Kill Italy First - An Alternative Central Powers Strategy


  • 2020 2019 2018

    I’ve recently gotten into playing competitive A&A1914 (with the help of fellow user @Slip-Capone, who has helped me playtest extensively). After playing several games and doing research, we’ve noticed that the Entente is heavily favored by most players. We are not here to dispute this assessment, and we are also not here to disagree with the typical Entente strategy of “UK kills Ottomans, Russia defends, Italy fights Austria, France fights Germany, USA goes where it’s needed”. This Entente strategy works well because, if everything goes well, the resulting endgame will see the Ottomans bleeding IPCs, Russia being battered but still holding on, and Italy/France/USA winning the game for the Entente in Italy/Germany/Austria.

    What we do disagree with, however, is the typical Central Powers strategies that we have observed. From what we’ve seen, there are only two approaches typically taken for the Central Powers: “Kill Russia first” (where Austria/Germany/Ottomans gang up on Russia and go for a quick knockout before pivoting to France) and “Kill France first” (where Germany aggressively attacks France while Austria and Ottomans defend). After working together with @Slip Capone, we have refined a third Central Powers strategy that has viability, which is the point of this thread. As the thread title says, we are dubbing this strategy “Kill Italy First”. It should be self-explanatory at a high level, but further discussion is needed to make our point.

    What is Kill Italy First (“KIF”)? As the name implies, you direct the Central Powers to defeat Italy first. Italy is by-far the weakest member of the Entente, only boasting 14 IPCs of starting income, and having a very small standing army on the first turn of the game. Additionally, if you are playing under LHTR, Italy also boasts a pathetically low threshold for collapsing (7 Economic/9 Political). However, Italy’s geographic position, coupled with their powerful starting navy, makes them a serious threat to the Central Powers if the game drags on into the later rounds. Left alone, Italy can bridge units into the Middle East (mostly Smyrna/Trans-Jordan), and can even make a run on Constantinople if the Ottoman player makes a mistake. Furthermore, Italy’s meager economy is just enough to be an annoyance to the Austrians, especially once you consider that Tyrolia and Trieste, both worth 4 IPCs, are directly adjacent to Italian territory (Venice). Rome is also a mere 4 tiles away from Vienna (Rome -> Tuscany -> Venice -> Trieste/Tyrolia -> Vienna), making it a source of Entente units that’s extremely close to the front lines.

    I went through such lengths to describe Italy’s position above because I’ve found that most players regard Italy as an afterthought, dismissing their role in the game with claims along the lines of “they’re weak and have to harass Austria”. My point here is that, if the Central Powers, specifically Austria and Germany, can take advantage of Italy’s weak starting position and politically-collapse them early, the Central Powers can seize 13 IPCs (not 14, since the last pesky IPC is in Libya) of Victory Points and income, which almost makes up for the 20 extra income USA will bring to the table starting turn 3 (turn 4 OOB). Defeating Italy (under LHTR) also has the added benefit of removing the Italian Navy from the game, which takes a large amount of pressure off of the Ottomans and also opens up the possibility of the Central Powers gaining control of the Mediterranean (more on that later).

    Hopefully, my ranting and raving has given you an idea of why I’m advocating this approach. Next, I’d like to talk about what steps you can take as the Central Powers to achieve this. This is something resembling a recommended build order/opening move guide for Austria and Germany. I won’t be discussing the Ottomans here, since their only role in this plan is to survive the onslaught that Russia/U.K. will try to throw their way.

    Bid: Assuming you get a bid, throw it in SZ18 (Adriatic Sea, where the Austrian Navy is). Ideally, you want a 12 bid so you can get a Battleship there (mostly for the 2HP, but the extra bombardment helps your consistency in the opening as well). A 9-11 bid (to get a Cruiser in SZ18) is also acceptable, but not really recommended. You really should try for a 12 bid.

    This bid will enable you to keep the AH fleet alive, barring good dice by the Entente. This may seem a bit odd, but ensuring you can continuously amphib into Tuscany will cut off the Italian supply line to Piedmont and Venice, two territories that are mission-critical. Maintaining a strong navy in SZ18 will also protect Trieste from amphibious assaults by Italy/France/UK, and will also give you the opportunity to break out of the Adriatic and into the Mediterranean in the mid-late game, which will prevent the Americans/French from sending their fleets to harass the Ottomans or liberate Italy. This can make the difference between winning and losing in a tournament setting.

    AH1: Buy: 4 INF/2 ART/1 TT for 26 IPC. The extra TT is for SZ18, which will become important AH2 for ferrying as many units as you can into Tuscany. Everything else is going to head towards Russia to defend against whatever trick they try R1.

    AH1: Move: 2 INF from Trieste get on the TT in SZ18 and land in Tuscany. As stated earlier, the idea here is to cut off Italy’s main army in Rome from reaching Venice, guaranteeing its fall. Everything else from Trieste + everything from Tyrolia goes into Venice. If you’re lucky, you can kill Venice in one battle, but if you don’t it’s fine. Germany will pick up the slack.

    Meanwhile, send everything from Vienna and Bohemia + 1 INF/2 ART from Galacia into Trieste in particular. Trieste is within two spaces of several important territories in this part of the board (Venice, Piedmont, Tuscany, the TTs in SZ18, Serbia, Galacia) which is why you want a stack there.

    Finally, send 4 INF from Budapest to Galacia to hold the lines, but everything else into Serbia (the game rules demand you attack Serbia AH1).

    These moves accomplish the following:

    A: Clearly and definitively reposition Austria’s starting forces into a posture where Italy is being relentlessly attacked. Italy’s starting forces are no match for this force, meaning you can send most of your buys towards Russia to make up for the units you took away from that front.

    B: Fortifies Galacia against Russia. The hope here is that Russia overextends and attacks you, which will allow Germany to send its starting forces to attack G1. This, plus an about-face from the Austrian stacks in Trieste and Vienna, will totally destroy that Russian army. If Russia doesn’t take this bait, you can commit the Trieste stack to destroying Italy as-planned while playing out the Russian front based on what the Entente does.

    G1: Buy: 5 INF/2 ART/2 FTR. Germany is going to be buying the FTRs for the Central Powers. Air Superiority is absolutely critical to obtain in this game, due to it allowing your ART to roll @ 4 while also DENYING this benefit to your opponent. The latter is just as important as the former, if not more so.

    G1: Move: Everything from Munich + Alsace attack Switzerland. Yes, Switzerland. Switzerland is adjacent to Burgundy, Alsace, Piedmont and Venice. This positioning disrupts France’s first turn, as they now have to properly position their forces to prevent Germany from moving a large stack into Burgundy (which is adjacent to Paris), and also puts Germany within striking distance of Italy’s high-value territories (Piedmont, Venice, Tuscany).

    The troops from Ruhr will move in a strange direction. 1 INF goes to Alsace to prevent a walk-in by France. The rest go to Tyrolia. Yes, Tyrolia. Tyrolia is similar to how I described Trieste in my section on Austria. Tyrolia is within 2-spaces of Tuscany/Piedmont/Venice/Alsace/Ruhr/Galacia/Silesia/Budapest, all extremely high-value or strategically important territories.

    Silesia and Prussia leave one INF behind each and move everything else into Galacia to join the Austrians. Everything from Hanover goes there as well. We’re trying to hold the line against Russia with just enough to put up a fight while the bulk of the troops go towards Italy.

    Last but not least, everything from Berlin and Kiel move down to Munich. Munich, like Tyrolia and Trieste, is a good central location that covers all of your options for the second round.

    What you do in Africa is up to you. It’s not relevant to the overall strategy.

    NOTE: A lot of this goes out the window if Russia attacks Germany, Silesia or Galcia R1. If Russia makes such a move, which is an over-extension, you should absolutely abandon the “KIF” strategy and crush Russia as quickly as possible.

    Now, with those very-specific first moves covered, I will give a general overview for how the rest of the game should play out. No specific moves this time, as you’ll mostly be reacting to what your opponent does at this point.

    AH2: Finish off Venice (if you couldn’t break it AH1), defend yourself against Russia as best you can. Build all land units, leaning towards ART (Germany will give Air Support).

    G2: Push into Piedmont and Tuscany (2-move from Tyrolia -> Venice -> Tuscany). Defend yourself against France and Russia appropriately. Build at least 1-2 FTRs to maintain Air Superiority across the board.

    If you got lucky, or if France played poorly, Italy will Economic-Collapse after their turn. If you’ve accomplished this, you’re on your way to a win.

    AH3: Push into Rome if possible. If not-possible, move the Tuscany guys into Naples/Piedmont as appropriate. Don’t press combat in Piedmont, you want to minimize France’s chances of saving Italy from Political-Collapse. Continue building land units and sending them towards Russia.

    G3: Push into Rome/Naples if Austria couldn’t manage it. Most of your attention should be on stopping France from saving Italy/defending the Ruhr/Munich line from France’s assault. Keep buying FTRs.

    At this point, Italy should Political-Collapse. If you got Italy to die this quickly, you’ve basically won. If you didn’t manage it yet, you still have one last chance in round 4 to finish them before the Americans start really giving you trouble.

    AH4: You may want to build navy at this point, if your fleet is still alive. You should mostly be focused on attacking Russia at this point. Hopefully after 3 rounds of buys from Germany/Austria Russia will be on the defensive.

    G4: Same advice as G3. If you didn’t finish off Italy yet this is your last chance.

    After this point, Italy is dead (hopefully), and the Americans have arrived. Your objective at this point changes dramatically. Austria should start buying navy and attempt to dislodge the Entente from SZ17 in particular. Taking this critical Sea Zone will prevent the Americans from making any last-minute plays into the Middle East or Italy, securing the IPCs you’ve gained there. Meanwhile, do your best to evacuate the German/Austrian armies from the Italian peninsula and reposition them to beat the French out of Germany before the game ends. Between whatever gains you made in Russia while all this was going on, and the gains you secured in Italy, you should have done more than enough to offset whatever IPCs you lost in the Ottoman-U.K. front and win the game.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16

    Interesting. Not something I have tried but I can see the argument that the capture of Rome is achievable, perhaps more so than Moscow given the number of units Russia can consolidate at the start of the game.

    My doubt is holding on to Rome as the USA arrives and Turkey struggles against the UK.

    Something new to try! Thanks for sharing. 🙂



  • Interesting and intriguing strategy! I’m with you 75% of the way, and would like to hear you expand on a few additional components.

    First, what is France doing? I agree that they are likely to reinforce Burgundy in some fashion. With Belgium free of Germany troops, they’ll likely move one infantry there from Picardy, and then have all the forces in Picardy and Paris at a minimum to play around with. There’s a good chance they will withdraw (or leave just 1 guy) in Lorraine giving them access to those troops for redeployment as well. Their objectives will likely be to activate Belgium, and reinforce both Burgundy and Piedmont. Not to beat the Central Powers, but to slow them down by a turn or two. As you mentioned, if Rome hasn’t fallen by the end of Germany’s turn 4, the Central Powers are in big trouble. How will your strategy adapt, if at all, to France’s moves?

    Second, your strategy addresses what to do about Russia if Russia overextends and attacks Galicia on the first turn. What if, instead, they use their first turn to consolidate a huge stack of units in Poland on turn one and then attack somewhere in a huge mass (Prussia, Silesia, or Galicia) on their turn 2? Such a move would put them adjacent to either Berlin or Vienna.

    Third, even with the loss of Italy the Entente and Central Powers will be roughly equal when it comes to IPC access, assuming the Ottomans are still cohesive (which is a pretty big if). The entry of the US puts the Entente ahead again. How will this strategy continue to overcome that economic disparity after the fall of Rome?



  • I really like the strategy! It seems very well thought out, and would probably have a pretty high success rate. Its very logical to go after the weakest Ally power. I have one concern, Russia. My question is how would you deal with a Russian army that has been strengthened by 3-4 turns of buys. I would expect that Russia has also already attacked Austria or Germany, severely weakening that defense force that was sent on the first turn. That would be my only question about the strategy



  • @Private-Panic said in Kill Italy First - An Alternative Central Powers Strategy:

    Interesting. Not something I have tried but I can see the argument that the capture of Rome is achievable, perhaps more so than Moscow given the number of units Russia can consolidate at the start of the game.

    My doubt is holding on to Rome as the USA arrives and Turkey struggles against the UK.

    Something new to try! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Hey PP,

    There can be some back and forth with the Italian territories, this is what makes that purchase of the early game transport so important.

    Furthermore, do not underestimate the power of AH Naval builds in the later rounds. Either wiping out the Entente Fleet or forcing them into a naval battle prior to landing troops can really shaft the Entente’s rescue attempts. Another strategy with the CP navy is to simply place them in a vital SZ making it hostile. The hostile SZ then causes the Entente to stop even if not partaking in battle. This can give the Ottomans some breathing room on their flank.

    On the Ottomans, depending how the early naval battle went with the Russians their Fleet can also lend a hand.


  • 2020 2019 2018

    @Private-Panic said in Kill Italy First - An Alternative Central Powers Strategy:

    Interesting. Not something I have tried but I can see the argument that the capture of Rome is achievable, perhaps more so than Moscow given the number of units Russia can consolidate at the start of the game.

    My doubt is holding on to Rome as the USA arrives and Turkey struggles against the UK.

    Something new to try! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    You don’t usually hold Rome once USA shows up. Once you Political-Collapse Italy your objective is to retreat the main German/Austrian army out of Italy and attempt to hold at least some of the VPs you gained in Italy (and Russia) until time runs out. In a face-to-face tournament setting the game is only going to last about 5-6 rounds, so you just need to be ahead when time is called. There is no “long term strategy” for actually capturing Paris and winning because there doesn’t need to be.


  • 2020 2019 2018

    @jonathan-meyer84 said in Kill Italy First - An Alternative Central Powers Strategy:

    Interesting and intriguing strategy! I’m with you 75% of the way, and would like to hear you expand on a few additional components.

    First, what is France doing? I agree that they are likely to reinforce Burgundy in some fashion. With Belgium free of Germany troops, they’ll likely move one infantry there from Picardy, and then have all the forces in Picardy and Paris at a minimum to play around with. There’s a good chance they will withdraw (or leave just 1 guy) in Lorraine giving them access to those troops for redeployment as well. Their objectives will likely be to activate Belgium, and reinforce both Burgundy and Piedmont. Not to beat the Central Powers, but to slow them down by a turn or two. As you mentioned, if Rome hasn’t fallen by the end of Germany’s turn 4, the Central Powers are in big trouble. How will your strategy adapt, if at all, to France’s moves?

    I didn’t go into a ton of detail on how to deal with France because basically every Entente player you encounter will have their own response to the strategy. Will France see the weak German presence in Ruhr/Alsace and go all-in trying to swipe the high-IPC territories there? Will France see the highly telegraphed movement towards Italy and two-move the bulk of its forces down there? That all depends on the player and your response will mostly depend on how the board looks at the start of round 2.

    However, to address the scenario where France goes all-in to reinforce Italy, keep in mind that, under LHTR, Italy collapses if they have 9 IPCs-worth of mainland (i.e. not colonies or activated minors) territory occupied or contested. To do this, you just need to occupy/contest the following:

    • Venice (2)
    • Tuscany (2)
    • Two of Piedmont (3), Rome (3) or Naples (2).

    So, assuming Austria opens acceptably over the first two rounds, you should already have Tuscany and Venice under control by round two, meaning that Germany can (probably) safely crash their main stacks into Piedmont to keep it contested long enough for Austria to contest Rome and Naples in round 3. As long as France doesn’t break into Tuscany or Venice on the 3rd round, Italy should Political-Collapse on schedule.

    Second, your strategy addresses what to do about Russia if Russia overextends and attacks Galicia on the first turn. What if, instead, they use their first turn to consolidate a huge stack of units in Poland on turn one and then attack somewhere in a huge mass (Prussia, Silesia, or Galicia) on their turn 2? Such a move would put them adjacent to either Berlin or Vienna.

    Russia spending their first turn building up is the expected play, which is why I didn’t go into a lot of detail on it. What I don’t think I clearly got across in my post is that Almost every buy you make as Germany and Austria from round 1-on should be heading towards Russia to make up for transferring ~80% of your starting army away from Russia and towards France/Italy (until the point comes where you need to start splitting your buys, anyway).

    The plan for the Russian front is to let Russia step into one of Prussia/Silesia/Galacia, all of which are 3-moves away from Russia and 2-moves away from Berlin (and Vienna, with the exception of Prussia, which is 3-moves away). The one-territory difference in reinforce distance is huge, because Germany/Austria can reinforce hotspots in one turn of movement (as long as the territory remains contested), whereas Russia will need two turns to do the same. If Russia commits to a large-scale attack under these conditions, Germany/Austria can except to turn things around by ~round 3-4, which leaves plenty of time to turn the tables and start invading Poland/Ukraine/Livonia before the game ends.

    Third, even with the loss of Italy the Entente and Central Powers will be roughly equal when it comes to IPC access, assuming the Ottomans are still cohesive (which is a pretty big if). The entry of the US puts the Entente ahead again. How will this strategy continue to overcome that economic disparity after the fall of Rome?

    See my answer to @Private-Panic . In short, this strategy assumes LHTR and a roughly 6-round game. Of course, in a prolonged game the Entente would probably be able to turn the game back in their favor by retaking Italy and killing the Ottomans before Moscow falls, but in a 6-turn game neither of those things are likely to occur. U.K. will probably be stuck somewhere in Mesopotamia/Syria/Ankara and USA might get Rome/Naples/Tuscany back before time runs out on them.


  • 2020 2019 2018

    @MasterMark26 said in Kill Italy First - An Alternative Central Powers Strategy:

    I really like the strategy! It seems very well thought out, and would probably have a pretty high success rate. Its very logical to go after the weakest Ally power. I have one concern, Russia. My question is how would you deal with a Russian army that has been strengthened by 3-4 turns of buys. I would expect that Russia has also already attacked Austria or Germany, severely weakening that defense force that was sent on the first turn. That would be my only question about the strategy

    See my response to @jonathan-meyer84 . Most if not all of Germany/Austria’s buys from round 1 on are heading towards Russia, so it’s not just that first batch of guys trying to hold off Russia all on their own.



  • @DoManMacgee really nailed the responses. I cannot see anything I would add from our extensive testing.

    Glad to see our time and effort has succeeded in opening a dialogue.

    EDIT: fixed typos


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