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Subject: Thoughts on strategy after 20 games rss

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John Clark
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I’ve now got around 20 games of QMG in, mostly two player games, so am forming some views on strategy.

As many players have reported, it is difficult for the Axis to win – I think they have won 2 or 3 times in total. Today I nearly got an Axis win. They got to 29 points but then the Allies took Germany and Italy for the immediate win. It’s the closest the Axis has got for quite a while.

The dominant Allied strategy is to ignore Japan so the US helps the UK and Soviet Union to defeat Germany and Italy. The Allies will pick up India and/or Australia to keep the points pressure on, and Germany and Italy will run out of Builds and Battle cards well before the Allies will. Atlantic Wall does not help the Axis in the long run. The Allies will gladly discard three cards to attack and once they have a foothold in Western Europe, with the Soviets pressuring in the East, the game is over.

Even if everything goes well for Japan, they just cannot get enough points per turn to win it for the Axis. A lot of the time things don’t go well for Japan, however. They keep losing China to Allied cards, or key Japan cards don’t turn up at the right time to turn them into a points machine.

This is not to say that the Allies can’t win if the US attacks Japan – they can. Its just that the ‘ignore Japan’ strategy is more reliable for the Allies.

Today I tried a different tack. It was clear that the Allies player was going to usual path – ignore Japan. He got an early Australia army so the UK had some points potential. Japan simply built armies in Vladivostok and Siberia to pressure Moscow. Italy and Germany also headed there and, thanks to some good card draws (and some unlucky Soviet draws), took and held Moscow for the remainder of the game. Japan being involved was important.

What happened next? There was an almighty struggle for Western Europe. USA and UK fought hard with both Italy and Germany and eventually prevailed. Japan, having put so much effort into their Russian campaign, had very limited scoring potential and eeked out three points per turn for most of the rest of the game. Once US got into Western Europe the bombing cards hit hard and Italy ended with no cards and Germany very few.

Although the Axis got awfully close to winning, they did have pretty good card draws for most of the game. Japan got its Build Army and Land Battle cards early, and Germany started with the card which does two builds – very powerful. Italy also found its Build/Battle cards early. Germany was hampered a bit with Blitzkrieg being near the bottom of the deck, but Bias For Action was out reasonably early and proved troublesome for the Allies until the inevitable Enigma play.

Where does that leave me? Right now I think that the Axis can win but need a very good card draw and a poor draw for the Allies. It would be interesting to know if Germany and Italy could have vanquished the Soviets without Japanese help – perhaps so but it would have taken several more turns and then the UK/US landings would have happened.

Axis are probably not going to win the game after 20 rounds – if it goes that long then the US juggernaut will have done its thing. The Axis have to squeak out a points win after ten or so turns.

I am still inclined to think that ‘ignore Japan’ is the best option for the Allies. The question is what the Axis should do to respond, assuming that Japan cannot score the points to win. If US/UK draw poorly and are slow in getting into Western Europe then the Axis might be able to get a points win, from Italy bonus points and Germany holding off the Soviets, but its rarely happened in my games. The Axis needs to be bolder.

There are a few key questions. First, where does Japan build its first army? The conservative option is China, to get the points going. I don’t think that’s the best play now. Iwo Jima is probably better. Japan’s best possible start is the Response card which allows the building of two armies adjacent to the Navy: Build Navy, Response card, Build Navy in North Pacific and armies in Iwo Jima and Hawaii. This threatens Western United States, which is tough to do, but it would be enough to make the US think twice about going all-in to Europe. Japan’s job is to keep the US occupied.

Of course, Japan could use the two-army build response later in the game to take Hawaii/Western US, but he must find that card at some stage. Japan does not have enough Build Armies otherwise.

The second key question is which Axis nation takes Western Europe on turn one. I think it has to be Germany – the bombing cards require a unit adjacent to North Sea and that is the easiest option. But that leaves the East front terribly undefended and the Soviets getting a turn ahead there is bad for Germany, so Italy is forced to depart from its ‘natural’ inclination towards Africa to help Germany defend. If Germany can get Bias For Action or Blitzkrieg or the double-army build card early then that helps but if they don’t turn up then its difficult. I have tried Italy taking Western Europe on turn one but just doesn’t work in terms of Italy’s deck. I really think that its best if Germany takes it and perhaps Italy as well a little later – its that crucial.

I am here working on the basis that bombing the UK is pretty important. I’ve gone a lot better when the bombing cards have been played. The UK can easily get under card pressure with a couple of three card discards, especially if they are Build Army or Land Battle cards.

The third question is when (if any time) should Germany try the Scandinavian route. I have not seriously attempted it and it seems awfully difficult to pull off but the rewards are decent. It has to require a German Navy in the Baltic, which means Italy needs to keep the UK Navy under pressure from the Mediterranian, which means taking North Africa early. But the Soviets are not just sitting around doing nothing. The sequence of moves to make it happen seems too unlikely, and if the Soviets are that impotent then you would probably do better attacking them direct anyway. The Scandinavian option won’t happen if the US goes straight to Europe, which happens in all my games anyway.

OK, in terms of strategy, the Allies have a pretty decent option from the start – attack Europe with everything. The Axis really have to play the cards they are dealt, which will vary from game to game. If the US ignores Japan then Japan needs to discard very aggressively to find the cards to put pressure on the US and UK, or perhaps the Soviets.

I’m not that hopeful for the Axis, but they are good fun to play with. I think that with good card play, and particularly good discarding decisions, they can do better than I have found so far, but they do need to find the right cards quickly.
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Roger Bartels
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What are your thoughts on the revised rules for ending the game? According to the new rules included in the Air Marshals expansion, you cannot win the game by controlling two home spaces; you have to win on points, either a 30+ lead at the end of a turn or the greater amount at the end of the game. With this in mind, how do the Axis Powers fare?
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Witch Lord
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In my opinion, it doesn't matter all that much. If one team manages to get 2 of its home spaces occupied, 99% of the time they're going to lose by points anyway.
 
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Adam Kazimierczak
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With the base game only I agree that it the Axis loses a lot. Obviously others don't think so and the designer has given some strategy advice to try and balance things (the best advice was Japan auto-triggering response cards), but that does not change the fact that with multiple groups my copy of Quartermaster General has NEVER seen an Axis win. Ever.

Now I play this as an exclusively 6 player game and all other players new to the game or one or two plays in. I understand the balance and the Axis strategies, but they are so fragile.

I'm not saying that the Allies need to be nerfed, but the fragility of the Axis strategy combined with the dominance of US ignoring Japan has made many games of QG hinge on one suboptimal play or not being able to draw one card for the Axis. It just seems like the more I play, the less viable strategies there seem to be.
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Mus Rattus
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This has been my experience as well.
When first teaching the game, I had a few victories playing as the Axis. In those games the US had gone for Japan, and I as Germany had been able to either flatten the USSR or at least corner them, and fend off Britain.

In latter games I suggested that the US player go for a Europe First (really, Europe Only) strategy, and I haven't seen an Axis win since.

I've got the expansions on the way, and I hope some combination of them will make a difference.

I'll also try suggesting that Japan try to threaten USSR, if that might make a difference.
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Witch Lord
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Japan can even help out in Europe, via India, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
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Marc Nelson Jr.
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The expansions do balance things out.

If you're sticking with just the base game, I would suggest implementing the 30-point rule and bidding for sides.
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Michael Drog
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I would say the balance of the game is better if played with 6 vs 2. Less perfectly known synergy between countries of the same team balances the outcome better
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