This is a classic case where if Germany could have been defeated the UK would have lost.
Thanks for hanging in there and posting a great narrative.
That was exactly our conclusion! Because we didn't understand the victory conditions, it negatively affected our play. Here are some, but not all, of ours misplays:
1) USA and USSR sandbagged on the first card. I think this was one of our biggest mistakes. USA won one conference, and had I understood the game a bit earlier the USSR could have won one (more?) but for poor coordination in one conference.
2) USA draws were rough. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that I tossed an average of 25 points away every time. For sure there were at least three times that I tossed at least three 5 point negotiators. I also agree with Paul that my dice rolling was horrible. Roosevelt died on his second use and Truman only had 4 points of power three times!
3) My inability to read understand the charts DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF ME meant that I was too lackadaisical against Japan. I didn't understand that by not pushing through the Philippines I'd lose points. I also lost points because I did push the Central Pacific (which WAS harder to get through) too far. BTW Japan killed 2 fleets and only had one fleet die in 4 sorties. Not statistically huge, but added salt to my self-inflicted cuts.
4) Lack of total trust between USA and USSR at the end. A huge push by the Soviets at the end could have secured Soren the win, as stated above. But since we didn't understand that, the USA was still trying to "take points away from Churchill." The final losing strategy.
I'm sure there are other things as well. But these are the basics. I DON'T think that the poor personnel who attended the Conferences were a game changer. But they did cause me to be frustrated by their lack of professionalism and made my bad decisions easier to make. :-p
It is a great game, and I intend on giving Paul a better run for his money.
Oh, one last point, the sides were chosen randomly!