@noblerare Moved from “Spring 1942” to the correct category.
Starting bids/balancing the game
I have played this game twice, and neither time has the Allies stood a chance. I understand from reading the forum that the consensus is indeed that the game is heavily balanced in the Axis’ favour. I am looking to see if there is any consensus as to how the game can be balanced.
Is there a standard starting bid to assist the Allies?
Also, are there any game start modifications that players have found helpful? One slight change my partner and I made during our second game was to move one of the two German subs in the Atlantic so that only one of the subs could hit the US transports. We plan to keep this rule and also allow the allies a starting bid of 12 IPCs. Should that set us up for a balanced game?
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First dozen or so games playing against my brother taking turns choosing sides, every game was won by the Axis. There were not blow outs which made it fun and because we took turns on the sides we learned how to play both. At the end we came to a conclusion we needed to make a change in order to give the Allies a chance to win some games so we decided on 2 bid options. First option is give the Allies 9 IPC bid so they can buy units and place them anywhere on the board with the condition that there have to be Allied units on the chosen territory or sea zone. Second option is place a bomber in Moscow. You can do one or the other. This is interesting 'cause I go for the 9 IPC bid always and my brother goes for the bomber in Moscow.
This made our games pretty damn close and wins are close to 50/50. I find player skill level and knowledge of the board makes a difference. For my brother and I we are pretty close skill wise so our bid rules work well.
For 1942.2 I think a 12 bid might be around the usual level, but as it is a bid it will clearly vary.
Black Elk has laid out some openers and Russian strategies, but even with a successful USSR1, once Germany takes the Caucasus they have access to the whole board and the Allies quickly collapse. We have just started playing 42.2 regularly but unless the Russian player is far better than the German one, Russia is about to fall or falls on turn 4. Black Elk says that Moscow has to hold out until about Turn 7 to give you a legitimate chance of winning, this seems like a good standard to determine whether a bid was balancing; did it permit a good player to survive that long?
He suggests a Strategic Bomber as a House Bid for the Allies. I like this idea for G40, G42 and 42.2. A house bid also ends any confusion or arguments; whoever wants the Allies and the bomber can choose that, or you can give them a standard bid of 16, etc.
The only downside is that the German Baltic fleet will certainly die if Russia can attack with 1 bomber 2 fighters. This is also a key to the 42.2 board; if you are able to kill one or both German fleets he cant stop UK/USA from overwhelming him or attacking Germany itself.
In any event, that northern fleet shouldn’t survive, if you can kill it, you may be able to destabilize Germany because he cant protect Scandanavia and he cant bridge into Karelia.
So back to the bid, it seems like the consensus for this game 42.2 is +12-16 to the allies. With any more than 10, you should be able to kill the Germany Baltic Fleet, or prevent the destruction of one of your UK or USA fleets, which would be game changing as OOB, Germany sweeps the allies starting navies.
For G40, the range is even wider, with people saying that a bid of 22-40 is necessary to win. We have seen these high bid games devolve into a conservative stack fest as well–Germany cant win but it cant lose either.
For G42, the standard bid needs to be at least 8. Then, you can place a destroyer with the northern fleet and reduce the chances/increase the commit needed to kill the Scapa Flow navy which is the nucleus of any future fleet.
Remember, this is dependent on the house rule that only 1 unit may be placed per territory. If you permit more to be placed, there are more possibilities.
Also, many people like to give the bid as cash rather than start units. This means the bid would be more flexible but less powerful (since you can make choices based on information, but you cant put units close to the action and change the starting considerations). I like this option but this isn’t the way its done in tournaments.
The key to using the bid effectively is
using it to channel your opponents preconceptions (eg getting them to play a side without a bid that needs one)
making it change the whole game. Putting 1 infantry here or there doesn’t do this. You want to use the bid to deter or prevent attacks or counterattacks that kill other valuable units on the Axis’ first turn.
I should have said “A Strategic bomber on Moscow” as a house bid for all versions. This bomber is fun, but is also not overpowered since it doesn’t add any defense.
If you do the bid, I’d put the germans subs back. There should be some way that they have a chance of nerfing USA at the beginning if they don’t kill the UK, there has to be some tradeoffs…
Even without a bid, Russia should really not be “falling” on turn 4 unless there is horrible luck or the German player has a much higher skill level.
Two questions to ask yourself if Moscow is falling before turn 6:
- How much direct aid did theverything US/UK provide by the end of turn 3? As a benchmark, try sending one fighter per turn, every turn, and unloading one full transport per turn, every turn. If you miss a turn (e.g. turn 1), make it up on the next turn.
- How many infantry did Russia build and hold back from the front lines by the end of turn 3? As a benchmark, try saving 4 infantry per turn, every turn – just build them in Moscow and leave them in Moscow. You can counterattack with your other units, but start stockpiling infantry from turn 1.
One idea to keep in mind is that Moscow is four turns of marching from Berlin. If Russia withdraws all its starting forces to Moscow and sits there like a bump on a log, Germany doesn’t have nearly enough starting units to walk into Moscow with just its starting forces, but any infantry built in Berlin on turn 1 can’t reach Moscow until turn 5 at the very earliest. If Moscow falls on turn 4, that means your strategy is worse than just retreating and turtling. Try something different!
Allies is not that bad IMHO…a Russia bomber basically make it fairly balanced from my past experience. Adding a bid of around 6 would also help Russia considerably from losing due to bad luck during the opening battle. But without bid Allies could still stand a chance (even though I admit Allies might have higher chance of losing without bid)
The best way to find out is to play a game or 2 If you are interested for a forum game let me know…
I think you are correct, which is why the post “Aggressive Russian Strategy” is an oxymoron; if you are aggressive with Russia, you lose even more quickly once your mobility forces are lost!
That’s why I’m really pondering Black Elk’s Openers (Attack Ukraine and retreat, Attack WR with everything else and stack up). It seems that in the case of most of his proposed Russian openers, Germany should still attempt to counterattack the biggest stack available, since it can bring all its air and tanks to bear. If all the Russian tanks are committed or lost during or after the opener, there wont be much of a follow on force for Russia Turn 2 and later.
In G40, being aggressive with Russia is often tempting, but fatal.
In 42.2, it seems that you must open with some attritional Russian attacks, but if they cause Russia to fall earlier than a pure turtle, why?
Well, the question is what you can achieve with the limited but still powerful Russian offensive corps. Russia does most of its fighting very close to Moscow, so mobility isn’t crucial for Moscow – what matters is your offensive punch. (1 Russian infantry + 1 Russian artillery) is 95% as good as (1 Russian infantry + 1 Russian tank).
Russia starts with 9 offensive pieces: 3 artillery, 4 tanks, and 2 fighters. If you follow Black_Elk’s advice to strafe Ukraine and put everything else into West Russia, you will hold West Russia safely against any German counter-attack. This means abandoning Karelia, emptying out and trading the Caucasus, etc., but that’s all OK because West Russia is a strategically powerful territory, and stacking hard in West Russia will allow you to quickly reclaim most of the territories you’re abandoning. The goal is to wind up with 13+ units in West Russia after your R1 attack.
I would not send all 4 tanks to Ukraine – that is crazy talk. In an orthodox Russian defense (heh), you want to send your planes to Ukraine (the planes will survive and land in a safe territory like Moscow), along with maybe 1 artillery and 1 tank. So of your 9 offensive units, you’re only losing 2 on the first turn – and you can afford to replace them immediately with a build like (4 infantry, 3 artillery). Do all that, and you go from 9 offensive units to 10 offensive units over the course of the first turn, and so there’s no reason for your offense to peter out so early. Eventually you will lose enough territory that you can’t afford to keep replacing your offensive units, but that should be around turn 6, not turn 2.
The reason for the attritional attacks is that they (a) slow down the German offensive, (b) destroy significantly more German units than they cost you, and bring in income from captured/traded territories. If you stack in West Russia hard enough that Germany can’t afford to take it and crush the forces in Ukraine hard enough that Germany can’t afford to defend it, then Germany’s best-case position for a turn-1 stack is Belorussia. A reasonably strong R2 turn will keep the German forces pinned down in Belorussia or maybe Karelia for G2. On G3, Germany should be confined to Karelia or Archangel. On G4, Germany should be confined to Archangel or West Russia. On G5, Germany should be confined to West Russia or Caucasus – but if Germany’s able to stack in the Caucasus, then you pre-emptively retreat most of the Allied infantry and fighters from the Caucasus to Moscow, and that should be enough to protect Moscow on G6, so that the earliest Moscow can fall is G7. If Germany tries to accelerate the timetable, you kill whatever forces have stepped over the imaginary line at a profit, and Germany gets slowed down anyway.
By contrast, against a pure turtle, Germany can build infantry in Berlin on G1, march that infantry to Poland on G2, Belorussia on G3, West Russia on G4, and walk into Moscow on G5.
+1 arty india
+1 inf caucasus
+1 crusier usa to atlantic fleet
Upgrade cruiser in medit sea to a battleship for tradition.
Bam balanced game.
Unit upgrading is an interesting proposition. You could get a lot more value out of 1 or 2 ipcs via upgrades than you could if you had to save it. Changing an infantry unit to an artillery piece for a cost of 1 say, or changing a fighter to a bomber for a cost of 2 etc.
In my experience most people are pretty stubborn with the bid rules, but as long as all the players agree I don’t see an issue.
Same deal with a set up change. As long as everyone is in agreement, I’m game.
Usually this stuff works best if you plan to play best 2 out of 3, that way both sides get a chance to play Allies under the same conditions.
Also just the record, without a bid for the Allies, even the best Russian opening doesn’t do a whole lot for you, especially if matched against an opponent of equal skill. Axis definitely run the board in 42.2. Sure there’s a chance you might catch a lucky break to even the score, but Germany and Japan have a lot going for them on this map.
Cows set up change equates to a bid of 27 for Allies (if you count the BB upgrade from Cruisers at a cost of 8.) Just to give an idea of the disparity you’re looking at from the vanilla set up.
We used Cow’s Mod last night. This is a pretty good tweak, because it addresses a few of the problems with the strength of the Axis opener. However, it doesn’t do anything to address how weak the allied middle is. As Black Elk suggests, even thought the US fleet can’t be killed G1, the all the british ships will be.
I’ve tried Black Elks various openers, but the only one that seems to not invite a massive attritional German counterattack is putting everything in West Russia and using that space to transition my pieces into the Caucausus so that I can try and hold that. The Cow Mod meant that Germany had to go out of its way to kill all the available UK pieces, but it wasn’t hard.
As I see it, there are a series of cascade failures in the OOB set up that have to be addressed in order, Elk has shown where the pressure is
defend the us atlantic fleet otherwise its a 10-1 german advantage to sink most of what the US has
(remedy move the Cruiser to with the rest of the ships, or add a bid destroyer.
defend Egypt, otherwise this crucial territory should be taken on round 1
(remedy add an infantry, and or move the Russian fighter there but then it cant add its power to any attacks)
prevent the US china fighter from being destroyed
(remedy move a Russian fighter there, add 1 (more!) Russian infantry and/or 1 US infantry)
find something constructive to do with the UK pacific naval forces because otherwise they are easy to isolate and destroy(remedy, attack Japan on turn 1 in the hopes of diminishing his fleet strength)
While I try to give the designers the benefit of the doubt, this edition seems like a complete rout in the middle (similar to
the 1984/6) edition. I don’t understand why this wasn’t addressed as all 4 of these positional disadvantages mean that allied assets are destroyed before they can even act, it means that the bid is going to be used to address a cascade of vulnerabilities without even opening up any new possibilities.
the math above argues for at least a 14 bid (1 dd, 2 infantry), or more. Thanks to Black Elk Argothair and Cow for their ideas.
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?
IDK if Black Elk tried a different cost structure for warships.
I know it swings balance toward Allies.
I just don’t have enough games to be conclusive if it gets even.
Cost structure is almost a 3 IPCs increment scale:
Submarine 5 IPCs
Transport 6 IPCs
Destroyer 6 IPCs
Cruiser 9 IPCs
Carrier (2 hits, A0 D2) 12 IPCs
1942.2 1 hit Carrier A1 D2 should probably be put at 10 IPCs
Battleship 15 IPCs.
I know it is funnier for all to see more ships on board.
It is faster to change your mind from more naval to more Infantry with 3 IPCs scale and so to make purchase decisions.
I agree the problem is a very weak middle for the Allies. Have to play with the Bosporus Strait closed. Generally I like a bid of around 12-17, although I have sometimes beat my friends at 9.
A Russian fighter for the bid helps a lot, you can attack Baltic States and West Russia, and then land them in Egypt, Transjordan (with a tank) and Evenki. You get a pretty big opening, hold the Suez canal, put yourself in position to counter Japan for a single crucial turn, and lay a trap in the Caucasus while stacking W. Russia to receive British fighters. This is nice because it lets you help the British in the beginning but you end up with a Russian fighter, which is the unit which gets the most action in any game, making or breaking a lot of trades and adding a lot of defensive power. Also if you convince Germany to buy navy round 1 then you at least spare Russia through round 5.
Once you get over 15 with the bid you can start doing stupid stuff that totally changes the game… which can be very fun.