So I just played my first ever game as Axis - to date everyone has been willing to give a 9-15 bid, but an opponent last night bid 8 so I let him have it. (He added a sub to the Med and pocketed the other 2 IPC).
He spent US IPC in Atlantic (perhaps in response to my standard G1 fleet buy) and pulled Pac ships back to western US and put initial UK focus on Italy.
I DOWed him J2 and the situation for Japan couldn’t have been better. At the end of J2 I had every IPC/objective-relevant island in the Pacific except Celebes already in hand; could hold Yunnan; was two full levels deep into China; was immediately threatening India (forcing ineffective turtle by UK Pac); and there was not a single opposing transport between western US and the horn of Africa. This was later followed up by two factories in Asia each of which pumped out 3 tanks/turn by turn 5 builds; and a full-on strat bombing of India facilities, effectively taking UK-Pac out of the game before UK4. By the time the US switched to all-Pac (turn 4 or so), he was so far behind he couldn’t advance past Hawaii (and only got that far because I was still prioritizing Asia for Japan’s air force). The tank/air force just needed to mass in order to smash the remnant of China and then UK Pac, and I could then spend 40+ IPC/turn on fleet with a pullback of a few fighters to counter the US buildup.
I did lose the game but only because I messed up the tactics on the German side, which was more a result of my inexperience with Axis than anything. But there I was, first time Axis player and let to its own devices I was able to leverage Japan to take them to the house. I made lots of mistakes too, so it’s not like I had to play it perfectly - I was basically imitating all the things that I had seen others do from the Allies’ perspective to see if my opponent had answers that I didn’t.
I know some people automatically assume that having those units from the Far East in Russia proper is the best course, but if Japan does its job right those units make it west of Mongolia just in time to be confronted by a mixed Japanese stack that can overwhelm them. I would argue that those units are compelled to mass in the east in order to give China/UK-Pac a chance to survive. Taking 10 Japanese land units out of the equation in those early rounds makes a huge difference. Also allowing Japan control of the Mongolia situation by allowing it to trigger the intervention at its leisure (when it has had the opportunity to move in 4 extra inf to clean up the new Russian units) and collecting the northern Russian territories by running tanks around empty space instead of having to knock out at least a picket every space for the whole march.
It’s because of this that I believe that a) Russia can’t abandon the east, they need to put those 18 units on Amur at some point to force Japanese units away from China/UK; and b) UK/ANZAC/US need to play an aggressive counter-game to force Japan to spend to defend its Pacific territories while eliminating as many land units on the ground as possible. If you don’t, there are few good answers to a J2 where J1 is pounding China and staging naval units and transports in complete safety for a mass J2 attack followed by a J3 cleanup. Yes, you bring the USA into the war early, but they’re not really positioned to do much that early anyway. I prefer J2 to J1 because having that first turn to move in safety and stage units is a powerful asset and allows you to see Allied 1st turn buys which tip off your opponent’s strategy before you commit to your own strategy and maintains the option to delay further if there is advantage to be gained by it.