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Axis & Allies Pacific 1940» Forums » Sessions

Subject: How NOT to play it rss

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Benjamin Maggi
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This session report will not be the typical ones which review each country's turns, from purchasing through combat phases. Instead, it is a compilation of my thoughts on this brand new game.

First off, let me say that I am a biased player. I LOVE Axis and Allies, and because of that I might take some of its weaker points for granted (such as the long down-time, the many dice involved, the rut of usually opening moves, etc.) I own the original, and never saw a need to purchase later games (Pacific, Europe, D-Day, etc.).

Second, I am also biased in that I much prefer a nice big tank fight over a naval assault. I have played many games of the original A&A, as well as A&A: Pacific, and seen first hand how critical early blunders can ruin the game for everyone. The problems usually boiled down to this: a big build up of Japanese and American naval units with each side afraid to make the first move into the dreaded "Two-Zone" space. This means that the other allies, and axis powers, are forced to attack and defend by themselves while the USA has the luxury of making the most money and the ability to commit to a battle on their terms, if at all. Usually at the expense of the British and Australian players.

Anyways....

Set-Up:

I showed up for my monthly game-a-thon expecting to play Shogun/Samurai Swords, but an unexpected computer registration problem left me one person too many at the game. Looking around for another game to play, I saw a gentleman walk in the door with the new A&A Game [from here on out it will be referred to as "Pac40"]. Not a single person had signed up for it. I had been reading about it recently on BGG and thought it would be fun, so I signed up.

The owner was relieved that he had found someone to play his new game with, and off we went. Each nation comes in a handy storage box with the set-up instructions printed on the cover. This is extrememly convenient. And, thankfully, I didn't have to set up Japan so my eyes didn't go bug-eyed with all of the pieces that had to lay out. Each of the four other countries (USA, UK, Australian, and China) went down quickly.

After we had it set up, the GM decided to go over the rules..

Problem #1: No rule book! He had left it at home! Thankfully, he remembered enough of the rules to get it going, and not knowing them all myself I couldn't challenge him. However, he couldn't remember all of the national victory conditions (which, if accomplished, award extra money during the money-collection phase). This was disheartening.

Not wanting to have to play Japan on my first game, I said I would play the allies. That was fine until someone walked over and said matter-of-factly "I am playing USA."

Problem #2: I now had an unknown ally. He was a nice gentleman who was very familiar with A&A games, but I had no idea how he was going to play the USA. And, as mentioned above, the playing style of the USA is crucial for the other allies to survive.

In Pac40, most of the allied nations are weak, and USA is too until Japan declares war on it or turn three's collection phase. As such, I saw quickly that while I had to defend crucial areas like India and Australia, my income came mostly from small islands between these two areas. My two countries (Australia and UK) didn't start off with many ships, so taking and holding these islands would be difficult.

Still, the game started off well and I saved quite a bit of money as during the first two turns I was not being pressured to attack agressively. Islands were taken, and India slowly worked on the "Burma Road." The USA/Chinese player kept insisting I take Burma, even though in the first two turns everything else fell to Japan. He got really annoying, wanting me to risk lots of units including planes to ensure that he recieved his $5 extra a turn.

When Japan finally attacked on turn #3, it was a critical point in the game. He managed to retake all of my islands, cutting off my income severly and making it nearly impossible to reclaim them. Leading to:

Problem #3: By the end of turn 3 I was making under $20 for the UK and $10 for Australia and it never went up from there throughout the game. I was poor. Thus, the country that is in close contact with Japan had little funds to devote to new units once my initial cash was spent. Thankfully, I had saved most of my money from turns 1 and 2 so I could spend a lot on some units to fight back. However...

Problem #4: My ally wouldn't make up his mind. I wanted to spend most of UK's money on tanks and ground troops to go after Japan on the continent, realizing that any navy I built wouldn't hold its own against Japan's, which was parked right nearby me. My ally, however, insisted I purchase lots of ships because "we have to fight their navy... we need a two-area battle (meaning, on land and on water.) He suggested I purchase a battleship, several destroyers, and I added some transports to help take over the islands.

China kept on yelling at me throughout the game to take Burma, and told me to not buy the tanks, but then decided that as the UK I made a mistake in not purchasing land units and thus I caused us to lose. He might have been right, but who knows... Anyway, China fell due to his bad rolling, Japan killing us with its sheer number of units, and my purchase of naval units instead of ground units.

Problem #5: My navy lasted all of one turn. Japan, feeling no pressure at all from the USA even through turn 5, kept right on hitting me with everything it had. With my navy gone and no source of steady income, I could never retake the islands without the USA's help. (We will get to that later).

I played a survival game, holding out waiting for help from the USA to open up a second front, but by turn 7 it never happened. At this point, the UK was holding India and nothing else, Australia held its mainland but no other islands, and the USA was still trying to figure out what to do. At the same time, he was quite happy to tell me all the ways I screwed up the game. Argggh!

This type of thing is exactly why I hate A&A:Pacific games. I made lots of mistakes and there is no arguing that, but I hate how the USA can do what it wants with tons of money and play it safe, staying out of the way of Japan. He was making $60 plus a turn, while my two countries combined were earning $24. And yet he wouldn't move his naval units in to engage the Island of Japan, wouldn't send any south towards Australia, and certainly didn't try to attack Japan's two navies. In fact, he wanted to hang out at Hawaii, and then let me beat them back towards him.

Problem #6: I think that the game is flawed in that once a nation gets into a losing way it is very difficult to get out of it. Unlike the original A&A, where there are plenty of decisions to make and several ways to try and come back (partly because the gameboard is smaller, and countries are closer together and able to open up more fronts easier), in this game I felt boxed in and helpless. Britain cannot attack out of India until turn 3, and by then Japan has them walled in pretty well. Australia also has this dilemma, and nearly all of Japan's naval units are within striking distance of Australia's islands and mainland, making it risky to move them away to engage in a part of Japan's split navy. Meaning, like in real life, you need to depend on the USA for help.

Problem #7: The game isn't much fun for more then 3 people. Playing Japan and USA are fun, and the third can take UK/Australia, but if those last two were divided up the game would feel a lot weaker for those players. There just isn't that much to do, and not a lot of money to do anything with. From the time we started setting up the game until the time I was able to roll my first die, 2 hours and 25 minutes had elapsed.! About 20 minutes was set-up, and about 10 minutes was additional rules explaination (we covered rules during set-up too), and the rest was waiting. Taking empty islands was sort of fun, but not much. Too much waiting.

Problem #8: Luck. Sure, every game of A&A has it, and this version is no exception. However, for Australia and UK combined I scored fourteen (14) hits total. This includes my own attacks on Japan, my defending their attacks, AND my last-turn valiant suicide attacks with everything I had. Fourteen hits total. I have never rolled so many fives and sixes in my life. It was horrible. Two of those hits were AA guns defending against planes, and two of those hits were from infantry. That means that ten of those hits came from my infantry, artillery, battleships, planes, destroyers, etc. Fourteen hits. And, several were on either carriers or battleships, which meant that they weren't "true" losses. Sigh.

I take my turns quickly, and it is much easier when there aren't many units that can do anything (unfortunately), but compared to the others my moves took about 15% of the game. Japan took forever because it had lots of moves to make. USA took forever for some unknown reason. In fact, on his last turn I told him I was going suicidal just to end the game and pointed to where my units were attacking. He, instead, took 30 minutes (I timed him) debating whether he should forfeit the game or move down his navy to protect Australia. He chose the later despite me telling him that this was the last turn. Thus, he never ONCE in 8 turns attacked the Japanses navy head on. I did, lost everything, but felt like a true warrior. I had given it my all.

Final Thoughts:
I had a great time playing even though it was clear I was going to lose. I admit I was hindered by inexperience in proper strategy for these two countries (but it was my first game), terrible dice rolls, and no support (either in strategy advice or unit support), but despite that I still enjoyed the experience of playing. I would never buy it myself, as I prefer the spheres of war that were in Europe as opposed to Asia, but would play again if offered.

The production of the game from what I saw was top notch. I would much have preferred more plastic units then chits for things like AA guns and Factories, and it would have been easier to print the naval and air bases on the board then use chits (but perhaps they did it this way in case different scenarios are released in the future), but I thought that many things were great. Considering that the older A&A: Pacific is still out there, $90 is too much for me for a game that can be purchased for $30 and which gives 85% of this game.

But, the idea of combining this game with the new Europe one sounds fun! We did this with the older games years ago and it worked out fine, so this one with four giant boards will be amazing. And take even longer to play.

I hope that everyone who enjoys A&A games gives this one a try, even if it means waiting for the price to drop. If you like the Pacific games you will really like it. Otherwise, it will be another A&A game (yawn) which you can still get a lot out of. Personally, I am waiting for them to draw railroad lines on the board which let you bomb railway bridges, and let you purchase trains to transport troops faster. THAT will be the A&A game for me!

EDIT: Spelling corrections
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Eric Larson
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I don't think AAP:1940 is a 3 or 4 player game. It really is just a two player game with the allie player have different colored units.

AA50 works with 6 players (Italy is fun). I'm guessing that AAE:1940 will not be much fun for the French to play either (speed bump).

I suggest you try it again with:
the rulebook
only two players
 
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Jan Ozimek
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Thanks for the report.

It seems like most of your problems were not caused by the game design itself, but rather the circumstances under which you played the game.

Edit: Submitted prematurely by mistake.

Many new players seem to get the impression that Japan is far too strong in this game. After a few games however it becomes more balanced. I think it is more difficult to play the Allies, or at least not as obvious what the best moves are.
It is very difficult to utilize the US forces in the first 3-4 turns, and it's bery important that you don't get caught out of position. You have to be very patient with the US, so your ally may not have played poorly even if you didn't seem to get a lot of help.
 
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Benjamin Maggi
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Quote: It seems like most of your problems were not caused by the game design itself, but rather the circumstances under which you played the game. I couldn't have agreed more, which is why I tried to praise the game itself, and point out through the faults/problems listed how they were usually caused by the humans, and not the game design.

Still, the downtime was tremendous. So much so that I was able to watch other games, watch my wife get pulled into a WWII miniatures game (now SHE wants to play! :D), enjoy my dinner, and get back in time to see Japan still half-way through planning its moves.

While I was/am inexperienced, so were the two people I was playing with. However, there is no getting past the fact that by turn 2 Japan had nearly its entire navy in striking distance of Australia and India... making my moves VERY dangerous. And while I will agree that I must be patient with the US, if they are not going to attack aggressively by turn 8 (despite watching my strategic mistakes, despite watching my income dwindle to nothing, and despite watching my poor dice rolls) then there is something to be said about being TOO patient.

Certainly, if FOUR people are playing then I would suggest that two be Japan and work together, with one being the "Admiral" and the other a "General" controlling the land units. Splitting the allies up under 3 people's control will leave 3 people feeling as if they got the short end of the stick.

Still, for those who enjoy the Pacific versions of A&A, they will probably love everything about this game but the cost.

*Edited: Had problem with the quotes.
 
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Bill Eldard
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Benjamin Maggi wrote:
I own the original, . . .


You own the NOVA Games edition?





 


 
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Benjamin Maggi
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Sorry, I meant I own the original VERSION, not the original EDITION, of Axis and Allies. That is quite the edition that you posted a picture of!
 
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Jeff Smith
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Good report. I received AAP:40 as a Christmas present and haven't had a chance to bring it to the table with an opponent yet, but have done a couple of solo run-thrus to get a feel for the game. Yes, if the USA sits back and waits for the 'perfect time' to strike at Japan, Japan will probably win. The USA needs to be aggresive; send reinforcements to Guam, Wake, the Philipines and Midway. The air bases on those islands manned by fighter and tac bomber pairs and maybe a strategic bomber can make the Pacific a dangerous place for the Japanese navy. The three turns before the USA DOW can be used to shift forces where they will be of use once the war starts, getting Hawaii properly defended, and makeing sure that naval forces will be ready to keep the Japanese away from the west coast. A USA player needs to realize he is going to loose some ships and planes but can always replace them quickly.

The UK and ANZACs have a much more challenging situation. They need to carefully plan purchases and keep the Japanese off balance while not getting locked into a major battle if it can be helped. So far, it seems to me that it's very difficult to keep the Burma road open so China gets its bonus and can buy arty. If the Chinese can keep the Flying Tigers and get one or two artillery units, they can force Japan to concentrate on them, giving the UK and ANZACs a chance to hold back the Japanese.

It really didn't help that your "ally" basicly sat the war out and blamed you for getting wiped out from a comfy spot on the eastern side of the game board. Not much fun.

It sounds like you weren't using the national objectives from the rules. I haven't played any of the releases since Axis and Allies first came out, so I don't know if they are new. A country gets bonus income for holding certain territory. The effect is a nice bonus for Japan, but for the ANZACs the 5 IPC bonus makes a difference. If you play again, I highly recommend having the rules handy. They seem to have changed a good bit since the '80s.
 
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Benjamin Maggi
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It is true that we did not have the rules, and while the GM tried his best to remember all of the national objectives he couldn't recall them all. Even if he had, for the UK/Australia they mostly revolved around the islands.... and once Japan had its navy in the middle of them by turn 3, taking them was off the table.

By "Flying Tigers" do you mean the American fighters? If so, China only gets one to start off with, and cannot build more. Nor can it build artillery units. It can ONLY build infantry, (at least according to the GM's recollection of the rules).
 
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Jeff Smith
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Yes, by 'Flying Tigers' I mean the one US fighter the Chinese start with. Sorry to not be clear. It helps to use it carefully to keep it in the game as long as possible. True, they can't build another but having it really helps the Chinese.

As far as artillery goes, as long as the Burma road is open the Chinese get bonus IPCs (5, if I remember correctly) and can get artillery. Chinese infantry in the far western territories with a fighter and a couple of artillery units can force Japan to divert significant forces or to spend IPCs on land units vice air/naval units early in the game. But keeping the Burma oad open? No easy tactic I've come up with yet.
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Eric V
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Yow...going into a new game with out the rulebook is rough. The extra 5 IPC Anzac receives for the New Guinea island group is huge, and if Japan contests it, they need to split off their Navy and transports from the Dutch East Indies. Britain is simply in for a rough time any way you cut it (they've been reduced to an infantry power in our games, with very little exception).

I do agree that there really shouldn't be any more then three players, and even with three, we usually break it down to, US, Japan, and everyone else.

 
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John M
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Though quite different from the standard idea of a review, I really liked it - refreshing. Thanks for the write up.
 
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Benjamin Maggi
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Viracocha wrote:
Though quite different from the standard idea of a review, I really liked it - refreshing. Thanks for the write up.


Thanks. Actually, I listed it categorically as a "Session Report," but being my first impressions of the game it kind of became both. Since the game didn't work for me, BUT because I think it was my/other player's fault and not the game itself, I tried to keep it away from a "This game is broken/lousy/over-rated" type of review.
 
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James Smith
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How did u lose as the allies, that USA player must have been retarded, it's so easy to win as the allies. USA builds just planes and ships and practically destroys Japanese navy whilst threateaning the home island, so Japan hs to spend just about all of it's resources stopping USA, therefore any early and pretty big (admitted) gains made against China, Uk (and maybe ANZAC if Japan has luck and skill) and so Japan will reach the height of it's power with only 5 cities and then can't go on.
 
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Benjamin Maggi
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LolLol wrote:
How did u lose as the allies, that USA player must have been retarded, it's so easy to win as the allies.


There are so many things wrong with this statement alone that I need to break it down into portions:

1. How did I lose as the allies? That is simply explained above, and consisted of me not knowing the best strategy for a BRAND NEW game, coupled with incomplete/missing rules including the set-up rule corrections, and made even worse by terrible die roles. I suspect that were you in my chair under the same conditions, rolling "boxcars" as much as I was, that you would lose too!

2. that USA player must have been retarded. I think he was overly cautious, but I don't like to use the term "retarded" as an adjective. Political-correctness notwithstanding, even if he played terrible strategy (which I suspect had something to do with it) it was his FIRST time playing the game too! There is something to be said for trying out strategies during your first play through. In a game someone is bound to lose, and it doesn't necessarily make them a retard.

3. Its so easy to win as the allies. Huh? Have you read any of the other threads in the reviews/sessions sections. The overwhelming belief is that if one side is biased towards victory, it is NOT the allies. Whether this is in fact true or not, there is so much publicly stated difficulty with winning as the Allies that either your games involving the Japanese person rolling terrible, not playing agressive at all, or you playing solo and knowing exactly what Japan will do so you can counter it. Get real! The Allies might be able to win, but "easily" is the wrong adjective!

4. With your user name/nickname as "LOLLOL" I am either assuming that your posting above was designed to be funny (which it wasn't) or serious in nature (which then makes your uninformed, unrealistic and biased statements actually funny).
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Eric V
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I think when you first start playing the game it's easy to see Japan as an unstopable juggernaut. However, they really just cannot be everywhere at once, and so as a consequence they risk being defeated in detail. Japan has to maintain a land war vs two foes, they need more transports then their starting three, and their navy is only about two rounds of production ahead of the US. Then on top of that the Anzac forces are nipping at their heels in the South Pacific. Play the game (correctly) a few more times, I think you'll see it's alot more balanced then some of the more vocal posters here say.
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Benjamin Maggi
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gwlachmai wrote:
I think when you first start playing the game it's easy to see Japan as an unstopable juggernaut. However, they really just cannot be everywhere at once, and so as a consequence they risk being defeated in detail. Japan has to maintain a land war vs two foes...


They fall victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia"
 
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James Smith
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come on really it's so easy as the USA, my friend was the allies and it's pretty easy to work out what the USA must do or this guy was trying to lose on purpose, and how did u find out my login and LolLol is just easy to remember, i don't know what sort of allied opponents you were playing against. Japan can win, not saying that it can't but such a margin of defeat for the allies is quite laughable and actually a lot of the posts on this site are about how on Earth Japan can win. Also i'm quite new to a&a pacific 1940 but really you don't have to be quite personal (my login, why does that have to get involved?)
 
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Benjamin Maggi
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James,
Right under your name on the left of your posts, and right above the UK's flag and the mail envelope, is your username in Blue in parenthesis. Regarding the rest of your message, apparently when we both read the other posts on this forum we came to different conclusions.
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James Smith
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yeah probs lol i didn't mean retard maybe n00b i guess i'm a retard for not spotting that LolLol
 
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James Smith
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the hitler videos were about how on earth the allies can win, but there's a few like "give japan a chance" and most comments being about 60% (possibly more) in favour of the allies
 
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