I think its important to distinguish between what is needed to win consistently as Allies, and what is needed to simply have an enjoyable and reasonably balanced game.
Often with the bid process there this a huge emphasis on the first round combats. This is because, at least among experts, battles can be rare occurrences, and the chance to fight a battle with a clear advantage over the opponent can be even rarer. This lends itself to a situation where people start to read the entire game (and their chances of victory) into just a few opening battles.
In that respect, what Cow is suggesting, is that you want to take every opportunity you can to destroy German ground units while they are still separated, before they converge into one large force, which you’re unlikely to have a crack at afterwards (or at least, not until the final confrontation for control of Moscow.)
But honestly I think the popularity of Low Luck gameplay has rather exaggerated the need for pre-placement bids. Sure in an LL match up, it’s possible to crush the center fairly quickly unless the Allies bang something out right away, and turn the set up on its head. But in a normal dice game, there are a lot more opportunities for recovery. More battles with a swing, so you might see an ugly first round, but a brilliant second, or an interstellar third, and then the significance of that initial bid might seem nearly irrelevant.
My preference is for a bid to income, or for a bid to Russian aircraft, mainly because those units often survive to fight in subsequent rounds, whereas pre-placement ground or naval bids almost always result in some huge round one fight that has an out-sized impact on the whole rest of the game. Basically looking to totally secure an attack with the bid units, or to totally neutralize an enemy attack from ever occurring. For that hitpoints will always be more important than anything else.
But I like the bomber for reasons beyond just pure opening power. In some important ways I think a bomber is slightly less potent than a third fighter would be, despite costing 2 ipcs more. Because defense power is so critical for Russia, right from the start and up to the bitter end. They often don’t need more reach than a 3rd fighter would give them, and 3 attacks is about as many as they can realistically run anyway, until they are willing to trade artillery (which always blows.) So I like the bomber, because it doesn’t distort the defense power thing as much. Instead it puts the emphasis on attack, which I think encourages a slightly more dynamic eastern front.
Going ground, is a bit like blowing up the powderkeg all at once, do or die, whereas I see Air more like, using that same black powder little by little over time. With the idea that you end up destroying more total TUV in smaller exchanges for less of your own TUV put at risk.
But that is also an expression of my preference in playstyle. I like to give the Soviets a third air attack option, because I think it adds to the thrill. They don’t have to attack 3 ways at once, and its often better to magnify in one space rather than split things up, but at least you got the option.
With 12 I’d go bomber
With 11 a fighter and save 1
With 10 a fighter
That’s not because I think those particular bids give the Allies the best chances of “winning” per se, but because I like the overall gameplay more under such a set up. You’re probably a lot better off, if you wanted to bid air, to bid it for UK, who can use it for deeper round 1 attacks. Or just spam hitpoints on the Eastern front to smash G, or a sub breaker as others have suggested. But I like the Red Airforce expansion. I’ve seen the Allies return wins when Russia has a third air unit. Not the crazy stompfest wins that a supreme Allied commander might wish for, but the kind of narrow wins and close call games that I most enjoy.
Movement exploits are at the heart of the basic game. You can see it even in Global where the Air Base unit is so important to the openers, mainly because they allow you to move those key starting air hp/attack/def pips over longer distances. In a similar way, even a single extra Air unit for Allies on the bid in 1942.2 can give you that oppertunity to launch 1 pip one tile farther, maybe just turn things so the Allies can grab the edge they need.
It’s also important I think whether you are willing to engage in SBR as the Allies generally. If not then you might want to consider a larger starting bid, because it’s very hard to nab Berlin or Tokyo when the Axis collect their full purse each round. Even if they can’t take the center, Germany can just spam infantry till the cows come home on this board haha. So I agree the game needs something among players of equal skill, and if it’s going to be a preplacement bid, I like the Bomber.
Going back to Classic/Revised, a bid to starting income is usually about double whatever the bid would be for pre-placement units.
Any number of combinations at like 15 ipcs, if you put the units down pre-placement, can return Allied wins.
And you could probably give any one of the Allies a bid of like 30 ipcs, just to their starting income for the normal round 1 purchasing phase, and it’d achieve a similar effect.
But I like the big red bomber, as a quick fix for 1942.2. It doesn’t guarantee the Allies a win by any stretch, but it introduces more novelty into the game for me, and is still a pretty decent bang for the bucks. You still need a few good rolls to make it pay for itself, but it’s not like the OOB situation, where Allies have a way of getting just totally steam rolled at the center, before USA can kick into a high enough gear to actually threaten an Axis capital.