Axis & Allies Spring 1942 Article Series Part 5: Strategy

| April 16, 2012 | 12 Comments

In previous articles, Bunnies wrote about how to get the most out of your IPC, some of the dangers in thinking only of the immediate IPC payout of an action, and some of the common mistakes players make when thinking about probable outcomes. Bunnies then defined tactics as it applies to Axis and Allies Spring 1942, and in this final article of this series, Bunnies goes on to define strategy as it applies to Axis and Allies Spring 1942.


Strategic level thinking is about preparing for situations that do not yet exist, often using resources one does not yet have. This is very different to tactical level thinking that merely makes the best short term use of existing resources.


When the Germans hold Karelia with enough units to deter any Allied attack, among other benefits to Germany, Russia is denied the income from Karelia, and Germany is able to trade Norway and Archangel. One way for Germany to attempt this early is to purchase and place tanks in Berlin, from where they can strike Karelia on Germany’s next turn.

When the Germans have a large air force, UK and US may be deterred from bringing any naval units into range. If UK and US stay out of range, they will not be able to use transports to move ground units to help in Europe.

In both cases, Germany has to prepare for situations that do not yet exist. By the time Germany can hit Karelia in force with new German tanks, Russia will have had a turn. So Germany has to prepare not only for what Russia can currently hit Karelia with, but for what Russia can hit Karelia with after a turn of Russian movement and Russian unit production. In the case of the UK/US fleet, most of the UK and US fleet do not yet even exist when Germany first starts to produce air units.

Near the end of the game, if one side has built a clear advantage over another, that advantage is usually a result of a combination of luck and/or strategic planning. Finishing the game at that point is a simple tactical exercise.


Although strategy is about preparing for situations that do not yet exist, future possibilities develop from the current situation, so the current situation must be considered. Current and future income levels and industrial complex capacity and location are also a part of strategic level thinking.

It’s often best for UK to transport as many ground units from London to Europe as possible per turn. If UK has an Atlantic fleet with three transports and a steady income of 32 each turn, UK can afford to produce eight ground units a turn, so should purchase a fourth transport to handle the extra units. On the other hand, if UK has an income of only 20, it can only afford six ground units a turn anyways, so it won’t find a fourth transport nearly as useful.


For the Spring 1942 edition of Axis and Allies, cost efficiency is key, so infantry and destroyers for fodder, and tanks, carriers, and fighters for offensive and defensive strengths are usually the best purchases. However, if the powers had higher income but lower industrial complex production capacity, or if the map were different, it would be better to purchase more industrial complexes or more expensive units such as cruisers. (With more resources and less unit production capacity, as in Axis and Allies Anniversary with National Objectives, cost efficiency is often less important than the quick application of force.)


A player must adapt to the constantly changing game position, so must adjust existing strategies or come up with new strategies to compensate for luck and an opponent’s moves.


Hopefully this methodical approach to units, tactics, strategy, and protability in this series of articles will aid you in organizing and expressing your ideas if you have comments or questions about tactics or strategies for Axis and Allies.

In parting, I’ll say – pat a bunny. It’s therapeutic unless you have allergies.

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Category: Axis & Allies Spring 1942, Board Games, Strategy

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  1. Archgeneral says:

    Interesting, but I would have liked to see a bit more on exactly how to anticipate coming situations. After all, if the UK has an industrial complex in India and is spitting out three tanks a turn there, it won’t have the resources to build a fleet all at once. Thus a token Luftwaffe and a couple subs might all that is necessary to keep the Brits at bay. On the other hand, the United States might be able to ignore an impending Japanese invasion of L.A. until the last second, thus making any preparation for future wasteful since the Japanese might really be intending a counterattack on India.

    Negotiating the world of real and imagined threats seems to be a subject connected with strategy that could use some more attention. It is all very well to say, “Anticipate!” but how does one actually anticipate? Particularly a country such as Germany with the capacity to make swift changes to its strategy. Just a thought.

  2. BunniesP.Wrath says:

    Proper treatment of “anticipation” was well beyond the scope of this series of articles.

    What most players want is the equivalent of the ability to discover quantum mechanics from first principles. There is nothing wrong with wanting that sort of thing, but you don’t pick that sort of thing up reading the back of a packet of breakfast cereal. It takes a while to work up to.

    This first series of articles was just an introduction to first principles. Depending on the series is/will be received, further article series on application of first principles, then derivations from first principles, may follow.

    To get an idea of how far along “anticipation” would be – first, I would be writing power-specific articles on opening moves and more feasible lines of play, as well as why particular lines of play were NOT feasible (or at least riskier). Doing so for Russia alone would easily take eight or more times the entire length of this article series, and Russia is the simplest to consider. After that would have to come another series for commentary linking the first article series theory to described practice, then another series for commentary regarding advanced practices to additional theory that was not yet addressed. Only at that point could a player *begin* to have the background to properly assess board position, and thus “anticipate” situations.

    I don’t say all that would be strictly necessary, particularly for experienced players. But with a general audience, it is better to hit each point in detail, rather than skip over essential points and leave some in the dark.

  3. BunniesP.Wrath says:

    Archgeneral refers to Germany being able to swiftly change “strategy”. But his/her “strategy” is what I call “tactics”. Proper strategy should typically span an absolute minimum of five turns, and account for a huge range of good or bad possibilities. Even with unusual dice outcomes, at best a strategy’s timeline should typically only shift a step forward or back.

    I have never encountered a game in which I considered any power to have a “swift change in strategy”. The position each power works to attain follows naturally from the existing position at the start of the power’s turn; there is nothing flashy or sudden about it.

    Archgeneral asks how to anticipate coming situations, then describes a situation in which UK has an industrial complex in India, and is popping out three tanks a turn. Further comment is that UK won’t have the resources to build a fleet all at once, and that Germany won’t have to use much resources to keep the British off in the Atlantic.

    It is impossible to say anything about anticipation in this case, because even considering every speck of information given, the picture of the situation is still too vague. It’s like being asked to find “mommy” in a crowded mall.

    “What are we looking at here?” “UK industrial complex on India.”

    “What does mommy look like?” “She’s mommy!”

    This isn’t to make fun of a young kid that’s lost in a mall, who doesn’t want to answer a bunch of what seem to the kid to be stupid questions. But if mommy doesn’t show up, and if the public address system is broken, someone’s going to need to get the answers to those questions. Similarly, the position of each and every single unit on the board has to be considered for solid play in Axis and Allies.

    General: What is the disposition of the enemy?
    Scout: They are well disposed, sir!
    General: I mean, how many of them are there?
    Scout: A lot, sir!
    General: Tanks? Air? What and where do they have it?
    Scout: Yes they have tanks and air sir! They are fully deployed sir!
    General: That’s all the information you have for me? How am I supposed to anticipate what the enemy can do if I have no intelligence?!
    Scout: Permission to speak freely, sir!
    General: Fine, go ahead.
    Scout: If the general is stupid sir, I submit that is the general’s problem, sir!

  4. Archgeneral says:

    Thanks for the explanation. The other articles were so good that I obviously missed the fact that the series was intended for a general audience and not just experienced players (such as myself). Also, I was hoping that you had insight into an analytical system of anticipating future game events, as I continue to rely on intuition and experience.

    As for the ability for Germany to swiftly change its strategy (as in long term strategy), I have seen it happen. Once I was playing a game in which Russia and Germany were just mutually destroying each other; neither side was making any gains. Meanwhile, Japan was under serious threat from a combined outright assault from the Americans and the Brits. As a result of the diversion of Allied forces from Europe to the Pacific, the U.K. was poorly defended. With one transport, a tank and a man, and all of Germany’s aircraft, Germany quickly switched from “kill Russia” to “kill the UK.” Throwing the Eastern Front into defensive mode, Germany went whole hog on the British Isles. Since neither the UK nor America had transports in the area, Germany was able to take London and hold it at a cost of much ground to the Russians and almost all its air force. The game radically changed at this point and went from almost certain defeat for the Axis to almost certain defeat for the Allies. It is true that this could be considered “tactics” as it was move of opportunity on Germany’s part, but it could also be considered a change in “strategy” since it was a radical departure from the strategy of crushing Russia before the other allies arrived in force. As a result of this change, the game progressed very differently and everyone’s strategy changed. America focused on retaking the British capital, and Russia was forced to put as much offensive pressure on the Germans as possible to prevent a buildup in London. So that’s what I mean by swift changes in strategy. Add North Africa into the picture, and Germany has many choices.

    So that’s what I mean by swift strategy changes. I hope that it was not too broad brush for clarity’s sake!

    As always, very interesting to see how different players see the same problem differently (and yet often arrive at the same conclusion).

  5. BunniesP.Wrath says:

    Re: an analytical system

    Well, sure, and I plan to put up an article series regarding how to analyze positions. For a overview, though –

    Starting position plus possible moves plus possible builds equals flexibility. Russia starts with 168 PUs of units, but can only build 24 PUs worth. Russia figures how it can best use its 168 PUs of units, based on a few different factors, then builds units to complement that plan. Russia’s capabilities at any given moment mostly depend on its existing forces, because that’s mostly what it has to work with.

    Over time, builds become more and more important. They don’t get more important with each turn; what I’m referring to is a cumulative effect. On any particular turn, the build will usually not have huge significance. But over a period of five or six turns, a power has built so much that the composition of its overall forces has changed considerably. Planning for this shift in composition is in part what dictates long term strategy.

    For example, suppose the Allies decide to go KGF (Kill Germany First). When USA goes, it doesn’t suddenly have the power to strike massive power into Berlin. First it needs to build an escort fleet, then more transports, then more ground units, and gradually over time its ability to project force into Europe increases.

    Regarding Germany grabbing London – Proper understanding of the game requires a certain degree of risk assessment.

    Suppose Germany has a 7% attack on London, and that even attempting it will almost certainly lose a huge chunk of German air.

    Now suppose the Axis were already significantly winning. Germany would probably not bother to take that 7% chance on London, because it’s just not necessary. All the Axis have to do is exploit less risky attacks and continue to press the advantage to almost certainly win the game. Why lose a chunk of German air for probably no significant gain, and blunt Germany’s attacks everywhere else?

    Now suppose the Axis were significantly losing. Germany might as well take that 7% chance on London, because it’s their best chance of reversing the downward trend. If the Axis stick to low risk moves, they’ll lose more and more territory as the Allies press their advantage, and Axis chances will get worse and worse, until the Axis have maybe only a 0.5% chance at best of reversing the game through dice results. If Germany figures it can get 7% now or probably 0.5% later, it should go with the 7%.

    Consider UK’s actions. If the Axis are pressing hard, then it very possibly makes sense to leave London a bit vulnerable, because the Germans probably won’t attack into a bad percentage, and because UK can spend PUs to help the Allied positions elsewhere. In that case, UK leaving 7% is a calculated risk, and a pretty decent one at that.

    On the other hand, if the Allies were pressing hard, UK could almost certainly have let up pressure a bit in some other area to eliminate Germany’s 7% chance of reversal. In that case, UK leaving 7% is like a gift to Germany.

    Regarding a “shift in strategy” &c

    You have a bunch of seeds, which you scatter all over a field. One side of the field is rocky, the other fertile.

    The “shift in strategy” you refer to is when someone thinks only the fertile ground seeds will sprout, but looks up and sees some sprouts on the rocky soil. It’s a “surprise”, a “shift in thinking”. Now that someone has to go back to the house for another watering can. (i.e. go back to the drawing board and come up with another plan)

    An old and jaded farmer, though, just mutters “yep” when seeing sprouts on rocky soil, and pulls out the extra watering can he/she brought along for just such occasions.

    In both cases, there were seeds scattered across the entire field. The seeds didn’t get up and move around. There wasn’t a “change” in the seeds. The only difference is in how they were perceived. In one case, there was no real anticipation of sprouts on rocky soil, and seeing them required a “shift” in thinking. In the other case, there was anticipating, and no “shift” was required at all.

    That’s what I mean when I say swift strategy changes are not possible. To extend the analogy, you have to have a seed before you can have the tree of a finished and completely executed plan. If you ignore the seeding stage and the watering stage and the sprouting stage and the sapling stage, then you will naturally be surprised when trees start popping up out of nowhere. But if you are looking for seeds, then you won’t be surprised when you see sprouts and saplings popping up, and when a tree eventually matures somewhere, it isn’t a surprise at all. “Strategy” means being able to identify and locate seeds, sprouts, and saplings before they turn into fully mature trees. It is not just being able to find fully mature trees once they have already developed.

  6. Archgeneral says:

    Interesting. I look forward to the series. You have a lot of good points there that will be even more insightful when expounded upon.

    As for the last section of your comment, it is cool how one could apply that advice to many different arenas, such as chess, cards, or life. I disagree that one cannot make a “swift” strategy change in A&A, but I agree that sticking to the plan or “the strategy” is often the wiser course than suddenly chasing after a new navy or isolated pawn. However, sometimes the enemy gives a gift that changes all the plans and wrecks all the preparation, but also increases the chances of victory.

    Sorry for the chess references. I know this is an A&A site, but the parallels are amazing!

  7. Mallery29 says:

    We’ve created a conundrum where the Allies CAN NOT win, so I’m looking for a counter. Granted, rolls play into somethings, but need help.
    3 inf, 1 sub, 5 tanks for Germany every turn, and 3 transports and 3 inf for Japan. After that, maybe one more trans for Japan, but we flood Asia with Inf, using the fighters and bombers to back up the force during attacks. The problem is, we’ve done the complex in India, we’ve tried the British/American buildup. We’ve tried the attempted nuking of Germany with a fleet of bombers (Jap planes back up German planes, American fighters on Brit carriers outnumbered 2:1). With mods to everything, to no avail, we can’t get the Allies a win. Same result everytime, Moscow is surrounded and the UK/US can’t do anything but watch. The only thing I can think of is to pull the UK carrier/cruiser out with the transport and two guys to reinforce a complex in South Africa, but it only provides two per turn. Allied defeat seems guaranteed the moment the German Sub takes out the US Atlantic fleet. I know being a gamer it’s hard to enact a counter without knowing all the pieces, but I’m just looking for an initial thought process for the Allies, as I’ve become very frustrated.

  8. Archgeneral says:

    @Mallery29: With the German subs safe from aircraft in the North Atlantic, the Axis is indeed in a strong position. Here’s how I counter the Axis:

    The German plan for conquering the world said that if you control the heartland (Moscow to Germany, so basically central and Eastern Europe), you control Eurasia. And if you control Eurasia, you control the world. The Germans were right. If Russia falls to the Germans, it is over.

    Looking at the IPCs on the map, defeating Japan’s islands (excluding Japan itself) yields only 13 IPCs for the allies and involves a great expenditure of resources for the navy used to take these little islands. Therefore, it is best to mostly ignore the Pacific islands, taking them only when they are wide open (but not sending any major resources to that end).

    Eurasia is where the action is. In the east, I build an industrial complex in India and send as many of the British forces (including those in Anglo-Egypt) to defend it. In other words, I sacrifice Africa for a strong India. I also leave my small British fleet there to defend it and die. To win, I must make sure that India survives Japan’s initial turn. Then, I pump three tanks out at India EVERY turn. In China, I use the Americans to build an Industrial Complex in Sinkiang, moving a four Russian soldiers there to defend it. Every turn, I build two American tanks. If I capture Japan’s three Eurasian territories, Japan loses a third of its IPCs and I gain nine. Each turn, I build an American bomber to support my Anglo-American troops in the East and help keep Japan’s navy down. Otherwise, my strategy for Japan is simply containment. I don’t try to defeat Japan, I try to isolate it. I never attack Tokyo itself.

    It is 100% KGF (Kill Germany First) and SRF (Save Russia First). If I manage to isolate Japan in the East, I can send five tanks (or more) a turn to help Russia. Even if I don’t manage to pull this off, I can insulate Russia from the Japanese. Keeping Russia alive and well is top priority. If Moscow falls, it is over for the Allies.

    America must use whatever resources not necessary for containing Japan to build bombers (for Strategic Bombing Raids) and a fleet to attack Germany. Meanwhile, Britain must try to keep a fleet alive in the North Atlantic with America’s help. As soon as the British fleet falls though, Britain must only build bombers to discourage Germany from building a fleet and conduct Strategic Bombing Raids. If there is a chance to strike at Germany, the target must be Norway. This is because if Norway falls to the Anglo-Americans, and Russia manages to hold onto Karelia S.S.R. for a round or two, the Anglo-Americans can pump out troops in Norway. Taking Western Europe is simply a distraction for the Germans. Taking Norway is often a problem for the Germans. The Anglo-Americans must do its best to harass Germany as much as possible, thereby reducing its manpower to a reasonable level.

    Russia must win the game. And it can’t play just defensively. Russia must simply try to stay alive by putting as much Russian-held territory between Moscow and Germany. I like to end Russia’s turn with my front being composed of one or two territories stacked to the roof with Russian forces and the other front line territories held only by a single, doomed infantryman. The longer Russia survives (not conquers) the worse shape Germany is in. Eventually, Russia will push far enough into Germany to actually have a good number of IPCs. With Japan contained and Germany harassed and attacked, the Allies win by destroying Germany.

    Doesn’t always work, but I find it effective. South Africa is TERRIBLE place to put an industrial complex. You’re better off amassing five or six bombers to force Germany to shell out ten IPCs (or more) every turn.

    Good luck. Revised was geared towards the Allies. 1942 is the opposite.

  9. My small group tired of Axis always Losing. We tweaked game by reducing Russian impact via several scenarios: 1)Skipping its first turn 2)Only allowing non-combat movement while allowing new units 3)Same as #2 but not gaining new units. We often eschewed Japan’s attacking the U.S. at all or maybe only a Pearl Harbor “Lite’ during Round One. Japan instead attacked Russia (& U.S. forces in China)! T’was a LOT more competitive games. We also often limited aircraft to three attacks per round = causing major stategic changes !
    Anyway, totally in AWE of the “Home Rules” I’ve read about here and can’t wait to share such with my “buds.” We’ve talked before about some of these but nothing was ever tried. These will ROCK our next playday!

  10. cenator says:

    How to anticipate your enemys move:

    1. Think of your move, how it should work and what’s left after combat.
    2. Get an idea, what the map will look like at the end of your turn (no dreaming, like you won’t loose anything, stay realistic)
    3. Now, take a close look at your position and try to think about the worst thing to happen (What you hope, your enemy won’t do).
    4. Now the worst for you would be the best for your enemy. Try to change your initial combat/noncombat so, that your enemy can’t do whats the worst for you, or change the situation on the board, so that this action won’t be too bad anymore.
    5. Now look for a new best move of your enemy.
    6. repeat 1-6 till you think that the best the enemy can do, is not so bad to you.

    Last but not least:
    Always keep in mind: Your enemy is at least as clever as you are!
    Don’t count on him makeing anything stupid.

  11. Hugo Monge says:

    A group of friends and myself have had always the same questions concerning what germany should do at least to buy some time and if not stoping Uk’s plan over the north, at least delay it in a decent way so that japan has enough time threat moscow, karelia seems to be the best choice, however…if germany buys transports and subs or a few planes then after a few rounds incoming infantry or artillery come at a dead increase and basically territories south europe will fall at the hands of the russian,not to mention that africa will be liberated without any response from the axis soon after…i know that the game is in favor of the allies but… as a chess player i feel the need of theory and propper variations and if it’s posible for black pieces to achive good playable positions then there has to be a correct order of moves for the axis to sustain a decent battle against the axis…

  12. Hugo Monge says:

    against the allies i mean… typo sorry …

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