In Axis and Allies Europe, Germany has a lot more naval options and these options have a greater impact on the war than in Axis in Allies.
In Axis and Allies, the Russians could sink the German fleet on turn 1, and Germany generally couldn’t do much with his fleet except invade Africa.
Now, Germany has many Strategic Objectives for his navy and many strategies for pursuing them.
What can Germany’s fleet do for him?
- With Germany’s air force and subs, Germany can engage the British navy and sink it at a great advantage in build point cost. Germany can reliably kill the 3 DDs, 4 transports and 1 BB around England at a cost of 5 or 6 subs. That is 92 British IPCs for a cost of 40-48 IPCs. There are no other targets that are more valuable within reach of the German airforce on turn 1 than the Allied fleets.Germany may also engage the Gibraltar Destroyer and the Davis Strait forces, but not necessarily at such good odds.
- Germany’s fleet can reduce England’s and Russia’s IPC income fairly dramaticly by taking Convoy Zones.
- Germany can delay the arrival of Allied troop transports on the continent, freeing up lots of troops to conquer Russia. German subs built in the Danish Straits will be able to attack any Allied transports adjacent to the British Isles.
- The fleet is also important in transporting troops to Africa, which is a significant source of IPCs.
- Germany can threaten to invade England. In Axis and Allies, once the initial German transports were sunk, England could run practically empty. It could empty England of troops each turn, reinforcing Karelia, invading Norway, or probing Western Europe. Germany had no practical way of building a strong enough fleet that it would not be instantly sunk by the British and US airforce.
- Germany can ship infantry and artillery directly to Leningrad.
Part 1: More, Cheaper, Better
Now I am going to go into the “Buy Low, Sell High” type advice.
I believe the best quote I have on the subject is Commander Andrea Jaruwalski in David Weber’s Ashes of Victory, pg 306.
“Tactics are an art, Mr. Gillingham,” she told him, “not a science. There’s no way to absolutely quantify them, no way to define secret formulas for victory. There are rules a good tactician follows, but they aren’t absolutely binding on her … and certainly not on her opponents! The ‘secret’ to winning lies, in my opinion, not in trying to manipulate the enemy, but in creating general situations in which you know the available menu of maneuvers and the balance of firepower will favor your force.”
So, what are the general situations that favor the German (or any attacker’s) naval force?
- Superior attacking power. If you add up the attackers’ rating and divide by 6 you get an average number of hits that force will inflict on a round.
- Cheaper units. If you can take your casualties in cheap submarines or transports while the other guy takes his in Destroyers and Fighters, you will come out ahead.
- Cannon fodder. If a force of 2 Bombers and 2 submarines attacks of 4 Destroyers, who wins? The build costs of the total forces are very close, and the total attack and defense points are equal. However, after each side takes a hit, the attacking side will now have a superior attack power.
The more common case has fighters and bombers attacking a mixed stack of transports and destroyers. In this case, the attacker will need a larger initial advantage because each casualty for the attacker is both more expensive and reduces their combat power by a larger amount.
Part 2: Convoy Raids
From the beginning, Germany starts with more naval units, cheaper naval units, and a greater attacking firepower than any of her opponents.
However, the concentrations of power that help the Germans sink so much of the British fleet on turn 1 mean conflict with the German desire to take as many Convoy Zones as possible.
So now we come to Michael Sandy’s tips for effective Convoy raiding:
- If the Allies don’t have any ships with an attack force, they can’t regain the centers.The Germans can attack the Celtic Sea with a Bomber and 2 subs, the English Channel with a sub and two fighters, the North Sea with 4 fighters and 2 subs (Germany may lose a fighter here), and the Davis Strait with 3 subs. And Gibraltar with the Battleship. This is not the only good German attack on turn 1, it does have some drawbacks which I will address later.
With her other two subs ending in the Barents and the Central Atlantic, what is the likely effect on the Convoy Centers?
The Russian will not be able to retake their convoy zone on their turn. They have a superior attack force, 1 sub + 1 extra casualty, and they attack first, but the Germans can and should submerge after one round, (unless they get lucky and sink the transport on the first shot). However, the Russians can’t _reach_ the Convoy Zone.
- This is an important lesson. One sub can not defend a convoy zone, but it can prevent the other guy from _reaching_ it. Also, while the attacker may bring superior force, the sub does not have to stick around to fight an uneven battle.The British will be down 13 IPCs, with no way to regain them on turn 1. The Americans can free one convoy zone, but their turn occurs _after_ the British turn. Another important consideration is that diverting American Destroyers to free Convoy zones splits up the Allied force and delays the transport of troops to England or Africa.
Crossing the Atlantic by passing through the Convoy Zones is slower. Subs can delay even very large forces from crossing. A sub in the Central Atlantic prevents the American from invading Morocco.
- Another consideration is that many of the Convoy zones are within reach of German air. If the Americans liberate the 5 IPC convoy zone south of England, the Germans could hit it with a sub and a large air force before the British get any benefit from it being liberated.
However, lest the German player get too pumped about the ability of his airforce to prevent the Allies from retaking the Convoy Zones, the Allies do have a counter. Britain could build up to three submarines on turn 1.
During the Cold War, the best counter to an enemy submarine was an attack submarine. That wasn’t quite the case in WWII, but the mechanics of Axis and Allies (Europe) allow Allied submarines to effectively clear Convoy Zones and escorting Allied shipping.
Britain only needs to clear her Convoy Zones on her turn, so even if a German submarine wolf pack descend upon the sub, Britain will have gotten her IPCs back. And the sub might even survive and even take an attacker out.
The frustrating thing for the German is that his fighter planes in France may have nothing to shoot at on turn 2.
Nor can German planes attack the Russian sub and prevent it from liberating the Russian Convoy Zone. If there is a battle between an attacking Russian sub and a defending German sub in the Russian Convoy Zone, the Russians will have a roughly 60% chance of winning, even if they have already lost their transport.
A German sub could attack the Russian sub, (if the German fighter in Norway sank the transport on turn 1, for example), but it would only have a 1 in 3 chance of sinking the Russian sub before it submerged. (The Russians would have a 2 in 9 chance of sinking the German sub that turn.)
The German has think about whether it is better to take a 100% chance to deny the Russians the convoy for 1 turn, or try with lower odds to deny it for more than 1 turn. Also, if Germany ends turn1 with a submarine in the North Sea then he will have more options with respect to the Russian Convoy Zone.
Germany could pass up attacking the Davis Strait in order to have more subs against the North Sea, putting a higher priority on reducing Russian production than reducing British production.
One last comment on convoy tactics: The more small battles the German battleship gets into, the better. If the Germans take Gibraltar, a German Battleship in the Straits is out of range of Allied fighters. That means that Battleship can sally out, possibly with a sub or two, and cheaply kill lone subs or destroyers the Allies send out to take Convoy Zones.
A lone Destroyer, defending by itself, has at least a 50% chance of getting a hit when attacked. If a lone sub aided by some air units attacks a Convoy Zone defended by an Allied Destroyer, either the German has a 50% chance of losing an 8 IPC sub, and doesn’t take the Convoy zone, or it loses a 12 IPC fighter. On the other hand, the odds of a lone sub or destroyer killing anything when defending against an attack force which includes a battleship are very low.
The very presence of the Battleship would deter the Allies from trying to liberate the southern 3 Convoy Zones, worth 11 IPCs.
And now a little more detail about how the German fleet and air force can delay the arrival of Allied troops on the continent.
The simplest way is to simply sink the transports. Germany builds subs in the Danish Straits, and ensures that there are no Allied Destroyers within reach of the Danish Straits by sailing out and sinking them with the aid of the German Airforce. German fighters in Norway and France can between them cover all the sea zones around the British Isles.
Even if they can’t kill them in those sea zones, they can gang up together if the British actually attack something with those transports.
It is important for the German to keep a submarine force within range of the British Isles in order to absorb casualties when attacking Allied shipping.
One of the difficulties the Allies face is that they will have to split their fleet up. New built American transports will sail to England with their troops, to either the Celtic Sea or the Atlantic. But then to actually attack they will need to move into the English Channel or the North Sea or the South Atlantic.
This gives the Germans more chances to attack the Allied fleet in detail. One of the major nuisances for the Allies is that the US can’t simply concentrate on bomber production. If the US seriously neglects her fleet, the German subs could kill American production as well.
The Allies can attempt to do clever things like alternating between building ships and building planes (and ground troops), which will make the Allied units less vulnerable.
The other way that Germany can slow the Allied advance is to get in the way. If there is a chain of subs across the Atlantic, the US fleet effectively get a movement of 1 instead of two. A German sub in the Danish Straits prevents the Allies from transporting troops to Leningrad. A sub in the Straits of Gibraltar confines the threat to Africa to Morocco. A sub in the Central Atlantic prevents the US from attacking Morocco in one turn, and a sub in the Azores protects it from a force based in the Celtic Sea.
It is an extremely tempting target for German air to leave loaded transports at sea. However, this may be a vulnerability the Allies have to risk. It may be easiest for the Americans to keep pouring transports across the Ocean, load them with British troops, and attacking Europe every other turn.
The Allies have a defensive option that is _not_ available to Germany. Britain could build a Carrier in the Celtic Sea and the Americans could fly fighters over to land on it. A British Carrier with an American Destroyer, transport and fighter plane is a tough target.
However, the rules explicitly forbid placing new built fighter planes on Carriers at sea. That means that Germany would _not_ be able to put out a fully loaded Carrier in a single turn. The Allies can get a loaded Carrier before the Germans attack it by building it on the British turn and flying planes to it on the American turn.
This gives the Allies a fairly nasty start strategy. Place only 11 IPCs worth of units instead of 12, (2 Art and an Inf?), and have the British build a Carrier and a transport or a sub in the Celtic Sea or the Atlantic.
Part 3: The Mediterranean
So much for the Atlantic. The Battle of the Atlantic is dominated by who gets builds where. The Germans can generally keep their surface fleet out of range of Allied air. After Leningrad and Vyborg fall, Allied fighters in the British Isles will no longer be able to attack the Baltic Sea zone. The Allies can produce more ships, but they are handicapped by an inevitable division of their forces. While the total Allied fleet may outnumber the total German fleet, it will be a long time before there is no Allied fleet which can’t be attacked by a larger German force.
In the Mediterranean, things are different. The Allies pretty much can’t reinforce it at all. The troops that are there can attempt to hold on grimly, or valiantly chase the Germans back only to be hammered by German reinforcements.
If the Germans are clumsy, the Allies may be able to push the Germans back a bit and buy time. The most precious commodity in the Med isn’t IPCs, it is transport space.
German strategy in the Med is going to be strongly influenced by the Allied optional builds. If Germany concentrated his builds elsewhere, he could face the British with a numerical advantage in Africa.
If the British put an infantry on Malta, the British fighter can be used to attack either Libya or the German fleet. I think the game designers did a wonderful job with the initial unit placement with that fighter in Malta.
On turn 1, the Germans only have two potential attacks in the Mediterranean, Malta by Amphibious attack or the Eastern Med with the Northern Italy fighter and the bomber. If Malta was reinforced, (and Germany didn’t take an extra transport), then the odds of a successful amphibious attack with an Artillery and an Infantry are not that great. I would not use the Battleship for ground support for the possibility of killing a fighter when I had the option of using it with the near certainty of killing a Destroyer.
The British start out with more units in Africa than the Germans. If the Germans move everything into Libya without neutralizing either the Maltese fighter or the British fleet, then the British could attack Libya with a small advantage.
If the Germans concentrate on Malta, they may be better off only moving a single Infantry into Libya, and build a transport. That way, if the British attack Libya, the Germans can immediately counter-attack and kill whatever the British moved in, preferably at good odds.
There is another element to the Mediterranean conflict. Ships built in the Tyrrhenian Sea are out of range of British ships. They are also only two moves from England, by way of the Gibraltar Strait. If England is strangled by subs and foolishly sends her airforce to Russia, she could be quite vulnerable to a sudden attack from Gibraltar with the support of the German airforce.
In Axis and Allies, England generally didn’t need more troops in England than he could load onto transports. England could afford to launch amphibious attack after attack that got slaughtered on the beaches, if it drained Germany of defenders. Any fleet that Germany built in the Med would just be attacked by bombers.
However, the new sub rules and convoy center rules make it important to actually have a presence on the sea rather than merely flying over it. Also, the extra hit point that Battleships have makes them less vulnerable to casual air attack. The Germans could build up a strong fleet at Gibraltar protected by their Battleship.
I do not believe that Germany can _plan_ on invading England from Gibraltar. It involves too many mistakes by the Allies to count on, and it can be thwarted by a single Allied ship in the Azores. However, if the British recklessly empty their homeland in amphibious attacks on Norway or Morocco, and the Germans lock up the British Convoy zones, then the British could find themselves without the ability to build enough defenders to save themselves from the German attack.
Part 4: Threaten England
I do believe that Germany has a valid strategy in threatening a direct attack on England.
Suppose the Germans take a transport in the Danish Straits and an artillery in Finland for his initial builds.
The Germans could threaten to attack England with 2 Inf, 2 Art, 2 Fighters, 1 Bomber vs 4 Inf, 1 Art, 1 Arm, 2 Fighters, 1 Bomber and AA. 18 attack points among 7 units vs 21 defense points with 9 units. Not good odds, but that is small comfort to the Allies if it comes down to being one infantry short.
The Germans could instantly win the game if they kill the American transport and the Davis Strait transport, because the Allies would have no way to retake England in a single year.
However, that is not reason enough to build a transport in a sea zone dominated by Allied air. However, Germany can threaten an amphibious attack on Leningrad without the support of air units. If Germany takes Leningrad and Vyborg on turn 1, a number of things happen.
First, the Russians no longer can send their fighter to attack the German fleet.
Second, the Russian will not be able to build Infantry in Leningrad even if they retake it. If the Russian can’t retake the Baltic States either, then Germany will take and hold Leningrad on turn 2.
This pretty much forces the Allies to put at least two Inf into Leningrad with their initial purchases, maybe three.
By taking a Transport in the Danish Straits, the Germans pretty much force the Allies to put extra Inf in both the British Isles and Leningrad. Not bad.
But then Germany builds two Destroyers and 2 transports, for a total of _4_ transports and 2 destroyers, a defensive firepower of 10 among 6 units.
If England attacks the Baltic Sea with his entire airforce, the most likely result is that two or three transports will be sunk in exchange for 39 IPCs of British planes. Since the Germans have no direct way to attack British planes, this is a very good deal for Germany indeed.
If the Brits do _not_ attack the Baltic Sea fleet, they pretty much have to build 8 Inf and bellow for help from the Americans. Because otherwise the Germans will invade the UK with (probably) 5 Inf 3 Art, 6 fighters and a Bomber.
This effectively knocks England out of the Battle of the Atlantic, and prevents England from aiding Russia at the same time. Good deal!
Okay, so what do the Germans do with their huge fleet if the UK is fortified up the wazoo?
Ship artillery and infantry to Leningrad! The Germans lose a turn of tank production, but they make it up by being able to attack an extra year early with infantry, and to continue attacking with cheaper artillery and infantry.
4 transports in the Baltic Sea can transport more IPCs than Russia can build in a turn. The Baltic Sea becomes a Must Kill target, and it is expensive to kill.
By threatening to invade England, German can also threaten Russia.
The Baltic Fleet strategy is, in my opinion, a refreshing option for those used to endless tank battles over Karelia. There is a neat Allied counter tactic which I don’t want to put on the web site.
I will share this counter tactic with those people who e-mail me for it. That way I will know how many people read to the bottom of the article and were actually interested in it.
If anybody actually uses this tactic, I would love to hear how it came out, and what was the response by the Allies when you did it.