I’ve always been intrigued by how the powers are assigned to each player at the beginning of the game. Revised had a chart in the rulebook that explained each power’s strengths and weaknesses, but it’s not really a topic that I’ve seen much written on other than discussing which is the easiest or hardest for a new player to start with.
One way to look at it is whether you want to be a tactician or a strategist - probably both. But which country is best for you? I’ve considered two ways to classify the powers based on their starting geographical position: “centralization” and “localization.”
Centralization: How concentrated is your IPC production? Is it centered on a small number of higher-value territories, or is spread out?
The main advantage of high centralization is that you have a high degree of strategic freedom, as you have a relatively secure base of operations and don’t necessarily need to to focus on one specific area. The disadvantage is that you have a low degree of tactical freedom because you can’t afford to lose many of your starting TTs (i.e. a power that is not centralized can adopt a “bend but not break” defensive attitude and choose what TTs to lose, while a centralized one has limited options for giving up territory).
Localization: How geographically close are your IPC production centers?
The main advantage of being very localized is that you have higher tactical freedom because your units are typically all near each other and can easily reinforce each other. The disadvantage of localization is obviously lower strategic freedom because you have a limited number of fronts/theaters in which you can participate.
I would say Germany and the US (and Italy) are centralized and localized. Their production is centered in 3-4 relatively high-value TTs that are all near each other.
The USSR is also localized, with all of its starting TTs contiguous, but is pretty decentralized, with much of its production spread out among a high number of TTs (this is even more pronounced in AAE40).
The UK is the opposite - it’s centralized, but delocalized. It has a presence all over the map and a high number of TTs, but with primary production centered in 3-4 territories.
Japan is the fourth option - decentralized and delocalized (especially in the 42 scenario). It controls a relatively large number of medium value TTs that are relatively distant from each other.
Based on this, someone who is more of a tactician would probably want to be the Russians, who are primarily confined to one theater but have a lot of tactical options there, whereas a strategist would favor the British, who can participate in almost every theater but with limited options in each one.
The other countries are a little harder to classify, as they each have strategic and tactical leanings. However, if you consider the starting units as well as geography, you can classify them better. The US has a very small military at the beginning of the game, limiting its tactical options and forcing it to make major strategic decisions early in the game (Europe or Pacific, naval or air, etc.). Germany, on the other hand, has a much larger military and (arguably) fewer strategic decisions (they essentially must attack Russia). I would classify Italy the same way.
Japan is probably the hardest to classify. The delocalization gives it strategic freedom while the decentralization gives it lots of tactical options. But because it has an overpoweringly large military at the beginning, I think it’s more of a tactical power.
So, for those of you who made it through this post, and with apologies to Italy, here’s how I would rank the powers from most strategic (1) to most tactical (5).
- UK: centralized, delocalized, small military
- USA: centralized, localized, small military
- Germany: centralized, localized, large military
- Japan: decentralized, delocalized, large military
- USSR: decentralized, localized, large military
Obviously this is oversimplified, but it seems to give a relatively easy way to compare each country. Any thoughts?