Which nation is right for you?



  • I’ve always been intrigued by how the powers are assigned to each player at the beginning of the game. Revised had a chart in the rulebook that explained each power’s strengths and weaknesses, but it’s not really a topic that I’ve seen much written on other than discussing which is the easiest or hardest for a new player to start with.

    One way to look at it is whether you want to be a tactician or a strategist - probably both. But which country is best for you? I’ve considered two ways to classify the powers based on their starting geographical position: “centralization” and “localization.”

    Centralization: How concentrated is your IPC production? Is it centered on a small number of higher-value territories, or is spread out?

    The main advantage of high centralization is that you have a high degree of strategic freedom, as you have a relatively secure base of operations and don’t necessarily need to to focus on one specific area. The disadvantage is that you have a low degree of tactical freedom because you can’t afford to lose many of your starting TTs (i.e. a power that is not centralized can adopt a “bend but not break” defensive attitude and choose what TTs to lose, while a centralized one has limited options for giving up territory).

    Localization: How geographically close are your IPC production centers?

    The main advantage of being very localized is that you have higher tactical freedom because your units are typically all near each other and can easily reinforce each other. The disadvantage of localization is obviously lower strategic freedom because you have a limited number of fronts/theaters in which you can participate.

    I would say Germany and the US (and Italy) are centralized and localized. Their production is centered in 3-4 relatively high-value TTs that are all near each other.

    The USSR is also localized, with all of its starting TTs contiguous, but is pretty decentralized, with much of its production spread out among a high number of TTs (this is even more pronounced in AAE40).

    The UK is the opposite - it’s centralized, but delocalized. It has a presence all over the map and a high number of TTs, but with primary production centered in 3-4 territories.

    Japan is the fourth option - decentralized and delocalized (especially in the 42 scenario). It controls a relatively large number of medium value TTs that are relatively distant from each other.

    Based on this, someone who is more of a tactician would probably want to be the Russians, who are primarily confined to one theater but have a lot of tactical options there, whereas a strategist would favor the British, who can participate in almost every theater but with limited options in each one.

    The other countries are a little harder to classify, as they each have strategic and tactical leanings. However, if you consider the starting units as well as geography, you can classify them better. The US has a very small military at the beginning of the game, limiting its tactical options and forcing it to make major strategic decisions early in the game (Europe or Pacific, naval or air, etc.). Germany, on the other hand, has a much larger military and (arguably) fewer strategic decisions (they essentially must attack Russia). I would classify Italy the same way.

    Japan is probably the hardest to classify. The delocalization gives it strategic freedom while the decentralization gives it lots of tactical options. But because it has an overpoweringly large military at the beginning, I think it’s more of a tactical power.

    So, for those of you who made it through this post, and with apologies to Italy, here’s how I would rank the powers from most strategic (1) to most tactical (5).

    1. UK: centralized, delocalized, small military
    2. USA: centralized, localized, small military
    3. Germany: centralized, localized, large military
    4. Japan: decentralized, delocalized, large military
    5. USSR: decentralized, localized, large military

    Obviously this is oversimplified, but it seems to give a relatively easy way to compare each country. Any thoughts?


  • 2017 '16

    I would place Japan third while Germany in fourth position according to your criterias.
    Japan have more strategic options than Germany.


  • 2017 '16 '15

    Well written EvenKNo
    I’ve always liked being Germany because they have the most tanks and planes 🙂



  • @Baron:

    I would place Japan third while Germany in fourth position according to your criterias.
    Japan have more strategic options than Germany.

    I think you can definitely make the argument either way here, and it also depends on which scenario you are playing.

    I agree that Japan technically has more strategic options, but in my experience with Japan, it’s almost imperative that Japan takes China on J1 or J2 and as many of the valuable Pacific islands as possible. They could immediately attack Russia, move against India, or against the US, but I think it is much more important that they eliminate China and raise their IPC count as fast as possible.

    Germany does need to attack Russia, but can make decisions on which Russian VC to take first. They can also determine their level of involvement in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and whether to attack the UK.



  • My points are regarding '41 Scenario, since that is the most commonly played (from my experience)

    You’ve classified Russia as a large military.  Yet, they start with only 1 tank and they do not even have a plane.

    Something to consider regarding military size is order of play.  Russia being second makes up for this small number of non-infantry units.  I guess you can take your discussion one step further, breaking the ‘military’ might into offensive/defensive for further ‘general characterization’ of each country.



  • @axis_roll:

    My points are regarding '41 Scenario, since that is the most commonly played (from my experience)

    You’ve classified Russia as a large military.  Yet, they start with only 1 tank and they do not even have a plane.

    Something to consider regarding military size is order of play.  Russia being second makes up for this small number of non-infantry units.  I guess you can take your discussion one step further, breaking the ‘military’ might into offensive/defensive for further ‘general characterization’ of each country.

    True - I mainly use the military characterization for a final tie-breaker, and order of play definitely makes a difference. However, I think the USSR is the most tactical power no matter what size the military is, so it’s not as important for them.



  • Can you make a distinction as to what the difference is to be a tactician versus a strategist with regards to A&A?

    dictionary.com defines the two as synonyms

    In military usage, a distinction is made between strategy and tactics.  Strategy is the utilization, during both peace and war, of all of a nation’s forces, through large-scale, long-range planning and development, to ensure security or victory.

    Tactics deals with the use and deployment of troops in actual combat.

    So does this mean that Russia doesn’t have long term, large scale planning of it’s IPCs and forces?

    I guess I would like a better understanding of how characterizing the countries helps to make me play those countries better when I play a game.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @axis_roll:

    Can you make a distinction as to what the difference is to be a tactician versus a strategist with regards to A&A? […] I guess I would like a better understanding of how characterizing the countries helps to make me play those countries better when I play a game.

    I can’t speak for the application of the concepts of strategy and tactics to EvenkiNatlOkrug’s model, but hare are a couple of thoughts with regard to A&A in general.

    In the real world, the difference between strategy and tactics is that, as you’ve mentioned, strategy basically deals with the overall plans for fighting a war in its entirety, while tactics concerns the way in which troops and weapons are used in actual combat at the location of a specific battle.  A&A has both of those elements, though of course in a simplified way.  The purchase and initial placement of units, for example, is a strategic decision, while the action that occurs on the battle board is tactical.

    In a related sense, however, there’s another difference.  In WWII, both Germany and Japan had an approach to warfare which was more tactical than strategic.  Neither nation was in a good position to fight a long war, so each one tried to win a quick victory through excellence in maneuver warfare: hitting the enemy fast and hard, and using surprise, superior tactics, and skillful deployment of forces to achieve a decisive result.  It worked in some places (Poland, France, Malaya, the Philippines, the DEI), but both countries eventually got bogged down and ended up involved in the kind of war they wanted to avoid: a lengthy war of attrition.  Attrition warfare depends heavily on economic and logistical factors, and those are factors which work to the advantage of nations who have a good grasp of (and which are in a good position to exploit) the strategic elements of warfare – the US in WWII being one such nation.



  • @axis_roll:

    So does this mean that Russia doesn’t have long term, large scale planning of it’s IPCs and forces?

    I guess I would like a better understanding of how characterizing the countries helps to make me play those countries better when I play a game.

    I agree with most of what CWO says - strategy is the overall plan for the war while tactics describe how you fight the actual combat. For example, a major strategic decision for the US would be to focus on Germany/Europe rather than Japan/Pacific, while a major tactical decision would be landing in Northwestern Europe rather than France. Another example would be deciding to use a battleship to clear a sea zone rather than conducting offshore bombardment.

    Russia does have long-term planning decisions to make, but they have fewer grand strategic options. They essentially have to commit the majority of their resources to fighting Germany on the Eastern Front. However, because of the large number of territories involved in this front, and large number of units, they have a lot of tactical flexibility. They can choose which cities to focus on defending, where to mount counterattacks, where to concentrate armor, etc.

    The USA has many more strategic decisions to make (Japan or Germany, Europe or Africa, Central Pacific vs. Southern Pacific, etc.), but is more tactically confined because they start with a low number of territories and units.

    All of the countries have both strategic and tactical decisions to make, but they each have more of one or the other.

    I doubt my characterization is going to help anyone play any better - I think the main point is help players divide up/determine what country to play. If you’ve found that you enjoy or are better at the smaller-scale, tactical decisions, you would probably like playing Russia more. If you like the larger-scale, strategic decisions, you would probably like playing the US more.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    The rulebooks in some of the early A&A games (I can’t remember which ones off the top of my head) included brief descriptions of each power’s strengths and weaknesses and of its general situation, followed by statement like “If you’re the kind of player who prefers such-and-such a thing, consider playing this country.”  Those were handy to new players, and they were a bit along the lines of what EvenkiNatlOkrug says about his own system for helping players decide which power fits their particular style.

    If my memory serves, Larry’s summation about Germany was: “If you want to be the center of attention, consider playing Germany.”  🙂



  • @CWO:

    The rulebooks in some of the early A&A games (I can’t remember which ones off the top of my head) included brief descriptions of each power’s strengths and weaknesses and of its general situation, followed by statement like “If you’re the kind of player who prefers such-and-such a thing, consider playing this country.”  Those were handy to new players, and they were a bit along the lines of what EvenkiNatlOkrug says about his own system for helping players decide which power fits their particular style.

    If my memory serves, Larry’s summation about Germany was: “If you want to be the center of attention, consider playing Germany.”   🙂

    Yep, this is actually where I got the idea. It’s in the rulebook from Revised. I’m not sure about all of them, but if you wanted a balanced game, you should play UK and if you wanted a big land war, you should play USSR.


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