Monday, December 14, 2009

Axis & Allies Miniatures -- Making do with what you got, the KMT

One of the irritating things about most published strategy advice and army/warband/deck builds in collectible games is that they assume the players have access to the full line of available figures/cards. I suppose there may be a few players with unlimited budgets and time out there, but most of us have to play with what we got -- either putting up with the luck of the draw from randomized boosters or making a few strategic purchases of singles.

Most articles also seem to assume a minimum of external constraints so the army creator has the most flexibility to make use of clever combos. This may be OK with fantasy game, but I think the history-based AAM game loses a bit when you let it drift into fantastic anything-goes army builds that mix Germans and Japanese or 1940 French with 1945 Soviets.

So here's an exploration of an army build that shows more than a passing nod to history and tries to make the most out of what one player has in the box while obeying the standard army construction rules from the Expanded Rules.

The basic parameters in force will be for a 100-point army using historical army limits and year restrictions. The 100-point army is being picked because I intend to field a KMT Nationalist Chinese army and I am certain I can't field a larger force. I will only use models I own, with no proxies. The army will be tried out later against a contemporary Japanese build.

The Historical Army limit in this case is that the Nationalist Chinese can't be in an army with any other nationality. This is a pretty strict condition, in that the Chinese don't have many units to choose from. Some "historical" builds get around this by giving the Chinese access to some weapons they did actually field such a P-40 fighters and Sherman tanks, but going by the rule book these aren't available yet. (I'd like to see the Chinese eventually get a little help here. A Flying Tiger reprint of the P-40 would be good and giving the Chinese a few support weapons would be appropriate -- maybe some captured Japanese mortars and anti-tank guns).

On the other hand, being a pure Chinese army gives them more points to use -- their "100-
point" army will actually have 110 points to spend. Their biggest challenge will be spending that many points while remaining within the 15-piece army maximum size rule.

The year restriction will be 1939. This actually helps the Chinese, because they have no post-1939 units yet, but it limits the Japanese considerably.

The process of building our KMT force starts with taking advantage of the Formation Rules to field the Chinese Infantry Company for 26 points. While somewhat cheaper in build points as a formation than its components would cost individually (26 instead of 31) the biggest advantage of the formation is that it gives the Chinese 12 pieces while only counting as 5 against the army maximum size. I'd have considered fielding TWO of these units, but I don't have enough KMT Riflemen to form a second company.

In any case this gives us the following units to start with

1 KMT Officer (Key Special Ability is +1 initiative)

10 KMT Riflemen (Special Ability is actually a big disability, disruptions kill the unit)

1 KMT Machine-gun team (Double-shot SA, but subject to "Overheat")

I have just one T-26, so we'll toss that in for the limited antitank ability it brings. It costs 11 points, so the total build is now 37 and six units.

I happened to draw a lot of machine-gun teams out of my boosters, so I can add seven more of these units to the order of battle for 42 points. They will obviously form the real core of my force.

The build is now 79 points and 13 units. I'll toss in one more KMT officer to add a little redundancy in that department, which brings the force up to 14 units and 84 points.

I still have 26 build points left but one more slots for units, so the balance will have to be spent on support units and obstacles.

There's little point in buying a fuel dump for one tank and I have no confidence in the Chinese being able to protect an ammo dump, but a Headquarters seems like a useful support, giving the Chinese a second bite at the initiative apple each turn. Adding one of these costs 7 points, bringing the total to 91.

I'll add a couple of pillboxes for four points, bringing the total to 95. One pillbox will probably hold the HQ, hopefully protecting it from a marauding Zero and the other one will likely hold an MG team.

I think minefields are likely to be useful, so I'll add in all five of those I own for 10 points, bringing the force total to 105 points.

I'll spend three points to buy six barbed wire, which may be helpful if the Japanese field a lot of infantry. I'd buy more, but I don't have any. This brings the total to 108, so I finish off the buy with two tank obstacles. The Japanese will probably field some tanks and this may help keep them out of a key hex or two. I debated whether another pillbox might not be a better purchase, but the pillbox benefit isn't very strong, and I'd rather have the variety of options having another type of piece may provide. This brings the total to 110 points.

This Chinese army has some obvious deficiencies, but most of them can't be helped. First off, it doesn't have any dedicated AA guns, for the good reason the Chinese have none. There are lot of machine guns, though, so any Zero that shows up will have to be wary. More seriously the Chinese force has minimal anti-tank ability. There's only one proper AT gun, on the T-26, and the Chinese infantry and officers have no Close Assault ability.

Mitigating this, however, is the fact that none of the available 1939 Japanese armor (Type 89A Chi-Ro, Type 87 armored car, Type 95 Ha-Go or Type 97 Te-Ke) has any armor greater than 2, so even the Chinese machine-gun teams have a 25% chance of disrupting them out to 8 hexes away! Add in the double-shot SA and there's about a 6% chance of a single MG team damaging any Japanese armored vehicle. With a total of 9 MG teams in the Chinese force the cumulative chances are not negligible.

In the future I'll post a session report on how this force fares in combat, but comments are welcome.

EDIT: A ForuMini commenter pointed out that the rules were modified on Nov. 12 and the 15-unit army maximum has been dropped, but a new restriction has been placed on obstacles -- only 10% of an army's maximum allowable cost can be spent on Obstacles, so my proposed build runs afoul of that limit. So we will eliminate one pillbox, the two tank obstacles and two of the minefields to bring the Obstacle total back within limits and add in one more machine gun team and two more riflemen to replace them. This gives the Chinese a little more offensive ability.

I expect that my plan will be to use the massed machine guns to lay down a base of fire and then rush the objective with my mass of riflemen on the theory that "they can't kill us all."

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