Very interesting analysis, taamvan.
I agree with you that the British fleet generally gets crushed on G1, and that the Allies have a ton of vulnerabilities in the opening setup position to defend with their bid, and that neither of these dynamics is particularly fun.
It raises an interesting series of questions about “setup design.” As a designer, what situation do you want at the end of the first full turn? Do you want to have:
(1) both a British fleet and a German Fleet?
(2) a British fleet but not a German Fleet?
(3) a German Fleet but not a British Fleet?
(4) neither a British fleet nor a German Fleet?
(5) the possibility of either a British Fleet xor a German Fleet, depending on who wins a swing-y battle?
(1) can lead to dramatic tension simmering across the Channel, but it can also lead to a boring stalemate where both sides are afraid to risk a serious battle, and both sides keep adding ships to their safe zones without ever fighting. In many games, the Japanese and American fleets stare at each other from across the Pacific for eight rounds, and that’s not necessarily much fun either.
(2) is historically realistic, but it can be a bit depressing for the Germans…if the Germans never get to play with any naval units, then the game is less fun for them.
(3) is pretty much the situation in OOB 1942.2 – I think it’s fun because the Allies will eventually build an Atlantic navy, so the Germans start off with control of the Atlantic, and that control gradually passes to the British over time. On the other hand, it’s annoying as heck for the British to setup their whole navy just to see it disappear before their eyes in ways that are totally out of their control, and many beginning/intermediate British players understandably get terrified of the Axis when the whole British fleet gets wiped out on turn 1, because if that had happened in real life, then the Brits would have been in deep trouble.
(4) avoids putting too much pressure on either side in the opening, but it can also be slow and boring…if you can’t possibly ship troops to Egypt or Norway or anything on the first turn, then that limits the number of possible opening moves.
(5) is exciting, but I think many players would want to throw in the towel and start the game over if the battle swung too heavily to one side or the other.
So, yeah, there are pros and cons no matter how you set things up.
My preferred solution for all of these problems would be to slightly reduce the number of starting pieces, and then give both players a fixed collection of pieces that they can distribute anywhere on the board before G1. So the turn order on the first turn would be something like (Axis Bid > Allied Bid > G1 > R1 > B1 > J1 > A1).
I haven’t thought through the details of what the bids should be for a setup like that, but I’m imagining something like this:
(A) Take all the German starting subs, the Japanese starting sub, the Ukrainian German fighter, and the starting German cruiser in the Baltic off the board. Total IPC reduction = 52 IPCs.
(B) The Axis get 3 subs, 1 destroyer, 1 transport, and 1 cruiser to put anywhere they like – maximum one ship per sea zone. Total IPC increase = 43 IPCs. Net change = negative 9 IPCs.
Take the Australian cruiser, the Mediterranean British destroyer, the Russian White Sea sub, one of the two American Atlantic transports, and the Panamanian American cruiser off the board. Total IPC reduction = 45 IPCs.
(D) The Allies get 2 infantry, 2 destroyers, 2 cruisers, and 2 transports to put anywhere they like – maximum one unit per territory or sea zone. Total IPC increase = 60 IPCs. Net change = positive 15 IPCs.
Net swing would be +24 IPCs for the Allies, but both sides would get some flexibility in their setup and a feeling that they weren’t “forced” to take casualties on the first turn just because of what’s written on the setup cards. What do you think? Could this work? Is it too weird? Do you think it would be overpowered for one side or the other?