Speaking to these last two posts, I can see the merits of both perspectives. What I would really prefer from an alternate bidding scheme, is not a balance corrective for one side or the other, but some element of equitable variability that makes it effectively impossible to say which side has the advantage in any given game at the outset. A&A doesn’t have a standardized way to achieve this, at least no OOB way provided for us in the manual. A&A is a bit strange on this account, since the game is fixed in the first round.
The analogy to chess isn’t entirely insignificant. Between two novice players there is no real difference between opening as White or following as Black in Chess, just like in A&A it doesn’t really matter between two novice players if you play as Allies or Axis. At a higher level of play though, usually one side can be said to have the advantage out of the first round (in this case Axis) just like at a higher level in chess, White can be said to have the initiative, and a better chance to win rather than draw. The psychological pressure of thinking that the game is “yours to lose” based on which side you play, is probably even more stark in A&A. But the issue with the preplacement bid, is that you reset the starting conditions and potential TUV trades. There is no second bid phase for example, to offset the balance of the initial bid. Imagine a situation where the Allied player receives 18 ipcs on the bid, places their extra units, then the Axis player looks at it and says “damn, those subs in the Med!” Based on these new conditions maybe the Axis could really use a 6 ipc bid of their own to adapt? But of course that would just be silly, because before you know it, the whole starting unit set up and balance of local power would be totally different. And none of it “by the book.”
What does a pre placement bid for Allies really give you? I think its largely psychological.
A single decisive roll in the second round could easily undermine that starting advantage a bid provides just in one combat round alone. So the bid is more about starting confidence, than anything you can really depend on for the duration. A competent Axis player acknowledges this when they accept an Allied bid, otherwise they’d just bid lower. Its the equivalent of saying “I know what extra units you can buy, I’m familiar with the bid strategies at that amount of IPCs, but I think I can still beat you!” Again pretty much a psychological thing, at least in a dice game, since we can’t predict the future or see the rolls in advance. We’re really just going off expectations or odds in the opening round of play. The reason why I like a bid to income over preplacement, is that it doesn’t distort the opening battles, and it pushes the bid advantage out one full game round. The “extra” units, in that case still have to enter play through the normal purchasing mechanism. I think this makes it somewhat harder to play fortune teller and predict outcomes. Players have to plan further in advance via purchasing/placement, which in turn makes it more likely that the actual effect of the bid on game balance is harder to isolate. I think there is enough variability in purchasing/production, to ensure that the same amount of dynamism can be achieved as you’d find with a preplacement bid. But eventually you will hit the same wall, if there is a magic number that makes the game perfectly 50/50, we’d probably get bored of that too, and still desire some way to randomize the first round for novelty.
I often come down on preplacement bids as something I find slightly unnerving, but I appreciate what they do in preventing the game from getting stale. Each time you reset the board with some new starting unit, the whole thing changes. I think its the cascading effect of the small change that keeps the game feeling fresh, not the specific advantage provided for one side or the other. Basically once the bid becomes “standard” and you’ve played it enough times to get bored, then you need to find new ways to keep it enjoyable.
Bids are House Rules. If we wanted to be really strict, all these threads should end up in the house rules section (where most of the threads I start seem to end up haha), because most of the strategies and game situations we talk about in the G40 section assume a standard bid, or at least have to reckon with it. I don’t suggest that these threads should be moved. Merely to point out that if you dig one house rule, why not try some others?
There are many ways we might change the game to tweak the balance, other than adding more starting units at the outset. Popular conventions, function mainly because they’re popular. If enough players want to try alternative “bids” to starting income or production, or recuring income bonuses, rather than bonus starting units, maybe we can come up with more ways to keep the game fresh, after the preplacement bid thing has run its course.
If variation or diversity is the goal, you could just as easily give every nation a bid, either to starting icome or secret ballot style for preplacment units. Then you’d have like 10 times the diversity, and who knows, maybe a nation like Italy or China or Anzac or France would be a bit more interesting to play? But that might be more than most players are after, perhaps some are content with just a USA boost, and that’s fine too. It all invites at least some level of A&A apostasy, and admission that the OOB game could use a fix or two.
I still wish some of this stuff would get an official nod, or official recommendation, by being written down somewhere in a game manual. You know, on some final page of the rulebook, that offers different options and systems for incorporating them into play. Meanwhile, it’s up to us to figure all this out I suppose.
Ps. Just as an added curiosity or possible encouragement, it’s perhaps worth remembering that even a “perfect” game like chess, has had a few house rules of its own added in over the centuries. It took a couple hundred years and an India factory just to nail down the basic shape of the chess “Map.” Queens, Rooks and Bishops etc. didn’t have their “unit stats and abilities” formalized until what? like the Quattracento? Remember when the pawn’s opening movement ability was increased? and you thought defenseless transports were bad! Then there are all those pesky “one-off” rules like Castling, En Passant, and pawn-promotion. A&A has only been around since the 1980s, so we’re probably doing alright in the grand scheme of things.