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A Fun Way To Learn About World War II
on May 23, 2011
The Axis nations (Germany and Japan) were strong enough to have beaten the non-US Allied nations (mainly Britain and Russia) in World War II without American intervention. Then they could have come after the United States with their new found power. Given the timely intervention of the U.S.A., it was a different story: the Allies won "hands down."
The game clearly illustrates these points, which gives it educational value. But unlike the "real life" version, the Axis do have a chance to win, because the U.S. is "hobbled." For instance, Germany starts the game with 32 Industrial Production certificates (IPCs) and Japan with 25, versus 30 for Britain and 24 for Russia. (These are based on the territories each country controls, and are used to build military units.) The US player has 36 IPCs, barely more than Germany, of which 25 are from "American" territories and 11 from assorted minor Allies in Latin America and China.
(In "real life," American industrial power was more like 75, which would have given the US player 86 IPCs, counting minor Allies. In fact, American industrial capacity was equal to that of Germany, Britain and the Soviet Union put together, meaning that if Germany had conquered the other two Allies, Japan would have held the balance of power, and America would have had to conquer it in turn to survive.)
With the U.S. "constrained," the game is reasonably balanced. The Axis are still underdogs but no longer prohibitively so. As a practical matter, they can win if they capture territories with least 17 more IPCs, giving them a majority of the world's productive capacity (74 vs, 73), unless the Allies were ahead in technology (which they might be, given their greater starting IPCs and research capabilities). The game's victory condition of 84 IPCs for the Axis reflects this possibility, while the real-world victory condition would be 99 IPCs for the Axis (assuming America at full strength).
The Axis can also win by capturing two Allied capitals (most likely London England, and Moscow, Russia), while the Allies win by capturing the two Axis capitals ((Berlin, Germany, and Tokyo, Japan). One version of the game has it that the winning side must have retained all their capitals; Germany doesn't win by conquering London and Moscow if Tokyo is under American occupation. As a practical matter, the Axis will likely fulfill the IPC victory condition if they capture even ONE Allied capital.
The Axis have to win the war as quickly as possible with their initial advantage in military units and board position to compensate for their inferior industrial capacity. One way is for the Germans to "blitz" through Africa, which is rich in IPCs (the tank unit in Libya under Rommel should not attack Egypt but rather make for South Africa, which it may reach in two turns). Meanwhile Japan might "pick off" weakly defended British allies in India, Australia, and New Zealand, increasing its industrial capacity, and reducing Britain's. Alternatively, the Axis could "gang up" on Russia, two on one, and hope to knock her out of the war and take over her industry before the Anglo-Americans are fully ready to attack. Either way, the two Axis powers should agree to make an all-out attack on ONE common enemy, while defending against the other two.
Perhaps offsetting the Axis advantage in board position is the Allies' ability to build industrial complexes halfway around the world (unless players agree not to use this rule). But these "factories" are expensive (costing half of Britain's 30 IPCs plus a turn), and alert Axis players will try to capture factories in India or South Africa after they're built but before they come into production, making them AXIS assets.
(There's NO WAY that the Americans should be allowed to build a factory in landlocked Chinese territories; it's hard enough in "real life" to build them on the coast without moving the materials inland. But an alert Japan would capture this one as well.)
Although the odds are somewhat against them, the game is balanced enough that the Axis can win if 1) they are lucky with the dice or 2) they are the better players, meaning that they can offset Allied advantages with greater skill. The Allies do win if both luck and skill are equal.
The game can be played with as few as two players (one plays the Axis, the other the Allies), or as many as five (one player for each major country). Typically the better players will play the Axis countries or Russia, and the weakest player gets to play the U.S., at least partly offsetting the advantage provided by that country's industrial capacity.