Monday, 23 February 2009

AA50 session 1

On 13 Feb 2009 Han and I started a PBEM (Play-by-e-mail) game of Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition (AA50). The game lasted one week, and it was one of the most exciting and addictive games that I have ever played. Maybe it is because of the PBEM format. I was very anxious about the next turn, and kept thinking about the game, often lying awake at night for quite a while planning my next move. I used TripleA (version to play. It is mostly good, with only some minor bugs. Hopefully the next version with all the bugs fixed will be released soon.

In our game, we played the 1941 scenario of AA50, where the Axis start with fewer territories but have more troops and are well positioned to make gains, and the Allies are much richer but have fewer troops and need to hurry to contain the Axis. Han played the Axis and I was the Allies. In our recent face-to-face game of Axis & Allies Revised he played the Allies and I played the Axis.

This is how the game went:

From the start, Japan was aggressive in conquering China. China was conquered quickly and had no chance at all.

In the Pacific, Japan did their Pearl Harbour thing, and had two carriers and four fighters remaining off the Hawaiian coast. USA launched a massive counter-attack with everything in range, including both bombers from both east and west coasts of USA. It was a good opportunity to wipe out a large portion of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Japan was not as rich as USA and would not be able to race against USA to rebuild a Pacific fleet. Unfortunately, that counter-attack went awry, and the Americans lost the whole task force and Japan still had a carrier surviving.

After this disastrous battle, USA gave up on the Pacific theatre to focus on the European theatre. It would take too long to rebuild the Pacific fleet. Thus Japan expanded in the Pacific without resistance. The Australian navy was also soon wiped out.

In North Africa, the Allies held on well and the Axis never made much headway. Some UK troops retreated from India to help defend Egypt. The Allies had decided that the Pacific theatre was a lost cause. The Italian fleet was a constant threat to the Allies, but later after USA had heavy bombers they used 2 heavy bombers to kill off the Italian navy. The Mediterranean Sea was cleared.

In the European East Front, there was an anxious build up of forces preparing for the invasion of Moscow. Germany captured Karelia and started producing units there. The Western Allies sent fighters to protect Moscow. Just before the German assault on Moscow, USSR decided to do a hit and run on Germany's 8 tanks and 1 artillery next to Moscow, using all its forces in Moscow. The idea was to kill off a majority of that stack and then retreat back to Moscow. That stack of tanks did not have infantry with them, and was a good opportunity for USSR to swap cheap infantry with expensive German tanks.

However, the Russian task force was too successful and won the battle (killed all German tanks) by the 2nd battle cycle, before being able to retreat back to Moscow. Oops. Sometimes being too successful is bad. This made the Moscow defenses weaker.

Despite having fighters sent from both UK and USA to help defend before Germany's next turn, Moscow eventually fell to the German forces.

Moscow was immediately liberated, but losing all its money, and being unable to bring in new units for two full rounds, was crippling to the Russians. The windfall was also a big boost to Germany, despite having lost most of its front line forces.

On the European Western Front, the Allies were successful at sea. The German U-boats assembled off the eastern coast of UK, and were quickly wiped out by the Royal Navy. The Russian submarine made a gamble and attacked the German cruiser and transport in the Baltic Sea, and won.

D-Day happened early, but things went back and forth a few times. The consolidated British fleet threatened the whole European Atlantic coast, and UK transported in troops to capture lightly defended territories and isolated territories. These were mostly opportunistic attacks, and the territories were usually soon lost. Norway and Finland were later conquered, and kept, since Germany was unable to reinforce them.

USA, having given up on the Pacific theatre, came to help and took some time to set up a shipping line for troops between France and Canada. The plan was to have 3 - 4 transports on both sides of the Atlantic at any one time. Units produced in Eastern USA just walk to Eastern Canada to catch the boat ride. This was to keep a constant pressure on France and North-western Europe.

After the fall of Moscow, UK decided not to try to capture France again, and instead attacked and liberated Karelia. I decided it was more important, to deny the Germans an industrial complex to produce fresh troops. They had a lot of money in the bank after looting Moscow. That attack also killed off four German fighters and two German tanks. German pressure on Moscow was greatly reduced, at least for 2 turns.

Japanese expansion was unchecked. In Asia, only Australia was left alone (probably they couldn't be bothered). India fell and a factory was built, but it was captured by the UK for one turn, slowing down the Japanese advance slightly. Japanese troops marched all the way to surround Moscow, but had not assaulted it yet. Japan captured Alaska and built a factory there. It was at this time that USA made a grave mistake of not realising the Japanese air force's threat to its transports on the Atlantic Ocean. All transports on the Eastern Seaboard were lost because they were unprotected. Japan had a long-range bomber in Alaska and 2 long-range fighters off the coast of Alaska.

After the monetary windfall from conquering Moscow, Germany built up a large airforce of bombers and some fighters, and destroyed the Allied Atlantic fleet. I had purchased fighters and destroyers to help boost the defense, but it was insufficient. I had thought I would have been able to repel the attack. That spelled the doom for the Allies. It would take too much time to rebuild the Atlantic fleet. It may be impossible even, since the Germany still had a strong air force.

On the next turn, the UK made one last desperate attempt to conquer Berlin, using troops that have landed in Europe, 1 bomber and 1 fighter. Well, miracles don't happen so easily afterall. Berlin held, and the Allies conceded defeat.

The decisive battles:

  1. USA loss at Hawaii in the early game made it give up on the Pacific Theatre, and paved the way for unchecked Japanese expansion.
  2. Destruction of German fleet allowed the Allies to set up for D-Day and threaten many coastal territories.
  3. USSR's "successful" counterattack on German troops reduced defenses in Moscow, and Germany captured Moscow on the next turn, earning a big windfall.
  4. Destruction of Italian fleet by 2 America bombers ended the Italian threat to Africa.
  5. Recapture of Karelia was important for limiting German production to continue pressuring Moscow.
  6. Poor USA planning allowed the Japanese air force to destroy all American transports on the USA east coast which were unprotected.
  7. Destruction of the big Allied Atlantic fleet by the German airforce was a game-ending setback for the Allies to conquer Berlin.

The Allies had small victories here and there, but made some big miscalculations for some key battles. I wonder whether I played too conservatively, and thus lost ground gradually, which eventually added up to be quite significant over a number of rounds. And boy it feels tough playing the Allies in the 1941 scenario. Russia doesn't have a single tank at the start of the game.

The same feel of previous Axis & Allies versions is still there. The Axis need to attack swiftly before being worn down by the superior combined Allies' income. The Allies need to contain the Axis' advance and quickly build up their forces. The game can get very interesting if an equilibrium (or stalemate?) is reached, i.e. the Axis grab just enough territory to have about the same income as the Allies, and the Allies build up enough forces to match the Axis. Then the game may hinge on a few critical breakouts and key battles, likely huge showdowns. That's the excitement of Axis & Allies.


Hexxon said...

Hi guys, great blog! I'm working at which sells board games in Canada among other things. I got my own copy but haven't even cracked it open. Some questions:

- How does the Italy faction change the game? I can imagine that it makes germany's defence of Europe and offence more difficult as the forces are split in 2.

- what are the biggest differences between this version and the previous Revised 2004?

- PBEM sounds awesome, were there a lot of setup work to be done for tripleA? How quickly does combat happen?

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Hi Hexxon. You can check out my previous post for my comments on AA50, including how I think Italy changes the game. Indeed Italian and German forces can't attack together, but having Italy between the UK and USA turns does mean Italy can do some damage control without waiting for Germany's turn. So I think adding Italy is not too bad for the Axis.

I think one of the biggest difference is that transports are defenseless. That changes the naval game a lot. Naval units being cheaper is also good.

TripleA is pretty simple to set up. Combat is quick. My opponent and I agreed that we'll just choose the units to take hits for the defender, since the decision is usually straight-forward. So we don't need to keep sending emails back and forth for every cycle of every battle. See the comments in my previous post for some tips on using TripleA.

Cecrow said...

Great session report; I'm playing this for the first time in a couple of weeks and I'm already assigned USSR. Sounds like a tough position. In previous versions I'd buy strictly infantry, but the extra defence for armour offers new possibilities and it might be a good idea to take advantage of the early lead in cash. What was your first turn buy with USSR? Also, were you using the National Objectives rules?

Hiew Chok Sien said...

I can't remember exact what I bought on my first turn as USSR. I think it was a mixture of tanks, artillery and infantry. I think USSR should not play purely defensive and also needs to do some counter-attacks when appropriate. In the 1941 scenario I think USSR is tough because you start with mostly infantry. So if Germany focuses on you you'll probably need some British and even American fighters to come help defend Moscow.

Yes, I did use the national objectives rule. It's interesting. Not sure how balanced it is, but at least it's fun so far. I'm playing my 2nd PBEM game now, 1942 scenario, as the Axis this time.