Ideal Distances for a New A&A Map
Suppose you were designing a new Axis & Allies map, more or less from scratch. What would your ideal “distance” be for some of the key routes? In other words, how many turns should it take an infantry unit to get from…
- New York to London
- New York to Paris
- New York to Rome
- New York to Berlin
- Berlin to Leningrad
- Berlin to Moscow
- Berlin to Stalingrad
- Berlin to Cairo
- Calcutta to Cairo
- Capetown to Cairo
- Calcutta to Stalingrad
- Calcutta to Moscow
- Calcutta to Shanghai
- Calcutta to Tokyo
- Tokyo to Moscow
- Tokyo to Archangel
- Tokyo to Sydney
- Tokyo to Honolulu
- Tokyo to San Francisco
- Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro
- San Francisco to Sydney
- San Francisco to Honolulu
- San Francisco to Manila/Jakarta?
For example, you might think that it should take one turn to get infantry from New York to London, but two turns to get from New York to Paris. I’m not arguing for that; I’m just trying to find out what you think. I’m interested in both thematic arguments (this is what would feel historical) and in strategic arguments (this is what would make for challenging, balanced gameplay). I’m especially interested in the principles behind your reasoning: which routes should be the shortest? which routes should be the longest? Why? How much longer should the long routes be compared to the short routes? Why? Should it take more turns, in general, to move a basic unit by land, by sea, or by air? Why? What are we trying to accomplish by setting different distances on an A&A map? Is the idea to make players focus on the shorter routes, or to give players choices about which nations to focus on, or to challenge players to solve the puzzle of which route is actually fastest, or something else altogether? Why?
By mid scale I’m assuming something like AA50 or 1942.2.
One thing I’ve returned to many times, concerning Russia (on either side of the board), is whether you want the Soviets to have a serious offensive capability, or if you prefer a more nerfed Russia that relies heavily on the other 2 Allies to maintain itself.
I think the answer you give to that question, determines everything about the ideal distances at the center of the board, and probably influences the ideal distances everywhere else too. In short, if you want a weaker Russia focused on defense and running away then more distance works like an hourglass. If you want a strong Russia that stands their ground or goes on the offensive, then shorter distances are probably more interesting. But both of these relate to the relative scale of the economy, because there’s only so much you can do at either distance, with only 24 ipcs.
Another thing I’ve thought about in the past, is somehow moving the German capital inland, so it can’t be invaded amphibiously. Right now some of the questions about distance, hinge on the Allies ability to simultaneously threaten Berlin while they position to land somewhere else in Europe. Basically forcing Germany to hold units in reserve at the capital, rather than using them for a defense somewhere else, eg France. This relates to ideal distance, because if you rely on the threat of amphibious invasions against Berlin to make a Normandy landing possible (or any landing for that matter) then this recommends a pretty close distance between the Baltic and say France or UK. Global is the first game which made a serious attempt to change that dynamic around the amphibious invasion of Berlin, by including straits, but even these didn’t alter the basic strategy by the Allies… just introduced things like the Denmark can opener, as part of the play.
I think in very basic terms, the A&A playstyle works better with short distances.
I’ve made some large maps in tripleA, some almost ridiculously large, like the projection for Domination. I’ve seen how the A&A system plays on maps with more distance but low relative movement, and it changes certain things about the playstyle as you go up in scale. Personally I think the system shines with a moderately scaled map. Even after all this time, my favorite map for A&A is still probably that hack job I made for the Revised map, called Pact of Steel.
It looked practically the same as the Revised map in terms of distances. With the hallmark shucks and whatnot. Basically just threw a third space into China, and then bumped the economy rather than distance. That one space in China served as a stall for JTDTM, and a production option for China. Almost everything else was just increasing the value of peripherals like Hawaii, Australia, Alaska and South Africa.
There we did try some movement stuff in the design of a couple tiles. Basically violating the “island” principle, by having the low value islands (like say Midway or Sardinia) split across 2 sea zones.
I don’t know how people feel, but I always thought that an island on the sea zone divide is somewhat more interesting than an island completely contained by a single sea zone. It created amphibious vulnerabilities that I found kind of interesting for control of the islands. Basically you can have two fleets at a stand off contesting the island groups, without having to fully confront the enemy fleet at the same time. This was kind of cool for the cat and mouse, where you’d have invasions or counter invasions from either side of the island. Something tells me people are less likely to go for that, since it’s visually kind of different. But it sort of turns every island group into a mini UK or Madagascar. Each can be approached from more than one sz.
For basic scale of the Atlantic, I like the Revised map, with plenty of solid shucks. Otherwise I feel like you need a major scale up for the US and UK economies. In the Pacific you have an ocean twice the size, so it makes sense that a Pacific crossing might take longer, but I wish the map here had stronger “stepping stones.” I feel like Hawaii and Australia are too far from the main action to be viable, and the money islands are disproportionately attractive, and relatively close. I wish Japan had a way to contest North America.
I admit it’s gamey, and perhaps a total impossibility historically, but I think it would just make the game for the Americans way more entertaining. It’s really the only thing that’s ever going to pull Japan off the center crush, and I think it would be more satisfying to the imagination. Man in the High Castle style.
Should it take more turns, in general, to move a basic unit by land, by sea, or by air? Why?
For whatever it’s worth, sea transporation and land transportation and air transportation in the real world exist on a continuum in which speed is inversely proportional to tonnage. Shipping by sea is (and has been since ancient times) the cheapest way to move vast quantities of goods over great distances, giant supertankers being a good example of this principle, but it has the disadvantage of being slow and (for obvious reasons) of being limited to oceans and seas and coastlines and certain rivers. Shipping by air is the fastest method, but it’s expensive and it involves much smaller payloads; it also has limitations imposed by landing strip requirements. Helicopters are more flexible in this regard than fixed-wing aircraft, but they have terrible fuel consumption, a short range, high maintenance costs and small payload capacities. Transporation by land is roughly half-way between those two extremes. Of the two land options, rail shipping is in many ways superior because combines fairly high speed with low fuel consumption and large payload capacity, but it’s limited to places where rail lines exist. Trucking is more versatile because there are more roads in more places than rail lines, and in a pinch some trucks can operate off-road, but they’re not as efficient at moving tonnage than trains.