I’m late to the game on this post, but since I have played many many games of AA1914 over the last couple years (and it’s my favorite AA game), I’d like to share on how my group’s thoughts have evolved about tanks.
The first few games, we barely made any, thinking they were not worth sacrificing 2 infantry units for the same cost. We lowered the IPC cost to 5, and within 2 games, tanks were on every battlefield. We figured we probably underestimated them, so we returned to the original cost.
Now, they are always on the game board for some powers, namely Germany, France and the UK. Other countries may field them based on whether or not they are clearly in the attack mode. Our games will never last less than 10 turns, usually more like 14 or 15 before we call a winner.
It’s important to remember that AA1914 is about weapons having synergies with each other, which means you need to figure out their niche for each and everyone of them, and they DO exist.
What we found out about tanks is that, once they start protecting a high percentage of your per-turn production (say 25% or higher), they give you tremendous staying power on the offensive. For the main powers, this means that 3 tanks or more will have an impact. For small powers like Italy, a single tank may make a difference if they are on the offensive.
When you play the usual rules, it takes time to bring reinforcements to the front (we use trucks as land transport equivalents so it is a bit faster) and therefore you want your offensive power to not erode as quickly, especially since the defender will have faster reinforcements. Many AA games were lost because the attacker made it to the enemy capital only to completely run out of steam, which meant a large scale retreat was needed.
While it’s true that tanks alone will lose a fight, their role is to skew the results of a offensive battle in your favor. Since their effect is guaranteed compared to rolling dice, you know you will cut your losses. This turns a relatively equal fight into an advantage, or an unlucky roll into a salvageable situation. Their effect will show over 2 or 3 turns, eating into your enemy’s kills and allowing your units to actually be there to defend when he would choose to counterattack.
Tanks alone are not worth it. But a few of them on a battlefield progressively eat away at your enemy’s army by forcing him to accept subpar kill ratios. Yes, more infantry MIGHT be good… if they were alive to defend for the counterattack. Tanks insure you will have a better attrition rate than your enemy, but the trick is you have to have a meaningful number of them compared to your IPC rate for them to make a difference. So, you either build enough of them to be worth it, or none at all.
The one caveat I would have is if you and your enemies have a tendency to stack ungodly large armies on a single region and wait for that epic clash of arms. In my experience, you should avoid this situation at all costs and force engagements when armies have more than 25 infantry divisions, otherwise it becomes a stacking game, and those are typically slow with a predictable outcome (the losing side just hopes something will happen to turn the tides, while the winning side simply keeps increasing its leverage while waiting for the inevitable). Go on the offensive, move that front, make it as fluid as you can !
All in all, if you feel you are going to be on the attack for a while, build tanks and watch your enemy lose more and more units for less and less of yours. Your staying power will be greatly enhanced and they will turn the tide of war in your favor.