack), and have planes in Yunnan which can hit India (obviously defended with men). You wil probably end up taking India with transports and planes, but you do need to make sure you can at least match Indian production on the mainland. Also, subs and ships can make sure India doesn’t get much income (through convoy disruptions). If you have a spare $6 at any point early on, I recomend subs. You can stop income in DEI islands, and can probably have the Indians only earning $7 or less per turn two turns after you attack.
Just make sure you don’t put your transports or small navy anywhere India can take it out. If you do, they will… take it out, and it’s pretty much over for Japan.
I think you should give Japan to either the better player, or the more conservative player. I have found, until you get your head around the map and whatnot, Pacific is either a quick victory for the allies, or a medium length win for Japan. It should be clear by turn 5 who is going to win.
I would recomend the Alpha setup, because it seemed to be a bit more fun than the original setup. I have not played the reduced air force setup.
If you are the allies, keep an eye out for a UK attack on vulnerable transports. If you can smash transports, Japan is usually two steps behind it’s aims.