I recently played a game of Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition (AA50) against Han in PBEM (Play-by-E-Mail) format using the TripleA free software. The last time we did this was three years ago (session 1, session 2), and those were two very tense and memorable games. I've been gaming with Han since 2005. One thing that I am sometimes very impressed about is how he doesn't give up even under extremely adverse situations. This is not specifically when playing Axis & Allies games, just playing games in general. There were quite a few times that he came back from very bad positions to win a game. I imagine if I were in his shoes I would probably have given up hope. I wonder whether it has something to do with his profession. I imagine sometimes he would need to operate on patients who are in critical conditions. Under such a situation he must keep his cool and do his best, no matter how hopeless the situation seems.
In our recent game of AA50, he played the Allies and I played the Axis. We played the 1942 scenario. Allen had planned to join us to play USA, but he had technical problems so Han took over USA. The Axis had a good start. I made a mix of moderately safe and slightly risky attacks, and all turned out well for me. The Germans captured Karelia in Round 1, which was a big loss for the Soviets, because it means Germany could start manufacturing tanks there starting the next round. The Italy supported Germany by attacking Caucasus (south of Moscow) to thin out some of the Soviet units. The Germans developed heavy bombers in Round 3, and also had many fighters poised to attack Moscow by then. Moscow fell to the Germans. USSR did not have many units to be able to launch a counter-attack, so it never recovered.
On the western front (of Europe), the British worked steadily on building up their navy. In Round 1 they developed heavy bombers, which struck fear into the hearts of the Axis. Heavy bombers, which roll two dice instead of one, can be very very destructive. Using its strong fleet, UK managed to capture the coastal regions in western Europe a few times, but they were immediately repelled. UK also managed to capture Norway, Finland and Poland, which were not heavily defended. The UK fleet destroyed all German ships. I heavily fortified Germany, fearing an amphibious assault supported by British heavy bombers. I still remember how I underestimated the strength of an amphibious assault in the past and paid dearly by losing Germany and its massive treasury. In Axis & Allies it is extremely difficult for a power to recover from the fall of its capital. Italy supported Germany in the western front too, helping to recapture France when it fell.
In Africa, Italy's attack on Egypt went awry. It was the Germans who eventually got the job done (good job, Rommel!), capturing Egypt in Round 2, and opening the door to the rest of Africa and the Middle East. The Germans made some advances while Italy rebuilt its forces to be shipped over, and eventually Italy took over Africa and Middle East, to let Germany focus on Europe.
US decided to focus on the Pacific arena, spending no money or effort at all in the Europe theatre. Japan did the Pearl Harbour thing, which was then avenged by the Americans. Japan built a factory in Manchuria in Round 1, and thereafter was able to build 3 tanks every round to help secure Asia. Japan decided to focus on the mainland and did not fight hard for the islands. The Japanese navy was soon wiped out. The Chinese fought valiantly, recapturing many Chinese territories. Japan had no transports to ship units from Japan to the Asian mainland. Thankfully the factory in Manchuria kept pumping out tanks (and didn't fall to the four Russians playing mahjong just across the border). Eventually China fell to the Japanese and all Chinese were mandated to have four characters in their names instead of three (or two). The US navy captured island after island, even coming as far as Taiwan (Formosa). Thankfully they didn't manage to capture my home state Sabah (then North Borneo), which was a lucrative $4 territory. One critical move that delayed the US was three of my Japanese bombers sinking part of the US fleet off Caroline Islands which included 3 transports. As a result, 5 US infantry and 1 tank were stranded. US needed to rebuild its navy and also to build more transports. US still had more money than Japan and could outspend Japan.
I noticed that Han did not have any US destroyer. I quickly built a fleet of Japanese submarines which would threaten any US fleet that tried to assemble at Caroline Islands to pick up the land units there. Without destroyers, all my submarines would enjoy the first strike attack, sinking any ships I hit immediately without giving them a chance to fire. Also the US fighters wouldn't be able to fire at my submarines. The mainland was secure now, but the US navy was much stronger than my Japanese navy of leaky but deadly submarines. I needed to stall the US and protect Japan and the Asian mainland. US had discovered heavy bombers, and could bomb my Japanese economy to smithereens if it established a strong base in Taiwan.
Back in Europe, Germany now rich from capturing Moscow, could spend more money on tech. It discovered the long-range aircraft tech, which worked wonderfully with the heavy bomber tech. Germany spent much money on heavy bombers, which helped tremendously in capturing European, African and Asian territories. In Round 6, a large force of German heavy bombers and fighters converged to attack the large British fleet in the Baltic Sea. It was a bloody battle. The British fleet was destroyed. The Allies conceded.
- Heavy bombers are probably overpowered, especially when one side gets it early.
- Techs are fun, but can be a little unbalancing. It's nice that when you fail, you keep your dice for next round, so there is incentive to at least invest in one die and hope for a lucky break. In the A&A 1940 versions (the more complex versions), the design goes back to the previous approach. If you fail, your money is wasted. That makes you more reluctant about gambling on techs. I'm undecided which approach is better, or even if having techs in play is a good idea in the first place.
- I think I still prefer AA50 if I want to play an A&A global game. AA1940 Global just feels a bit too clunky. I'm doing an AA1940 Global game via PBEM now. Maybe it works better as a PBEM game. But still, sometimes I feel distances are just too far and the game bogs down a little.