A & A Just Seems Fatally Flawed - please tell me I'm wrong

  • I’m a relative newcomer to A&A so it could be that I just haven’t played the game enough to build up a good overview, but it seems fatally flawed to me. I really want to enjoy playing it but the inherent unfairness and, thereby, predictability of the game is really trying my enthusiasm. I hope I’m just going about the game the wrong way. If so, please put me right.

    I started playing A&A:E boardgame, then bought a A&A CD game (from Ebay) so I could get more practise. But a really frustrating trend is developing in every game. I always play Germany, and I find that the game is just too stacked against me, and within a few rounds I am gradually pushed back on all fronts until I make a last ditch stand in Berlin.

    The main problem is the huge resources of the USA, combined with the limitless supply of transports. The pattern which emerges every time is that the Allies build a huge armada of transports every round which can only be destroyed at very high expense (in fighters and subs). There’s seemingly NO way that Germany can afford to hold off the inevitable and relentless massive seaborne invasion whilst even holding ground, let alone expanding, into the Soviet Union.

    The German game deteriorates every time into an impossible resource management losing battle. I’ve not tried playing against the computer, with the computer playing Germany. It would be interesting to see how the computer handles it, but the more I play, the more disillusioned and frustrated I become.


  • Dear Spencer,

    You are correct, unless the axis player is a professional, and the allies are muppets, there is zero chance of axid winning the game.

    Many people use variations such as Russia restricted (see back of 2nd ed rule book), or bidding extra units (usually about 15-20IPC’s worth) that can be placed in any owned territory or sea zone.

    Most games seem to pan out as you mentioned, although the little variations, ie exactly how many INF/ARM you manage to place on a front, are crucial. Another concept you may have overlooked is the strength of Japan in asia - with Japan massing on Moscow, sometimes enough pressure can be relieved on Germany to strike back or at least hold out.

    If you’re having trouble as Japan try not doing “Pearl Harbour”, and using those planes inland instead just to see what happens - it is possible if the allies concentrate on europe to hold all territories east of moscow by J3 or J4.

    Look at some on-line gaming sites, like http://www.aamc.net or http://www.axisandallies.net - might be helpful.

    Hope that’s some help


  • Hi,

    You are experiencing what all players experience sooner or later. In standard 2nd Edition rules with no bid, a competent Allied player has a huge advantage. Once Allied play is mastered it is extremely difficult and frustrating to play the Axis. This has been known for many many years.

    The solution offered by the formal A&A clubs is the bid process. This is a negotiated ‘haggling’ process where the two sides bid to see who plays the Axis. The bid is a numerical equivalent in IPCs representing additional units placed upon the board prior to the start of the game. Much like the stock market, this bidding process is designed to move the game closer towards equilibrium. Example:

    Player A… I bid 20
    Player B…19
    Player A…18
    Player B…17
    Player A…yours for 17
    Player B…ok, 4 Inf in Libya, 1 Arm in Kwang.

    So, the bid is a number of IPCs, converted to units. Whoever wins the bid, plays Axis and places their additional units. The only restrictions are that the Axis units must be placed upon original starting territories and Germans can’t start in Japan’s areas and vice versa. The units can be air, naval, ground…whatever your bid number allows for.

    Some further insight. If you are playing 2nd Edition rules with Russia NOT Restricted, bids are typically in the 18-20 range. 2nd Edition with Russia Restricted is typically in the 8-10 range, and are almost always placed in Libya. The extra couple units there give you a decent chance at securing large parts of Africa and getting your income high enough to withstand the pressure on Germany much longer.

    The same goes for Russia Not Restricted. The bids in those cases almost always include a few units in Africa. The additional units are often spread around between Europe and Asia. Common bids are Africa heavy, spread around, Power Europe (all in Europe) or Power Asia. With an 18-20 bid, I often do 5 Inf in Libya & 1 Inf (or Arm) in Kwangtung.

    A note about Power Europe bids… a lot of players do not like these bids. They feel that weaker players simply add 5-6 units in Europe and then all out rush Karelia on G1 or G2 turning the game into a 1 battle crapshoot. So, you might want to consider limiting Europe placements until you are familiar with bidding and what to do as the Allies against a heavy Europe bid. I am currently playing 4 matches in a Power Europe tourney where the bid is fixed at 21 (7 Inf) and they are all placed in Europe. Believe it or not, even against 7 additional Inf in Ukraine or EE, the Allies still can hold off the Germans. Consequently, Power Europe bids are generally considered inferior to spread or heavy Africa bids…but in the hands of a patient German who does not simply rush Karelia…they can be reasonably effective.

    If you play Russia Restricted, I would suggest you simply add 3 Inf or so in Libya. If Russia not Restricted, I would suggest you spread it around a bit with 3 units in Libya and the rest elsewhere.

    Regardless of what you do, you will find that bidding extra units is essential to obtaining game balance. Further, it greatly enhances and extends the game. The variation in bid placements also automatically adds variation to the game as a whole in Russia not Restricted scenarios.

    Good Luck & report back on how it goes.


  • Many thanks for the replies.

    I hate to sound whingey, and I defer totally to player smore experience than myself, but the bidding system sounds like a rather unsatisfactory and unauthentic workaround to compensate for an unbalanced game structure.

    Having a few extra IPCs to throw around at the start of the game surely only delays the inevitable by a couple of turns? It addresses the symptoms but not the cause. The whole premise of bidding seems to take some of the spirit and enjoyment out of the game - you should choose who you’d like to play rather than effectively gambling on who most thinks the result is a foregone conclusion before Turn 1.

    I think you need to look deeper into the mechanics of the game and come up with some rules to level the playing field which have a basis in reality, not in some detached bidding process. I know that Germany lost the War and that Germany losing in A&A regularly is realistic - but losing so monotonously every time does suggest the odds need to be tipped in her favour at least to give you some incentive to want to come back and play again.

    The way to do this is to peg back the Allies in some way - I’m in no way experienced enough to suggest how, but from my limited experience I would say perhaps delay the US’s entrance into the war, reduce the potency and proliferation of transporters and bridging (no loading/unloading in the same round, maybe you could roll for weather/sea effects each round to hamper seaborne/airborne invasions), German U-Boats need to actually pose a menace.

    Also, I see a lot of messages about the potency and threat of Russia - again, my experience is limited, but Russia hasn’t really emerged as a problem for me in the same way as the other ‘faults’ mentioned above.

    Thanks again for the tips.

  • Hi again,

    Well, if you want to play the side you like, then just enter into a fixed bid agreement…say always 18. And always 5 Inf in Libya, 1 in Kwangtung…or whatever.

    The fundamental issue is not the mechanics or rules of the game. Many have experimented that way and yes there are plenty of fun variants, but those types of changes are not required for balance…although they can be great fun.
    The issue is really that there is no way for Germany to increase her income sufficiently to withstand an all out Germany first strategy.

    It is not just a case of a few IPCs and then same old, same old. For instance, an Africa heavy bid can drastically alter things. Blowing the UK out of Africa early means that an Indian IC defense is pointless. It means that the UK/US will have to divert significant forces to Africa. It means that the UKs income plummets dangerously low. It means that an economic victory becomes a real possibility and threat. It means that it is worth Japans effort to continuously shuttle troops and air to AES to aid the Germans. It is quite possible for Germany to hold East Africa, the AES to SAfrica line, for a very long time. Meanwhile, Japan grows into a monster. Suddenly, the real battle is no longer EE/Karelia…it becomes Novo/Russia. Suddenly, there is a real possibility of sailing the bulk of the Jap fleet through the Suez canal to threaten the Allied fleets. Jap air moves from AES to Germany. Now there is a significant combined Naval/Air threat on Allied shipping.

    It is not simply delaying the inevitable a couple of turns. Those turns buy Japan time to become a monster and aid her ally. Once that happens and the full power of the Japanese military is unleashed…well the game can take on much different dimensions. All of this is because of the economics of a heavy Africa bid. If you can hold half of Africa, take out India, Australia, NZ, Madagascar etc early and have time to swing the Jap fleet back into the Africa arena…well the UK is now earning $18. And that is what balances the game…you force the Allies to fight on multiple fronts instead of concentrating all their force on Europe.


  • Thanks again, I take your point that a few wisely invested extra IPCs can pay dividends in the longer term and sounds like it produces a much more satisfactory scope for the Germans (which is my only point of refrerence at the moment).

    However, where is the historical provenance of having extra materiel/troops in Africa?

    I’m not criticising the obvious improvement this can make to gameplay, but it just seems to me a conspicuous contrivance without historical basis, which is a shame. A&A is far from a super-realistic hex war sim (thanks heavens) but it should try and keep as close to historical reality as the game system allows, and this bidding system seems to contradict that, albeit that it can plug a hole effectively in the gameplay.


  • Hehe…the game bears little resemblance to history, other than providing a historical context.

    When was the last time you saw a Japanese tropical weather Infantry army march 5,000 miles West into Russia? If Japan’s income level is $25 to start, shouldn’t the US be on the order of $200? Should Japan be even able to build Armour? Where is the British fleet in India/Asia? Why does China get wiped out immediately?

    The historical unrealities are far too many to mention. There is virtually nothing realistic/historical about the game at all, other than a rough attempt at aligning initial geographical control and some semblance of troop deployments. But, this game is not anywhere near accurate. If you want something similar but more complex and more reflective of special units, historical actions etc… try the Xeno games add-on The World at War 1939-1945. It is based upon the A&A gaming system but adds a ton in special rules, abilities, historical limitations (eg. lend lease, no US entry until turn 6 or attacked by Japan, etc etc).

    Be aware though: it takes forever to play a game. It can take 4 hours before the US even gets to do any combat 😄


  • Also, bidding variate the games. When you get to the point where you have played hundreds of games, eventually it gets old. But, with a bid, every game is different, or at least has the opportunity to be different.

    Kinda like the 12$ in AAE helps.

  • Basically the issue is the Axis need to strike fast to win. The bid enhances this chance to win. If the Allies can hold out and build up forces, the Axis will probably lose against experienced Allied players. The Axis need to stay sharp to exploit any weakness or indecision the Allies will show once the game progresses past turn 10, with no clear winner. Allied players can get impatient with waiting for build-ups and take actions costly to the overall goal. This is actually the 2nd way the Axis can win - by taking advantage of a fragmenting alliance…

  • The game is suppose to be imbalance.
    Try AAE or AAP or ,like SUD suggested, Xeno World at War.

  • No game is perfect

  • Basically, as KING TIGER puts it, the Axis are a knockout fighter, and the Allies have an advantage in a long, drawn-out game. The skill comes in reversing the situation and learing to play the Axis in a long game–husbanding your resources–and the Allies in a short game, crushing the Axis in a few rounds. Once your crew get to be virtuosos in these styles, your games will become even more interesting. Till then, have fun with wierd strategies and try to anticipate your enemies’ moves. Try playing as the Allies and learn their weaknesses–this will really help.

    If the “random” element (i.e. dice rolls) proves to be not to your liking, try playing Diplomacy. This venerable game involves NO chance and simply depends on your personal diplomacy skills to gain mastery of Europe. My buddies and I enjoy it as an alternative to A & A or when we have too many people to play traditional A & A…and you can’t blame “the rules” as an excuse if you lose…

    Just some ideas…


  • I agree with ozone. Play as the allies to discover how they think and how to defend against it. I’ve played a&a about a million times and at first i thought the allies would always win, then always the axis. The conclusion I’ve come to is that the game is as fair as it could possibly be. Either side has the same chance of winning, just in different ways. You need to learn your own strategies for winning in that specific way.

  • Thanks again for the replies - a goodly collection of responses to chew over.

    Even with my cursory knowledge of history, I realize that A&A interprets and represents history ‘loosely’. And don’t get me wrong, I think that’s a strength of the game - it’s supposed to be a playable and, rightly, historical accuracy and attention to detail have come second to speed and enjoyment.

    I’ve played hex games (as well as Diplomacy) and I found them more like a dry logistical exercise than having fun playing with soldiers and tanks within a structured framework and victory conditions. They were work, A&A is play. That’s what turned me onto A&A in the first place (and why I won’t be playing World at War in the near future).

    I feel that A&A should be the ideal game for me - the historical context is good, the difficulty level is sociable and, of course, the board and pieces are excellent for a 30 year old big kid like me. Only, there’s just something not quite right about the game which prevents me from loving it and wanting to play it more often than I do.

    No games are perfect, but A&A could be a good deal more perfect than most, if only for a few tweaks. Having said that, again I can only speak from my experience of playing a handful of games of A&A and A&A:E, btownthug16 has played more than me and he thinks the game is balanced.

    I need to play more and I’m prepared to be proved wrong.


  • Biding is a great way to balance and alter the game, but I agree, it’s not really historical. However, I’ve come up with good alternatives that are historical correct.

    1. America gets no IPC or half IPC for the first round. Even though America had been gearing up for war since 1938, it was nowhere near the level of readiness for what lied ahead
    2. Two hit battleships. Battleships could suck up A LOT of damage before being destroyed. You could also use 2 hit carriers though I think that it would benifit the Allies more.
    3. Russia Restricted. Since this game takes place in Spring 1942, the dreadful winter climate of Russia is over and the Germans are once again able to resume the offensive. Plus Stalingrad might not even have occured (August 1942 - 2 February 1943), meaning that the Red Army might not be able to stage its massive counterttack.
    4. Sub-subs. German subs were among the best in the war and the Japanese had those awesome torpedoes.
    5. Rockets and Rockets. Germany gets rockets and better fighters on the third turn to represent breakthroughs in weapons development.
    6. Spain Axis. Germany and Spain were very close to getting Spain to enter the war. Simply place 3 inf, 1 tank, 1 fighter in Spain and make it worth 3-6 IPCs.
    7. AAE style strat. bombing. The German Luftwaffe delt heavy blows to the American and British bombers in the European Air war.
      🆒 Subs. Subs can choose to remain in their sub pens to escape Allied air attacks. Subs are treated if submerged and cannot attack for the turn they wish to be in “dock”

    Well here are 8 historically accurate ways of improving A&A for the Axis. You could use as many as you like or even all of them.

    Never before have we had so little time in which to do so much

    [ This Message was edited by: TG Moses VI on 2002-03-07 21:25 ]

  • Thanks, TGMoses: those are some GREAT ideas!

    P.S. I hafta nitpick w/ the original poster’s analysis of Diplomacy–the game is hardly a “dry logistical excercise”: in fact, emotions generally run pretty high in our games. Maybe its just us, I dunno…


  • Thanks. Usually to make 50/50 games for Axis and Allies I usually use my following house rules. Russia Restricted, America gets half IPC, Two hit battleships, AAE style strat. bombing, Spain Axis, docked Subs., and Rockets and Jet Ftrs. Some of the rules are great since they can be used as a double edged sword against the Axis like Spain before France, two-hit bb, and docked subs.

    Also I’ve included some additional rules for strat bombing and docked subs.
    Bombings: Strat bombing can only deal damage at an equal or lesser value to the IPC value of the territory. In case of a higher greater, treat that bombing run as the highest value of the terriotry.
    Subs: Subs can only be docked in territories with a IC. Opposing Powers may enter into the sea zone where the subs are docked but there is no combat unless the sub’s Power wishes not to remained docked.

  • Wow - thanks again for all the great responses.

    I have now played the (computer) A&A game another half dozen times yesterday, starting off with Restricted Russia and other extra rules to help the Axis. And I finally won. So I played a couple more times and, I won again. So I turned off the extra rules in my favour and…now I can’t LOSE as Germany!

    My initial mistake was trying to take on the Allied transporter armadas - these are better left alone since they are ineffective in the time it takes the Axis powers to win the game. An all out offensive in Africa, supported by para drops and the single transporter in the Med wins lots of IPCs, sufficient to support an overwhelming offensive against Russia the following turn, pouring in men, tanks and AAA (I’ve found AAA superb value for money). Once you have half a dozen men and a tank or two in Africa (don’t bother building an IC here) it’s yours for keeps. A modest force in WEurope and Norway will hold off for the duration and so you can just keep flooding Karelia with troops and armour, keeping the Fighters just back from the front line after their sorties and also keeping a reserve of tanks to deploy wherever Russia counter attack. Within a handful of turns Germany has done enough to utterly blunt the Allied campaign in the European Theatre and Japan will have taken all of Asia and be encroaching into SAmerica and mainland USA.

    Excellent rules TG Moses - I’ll be trying out some of those for sure. I like the sub pens idea, and the automatic awarding of weapons development. I think this is a way forward - weapons development shouldn’t be something that you optionally roll for - because just about everybody ignores it and buys men and tanks instead, so it gets ignored. There should be a scheduled weapons development programme, perhaps still rolled for after certain pre-determined turns, but not costing any IPCs.

    I’m not so sure about Spain’s involvement but, for realism, how about restricting Japan from entering Soviet land zones? A little draconian but…

    AAA - this is great, I try and put at least one into most zones. It would be nice to have a coastal defence version of AAA which had a first strike attack against shipping.

    Strategic bombing - pointless, the worst damage you can do is minimal, especially against a country with 40 IPCs to spend and you run the risk of heavy losses against AAA. I never do any, and all the Allied Strat bombing against me ends in disaster for them.

    Subs - definitely need to be submergable before aircraft have a free stab at them - otherwise they’re pretty much cannon fodder.

    Ozone27 - I wasn’t referring so much to Diplomacy as a dry logistical exercise, so much as hex games. Diplomacy is far from a logistical exercise, you’re absolutely right, it’s pure…well…diplomacy. A unique game, though last time I played I seem to remember it took us 8 hours of exhausting negotiation to reach a draw.

    Talking of Diplomacy - how about some extra phases in each game turn, like:

    • diplomacy (or is it too late for pacts?)
    • weather (a good way of reigning in the Allies attack on Europe)
    • weapons development (not optional - everybody rolls for free, see above)
    • intelligence (you don’t physically place all your units straight away, you keep a record of them and only place them when they’re adjacent to the enemy or the enemy finds out about their location by some ‘Intelligence’ roll)
    • nuke (after round n, if the USA can roll more than Japan’s IPCs with 6xD6 they get to drop the nuke and Japan may surrender)
    • delayed US entry (US can only enter the war if Japan meets certain conditions constituting an attack on US)

    Thanks again all

  • '19 Moderator

    Have you seen the rules for World at War? Most of the suggested rule changes here are covered in it. We added a couple rules from AAE and AAP and it’s prefect for us.

  • Maybe this was already mentioned but I find
    the actual board to be completely different
    than the CD version. THis could also change
    your perspective on the game being equal/fair. What does everyone else think about that.

  • No, I haven’t seen the rules for World at War, I looked a a WAW website and saw that it effectively took up an entire room in your house for months at a time and it kind of put me off. A&A is just about right. I’ve played A&A:E purely as a boardgame, and A&A on CD only so I can’t compare the two directly. There appears to be little difference really, except I think with the PC game you tend to be blinkered and focused just on your ‘bit’ - you tend not to take any notice of what’s going on elsewhere.


    **Update - my mistake, I was thinking of World in Flames, not World at War

    [ This Message was edited by: F.Spencer Chapman on 2002-03-15 07:09 ]

  • The main difference that I noticed was in the infantry’s ability to attack. It seems as though the infantry on the cd version hit a lot more than on the board version when attacking. Does anyone else see this?

  • '19 Moderator

    I think that the W@W games don’t last that much longer than the original. I’ve had Original games last for 25+ hours and world at War games finnish in 6 or 7. It is defineatly an all day game though.

    The difference between the cd game and the board game is that if you are playing against the computer it only has a strat for the first two or three turns. After that it could be beat by a chimp. I played for over ten years on the board before I bought the CD. I found that it was fun to goof around with but unless you play against real players online it is no challenge.

  • Like I said anything that hits for 1: transports, infantry, bombers, and AA-guns (especially) seem to hit a lot more often in the cd-rom game. However this is quite the opposite for infantry on defense (I’ve seen many times where Western Europe is easily taking from Germany with taking only 1 or 2 hits against 6+ infantry).

    As for diplomacy, I did create an A&A Diplomacy varient with technology investments and investments, though I’m trying to figure out any clear weather condition rules set. Any suggestions?

  • Although you may be out matched in the CD-Rom version of A&A as Germany…there are 2 things you cannot forget.
    2. My friend and I had the same issue the first few times we played…believe it or not the computer is actually very easy to beat on its hardest setting…its nothing compaired to a real person’s intellect. I suggest playing the game on easy for a while and then play the actual board game a lot too…eventually you’ll find the computer to be a joke and you win the glory for Germany.

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