Article nomination for A&A.org home page
Young Grasshopper last edited by
I would like to nominate the first post in the following link for the A&A.org home page… Not only is Black Elk’s post extreamly helpful to new players, it is IMO a great analytical piece that covers many aspects of Axis & Allies game mechanics.
edit* moved the working draft to the relevant game section. Thanks for letting me camp in the article section while I knocked it out.
Hi all! YG has asked me if I might be able to provide a kind of “General Introduction and Strategy Guide for Axis and Allies 1942 Sec Edition” as an outgrowth of the things I was writing in the “Russian openings” thread linked above.
If its cool with everyone here, I’d like to reserve this thread in the article submission section as a placeholder, so I can organize some of my ideas and outline a basic approach to the subject. Thought it might be easier to draft and expand things here first, then abridge/edit with feedback, before creating a final document. I imagine it will take me a few weeks to pull it all together, but I’m pretty enthusiastic when it comes to A&A, so hopefully it won’t take me forever.
Right now though, I just wanted to brainstorm a little, and highlight some of the subjects I think it might be worth addressing. This isn’t an article yet, just a way to get there eventually.
I’ve been teaching people how to play A&A for a while now, and I have some definite ideas about various ways to introduce new players to the game, starting from the very basic and moving into the deeper strategic territory. Although there is now a “starter board” called 1941 (currently in print) that is meant to do this job for us, I think 1942 Sec Edition is sufficiently simple enough that I could teach pretty much anyone how to play A&A using this board, without requiring prior experience with Axis and Allies. I don’t think you need to have played 1941 before you jump to this one, or that you need a familiarity with the earlier A&A games to enjoy and excel at 1942 Sec Edition.
It may be helpful for the purposes of comparison or analogy, if you’ve played a game like Risk or Chess or Monopoly before, if you are fascinated by the History of World War II, or like Maps, that’s fantastic too, but none of that is strictly necessary. All you really need is a bit of enthusiasm for the spirit of gameplay, and a little patience. If you’ve ever enjoyed playing with miniature figurines or Plastic Army Men as a child (setting them out and imagining battles!) then I can definitely teach you how to play this game.
First I just want pause and say, I think you should go out and buy yourself a copy! Its a great way to motivate yourself to learn how to play.
1942 Second Edition is still available at most shops and in many toy stores that sell boardgames. Its not too expensive, and if nothing else, you get a bunch little plastic army men out of the deal! Plus a playing field included (the World) for them to move around on!
Sure, there is a recommended age for this game, but as long they’re old enough not to choke on the pieces or wantonly destroy the cardboard map, you can play A&A with most kids. Its nice to have a bunch of toys on hand, in a tidy box somewhere in your house. You know, just in case kids descend on you haha. But even for adults, this game has solid potential as an education tool, one that promotes greater aptitudes in the social skills, as well as in geography, history, and mathematics. Game play is good for us, and good for the species, I truly believe this. But if you need more help justifying the expenditure, how about support for the arts and the killer illustration on the cover of the game box?! Or poker-like predilections, with those mini stack-able A&A chips, now in Green too?! (like green M&Ms, you just want them! and I probably also just dated myself exactly haha, but those greens are great.) Or how about all the miniature flag roundels, and the thrill of punching them out?! There are all sorts of reasons to pick up this game.
Some of you who frequent these forums, or hang out on the Larry boards might know that I’m a pretty big proponent of digital gameplay. (For those who are new to these haunts or new to A&A, Larry is the dude who first created and came up with this game. He did us a solid. Thanks Larry!) But back to the subject of “Machine” aided gamplay, there are all sorts of digital tools and applications for Axis and Allies that are pretty cool. Everything from dice rolling, to battle calculators, to map emulators, to simulations of the game itself. I think these are all fantastic. I fully endorse them, and think they can be very helpful for learning and enhancing your comprehension of the game, but still, there is just no real substitute for the physical game on your table. Rattling the box open, laying out the pieces, feeling the dice in your hand, the thrill of facing down your opponent in an actual face to face match! That’s what it really comes down to. It’s not always possible to get someone to sit down with you and achieve the full gameplay experience, and in those instances there are great digital ways to play this game; by email or by forum, or live online using software, but face to face is still the ideal that I strive for. Everything else just builds up to it in my mind, like training, so you can be at the ready when the opportunity does present itself. It’s totally worth it to pick up a copy of 1942.2 for yourself, and this guide that follows will assume that you have, or hope to do so sometime soon.
That’ll do it for a mission statement, or a rocket launch, that mission control will hope to keep in view. What follows is I guess, a rough outline or notes. I’ll be editing as I go.
First things first, What’s in a Name?
Axis and Allies 1942 “Second” Edition:
1942.2, or the game you just bought, is one of the latest in a whole series of Axis and Allies games that came before it. Taking our time machine back to the 1980’s, this thing has been available in one form or another for geeks like you and me to enjoy for a while now. Each iteration aims to improve over the last and carry the concept forward, but the game itself is intended as a stand alone thing. There is no “First Edition” you need to pick up prior to playing this one. Everything you need (or at least, almost everything) can be found in the box, and all you need to know (or at least, almost all you need to know) can be found in the game manual. The “almosts” are why we’re here, to help you out and point you in the right direction. So with that in mind, lets talk about a couple things you might want to have on hand, in addition to the boxed materials…
Show me the Money!
This game uses a kind of currency, or game points, which are called IPCs. They are imagined as “certificates” that are meant to represent an Industrial Production Capacity (IPC). In the past, little paper bills were included as part of the Axis and Allies boxed materials, similar to monopoly cash or funny money, which you could hold in your hand and count. These bills were awarded for accomplishing your in-game goals, used to purchase units, or track your progress, and for other purposes as well. In the more recent Axis and Allies games, this paper money was replaced with an “IPC” tracker, but I really believe that it is helpful to have a physical representation of IPCs available when playing this game. You can find gaming “funny money” online or in specialty shops, or you can use colored pocker chips, or even simpler you can just use actual coins. Where I live Pennies and Nickels can be fun for this purpose, representing 1 ipc and 5 ipcs.
Not that I’d ever endorse gambling. (Although I totally would) But just having something at the ready, for your players to count up and exchange, and horde as their IPCs, can be very helpful for maintaining general order while promoting a more avaricious desire to play the game (you know, until the sun comes up! haha). Honestly, it helps. The tracker can be useful too, but coins, or chips, or bills in hand, is just best, especially with newer players.
Write it down, check it twice:
Like all things conceived in one place, built in another, and coming into your home after passing through who-knows-how-many hands, there’s a chance things might glitch out somewhere along the way. Unfortunately these glitches sometimes occur with A&A games too. In 1942.2 a few things in the game manual and some of the set up charts included with the boxed materials weren’t 100% in line with the vision of its creator. I don’t know why these things happen, but they do, so in addition to the Box, you’ll also want to check out the game FAQ and Errata for 1942.2, and maybe print out a page to keep on hand. Often on these boards you’ll hear people use the acronym “OOB” what this means is the straight up game out of the box, by the book, or the “official” game. This is the game described in the manual + updated addendum from the FAQ/Errata.
The arbiters of officialdom, are basically the creator Larry, and our friend Krieghund who keeps us posted on Larry’s views whenever a serious question comes up. You can always ask a question here on the boards and someone will chime in to help. And if its a real stumper, then Krieghund, our war-hound on point, will bound over the barbed wire and guide us in the right direction so we can avert mini rules disasters.
That’s it! That’s all you need to get started. The game and the rules! Now that we have them, lets take it back to the basics…
Plastic Armies, and Plastic Army Training:
I’ve seen a lot of different ways that people teach this game, and reading the rulebook aloud cover to cover is probably the worst of these. It might be admirable for yourself, and necessary to do at some point, but it’s just not the best way to get people pumped up to play the game with you. If you take this approach to teaching, A&A can rapidly become overwhelming and tedious, and can challenge the attention span of the new person in your gang. Frequently they’ll look to you to just “explain how to play, so we can start playing.” And that’s the trick. If you have a second person in the room who knows how to play, you can do the “watch and learn” method. This is better than straight up reading the rulebook, but it can also be confusing for the new player. They will see a lot of things happening, without understanding why, and you will constantly be pausing and digressing and explaining what’s happening in a somewhat haphazard and circuitous manner. It works, but it takes a while, and it requires that you have at least 2 people in the room who know what they’re doing. Sometimes you won’t, sometimes its just going to be you and the new guy, and when you find yourself in this situation I have very basic method I like to use…
When I first learned how to play Axis and Allies, from my older buddies Griff and Oddie, they taught me to play it this way, and its the approach I’ve taken with new players ever since. Start with the Units, the Battle Board and the Dice!
The very first thing you’re going to do when you open the box, and the very first thing your new players will do when they dig in, is to pick up the plastic pieces and start checking them out. Fantastic! First hook achieved
Once you have the little units in hand, and you’re ogling all the mini sculpts; looking over the infantry and tanks, fighters and battleships etc. I say dive right into the battle with the dice. Before you bother setting up, or explaining the map, or IPCs or production, or how units move, or even unit value as it relates to these things, just grab the units and start staging mock contests on the battle board!
Rolling dice is the one surefire way to get people quickly engaged with the game, and the combat system is truly what makes A&A. It allows you to “play” plastic army men, but “with rules.” You don’t even need a map or a broader game architecture for this to work, all you need is the battle itself, and a simple way to connect the units with the rolls. That’s the start, explaining Attack vs Defense, how “Hits” are determined, how casualties are allotted when those hits are made, and how this stuff all repeats until one side wins or the attacker withdraws.
I start with Ground. Infantry first, then add in the other ground units, explaining the principles of “heavy hitters” and “fodder” along the way. Then do the same thing with all the Naval combat units. Then the same thing with Air Units. Then combine these to showcase the different abilities or units in differing combinations. I like to talk about subs, destroyers, and aircraft last, as that one can be a bit tricky.
Now add in the AAAgun and show how it interacts with aircraft. Finally introduce the transport unit, showing how they can work in amphibious assaults with bombardments, or at sea vs air. Once you’ve gone through the entire unit roster this way, and have described the abilities and relative attack/defense combat values for each, pause the battles and turn to the economic/production aspect of the game
The easiest way to make this transition is with the Bomber unit. Its a good unit to showcase the concept of Unit Value/Cost. After you’ve showed your friends some ways that bombers can be used in battle, you can gradually segue to a discussion about how this unit can “also be used” to Strategically Bomb factories. SBR is way to show how units enter play. All units must be spawned at factories, so the SBR thing naturally gives rise to a more in depth discussion of what IPCs are, how they are awarded, and what they can be used for e.g. buying more units!
Here I find it helpful to draw more attention to the map itself, which until this point just serves as a backdrop and place to mess around with units, but which will now take on a more meaningful gameplay significance. It will make more sense now, since your players will start to “get” the concept that the territories on the Map=IPCs=Money=Units.
And Units that must be spawned from production facilities at specific places on this map.
At this point you’re still not “playing the game”, what you’re doing is priming your players and getting them invested in the process of “setting up the game.” As someone who’s played before, you might be temped to do your players a favor a set everything up beforehand to save time, but I think this has a definite downside if someone in the group is new to A&A or even just new to the map. Pre-Settting is something you can do next time, once everyone has a practice game under their belt. But for the first time out I think its really important, to actually go through the process of letting each player place their starting units, and read through their set-up charts, and all the rest. Not all together but one at time. In other words, don’t just hand everyone a set up card and say “go to town.” Instead, begin with the Russian set up, and get everyone involved. This will necessarily take a bit longer, but it doesn’t take as long as you might expect, and it has the advantage that everyone is on the same page, get’s to see all the units and all the territories involved, familiarizing themselves with names and locations and the distribution of forces, double checking to make sure that the set up for each nation is correct.
Take 5 roundels (one for each nation) out of the box, and arrange them from left to right in the sequence of the Turn Order.
Russia, Germany, UK, Japan, USA and keep these 5 off to the side somewhere where everyone can see them. Then go through the set up in that same order. You can have one player read off the locations and units from the set up card, and the other guy place them in the territories, both checking to make sure you got all the right stuff in the right place. You’ll notice that when you slowly build up like this, not only does the map take shape in a more organic and resonant way for your new player, but it also increases the feeling of mutual participation and anticipation. The situation on the gameboard will start to “read” for them, in a way that it won’t, if you just start slapping pieces down all over the place. This way there is a progression and a point of focus: First Red, then Black, then Tan, then Orange, then Green.
And by the time you get to Green (USA), all of your players will have surveyed the full map and starting forces. Green light go! Eat another green M&M! Do it this way, and I’m telling you, your new players will be so ready to rock it, you won’t be able to hold them back. Building to the crescendo, which is actually just the start, the First Round!
You can do this in an hour, 2 hours tops (if you include all the messing around on the battle board I mentioned earlier) but it will be worth it, because now your players will be fully invested in the game. They just built it out together, and it took a while, so they’ll be eager to get back to the battle board and the fun of rolling the dice!
Lets call everything I’ve discussed up till now, just a bunch of suggestions or advice for introducing new players to the most basic appeal of A&A. You might not get in a full game this first session, but you don’t really need a full game. Just making it through the set up and the first few rounds can often be enough to hook your new player and make them want to come back to finish what you’ve started. Or to do it again, “even better next time!” That’s what you want to shoot for, get a hook in, make it fun the first time, so you can get them coming back. Most people won’t have the patience to play a game like this, until they see how it just sucks you in, and once you’re sucked in, it’s like a happy black hole, you don’t wan’t to escape from, and couldn’t even if you did.
With visions of tiny tanks dancing through their heads, they’ll be going home and concocting strategies for “next time” maybe they search a few things online, try to up their game. But the whole point is to make it engaging, and in this respect I think pacing is important, part of what you’re doing when you play A&A is to create a “bigger” story about what’s happening on the board and with the dice. The narrative component of the gameplay, and this can take a little time, but there’s no need to rush it. Historical banter and high drama, more snacks! You know the drill
Right then, just wanted to draft something I could use here as a jumping off point, in order to keep the echo chamber echoing. For a more substantive outline of an actual article what I’d like to do is this…
Units: full examination of each unit in the 1942.2 roster. Discussing their abilities, attack/defense/movement and TUV significance, along with their magnified abilities. Battle board focus: Land, Sea and Air.
Map/Production Spread: overview of the games basic economy and how this relates to the map.
Player Nations: General overview of each Nation, following the turn order sequence. I’ve touched on this in the Russian openings thread, but I think it makes sense to have a look at each nation individually. Then analyze the situation “by sides” for both Axis and Allies.
First Round: Looking at potential opening moves, and opening builds for these 5 nations, with a discussion of “Theater focused” strategies/builds.
Endgame: Thinking about the overall production spread, income parity, double dipping etc. Then a discussion about capital control, capital trading, center control, and VCs. Here I think it makes sense to think of things like how to use turn the order, and builds/logistics/attacks over multiple rounds to set up viable endgames for each side. Lot of ground to cover there, but hopefully once the rest is fleshed out it will be easier to approach in a more coherent way.
Ok, that feels alright for a start, and a goal. I’ll return to this soon, as the ideas come. Catch you guys in a few.
Ps. One quick thought on…
Attitude/etiquette when gaming with new people: learning to savor your own defeat!
Retaining a sense of detached fascination with the course of events, or how the dice gods are just out to wreck you. Even when you’re being brutally humiliated, at your own table, you gotta maintain. It’s key!
Sure, it’s easy to get bummed or feel frustrated when the dice don’t go your way. Obviously, we’d all prefer to crush at all times, but this is a dice game, a game of chance. Everyone has a different threshold of “dice pain” and a different attitude towards competiveness in a boardgame, but often players will take their cues from the people around them. If you keep cool and play through, rather than getting hung up on bad rolls, or tripping out about how some battle “never should have happened like that” it will reflect better on you as an admirable foe. If you get completely smoked, try not to dwell on it overmuch, instead compliment the other player. If a roll is particularly brutal, try treating it like something particularly “cool” that just occurred… a major turning point in the war, a killer move by your opponent, and then play through. This increases the likelihood that they will do the same, if the tables turn, and the dice start going your way instead of theirs. If you notice that a player is getting really demoralized one approach is to offer them a reroll. Sometimes it helps to say this at the outset, to make it meaningful. Some people will offer 1 reroll each during a game, if a battle is deamed too harsh on one side, or just to play it friendly “what if, I didn’t totally get my ass kicked on d-day.” You know, to keep spirits high and promote enthusiasm for the game “play” overall rather than the results of battles. It gets a bit easier the more you think about the whole game as a story. The story of the greatest conflict in human history, represented in miniature on the table in front of you, Epic battles between aquaintances, turned enemies, turned friends.
Work with the crappy rolls, try to turn them to your advantage, and keep it lighthearted, there’ll be time enough for tournaments and cutthroat games, once you got a gang going.
More late night disjointed rambling, about…
The best part of the game:
Since ancient times, and for a good many centuries now, people everywhere have delighted in playing with miniature figurines! In the finest tradition of toy soldiers, from clay to tin to plastic, A&A builds on this fascination that we have for the very tiny, and gives you over 400 little dudes to play with and create your battle force!
Sculpts of all sorts, from battlships to bombers! and arranging and collecting them is a big part of the experience. Think of the 1942.2 as more than just one single game, because its actually a whole playset or toolbox that you can use in many different ways. One way I enjoy using it, especially if there is a kid around, or new casual player, is like a Suped-Up version of plastic army men!
Now instead of just banging them around and knocking the pieces over, (creating random situations on the fly, free form style), A&A gives you a way to actually play plastic army men. Its not just the whims, or aesthetics caprices that drive the way you set up manage your plastic army men contests, but an actual battle system. The rules are pretty simple and each little plastic army man (and the vehicles too! including tanks, airplanes, and naval ships) can now face each other, with randomized dice rolls determining the outcomes of individual contests. This takes the free-form play impulse of plastic army men and turns into actual game-play. The best kind of play!
I want to highlight the battle board “play” process in a simple section. But before the battle gets under way, lets think about the Dice for a minute, and casting those bones! The way it works is this, each individual unit has its own attack and defense value represented by a single die that you roll. The two opponents square off, with their forces and their dice at the ready, then roll to determine who wins! I think this is the sort of thing you can teach people pretty easily, even younger than 12, and they pick it up right quick.
There are 6 sides to the dice. Units can “Hit” at 1 2 3 and 4 (depending on the specific unit), but 5s and 6s are “duds.” This means that Axis and Allies (in its most basic form) primes us to appreciate “the Quaternary.” The 1-4. The first four sides of the die.
We know from the Greeks that the Quaternary is pretty damn cool. Its the sort of thing that sticks easy in the memory, and has all sorts of genius built into it. Out of the first Four, 1, 2, 3, 4 add 'em up together and you get 10 exactly! The base 10 system of numerics. Take each of the first 4, and flesh em out on paper, and you can see the essentials of Euclidian three dimensional space. You got the lone point in space, the period . Then connect two points . . for your straight line _
Then connect three points for your Δ and finally the pyramid (when you put the forth dot in the middle of the triangle and connect each node.) Make a Tetractys from it, and you can show how these first 4 also give us the essentials of the harmonic scale in music. Basically what I’m driving at here is that even Pythagoras, and likeminded fans of the tetrad, would probably approve of units hitting at 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s in Axis and Allies!
As a mnemonic device the first 4 hits are easy, teaching players how to dread the 5s and 6s is more challenging. If they ever played Risk or Monopoly, they might have a predisposition to think that “6s are rad!” They might be thinking, “I hope I get double 6s.” Or in that first instant, when the dice fall, they might instinctively hope to go “beast mode”, with triple sixes, because maybe someone grilled Risk or Yahtzee into their heads at a young age hehehe. All those games privilege the “high rolls” and the six. Not so in Axis and Allies, here its the “low roll” you want! The dreaded 1s, at least in battle.
The only exception in Axis and Allies 1942.2 is the SBR, strategic bombing raid, where 6s are always best. But even there the value of the monad, and power of the 1 is present. Because the AAAgun of the factory can shoot a bomber down before it ever gets to raid, if it rolls the mighty 1!
Still brainstorming, but this is the sort of tact I might take, when you break out the physical dice, after new people have finished gathering up pieces into piles and looking at all the mini sculpts. Trying to demonstrate that in this particular game, in battle anyway, the roll you really want is the One! The more 1s, the better for you. And you don’t just want “snake eyes”, you want a whole pile of sneaky snake eyes, Indiana Jones style!
And once I drill home the point about how we really dig “the 1” in Axis and Allies, I try to take it back to a discussion of all the units. And first to the Big Red 1 (or the Black, Tan, Orange, or Green! as the case might be haha), and by this I mean the most important unit in the game…
the backbone of your army! The indispensable grunt!
Boots on the ground, your GI Joe, and the pawn who protects the king, or takes the king and the makes the queen, depending on which way you look at it. But whichever way you look, you’re going to see a bunch of infantry! Because infantry is the most prolific and best pound-for-pound unit in the whole game!
Lets hang out with the infantry unit for a minute, and extol its virtues. Not only is infantry the cheapest unit you can buy, the one you’ll have the most of at the outset, but its also the best. Here’s why: infantry attacks at 1, defends at 2, and costs 3. It contains within it the badassedness of the Delta, the Spear Tip, the 1, 2, 3! Δ
Lets start with the 1-2 Punch!
For the mere investment of 3 ipcs, you buy a unit that does both the 1 and the 2! Nothing else will get you as much mileage for the cost, in quite the same way as having more infantry boots on the ground. Their defensive value is solid. On D, they hit at a 1 or a 2! Out of a 6 (on six sided dice), that’s a 1/3rd shot to hit and destroy the enemy!
The defensive value is clear, but the attack value should not be underestimated either. If you consider that 4 infantry attacking together are at basically the same odds (during a single round of combat) as a bomber, you can see that their attack value for the cost is decent as well. 4 infantry on attack can also be better than a bomber in some cases, because you not only have the same chance statistically to roll a single hit in the first round of combat, but there is a chance you might even roll more than one hit. You get 4 shots after all. 4 infantry cost 12 ipcs, just like a single bomber costs 12 ipcs, both forces hit at a 4! Now consider how, for just 1 more ipc than the cost of an infantry unit, you could spend 4 ipcs and buy an artillery unit. That artillery unit literally doubles the attack effectiveness of any infantry that it fights alongside (bringing us back to Quaternary connections haha) again showing how infantry can be potent on attack! More on that ability in a second. But the most important thing you get when you buy an infantry unit, is the 1 hitpoint that unit represents. The shot it can take before it goes down.
In an important sense, 4 infantry (which hit at a 1, in four chances) will always be better on attack than a single bomber (which hits at 4, in one chance). If one of those 4 infantry has to take a hit, there will still be 3 guys to fight. A single bomber on the other hand, can only take 1 hit before it dies! Both forces cost 12 ipcs, but a single infantry unit destroyed only costs you 1/4th of that total amount, whereas the bomber is worth all 12 ipcs alone. If the bomber dies you lose your whole investment and ability to attack, but if only 1 out of the 4 infantry dies, you still have 3 chances left to hit at one. The fight can go on, even after sustaining casualties!
Now imagine instead that the bomber and the infantry are fighting together, alongside each other… the 4 infantry units each hit at a 1, and the bomber hits at 4, now you have a heavy hitter, the Bomber, with dudes to back it up, and take the hits for it. This gives you what we call in A&A the concept of “fodder.”
Fodder = plastic army men destined to die, or to keep it more euphamistic and upbeat, “to be glorious sacrificed upon the alter battle,” a dedication to Mars or the Nation State. But these are the units that keep the battle going! They keep the bomber and other heavy hitting units alive, over the course of the combat.
Everybody, each Player/Nation, starts with more than a dozen infantry at the ready distributed across on the gamemap. Part of the challenge in A&A is getting those Infantry forces into positions where they can link up and do the most good on defense, or the most damage on attack. Some Nations, like Russia and Germany, start with a bunch of infantry in position right away, and can produce many more over the course of the game. Other Nations like UK, Japan, and USA have their forces scattered all over the place, many out of position and they face challenges moving infantry from production centers to the front, usually having to cross the water, or buy new factories to get their infantry into the fight.
This highlights one of the few drawbacks of infantry, their lack of movement. Boots on the ground can only march so fast, and if there is an ocean in front them, boots don’t really help you to swim. The Japanese and the Anglo Americans especially, will have to buy transports (and warships for their transports) all in service of getting infantry across the water. A transport can substantially increase the range of your infantry unit, but once they touch back down on dry land, you’re still looking at a movement of only 1. This is where other units come into play, such as tanks or aircraft, to support your infantry on the move. Units that can “catch up” and make your starting infantry more effective, or to turn your newly purchased infantry into a force that can do more damage to the enemy.
There is also one more important respect in which infantry is more valuable than any other land unit, and that has to do with the relationship between Infantry and Transports. We’ll talk a lot about transports later on, but for now, just consider that in A&A the rules have it that Transports can transport “1 infantry + 1 other ground unit.” This means that a single transport can move 2 infantry, or 1 inf + artillery, or 1 inf + 1 tank, or 1 inf + 1 aaagun. But if you only have 2 artillery, 2 tanks, or 2 aaaguns, it takes 2 transports to move them! Anytime you are not transporting 2 units at go with your transports, you are not making the fullest use of those transports. This is why its important to have infantry as a naval power, because you want to load transports with the max units possible, to make the greatest potential use of each transport you possess. We’ll get to transports again in a while, but think of it like this: you need at least 1 infantry each round for each transport to “activate” that transport (and ideally 1 infantry and another ground unit!), or the transport is basically being wasted that round.
Infantry is the cheapest unit you can buy that can occupy and hold ground. Holding ground is what gets you money, money you will almost certainly be spending to purchase more infantry. To hold more ground, to make more money, to buy more infantry! And so on…
Its important to recall that the starting forces on the gameboard are more valuable than all the land, on the entire map, even put together over several rounds. The value of the starting forces in infantry alone, is worth more than any single nation’s income for a single round of income collection. Just look at the overall TUV. The Total Unit Value, of the starting forces for each nation, vs each nation’s starting income.
Axis: 667 starting Total Unit Value, but only 71 ipcs starting Income.
Allies: 714 starting Total Unit Value, but only 97 ipcs starting Income.
Germany: 362 TUV, 41 income.
Japan: 305 TUV, 30 income
Russia: 180 TUV, 24 income.
UK: 283 TUV, 31 income.
USA: 251 TUV, 42 income.
This means that, in a very real sense, your units are worth a lot more than the land they’re sitting on. In most cases, a good portion of the starting total unit value is infantry. They make up roughly a third of the TUV in each Nation’s starting forces. That means that the replacement cost of your starting plastic army men is often more than the value of the whole world. What seems at first glance, to be one of your most “expendable” units, turns out to be your most valuable resource!
If you’re going to sacrifice it, best make damn sure its doing you some good in the process.
Pushing your starting infantry at the outset is the best way to start winning early overall, which sets you up to win big later on. If you can get your starting infantry on the move quickly, and get them marching towards their main objectives without taking too many casualties along the way, and destroying as many of the enemy as possible in the process, that is ideal.
If you can sacrifice a pawn to take a pawn, that’s a fair trade, but if you can sacrifice a pawn to take a knight that’s much better! And well, if you can do either without losing your pawn in the first place, at no sacrifice, then you’re really killing it.
That’s how we want to use our infantry. They are there to take the hits when they have to, but the more of them you can keep around the better off you’re going to be. Which is why what you really want to do is back them up, and to sometimes invest in other units that will make your infantry more effective over time.
The big guns! Like Napoleon, and military strategists before and after, who have understood the merits of lobbing explosives at each other over longer distances, artillery is going to give your infantry units the back up they need to start making an impact! Softening up the enemy, blowing up their fixed positions, and generally wreaking havoc all over the place. It does everything an infantry unit can do, but makes a stronger attack and still beefs up your defense, for just a cost of 1 ipc more than a regular infantry unit.
4 ipcs invested gets you the double deuce, hits at a 2 on both attack and defense! And not only this, but it has the special ability to boost 1 infantry unit to attack at 2 as well! This is fairly huge, just think if all those starting infantry had artillery to back them up, the whole force would be twice as effective on attack. Using the concept of fodder, even if the infantry unit goes down, the surviving artillery would still attack at a 2. This means that for just 1 ipc more, you could potentially make all your fodder exchanges at a better value.
3 infantry grouped together on attack gives you 3 separate chances to hit at a 1. Basically a 50/50 shot that you’ll score at least 1 hit in the first round of combat. If one of these guys dies, your odds drop down to just a 1/3rd shot.
2 infantry and 1 artillery grouped together on attack, gives two chances to hit at a 2, and one guy left over to hit at 1. This is better than an 80% shot. And in the next round, if one of the infantry dies, you still have a 2/3rds shot.
Now say that you win the battle and take the territory with a single surviving unit. Sure, if that unit is an artillery piece, its 4 ipcs at risk on counter attacker, rather than 3 ipcs for an infantry unit. But that’s still just 1 ipc more. Not to diminish the value of 1 ipc too much (sometimes a single ipc can make a big difference) but overall if you can destroy more TUV than you had to risk, and take the land, its pretty easy to make up the difference at just 1 ipc. Weighing the odds of victory vs defeat, it often makes a lot of sense to use artillery in your light trades, even if they end up getting sacrificed during counter attacks.
Here’s a good example
2 infantry vs 1 infantry is a little better than 55% odds to the attacker.
1 infantry + 1 artillery vs 1 infantry is over 85% odds to the attacker!
The first attack force costs 6 ipcs, the second costs 7 ipcs. But over the long haul, that 1 ipc could save you much more TUV in the trade, because it increases the odds not just that you will win, but that you will win sooner. If you can kill the enemy without taking as many fodder hits in the process, and do this consistently, you shift the pressure onto your enemy.
The hard and fast rule of thumb is that, if its just infantry alone, you need to bring about twice as many infantry on attack as the number of defenders you’re trying to destroy. But if its infantry +artillery, you can attack at roughly equal forces, and still have equal odds.
So for example, if its just infantry, you need to send 4 infantry on attack vs 2 infantry defenders, to a have a reasonable chance of success. Thats 12 ipcs TUV vs 6 ipcs TUV.
But if you have artillery in the mix, just 1 infantry + 1 artillery is roughly equal on attack vs 2 infantry defenders. That’s 7 ipcs TUV vs 6 ipcs TUV.
When you scale things up, the contrast becomes even more stark. Often times when the stacks of infantry really get large, it becomes numerically impossible to send twice as many attacking infantry vs infantry defenders, and that’s when artillery really comes into play. You need a way to even the odds, and reduce the number of casualties you are likely to sustain as the attacker, over each round of the combat phase. The more artillery you invest in early, the more effective your infantry stacks will be on attack, and they’ll still be just as effective on defense, (perhaps a bit more expensive on defense, since you don’t get any special boost, but at least you’re noting losing anything to the odds on D.)
In my view Artillery is the best unit to be introduced into A&A since Classic, the most entertaining and the most important. This is another reason why I prefer to just start with 1942.2 instead of 1941. Artillery helps to diminish the power of the infantry push on defense, by giving infantry a way to attack at odds without breaking the bank. Without artillery, Axis and Allies games, especially games vs experienced players will tend to drag on, and turn into infantry “stack fests” where players use the incredible defensive power of infantry, and value for the cost, over all other units. But now there is artillery, so when your enemy starts pushing infantry against you, you at least have a way to push back.
I’ll come back to this tomorrow, and talk about other units. But first I want to give myself a chance to dream about Tanks haha. We’ll have to cut all this down with a machete at some point, but I’m just typing the thoughts as they come, since its easier for me to shred after I’ve rambled a bit.
Armor! For the Blitz!
The tank unit is your best available “heavy hitter” on the ground, and it has many important uses in the game. The most important of these takes advantage of the tank’s ability to move two spaces across the ground. Air units have an expanded reach as well, but aircraft can’t take and hold territory, so at least on the ground, for the purposes of claiming territory, the tank is your go-to heavy hitter.
Now a single tank costs twice as much as a single infantry unit, at 6 ipcs, but a single tank is significantly better on attack than a single infantry unit, slightly better on defense, and can move twice as far. More than anything, it is that last aspect, the tank’s movement advantage, that sets it apart from infantry and artillery. In a given combat, infantry and artillery are better for the cost both on attack and defense, but its the tank’s ability to “get to the battle quickly” that offsets its rather expensive price tag. This is very important to keep in mind, especially when considering whether to purchase tanks over infantry or artillery.
Just looking at the raw numbers 2 infantry are better on attack than a single tank, and significantly better than a single tank on defense. Here are some simple battles with the odds to show you what I mean…
2 inf on attack vs 1 inf on defense = over 65% odds to the Attacker.
1 tank on attack vs 1 inf on defense = 50% odds to the Attacker.
Here it is the fact the infantry get more potential chances to hit, and more oppurtunities to prolong the combat, because the force has 2 total hitpoints compared to the tank’s single hitpoint. The purchase cost or TUV for both attacking forces is the same at 6 ipcs, but two infantry is a better all-around attack force for the price than the lone tank.
3 inf on attack vs 2 inf on defense= 50% odds to the attacker
1 inf + 1 tank on attack vs 2 inf on defense = 50% odds to the attacker.
The cost/TUV is again the same, without much difference to the overall attack advantage. But there is also a slightly better chance that the defender will fight you to a draw if you use the 1 inf + 1 tank force over the 3 infantry force to attack, this due to the fact that the tank force has less total hitpoints.
4 infantry on attack vs 2 infantry on defense = over 75% to the attacker.
2 tanks on attack vs 2 infantry on defense = roughly 60% odds to the attacker
Once again the cost of the attacking force is the same, but the odds on attack drop even lower, and the odds that the defender will fight you to a draw are even higher, because of the hitpoints.
Here’s one that might seem even less intuitive…
2 inf + 1 tank on attack vs 3 inf on defense = only about 45% odds to the attacker!
2 inf + 1 tank on attack vs 1 inf + 1 tank on defense = now 70% odds to the attacker
4 in on attack vs 1 inf + 1 tank on defense = still about 65% odds to the attacker.
You’re better off with the extra infantry and the extra hitpoint, on both attack and defense. And for the same total cost, the defensive value of tanks is just dwarfed by the power of max infantry over the long hual, due to the hitpoint aspect. Without taking movement into consideration, the tank is a weaker attack unit for the cost than the same amount of ipcs spent on infantry. Now take a look at the tanks when compared to artillery, for the same cost…
3 artillery on attack vs 2 infantry on defense = 80% odds to the attacker.
2 tanks on attack vs 2 infantry on defense = less than 65% odds to the attacker.
Those two forces cost the same amount of money, 12 ipcs, but the all artillery buy nets you more hitpoints and the stronger attack advantage over all. In fact, because of the “infantry boost” ability of the artillery unit, you can achieve the same attacking power for one less ipc. Since 1 infantry and 2 artillery have the same cumulative attack points as a force of 3 artillery. So again, when it comes to the isolated battle, Infantry and Artillery are both superior to Tanks for the cost. Moreover, 2 infantry could conceivably launch 2 separate attacks in opposite directions, whereas a single tank must still fight one battle at a time.
So why buy Tanks at all?
The reason to buy tanks over those other ground units is not attack power per se, but rather the “power projection” of the units. Tanks can move 2 spaces, they are able to threaten more territories with potential attacks from the same position. Infantry and Artillery can only threaten territories that are immediately adjacent to them, but tanks can potentially threaten territories up to another full space out. Tanks can blitz, meaning that they can take 2 territories at a time (provided the first territory on the path is empty of defending units). They can rush across a friendly territory and into a hostile one, to join the battle. Equally important, they can “double back” if they have to, and rapidly redirect pressure from one front to another in the region where they are operating.
For this reason alone, its helpful to think of the tank as a “strategically” advantageous unit, more than a “tactically” advantageous one. It gives you options. It’s not going to get you a better attack advantage than inf/artillery for the cost in any individual battle, but it can give you the choice to launch more potential battles, over a greater distance, or in a shorter amount of time (ie. less game rounds, than the other ground units would allow.) In a single round of movement, the tank can get twice as far as Infantry or Artillery. Over the course of multiple rounds, this movement advantage is magnified. Think of it like this: an infantry unit produced at Berlin takes 4 rounds to reach Moscow, but a tank produced in this same location can get to Moscow in 2 rounds! That, in a nutshell, describes why you buy tanks!
When you buy a tank (instead of more infantry or artillery for the same cost), you trade a slightly diminished total attack, defense, and hitpoint value, for an increased “movement” value. Axis and Allies is a turn based game, meaning that this trade off can be well worth it, provided you know how to rush your tanks to the front, or rush them back from the front, in the event you need to bolster your own defenses somewhere rather than pressing the attack on the enemy.
There is another reason why you might consider buying tanks over inf/art, and that is because of a production limitation. If a factory territory has a low production value, or if the factory is severely damaged by SBR, it could make a lot of sense to buy a tank over 2 infantry, since you can squeeze more attack/defense/movement out of your purchase. There are lots of times in the game when situations like this will confront you. Territories like Karelia, India, Caucasus often deal with this issue. Berlin or Moscow too, even London and Tokyo must sometimes deal with production limits. More money to spend then a max infantry buy would allow, means you need to squeeze the value in somewhere. In those cases, the purchase of a single tank, over 2 infantry, can be very advantageous.
Lets just look at Karelia as an example. Say Germany controls this territory and wants to make the best use of the 2 production points that the territory is worth. A pair of infantry is cheaper for a cost of 6 ipcs, than a pair of tanks at a cost of 12 ipcs, but the infantry can only threaten territories immediately adjacent to Karelia. The cumulative attack power of the infantry buy is a mere 2 points. Whereas if you buy tanks the cumulative attack power is 6! Three times as much power!
Sure it costs more, and you don’t get the fodder hitpoints, but in a situation where production is limited and you need to get the most out of the space, that extra expenditure can make sense, and then you buy tanks rather infantry.
But never lose sight of the fact that tanks are damned expensive!
Any time you buy a heavy hitter, you want to protect it with weaker and less valuable fodder units. You don’t want to throw these tanks away on attack, or put them at risk of counter attack by the enemy, unless you absolutely have too. As a general rule, you should never attack with “naked” armor (ie. tanks that have no fodder cover) unless the attack is critical to the war effort. Likewise, if you see that a defender has left their armor naked, you should always try to attack it and trade infantry for tanks if you can.
To really show the best way to do all this, how to use armor (and other ground) to the greatest possible effect in “the territory trade”, we first need to bring Aircraft into the equation. But before we get there, I want to turn to the Naval units, and have a look at some comparisons between ground units and naval units. Next time, thoughts on the Destroyer… The infantry unit of the sea! haha
This is Just too Cool ! Sorry to cork your space
Apologies Black Elk - I know you have not asked for any responses on this thread.
However, I would really like to know where …
2 inf on attack vs 1 inf on defense = over 65% odds to the Attacker
… comes from?
I do calculate attack and defence strike value and also the number of units each has in play (which I think you call “hit points”). Â I also divide each party’s units by the opposition’s strike to gain sight of round one likely losses. Â But I don’t know how to easily get to the odds you quote.
Did yesterday construct a s/sheet which calculated your odds to be accurate by summing each round of combat, but presume there is a simple formula?
Apologies Black Elk - I know you have not asked for any responses on this thread.
However, I would really like to know where …
2 inf on attack vs 1 inf on defense = over 65% odds to the Attacker
… comes from?
But I don’t know how to easily get to the odds you quote.
Did yesterday construct a s/sheet which calculated your odds to be accurate by summing each round of combat, but presume there is a simple formula?
Just follow this link:
No need for appologies. Happy to see some interest in this stuff! I’ve been waiting to dive into some naval and air discussions, but got slammed at work. Hoping I can get back into it this weekend. Brevity is always a challenge for me, so I figured I’d go expansive first and then cull the extraneous material. There’s some stuff in the Russian thread I was thinking I could probably rework for a separate article too, once I get a framework. Posts on these boards cap out at 2000 words per post, and I think 2000 words is probably as much as anyone would want to read at a go, so it would likely be more an article series than a single comprehensive article. I’d like to strike a balance in the discussion/subjects I bring up, so that it will be useful for first timers, but without being so overly sophomoric that it wouldn’t also hold some interest for more experienced players as well. I figure everyone, even the seasoned vets, will sometimes be in the position of teaching the game to newer players, so that was my angle for the introductory materials…
It might make sense in the end to pull together an article after that, that brings in concepts such as bidding, or other familiar House Rules, including technology or ways to adapt 1942.2, but I think for now, just handling the OOB material is a tall enough order. A&A is a hard game to learn, so anything that helps the new player get their bearings is helpful. I recall reading Classic strategy guides, and Revised guides way back when, which is probably what first led me to these forums when I think of it. But before getting there, first I just gotta see how much material actually suggests itself to me for 1942.2, and whether it’s interesting enough to survive the chopping block.
Feedback and suggestions are always appreciated. Oh also, in addition to the calculator Baron linked, there is a built-in battle calculator that comes with tripleA. That’s the one I use generally. You can hit control+B, or find it in the game tab down at the bottom. There is some slight variation in the averages produced by calculators, usually by a couple percentage points, but it’s still very helpful to get a basic picture of the odds on certain battles. I don’t use it much in actual games, as I find it stalls me and produces a fall sense of confidence in winning odds, but it provides some definite insights when it comes to purchasing strategy or understanding the relative value of certain unit combinations vs others. I prefer dice games for the most part, but I am familiar with the low luck mechanics and will use those as shorthand if the situation calls for a quick calc, but for these sorts of broader discussion about unit match ups or pairings or simulated examples, I generally turn to the battle calculator in tripleA, since its convenient. You will also find more information in these calculators than the simple “win/loss” ratios I have offered above. Most good calculators for A&A will also show the odds on a “Draw”, or how many units will survive on average if a given side wins. There are also ways to simulate other battle conditions or contingencies, such as 1 land unit must survive and things of that nature. I did not quote these full statistics for the battles above, because I don’t want to flood new people with too many stats or too much information at the start, but you can definitely get statistical information on all kinds of situations, if you really want to tease things out. Or ask Baron, and he can usually give you some nice numbers to consider too.
Thanks very much BM & BE.
I had already found the AACALC function that BM has highlighted. Sorry - should have mentioned that in my post.
I was looking for a simple formula that I might use for a quick mental calculation as I play. Don’t want to get too hung up with the odds as the resulting sense of entitlement will increase any frustration with poor dice throws. Dice means luck that can overtake probability. I am fine with that. War has that same uncertainty.
Let me assure you, BE, that I am reading each of these posts with interest and entertainment, although my main interest is in the strategic options that you will get to in time. I am usually pretty quick with understanding the basics of a new game, but am aware that it took an interchange with you to spot the all-important fighters to R option.
To PP, I think the easiest method is probably just to crib the process used to determine auto-hits in Low Luck. Use that as a rough ballpark for your expected hits in a dice game, and then consider the overall hitpoints involved for each side. All things being equal, the side with more hitpoints has the better overall chance to prevail. How to get a working percentage from that on the fly, I couldn’t tell you, as I’m not that good at mathematics haha. But sometimes it’s helpful just to hear it stated like… 2 infantry on attack beats a single infantry on defense, 2 infantry on attack are still better than a single tank on defense etc etc. 2 fighters on attack is better than a battleship on defense etc. so it’s starts to stick out in your head.
SHIPS and Sea Zones: some preliminary thoughts on the naval game: the very high seas!
In Axis and Allies 1942.2 there are 65 sea zones in play, and unlike land territories, most of which have an IPC or “production value”, none of those 65 sea zones have any independent production value. To put it another way, Sea Zones are basically worthless, at least inside the game’s economic system, and can only influence this economy indirectly.
Sea zones hold no intrinsic value for the game’s unit purchasing mechanics. Instead, what “value” or usefullness they can be said to possess comes from their relationship to land territories, more abstractly as “transits” from one land region to another, or simply in terms of the TUV of ships currently inside the sz. The fact that Sea Zones have no independent IPC value means we need to think about “controlling” or “contesting them” quite a bit differently than the way we think about land territories.
In some ways the abstract “value” of a sea zone can be simpler to approach in absolute terms, than the “value” of a land territory. There is no IPC number written on the map, no factories or VCs to confuse the situation. You don’t trade sea zones back and forth to gain any sort of direct economic advantage, you don’t risk a ship, to take a sea zone just for the hell of it, or because its worth X or Y ipcs. Instead you think about these sea zones, as “lanes” or “routes,” for the purposes of unit movement.
This might seem like an oversimplification or stating the obvious, but I still think its worth stressing, because it means that all naval actions are subordinated to land actions in A&A! When you purchase a ship in A&A, you want to do it with a mind towards expanding your own movement options across the water, or else to limit the movements of your enemy. Every ship you buy, is ultimately bought for the purposes of either protecting transports, or destroying them.
The ability to transport or destroy transports, will go into determining how many ships and what sort of ships to buy, or whether you buy any ships at all. If you do buy warships, you want to put them in the water with a plan, either to open up transport lanes for yourself, or to disrupt those of the enemy, because the warships don’t get you anything by themselves alone, just floating there. Well with the possible exception of carriers that is.
You can think of Carriers as shields or lily pads. They exist primarily for the defense of transports, and as a way to facilitate the expanded movement of fighters across the game board. Every other warship in the roster, can be thought of as existing either to protect transports directly, or to protect the carriers, which themselves provide the max defense possible for transports (or key transport lanes by coastal production) via the carrier’s ability to house fighters. The relationship between Air units vs Naval, is something we need to look at in much more detail, but for now it’s helpful to just keep in mind that: all Warships = transport/carrier cover in 1942.2.
Warships defend your own transports/carriers, or they threaten enemy transports/carriers. Ideally you’d like to do both at the same time, by just having one massive floating armada parked adjacent to a large factory in a “home” sea zone, but this is rarely possible to maintain. Often you will be required to break your fleet apart, either for your own immediate transport/carrier needs, or else to support those of an Ally, or perhaps to exploit some weakness of the enemy. But when the need invariably arises to put your fleet on the move, sometimes you really have to pick a focus, either fleet defense, or fleet attack. I just want to bring this up now as primer, it will make more sense once we look at aircraft in greater detail, but the analogy of Rock-Paper-Scissors almost works…
Land is like Rock
Naval is like Paper
Air is like Scissors
If your Rock is big enough, you can usually beat Scissors, meaning that a giant stack of Ground (infantry+artillery+armor focus) can generally defeat a giant stack of Air (fighter+bomber focus.)
If your Paper is large enough, you can envelope the Rock, and this is sort of like what the Anglo Americans and Japanese are trying to do with the continent of Eurasia. They threaten the weak spots on the Ground, by Sea, with their transports.
And we all know that, if your Scissors are sharp, they can murder Paper. Just so, Air in A&A can slice Naval to pieces.
But it gets a little confusing because in Axis and Allies, it really comes down to “Rock beats Rock.” And “Scissors beats Scissors” etc. And a giant rock covered with scissors probably beats everything, especially if the scissors are made of steel and falling upon you from the heavens like spiky anvil meteorites!
And of course, in real life, we know that Paper doesn’t beat Rock at all! The Rock rips straight through that paper if you throw it hard enough. And this is probably worth keeping in mind as well. Because in A&A, although Naval might help you get into position vs land forces, you can’t actually “win the game” with a navy alone, or an airforce alone. Only Rocks can take territory and capture capitals! So ships in A&A are really just part of the extended ground game, albeit at a slight remove.
To continue with this not-entirely pointless analogy, your hands themselves might be like Factories (needed to make the whole game work), which could get crushed by the rock, or lopped off by the scissors, if you’re not careful! But probably they’re not too worried about the Paper-cuts! What I am trying to hammer home here, is the idea that Naval forces (the Paper) need to be used in very creative and focused ways to win against Ground (the Rock). This is usually in conjunction with Aircraft and Ground as well, to bolster your navy and make it effective (some Rocks and Scissors of your own) or else that navy is just a worthless as Paper. What we need to do is find a way to paint that Paper green, so we can get more use out of it!
Transports and Carriers are how you paint that Paper green, and they are among the most important units in A&A! but they might also be the most complicated, so lets not get to them just quite yet, first I’m going to eat another Green M&M, then come back later to talk about Destroyers (as promised), and Cruisers and Battleships!
Destroyers, Cruisers, Battleships:
All the hits! Still trying to hear the Music, over the big guns.
It’s taken me a little while to build up to this Naval discussion, so apologies for the roundabout way of getting here, but I thought it would be useful to do some of that initial set up beforehand, so the water wouldn’t be quite so hypothermic, once we finally made our splash into the naval arena.
I find it helpful, especially to the discussion of ships as naval “fodder” to first understand how that fodder concept works with ground. That’s why I wanted to start with the 3 principle ground units (infantry artillery and tanks), and then go to these 3 naval units (destroyers, cruisers and battleships), so we could draw some parallels. I suggested above, that the way I like to think about Navies in A&A has everything to do with unit movement, or unit transits. I also mentioned the critical sense in which naval purchases are actually subordinated to (or ultimately in the service of) ground purchases via transports. And I briefly alluded to the complex relationship between Naval and Air, how Air can be used to “beat” naval. This last idea is enough to warrant its own specialized discussion, which I will get to in a minute. But for now, what I’d like to hold onto here, is the idea that warships (especially destroyers), are really used to control the movement patterns of transported ground units, to control the defense of those units while they’re on the move across the water.
If I’m trying to work through this with someone who’s never played before, I like to start with the Destroyer, the DD, and think about it a bit like a naval Infantry unit. Its not exactly the cheapest naval unit (that distinction is reserved for the Submarine) but it is in fact the cheapest naval unit capable of hitting aircraft on defense, and the cheapest unit you can buy that will reliably “block” the enemy’s naval movement, by turning a sea zone “hostile.” It also has a complex relationship with submarines and aircraft, allowing the latter to attack the former when a destroyer is present. And the destroyer is the only unit that can effectively counter the submarine on defense, by preventing its opening strike and submerge abilities. So what this amounts to, is that the destroyer is really the only naval unit that can “hit all” other units conceivably present in a Sea Zone battle.
Just like the Infantry unit is at the core of any strong Ground force, the destroyer unit is part of the core of any strong Naval force!
The core of your naval battle group is the true heavy hitting defender in 1942.2, the loaded Carrier deck! with destroyers backing it up. Searching for other metaphors, if Loaded Carriers are like the spinal column, then destroyers are like the backbones and rib cages. They are the skeleton that protects the vital organs! (You know, the brain and the beating heart of your naval game, including transport units and the coastal factory unit itself!) These last are protected, propped up, and allowed to connect and communicate with the rest of the body (Map) via the sturdy support of the Loaded Carrier + Destroyer combo!
Notice that I didn’t mention Battleships in this metaphor, because those warships are suspiciously like the gallbladder or the appendix! Hold-overs from a previous age, they’re still organs, and they still probably do you some good for a while. Certainly nice to keep them around if you can, but perhaps not exactly what we’d call “essential” to your survival. They can definitely still mess you up hardcore if they go haywire! hehe. Battleships will give us some more indigestion and sharp pains in just a moment, but keeping with the destroyer for now…
Destroyers are our bones in A&A. Like the crossbones on a Pirate Flag, or that scene from 2001 Space Odyssey, what we want to do is use our bones to break the other guy’s bones, or at least break their will, then steal their loot and their shipping lanes, and achieve Monolithic status for our side’s Naval evolution!
Earlier I suggested a possible distinction between Fleet Attack and Fleet defense, the destroyer has a critical role to play in both. Lets look at Fleet attack for a second. The destroyer next to the cruiser and the battleship…
Destroyers cost 8 ipcs: attack and defend at 2.
Cruisers cost 12 ipcs: attack and defend at 3.
Battleships cost 20 ipcs: attack and defend at 4.
2 destroyers attacking vs 1 cruiser defending = around 75% odds to the attacker.
The attacker has to spend +4 ipcs at purchase, (for a total of 16 ipcs TUV risked) to destroy 12 ipcs TUV of the enemy’s.
3 destroyers attacking vs 2 cruisers defending = around 65% odds to the attacker. Here the attacker spends the same amount on TUV as the defender (24 ipcs risked, to destroy 24 ipcs) again still at decent odds.
3 destroyers attacking vs 1 battleship defending = around 75% odds to the attacker. Once more, the attacker spends +4 ipcs at purchase (for 24 ipcs TUV risked) to destroy 20 ipcs TUV of the enemy’s at odds.
Pound for pound, having a larger force of just destroyers is better (albeit slightly more expensive in some cases) than a similar amount of IPCs spent on just cruisers or battleships. In this respect the destroyer vs these other two ships, is a bit like infantry vs tanks. If you can buy more destroyers overtime consistently, you can overcome a defender who just concentrates on Cruisers or Battleships, because you will have more total hitpoints, and more shots in a given combat round.
There is one very clear advantage to playing this way, that goes beyond just the basic TUV trade. In addition to offering a better hit-point/shot ratio, 2 or more destroyers can also split apart and occupy separate sea zones, whereas a single Cruiser or Battleship unit cannot. The destroyers give you the option to mass together for defense, and then later, to fan out and make multiple attacks or blocking maneuvers.
So why would you ever buy a Cruiser or a Battleship?
I don’t want make it seem too black and white here, there are still some “specialized” instances where it might make sense to purchase cruisers or battleships, but these are rare. The basic thrust is this: if you’re going to buy Battleships or Cruisers, you should be doing this for some special reason. Four reasons come to mind…
A. Pure intimidation: buying cruisers or battleships, just to psych out your opponent. The Battleship in particular, is the most expensive unit in the game, so buying a bunch of them over time will surely demoralize your opponent, or so the logic goes. But this assumes a certain degree of ineptitude or naivete on the part of your opponent, since, as I will show in a movement, this sort of purchasing strategy is fairly simple to counter.
B. a specific plan for the bombardment bonus. Cruisers and Battleships have a unique ability to bombard coastlines and peel off defending units during amphibious invasions. While potentially advantageous, its important to recall that in 1942.2 each bombardment is tied to the presence of invading ground units 1:1. Also defending units destroyed by bombardment still get to “return fire,” meaning that the Cruiser or Battleship bombardment hit could be all-for-not, if the defender is rolling hot with their ground troops defensively.
C. A specific production limitation at a coastal factory. This one is a bit tricky to get your head around, but suffice it to say, that when production is low, it sometimes makes sense to purchase a more expensive/powerful unit, when it is not possible to place more individual units. I gave a description of some situations like this recently in a thread in the House Rules forums. http://www.axisandallies.org/forums/index.php?topic=35629.msg1393132#msg1393132 But basically the same thinking you use on land, when limited production might encourage the purchase of tanks over inf/artillery, can apply on the water, where limited production could recommend Battleships or Cruisers over Destroyers at purchase.
D. A specific need for more potent fodder. This last may seem a bit weird, looking at expensive units like cruisers to play a fodder role, but in certain cases it can be necessary to sacrifice a cruiser in order to keep a fighter alive or carrier deck alive (so that fighters can have a place to land). In even rarer cases, it might even be necessary to sacrifice a Battleship to keep a carrier alive for the purposes of Fighter defense, though that case is much rarer. Usually with battleships, the fodder aspect comes from its ability to absorb one hit.
Under the normal 1942.2 rules it takes 2 hits during combat to sink a battleship. The Battleship can take one hit, and then repair this hit immediately at the end of their turn for free (provided it survives the combat.) This gives battleships a built-in fodder aspect. That is part of the selling point, and the justification for their high price tag. The Battleship is the only unit in 1942.2 that takes 2 hits to kill. This absorption however, is not quite as potent as one might think at first glance. Sure, the advantage of a bunch of free fodder hits via battleship absorption sounds fantastic, if you could develop a nice stack of battleships at the center of your fleet. Just imagine an armada of 3 or 4 battleships working together, to absorb hits in the first round of combat! That’s like free fodder units that you don’t even have to replace! It almost seems like 20 ipcs is a totally worthwhile investment. Until you start to consider all the other unit combinations that could be purchased for that same cost in IPCs…
20 ipcs = 1 Battleship: attack 4, with 2 hitpoints, but only a single shot per round of the combat phase.
20 ipcs = 1 Cruiser + 1 Destroyer: cumulative attack of 5, with 2 hitpoints, and 2 shots per round.
20 ipcs = 1 Destroyer + 1 bomber: attack 6, with 2 hitpoints, and 2 shots per round.
20 ipcs = 2 Fighters: attack 6, with 2 hitpoints and 2 shots per round.
On attack at least, those unit combinations can counter the battleship fairly easily, or least they can make a reasonable TUV trade, sacrificing themselves for an equal value in IPCs destroyed (e.g to sink a battleship.) Some other combinations, slightly less potent, but still comparable (and cheaper) might be things like…
18 ipcs = 3 Submarines: attack 6, with 3 hitpoints. 3 shots per round, and the ability to make opening shots if the enemy has no destroyer.
18 ipcs = 1 Destroyer + 1 Fighter: attack 5, with 2 hitpoints, 2 shots per round.
16 ipcs = 1 Submarine + 1 Fighter: attack 5, with 2 hitpoints, 2 shots (and the subs surprise strike.)
16 ipcs = 2 Destroyers: attack 4, with 2 hitpoints, and 2 shots per round.
These last few combinations might not be fighting “at odds” per se, but they can still be enough to sink a battleship, if you are attempting a gambit that puts less total TUV at risk in the exchange. Especially if the first round of combat goes well for the attacker, or poorly for the defending battleship.
That starts to give you a picture from the “counter attacker” perspective. If you buy a battleship, the other guy buys 2 fighters, or a destroyer + cruiser to match you on counter attack, and you’re basically already losing the naval purchasing contest! Just try to keep thinking about it from the enemy’s point of view. When you switch from a “counter attack” purchasing perspective of the enemy, to a purely “defensive” purchasing perspective, the drawbacks of the battleship buy become even more stark. Consider how many times you’ve seen something like this happen. A lone battleship attacks a lone destroyer, or a lone cruiser. The battleship “duds” in the first round of the combat phase, their opponent scores a defensive hit! Now what? Pointlessly retreat, advance and hope to hit a 4, at the risk of losing 20 ipcs TUV? You can start to get a feel for the bind that battleships put you in. As an attacking unit the extra hit absorption is of course helpful, but the fact that you only get a single shot per round of combat can become very problematic very quickly for the attacker. The defending enemy, recognizing this, can just start spamming cheaper fodder units, with comparable defensive values and comparable hitpoint values, but with more shots per round!
All of a sudden you realize, that the battleship can’t really move out and attack effectively on its own, it needs other units to cover it, and especially destroyers, to increase the number of shots your force can put up in a given round of combat, or perhaps more importantly to protect your battleship from getting swept by enemy air.
If all of this is giving you second thoughts about the Battleship, now consider the cruiser. The Cruiser is like the Battleship’s younger, uglier cousin. If you’re worried about what people might think of you when you take the Battleship to the Prom, then the Cruiser should really give you pause! Cruisers are just awkward and can’t really dance all that well. The loaded Carriers and Fighters are doing crazy-ass breakdance moves and just put them to shame all night. The Destroyers are making a nice circle around the loaded Carriers, clapping hands and making it just painfully obvious. Then some Bomber shows up from the next town over, wearing the exact same suit as the Cruiser (for 12 ipcs) but looking way smoother in it, and just wrecks the whole evening. Hate to break it to you, but the Cruiser never goes home with the Prom queen. The Cruiser is lucky to just make it through the night! Especially if some punk Submarine spikes the punch bowl.
At 12 ipcs, attack 3, defend 3, the cruiser is outclassed by both the Bomber and the Fighter. A Bomber, for the same cost as the Cruiser at 12 ipcs, hits at a 4 to the Cruiser’s 3.
You can trade a 10 ipc Figher for a 12 ipc Cruiser at equal odds and still come out ahead by 2 ipcs in the TUV trade. And these fighter units have “the advantage” of not being required to occupy the sea zone after a successful trade. They can land somewhere else if they want, somewhere more advantageous like on carrier deck in a safe sz nearby, or on land (where no naval units can threaten them on counter attack).
We’re starting to move now into a real discussion of the Air advantage in A&A, but before we get there, we still need to talk a bit about Submarines, and how subs play into this whole Destroyer/Carrier dynamic. All this discussion and comparison of individual units might seem overly involved, but its good to go through this stuff at least once, before seriously discussing “purchasing strategies” or the specific strengths and weaknesses of each Nation, based on their starting unit position, just to get a feel for the basic units, before looking at them in specific contexts.
But I’m running out of word space in this post and colorful analogies for now, so lets give it another night. Best
Tranports and Submarines:
Run away! Dive! Dive!
These units are complicated, but there’s just no escaping the depth charge or the torpedo. We have to discuss these units, before I can really explain how the full Air vs Naval dynamic works. For me to get an angle on it, kind of requires a brief digression into the history of Axis and Allies…
So earlier I suggest that in 1942.2 destroyers were like “the infantry of the sea” and that the larger warships were like “tanks of the sea.” A similar analogy using transports and subs was described to me when I first learned how to play Classic in the early 90s. I still think its a fruitful analogy for Classic, and still has applications for the narrow discussion of naval fodder, because in each A&A game there is going to be one primary “fodder” unit on the water, but its not a perfect analogy anymore! In Classic and Revised A&A, subs and transports had traditionally been naval fodder units. In Classic and Revised the primary naval “fodder” role was played by transports and, in those games, the analogy to “infantry of the sea” worked pretty well, because transports attacked at 0, and defended at 1, with 1 hitpoint. Basically they had a strong defensive role, and a very weak offensive one (only as fodder). The Classic submarine on the other hand, was almost exactly like a “sea tank” it hit at 2, defended at 2, with 1 hitpoint. So when describing the game we’d say things like, “transports are infantry/subs are tanks”, and everyone understood what we meant. But the 50th Anniversary Axis and Allies game basically turned the whole naval Transport/Sub fodder aspect of the game on its head! This game created a bunch of new rules for transports and submarines to prevent that exact phenomenon of transports and subs being used as fodder, just to undermine my old “go-to” Classic analogy of “just like infantry/tanks, but on the water” hehe. Now we need to update the analogy for a new A&A era!
The major difference between 1942.2 and earlier A&A games is that now, Transports have no defense! and no hit point value! and Submarines are considerably weaker! Most importantly of all, both these units no longer create a “hostile” sea zone. In other words they can’t block enemy warships anymore. An attacking warship can choose to ignore submarines, if the subs are alone. A single attacking unit can now destroy an infinite number of transports, if the transports are alone! Attacking units (especially aircraft) can’t hit submarines unless they bring a destroyer with them. If you have noo destroyer with your naval attack force, then the subs get to choose whether to fight or dive. If you have no accompanying destroyer then your attacking aircraft can’t interact with subs at all!
Its hard to overstate how much this has altered the Naval situation and the Naval vs Air dynamic since Classic/Revised. The old naval strategies of Classic are defunct, and strategy guides based on that game no longer apply. We need new strategy guides, to describe the new naval situation!
For anyone coming back to A&A from those older games, this is the single biggest change that you have to get your head around. In TripleA these new transport and sub rules are known as World War II “v3” or later. Every game to come out afterwards uses the same basic abilities and cost structure for transports and subs. Lets try to puzzle it all out…
In 1942.2 Transports are frequently described as “defenseless” meaning that they have essentially no role to play during the combat phase. They have no attack or defense value, and no hitpoints!
Subs are now the cheapest naval unit at 6 ipcs (the same cost as the 1942.2 tank), but their attack value and defense value are uneven a bit like infantry att 1/def 2, except here and the att/def advantage of the unit is reversed. It’s like the mirro image of the infantry unit, reflecting the exact opposite attack/defense role, and this unit is on the water instead of the land. The current 1942.2 Sub unit is basically very strong on attack, and very weak on defense for the cost…
Attacks at 2
Defends at 1
Costs 6 ipcs
But subs are weird! First off all, Subs cannot hit aircraft. Ever!
Beyond this, subs have 3 unique abilities that no other unit does:
A. They have a surprise strike “opening shot” ability vs ships.
B. They have the ability to “dive” prior to naval combat. And finally,
C. They can only be hit by aircraft if an enemy destroyer is present.
A single enemy destroyer can negate all the special abilities for all the subs in a sea zone, with the destroyer’s ASW (anti-sub-warfare) for as long as that destroyer stays alive in combat. If no destroyer is present, then subs behave in very different ways than all other naval units.
If these rules are starting to sound complex, it’s because they are! And a lot of players who’ve been gaming with A&A for a while, will readily admit, that this is one of the toughest things about the game to explain to new people. The submarine, and its interaction with other units, introduces a lot of nuance and “exceptions to the general rules” that force you to pause and go through a lot tedium at the outset.
There is no way of getting around this stuff, as I stated up at the top there, because so many first round combats involve Subs! If you don’t describe this stuff before you actually begin playing, you run the risk of really confusing your new player once those combat situations arise. On the other hand, if you do describe this stuff beforehand, you also run the risk of overwhelming the new player, by stating a bunch of complex rules up-front, without a context or solid examples. This is where the battle board comes in.
I’d suggest slating a good 10 to 15 minutes of battle board practice just with submarines in mixed forces, trying to show all the possible combat situations that Subs might find themselves in. You do this before you try to play things out in the actual game, so that you don’t have to face that awkward waffling situation, where your new player turns to you and says… “Hey! I didn’t know that subs could do that!” or “Hey! How was I supposed to know that subs couldn’t do that!?” etc. Better by far, to just get all this complex stuff out of the way on the battle board, where you can create different scenarios, and build out test cases. Set up a bunch of these sub combats, just ship on ship first, to try and show how the opening Submarine’s opening shot works both on attack and defense. Once the player starts to get a handle on opening shots, then slowly bring the aircraft and destroyers into it.
And when you get to the air, here’s one that you should definitely highlight: The Sub vs the fully loaded, but “naked” carrier…
1 sub vs 1 carrier and 2 fighters defending = 60% odds to the attacker! WTF? But it’s true.
Because no destroyer is present, the sub is immune from the defensive fighter hits. So basically the Sub hitting at 2 vs a carrier deck defending at 1. If the Sub sinks the carrier deck, and there is no friendly island within the sz, or no friendly territory adjacent to the sz for the defending fighters to land, they will crash into the sea! Think about that for a second… A single sub at a cost of 6 ipcs, could readily sink 34 ipcs of enemy TUV under these conditions! If the defender wasn’t careful and left his loaded carrier deck in open water, unescorted by a destroyer, a lone sub could just wreck it!
After you do the “naked” carrier example, then show them…
6 subs vs 1 carrier and 2 fighters + 1 destroyer. (that’s 36 TUV vs 42)
The idea in this example, is to show how the destroyer negates the opening shot of subs, but only for as long that destroyer stays alive during the combat. So its very possible that during the second round of the combat phase, you end up with a situation similar to the naked Carrier one. Remember, subs cannot hit aircraft, and aircraft can only hit subs when a destroyer is present (for each round of the combat phase.) This is the point you want to hammer home, by “showing” it and playing it out with dice (which is exciting for the new player!), rather than “explaining it” in words (which is usually boring and more confusing for the new player!)
Keeping with the “Subs can’t hit Air” theme, here’s another battle board situation to set up:
2 fighters vs 1 sub and 1 transport.
In this “combat”, there is no interaction between the fighters and the sub, the transport is automatically destroyed!
2 fighters vs 1 sub and 1 transport + 1 destroyer
Again, there is no interaction between the air and the sub, if the fighters can kill the destroyer then the transport is automatically sunk, but the submarine will still be alive!
It might seem like a major time sink, going through a bunch of sub and transport situations on the battle board, but trust me, its not. Your new player isn’t going to “get” all this stuff until they see it in operation, and you don’t want the first round combats to be your test cases. It takes too long to set up the map, and reset it, if you’re trying to use the first round combats as guinea pigs (and the first round combats don’t always the essential concepts as clearly as we might like) The new player, unable to track all of the possible situations in their head, will just start looking to you for guidance. They are looking to you to be the Game Master, and quickly resolve rules questions about all these complex Sub/Destroyers/Air interactions. The battle boards gives you an opportunity to refresh everyone’s memory, and try to show most of the weird stuff at least one time, before you actually play the game.
After the battle board, take it back to the Map! Here we try to show some of the situations that arise, because Subs or Transports cannot create a hostile sea zone by themselves. Show how subs/transports cannot block, and how this can be used to either initiate or prevent certain combats or movements. Again its much better to show this stuff, than it is to try and explain in words because words are tricky (as I’m sure this article will sometimes demonstrate!) But a solid visual and a little practice will help the ideas to stand out.
Try to touch on the stuff that might seem less intuitive. Show some situations where subs are alone defending a sz. Be sure to show how a “naked” or unescorted transport cannot move into a sz controlled by an enemy sub for the purposes of launching an amphibious combat, but how that same transport could move into a sz controlled by an enemy sub on non combat, for the purposes of unloading units into a friendly territory. Get all this stuff out of the way, beforehand, on the battle-board and using test examples on the map. This will save you a lot of headaches and frustration later on.
If your new player gets confused at some point, during the actual game, you can then say: “Yeah. Remember how it happened on the battle board? With ‘such and such’ before, when I showed you…”
Instead of saying at that point: “Oh yeah, I forgot to mention all this super complicated stuff about subs and transports. So let me backtrack now and confuse the hell out of you, with extra rules…”
What I’ve been trying to do here, is strike a balance between explaining the actual stuff to the readers here, and telling you guys the ways I think its helpful to explain it your new players. There’s a distinction in that, if you’re the one with the game, you’re expected to have read the rulebook, and serve as the Game Master, for your group. The manual, tripleA, these forums etc can all help you to understand how the rules look, but its up to us to find ways to translate those rules into gameplay realities, examples, and basic “strategic advice” to offer the new player. We don’t want to tell them what to do, because that’s like taking over the whole process, you might as well be playing a solitaire at that point. The whole novelty of it comes from the surprise and the random variability of the human element. So that’s why I let to set up battle examples on the fly, for like a good hour, before you do the full game set up. It gives you a chance to run through it, and keep your player enthusiastic and rolling, instead of weighed down by onerous rules and bunch of reading and slow set up time. Start with the battle board. If you can get up to Submarines, and still keep them excited, then you’re doing fantastic.
Now this whole time I’ve been saying things like, first this, and then we’ll talk about Air in more detail later. Clearly its impossible to fully suspend a discussion of Air, when you’re going through the battleboard examples you’re showing their attack and defense values, how they relate to carriers or subs etc. But the reason I think its cool to hold off on the full Air discussion until the end, is for the impact and the drama! Aces High!
Aircraft, Fighters and Bombers naturally lend themselves to a discussion of the broader A&A elements, like Movement across the map, using aircraft for mass defense, or mass attack, how SBR works, can-opening and a lot of other fun, but somewhat higher order concepts.
Once you’ve given a half hour or 45 minutes to ground and naval on the battle board, I like to pause the action, and pick up a Fighter and a Bomber, hold them up high for everyone to see, and then say something like, “now lets really talk about aircraft”
Just like airpower changed the whole nature of Warfare during WWII, understanding airpower in A&A will take your gameplay to the next level! Fighters and Bombers, your knights of the sky! Like jousting lances and clashing swords, are the key to winning this game. Every Nation has a starting air force, and aircraft are involved in all aspects of the broader strategy for both sides, Axis and Allies. You can’t play any Nation effectively, until you’ve mastered the use of your starting fighters and bombers, knowing how to coordinate them with your teammates, and then knowing how when/how to build more. They are key, and the sculpts look pretty damn cool too, so I like to hold them up, and let them hang there for little bit, to heighten the suspense! heheh
Catch you guys in a few!
Fighters and Bombers:
the Air War! Aces High!
I’ve been trying to avoid making too many axiomatic statements when it comes to A&A, since I’d rather explain the “why”, instead of just laying down the law on it. But here’s an axiom that holds pretty consistently in all versions of the A&A game:
The side that achieves air superiority first, and maintains air dominance throughout, almost always wins in the end!
But what exactly do I mean by “Air superiority” and why does it help your side to win? This will take a bit longer to unpack, and is probably a two part entry, so lets just kick things off by looking at the basic stats for fighters and bombers…
Attacks at 3
Defends at 4
Costs 10 ipcs
Attacks at 4
Defends at 1
Costs 12 ipcs
The most important value (for both these units) relative to cost, is their movement value.
The fighter moves twice as far as any naval unit, and the bomber moves three time as far! They can move out and attack across both land and sea, without depending on other units to make this possible. And the fighter can defend at sea via the carrier unit. Even more significant, both fighters and bombers can “fly over” water or land, regardless of whether the sz or territory in question is hostile, ie. it doesn’t matter whether or not these are controlled by the enemy. No other unit in A&A can do this!
Axis and Allies is a turn based game, which means that from the perspective of “effective range” units that move through the Air can get from point A to point B in far fewer turns than units that move across the ground or across the water. Consider this… over 2 game rounds, an infantry unit can move 2 spaces. A tank or a ship can move 4 spaces in that same time. But a fighter can move 8 spaces! And a bomber can move 12! As an expression of movement for the cost, no unit will get you as far, or as fast, as an air unit!
Here’s another axiom to chew on: The best “naval” units in the A&A game are, in fact, the air units! Fighters and bombers.
Aircraft provide the best attack value vs surface warships for the cost. And fighters have the best naval defense value for the cost, when joined with the carrier unit. Fighters also provide a much more flexible naval defense than comparably priced warships, because they are able to detach from their carriers and operate independently of them. That last point is key, because if you purchase a warship with a high defense value, that investment in TUV is locked on the water. A battleship can’t suddenly sprout wings and go on a wrecking mission across Eurasia, once you win the naval race. But a pair of fighters can do exactly that!
Fighters can park it on a carrier deck when naval defense is required, but as soon as that requirement is finished, they are free to “fly off” and support the ground campaign. You’d be surprised how often this situation crops up, especially during the endgame, and how advantageous it is to be able to rapidly transition your fighters between carrier based naval defense and ground attack/defense. What’s more, you often don’t need a carrier or a navy at all, to still threaten the enemy’s position at sea, provided you have enough aircraft. The heavy hitting bomber unit, with it’s expansive range can fly out and wreck warships with its 4s, and fighters can accompany to serve as fodder cover for such attacks.
In order to pull off these sorts of Air attacks, you first need to “magnify” the Air advantage, meaning you need to buy a bunch of air units so you can group them together. Here are some sample battles showing the odds of Air vs warships to demonstrate the logic behind magnifying your air builds…
2 fighters (20 TUV) vs 3 destroyers (24 TUV) = about 25% odds to the attacker.
4 fighters (40 TUV) vs 5 destroyers (40 TUV) = about 47% odds to the attacker. 51% to the defender, with a fairly narrow chance at a draw. Sure, its not a spectacular trade for the attacker by any stretch, but it is still the same TUV risked, and at roughly 50/50.
2 bombers (24 TUV) vs 3 destroyers (24 TUV) = about 40% odds to the attacker.
4 bombers + 2 fighters (68 TUV) vs 8 destroyers (64 TUV) = about 55% odds to the attacker!
What I’m trying to show you is how Air, and especially mixed air forces (with both Fighters and Bombers) can match a similar amount of TUV spent on destroyers. If the power projection is strong enough (with a good ratio of bombers to fighters) these air-forces can begin to outclass the destroyer forces, even when the Destroyers have the greater numbers! Given how potent Air can be on attack vs Naval, the question naturally arises “how do I stop this from happening!?”
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, that the answer here is “More Aircraft!” Namely defensive fighters to protect the warships. This is accomplished via carriers, which allow you to put those “defensive 4s” in the water. It costs you 14 ipcs to make this happen, and you get a floating platform “the carrier deck” with 1 defense point and 1 hitpoint, on which to house a pair of fighters. The “fully loaded” carrier = a total of 9 defense points, and 3 hitpoints, for a cost of 34 ipcs. No other combination of naval units, for the same cost in ipcs, will get you as much concentrated defensive power vs a would be air attacker.
3 fighters (30 TUV) vs 1 carrier and 2 fighters (34 TUV) = about 34% to the attacker.
Already the defensive fighters are doing their job, for a pretty comparable cost in IPCs. But now lets jump up the numbers and throw some defensive destroyers into the mix…
6 fighters (60 TUV) vs 1 carrier and 2 fighters + 3 destroyers (58 TUV) = 50% to the attacker.
6 fighters (60 TUV) vs 1 carrier and 2 fighters + 4 destroyers (66 TUV) = 25% to the attacker.
Did you catch that?! A single extra destroyer for defense just dropped the odds of that attacking fighter force from 50% down to just 25%! Major! Now, what I want you to come away with here is not the exact numbers, but just the basic notion that, once you have a defensive fighter force in place (via the carrier), even a relatively small amount spent on destroyer fodder can make a big difference to your fleet’s chances of survival vs Air attack. Cutting to the chase, to defend against Air attacks on the water, you need Air of your own, on the water! Otherwise there’s a good chance your warships will just get smoked by the enemy from above, along with whatever transports those warships were protecting. This is a lot of time spent looking at the water though. For the sake of variety, lets turn our heads again to the ground, and ground defense, this time looking down on it from our new vantage point high up in the sky! Or put another way, lets figure how we get these fighters from the sea to the ground, and vice versa.
One of the main reasons to buy fighters, beyond just attacking or defending navies, is for their pure defensive value on the ground. The Fighter is strongest defensive unit in the game, (next to the battleship, but cheaper) putting up a hit 4 in defensive combat.
Moving these fighters around, to get heavy hitting defensive units onto key land territories, is a huge part of the overall strategy in Axis and Allies. Lets pause for a second and think about what that really means though. Imagine you are trying to get defense points from London to Moscow. For the cost of 6 ipcs, 2 infantry (with a cumulative defense value of 4) would seem to be a much better purchase, than a single fighter (also with a defense value of 4) which costs 10 ipcs. But here’s the problem, infantry can’t move from London to Moscow by themselves! There are several sea zone and land territories separating these locations. Which means that, in addition to the 6 ipcs spent on infantry, you also need to buy a Transport for 7 ipcs. That’s already a cost of 13 ipcs for the ground, vs 10 ipcs for the fighter. But this is an oversimplification, because the transport by itself is defenseless. It can’t move safely unless protected by warships, so even more ipcs invested, before you can move the ground. And what’s more, all the sea zones between London and Moscow need to be cleared of ships in order to safely move along that sea route, there can’t be any enemy blockers along the way, or it could take even longer.
Now consider how long, (ie. how many game rounds) it takes to actually get those inf units to Moscow. Taking the fastest possible route, from London to Archangel, it takes 2 rounds to get those infantry into position: 1 round transporting inf from London to Arch, and the next round marching from Arch to Moscow. OK, so that’s 2 rounds for the Infantry, and the fighters can’t get there any faster than 2 rounds either, seems like they’re pretty even right? But what if this sea zone 4 route isn’t available? What if the only viable route you have is sz 5 to Karelia? Now the Ground force is 3 moves from Moscow instead of 2! Lets take it a step further. Say Moscow no longer needs to be defended, and the territory that Axis are really threatening now is India! How long is it going to take your 2 infantry to get there? Three more turns!!! The fighter could get there in just one turn.
And that’s just taking the London to Moscow route as an example, but what if your starting point isn’t London, but Washington D.C.? Or what if you’re Japan trying to get to Berlin? Clearly its going to take a lot longer to get 2 infantry to the destination territory via transports, than it would for a fighter to just fly there outright. Now it’s starting to sink in, maybe I should have just spent those 10 ipcs on a fighter, rather than start up this whole tangle of transported inf for defense.
Here’s something interesting to think about using the Washington D.C. example…The fastest you can possibly move 2 inf from E. USA to Moscow with transports is along the sz 2 route - floating - then unloading into Archangel. Then from Arch to Moscow. This is a 3 round set up. The fastest you can possibly move 1 fighter from E. USA to Moscow (without a carrier deck) is also 3 rounds. Either From E. USA to Greenland then via Archangel, or to Gibraltar via Caucasus. At first this might seem to run counter to my whole argument about the movement advantage of fighters, but newly purchased fighters can do something pretty cool that newly purchased infantry units cannot… they can be placed directly in a sea zone!
If you’re America, and you have a carrier in sz11, you can place 2 fighters a round straight into sz 11. You can’t place infantry units directly on a transport, and even if you could, this still wouldn’t give the infantry units any more range than they had already. But with a Carrier (either newly purchased, or an existing one) you CAN place Fighters directly in the water - and this increases their movement the next round by 1 space. This is huge!
Think about it…
Instead of placing the fighter in Eastern USA, then flying to Greendland (1 round), to Archangel (2 rounds), and finally to Moscow (3 rounds).
You could place the fighter directly into sz 11 on a carrier deck, then fly to Iceland (1 round) and from Iceland straight to Moscow (2 rounds!)
Haha who thought Iceland was worth anything, right? Well it is in this case, thanks to the carrier deck and the power of fighter movement. The fighter placed on land can set up a pretty potent repeating “transit” across the gameboard, but a fighter placed at sea can set up an even better one. To do this you need carriers in the water. Carriers, (either on the front end, or back end of a transit), can cut the time it takes to get your newly purchased fighters into position by a full game round.
It is sometimes better to leave your carriers adjacent to coastal factories for exactly this purpose, as fighter launchers!
The ideal is to have a launching carrier at the start of a Fighter transit, and friendly territory or receiving carrier at the end of it. Then you switch out 2 fighters a round, to whatever the main target destination is. These carrier launching plays are not always possible, given how ships often need to move around for transport defense, but if you can set them up, these are the best sort of fighter transits. The ones that will give your fighters the most flexibility, speed, and defensive coverage.
Now all that has a focus just on defensive power, but what if you don’t really need all that defensive power (all those hit 4s)? What if what you really need is just a few more hitpoints? In that case, it might make sense to just buy bombers. Sure their defense is fairly terrible at 1, but sometimes you don’t need defense, you just need fodder or more shots, and you can turn a huge battle on its head. Here’s an example…
Germany descends on the Caucasus with 12 infantry and 2 tanks. The Russians are waiting to meet their attack with 10 Infantry and 1 fighter on defense.
This battle is roughly 50/50, with slight odds to the German attacker, somewhere around 52% to the attacker and 47% to the defender, with a narrow draw.
Now say the British decide to send just a single defensive bomber to aid the Russians in their hour of need. The German attacker’s odds now drop well below 50% to somewhere around 35%.
Now say the Americans follow suit, adding a bomber of their own to the Russian pile. The two bombers now drop the German attackers odds all the way down to around 22% !!!
Imagine that! From a slightly better than 50/50 shot on Moscow originally, down to just a 1 in 5 shot? Its insane right? but its true. The bombers can literally prevent the Caucasus battle from ever occurring in the first place, if the German player is paying attention to the odds. And if they’re not paying close attention? Well then those bombers might just make a decisive defense and turn the tide of the entire war!
Bombers move 6, so the bomber transits are always faster than fighter transits, which means that in a pinch you can usually get them where they need be quick style. A bomber from London can reach Moscow (and beyond) in 1 move. A Bomber from E. USA can reach Moscow (and beyond) in 2 moves. Not bad, if you just need to rush a defensive hitpoint to a key territory at the critical hour. And its not like this rush defense advantage is all, because these aircraft can threaten enemy units along the way! And that’s really what it comes down to right there, the air stack gives you attack options and defense options at the same time, because it can move so damn far hehe.
I talked about some of those attack options vs ships. Next I’d like to look at how Aircraft are used in the ground game. How to make favorable “light trades” vs enemy ground forces on both attack and defense, by using infantry fodder. How to Airblitz, ie. attack a numerically superior ground force with a weaker ground force (or even no ground force at all), by using air to make up the difference in hits. And then finally to discuss anti-aircraft artillery and factory SBR. But again I seem to have run out of space, so I’ll post more next time.
Aircraft and Ground forces in “Light Trading”:
Levity: With strafing bullets and bombs!
Light trading, the way I like to think of it, is when you aim to kill the enemy and occupy their territory for the minimum TUV invested in the attack, with the minimum TUV of your own at risk. We’re talking here not just about the risk during the attack, but also afterwards, from enemy counter attack the following turn, should you actually take control of the territory as planned. Aircraft enable the attacker to make this sort of move, because unlike ground units, they can’t occupy newly captured territories!
This ability, the ability “NOT to land” in spaces they’re attacking, is actually one of the things that makes Aircraft so valuable in A&A. At least in terms of “trading” TUV back and forth in small engagements.
The clearest example of this value is in a Strafe. A strafe is where you attack at odds (with heavy hitters), and then withdraw after the first round of combat, or when you feel you’ve done enough damage, preserving those heavy units in a safe and well defended location. The term Strafe itself has an Air association built in, as “strafing” was usually an attack from the air against the ground. Technically you don’t need Aircraft to pull off a successful attack/retreat move like this in A&A, and it could also be done with tanks, and this is usually described as a “strafe” as well, even if there are no aircraft involved. But Aircraft allow you to increase the attack power of this attack/retreat move! And they allow you to destroy enemy units without risking as much TUV in the resulting destruction or occupation, should the strafe attempt happen to fail. A strafe is always a dicey gambit. Making is a single pass is usually safer than trying to make repeated passes (the later capture the real world sense of strafing more accurately.) In short, the more heavy hitting attack units you have, the better the odds that you’ll make a strong hit in the first round, or a deadly the first pass.
But too many heavy hitter, all hitting at once in the first pass, and you might be forced to occupy rather than retreat! Its a bind, when your strafe fails, but its more of bind when all the heavy hitters are tanks. With fighters you can always pull away to safety! They give you the “hit 3s” and “hit 4s” you need to make a nice clean strafe, but you don’t have to put those units at risk to possible counter attack.
To get at the heart of why its better to have an Air focused strafing force, than a Tank focused one, we need to picture a Dead Zone… you know, where Christopher Walken knows in advance exactly when and where all your Tanks are going to die!
Imagine a situation like this: Say Russia has 2 infantry in Yukut. Japan is waiting right next door in Buryatia with a slightly larger army, say 3 infantry (BANZAI!) they are itching to destroy those Russian infantry in Yakut! It’s Japan’s turn!
Just behind the Russian front line at Yakut is nice stack of Soviet troops in Evenki, lets say like 6 infantry 2 tanks and 1 Fighter!
Just behind the Japanese front line of Buryatia, there is a somewhat smaller Japanese force in Manchuria, maybe 5 infantry 1 tank and 1 fighter on reserve.
Now comes the dilemma, how much should the Japanese player commit to the attack against Yakut? Or put another way, should they bring the Mancurian tank into the fight? (lets assume just for simplicity that there are no other units from either side in the area.) Whatever Japanese force ends up occupying Yakut, will surely be under threat of counter attack from the superior Russian forces in Evenki. It could get ugly if Japan goes “all-in” with the tank, maybe, Zhukov is there just waiting for the Japanese to make a foolhardy advance like this, and then crush them completely in one fell swoop!
This is a perfect example, of what we call a “Deadzone” in Axis and Allies.
That large Russian force in Evenki has “deadzoned” the territory of Yakut!
Deadzone is a pretty common term among A&A players, so I guess I should spend some time with it here. I think I probably picked up this term and many others from Don Rae, a dude who wrote a bunch of cool articles on Axis and Allies in the late 90s. Most of these date back to older boards, but the general principles often still apply. You might want to look them up at some point, but I’ll give you the cliff notes version as best I can. As described by Don and others, a Deadzone is a space that is threatened by an “overwhelming” force, from some adjacent territory or sea zone.
The deadliness of the Deadzone isn’t anything intrinsic to the space itself, but a consequence of the size and power of the forces arrayed against it. Other fruitful synonyms might be “death trap” or “no man’s land”, basically a territory where your units are likely to die should they try to occupy it.
Usually the way it works, is two large enemy forces will dance around each other at a slight remove, and contest the territories between them with light forces. These intermediate territories then become deadzones, as neither side is willing to occupy them in large numbers for fear of a massive counter-attack. This happens a lot on the Eastern front, where Germany and Russia are wary of getting too close to each other with their main armies, in large part because they can’t rely on their own fighters for defense in those territories! (their fighters can’t land in newly captured territories!) This can result in long stalemates, usually only broken by “fighter support” from a teammate, or when one side achieves a large defensive armor stack or large defensive infantry wall, basically a force that is too large to overcome at odds by a counter attack. Once you can take and hold a territory in force, it is no longer a deadzone. The lines shift, and some new territory likely becomes the deadzone at that point.
So why bring all this up, well basically because Aircraft and especially Fighters can be used to create these deadzones, to “manage them”, and ultimately to defeat them. If you know what you’re doing!
First lets take two really simple examples…
1 inf + 1 figther vs 1 infantry defending.
1 inf + 1 tank vs 1 infantry defending.
Which attack force is better?
Well, the clear answer there is “Depends on what you’re trying to do.” They both have an equivalent attack power of 4.
If the goal is to kill the enemy and take the territory from the defender at all costs, then the Tank force is better. But if the goal is simply to destroy enemy units at favorable odds, while risking the minimal amount of your own TUV in the process, then the Fighter force is better.
Total Unit Value, TUV, that’s the thing we want to hold onto. The ipc cost of the units, if you had to replace them. Say the territory in question is worthless, or nearly worthless, a 1 ipc space like Yakut. A defending Russian infantry unit in Yakut would represent 3 ipcs in TUV. In terms of total value this infantry unit is worth 3 times as much as the territory it is defending!
Imagine that you, as Japan, just really want to just mess with the Russians. You want to diminish Russian power! But you don’t necessarily have the strength for an all out drive yet. Well, if the goal is simply to destroy Russian TUV at the minimal risk to yourself, it makes way more sense to attack Yakut with an inf + fighter, rather than an inf + tank.
With the fighter force you can destroy 3 enemy TUV at odds, and only risk 3 TUV of your own in the process. If you both hit and mutually Annihiliate each other, its a wash. 3 for 3. If you hit and the enemy duds, then you pick up the +1 ipcs for the territory, have preserved your own 3 TUV, and destroyed 3 enemy. Now you’re looking way up in the TUV trade!
But even if you dud out completely, and the enemy defender hits, it was still only 3 TUV that you risked. The fighter retreats to safety, you took a slight beating, but hey, at least you’re still standing. And at least you took a shot, right!
Now compare that to the Tank force, where you’re risking 9 TUV to destroy 3 TUV. Even if you win and pick up the + 1 ipc for the territory, you still leave more TUV vulnerable on counter attack, than you just won for yourself in the battle. The enemy can then use cheaper infantry and fighters of their own, to destroy your tank, and start the process all over again, except now they’re ahead in the TUV trade instead of you.
But now say that the territory in question isn’t some out-of-the-way frozen burg like Yakut, but the Victory City of Leningrad! The cradle of the Revolution itself, under siege by those German bastards! And Germany has just been deadzoning this spot right from the start, with their superior forces in Baltic States. Suddenly Karelia itself is under occupation, along with the VC and factory.
A lone German infantry unit, survives to defend this new conquest. So here, as the Russian player, you really want to kill that German unit AND take control of the territory, if only to prevent Germany from building out of the factory. But the huge German army in Baltic states (and its usually pretty huge) has you thinking, “damn! I really want to win this battle, but I don’t want put a lot of units at risk, since I know I will need them later!” In this case, you want to think about the edge that artillery can give you in the Light trading with aircraft
1 inf, 1 art + 1 fighter is the go to combination for light trading with aircraft, if you really need to score a hit. The inf/art combo has a cumulative attack value of 4 points, the fighter has an attack value of 3, added together you get a total attack “power” of 7. Lucky 7!
In dice that’s a fairly solid chance to nail a hit in the first round of combat. In low luck, it would yield 1 auto-hit, and one remainder hit rolled at 1/6. The second hit is a long shot, but a least the auto-hit is secured, meaning that, if nothing else, you can at least count on destroying 1 enemy unit in the engagement!
2 inf + 1 fighter, only has an attack power of 5. In low luck this means that the hit is not a given, it’s rolled at a 5/6 chance. Now I’m not a huge fan of low luck myself, I’m a born dice player, but this information is very useful to understand, because it shows you the value of different forces the light trade using Air. Lets throw in a bomber too just to see how this work.
1 inf, 1 artillery + 1 fighter = 17 ipcs TUV for 1 autohit (with a remainder of 1).
2 inf + 1 bomber = 18 ipcs TUV for exactly 1 autohit.
3 inf + 1 fighter = 19 ipcs for exactly 1 autohit.
The 1 inf, 1 art + 1 fig combo still gets you the best trade for the cost vs a single defending inf unit. So when you really need to take the territory, but don’t want to risk too much TUV to enemy counter attacks, that’s the sort of light trade you want to make with your fighter unit, and artillery boosted light trade!
In general, when you’re engaging in these sorts of light trades, you always want to have more fodder cover for your attacking fighter, than defender has in total numbers/shots. So for example, if you are attacking 2 defending ground units, then you want your own Fighter force to include at least 2 attacking ground units, to absorb potential hits and serve as protective fodder for the fighter. Or the same thing again with bomber, ideally, you want fodder to cover these heavy hitters at all times.
This will ensure that you never have to expose that costly 10 ipc Fighter or even costlier 12 ipc bomber, to a defensive hit. Unless you want to that is. There are some rare cases where it might be advantageous to attack ground with aircraft, even if you don’t have cheaper attacking fodder units to cover them.
I’ve heard this sort of move described before as an air blitz, or an air sweep, the basic idea is this: you really need to kill ground units in a particular location for some strategic reason/goal, such that you are willing to risk exposing expensive aircraft to do this.
If you have enough planes, it is possible to attack a superior ground force of mostly infantry and artillery, with a much smaller one, and still sweep the space at odds due to the attack power of your air. You do this on the logic, that you will probably score more hits in the first round of combat than the defender will, and thus you will don’t exactly need to match them in fodder 1:1. You might be able to match them in hits, using half the number of ground, it just depends how many aircraft you have, and how many you are willing to expose in the first round of combat.
Consider this attack. 1 inf, and 4 fighters vs 2 Inf.
Sure the defender has a pretty good chance to make a single hit in the first round of the combat phase. But if you hit heavy, you will probably end up trading 3 TUV for 6 TUV.
Now its possible the defender might even make 2 hits, and that would certainly suck, but how likely is it that both of the defenders dice hit in the opening round of the combat phase? And are you willing to take that risk, that the enemy could “get into” your fighters in order to destroy 6 enemy TUV? The odds that the enemy makes 2 misses, is actually more likely than the odds they’ll make 2 hits, (since each die still has to roll at 1/3 chance to hit the deuce.) In which case you’re stoked, because you destroyed 6 TUV at no cost, and occupied a territory. Sure it was risky, but it was calculated risk.
You made a gamble, if it pays off, you’re happy you did, if it doesn’t, you curse yourself and your terrible luck. But again, at least you took a shot. Sometimes however, this isn’t about trading TUV at odds, but capturing a critical territory like a National Capital or a Victory City.
In such cases, the air blitz, allows you to sacrifice more expensive air units to keep a single ground unit alive, in order to capture the territory. For example:
America has 1 inf and 7 fighters attacking Tokyo.
The Japanese have 8 infantry to defend their National Capital.
All things being equal, the Americans have about an 80% chance to win this fight. Which means if they are willing to sacrifice enough TUV in Air, they can probably keep that single infantry unit alive to take the territory.
Would it be worth losing potentially 70 ipcs in Air TUV to keep an infantry unit alive?
Well, if it knocks Japan out of the War, get’s you all their money, plus Tokyo for 8 ipcs with a factory, then yeah! It probably is.
You can imagine similar situations with Germany and UK. Is it worth it to trade air to steal the German purse as UK? Yes, this is almost always worth it!
Attacking with no fodder, or attacking with “Naked Air” is a little different, but even this can sometimes be worth it. Exposing aircraft to kill a unit in a key territory might be sound strategy. Like if you want to clear a lane and “can open” a territory, so that one of your teammates can then Blitz tanks through on their turn it to make some killer move.
Or perhaps you absolutely need to prevent just such a Tank Blitz move after an “Airblitz” can-opener just occurred. Imagine for example Japan has 10 tanks in Szechwan. Russia leaves 1 infantry in Kazakh, to block these tanks, but then puts their main force in Caucasus, to hold it against a German drive. Not considering the danger of the Airblitz, or how the turn order can be exploited, the Russian player leaves Moscow only lightly defended, thinking to themselves that Moscow can’t be hit this round.
Now Germany’s turn is up, and they fly straight to Kazakh, attacking it with naked aircraft, and landing in Szechwan. Opening up a lane for the Japanese tanks to Blitz on Moscow! Here it might make a lot of sense for UK to land a fighter in Kazakh to block. Clearly this is not an optimal use of the fighter in the TUV trade, but if the situation is dire, and you need to rescue a capital, even an air unit can “pay for itself” used just as an emergency blocker!
And recall that for all the purposes, bombers basically work just as well as fighters, but over a longer distance and with more attack power, for the cost of +2 ipcs per unit.
There is only one unit in the roster that the can counter the air advantage vs ground the Anti-Aircraft artillery unit! But I have such mixed feelings about it…
Still reading and enjoying every word BE Keep it coming!
here’s some more…
Antiaircraft Artillery, the AAgun, or AAAgun:
I’m just going to come out and say it, I kind of hate this unit!
Its morphed quite a bit in recent editions, so its cost structure and abilities, still feel a bit unsettled to me. AAguns have always been challenging. In older games AAguns could be captured by the enemy, or fire at all times, or become rocket launchers, finding themselves in situations that the current AAAgun in 1942.2 no longer encounters. The newer unit is probably an improvement over its predecessors, but the AAguns still play in a weird way that is very different from all other units
It’s probably the most complicated and least interesting unit in the whole roster for me from a teaching perspective. Not enough bang for the buck. Of all Axis and Allies units, this is the one I reserve the most curses for! hehe I almost never buy them, and I would probably wish them out of existence if I could, to make the game simpler. But then again, the game really does need some sort of Anti-Aircraft mechanic just to balance the sheer power of mass aircraft.
Since AAAguns are part of the unit roster in 1942.2 we need to discuss them too. But first I have to hate on them a little bit more, spit some black bile, just for a minute, to get it out of my system.
The AAgun cannot move during the combat phase!
This can be hugely annoying, because people always forget about them, and because it prevents you from loading AAguns onto transports effectively with accompanying infantry units. You are forced to wait until non com, which creates all sorts of headaches, when you’re trying to move these units across the water! They have no normal attack or defense combat value (analogous to other units) but instead use their own separate combat phase. In this phase they are allowed to fire at up to 3 attacking aircraft, but only once, after which point they become essentially useless. They have a hitpoint value of 1, (meaning they can be used as fodder) but again, only on defense. If taken as a bombardment casualty they don’t get to fire back.
All this combines to make a unit that is exceedingly difficult for me to explain to the new player. But let’s give it a shot all the same…
Attacks at 0: cannot move during combat, thus cannot take a territory.
Defends at 1: one time shot, in the opening phase of combat vs 3 attacking aircraft per AAgun.
Moves at 1: again, only on non-combat.
with 1 hitpoint: can absorb a hit as fodder.
Costs: 5 ipcs
Compared to the Air units the AAgun is meant to counter, the eminently useful Fighter and Bomber, that might not seem like a whole lot of advantage for the money. One shot, one time against three planes, for 5 ipcs? That doesn’t seem like a steal exactly. But if it manages to shoot down just a single air unit, it has basically paid for itself twice over.
The AAgun actually has some of the best odds to destroy the most TUV of any unit in a single round of the combat phase. Only a sub vs the loaded carrier can do comparable damage for the cost invested, under optimal circumstances. If the enemy sends 3 fighters against a single AAgun, that AAgun could certainly hit one plane at decent odds. Basically 50/50, flip a coin. It’s not inconceivable you might roll snake eyes and kill 2 planes. And who knows, maybe the gods of war favor you, and you kill 3 planes! That’s like 10-30 ipcs for only 5 invested. It could be major, sure, but how often does it really work out that way?
The players I game with don’t buy many AAguns on the regular, because it is such an inflexible and one dimensional unit. Its potential to influence combat is usually restricted to a one time event. Beyond that it just has to sit there waiting, as a deterrent.
To really be an effective deterrent, you probably need at least a pair of AAguns to adequately defend a large stack from an all out air assault. Most players have 2 AAguns at the outset, but when it comes to buying new guns, getting a pair costs you the same amount of cash as a shiny new fighter! A fighter that not only attacks at a solid 3, defends at a kickass 4, but moves at a 4 as well! Long term investment for the cash, and the fighter is probably way more useful than those 2 aaguns.
At most, I see maybe the investment for a second gun in India, or late in the endgame, when the attacker has mass air, and the defender has a huge defensive stack already. Usually though, players just seem to work with the aaguns they have at the start.
I don’t think it’s because the combat values are necessarily so off, more because the unit isn’t very exciting to play with. Certainly not as exciting as say, an artillery piece for 1 less ipc, or a tank for 1 more ipc. The 5 spot ipc position in the unit roster is a tough one in 1942.2. I think this is a bit unfortunate because the 5 ipc buy used to be a staple (back when that was the cost of tanks) but now, the only unit you can spend exactly 5 ipcs on is the aagun. In a way the numbers are nice, AAgun for 5 ipcs, Fighter for 10 ipcs trying to create some kind of parity with value. But the fighter just outperforms the AAgun in all around effectiveness, so I have a hard time recommending the AAgun as a sound purchasing option in most situations.
If you do buy AAguns, make sure you are grouping them with enough defensive power to back down a “tank sacrifice” play from your enemy. Remember that the AAgun has no defense value whatsoever in a battle where no attacking Aircraft are present. If the enemy sends just infantry/art + tanks for the heavy 3s, the best your AAgun can do is just take the first fodder hit. If your opponent sees a 5 TUV unit vulnerable to a trade, this may entice them to attack with a 6 TUV tank, rather thank risk Aircraft vs AAfire. This can also be an effective bait, if your goal is to draw out enemy armor for counter attack potentional, but the aagun is pretty pricey when used like that.
If your defensive power or counter attack power isn’t strong enough to support an AAgun moving out vs enemy tanks, then you should probably hold the guns back. The safest place for them is in the main frontline ground stack. The stack you “can’t lose!” And of course, there is always a role for them in capital defense. This last is likely the best use of AAguns, and probably the only locations where it might be worth buying new AAguns, if your starting AAguns are out of position or destroyed. Even then though, I’d still have to consider pretty carefully, whether I bought an AAgun for 5, or an infantry unit or artillery unit that can move in the combat phase and actually take land for my side.
The AAgun is a purely defensive unit, and buying one needlessly can set you back, or put you into a defensive corner that its hard to escape from. Sometimes they can have their uses though, so I can’t come out categorically opposed, its just not my go-to buy.
Along this subject of Anti-Air, there is one other unit in the game that has an Anti-Aircraft ability, and that is the Factory unit itself. Industrial Complexes have a built in Anti-Air ability. It doesn’t fire during defensive combat the way the AAAgun unit does, but instead vs bombers, when strategic bombing raids are conducted.
SBR, strategic bombing raids against Factories, can be a major part of the game, among players who are willing to risk their air for SBR versus this built-in Industrial Complex AAfire. A bomber shot down costs the enemy 12 ipcs in TUV, which can make this unit fairly potent vs bombers, if you roll those lucky 1s. Whether you strat Bomb or not, depends a bit on your own risk aversion, how many bombers you have at the ready, and whether or not your enemy is engaging in this style of play too.
Strategic bombing is basically a game resolution mechanism.
It exists to allow faster games, that conclude more quickly, by introducing a decisive/variable element into to the balance by sides. SBR is unpredictable, especially in a dice game! If one side levels a catastrophic bombing run, or one side gets totally smoked by a factory AA-fire, the swing can be huge. The advantage given to one side or the other can force the game towards a clearer finish, as the side that “won” in a decisive SBR/AA vs Bomber Battle can then build on their win, and press the advantage even harder.
Otherwise, if both players content themselves to never SBR (due to risk aversion, and the idea that bombers are best used in combat) then the game can go on much longer. Games with SBR, tend to resolve in a single session more readily, whereas games with little or no SBR can go well over a dozen rounds. Or even longer, depending on how conservative the players are.
I think SBR has fairly strong entertainment value, and it can be very useful in helping to break nations like Germany or Russia. Multiple bombing runs by two teammates against a single enemy target, over the course of a round, can really add up. Sure some of the bombers might go down, but if they don’t and score some decent hits, this can set the enemy back a whole round in the purchasing contest! Especially if you think about the SBR rolls, in terms of equivalent value territories.
Hitting a 6, is almost like depriving Germany of France!
Hit a 5 and its like you just snatched Italy and Poland away from them!
Hit 4 is like West Russia and Ukraine.
Hit 3, all of North Africa, or all of Scandinavia.
Hit 2, same value as Holland.
Hit 1, as if Libya was never theirs hehe.
I just try to imagine it like I stole all the gold from one of those places, and then the SBR feels a bit more consequential. Of course SBR doesn’t deny income directly, it does so through the Factory damage/repair system. So just because you do 6 damage to a factory, doesn’t guarantee that the enemy will necessarily spend 6 ipcs to repair. They might not need the full production out of that factory this round, so they might just repair a couple points of damage.
In order for SBR to be truly effective you need to “Max-damage” a factory. The damage needs to be higher than the production value of the territory itself (ideally the damage needs to be twice as high!) This will force the enemy to repair, or at least, it will severely limit their options if they don’t.
To ensure that you do max damage against a high value factory, you really need to bring multiple bombers into the raid at the same time. There is no way to control the outcome of this in a dice game, and the swing could be very dramatic. That’s why I think the more bombing that occurs in a game, the more likely it is that one side or the other might get hammered, which leads to a timely finish.
Bombers are fairly affordable at 12 ipcs, and useful for movement on both attack and defense, as I tried to show earlier. So there’s a good chance you’ll see some floating around. Germany, Japan, and the US in particular, will often mass bombers, even UK on occasion, and the more bomber forces are out there, the greater the likelihood that one of them will “go wild” and start making bombing runs.
When the game goes into Mass SBR mode, it’s basically up to the dice. The potential swings in these battles are just too varied to predict with any consistency. The Nation conducting the bombing run might crush with heavy 6s! Or it might get through the AA-fire only to roll a bunch of 1s. Or maybe the factory AA-fire cuts them down outright. There’s no way to tell, until you throw the dice.
There is however, one thing you can do, that will definitely restrict the number of bombing runs conducted, and that is to include the Optional Fighter Escort/Intercept rules for SBR. This is one of two optional rules suggested in the manual, the other is the option to close sz 16 to surface ships. I didn’t really want to get into those just yet, but suffice it to say that in my view, what the Escort/Intercept rules do, is change SBR from a repeating thing to a one time major event. Basically you have to build up large numbers of both bombers and fighters, and then go for a massive strike all at once, in the hope that the enemy fighters you destroy and the bombs you drop, will be enough to overcome the potential TUV loss of dead escorting fighters. It is up to the defender to decide whether they will intercept, and this can be a costly proposition for them, so they might just let the bombers through and save their “would-be interceptors” to fight in normal combats rather than putting them at risk of destruction. One issue with the mass strike SBR under these rules, is that the payoff in bombing might not be very substantial, if the defender does intercept, then the TUV exchange is more about how many fighters/bombers go down. These battles can provide huge TUV swings, comparable to naval battles, or ground battles at a capital, which means players are probably more reluctant to engage in them. This could go either way from a game resolution standpoint. On the one hand it encourages players to wait until they’re confident in their endgame and superior Air forces before they attempt to bomb, but on the other hand, SBR with Escort/Intercept can be a major TUV swing once it does occur.
I will say that I don’t usually play 1942.2 with either of these optional rules in effect anymore. I have played with escort/intercept rules, but I found that my players just stopped bombing altogether, perhaps because they felt unable to assess the potential risks vs benefits of a major intercept/escort SBR battle.
I used to play with sz 16 closed to all but subs as well, but again the players in my group found it awkward. Sometimes they would forget about it, in which case it created strategy and purchase planning problems for them. Or other times they would bemoan the fact that they couldn’t make an attack on Caucasus, because the Bosporus was closed. The default suggested “Open” so that’s what we just went back to. I will say I think that both house rules probably favor Allies initially, so if you do use them, it may offset the need for a bid.
But what is a bid anyway?
I just briefly mentioned above the two official “Optional Rules” for 1942.2 and those are : Sz 16 Closed, and the Escort/Intercept rules for Strategic Bombing Raids. But there are other kinds of “optional” rules too, they’re just not quite “official.” We call these “House Rules” or “HRs.” Some of them are more popular than others. Some groups use all kinds of HRs, others keep their House Rules to the minimum. A lot of people know about at least one house rule though, so lets give it a quick nod, for the sake of completion.
The most common House Rule.
A&A is unlike most boardgames. In nearly every board game, there will be some randomized “event” that occurs at the outset, which is designed to make each game more or less unique. Perhaps its something as simple as “roll the dice, to see who goes first” or “shuffle these cards, then make a random draw” or perhaps “select which spot you want to put all your forces.”
A&A doesn’t work this way at all. Instead, in A&A, the starting forces and the money and the turn order and all the rest, are set. They’re pre-determined, fixed by some grand Logos, like clockwork.
The basic starting conditions do not change from game to game, but are instead thought of as representing World War II at some set point in time. The “start date.” Here the randomized element comes later, mainly through combat rolls, or through unit movement, or unit purchase, but the opening set up is constant.
The A&A approach to game design has an upside, because it means that it is possible to “learn” from each game, various ways to take advantage of that “set opening.” You try something the first time, it totally backfires, next time you try something else, but from the same essential starting position. This allows players to concoct strategies, and to tease out the “best moves” or the “winning openings” etc, because each time out the board remains basically fixed.
But the A&A approach to game design has a downside too, because it means that at some point a player will learn how to “break” the game, or crack the secret code, exploiting the unit set up for some optimal winning strategy as one side or the other. When one side is recognized to be too dominant, and returning consistent wins (ie. “Axis always win!” or “Allies always win”) and a consensus develops among experienced players, you will start to hear discussions about whether the game is “balanced” or not.
Balance, or “balance by sides,” is just a way of saying that, in an ideal universe, we think players should have have a roughly equal chance of winning the game vs an opponent of comparable skill, regardless of which side they are, whether playing Allies or Axis. This is more of a gaming aspiration, or a boardgamer’s wish, than anything particularly historical, or reflective of the “balance of sides” in World War II. It’s the disbelief we suspend, in order to get a functional boardgame, and a game that can still be fun for any of the 2-5 players gaming.
When a new Axis and Allies game is first introduced, no one can really say whether its balanced or not, because nobody has truly seen it in operation, other than the designers and maybe some early playtesters. But after some time has elapsed, it often turns out that the “Official” set up, seems to favor one side.
At this point players will often introduce a Bid. Or a bidding process to play one side or the other.
What is a Bid? Well, in its most basic form, a bid is extra IPCs awarded to the side/player perceived to be at a disadvantage. The Underdog gets extra loot.
I don’t know exactly where or when this bidding process was formalized, probably over several tournaments and across many years. The most popular way to do this now is what I call the “pre-placement” bid. Here the IPCs awarded to the underdog, can be split up between the Nations on that side, and used to place additional units before the game begins. The units are “purchased” with the Bid IPCs in the same way and for the same costs, that you would buy those units during the actual game.
If the underdog is allowed to choose how these IPCs are distributed (what units to buy, and where they go) this is what I call an “Open Bid.” Frequently an Open Bid game, is used a way to determine who will play which side: Axis or Allies. Rather than flipping a coin, or rolling the dice to make this determination, the players instead enter into a kind of opening contest, or a “bid” to play a given side. One player will open the the Bid, by saying something like “I will play this side for X ipcs.” Then you alternate offers, either increasing the number of ipcs awarded, in an ascending bid. Or decrease them in a descending bid. Most people I play with use a descending bid.
For example, in 1942.2 player A opens: “I will play Allies for +13 ipcs”
Then player B counters: “I will play play Allies for +12 ipcs”
Player A persists: “10”
Player B demurs, "hmmm 9? "
Player A: “8!”
Player B: “OK, you can have 'em. Good luck!”
Then player A takes his 8 ipcs from the bid and decides how they want to spend them for their side. In this case Allies.
Usually there are some extra rules to restrict where the units can be placed. Most people go with these: No more than 1 unit per territory or sea zone. Must be placed in a territory you control and already occupied by units from your Nation.
That’s an open bid. And it’s called a bidding, because you’re really auctioning off the side you don’t want to play, to your opponent haha.
If the unit type and location is chosen in them in advance, I call that a “Set Bid” or more simply, as an adjustment or “hard change” to the unit set up."
Once these new Bid units are introduced, the balance of the game effectively resets. And you play the game again and again, until the bid falls into some kind of standard range between say “6-12 ipcs” or “8 to 15 ipcs” etc. typically awarded to the underdog side. And of course, then the original issue of “OOB balance” is superseded by the question “is it Balanced for Bid?” If you a bid at X ipcs is balanced, then you allow your opponent to take the underdog side for X. If you Xipcs is too powerful, then you Bid lower than X, to make sure you still have a chance to win.
All this we call bidding, and it is important to recall that this is still a house rule! It’s not discussed anywhere in the game manual (although I wish it was, or at least something like it.) It’s probably the most popular house rule, just judging by how many players adopt it, or are at least familiar with it. The process isn’t exactly codified though, different play groups sometimes adopt different approaches to it. One popular variant, and the bid I like best, is to award IPCs purely as a bonus to starting income and not as pre-placement units! This means you still get extra money, but you have to buy the units during the normal purchase phase. Here the Bid amounts (in IPCs) are invariably larger, but this type of bid has the advantage of not disrupting the opening battles.
Finally there are house rules, that introduce other kinds of advantages to one side or the other (or both) or which create new conditions for the first round, by other means. These are practically endless, and there is a whole section dedicated to it on these forums. Its one of my favorite sections here, because there are always interesting ideas and discussions kicking around there. Sometimes these HR discussions come, sometimes they go, but every now and again I catch a winner, and then I try to introduce them among my players to see which ones catch.
Some players will be more receptive to this style of gameplay, others prefer to play strictly “by the book.” Some are ok with open bidding, others use set bids, or no bids at all. Some player play with Low Luck rules instead of the normal Dice rules, others find LL totally anathema to what they enjoy about A&A. It really all depends on who you are playing with. I’d say for a first time out, don’t overburden your new players with too many discussions about optional rules, or bids, or how the needs “such and such” for balance.
Instead, if the player is new, just set the conditions for them and treat it like “this is how we play at my house.” If you just approach it in a more authoritative and matter-of-fact way, the more likely the new player is to just accept the rule. But I’d still suggest keeping things limited at the outset.
There are so many potential ways to chance the game, and its such a nuanced and tricky game to begin with, that you really need to start somewhere. And 1942.2 OOB actually isn’t all that terribly off in terms of balance, you can do some very simple things to bring it into a more balanced state. One simple way I like is just to increase the starting income for everyone, by the same amount. Basically everyone wins the bid. This isn’t about balance so much as variety. Say everyone Nation gets an extra 5 ipcs or 10 ipcs.
Rules like that are simple to grasp, but they can change the dynamics of the game in a very dramatic way, by altering the first round purchase options. One minor rules change can make the whole game new. Like zeroing the game back to the release day, where the players have to “unlearn, what they have learned” and then do it all over again.
OK I cut dropped the content from this thread into the 1942.2 section. Cleaned it up a bit for spelling and formatting, and tacked on a guide for common abbreviations/glossary at the end.
If anyone want’s to kick around more ideas, or help me to chop it down, or flesh out subjects I didn’t get to here yet…
alucy0210 last edited by
Thanks, I really enjoy it.
Hey BE - would love to try to help but am on holiday in Italy all month - currently by Lake Maggiore - so unable to put much time into this until May - will see whether there is still anything for me to contribute then.