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Subject: Strategy Primer 2: Defeating the Axis rss

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Mark Herman
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Now that the game has begun to get into people's hands and is getting some initial plays I thought I would continue my series of Churchill strategy primers. My goal is to accelerate our collective understanding of the art of the possible in Churchill, although I continue to discover new tactics as I continue to play with friends and family.

In case you missed it here is a link to my first strategy primer.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1402755/d-day-churchill...

The main theme of this strategy post is the intersection of victory conditions and forcing Axis surrender.

Strategy tips on defeating the Axis

1. I have not been able to gather any statistics yet, but I predict there will be an initial bias toward Condition 3 victories (Axis do not surrender). From my perspective this is because this path to victory is more in line with how we all learned how to play games, the human with the most points wins. The basic message I want to convey is: the antidote to Condition 3 victories is Condition 2 victories, not more die rolls or rules.

2. The narrative for a condition 3 victory is the alliance breaks down faster than it did historically. Some may believe that this could not happen, but in fact I am amazed that it did not happen. For example in the Eureka (Tehran) transcripts the question of the post war Polish borders was a major topic between the Big Three (see Conference Card 5B, white text). Churchill wants Stalin to open negotiations with the Polish government in exile on the border question. Stalin says that he will not negotiate with this collaborationist entity. His evidence that they are collaborating with the Nazis is the Polish government in exile's public statements that they believe the Soviets committed the Katyn woods massacre of their officers. Here is a link for more details (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katyn_massacre). From their intelligence services Churchill and Roosevelt both knew that it was highly likely that Stalin had committed the atrocity, but they never called him on it. The Western Allies still needed Stalin to win the war as evidenced by the fact that the USSR, especially at this point in the war, was the main Allied army engaged on the continent. My point is that under the surface the factors that led to the Cold War were well under way and were only held in abeyance by the global conflict.

3. With this as preamble how do you deal with the Alliance breaking down in a game of Churchill along these lines. I will cover some tactical tips later, but the main point is the solution to stopping a player from following the obvious strategy of gaining points at the expense of the alliance and then actively preventing Axis surrender (e.g., Soviets make a deal with Japan who they were not at war with) is defeating the Axis and forcing the game into condition 2 and the defeat of this strategy.

4. An important skill in any multiplayer game which is no different than Churchill is you need to understand what path your alliance partners (opponents) are pursuing to win the war (game). Letting one player gain a large score advantage yields the initiative to that player. The player with a large score differential has the option to pursue a condition 1 or 3 victory, while the two other players are narrowed to pursuing condition 2 only.

5. In the circumstance where you have failed to prevent one player from gaining a large VP lead, remember the scoring in the game is zero sum, not cumulative, so that score can and should be eroded. The main response should be to focus on the war and Axis surrender thus forcing the player in the lead to modulate how they play or lose in condition 2. This is very important, if one player, usually Churchill is winning agendas and skunking the Allied effort to win the war, then focus on the war and ignore the Pol-Mil dimension until later in the game. The important point is: one player cannot prevent the other two from winning the war, unless they lose focus. Here are three examples.
a. Churchill is using his Imperial Staff national characteristic to dominate the agenda segment to stop the Second Front/USSR conditional issues while running up their Political score. The solution is to force Churchill into having to choose on his last card play the Global issue and one other relevant issue versus a conditional issue. This needs to be supported by the US giving offensive support, yes you can support any front, to get the Eastern front moving forward to ensure Germany's surrender then shifting all Soviet and US support behind defeating Japan by invasion (SW Pac best path, do not forget CBI). Neither of these front paths to Axis surrender can be stopped by a conditional issue.
b. Roosevelt has gained a big lead and is not resourcing the Pacific to avoid Axis surrender. Remember that if the UK and the USSR capture both US directed offensive and production issues the US has no say in how their 6 production are used. Applying these to the war should solve whatever military problem needs fixing.
c. Stalin has played well militarily and is the sole occupier of Germany (15 VP equal to 5 political alignment markers), has entered Korea (8 VP) and wants to freeze the military situation at this point for the win. The Soviet weakness in Pol-Mil is offset by their military advantages if played well. As I have said, you need to play well in my designs, if you are not a fan of playing well, then you will not win in my designs. The simple solution again is for the US in particular to put their production into the Far Eastern theater, build 3 naval support, place lots of offensive support markers into Japan and the Far East front invades Japan, war over, condition 2. Remember all fronts try to advance, the owning player cannot stop this, so if the owner is not helping, then resource it yourself and it happens.
d. This is not the universe of examples, but the main point is: Axis surrender can be forced, so make it happen to neuter the Condition 3 victory, no more rules or die rolls required.

6. There are several ways for a player to prevent the Axis from surrendering, here are the basic techniques for overcoming them.
a. Second Front prevention, advance the Eastern front to force German surrender.
b. USSR declares war on Japan prevention (usually UK), invade Japan via SW Pac or other. The US may have to give up the ISR points to the other two players, so try and use other player Directed offensives to have the Central Pacific keep pace.
c. Atomic bomb, this one is near impossible to stop as you can always spend 3 production to make it automatic. Remember any player can use production to advance the bomb, so this only happens if you are not paying attention.
d. Critical front is under resourced and continually fails to advance. This is the easiest to solve as the two players trying to force Axis surrender resource the front and it advances. Remember any time you have a net 4 offensive support situation (front strength of 10), the front always advances. For example the Soviet Far Eastern front will never confront more than 2 Japanese armies. If you place 6 offensive support the Far Eastern front automatically advances one space (Manchuria) with a 10% chance for a breakthrough.

7. You have to understand how the narrative in a particular game is going or you will respond too late to alter the outcome. If you fail to respond in a timely manner you will lose, play better next time by early focus on the military. If one player is spending his early activities looking for Global and Pol-Mil advantage the natural inclination is to meet force on force and fight for these key issues. At times the best solution is to push the military dimension forcing that player to have to self modulate their score or risk losing the game. This means getting directed offensive and the leadership issues on the table and then using them to win the military dimension of the game. This indirect approach is often more efficient. As I said in the beginning, the best antidote to a condition 3 victory is to defeat the Axis and win under condition 2. This is a big picture game so open your aperture on the art of the possible.

Tactical Tips

1. Churchill can be viewed as a series of rotating two-on-one encounters. Sometimes you will be in the majority and sometimes in the minority. Two players hard aligning to lock out the third is a mistake especially as the third player can still win the game. Being the junior partner in a hard alignment is automatic defeat regardless of the narrative, so be flexible in your approach.

2. Letting another player win the Global issue in conjunction with a Pol-Mil issue is a recipe for trouble. It should be obvious which player has the lead just by counting up the political alignment markers in play as this is the main path on how a player runs up a big lead. You have to have your eyes open to this situation as early as possible. If you are repeatedly missing it, score after every conference or two to maintain situation awareness. That said there are no military points until a front enters a space with red type, so until then just add up the political alignment markers, conference markers, and global pawn positions to know the basic score.

3. You can place your offensive support markers in front of ANY front, so do not be afraid to force a front to advance if it aids your strategy. Think beyond the color of the wooden blocks.

4. The way to neutralize the advantage of going last is to put multiple issues important to the agenda segment winner (often the UK) outside of their track on the last play. This forces them to make hard choices on what issues they are going to lose not on the one they are going to win. If they want to prevent Axis surrender by wrecking a conditional event, then the above military tips on front advance and the use of the now lost Global /Pol-Mil/ Directed offensive issues are more than enough compensation to win the game in condition 2.

I think I will leave it there for now, I hope these strategy primers are improving your enjoyment of the design and I cannot say this enough, thank you for playing my game.

All the best,

Mark
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Steve Carey
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In our 3P (Tournament Scenario) session last night, we saw these same principles in play.

Churchill had doubled up on VP's over both the US and USSR via Agenda wins and heavy Pol-Mil plus Global issues. The UK did not put forth the USSR Declares War on Japan issue, so Roosevelt did.

Afterwards, the US also provided Stalin with support in the Far East Theater so that the Soviets would advance into Manchuria. Trinity was also achieved.

It looked like the Soviets were going to enter Germany alone and thus gain a hold on 2nd place behind the UK. But the US got both Theater Leadership markers (plus they still had a Theater Command) and thus were able to put down 7 support tokens, 4 going to the Western Front (along with more support tokens from US production). As a result, the Western Front saw a breakthrough, so all three players ended up in Berlin together. The Emperor also surrendered. This catapulted the US past the Soviets into 2nd place.

Having broken the alliance and with both Axis powers defeated, Churchill faded away and the US emerged triumphant per Condition 2.

Through years (decades) of gaming, many of us have become used to independently scoring the most VP's possible. But Churchill is a different design that delicately balances cooperation and competition together on a tightrope. It really does require a different sort of thinking if one hopes to prevail.
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Mark Herman
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Steve Carey wrote:
In our 3P (Tournament Scenario) session last night, we saw these same principles in play.

Churchill had doubled up on VP's over both the US and USSR via Agenda wins and heavy Pol-Mil plus Global issues. The UK did not put forth the USSR Declares War on Japan issue, so Roosevelt did.

Afterwards, the US also provided Stalin with support in the Far East Theater so that the Soviets would advance into Manchuria. Trinity was also achieved.

It looked like the Soviets were going to enter Germany alone and thus gain a hold on 2nd place behind the UK. But the US got both Theater Leadership markers (plus they still had a Theater Command) and thus were able to put down 7 support tokens, 4 going to the Western Front (along with more support tokens from US production). As a result, the Western Front saw a breakthrough, so all three players ended up in Berlin together. The Emperor also surrendered. This catapulted the US past the Soviets into 2nd place.

Having broken the alliance and with both Axis powers defeated, Churchill faded away and the US emerged triumphant per Condition 2.

Through years (decades) of gaming, many of us have become used to independently scoring the most VP's possible. But Churchill is a different design that delicately balances cooperation and competition together on a tightrope. It really does require a different sort of thinking if one hopes to prevail.

I know most of the guys in your group, I figured your crowd would figure this stuff out quick.

Well done,

Mark
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Jeff Carroll
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You mention above that the Russians gain 15VP on the March to Germany. When we played the other night the two other players stated that, in another string, it was stated that you only get the VPs in the block you're in. So the most you can get is 8 VPs. I said the total should include all the VPs, up to 15.

Can you clear this up? It's hard to determine who's correct looking at the rules and player aids.

 
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Mark Herman
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Boomer1000 wrote:
You mention above that the Russians gain 15VP on the March to Germany. When we played the other night the two other players stated that, in another string, it was stated that you only get the VPs in the block you're in. So the most you can get is 8 VPs. I said the total should include all the VPs, up to 15.

Can you clear this up? It's hard to determine who's correct looking at the rules and player aids.


You and your friends are saying two different things. You are correct that you can only gain VP for the last space occupied by a Front, so the most you can get is 8VP for German surrender via Front position.

However, if you review 9.4: G + M + P you will find that:

G: 8 VP for German Surrender
M: 5 VP for USSR sole Front in Germany
P: 1 VP per Scientist (if USSR sole occupier, receive 2)

8 + 5 + 2 = 15 VPs

I hope that clears things up.

Mark
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