Saturday, 24 January 2009

Axis & Allies Revised

On 17 Jan 2009 when Han came to play, our main course was Axis & Allies, the 2004 edition, which is also called Axis & Allies Revised. We both planned to buy the Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition which just came out end of last year, and were keen to play it. Since neither of us had it yet, we decided to play the 2004 edition, to at least temporarily quench our thirst. We planned for this session about one month beforehand. That's how keen we were.

Actually I was so anxious for some Axis & Allies action, I asked Simon (who has played many games with me but is in no way a gamer, and has never played anything like Axis & Allies) to play with me when he was in KL, on 2 Jan 2009. We started at 11:30pm, explaining the game took some time, and we finished at 5:30am. It was a good game, but unfortunately I didn't take any photo.

I played the Axis, and Simon the Allies. USA mostly ignored Japan in the Pacific and both UK and US concentrated on preparing to attack Germany. Germany's excursion into Africa was slow but steady. USA only sent forces to Africa once and after that ignored the African theatre to concentrate on Europe.

USSR had some initial successes, but Germany won one big battle, using its big stack to kill off USSR's big stack. I had been careful in the positioning of my German troops, in pushing my infantry forward, and in preserving my tanks as much as possible. That big battle was a big blow to USSR, killing off many Russian tanks, and USSR immediately got on the defensive. Later Germany also took Caucasus, which had the industrial complex, and had been heavily defended throughout most of the game. However this was at the expense of not defending Western Europe and not trying to get it back, allowing an Allied foothold.

Eventually Germany fell to a one-two-punch attack from UK and USA which I had underestimated. I had thought it was too premature for Simon to attack Germany. But the USA forces won, despite only having one tank and one bomber surviving. That was a crushing blow to the Axis. Although USSR was on the verge of falling, it still had enough forces to withstand Germany's last desperate all-out attack. When Berlin fell, the German troops were too far away to take it back. They were all right next to Moscow, and there was a big swath of nothing in Eastern Europe.

Japan, having been left alone in the Pacific theatre, had been expanding aggressively. I tried a one-two-punch attack on Russia, but by then Russia had been reinforced with British fighters, and my attempt was too little too late. I conceded defeat after that last desperate failed attempt. The whole of Africa, Middle East, India, China and almost all of USSR were under Axis control, but Japan will not be able to fight against the combined forces of the 3 Allied countries. It was only a matter of time for USA and UK to take back all those vacant Axis territories.

I still think Kill Russia First is the best strategy for the Axis, and similarly Kill Germany First for the Allies. Not that I'm any expert in Axis & Allies. I may be just unimaginative. Supposedly the Anniversary Edition addresses this problem (assuming this is a problem).

In this game against Simon, my biggest mistake was probably underestimating the attackers approaching Berlin. In fact, the British attack, i.e. the first half of the one-two-punch attack, fared poorly. And I probably should not have allowed D-Day to happen so early. Anyway, good lesson learned, which prepared me for the game against Han two weeks later. I was playing the Axis too, since the last time Han and I played this game in 2005, he played the Axis.

So here's the session report of the game against Han on 17 Jan 2009, with lots of pictures.

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Game setup. I like the game setup of Axis & Allies Revised. There are interesting, i.e. tough, decisions for each country. Of course some of the decisions will depend on the outcome of battles in previous players' turns, but I think Round 1 is interesting, and often its outcome will determine the strategy of the players for the rest of the game.

This was Round 1, UK's turn. USSR had taken West Russia, that territory right next to Moscow with Germans on it at the start of the game, and Germany had taken it back. Soviet forces consolidated in Moscow, Causasus and the eastern border near the Japanese. The Germans had used a transport to bring troops from Italy to attack Trans-Jordan. The German submarine in the Atlantic had gone to Canada and had sunk the British transport there. German forces in Algeria moved to Libya, to prepare to attack Egypt. Now the British battleship, with the support of the fighter in Egypt and the fighter in the Indian Ocean, was attacking the German battleship and transport in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. This attack was successful, sinking both German ships, but the British also lost one fighter. The British sub south of Melbourne later attacked the lonely Japanese sub north of New Zealand, but only managed to get itself sunk.

Round 1, end of Japan's turn. The UK fleet on the west coast of UK had moved to the east coast. The UK fleet in the Indian Ocean had moved west. If you watch closely you'll notice that the British bomber is gone. Unfortunately (for Han) it was shot down over Berlin in its maiden strategic bombing mission. UK had built a factory in India, but it was immediately captured by the Japanese, which used the transport off Kwangtung to ship infantry over. Japan really went all out to capture India, including the support of the southern Pacific fleet. In hindsight, UK probably should have defended India more heavily. Japan attacked China, but that battle turned out to be mutual destruction. Well, at least the Flying Tigers (US fighter) were killed. Pearl Harbour happened, no surprises there. Japan built three transports.

Round 2, during UK's turn. USA had invaded the unguarded Algeria. The US infantry in Sinkiang came out to defend China. USA also started to rebuild its Pacific fleet. I think USSR took West Russia again, and then Germany captured in yet again, in the process destroying all Russian tanks. USSR has been very defensive, buying mostly infantry. Germany, which bought mostly infantry in Round 1, now bought mostly a mix of infantry and artillery. My plan was to buy slow moving units early, and then tanks later. Germany had conquered Egypt, leaving Algeria vacant. The Baltic fleet had come out to attack the British fleet (with some air support, of course), and won the battle! That was a bonus for me, because I didn't expect my Baltic fleet to survive. I only wanted to sink the British ships, which would help to delay D-Day. British aircraft were now attacking my Baltic fleet. This later ended as yet another surprise victory for me. He lost many precious fighters. I must have had a pretty good admiral. Han mixed his combat and non-combat moves, so you see his Mediterranean battleship had already moved west to Gibraltar, and his Indian Ocean fleet and Australian transport had already moved towards South Africa.

Round 2, after USA's turn. Japan had conquered China, and also broken through the eastern border of USSR. Now the path to Moscow was cleared. Japan had also conquered Persia, putting some pressure on Caucasus. Japan built 3 tanks in India, preparing to support Germany in executing Kill Russia First. The Indian Ocean fleet moved towards Japan to join forces with the Pacific fleet, because the Americans were threatening. The American troops in Algeria had another bloodless conquest - the vacated Libya. And finally the American fleet (from North Africa and the Atlantic Ocean) sunk my remaining German ships off Norway. UK was getting rather crowded so I put a marker on it and let Han place all the units off board (top left corner). I did the same for the American Pacific fleet which was building up off Los Angeles.

This was the American Pacific fleet being rebuilt. Two battleships, two carriers, one destroyer, one transport and three fighters.

This was where they were on the map.

These are the units in UK, now put off board because the populace was complaining about overcrowding.

The two Japanese fleets were about to merge into one giant fleet, in anticipation of the upcoming showdown with the Americans in the Pacific.

I think this was Round 3 after UK's turn. I can't recall what happened exactly on the Eastern Front. I know USSR attacked the Japanese-occupied Persia and won. Germany was now very close to both Moscow and Caucasus. I left West Russia vacant so that I wouldn't have to spread my forces thin. USSR didn't have land troops that could threaten my fleet of fighters in Belorussia anyway. I now dared to leave Western Europe lightly defended, because I had built a big group of tanks in Germany. I had also built a bomber to support the war on the Eastern Front. Rommel attacked the Americans in Libya and wiped them out, with some air support, of course. I left one infantry to guard Trans-Jordan against the Russians. I was betting the Russians would turn back to defend Caucasus. UK's battleship from the Mediterranean moved to the coast of France, and UK build two transports.

A zoomed out view to show the British ships from the Pacific Theatre still moving slowing to Europe. The Suez Canal wasn't an option since I had conquered Trans-Jordan in Round 1. You need to control both Egypt and Trans-Jordan at the start of your turn to be able to use the canal.

Round 3, after Japan's turn. The Japanese navy had joined forces off the coast of Tokyo. Now I was daring Han to attack me. If he dared to come close I'd probably attack with the support of my airforce.

Zoomed out view, to show that one of the Japanese tanks had blitzed through Sinkiang and was now at the gates of Moscow. The slower moving Japanese infantry and artillery had also conquered Yakut SSR. Actually, this was already USA's turn. The USA fleet off Norway joined forces with the UK fleet off Normandy. The bored US fighter in Algeria thought it would be fun to attack the lonely German fighter in Egypt...

... and got itself shot down. Oops.

I think this was Round 4, after Germany's turn. On USSR's turn, it attacked and conquered Trans-Jordan. It also got Novosibirsk back from the lone Japanese tank, and took the vacant West Russia. Germany tried to take Trans-Jordan back, but retreated back to Egypt when the battle went bad. However on the Eastern Front the battles went well, and both Caucasus and Moscow fell to the Axis. It was a costly victory, almost wiping out the German airforce (only that lone fighter surviving the battle of Caucasus). But the fall of Moscow was a big victory for the Axis. Han conceded defeat. D-Day never happened, and Midway never happened.

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I had many lucky rolls in the early game. Han was very unlucky with his bombing runs over Germany. Not only he lost his British bomber on the first bombing run, he also later lost an American bomber, I think on its second bombing mission.

On the Eastern Front Han was mainly defensive, purchasing mostly infantry. He protected the factory in Caucasus well, and I didn't dare to attack until quite late in the game. On the Western Front the build-up for D-Day was too slow. So D-Day never happened.

We actually played with one random national advantage for each country. Russia had harsh winter - declare harsh winter at end of USSR round, and from then until USSR's next turn, Russian infantry defend on 3 instead of 2. Han used this, which made me delay my attack into Moscow by one round. Germany had wolfpack - when a group of 3 submarines attack together, they attack at 3 instead of 2. I never used it. UK had Middle East oil - if a British plane landed in an Allies-controlled Egypt, Trans-Jordan or Persia, it gets a free non-combat move. This was never used. Japan had entrenched defenders - infantry on islands defend at 3 instead of 2. Never used. USA had marines - infantry attack on 2 instead of 1 in the first cycle of an amphibious assault. Never used. Maybe next time we should play with 2 random national advantages instead. Or maybe more.

I definitely benefited from the recent game against Simon, in which I played the Axis too. Han was at a disadvantage because the last time he played was 3+ years ago, also another game with me. And there was a misprint on the UK chart. Fighter cost should be $10, not $12. He used the wrong price for all the Allies for almost the whole game, because the UK chart was the one right in front of him and he referred to it. Well, and the dice gods being on my side didn't help.

One thing about Axis & Allies Revised that I have a very different opinion of compared to other people is the graphics. I actually quite like the graphics. I like the dark map, more so than the 1984 version (lighter coloured), and also more so than the Anniversary Edition (natural coloured). I like the style very much. It has a feeling of doom. I prefer it over the 1984 version because of this. I prefer it over the Anniversary Edition because it is "cleaner". It has a serious tone. The one thing I didn't quite like is the production values. The cardboard pieces are quite thin. They also forgot that 6 and 9 look exactly the same when you don't know which direction to look from. They should have used a full stop or an underline on the army markers for 6 and 9. Well, I have never had to use 6 or 9, so this didn't impact my enjoyment of the game, but it just shows there was an oversight. The fighter cost on the UK sheet is a more serious error (and Han would definitely agree).

I used to read a lot of strategy articles about Axis & Allies, in the days when I played it more frequently with Ricky using the PC game version. That was still the 1984 version, way before the 2004 Revised version came out. Axis & Allies is very much about knowing what to purchase and knowing how to plan ahead. It is about preserving your units (especially so for the Japanese) and maximising your battle odds. It is easy to lose sight of the strategic view and the long term planning, when the game is long and there are many battles to absorb you into the tactical aspects. Naturally there is a fair bit of luck in the game, because of the dice. But I have learnt to not get frustrated with bad die rolls, and instead laugh about them. Before the dice are rolled, I should have done all I could to make the odds as good as possible, and if I haven't done so I should accept the risks of making the attack or the consequences of not preparing enough for the defense.

I just received my copy of Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition. So the next time that we play, it will be this deluxe version!

6 comments:

Aik Yong said...

Bravo! Another interesting blog. Made me interested about Axis and Allies although I heard it's an infantry rush game. How did the new edition fix the infantry problem?

Hiew Chok Sien said...

The most severe case of unstoppable infantry rush that I have heard of is with Axis & Allies Europe, where it seems to be an unstoppable German strategy to kill Russia. It's called the German stack I think. I'm not sure whether the 2004 Revised edition or the Anniversay Edition fixed this problem. One thing that was done was tanks now defend on 3 instead of 2, which I think is good. It is now more attractive to buy tanks for defense too, and not just piling up infantry. But for offense you still need infantry to absorb hits. The addition of artillery, which when paired with an infantry increases the attack strength of the infantry, also made things more interesting. So, even in the 2004 edition, I don't think there is an infantry rush problem.

Hmm... I wonder whether I'm saying "it's a feature, not a bug!".

Lord of Midnight said...

aha.. u got us all curious now about A&A. I have the 2004 Rev Ed as well, played it a couple of times and liked it but never got the chance to revisit.

Perhaps it's time .... :P

do keep us updated how the Anniversary Ed goes.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

I'll definitely share more about AA50 once I get to play it. I just hope it will not be too long a wait (coz I know it definitely won't be soon, unfortunately). The missus can play back-to-back Agricola, but is less-than-enthusiastic when it comes to wargames...

Anonymous said...

question: how is the IPC damage number determined, form rocket launders and strategic bombings?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

If I remember correctly, damage from rocket launchers and strategic bombers is just a die roll. One die per bombers if you have more than one, of course.