Variable Start (roll for turn order)
Independence Day Rules: Go Freedom! The freedom to start the game with any Nation
I have formalized my basic rule for a variable start to the OOB AA50 game, and have hit upon a system that I believe works well for the 1942 date, and somewhat less well for 1941, but still interesting. I have been testing openings all morning, and quite pleased with the results. Happy 4th of July! I also posted additional information in the house rules section, about how this rule can be combined with others to create my ideal AA50 game. I discuss more of the specifics with the various start positions in this thread http://www.axisandallies.org/forums/index.php?topic=33665.msg1296230#msg1296230 In more general terms though…
Right now this rule is restricted to AA50, as it is the only mapboard with 6 player/nations and an alternating standard turn order, which is required for this to work.
Here is how you set it up…
Variable start to the standard turn order:
Roll 1d6 at the outset to determine which player/nation starts the game.
Once the first round order is established, an ascending IPC bonus is added to starting income for each Nation.
Sixth + 30
The turn order itself is fixed in 1941: G-R-J-UK-IT-USA, in 1942: J-R-G-UK-IT-USA so the roll only determines which position starts the order, after which the order of nations progresses as normal.
The ascending bonus IPCs are meant to counterbalance the swing in TUV for the 6 different potential starting positions. The bonus is fairly substantial for the players who go later in the order, but this additional income only counts towards the total in the first round. After that everything is counted as normal. Note especially, that the Japanese bonus in 1941 is counted up from their fairly meager starting income of 17 ipcs. This provides on balance a game with less need for an Allied bid, as the Allies typically gain an advantage either in turn order or on total bonus cash. So for this reason I have been testing OOB without a bid. The reason I enjoy this variable start for AA50 is that it frees up the potential first round strategies that can be used in any given game. Instead of one winning strategy, there are now 6 starting conditions to account for, and nobody knows which one it will be until the opening roll is made. The ascending bonus money provides for a much more nuanced purchasing game out of the first round, and thus seems to provide a nice balancing alternative to the pre-placement bid.
We are testing this set up OOB, and also under the 18 VC restricted production rules. Both seem to work. OOB encourages more heavy hitting units in the first round generally. With NOs in play, the total income in the first 2 rounds of play, allows for a rather dramatic potential alteration to the standard opening purchases. So far this seems to encourage a more epic game all around. If anyone gets a chance to play under this set up let me know what you think. I kind of love it!
I am more and more convinced that a variable start would benefit Axis and Allies gameplay, but right now AA50 is the only mapboard that allows for the 1d6 roll, so I am focusing all testing on this map. Basically the goal is to achieve a variable start game, without introducing complex rules, or any materials not included OOB. This is the closest I have come so far to achieving what I want.
Love this AA50 mapboard! I really hope it gets a reprint one of these days
I really think this might be my favorite idea yet on how to handle Variable start in an A&A game. Playing openings all day! hehe
My first stab at this involved an ascending bonus in 3s, but I think on balance this proves insufficient to manage the potential TUV swing, which can be quite dramatic (given the straight jacket of the unit set up, especially regarding Japan). Ascending by 5 ipcs seems to put things in a better range, and at least I find allows for more interesting opening purchases for each of the six start positions. Just to further dissect why I like it…
the total bonus income introduced to support this variability on the gamemap would thus be
First side: 5 15 25 = 45 ipc
Second side: 10 20 30 = 60 ipcs
But in the opening round only! This is added to the starting income once, at the begining, and is generally spent in the first round on units (though saving could be an option as well or tech if you play with tech.) But effectively what you are doing in most games, is increasing the games ‘starting’ units out of the first round.
The side (Axis or Allies) which wins the initiative “Opening” roll 1d6 at the outset to start the game, gains the opening movement and first attack bonus for their side, but less total money to buy units in the first round. The side which loses the roll, gets a counterbalance to the initiative loss, with slightly more income as they are in the reactive position.
For example, it is generally optimal for Allies to win the initiative roll so they gain the advantage on opening movement, but this is counterbalanced by the fact that one of the Axis powers will then receive the large 30 ipc bonus to close out the round. Similarly for Axis it is advantageous to win the opening movement, but this would be counterbalanced by the large Allied bonus to close out the round, or variation in prime movement. So on balance both sides have a response option. By providing a comparatively larger bonus at the outset (45 or 60 total to either side), you allow the two sides of players a large degree of freedom to set the course of the game through purchasing strategy and coordinated actions. It is variable to an extent, but you are still working from the OOB base, so there are limits to what is possible. More flexibility and variability overall though, (note especially the Pacific potential, if USA moves before Japan in the turn order! The 3 screw Japan positions, vs the 3 screw G, so the roll can help to decide which theaters dominate the gameplay) but also, more broadly, it provides a mechanism to replace the pre-placement bid to balance the game as this would favor Allies overall.
This creates six new start positions, six balances of power, and several potential strategies to adapt against each one. But all this without necessarily changing the core of the game, just how the opening round begins. The variability gives the game a new lease on life, and gets away from the idea of one set “winning” opening (or maybe 2 or 3) and pushes things out into the range of dozens of “winning” openings for each scenario. This simple rule would create on the AA50 board a lot of different starting conditions (while still fixing the conditions based on the OOB unit set up.) The only change is to who starts the turn (no the position within the order of nations relative to each other) so you quickly fall into the natural groove you are used to, with each nation going in the same sequence as normal after the start.
I am very interested in any feedback you guys might have, about the potential openings under these conditions, and potential responses to those openings.
1 Germany first, 2 Russia first, 3 Japan first, 4 UK first, 5 Italy first, 5 USA first
Ascending balance bonus +5-10-15-20-25-30 ipcs
Favors Allies though, so the question is, too much for balance?
Another way to handle the ascending bonus (if the Allied advantage is too strong) is to switch from ascending, to ascending by side. So allies ascending by 5, and Axis by 10
First Allied player gets 5, second Allied player gets 10, third allied player gets 15
And first Axis player gets 10, second Axis player gets 20, third Axis players gets 30
or perhaps Axis go up ascending by 15, 30, 45
In this grouping by side idea, the bonus is still ascending, but Axis always receive the larger bonus to compensate for the disadvantage they face from the starting unit set up (esp. in 1941, if the normal start position is varied), due to the fact that the OOB game is heavily balanced on the idea that Germany and Japan go before everyone else. I see several different ways it might be approached, though for now I am concentrating on just normal ascending by 5 for simplicity, and to see the results. In the 1942 set up the heavy weight on the opening Axis round is also pronounced (though the balance is better on position/income), but regardless of the start date, you’d still need a bonus to starting income in place, on balance Axis vs Allies, to create an even balance on a board with such a strongly one-sided and scripted opening.
Basically what I am trying to determine, are the optimal numbers for an ascending bonus to allow this kind of boardgame to work with a variable start 1d6 roll. Clearly it would be ideal if the unit set up itself was more balanced in the first round (with less scripted attacks) but since this is what we have to work with OOB, my idea is to use these ascending bonuses in starting cash to counterbalance the obvious disparity that occurs as a result of the unit set up.
I suspect that in the 1941 set up, the bonus would necessarily be more important, because of the situation with Japan (and all the undefended Japanese transports that could potentially be targeted). Basically Axis would be hoping for positions 1-3 on the opening roll, because positions 4-6 majorly mess with the Japanese opening and ability to take land at the outset.) All this creates definite complications for the 1941 start date. And it may be that 1941 is too one sided to really support a variable start.
The 1942 start date on the other hand, seems to lend itself better to the situation I would hope to create. The battle patterns match up more closely as well. Here the variable start would mesh more closely with the situation in 1942, since Allied opening attacks could be analogized to Torch or Pacific battles like Midway. 1941 is somewhat harder to balance for variable start, unfortunately for our purposes, since the unit position and starting income is meant to depict the situation before pearl harbor with Japanese surprise attacks scripted into the opening (and whole balance of the game). In 1942 this problem is eliminated, as all players are already at war.
In the abstract, it is still interesting though to consider how a variable opening to the turn order might look in the two different start dates, because it shows how we might design a scenario from the ground up with a variable start in mind. Basically less scripted battles in the opening round and a more even distribution on attack vs defense for unit groups (less dependent on which side goes first).
Oh no! the game breakers! now starting to present themselves after more extensive playtesting, as expected.
In the 1941 set up the game breakers all involve Japanese transports getting destroyed
In the 1942 set up the game breaker involves Germany taking Moscow in the opening round at 99 percent odds.
My solution to a variable start on the AA50 board would be the following. The player/nation which opens the first round, begins in the non combat phase. This would prevent the most damaging distortions to opening combat, but would effectively make this the least desirable position in the turn order. Basically going first, is like “losing” the initiative roll, and prime position is the Nation to go last. Basically when you roll at the opening the hope is that the guy standing next to you will get “hit” with the burden of opening haha.
Seems a bit counter intuitive, but could potentially work. I will test this out tomorrow
There is also the possibility (and this is just a guess now, as I haven’t tried it yet) but maybe, for game purposes, the first round only involves the Non combat phase for all nations. Roll 1d6 to determine turn order. All nations make their non-combat movements. In the second round, normal game phase sequence begins, purchase units combat non com placement etc. This would eliminate the first round combat distortions that present themselves under the variable start (but also the ones present in the normal game.) This might result in round 2 breakers though, involving stack pushes that might present more significant distortions. I would worry that you are just pushing the problem out another round, by having everyone open in Non Com. Instead I am leaning towards just the player who gets “hit” with the opening roll. So for now I am going to test the results where only the opening nation starts in non com, and the nation in the order plays as normal.
This would likely require a shift in the “one time” ascending bonus. So that the player who always gets the 30, but not until the start of the second round. So sort of like
0 - 5 -10 -15 -20 -25 back to
30 (and continuing thereafter as normal with no additional ‘variable start’ bonus)
But because the opening player begins in Non-Com, their income will not change (no, purchase, no combat, no territories trading hands) and you can just add the bonus at the beginning, when you do it for everyone else. So…
30 - 5 -10 -15- 20 -25 ipcs bonus
That could potentially make up for all the negatives associated with having to move first, since you make it up on the back end with the largest bonus automatically.
Initiative is probably not the best way to describe it, its really just an abstract “opening” mechanism to produce variability in potential (but still somewhat fixed) starting conditions. But the player who opens, is in the role of positioning.
I see a few potential benefits here. First is that it makes the “start” of the game faster. The player who opens doesn’t have to think about purchases, or combat attack positioning, they just need to worry about defense positioning. This will accelerate the first round, and also provide the opener with the largest bonus automatically (though on balance they cannot attack position with it). This would likely lead to consolidation for the strongest defense, then trying to adapt to the situation on the board using the bonus money during the second round. I just had a look at the game breaker ‘Germany first’ 1942 position. Under this start, the set up it lends itself to an almost perfect Stalingrad style opener.
G has enough force to stack defend Eastern Ukraine against any Russian attack in the first round, but not enough to take Moscow in the second. Russia can likewise stack on Moscow (with western Aid) to defend, but only at the risk of losing Caucasus. Then the ball would be in Germany’s court. Throw everything on Stalingrad and make for an “all-in” defense with Italian support? or trade the territory light and focus elsewhere? Might be fun, as it all hinges around a Germany vs Russia brinkmanship haha. I think it might actually work, and perhaps to the benefit of the gameplay overall.
Here is the system my friends and I are exploring today. Each time we play test, I think we are getting closer to a system that actually works. The latest idea is to have what I am calling “paired” bonuses to starting income on balance. Rather than ascending by 5s, this one gives the bonus at three basic levels: sort of like Gold, Silver, and Bronze position (one nation in each position for each side.) Here is the process, using the 1942 start date on the AA50 board:
Set the board as normal
Standard turn order, J-R-G-UK-IT-USA
(I always lay the flag roundel chips out in a line, somewhere on the board, in this order, for clarity.)
Roll 1d6 to establish which nation will begin the turn order.
Whichever nation gets “hit” on this opening roll, is the nation which must start the game.
This opening Nation will begin play in the non-combat phase with zero IPCs starting income. (Skip purchase, Combat, Placement etc. during the first round only non combat movement, and collect income is allowed.) The next nation in the turn order precedes as normal, with all the standard gameplay phases in effect.
The following “descending” bonus is added to the normal starting income of all player/nations once start position is determined:
Player 1 = 30 ipcs (which cannot be spent until the second round per the condition above, restricting the opening player to non-com in the first round of play.)
Player 2 = 30 ipcs , (which can be spent immediately on their turn, as all normal conditions apply after the first nation opens)
Player 3 = 20 ipcs
Player 4 = 20 ipcs
Player 5 = 10 ipcs
Player 6 = 10 ipcs
This is a one time bonus added to starting income only, after which point the game progresses as normal (with NO’s or house rules applied as desired.) Effectively, because the opening nation starts with zero ipcs, in non com, they will always have 30 ipcs, to which the normal OOB “starting income” is added at their first collect income phase, because no territories change hands in non com the numbers remain the same. Basically all you have to do is add 30 to whatever their starting value is printed on the set up card. The next player up does everything as normal. Basically the non com thing is a method to balance the starting set up against a variable start to the turn order which could potentially allow for game breakers. It is necessary on the AA50 board 1942 set up, because of the German starting position on Moscow, but not necessary for the system generally. If unit set was different, then the same concept could be applied to future boards, without requiring the non-com aspect.
Under this system, there is one player from each side (Axis vs Allies) at each bonus level to counter balance each other.
Prime position the first two paired Nations
Second position the second two paired Nations
Third position the last two paired Nations
So whichever side rolls a hit on the opening initiative, there is always a player from the other side that follows them with a comparable bonus.
The logic for the descending bonus is that the players which move later in the round get the “advantage” of seeing what everyone else has bought and how they’ve moved. The opening nation is unique, in that they get the initiative for strategic positioning but cannot attack until the second round. They also receive the prime purchasing position overall, as they can adapt to what everyone else has done.
It is possible to pair the bonuses at any amount that makes sense. Right now I am testing
30 30, 20 20, 10 10 but this could also be lower at say 20 20, 15 15, 10 10 etc.
more thoughts on how this could be done on the Larry boards http://www.harrisgamedesign.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=18479&p=66388#p66388
It is my main goal for the time being to get a variable start system working on at least one A&A board that actually exists, for proof of concept. Trying to achieve this without requiring modifications to the OOB unit set up, as a pre-placement bid alternative.
A few amusing shots from one our games with USA first. Concluded after the 11th round with a sneaky med sea lion, played it out for good form. At one point my opponent threw caution to the wind and used the extra soviet bonus at the start to set up a round 3 Russian fleet buy in the black sea… just to be a prick, and because of course, it had never been attempted before. Or maybe it was the beer, like a straight madman! Surprisingly it worked out to be rather entertaining as we all just went full bore naval arms race for a couple rounds. This was the most entertaining and odd of the dozen or so games we’ve tried so far with variable starts and bonuses. So I thought I’d just share a bit of the madness
and then shortly after UK recovered the home island, and sank the German fleet in a bitter revenge strike! Victory declared on USA 11 for the conclusion of that one
So far it has proved pretty interesting to try teasing out potentially start-position strats, since we both have a pretty good feel. The non-com opening makes a huge difference, especially with matching bonuses at 3 tiers. It opens up a lot more dynamics than were possible in the vanilla set up. In this game the opening roll “hit” a 6, USA opens, so this is the way it works:
Set the board as normal.
The American control marker shifts to the start of the order. Italy now closes the round.
USA starts the game on the non-combat phase with no starting IPCs. After moving Non-Com,
Collects 38 ipcs at the printed value + 7 for China = 45 ipcs total (this only represents their normal income with China under full USA control, though you can option China rules however you like, I find this one works well and is simple.)
- the start bonus 30 ipcs for 75 ipcs total to USA.
After the Americans complete their non combat movements and collect income, then Japan goes. Unlike the opening player who always begins in medias res, the player who follows begins as normal. They are at their printed starting income, may purchase, attack etc, as can every player that follows. So Japan is at 31 printed starting income + the bonus at 30 for a total of 61 ipcs.
Italy +10 (then back to USA for the second round.) After this no further bonus is awarded based on the variable start turn order. Though you can house option other rules in for additional repeating bonus, such as for capturing a VC if desired.
The game shown here was played under the 18 vc set up, with china under full USA control, set VC factories (no industrial complex purchases) per our preferred rules.
This one was my game favorite so far though. USA tried to push across the soviet far east early and keep the fleet locked on Japan, which was novel for a few rounds on the stall, and trying to keep India active… Though ultimately probably less effective than the games were we’ve launched south instead, it was still cool because USA had the initiative and a large purse. Italy achieved a high water mark though they were in the last position, they came sneaky at the end, when they snatched Ottawa for a round on distract… and then destroyed a block destroyer out of 14 to set up the German invasion of London. Highly satisfying hehehe
Glorious echo chamber
So I am curious given the lack of feedback here, whether anyone is even intrigued by the concept of an A&A game where the start conditions are variable?
It seems to me that nearly every great boardgame provides a way to randomize the initial conditions, or at least randomize which player will move first. I am highly interested in finding a workable mechanism for such a system in A&A. I think it will benefit the repla immeasurably.
Having played now a dozen or so games ftf with my friend Tony, a couple dozen solitaires, I do think the AA50 1942 board can support such a concept.
Basically we agreed that in the abstract, what is most impressive about Axis and Allies is the basic combat system, and the production/purchasing mechanism to introduce new units.
The starting unit set up seems somehow less interesting, than the potential for what can happen after the set up when additional income is provided at the outset. This is very similar in its way to the concept of the pre-placement bid, but rather than directly using a smaller amount of money on preplacement bid units, the pot of bonus cash is somewhat larger but structured such that it is saved as income, which can only enter the game as units via the normal purchasing mechanisms. This gives a broader way to control how the variability of the start is metered out over the first two rounds. You wouldn’t necessarily know how to win each potential start condition, just by memorizing a standard opening, or exploiting round 1 patterns to crack the game. Instead, if you do win, it’s feels less like ridding out a ticking time bomb, and more like defeating the opponent through purchasing strategy and taking advantage of the opponents mistakes.
So far the best success for us has been that last iteration of the rules. In the post above.
Opening player does Non Com, with the paired bonuses.
Player 1 +30 opens on non com at 0 ipcs
Player 2 +30
Player 3 +20
Player 4 +20
Player 5 +10
Player 6 +10
I see a strong advantage in developing a 6 player mapboard as the standard. I hope AA50 will be reissued, or that a 6 nation board be made the standard 1942 board in the future. I think it would be harder to develop a variable start for a 5 man mapboard, as it would likely require a five sided die (which would invariably get lost! hehe.)
1d6, 6 man is a must for this concept to be realized. So far AA50 is the only board that truly rocks it from this perspective.
The main advantage for overall game balance in AA50 1942 (Allies v Axis) under these rules (with the non-com opening), is that the US gets to keep their Pacific carrier deck. This is fairly major in encouraging the dual theater war, and is one of the things we like most about the set up. The bonus structure also encourages a more effective Russian tank purchase under most set ups, which leads to a dramatic Kursk style scenerio on the eastern front under most openings. Japan alternatively has a much greater incentive to build air and naval, because the Allied position on the sea is stronger, requiring a more substantial counter.
Also, and this is just an aside, but having played quite a few alternative starts now, it has become much clearer to me why the gameplay on this mapboard is so centered around Moscow and Europe. It is a consequence of the basic map territory connections. 7 territories border Moscow which mean 7 ways in, a split 7 defense of the capital. Berlin is 5 territories and a sea zone, 6 ways in, 6 split defense. UK is 5 all from the sea. Compared to Eastern USA and Japan which can both be defended from a single sea zone, it is fairly clear to me why the board would favor KGF, regardless of the unit set up, or the starting income conditions. And why Moscow is the clear choice over London, for a conservative Axis warplan.
Still, that said, I do find that the bonus scheme outlined above helps to moderate the built-into-the-board drivers on Moscow and Berlin (and to a lesser extent London), and pushes it instead into a somewhat more “world” wide conflict. Plus the idea of a board which features 6 possible starts rather than just 1 seems to me a worthwhile thing to pursue. At least 6 times the replay, but much more in actuality, since the bonuses allow for so many potentially different purchasing strats.