Saburo Sakai's AAPacific Essays - #7 It All Looks So Good

  • Purchasing for All Occasions

    Sun Tzu said:  In the operations of war,
        where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots,
        as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand
        mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them
        a thousand li, the expenditure at home and at the front,
        including entertainment of guests, small items such as
        glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor,
        will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day.
        Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.

    While nothing in AAPacific costs a thousand ounces of silver per day, the point Sun Tzu is making is that fielding an army costs money.  Further, as with any version of Axis and Allies, the right purchases are the key to victory.  Like the proverbial kid in a candy store, you have all kinds of choices but only a few combinations of AA Pacific “candy” will leave you smiling at the end.

    Purchasing for Japan

    The principles to apply when purchasing for Japan are relatively simple.  Since Japan can generally only place units in Japan or sz36 (other than in the rare instance when Japan captures an IC and the game doesn’t end as a result), the presence of American bombers on New Britain, Caroline Islands or FIC will generally make the purchase of surface vessels impossible (or at least very unproductive) by J4 or J5.  The US bombers will be in range of sz36 and, unless Japan has retreated its entire fleet there, any new surface vessels are easy and lonely targets for a massed fleet of bombers.

    Therefore, if Japan wants to add anything to its surface fleet, they usually must be purchased by no later than J3 or J4.  Fighters can be purchased from time to time depending on losses.  Otherwise, Japan is generally in the sub business.  While this is historically inaccurate as Japan did not have a particularly strong submarine fleet, in AAPacific, the sub gives Japan the most bang for the buck.

    Here is a general outline of Japan’s purchase track:

    J1 - 2 Transports or 1 Trn, 1 Sub and possibly 1 Inf
    J2 - 4 Subs
    J3 - 2 Subs and 2 DDs or 2 Subs and 1 DD, 1 Ftr
    J4 - 5 Subs or 2 Ftrs and 2 Subs
    J5 and beyond - Subs, Subs, Subs and perhaps a fighter or two

    The Japanese player may also need to purchase ground units to defend Japan, but only if a US invasion is imminent.  It is much easier to block an invasion by using subs then it is to prevent a successful invasion that gets through to the beaches.

    It can be seen from the list of purchases that there are a few things that are conspicuously absent from the list of purchases.  No bombers, aircraft carriers, Battleships or ground units, except for a last ditch defence.  Here’s why.

    Bombers are effective in attack but not good in defence.  The advantage they have over fighters is their longer range, but in AAPacific, you don’t need to worry about attacking things at long range because the UK and US forces are coming to you.  You will almost never need the extra range of the bombers after J3, so fighters are much better purchases than bombers.

    Battleships are a purchase that Japan simply cannot afford.  Two destroyers are a much more economical use of the money.  The DDs can assist Japan in fending off Allied subs.  Japan starts the game with 3 BBs and should be content to protect those until the later rounds of the game.

    New Aircraft carriers are also a luxury Japan can’t afford.  Japan starts the game with 4 ACs and these can all be brought together with the 3 BBs by the end of J2.  With the use of CAP later in the game, usually launched from fighters in the Philippines, Japan can get 12 or 14 fighters in the air over its fleet without extra carriers, so it is simply not necessary to spend the money.

    Finally, after J4, Japan should be in full retreat in Asia.  Adding extra ground units to Asia might slow that retreat but will almost certainly mean that you have let the US and UK naval forces advance unchecked in the central Pacific.  Japan has sufficient forces, if properly placed, to hold FIC and Siam until J4 and that is all that is necessary for Japan to win a VP game.  A territory by territory retreat of the ground forces, either towards Malaya or back into China, will preserve the ground forces for opportunistic counterattacks.  So, Japan does not need to build more ground units.

    In summary, the Japanese purchases are relatively straightforward - a couple of transports, destroyers and fighters and a large dose of subs.

    Purchasing for India

    India starts the game as the most likely target of a Japanese ground or amphibious assault, so it is important to strenghten its defences early.  Therefore, for the first round or two, ground units are the required purchases with the addition of a sub if Japan looks to be setting up an India Crush and has taken out the Indian transport.

    As the game evolves, India will need to alternate between naval purchases and ground units.  India is the only country that can productively use armor, so by turn 3 or 4, if an India Crush has been averted, 1 or 2 armor units will be a good choice.  India should purchase a transport as soon as the threat of that transport being sunk by Japanese bombers on Philippines or FIC or submarines in sz47 has been eliminated. Towards the end of the game, more naval units and perhaps even a bomber can be purchased.

    Here’s India’s purchase track:

    UK1 - 9 Infantry or 5 Inf, 3 Rtl (sometimes a sub)
    UK2 - Infantry and artillery
    UK3 - 1 Sub, 2 Arm (assuming no India Crush)
    UK4 - 1 Transport, 2 Inf, 1 Rtl
    UK5 and beyond - DD, subs, a couple of ground units, another transport and a bomber

    India should not buy a fighter early in the game.  Four infantry are much more effective defensively early on, than a fighter.

    For a while, I tried a big armor purchase by India.  I would try to purchase 6 or 7 armor by UK2 but I have since abandoned this purchase strategy because the Allies aren’t able to aggregate enough units in Yunnan to hold off a Japanese counterattack unless there are enough infantry present.  I have found that 2 or 3 armor by UK4 are much more effective then 6 or 7 armor by UK2.

    Purchasing for Australia

    Generally speaking, Australia’s purchases will always be naval purchases.  Rarely, Australia will purchase a ground unit or two to fill up transports heading for Papua or on their way to take back Java.  As long as there hasn’t been a Japanese landing, Australian ground units will do all of their fighting on Pacific islands and the number of units that can get into the fight is limited by the number of transports Australia can safely build.  Don’t waste IPCs buying ground units that will never leave Australia.

    Here’s Australia’s purchase track:

    UK1 - AC or 1 DD, 1 Sub
    UK2 - 2 Subs
    UK3 - 1 Sub save 3
    UK4 - Trn and perhaps an infantry or two
    UK5 - Trn and DD
    UK6 - Subs
    UK7 - Bmr or fighter or subs

    Purchasing for the US

    This is where the game is often won or lost for the Allies.  The US obviously has the greatest range of choices when it comes to purchasing for no other reason than it has more money to spend than all the other powers in the game combined.  Here is where the Allied player must resist temptation, much like the kid in the candy store we met earlier.  Sure, it would be fun to build 3 Battleships on US1.  Sure, it would be fun to do that again on US2.  But if you do that, your six battleships will sail around the Pacific without being able to do much of anything, while Japan quietly piles up the VPs and wins the game or not so quietly crushes India while your BBs are still anchored in Battleship row at Pearl Harbor.

    The combination of US units is the most important.  As with Australia, use of ground units by the US is constrained by the number of transports that can get them into the fight, so unless you are planning to do a straight “Japan bash”, lots of ground units are not necessary.  Bombers and submarines are key to the Allied success but the US must also reinforce the carrier fleet to be able to stand toe to toe with the IJN and has to produce DDs to kill Jap subs and transports to take back the islands.  How and when this is done is the key to the game.

    Here is an outline of US purchasing.  As the US has so many more choices, the actual purchases will be dictated by how the game is playing out.

    US1 - 5 bombers or 4 bombers, 1 DD or 9 subs
    US2 - 5 bombers or 9 subs (depending on US 1 purchases)
    US3 - 1 AC, 2 Trns, 1 Ftr, 1 DD, 1 Sub, 1 Mar, 1 Rtl
    US4 - DDs, Trns, Ftr, Bmr
    US5 - Subs, Ftr, Bmrs
    US6 - Bmrs, Ftr
    US7 - Bmrs, BB (for Tokyo Bay surrender ceremony)

    The early purchase of a large group of subs by the US is a critical step towards victory.  Used in combination with US fighters and bombers, the subs can be a great way of directly attacking the combined IJN by US4 or US5.  Alternatively, the subs are used to capture convoy routes all over the map, forcing the Japanese player to split off IJN units to retake the convoy routes and the IPCs they represent.  The isolated Japanese units can then be picked off by follow-on air attacks from the UK or US.  Once the IJN has been whittled down enough, it can be directly confronted and destroyed.

    Another purchase I haven’t listed for the US is the Industrial Complex.  The U.S. should always, always, always build an IC as soon as it is permitted.  If the UK captures the Philippines on its turn, the US should build an IC on its turn.  If the US is able to capture and hold Ryukyo or Bonin Is, it should build in IC there as well.  The IC will allow the US to bring units closer to Japan faster and, if recaptured by Japan will provide the perfect SBR target for the US bombers.


    Purchasing will often be the key to victory in AAPacific.  It’s probably as important a factor as luck.  The worst feeling is getting to Round 4 and wishing that you had purchased just one more sub in Round 2 to avoid the imminent doom of a successful attack from your opponent.  Purchase wisely and you are well on your way to victory in AAPacific.

    Saburo Sakai

  • 2017 2016 2015 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    wow! 😮

  • But US Battleships look so pretty….it’s back to the drawing board for me

  • Yes, it seems to me that the Battleship purchase is rare indeed in AAPacific.  Only the US can realistically afford one and then it really should buy it only in the later stages of the game.  In almost every case, I would rather have 2 DDs or 3 subs than 1 BB.


  • wow!

    I meant to ask.  Do you mean “wow, good essay” or "Wow, this guy is a real geek with too much time on his hands:?  😄


  • 2017 2016 2015 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    the first. I would never do the second to anybody. When somebody makes something creative from nothing it cannot be broken with words.

  • I’m a newcomer to this site although I have been playing A&A for maybe twenty years now.  I got A&A Pacific a couple of years ago but unluckily  🙂 my gaming group has always had more than three players available, so we tend to end up playing A&A revised and A&A Europe.

    However, we do play Pacific now and then and we by the second Pacific session we had learned what Saburo Sakai lays out in this essay– Japan had better buy subs and India had better start stacking land forces up in anticipation of an India assault.  Couple that idea with the realization that territories such as New Britain are vital due to the Naval Base rule and you are well on your way to an enjoyable and hard fought Pacific campaign.  Cheers!!

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