All right, here’s a stab at a short, basic overview of Allied opening strategy. No doubt others will have more detailed or more advanced ideas to share, but hopefully this will be a helpful overview for people who are just starting to get serious about Global 1940. I’ll start with Russia and then add other nations in later posts.
Your position at the center of the board, sandwiched between Germany, Italy, and Japan, means that you are usually a prime target for Axis bullying and that you will usually need to build mostly infantry and play a mostly defensive game where you retreat steadily toward Moscow and attempt to hold out in Moscow as long as possible to give the rest of the Allies a chance to win the game on other fronts.
However, usually is not the same thing as always, and being able to correctly identify the exceptions to the rule can be the key to victory. If Germany builds more than four transports or otherwise telegraphs its intention to launch a serious amphibious assault on London, Russia will need to rapidly go on the offense, building tanks in Leningrad and Kiev so as to seize as much German territory as possible as quickly as possible while Germany is busy with the British. Conversely, if Germany loses less than three planes against the British navy, or builds a ton of early land units, or declares war on Russia turn 1, then even retreating to Moscow may not be enough – Russia may be forced to retreat even further, to the Caucasus or Persia, so that German tanks can’t punch through Russia’s southern flank to Egypt or India. Although losing Moscow is very serious, it’s not the end of the game for the Allies; if the Allies hold the line in London, Egypt, Persia, India, Java, New Guinea, Hawaii, and Alaska, then the Allies have a large economic advantage even after losing Moscow and central Russia. Try to keep an eye on when reinforcing Moscow will drain Axis resources and delay further Axis expansion, vs. when you’re just throwing good money after bad.
A key consideration in defending Moscow is whether you will be able to get your armies home in time. Try to anticipate what turn Germany will attack Moscow based on what Germany is building. If Germany is building 10 infantry in Berlin, then the attack is probably still five turns away, because the infantry take a long time to march across eastern Europe. If Germany is building 4 strategic bombers in Berlin, then the attack is probably happening next turn. If you have a stack of, e.g., 10 infantry and 4 artillery in Belarus and you see that you’re able to use it to kill a stack of 4 German tanks in eastern Poland, that’s fine…but only if you can make it back to Moscow from eastern Poland before Moscow gets attacked. Otherwise you’re throwing away 14 Russian defenders to take out 4 German attackers, which is a terrible trade.
When you calculate what can make it back to Moscow in time, keep an eye on Germany’s mobile forces and on Italy’s can openers. A medium-sized Russian army that has enough turns to march back to Moscow still might not arrive safely in Moscow if it can be creamed by 20 German mechs and 10 German tanks and 10 German planes without throwing those forces seriously out of position. It’s easy to get trapped. Along similar lines, if the Italians have more than 2 or 3 units in eastern Europe, you will need to arrive in Moscow in time to guard it against Germany’s fast-moving tanks and mechs, because Germany might be able to capture Moscow even without its slower infantry, and when the Italians are present with a significant force, it can turn out to be so expensive to stop Italian can-openers that you don’t actually gain any ground. To reliably stop a force of, e.g., 2 Italian mechs, 2 Italian tanks, and 1 Italian bomber, you probably need 7 Russian infantry – but if you put 7 Russian infantry on each of the 3 territories in range of the Italians, now you’ve pulled 21 infantry out of your main army, and you can be defeated in detail with unacceptable losses.
One positive opportunity to stay alert for is the chance to permanently take and hold Scandinavia with a medium-sized force. Anything you send into Finland is very unlikely to make it back to Moscow in time for the big battle…but if you take both Norway and Finland, that’s a 21-IPC swing each turn: 5 IPCs of territory denied to Germany, 5 IPCs of territory in your pocket, 6 IPCs for the spread of communism, and 5 IPCs for Germany’s iron ore shortage. It also means that whatever German units you kill in Finland won’t be able to join the attack on Moscow, and it provides a critical landing area for Allied planes that can help them first sink the Baltic German fleet (reducing the number of land units that can arrive in Leningrad to march to Moscow) and then take Denmark to threaten Berlin. The overall effect on German offensive chances can be devastating. You can’t afford to spend the entire Russian army and air force just on taking this one region, but if you can take it on the cheap (18 units or so) then it’s probably worthwhile.
Another favorite trick is to send one Russian mech south to pick up some combination of Tobruk, Libya, Iraq, Italian Somaliland, and Ethiopia. The British wind up doing the heavy lifting to roll back the Italian armies, and then the lone Russian mech scoops up the rewards, getting that sweet, sweet 3-IPC Spread of Communism objective for each territory you take, each turn, until Moscow falls. If the game goes long, picking up any two of these territories can be a tiebreaker in your favor.
Finally, you’ve got your Siberian armies, with 18 infantry and 3 AAA guns. If you stack them all on the border with Japan, they can be wiped out, and then you will lose Siberia pretty rapidly, but this does force Japan to spend a significant amount of resources going north, which is not especially lucrative for Japan, so it’s one way to slow Japan down if you like. This fits well with aggressive “Kill Japan first” openings where most of your resources are going into the Pacific early on. I usually prefer to wait until turn 2 to stack the Russian armies on the Japanese border, because until turn 2 I don’t really know what Japan is planning. A huge Russian army on Japan’s doorstep is a great response to a turn 1 Japanese declaration of war – but if you open with that move, it’s easy enough for Japan to just keep the peace and expand into China and Siberia for a couple of turns. The only time I would bother with a turn 1 deployment to Amur is if Germany totally broadcasts its intention to go for a Sea Lion, e.g., builds 2+ transports on turn 1. Normally, I prefer to retreat the westmost Russian stack toward the west on turn 1. If Germany goes for an aggressive/early attack on Moscow, that way at least one stack can usually still make it to the capital. If Germany is giving Russia more time, the western most stack can pivot south to Kansu to reinforce China (also usually in the nick of time), while the eastern stack can return to Amur and give Japan plenty of headaches.
The ideal Russian opening build is situational – you want mostly tanks in response to a Sea Lion, and mostly infantry in response to a turn 1 declaration of war on Russia – but in general you need a balance of offensive punch, mobility, and sheer unit count. You’ll need either some tanks or some artillery so that you can counter-attack weak German stacks…you may not find any, but if you can’t even credibly threaten to attack lone German planes/tanks, it gives Germany too many options. You’ll need either some mechs or some tanks so that you can shift forces rapidly between theaters; you can’t afford to give away both Leningrad and Kiev too early (giving away one is probably fine), so you need to be able to rapidly reinforce whichever factory you’re planning to defend. Mostly, though, you need units – Germany can bring an alarmingly high number of units to Moscow alarmingly early, and you will lose your minor factories to conquest and/or bombing as the game goes on, so make sure to build a reasonable number of infantry in your extra factories while you still have the production capacity. It’s easier to correct for having built too many infantry than it is to correct for having built too many fighters. Over the course of two turns (roughly 80 IPCs) I might build 1 tac, 1 tank, 2 mechs, 4 artillery, and 13 infantry. Your mileage will and should vary!