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Subject: Consensus on Balance (Air Marshals Expansion) rss

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Steve S
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What's the general view on balance with the Air Marshals Expansion?

Here's our group's experience.
We have played 4-5 times. At first, of course, the course of the game is heavily defined by players' experience (both with this game and with wargames in general). So at that point it is difficult to even argue about 'balance'- rather, understanding the course of the game, standard wargame behavior, etc are really going to swing the results (ex: a player who isn't really familiar with wargaming will really be ineffective-and essentially kill the game for his team, given that as 1/3 of the alliance, he is taking himself out of the game to a large degree. This is to be expected).

But we have reached the point that everyone in the group of six players 'gets' the game to a pretty decent degree. We don't all have deck knowledge, and I (as an experienced wargamer) can still see mistakes on the other players' part (mistakes, again, related to their inexperience as wargamers, ability to define the key point, etc etc). But the mistakes in the last few games have really been minor: our games have been three decent (not expert) players against three decent (not expert) players. Furthermore, those games have had reasonable card draw luck-not great, not horrible, but players have had opportunities to do well.

And the last few games have followed roughly the same path: Axis get an early lead of 10-15 points, and slowly lose it to the American juggernaut, so that the Allies win an automatic victory (30 points) in the last 1/3 of the game.

I could well imagine the Axis doing better with better card draws (ex: Japanese can rack up alot of points with the perfect card combination. There are other examples as well). But outside of exceptional luck, the general trend seems to be settling into what I've just described.

Agree, disagree? What are your experiences?

Steve
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Jim O'Neill (Established 1949)
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SDawg wrote:
...Agree, disagree? What are your experiences?
Steve

Hi Steve,

My group has not had that experience. Admittedly, the results are about 60%/40% in favour of the Allies. One of the key points for the Axis is to let your strongest player play Japan.

We have been playing with all expansions lately and the results are about even, so maybe it's time to invest in Quartermaster General: Alternate Histories; I personally believe that this is the best way to play the game.

I don't know if this helps much, but best wishes with the game.

Regards,


Jim

Est. 1949

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Yury T
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I have similar feeling about game balance. The Axis should play almost perfect and Allies can allow some mistakes and still get the victory.

Here is my absolutely unofficial solution how to fix Allies advantage

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1650262/buffing-axis-team-u...
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James Hamilton
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I think the base game is slightly in favour of the Allies and Air Marshall is actually pretty even.
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Peter Bakija
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Hammy wrote:
I think the base game is slightly in favour of the Allies and Air Marshall is actually pretty even.


I think with Air Marshal, the game is certainly more balanced than just the base game, but I think the game is still modestly tilted in the direction of the Alliance.

Without Air Marshal, the game tends to go (in my experience), like, 2-1 for the Allies.

With Air Marshal, the game tends to go (in my experience), like, 3-2 for the Allies.

The big issue, as I see it, is that the Axis can really *only* win with the +30 VP victory condition (in either version of the game); the Allies can win by +30 sudden death *or* by making it to T20; if the game gets to T20, it is *super* unlikely that the Axis can win (I have seen one or two games in, like, 100+ where the Axis won the game at the end of T20 by having a VP edge), as the Allies are going to bomb them out of cards and into negative VPs if the game goes that long. The Axis needs to win by +30 sudden death by about T12 or so, or they are done. I mean, like, it might take till the end of T20 for it to stick, but I have seen too many games to count that look like the Axis have a chance in the last few turns, but then seeing them get bombed into "lose" on T19 or T20.

Air Marshal helps a lot, as it gives the Axis a lot more tricksiness early in the game, to get their leg up and keep it up. But if the Axis is unlucky at all early in the game (Blitzkrieg gets Enigma-ed as soon as it hits the table; Japan doesn't see some important responses early; Italy flounder around), it can easily become derailed and just never come back. The Allies have the ability to slow play and have some early set backs, and they can still rally and win in the endgame. The Axis? Not so much.
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Witch Lord
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My own personal experience/opinion:

Base game: Moderate advantage for the Allies;

Air Marshal: Very significant advantage for the Allies. In my group we felt the need for house rules to try and obtain a better balance.

Alternate Histories: Pretty well balanced. Slight avantage for the Axis in 6-player games, slight advantage for the Allies in 2-player games. Overall I'm very satisfied with the balance in AH.

I also did find a very significant advantage for the Allies in the few games I've played using the constructed deck format, but I do need to test it more.
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Mark Turner
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It seems that people who play this game a lot, with experienced groups, find the expanded game to be balanced. My experience is that for groups without experienced players - as in, without many games under their belt, and a good knowledge of all the cards - axis is far less forgiving than the allies of anything less than optimal play.

It has been said that the best games are balanced for the highest level of play. I agree in principle - it's great when a game effectively gets better as you get better, revealing its secrets over time - but in practice, convincing a group of people to play this game regularly enough to reach a level of parity can be a challenge. For less experienced groups, I would strongly suggest giving the axis a starting point advantage. And as someone else said, always give Japan to the most experienced player. Giving a new player Japan is a sure route to a rapid alliance victory.
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Jim F
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Good news on the alternate history's front then as I have held fire on this so far.

My experience of Air Marshalls was that it made a better game and improved balance.
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Witch Lord
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Ashiefan wrote:

Good news on the alternate history's front then as I have held fire on this so far.

My experience of Air Marshalls was that it made a better game and improved balance.


I agree 100% that Air Marshal made the game better.

Alternate Histories makes it even better still, and by a lot - I wholeheartedly recommend it.
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Peter Bakija
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Witch Lord wrote:
Air Marshal: Very significant advantage for the Allies. In my group we felt the need for house rules to try and obtain a better balance.


I still haven't found this to be the case--why do you think Air Marshal specifically props the Allies up even more?

From where I stand, the air forces help the Axis stay alive in Europe longer, and they have extra cards to give them VP boosts and extra actions, both of which help them with early momentum. I mean, yeah, if they never see them, they don't help. But having a few momentum gains in an opening hand (Golden Square Coup, Imperial Japanese Navy or Island Fortresses) can go a long way towards picking up quick VPs. I mean, yeah, the UK get Keep Calm and Carry On and a couple US Bolsters are nuts, but in general, the Axis got better stuff from Bolsters, and I think on the whole, air forces help the Axis more than not.
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Witch Lord
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bakija wrote:
I still haven't found this to be the case--why do you think Air Marshal specifically props the Allies up even more?


The meta in my group has gravitated towards a consistent strategy where the Allies end up more or less neglecting Asia and just race towards Europe as quickly as possible.

In our environment, Germany and Italy only have 3 turns to develop their game and/or think about expanding to the East before getting pummeled from two sides, by 3 countries.

So yes, in our particular games, Keep Calm and Carry On is a very frustrating for the German player, who spends 80% of the game being starved for tempo already anyway.

Also, in our games, the only bolsters that really help the Continental European powers are Ju-87, Me-109, Macchi C.202 and situationally Cloud Cover.

The Allies OTOH get Keep Calm, Bletchley Park, Operation Banquet, Our Philosophy of Government and Rangers... and their biggest advantage is how much more survivable the Soviets have become with Fortress Rebuilt, Battle for Moscow, Zhukov drives West, Paratroops and Asian Reserves.

Also, the 3 Allied powers get a total of 6 Air Forces and 9 Deploy Air Force cards, vs. 3 Air Forces and 5 Deploy cards.

I don't presume that this is true for everybody, but in my group we more or less all agree that AH has brought much needed balance over the Ally-heavy bias of AM.
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Peter Bakija
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Witch Lord wrote:
The meta in my group has gravitated towards a consistent strategy where the Allies end up more or less neglecting Asia and just race towards Europe as quickly as possible.


I don't think that is a particular to your group--I think the overall strategy of "ignore Japan" is pretty much just the winning strategy most of the time (which seems to be changed in AH, so that is something). Japan getting 6-8 VPs a turn isn't enough to make up for Europe getting flattened.

That being said, that is true of the base game as well, and I don't know that AM makes this dynamic *worse* for the Axis. On the other hand, I think a lot of cards in AM help in this regard (as do air forces themselves).
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Karsten Engelmann
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Our experiences have been that the allies do have an advantage in AM.

I have only played AH with two plyers. In a two playr game the allies won 11 out of 12. And the 12th only because the germans were dealt Landkeuisere, Blitzkrieg, and Bias for action with no Enigma card for the brits.
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Witch Lord
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I played two games today (1 on 1, both as the Axis).

The first one started with the Allies taking the lead points-wise (around +15 VP after turn 4). I built up Japan as a point factory (I was scoring 10 VP/turn at the end, and then some with the economic warfare cards) while basically just turtling up in Europe. I caught up and peaked around turn 16 with an advantage of about 25 VP. Then I lost Western Europe, Germany was bombed out of cards, and the Allies reversed the score during turn 20. I would have won at the end of turn 19.

The second game saw me take an early lead in points, with Germany intermittently taking Ukraine while Italy was throwing everything at the defense of Western Europe. I carved out a 30 VP victory on the very turn that the US completely cleared Europe. I would have totally imploded if the game had lasted another turn.

Most of my games (with AH) play out on a razor's edge like this. It makes for a very tense and exciting experience.
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Dave Martin
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Witch Lord wrote:
My own personal experience/opinion:

Base game: Moderate advantage for the Allies;

Air Marshal: Very significant advantage for the Allies. In my group we felt the need for house rules to try and obtain a better balance.

Alternate Histories: Pretty well balanced. Slight avantage for the Axis in 6-player games, slight advantage for the Allies in 2-player games. Overall I'm very satisfied with the balance in AH.

I also did find a very significant advantage for the Allies in the few games I've played using the constructed deck format, but I do need to test it more.


I very much agree with this analysis, and our games record would bear that out.

We've played about 100 games over the what, now 3 years? And we've recorded most games - which I do not have in front of me right now, but it goes something like:

Basic:

Allies - 22 Axis - 18


Air Marshal:

Allies - 23 Axis - 12


Alternate Histories:

Allies - 13 Axis - 12


We have not tried the 'make your own deck' version.

It should be noted, however, that each expansion makes the game take longer.



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Jon Evans
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Hi Sorry to open up this thread again but myself and my regular opponent are really struggling with the balance in AH after about 10 games (we have lots of basic game experience and some AM experience). There are clearly other people who have have also struggled eg Karsten but then several people who are finding it balanced eg Dave Martin/ Witchlord etc.

Based on this, I guess this is an appeal for help. We have been giving the Axis a 4 point lead but still find that the Allies typically dominate each game. There is the odd game where the Axis make a good start but the predominence of strong Allied cards always reels them back in. From our perspective the Allies have too many sources of easy new supply points Australia, India, Canada, Africa, Schezuan. The Axis have none. Allies can neutralise Axis status with 'Enigma' and 'Flexible Resources' always seems have a strong effect.The Axis don't seem too have similar options and are too dependent on a good starting draw.

My conclusion is we must be missing some significant Axis tactics. Please can people share how the Axis consistently competes with an average card draw.
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Yury T
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My variant is to give Axis team some starting statuses:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1650262/buffing-axis-team-u...
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Jon Evans
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Thanks. Interesting idea.
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