Randomization in Axis and Allies

  • 2024 '22 '21 '19 '15 '14

    Right now there are three main ways that randomization enters into the game. Or three dimensions of regular randomization, where rolls determine an outcome that is beyond the player’s control.

    The first and most significant to the gameplay is combat, or all the various types of combat where the total hits and in some cases the individual casualties are left up to a randomized roll d6 to determine what lives or dies.

    The second is strategic bombing, where random damage is allocated by a roll d6.

    The third is technology, where again a roll of d6 determines some randomized advanced or other, and in the case of a tech like Rockets or War Bonds, can introduce other repeating rolls that randomize stuff yet further.

    I’m curious about other ways that randomization could be introduced into the game. Or to discuss which areas of the game might best support further rolls for randomizing the game’s conditions. I’m particularly interested in finding ways to introduce randomization to the start conditions of the game, as a way to increase its shelf life. Some ideas along these lines…

    Starting unit placement: its possible to use multiple set up cards, and then have players roll to determine which cards are used in a given game. The different set up cards might represent different slices of time (highlighting some particular period of the war for that nation), or represent different potential national strategies from some common historical jumping off point. One possibility might be to have three double-sided set up cards for each player/nation, for a total of 6 distinct set up cards with different starting unit compositions. Players could then roll to determine which of these set up cards are used in any given game.

    I can think of a few ways you could organize it.  One way would be to make a single roll at the outset to determine which set up card ALL nations will use: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. This would work well with a timeline structure, where you could pair each of the national cards off each other in a series to represent some year or season of the war. So its basically like you are rolling for the year or month, with a different starting unit composition meant to give the flavor of that period. Territory ownership could change as well as unit compositions. Something like this would give you 6 potential starting conditions instead of just one. And would probably be a fun thing to design as a community.

    Another way to handle the set up cards, would be to have each Player/Nation make a separate roll to determine which set up card 1-6 they will use for the game. Here territory ownership would have to be consistent across all the set up cards (since the set up cards are mixed), but unit composition could change. These might be like “war plans”, that feature a roughly similar team TUV, but distributed in slightly different ways. For example, one set up might focus more on naval expansion, another might feature different air forces, or specialized ground forces, or different secondary production centers, things of that sort. Where the core strength of the nation in TUV is basically the same, but with six slightly different initial “grand plans” laid out by the numbered set up card.

    Done this way, you could have 30+ different potential set ups for the game, each with a different flavor and different balance.

    Turn Order Sequence: another way you could randomize the starting conditions of the game would be rolling to determine who starts the turn order. For example, in a 5 man game, you could roll d6 to determine which nation goes first like this…
    1= Russia first
    2= Germany first
    3= Britain first
    4= Japan first
    5= America first
    6= Reverse the normal turn order sequence, re-roll to see who goes first.

    I have a thread where I describe how a system like this can work in games with 6 or more player nations here… the 4th post in that thread describes the essential idea for a G40 type game.
    This thread attempted something similar for AA50. Again the main variable start idea is refined and clarified in the posts at the end…

    Basically it gives you half-a-dozen to a dozen different potential openers. This combined with multiple set up cards would give you an A&A match that would be very hard to break through pre-planned strategy and meta-gaming. Instead of thinking of ways to win “The” game and bust the regular set up in a few months, this would shift the focus to winning under whatever starting conditions are laid out by the randomized rolls. And since those could result in so many different potential starting conditions, the emphasis would move away from the start of the game and the opening round.

    Bidding: You could still use bids to balance by sides if desired, but you’d have less prior information to go off of, because the likelihood of seeing the exact same opening you did in some previous game would be considerably reduced. It’d be harder to crib strategies, and likely take longer for the player community at large to dissect the possible openers and break them consistently. Under this type of system all the pre-game rolls are made first to determine the set up of that particular match, then after seeing what the results are for each nation, the players bid to choose sides according to their on-the-fly assessment of ‘who has the advantage now.’ Based of course, on what they’re looking at right then and there, which might be rather different than situations they’ve faced in any previous game.

    Income bonuses: another very simple way to randomize the game d6 after its already begun is to include recurring income bonuses for all nations. Something like warbonds, where the roll determines something added at collect income. Over the course of the game, these alter the conditions between rounds, such that its less likely that any two games will play out in quite the same way, at least regarding the cashflow.

    Using simple randomization like that, I think we could make the game much broader. Instead of one set opening you’d have countless potential set ups, and where its much less likely that a “winning” strategy for any given A&A map gets worked out as quickly as they do for a single set up game.

    I’m anticipating the reply, “but one of the things I like about A&A is that the opening set up doesn’t change!” You know “so I can learn the set up, and master it, and beat my friends consistently!” hehe. I get that too, but still think it would be more interesting if the game was always a bit different. Where you’d never quite know what a given game will look like until the opening dice are rolled, so instead of worrying about the set up or the balance by sides, the emphasis would be on playing through whatever randomized conditions the dice determined for that game.

    I think A&A is basically already like this, except that all the major randomization occurs by means of the first round combats. This lends itself to an overly narrow focus and emphasis on the results of those combats. By randomizing the start conditions prior to the first round combats, I think it could change the attitude towards the game. Dispelling somewhat the idea that ‘its supposed to be perfectly balanced’ or balanced by some standard perfect bid. In place of perfect balance/bid you just get more variety overall. Anyone else think something like that might work?

    My initial thought was that for a game like 1941 or 1942 what you could do is simply add TUV, to the existing unit set up cards for that game. Say you add some set number of ipcs worth of units to each nation (maybe 20 ipcs TUV, or maybe +50 ipcs TUV, or whatever is best), for each new set up card 1-6, and then try to distribute that additional TUV to create six distinct opening set ups for that nation. The TUV totals would still all be the same for everyone, but could be expressed in half a dozen different potential openers for each Nation.

    I think by concentrating on just adding units to the existing set up cards, it’d be simple to create 6 unique cards that still felt like they had the same national core of starting units. And this would probably be easier and more accessible than trying to redesign the whole set up for each nation from scratch. For a game like 1942 you could create 6 scenario expansions for each player/nation, with the addition of just 15 double sided set up cards (3 double sided cards for each).

    Carrying the idea a little further, imagine a series of Russian set up cards that read something like this…

    Scenario 1: Card A, front side.  Bomber focus- Russia gets an extra bomber, and a couple infantry somewhere.
    Scenario 2: Card A, reverse side.  Production focus- Russia gets an extra factory and couple infantry somewhere else.

    Scenario 3: Card B, front side. Fighter focus - Russia gets a third fighter and a couple infantry somewhere still different.
    Scenario 4: Card B, reverse side. Tank focus -Russia gets more tanks etc.

    Scenario 5: Card C, front side. Artillery focus- Russia gets more artillery etc.
    Scenerio 6: Card C, reverse side. Fleet focus - Russia gets some ships to play with.

    Then you do something like that for Germany, and Britain and so on, until everyone has 6 scenarios to roll for.
    Would it still feel like Axis and Allies?

  • 2024 '22 '21 '19 '15 '14

    Here’s a few ideas for a randomized start in 1942, just focusing on the soviets for now as an example.

    Russia gets a factory in one of the six soviet territories that have a value of 1 ipc. Roll d6 to determine which location will get the new factory…

    1= Archangel factory
    2= Novosibirsk factory
    3= Evenki factory
    4= Yakut factory
    5= Buryatia Factory
    6= Soviet Far East Factory

    Another idea is to use the one totally empty space, such that Russia gets a random combat unit in Vologda. Roll d6 to determine the unit
    1= Bomber
    2= Fighter
    3= Tank
    4= Artillery
    5= Infantry
    6= AAAgun

    You could do things like this with other nations too, to create ways to alter the standard set up based on rolls.
    (YG posted an idea for the Americans in G40 just now that offers a way to randomize there, which seems cool.)

    The basic ideas I’m trying to think about are the ones that might introduce some actual gameplay into the set up process itself. So instead of just reading off the same set up charts at the outset every time to start the game, instead things open with rolling and then  into the reading and the set up. Sides could be chosen beforehand, or once the set up is done, you could bid to choose sides then. Something along those lines.

    With the Russians the impact of a 1 ipc factory, or single additional unit might not seem like it’s introducing a whole ton of options, but combined with other rolling alterations you could really reshape things. I think the 1 IC could work for UK as well to add some interest. They have several options on a d6, maybe something like.

    1= Western Canada factory
    2= New Zealand factory
    3 = Eastern Australia factory
    4 = Western Australia factory
    5 = Trans Jordan factory
    6= French West Africa factory

    Combined with a couple units somewhere that could change the UK’s opening options quite a bit.
    The other nations would be a little bit trickier for the 1 ipc production expansion idea. Germany has 4 spots that fit the criteria, Japan only has 2, while America really only has 3 viable location, but that might still work, if you wanted to do it for everyone it might be something like…

    1= Finland factory
    2= Morocco factory
    3 = Algeria factory
    4 = Libya factory
    5/6= reroll

    1-3 = Malaya Factory
    4-6 = New Guinea factory

    1-2 = Sinkiang factory
    3-4 = Szechuan factory
    5-6 = Hawaii factory

    When combined, all those mini factories would give a pretty dynamic production spread, even just at the viable 1 ipc locations. If you introduced additional units for each Nation in a similar way, you could randomize the start substantially, while still retaining a set up that looks fairly similar to the OOB one, just with a series of tweaks.

    To spice things up you could let the players place a bid unit at the new factories or into an adjacent sea zone in the case of a coastal factory. So everyone gets a minor tweak, with a mini factory and an extra unit somewhere, based on some kind of initial roll.

    Whether it balances perfectly or not, isn’t quite so important, because you can adjust that on the fly either with income bonuses or a bid by sides, after the tweaks have been made. Of course some rolls would be more advantageous than others, but whatever the rolls, it’d still produce a game thats more or less distinct each time.

    This just gives a kind of system for creating different opening scenarios from the same essential template, using similar rules/rolls for everyone.

  • I personally am not in favor of adding randomization to AA. I feel this game needs a good balance between luck and strategy, and the fact that luck decides most of the battles means you need to compensate otherwise.

    Add too much random and you may find the entire game is tilted one way or the other, which can be frustrating.

    What I do like to do with my friends (we play the 1914 version a lot) is to tweak the rules every now and then to keep us off balance. I would also like to play around with allowing a limited amount of initial troop placement changes to modify the beginning of the game - which does have good impact on the outcome. It just feels more fun to have a certain choice about it or to have a mechanic itself modified rather than leaving too much of my fate in the hands of the dice.

  • '21 '18 '16

    We randomized by adding events and espionage into the system. It changed the flow for us and made the game much more enjoyable. The system is in the South Texas house rules thread. We playtested and then revised twice after seeing the effects. It uses the dice to determine random events, both good and bad, that can occur against each country thus altering the strategy either perceived or planned. It also adds some advantage based on the espionage outcomes. It got crapped on but we like it. It also usually balanced any perceived advantage that some countries had over each other. We eliminated 5 - 9 due to the odds and based it on statistical out comes in craps. 2 being the worst event and 12 being best event $2 IPC infantry. Some were based on the power’s immediate status in the war. At war, not at war, etc.

    My 2 cents, and I’m not claiming to be an expert.

  • We like to use an “Arms Buildup” instead of setting up the game the same way every time. People spend 7 rounds gradually building up the forces they want before the action starts. This adds a lot of variation to the games as you have different hot spots in different areas of the map depending on how the setup went.

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