Monday, November 15, 2010

Ellis Con Axis & Allies Global 1940 session report

Well, I spent all of Ellis Con playing one game, but what a game!

I think the Global 1940 Axis & Allies is a terrific game experience. The scale of the game mitigates some of the things about A&A I didn''t care for in the past -- especially some strange geography and an unfortunate luck factor. These seem much less of a problem with Global.

This was the first game I took part in where everybody had some level of experience with at least the Axis & Allies system and several players had played Global before.

On the Axis side the German player was a fellow who had definitely played A&A before and I think he said he'd played the Global game once. He was joined by a gentleman who played Italy and Japan and had played Global before. While I hadn't met him before, he was well-known to some other participants, who liked to tease him for his "deliberate" (slow) playing style. I worried a bit about this given how big a game Global is, but in the end everyone else seemed to make u for it with speedy play and time-saving steps like figuring out their build ahead of time and some powers moving at the same time as others when they were not affecting each other. We were able to play seven turns, which was enough to reach a decision.

The Italo-Japanese player had brought his teen nephew to the game and he wanted to have fun beating up on uncle so he took the US. While young, he handled his nation very well, as we'll see.
I took the British because I wanted to have a hand in both ends of the board. Our Russian player had played A&A before, but never Global, but he had an excellent appreciation of the fundamentals of Soviet strategy in A&A. Our final player was also experienced in Global and he took the trio of "minor" powers, France, China and the ANZACs, Having an experienced good player for those minor countries ended up playing a big role int the outcome as well.

The game started with in a familiar way, as the German player made the same mistake I made as the German player in my last game -- failing to ensure that France fell on Turn 1. In my case I misjudged the forces I needed, but in this game the German was intent on taking out the British navy and he launched a huge air and sea campaign over the next few turns that saw a lot of drama, including an invasion of Scotland! He did succeed in gutting British naval power, but at the cost of his own and a huge chunk of his air force as well. Scotland was recaptured so no permanent damage was done to the British.

Naturally the Germans had to let someplace else suffer and that place was France. While Normandy fell easily enough, the German attack on France proper -- already a marginal affair -- suffered a huge setback when he failed to roll a single hit in his attack. The French were much luckier and nearly wiped out the German infantry in the attacking force. Unwilling to start taking hits on tanks and Stukas the German called off the attack.

There was some discussion over whether or not to simply reset the game at that point, given the poor German opening, but the Axis players declined. The German player was satisfied with the damage he did to the British fleet and the Italo-Japanese had yet to move so the Axis pressed on. The Italians, when their turn came, joined in the attack on France, taking southern France amphibiously while using their navy to crush the French Navy. The Japanese launched a ground offensive against China, beginning a multi-turn campaign that was well handled by the China player. At this point I should mention that we were using the "Alpha" variant setup for the Pacific board which reduces the air power of all the Pacific countries (which were disproportionate) and makes some other changes, including a beefier Chinese army.

When the French turn came around we started to see some of the effects of a surviving France. The French had money and a chance to build, so they bought a chunk more infantry to make the second German attempt as costly as possible. And the French sent their one fighter to attack the Italy's unguarded merchant fleet of two transports! The Italy player had forgotten that France had a fighter (naturally, since normally France doesn't have one by the time its move comes around). After sinking Italy's merchant fleet the fighter landed in Malta. From there it was destined to be a thorn in Italy's side for the rest of the game when it joined the British forces iN Egypt. The hero French fighter survived the game, as matter of fact!

The failure to capture France put the Germans a turn behind schedule, and the destruction of Italy's merchant fleet likewise put Italy a turn behind schedule in the Med.

To make a long story short, the Italian effort in North Africa was stalemated. By the time they rebuilt their transports and tried to take Egypt it was strongly held. The Italian Turn 3 invasion was crushed (with notable help from the sharpshooting French fighter which killed 2 of the four invaders) and after that the British won the buildup race, shipping aircraft via Gibraltar and from South Africa and eventually joined by troops from Iran and east Africa after Italian East Africa and Iraq were dispatched. When the Americans joined the war they sent some troops into unconquered French Algeria.

Stymied in the Med, the Italians sent substantial ground forces to aid their German ally, who had run into a solid wall of Soviets. As seen in the last game, the 1-turn delay in the German timetable meant that the Russians actually declared war on the Germans first. The delayed German Barbarossa was also critically short on air support, most of the Luftwaffe having been expended against the Royal Navy. The Soviets were able to blunt the German attack and were slowly gaining an edge, thanks in no small part to the large Soviet air force!

Meanwhile in the Pacific, after a few turns of expensive fighting against China the Japanese decided they had better grab the resource-rich Dutch territories while there was still time, so on Turn 3 they moved.

The lack of Japanese pressure, however, meant that the US, Pacific British and ANZACs were able to build up their naval forces and before long the Japanese found themselves in a five-front war! Besides the undefeated Chinese they faced newly aggressive Russians and three navies. When a Japanese naval task force ventured within range the British gladly expended their Pacific navy to take it out. Both fleets were destroyed, leaving a lonely Japanese merchant to be dispatched by a French destroyer! Meanwhile the US eventually brought an overwhelming force to bear against Japan itself -- despite a game attempt by uncle to sucker nephew into a premature attack. Vast navies and air forces (At least five loaded US carriers, three US battleships and other surface ships and a heavy bomber against two Japanese carriers, tow BBs and air units and other ships) clashed over Japan. When it was over there were still three damaged US battleships and two cruisers holding the sea zone and Japan was down to one task force off the coast of China -- and that task force was being stalked by an equal-sized ANZAC task force of a loaded CV, a BB, a CA, a DD and a Heavy bomber within range! The ANZAC player was quite willing to follow the example of his allies and lose his fleet to destroy the last Japanese fleet.

At this point the Axis players admitted defeat. Germany was stalemated on the Russian border, the Italians were about to lose their navy on the next British turn to a strike by 5 heavy bombers, 3 Tacs and four fighters (the British had meanwhile been conducting a strategic bombing campaign against Germany, which has 19 damage on its main industry site. Japan was being pushed back in China and southeast Asia and had lost 3/4 of its fleet. With no good news anywhere it was time to call it.

We started at about 10:30 a.m. and finished at 8:30 p.m. with a half hour lunch break and another half hour or so pause during the auction so total playing time was between 8 and 9 hours.

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