Axis and Allies Classic: Remembering the Soviet Union

AAClassic-RussiaChoosing to command the Soviet Union during a session of Axis and Allies Classic, was a brave choice.

We take a look back at the excitement, dangers, and the early decisions that made playing the Soviet Union so challenging.   As soon discovered, there was no such thing as balanced and fairness.

Only the United Kingdom was more unpopular than the Soviets in choice which power to play.  The fact that someone had to go first was the only incentive to reluctantly choose the power that would most likely exit the game first.    I describe the role of the Soviet Union, in game mechanics, as a slow fuse.  It is a non-linear countdown when the Russian Army leaves the battlefield.  The longer the fuse burns, the longer they are in the game.  They depend on their allies to pull Germany and Japan from encroaching Moscow.

The player choosing the Soviets shows initiative and not mind being the underdog with little resources.  They don’t want to be burdened with both a ground and naval strategies.  They thrive on fighting for survival.   Their contribution to the game is merely existing.  The player will be fighting for respect and there is a little boasting knowing the theme of the game depends on how his or her dice rolls.

The political situation
A powerful German front is on the verge of pushing closer into the Motherland.  Meanwhile, to the far east, Japanese troops are making maneuvers out of Manchuria.  The German threat is immediate and definite, while Japan’s motives are unclear.  The Soviets are offered two strategies.  How to engage Germany now?  How much to invest in keeping Japan far away.

Purchasing units
With 24 IPC, the Soviet Union’s most always invests in infantry.  Its a matter if they should splurge on armor.   The first round is about buying time since a German counter-attack is not only presumed but necessary for the Axis.  They never invest in naval units, bombers, and only the reckless would consider spending 12 on a fighter wing so early.

Having a new armor unit gives them a rare option to race east for combat if Japan happens to be lazy and not stage an aggressive strategy there.  Otherwise, its a risky and expensive gamble waiting for the Soviets having an opportunity for a second offensive.

In denial, the Firewall strategy
Firewall, rarely used, is simply moving reinforcements into existing positions to the front line.  The advantages are reserving your infantry and fighter wings with the higher probability to roll a hit.  The hope is to survive combat and capable of reinforcement the next round.  Unfortunately, the strategy won’t hold up considering German reinforcements outnumber the Soviets.  Without an attempt to thin their armies, Germany will begin their round unblemished at full strength.

I Cry Ukraine!  The Smash maneuver
The smash maneuver has the Soviet army pushing the German line back giving breathing room, specifically Ukraine.   The success of the strategy is graded how far away the nearest German unit is.  If the Soviet power feels aggressive, they’ll wage combat in Eastern Europe, but the odds are not in their favor splitting forces to equal the prowess of Germany.

Outflank the enemy!
Outflank is a low risk, high impact strategy committing troops into Eastern Europe cutting off supply to Ukraine.  Handpicking a battle for best chance for victory lies in Eastern Europe.  Its capture, a territory bordering Berlin, will force Germany to funnel troops, possibly from Ukraine to regroup.

Dinner in Manchuria
In addition to Europe, the Soviet Union has a grand strategy to choose in the far east.  The most aggressive is an invasion of Manchuria from both Yakut and Soviet Far East.  A capture brings an unexpected IPC bonus and weakens the already fragile Japanese economy.  Because of Japanese transports, success may be short lived.

The Treaty of Yakut
A tactical withdrawal building firewall at Yakut is a strategy of mistrust.  Conceding the Soviet Far East to Japan, the USSR signs over 2 IPC for at least a round of peace.  It is a De facto treaty with the Japanese empire.  If Japan accepts, they split their forces leaving Manchuria vulnerable and more hesitant to break the treaty too soon.

Did you realize?
Your two infantry at Evenki Natl. Okrug are strategically placed.   Decide to commit them to the defense of Moscow or send them eastward to slow the advance of the Japanese army.   It may be the third most important decision made in your first round.

You can land infantry in Algeria using your only transport.  Most players deploy it into the Atlantic to help fend off German U-boats.

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One Response to Axis and Allies Classic: Remembering the Soviet Union

  1. JoeC says:

    Actually, Russia is fairly easy to play and the Germans are easily stopped. Just buy 3 tanks and 3 infantry in the first round, as well as taking out the forces in Ukraine. If Germany decides to go for broke and attack Karelia, even if they win, it will easily be retaken on Russia’s next turn.

    Meanwhile, multiple German territories will be denuded of troops because of the bloodbath in Karelia, allowing multiple avenues of approach for a British/US invasion. Germany is the one that turns into the Soviet Union and is fighting to hang on while Japan tries to take Russia from the East.

    Usually, this gambit will fail and even an incompetent Allied player will be able to win. This was one of the problems with the classic game: it was too heavily-tilted towards the Allies. I haven’t played later editions to see if that has been fixed. I hope so, because otherwise it’s a great game. Simple, but eminently playable and fun.

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