I had a similar experience the other week. A friend of mine threw a D-Day party where we go to his place and watch “Band of Brothers” all in one day and I asked if it was OK if I brought over AAR. 8-)
He was Axis. Before we played, I took some time to explain the game board and some important things for each nation and showed some key territories and explained why they were important. I also gave him a run-down on the units and how they are used. I also gave him several operations for each nation (ex: Torch, Sea Lion, Son of Pearl Harbor) and gave him a few pros and cons for each. Here is what I remember:
Russia: I was very conservative. Bought infantry. Only attacked W. Russia and pulling back everywhere else. Consolidated in Yakut. I wanted to see what he would do.
Germany: He was very aggressive, he bought 8 tanks. Moved into Karelia. He ignored his Med Fleet, Africa, & UK Transport in SZ1. Had his sub attack SZ2 and lose.
UK: Bought a few trans and some ground equipment. Moved E. Canada Tank, 2 England Inf, and 1 England Tank to Norway for amphib with Battleship and Air support for easy victory. Had Montgomery attack Libya and win. Attacked SZ14 with Bomber and Med Fleet for another win. Sunk Jap sub in SZ45. Moved Indian Ocean Fleet into the Med. Marched stuff towards India.
Japan: Can’t remember what he bought. He went into Buryatia. Left Pearl Harbor alone. I think he consolidated his Fleets near Japan. He didn’t do much with them.
US: Bought Transports and troops. Succeeded with Torch, Germans are out of Africa for good. Reinforced China. Flew planes to England. Consolidated US Pacific Fleet at Pearl.
Russia: More Infantry. Started building huge stacks of Inf on W. Russia and Caucasus.
Germany: Bought Infantry. Reinforced his positions on the Eastern front and France. Move Baltic Fleet to SZ7.
UK: More Transports and ground troops. Attacked SZ7 with air support and won, Germany has no Navy.
Japan: Again, don’t remember what he bought. I think he attacked Yakut with a light force and lost.
US: more Transports and troops. Reinforced Algeria. Started a mini-Cartwheel and attacked New Guinea with 1 carrier, 2 planes, 1 battleship, 1 Sub, 1 transport, 1 infantry, and 1 tank and won.
Russia: more infantry. MASSIVE stacks on W. Russia and Caucasus.
Germany: At this point he knew he would lose and conceded the game, but only after throwing everything he could muster at Caucasus. He was outnumbered almost 3 to 1 and lost.
Overall, he said he enjoyed the game and would want to give it another try. I did not say or point out anything to him while playing besides saying “Are you SURE you’re done?..… OK.” It was clear that it was hard for him to judge the odds of a particular combat in his head. Once he ran out of easy battles I think he was not quite sure what to do and just decided to attack to see what would happen. Also, he did not see some opportunities and did not know why Africa is worth fighting for. He also had some logistical problems and apparently not a clue what to do with Japan. Then again, I think he just wanted the game to be over.
Now, from that experience, the advice I would give to you is:
First, give them a way to do a rough calculation of a battle outcome in their head or on paper. Tell them to bring a calculator.
Second, advise them that if they think they can easily take out transports without heavy losses that they should.
Third, advise them that if they are not quite sure what to buy that they should make sure they are putting down the maximum number of units that they can for that nation.