There’s simply no way the Axis make any headway into Africa unless the Allies screw up bigtime. It’s the easiest place on the whole map for Allies to dominate. If you’re finding you can make successful invasions of Africa as Italy, you need to find better opponents if you want a challenging game.
I very well might be doing something wrong, so forgive me, but I don’t quite see it as you’ve described it, elk.
UK has two choices on UK1. Go super strong defense on London, or not. That, for me, always determines how the Mediterranean is going to end up. To be clear, the Axis never decides how Sea Lion or how fights in the med are going to go, the Allies do. The Axis’s job on the first two rounds of the game is simple: pick the weak point(s). The Allies are the ones to decide what those points are. The fickle b����-goddess of dice takes it from there.
There are a whole god damn slew of if/else if/else etc situations that follow, but I’ll try to simplify, leaving out entirely (non-standard) weird things Russia/US can do to make this wonky:
G1: “Standard”: smash against UK navy, take france, yugo gets strafed or whatever, + some kind of buy that can legitimately threaten sea lion,
UK1a: inf + fighter, or something similarly all-defensive.
UK1b: factory on Egypt
UK1c: taking Iraq (with help of UK Pac) (with the intention of a mIC on UK2 being placed there)
UK1d: something else heavy med, such as 2+ planes form London headed to the Med.
note: b, c, and d are not mutually exclusive
I1: Okay, then it comes around to Italy. If I see UK1a, which is “safe”, then I prep for an I2 hit on Cairo, usually, but not always.
G2: if UK1a: you could (and I often do) put lots of planes into Alexandria, prep for a Cairo hit, while usually sinking whatever allied boats are still around in the med.
G2: if UK1!a: sea lion is a very real option
UK2a: Oh ����, Egypt looks bad, do we try to save it or not? (UK’s option c resolves much of this)
UK2!a: Oh ����, London looks kinda bad, how do we fix this. (UK’s option c resolves much of this)
UK2?: Do we retreat from Cairo into trans jordan (perhaps toward our Iraq mIC) or to sundan (toward our south african mIC)? Or do we try to hold it?
I2a: potentially slam into Cairo with your 1x transport, planes, and your Alexandria/sub-saharan africa forces
G3a/I3a: Finish off what’s left of the UK in Egypt.
G3!a/I3!a: Sea lion? Abandon Africa as you might normally? Just crush Russia like a “normal” game?
The user Cow popularized this strategy. A slight bit more can be found at: http://www.axisandallies.org/forums/index.php?topic=30167.0
Okay, with the above in mind, and I hope it’s at least somewhat clear, what are you left with? Italy is now sometimes in the fight in the Med, totally, even if it’s with remnant forces. They start the game with enough units to do this even if they are dumping their first two turns of income into mechs/tanks against Russia, mind you.
Italy’s taking of Egypt might demand a bit of attention from America (yay for Japan!) to put some pressure on the med, and at the very least, entirely flubs up UK Atlantic. With only very modest luck, there’re less UK fighters in Moscow, or less mechanized infantry coming up through the Caucasus, or less whatever UK involvement there might otherwise be. There’s also a bit of a speed bump, however large or small, when it comes for UK/US threatening a kill-italy-first (KIF). Much of this depends on 1: execution, 2: sacrifices the Allies choose make from other options, and 3: a bit (but not a lot) of luck of course.
So, elk, what I’m trying to posit here is that the Axis can still make useful headway into Africa, if not only just the very north tip of it (which is the most pivotal point), even if the Allies don’t “screw up”, depending on some conditions and playstyles.
This game suffers from some lack of viable options at times, but the African/Med theater is not absolutely one of them.
Final note: I never play with bids (I prefer a static per-turn bonus to the US). With bids, and where they almost always (arguably very rightfully) usually go, Africa is basically always a statistical dead end for the Axis.