Managing Territorial Dead Zones To Your Advantage
By: Don Rae
Dead Zone management is probably the most crucial factor in determining the value of your attacks on any area of the A&A board.
To Be Generally Successful, When Playing Axis and Allies:
- You will need to understand how attack structures naturally strengthen and weaken on your front lines, whether it is concerning your forces, or your opponent's forces.
- You will need to be able to see how your front-line structures are affected by your opponent's pattern of attacks and reenforcement methods.
- You will also need this information to deal with YOUR own pattern of attacks and reenforcement methods.
Dead Zone recognition is the most important tool you have to assist you in dealing with all of this. Just as importantly, the Dead Zone also determines when you should retreat a position that has suddenly turned unstable for your forces.
The first sure sign of the A&A novice is to simply move forces to attack attack attack, and react react react, without recognizing the immediate and future effect it has across their fronts, over the future turns.
Wearing down your forces to "bare bones" by attacking and advancing them too far and too often for reenforcement purposes, eventually requires many, many turns of purchasing and turns of movement to "recover" and get them back up to strength. The idea is to always be STRONG, and never WEAK.
The next sure sign of the A&A novice, is to leave forces in areas where they will simply die in a useless holding action, without purpose.
If you KNOW that your forces are going to be SACRIFICED in a territorial area against BAD OR OVERWHELMING ODDS if your opponent DECIDES TO ATTACK (especially if you DON'T have a counterattack structure set up), WHY would you just leave them there to DIE?
The last sign of the A&A novice is to not attack according to best opportunity.
Why attack when you don't have a good counterattack structure set up? Why attack into an area that will simply be counterattacked, where you will just lose your valuable forces?
Not knowing when to retreat, when to withdraw, is the essence of how a front line structure will deteriorate, and eventually collapse. If you lose units needlessly on your front lines, it affects your long term game strategy in the following ways:
- You will have less units on the board to utilize effectively, thinning out your forces and overall capability.
- You will have to spend more bucks to replace lost units, instead of just "adding more to existing forces"
Any real-life general will tell you the same - leaving your valuable forces in disadvantageous positions, and losing them needlessly, is always your best recipe to lose a war.
Leaving them needlessly in the Dead Zone is the best way to accomplish this loss.
So - What is a "Dead Zone"?
It is any disputable land or sea territorial area that is subject to an overwhelming force against it, regardless of whether or not a battle has yet been fought there.
It's important to know that "overwhelming force" is defined here as: "any attack force that can severely deplete or extinguish a group of units in the disputed land or sea territory, if the attacker chooses to do it."
What happens in the Dead Zone?
- They are possible traps for units and forces, whether they are your units, or your opponent's.
- It determines when you should attack and/or advance.
- It determines when you need to retreat forces, instead of advancing or "just staying put".
- And most importantly, IT
DETERMINES WHETHER OR NOT YOU SHOULD COMPLETE AN ATTACK on a
disputed territory. It is VERY VERY important to know and
understand the advantages of NOT occupying a disputed territory,
because of the nature of the DEAD ZONE.
These factors will be your true test of understanding the principle of the Dead Zone in the advanced A&A game, and will always be the deciding tactical factors in achieving victory, over and above your purchasing and tactical goals.
Eventually, with some practice, it is possible to recognize Dead Zones on sight, and you will be able to recognize when new Dead Zones are about to form on your front lines.
Dead Zone Recognition - Tips and Examples
In order to properly assess a DEAD ZONE, you MUST know the odds of attack averages inside and out, in order to understand your strength on every front line, on every turn!
This is as basic as it gets. Dead Zone prediction is always based upon gauging your strength against any opponent's forces that can reach the given disputed territory. See Essay #1 for some tips on how to gauge this for yourself.
Examining Dead Zone Potential For Your Attack
An easy-to-understand "example of a Dead Zone" is Pearl Harbor, during the first turn of Japanese movement. Easy, because it's a potential attack.
In this example, the U.S. player has defense forces that consists of the following: 1d at 2 (sub), 1d at 3 (carrier), and 1d at 4 (fighter), average hits on first round - should hit at least once on average.
The Japanese can bring in the following forces into a battle here: 1d at 2 (sub pre-strike), 2d at 3 (2 fighters), 3d at 4 (bomber and 2 battleships) - should hit 2 to 3 times on average.
Because the attack averages will occasionally require a second round of battle, the resultant average projected losses for this battle, if fought to conclusion, are summarized:
U.S. --> All forces (38 IPC replacement cost)
Japan --> Average 1-2 units (usually varies between 8 to 23 IPC replacement cost, somewhat according to tactical style of play)
This means that the U.S. forces are inside of a Japanese DEAD ZONE. The potential exchange is greater value for the Japanese, and has the benefit providing a tactical movement closer to U.S. shores, if needed.
However, this is not all there is to it. More DEAD ZONE factoring must be applied, against the context of your opponent's OWN RELATIVE CAPABILITY TO COUNTERATTACK YOUR FORCES. Therefore, we must be sure that we are not moving our forces inside of a DEAD ZONE ourselves, without having achieved a superior ecomomic and tacitical exchange, once all potential counterattacks have been completed!!!
ALL rounds of battle MUST be factored into figuring out the DEAD ZONE potential, in order to understand the resultant effectiveness of an attack!! In this example, if the attack does not leave us with enough forces to defend this sea zone, after all combat and non-combat re-enforcements are completed, then this would not have been a good attack to conduct to begin with!
Why? Because we would be moving Japanese forces into a U.S. DEAD ZONE...
We would be wasting the value of our forces on a front line that cannot be held, and/or we probably have not achieved equitable or superior economic/tactical value in the exchange of forces!
Therefore, we will need to gauge the possibility of a U.S. DEAD ZONE existing in Pearl Harbor after a Japanese "sea zone occupancy" attack!
Using the projected losses from the current example....let's figure this one out.....
Because Japan is projected to lose an average of 2 units in this battle, you must also use this to weigh the true result of the attack, any possible counterattacks that may occur, and maximize the defensive strength left over from the proposed attack, accordingly (through selecting losses of forces that will help maximize the defensive potential of the attacked territory, and reenforcing the territory as required).
For simplicity's sake, we'll use the example of the Japanese player removing the "submarine" and a "bomber" as losses from the Pearl Harbor attack (this happens to be the most defensive-oriented selection of losses), to gauge the overall effectiveness of our territorial advancement (our newly aquired sea zone), just after the combat/non-combat movement phases.
The U.S. can potentially counterattack Pearl Harbor with a total of 2d at 4 (battleship and a bomber), 2d at 3 (2 fighters), and 1d at 0 (transport fodder), after the Japanese DEAD ZONE attack has been conducted there.
The Japanese, on average, should have the following forces on the defense, after the first turn DEAD ZONE attack on Pearl Harbor: 4d at 4 (2 battleships, 2 fighters), 1d at 3 (carrier), and possibly 1d at 1 (transport/fodder, if using my essay #3 tactics)
If the U.S. goes ahead and conducts a counterattack, the losses should average as follows, if fought to completion, and assuming that losses are taken to maximize offensive and defensive capability:
U.S. --> averages 3 lost units on first attack round, 2 lost units on second attack round (lesser odds on achieving the maximum hit results offensively with available forces). Unit replacement cost lost: 71 IPC's.
Japan --> averages 2 lost units on the first attack round, 1 to 2 lost units on second attack round, (slightly better odds on achieving maximum hit results defensively with available forces). Average unit replacement cost lost: varies between 60-70 IPC's.
Japan, on average, should come out ahead in this counterattack. This means that Japan is NOT in a U.S. DEAD ZONE, and can be usually be attacked and subsequently held safely.
Of course, luck sometimes changes this event, but a bad odds victory is sometimes not be significant enough to change the attack structure reasoning. The DEAD ZONE assessed for an attack is not bound entirely by economic reasoning; there should be some tactical assessment to supplement this, based upon availability of resources for future counterattacks, in accordance to positional advantage on the board. Here's why, in our current example:
Tactical Advantages Lost for the U.S, On Average, if the U.S. counterattacks after Japan attacks the DEAD ZONE:
All North American based relocatable air support has been destroyed, all relocatable Pacific fleet was destroyed. Even if luck allowed the U.S. to win this battle, they will have committed all of their mobile forces to this attack, sacrificing immediate capability on all their other potential fronts (such as the Atlantic offensive). The U.S. usually has no further counterattack capability, if this attack is conducted, because all of their forces have (usually) been lost.
Tactical Advantages Lost for Japan, On Average, if the U.S. counterattacks after Japan attacks the DEAD ZONE:
Almost all your advanced fleet, maybe some airforce, was destroyed.
In our example, Japan now has freedom in the Pacific, forcing the U.S. to either commit more money to maintain this front, or simply abandon it altogether. Positionally, Japan is still on the offensive due to its relative freedom from naval influence, and also because they get to perform turn actions before the U.S. does. All in all, this a very good exchange for Japan.
THE CONCLUSIONS FROM OUR EXAMPLE, AFTER WEIGHTING BOTH "DEAD ZONE" AND TACTICAL FACTORS:
Japan should conduct this Pearl Harbor attack and see it through to the bitter end, because it doesn't matter if the U.S. counterattacks (they will always suffer the most from this exchange). This is because the Japanese forces are attacking a DEAD ZONE, and are not left in a DEAD ZONE situation themselves. Because of our success in managing DEAD ZONES, we know that Japan will also achieve a tactically superior position out of all the exchanges.
Maintaining Optimal Defensive Posturing using Dead Zone Management
The defensive game is probably the most crucial "basic" A&A element to master effectively.
No matter what happens, your units' first priority must be to STAY ALIVE, for as long as possible, so that they can be effective in "the long run". Using DEAD ZONE recognition is, therefore, the most crucial tool you have available to deal with this issue.
Let's use an easy-to-recognize defensive situation, and briefly talk about the Russian Asian-area line defense, to illustrate this kind of use of the DEAD ZONE:
THE EXAMPLE BOARD SITUATION IS:
Russian Turn Three
Let's say the Russian player has 6 infantry units and a tank stacked in Yakut at this time, with 1 more infantry reenforcement on its way over, sitting in Novosibirsk. In addition to this, there are three Russian tanks and two fighters in Karelia that could possibly be redeployed to this general area of the board.
Japan, on their last turn, has successfully reenforced Manchuria with 6 infantry and a tank, using their 4 transports from Japan. In the course of last turn's invasion battle (with the single Jap transport from Hawaii, two battleship offshores, and two fighters assisting), they just took over the Soviet Far East. The one infantry unit you had defending there did it's job admirably - it successfully took off a Japanese infantry, by rolling a 2 (got one! yeah!). The Jap fighters all landed in Manchuria on their last turn. The 4 transports are still sitting off the coast of Japan and 1 transport is sitting off of Soviet Far East with the carrier, and the battleships.
The Japanese now have 5 fighters, 7 infantry, and 1 tank within striking distance of Yakut.
The question now is: What should you do, as the Russian player, to deal with this situation properly?
YOU NEED TO EXAMINE THE DEAD ZONES, BOTH ON ATTACK AND ON DEFENSE.
It should be obvious at this point, that any attack on Manchuria is not going to work. You have only one attack piece, and you will lose at least a few units attacking such a fortified territory, maybe scoring a "one unit removal". Not good odds, here.
MANCHURIA IS MORE THAN A DEAD ZONE FOR THE RUSSIANS - IT'S SUICIDAL.
The attack on the Sovet Far East looks a little more attractive, but let's look at it a little more closely:
You probably need to send over at least 1 tank an two infantry over there, to make sure that you get it. This means that at least three pieces will need to go there, in order to regain the lost "2" income that this province produces. Is it worth it?
The Japanese can counterattack with all of its Manchuria-based forces AND with more transports full of infantry from Japan, if they so desire. 2 Russian infantry and a tank will easily be wiped off the board, after examining average defense odds (I leave you to examine this for yourself). Even if you sent over everything, you would expose your entire front to an attack with strafe shots from the battleships. They'll ALL die!
SOVIET FAR EAST IS NOW A DEAD ZONE, AND IS NOT WORTH RETAKING, BECAUSE YOU WILL LOSE YOUR ENTIRE UNIT INVESTMENT AND FRONT STRUCTURE TO THIS ATTACK, LEAVING YOU WITH NOTHING, FOR LESS THAN WHAT THE UNITS ARE WORTH!
AND, IF YOU DO TRY TO SPLIT YOUR FORCES TO TAKE THE SOVIET FAR EAST, YOU SHOULD HAVE RECOGNIZED THAT AFTER THE "FORCES SPLIT", YOU HAVE OBVIOUSLY MADE YAKUT A DEAD ZONE, DUE TO IT ONLY HAVING A POTENTIAL OF 5 DEFENSIVE UNITS LEFT THERE (examine for yourself the average hit rolls from a "total" attack on Yakut from Manchuria in this case, in order to leverage the results).
After looking at all of this, you might be tempted to "stay put in Yakut" and reenforce it, hoping to force the Japanese to build up first, before coming after Yakut, saving you a territory for a turn. After examining all potential non-combat move reenforcements, which will ultimately equal 7 infantry, you can look at YAKUT and determine whether or not they are in a DEAD ZONE or not....
Japan has: 7 infantry, 1 tank, and 5 fighters. On any first round attack, it should remove an average of 4 units.
If defending Yakut from Japan on their turn, Russia potentially has: 8 dice (including that infantry reenforcement from Novosibrisk) rolling "2"'s to hit, and maybe two "4's" from two fighters that could be sent over to help defend your forces here (let's just say, for this argument's sake, that Russia can afford to do this...although this might not be the real case, if also examining the potential DEAD ZONES on the German front). On the first attack roll, they will remove an average of 3-4 units (Usually 4...if you examine the attack odds - it leans more in this direction)
After the first round of an attack on Yakut,
The Japanese will have left (on
average): 3 infantry, 1 tank, 5 fighters, averages 3-4 units on
the next attack round
The Russians will have left (on average): 4 infantry, 1 tank, 2 fighters, averages about 3 units defending the next attack round
After the second round of an attack on Yakut,
The Japanese will have left (on
average): 1 tank, 5 fighters, averages 3 units on an additional
The Russians will have left (on average): [Maybe 1 infantry], 1 tank, 2 fighters, averages 2 units on the next attack round.
This means that The Japanese have a chance to remove attacking pieces, and Russian fighters!
THIS MEANS THAT ALL THE RUSSIANS IN YAKUT ARE DEFINITELY IN A DEAD ZONE IF THEY REMAIN THERE, EVEN AFTER ALL POTENTIAL REENFORCEMENTS!!!!
This is true, with all the available reenforcements to Yakut accounted for in the potential upcoming battle structure.
Even if they did get lucky and manage to hold on to a few extra infantry, this territory would still be vulnerable to attack reenforcements (on the next Japanese turn) from Manchuria! (The Japanese will most likely be offloading more and more troops this way). Because all of these Russian units were lost, this Russian-Asian front structure is now very weak, forcing the Russians to redeploy even more forces in this direction, to help defend it! (Anyone who is familiar with playing Russia, knows all too well that this means that Germany will have more opportunities to punch holes in the East Europe area front lines, far earlier than they should be able to do!) This is a "sucker" Allied defense, if played this way...the Russians would be giving away units for free, more than what the territory would be worth to them on the next turn!
After assessing the DEAD ZONE potential, it now means that the Russians should RETREAT this territory in this situation (leaving one infantry behind: the cardinal rule - never leave any territory open for FREE)!
The conclusion being: Yakut is NOT defendable, because the entire Russian front will be usually be wiped out on average rolls (I can't tell you how often I've taken advantage of this blunder, when playing the Axis!!) Retreating in the face of a suicidal situation is a good thing, especially if it saves you from spending IPC's later!
So "retreating" is often not "bad news". In fact, retreating is often used to your advantage, because it gives you the turn you need to muster and redeploy your forces, so that you can properly deal with the problem situation on the next turn. Those saved units will now come into play (instead of being needlessly wasted) by the Russian next turn, if we now use this particular board situation example to illustrate the next concept:
Using Dead Zone Management in Counterattack Structures
Counterattack structures are always a series of overlapping DEAD ZONES. The idea of setting up a good counterattack structure, depends solely upon the A&A player's relative ability to set up series of DEAD ZONES.
This is very important, because you need to be able to discourage the other player from advancing their forces too far without having to SPEND and SPEND their valuable income on ALL your different fronts! You have to force the other player to use economic leverage against your fronts, before you can be overwhelmed!
By setting up DEAD ZONES, you always force this event to occur, which consequently WEAKENS their ability to deal with their other front situations, forcing them to make HARD CHOICES about where they deploy there forces, and which goals they should achieve first...
In the previous example, where the Russians retreated YAKUT against BAD ODDS, there would only be minimal value derived from the retreat (you've saved your forces) unless we were able to set up a counterattack DEAD ZONE of our own. This maximizes the value of performing the retreat, and puts the pressure on the opponent's front to deal with it.
(This particular example situation is very common to the very experienced Russian player - and I have often seen limited amounts of Russian infantry and tanks hold off the Japanese advance for the critical crucial turns required to stop Japan's rapid expansion COLD in its tracks....solely because of good DEAD ZONE management.)
Keeping the above goals in mind, we now turn to our previous example, where the Russians were forced into retreating YAKUT. It is still their turn, during the non-combat movement phase...
The Russians left one infantry behind to defend Yakut. This forces the Japanese player to commit more than one resource to taking it out, if they want to be assured of a victory there, FORCING their hand to commit more resources in a supply line.
To keep the pressure up, the Russians should now try to redeploy their forces in a manner to set up Yakut as a potential DEAD ZONE.
After retreating forces to Novosibirsk (he decides that these forces could be used to help defend Sinkiang as well), the player finds that (lo and behold), he had two infantry in Russia (built on the previous turn), ready to move out and assist this front line. The Russian player, after looking at Karelia's DEAD ZONE potential, decides that he can afford to move these units over to the Asian front situation, and moves them into Novosibirsk as well.
After putting 5 infantry (leaving one behind in Yakut as a forceable defender, leaving no "tank blitz routes" open, and not giving the Japanese a free IPC territory for nothing) retreating from Yakut into Novosibirsk, combined with the one infantry that was already there, along with the two Russian infantry who now move in to join up with the rest of them, we set up a structure of 8 infantry who are our potential "fodder" amount for a counterattack structure. All we need now, is offense to put pressure on the Yakut territory.
The Russian player retreats his lone tank from Yakut to Russia, deciding that it could be advantageous to have it capable of being moved as far as Karelia's front line by the next turn (keeping pressure on East Europe or Ukraine as well).
The Russian player moves the remainder of his tanks to Russia, deciding that he can afford to spare these forces, after examining Karelia's DEAD ZONE potential.
The fighters in Karelia, as the Russian player may note, are within striking range of Yakut....capable of landing in Novosibirsk after an attack.
After all this movement is completed, Russia now has:
8 infantry, 4 tanks, and 2 fighters
....threatening an attack on Yakut or SInkiang, if Japan decides to attack either territory. This front structure is capable of hitting 5 units, maybe 6 on an attack on either territory.
Think about what has just happened here. Examine this tactical position.
Japan now needs to commit HEAVY resourcing to this area of the board, if they want to secure Yakut!! If they do this without their OWN counterattack structure (like the one you just set up), they will LOSE THEIR FRONT, and waste a LOT of turns getting it going again! (Buying luxurious TURNS OF TIME for the Russians!)
From the tactical game standpoint (Turn 3), Japan now has to decide: is it worth sending resources up there, or do they need to deal with a (first turn built) British Indian Factory, that is now sending tanks over to challenge their hold in Asia? If they commit large resources up in that direction, they will need a "chain of counterattacks" set up to be able to ultimately secure those areas. This requires a lot of income that they might not have, especially if the Indian Factory is there, chewing up their held territories.
What the Japan player will probably decide, ultimately, is that this Yakut territory should be taken with minimal force (2 infantry, maybe 1 or 2 fighters). Japan should be unwilling (if they're smart about it, and if they're not, YOU can take advantage of their short-sightedness) to commit a large force for taking out a Russian DEAD ZONE. Instead, Japan should probably try to keep Yakut a Japanese DEAD ZONE for now, while trying to draw more and more Russian forces into it gradually and over the turns of time. This is amply done by occupying the territory with minimal force (wasting as FEW units as possible, while making the other player consider attacking it with a minimal or strafing force)....back and forth until someone is able to leverage DEAD ZONE advantage, eventually.
(I tell people over and over again that this Indian Factory often WINS the game for the Allies, because of this very dilemna. If Japan is forced to split their forces and concentrate on multiple fronts, they will lack the strength to reach inward to Russia, and they are FORCED to defend their territories!)
This is all fantastic! But how did this work?
Simply stated, this position emerged from good DEAD ZONE management, as opposed to the altenative: "all your Russians will die on the Japanese next turn, after leaving them in a DEAD ZONE". You have used DEAD ZONES to their fullest advantage, using them to save your forces, before they die...then using them to set up a counterattack of your own.
Simple, isn't it? If you approach the entire game this way, opportunity will always arise from it, no matter what. Let's examine some of the best examples of these types of DEAD ZONE opportunities: THE DEAD ZONE UMBRELLA...
The Overlapping Dead Zone: The "Umbrella" Concept
One of the most beneficial things to accomplish on the A&A play board, is to have to capability of setting up attack structures that leverage overwhelming force and immense counterattack strength, no matter where you are on your fronts. The "infantry push" mechanic, mentioned in Essay #1, provides the Axis and Allies player with this needed capability of force. Naturally, you want to use this force to create a situation that overwhelms your opponent, as quickly as possible.
This is done most naturally by setting up the appropriate DEAD ZONES, but this is often not enough. If your opponent is intelligent enough to counter your DEAD ZONE management approach with a DEAD ZONE management approach of their own, you will find that your front structures will never really move anywhere too quickly.
Especially when playing the Axis, this is very bad news; the Axis should always want to be moving forward as quickly as possible. On the other hand, as the Allies, you are seeking to "contain" the Axis, and keep them at bay, long enough to deliver the crushing final blow.
So what you need to do now, to leverage advantage with the Dead Zone theory...is to SURROUND the areas that you need to turn into DEAD ZONES, and gradually SURROUND the area that your opponent's forces occupy, turning that opponent-occupied area into a place that "is" or "will be" affected by multiple DEAD ZONES of your own creation, building your forces up to nullify your opponent's DEAD ZONES while you advance.
The effects of this type of advance result in:
1) Your opponent will not be able to attack a possible DEAD ZONE of their own, without putting or leaving their forces in DEAD ZONES themselves.
2) Your front line forces are set up as Dead Zones by a possible counterattack, and would otherwise be suicidal to attack, usually because of the value of forces exchanged in the battle.
3) Your forces advance and overlap their Dead Zones on single territories, advancing as your opponent is then forced to retreat.
4) If your opponent does not retreat, you will often be able to easily capture their territories, and then hold them for the necessary turn of reenforcement - this is because they were surrounded by overwhelming force, and were subject to DEAD ZONES of your creation.
This concept description is summarized as: Opening Up THE DEAD ZONE UMBRELLA.
Considering that you should now understand the nature of DEAD ZONES, you should now be able to create a situation that forces the other player into compromising their tactical position with their own DEAD ZONE management. The theory is best described through example....
If we are to use the example of the situation that exists when Japan attempts to attack and overwhelm the British Indian Factory:
Using the infantry push mechanic, Japan will want to advance their front line forces from Manchuria, then to "Kwangtung and East China", then to "Burma and Sinkiang", and then to India. Because of the infantry push mechanic, there is a steady stream of reenforcements available to optionally reenforce a front line or set up additional DEAD ZONES as required.
In other words, you are trying to open the Dead Zone Umbrella over India. The infantry push mechanic reenforcements should always be trying to turn your front line force territories into DEAD ZONES (for defense), and the front line forces themselves should be setting up new DEAD ZONES (for attacks).
In this example, this is ideally "what you would like to accomplish"....but this is not what will always happen. The British player will be attempting to cut down the Japanese forces in strafe attacks and other such aggressive ventures, just to hold the Japanese at bay (trying to prevent the Japanese from easily setting up their Dead Zones for rapid advancement). This will force the Japanese player to try and develop the Dead Zone Umbrella (surrounding succeeding territorities with overwhelming force) over one territory at a time, until they finally reach India.
(The finer points of this approach are best left to the player to examine for themselves: using the transports effectively, always buying enough infantry, and knowing when to follow up the infantry lines with the necessary offense builds to set up the "push" once again, unfolding the Umbrella over India. This is why the Indian Factory is usually lost by turn 6-8....as long as Japan produces a little more on these fronts, they should overwhelm this factory eventually, if they don't waste their forces needlessly through the careful management of DEAD ZONES, setting up the Umbrella appropriately. However, I must remind you that the British Indian Factory has shown valued importance here. This was 6 to 8 turns that Japan had to expend through attacking Britain, instead of Russia...forcing those forces to fight south instead of north. Overall, in view of this, this was really "time and money well spent" by the British, because it bought a lot of turns for the Russians.....)
As a player who should always be mindful of their defensive structures, you must always watch for this and always know when this is happening to you. When the Umbrella opens up over you, it's usually "time to retreat and regroup". If you attempt to strafe or attack such a structure, you will probably be wasting your resources needlessly, as they will probably die on the next turn. Instead, it is the right time to "retreat and muster more forces", in the hopes of setting up an "Umbrella" of your own.
Setting up the Dead Zone Umbrella accomplishes more important strategical aspects that you should take note of, and apply directly to your play methods:
1) It prevents any situation where you are forced to choose between two fronts, thereby weakening your overall tactical position on the game board.
Your forces will be more naturally set up to counterattack, with all available forces (the infantry push mechanic again - essay #1), because your Dead Zones will overlap and complement each other, naturally.
2) It provides many opportunities to retreat your opponent's forces when you want to do it, just through displaying your Umbrella-Powered strength on an area.
An example of this might be a timed decision to advance Japanese forces from East China into Mongolia (a neutral nation) in order to surround Yakut more effectively (if Manchuria has forces), encasing it in an Umbrella, once sufficient force and resources have been made available to address the issues of the British Indian Factory in a decisive manner (or to push back the Russian forces while you are retreating a bad situation in East China!!!) Yakut is likely to be a severe Dead Zone in such a circumstance, and they probably wouldn't dare to attack Mongolia, because of all the possible counterattack threats (from Japanese forces possibly in Sinkiang, Soviet Far East, and in Manchuria)...this would force a retreat, unless the Russian player allows his forces to die (and why do that, of course???)
The setting up of the Dead Zone Umbrella attempts to force your resources against your opponent in the most effective manner possible, and make your game more consistent and threatening. It is better to be on the giving end, rather than on the receiving end of it, for sure. All the nations have ample opportunities to set up these structures, and use them effectively to their advantage. If you watch for those opportunites, your gameplay will naturally improve through using them.
The tactical approach that uses the Dead Zone Umbrella or regular DEAD ZONES, is assisted greatly by the simple act of conserving your resources, not leaving them in DEAD ZONES, and only taking over territory when you need to do it. You must always be aware of the effects of taking over any territory, and ask yourself:
Are you leaving your forces in a DEAD ZONE if you take over that territory? If the answer to this question is yes, your units would be in a Dead Zone, and you should not attempt to take over that territory....unless you have set it up as a DEAD ZONE yourself!!
But what if the territory you wanted to attack was INSIDE ONE OF YOUR DEAD ZONES, where you could possibly exchange better value for your forces, and you have an opportunity to remove unwanted numerous opposing forces from this disputed territory?
Considering all of this, you may have recognized that this territory has the following characteristics:
1) The territory could still be considered a DEAD ZONE after any "minimal" attack on it, conducted by you this turn....and,
2) By the next turn, accumulated opposing forces in that territory would most likely turn your own "presently occupied territory" into a DEAD ZONE, if they were allowed to assemble there, and
3) If you attacked this territory, knowing that if you end up taking the territory over, occupying it - you knew that you would be moving the majority of your forces into an obvious DEAD ZONE of your opponent's....
This is when you might consider conducting a Strafe Attack on that territory, to remove those unwanted forces accordingly!
Advanced Dead Zone Utilization: The Art of the Strafe Attack
The Strafe Attack is probably the most important type of attack to master in the Axis and Allies game.
The Strafe Attack is defined as "an attack on a territory that is designed to weaken your enemy's front lines in some manner, in order to leverage a tactical advantage for your forces, conducting the rounds of combat necessary to sufficiently deplete your opponent's units from the attacked territory - then retreating those attack forces to safety before you would occupy the attacked territory and before you lose any expensive-to-replace attack units of your own in the exchange."
Why conduct this kind of attack? This is because it is not always a good move to attack and occupy a disputed area, if the area in question is a Dead Zone of your opponent's creation. You would just lose your expensive-to-replace attack units if you did, forcing you to replace them eventually. In Essay #1, I illustrated this point as the best way to LOSE, every time!
Just as certainly, you would never conduct a Strafe Attack if your retreated units would be moving back into a Dead Zone, after all averaged losses are taken into account. This, of course, would be incredibly foolish! Again, this is just another reason why you must know and understand the average odds of attacks and defenses in every potential battle!
In the Strafe Attack, you should only consider taking enough forces and resources that you can afford to lose in the exchange, on average, just to ensure that you do not lose your attacking pieces.
Again, your "infantry push mechanic" units are proving their value here. Since you will likely have extra infantry available, you can then always use this infantry to leverage Strafe Attack losses against the losses from your opponent's forces!
The Strafe Attack deals directly with territorial areas of the board that are threatening to overwhelm you, if they are allowed to reenforce themselves during your opponent's next turn.
The strength of your opponent's advanced forces must always be considered against their next turn actions.
For example, if advanced infantry in the offending territorial area are allowed to "sit there" in large numbers, they may be potentially protecting this territory for a reenforcement move on your opponent's next turn (landing fighters or bombers there, or perhaps tanks). This is not good news, especially if this reenforcement action would turn YOUR advanced forces' territory into a Dead Zone!
The Strafe Attack should then be used here to remove the "infantry" that were advanced, in order to PREVENT your opponent from placing their "offensive units", like tanks, fighters, and/or bombers, into that territory on their next turn, potentially allowing them to create Dead Zones against you!
The Strafe Attack also deals directly with the territorial areas that have strong resources, but really have no reenforcements available to strengthen it. In this case only, the strafe functions as a "beatdown" method, to wear down areas that can be busted through, perhaps as early as the next turn.
An example of this is best illustrated by the Russian Eastern Front in Asia. At the beginning of the game, these forces are initially strong in numbers, but will generally have little-to-no reenforcements (this is because most of their reenforcement income will most often be directed towards defending Karelia).
In this example, the Russians probably cannot afford to send too many reenforcements to this area, so it is generally a good practice to "strafe" these forces if you have the opportunity (when playing the Japanese), sometimes even if there isn't a proper Dead Zone set up (this is a judgement call, and must be gauged against the value of losses taken).
It is important that this kind of attack should not be conducted beyond "the close-to-even exchange of forces", for fear of depleting ALL your own forces on YOUR front lines! If you were to deplete your own forces, this would not allow a proper Dead Zone setup for the next turn, after all non-combat moves!
Summarily, the opposing forces front lines can possibly be weakened this way, through using the strafe attack, especially if you know that there cannot be any reenforcement available from your opponent. Ideally, the strafe attack should happen only when you have sufficent resources to exchange "even amounts" of replacement cost income...anything more than that should only be done in dire and desperate circumstances (like holding off Japan or Germany from taking over the Russian capital for an extra turn, for example). Generally, you should always not waste your units unnecessarily. Why, when you can simply OVERWHELM your opponent later with better odds?
The Strafe Attack is the most important attack method that can strenghthen your overall position in the game, without having to sacrifice your "attack-capable" offensive units on a front line somewhere.
I will go back to the futile and broken "original 2nd edition game rules - where the Russians may attack on the first turn" to illustrate this point. These rules allow a striking, almost excruciating example of some very deadly Strafe Attacks which can be conducted on the Russian first turn against the Axis.
Ukraine, in the original 2nd edition game rules, is in an infamous Russian Dead Zone on the first turn, after examining possible attacks on that territory. And, if you examine the board situation a little further, you will also be able to determine Ukraine as a German Dead Zone as well, because of the counterattack structure that exists upon it!
Because of the combination of these facts, this makes Ukraine a prime candidate for a Russian Strafe Attack!!
In this example, on the very first Russian turn, it is possible for the Russian player to send "just enough forces" into Ukraine to "conduct one or two rounds of attacks". With easily assumed knowledge of the average results on a few attack rounds, this attack fulfills the sole purpose of removing the German infantry in Ukraine...and possibly even a tank or two! . Attack rounds are conducted on this territory until "the next attack round averaged results indicate, on average, that you would overwhelm and occupy the territory". When this determining factor has been accurately assessed, the Strafe Attack is abandoned - then you would retreat all the remaining Russian attack forces into Karelia....this Strafe Attack result should usually leave behind only 1 or 2 German units left in Ukraine (which would usually be a German fighter, and maybe a German tank).
(I leave you to examine this for yourself as an exercise for you. The Strafe Attack structure on this territory should be obvious if you properly understand the nature of Dead Zones and the averaged attack and defense odds. You must figure out the type and amount of unit forces you will need to conduct a few attack rounds on this territory, without defeating and occupying it, while maintaining a minimum of valued losses, while trying to leave behind only 1 to 2 German units after all attacks - all leaving nothing to chance, using averaged results as your guide.)
The results of this particular Strafe Attack:
1) Many German "infantry
fodder/defensive units" are removed from play, weakening and
removing an attack on Caucasus
2) The Russian forces are now relatively safe (protected by strength in numbers in Karelia, especially after the turn of building)
3) Germany has lost much of their offensive and defensive capability on their front lines, forcing a retreat situation there
The Germans are easily in a lot of trouble now, after examining their European controlled areas for Dead Zones.
These positive results occurred after the Strafe Attack, as opposed to the alternative (attacking Ukraine to occupy it):
If you occupied the Ukraine territory, it would have exposed your attacking Russian units to a German counterattack, because Ukraine was a German Dead Zone as well!
If you had actually done this, this would probably have evened the overall situation out for Germany!!
But now, if you examine the board for Dead Zones after this Russian Strafe Attack, you would see that this resultant board situation in Europe now forces all German forces into retreat. This really is not too bad at all, for a supposed "weak country under siege".
If this wasn't bad enough, there is an additional horrible Russian first turn Strafe Attack example that can be considered "very deadly against the Axis". The Russian player may optionally "take just enough of their Asian-based attack forces into Manchuria, barely enough to guarantee only 1 hit in order to remove a single Manchurian infantry on average odds", then abandoning this attack, retreating these attack forces all into Yakut!
These possible and infamous first turn Strafe Attacks in the original 2nd edition game severely deplete and weaken the Axis front to the point where it is eventually possible, through careful management of Dead Zone based attacks and proper unit purchasing, for the Russians to hold off Germany almost totally by themselves (allowing the U.S. to go more heavily into Africa quickly to help choke off the German income base more quickly), staying relatively offensive throughout the remainder of the game (uh oh...the Strafe Attack was THAT effective), and occupying East Europe very solidly EARLY IN THE GAME, causing all kinds of grief for Germany....permanently. The other described first turn Russian Strafe Attack on Manchuria also cripples the Japanese front structure at the same time!
(Again, you can just examine this for yourself, easily - watch any game that plays out as a direct result from these first turn Strafe Attacks - DEATH TO THE AXIS is the result, every time, because their front structures are sufficiently depleted, collapsing easily under any Dead Zone based strength!!!).
Personal Note - this very analysis was the real reason why we were forced to abandon the original 2nd Edition rules as a method of play for our local play group. Instead, for all the games we play, we use the popular rule variant "the Russians may not attack on the first turn", which evens the odds more considerably (those possible Russian Strafe Attacks are then "not there", which gives the Axis a few more resources to start the game with...more than they would normally have).
This should be enough information and material about the Strafe Attack, for you to understand and grasp the importance of it in its ultimate application:
ANYTIME THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO SUCCESSFULLY WEAKEN YOUR OPPONENT'S FRONT LINES, YOUR OPPONENT THEN CANNOT USE THIS FRONT LINE TO ADVANCE UPON YOUR FORCES IN ORDER TO CREATE NEW DEAD ZONES AGAINST YOU.
If you Strafe a territory down to one or two units, they will probably be left there to die on the next turn, or they might even have to retreat. Meanwhile, you take the time you need to reenforce your Dead Zone strength on the Strafed territory, in order to further amplifly your influence in that disputed region, FORCING your opponent to INVEST MORE INCOME on that front line, which then FORCES THEM TO COMPROMISE BETWEEN THEIR DEFENDED FRONTS. Once you can recognize and understand this concept in the game, you can take advantage of it through leveraged response purchasing (Essay #5).
Sometimes however, the Strafe Attack is not sufficient enough deterrance, to keep your opponent from overwhelming you. This can happen if your opponent is able to equal or exceed you in the income/force balance race on a given front line structure. If this happens, it is very likely that you may be forced to wear down their forces through other means as well.
While considering this, you must keep in mind that your must force your opponent to spend their income through trying "keep you at bay". At the same time, you will find that you must "keep them at bay" as well.
This means that you must also figure out how you can wear down your opponent's income over the course of MANY MANY turns. You will find eventually, after all your opponents improve their overall defensive game using these Dead Zone recognition methods, that it doesn't do you any good to leverage Dead Zones if you cannot somehow achieve superiority in the unit exchanges in all of your continuously disputed territories (that is....territories that are continuously exisiting within both opponents' Dead Zones)!
This is accomplished through gradually pushing your influence into a disputed territory during the course of many, many turns. If a disputed territory is in your Dead Zone all the time, as well as your opponent's, you must then use your forces in a manner that leverages or forces economic investment by your opponent, forcing them to keep up with you on that front structure (this forces them to spend money against you, as opposed to "allowing your opponent to have spare income to develop their front lines somewhere else on the gameboard").
Whew! That was a lot of stuff to absorb, wasn't it?
And now that you understand THIS (grin)....this general idea leads into the next and final concept:
Keeping Your Opponent at Arm's Length: The Art of Minimally Attacking and Occupying the Territory In Your Opponent's Dead Zone
Generally, there are two major options available in keeping your opponent at arms length:
1) The Strafe Attack - to remove all infantry based "fodder" from the opponent's front lines, thus preventing your opponet from conducting a "safe" attack on a critical front territory!
2) Attack to Occupy the Dead Zone territory using only minimal investment force!
Tactical Notes and Reminder-Oriented Preamble:
The act of occupying a territory almost always forces your opponent to take it back...that is, if they want the income back for it, or if they want to advance their lines....and so on. This fact is usually obvious to most players.
What isn't always obvious, is knowing WHEN to do this, and in calculating how much force you will need to do it - WITHOUT losing a significant amount of your own invested income in the exchanges!
You should never, never, never send forces out to the front lines to die without purpose. At this point of the essay, I now hereby define a calculated purpose that is designed to deal with your enemy's advancement:
PREVENT YOUR OPPONENT FROM ADVANCING AND FORTIFYING POSITION AGAINST YOU.
This, of course, is done through calculating the DEAD ZONE on that territory.....
So again, what are the considerations (for your review)?
1) Can the territory in the be
2) Can the territory be sucessfully counterattacked by your opponent?
3) If the territory is counterattacked by your opponent, will they be able to hold it against your own projected counterattack?
4) How much force can they possibly send in there to hold it?
These answers seem obvious to the player who thinks about strengths and averages of units in general, UNTIL you begin to factor in the possibility of the STRAFE ATTACK!
Think about this for a minute:
1) The Strafe Attack
allows a player to remove excess units from your front lines, if
you were to advance them into an occupied territory.....
2) So if you put a significant force in the disputed territory, and if an opponent counterattack option exists to Strafe it....you may or may not be able to reenforce that territory enough on your next turn to hold it!
You have to figure this problem out, every time you consider an attack to occupy a territory!
If you advance your forces into a territory, anticipating your units to be Strafed on the enemy turn - you then have to be ABSOLUTELY sure that you can then occupy and hold the territory on your next turn, and then every turn thereafter, through advancing reenforcements!!!!
If you calculate it out, and you find that you CAN do this - congratulations - you are gradually holding or winning the economic battle on this front line, you are thus putting more pressure on your opponents, and they will have to redouble their efforts to deal with this front, forcing them to spend more income they might not be able to afford upon it!
But if you CAN'T do this....
You must realize that are now probably making a decision between:
1) Fortifying your current
position against the opponent's DEAD ZONE
2) If the act of attacking creates more DEAD ZONE against you, you must RETREAT the position,
3) Occupying the territory with minimal invested force.
We've discussed options 1 and 2 in previous modes of example.
But Option #3 is truly a value judgement of its relative worth to you.
You will ask yourself the following questions, in order - finding the answers to each one before making your final judgement:
1) How much of my force do I
need to take in to successfully occupy this territory, through
using "just enough" forces?
2) How much value am I sacrificing to do this, if I do this - and how much of your opponent's value at the same time, after all counterattack considerations?
3) What is the IPC value of the territory - and how much income does this cost me or my opponent, if I don't take it back?
4) What is the strategic value of the territory, and how important is it to take the territory back?
When finding the answers to these questions, you have to make a value judgement on the problem - and this is probably the most difficult thing to master in the game. There will be some future essay content on this subject, sometime in the future.
For now though, here are the best general level answers to fit these questions:
Answer to 1 - Easy enough to figure out, using attack/defense averages and DEAD ZONE evaluations.
Answer to 2 - This is still a basic DEAD ZONE evaluation.
Answer to 3 - If the value of the territory is going to tip the balance of your front line structure from an economic investment standpoint, meaning the difference between "having" or "not having" something that is crucial to your next turn's capability, or your long term investment capability - then maybe the answer might be yes, you should probably make the effort to take it back....as long as it doesn't cost you more than double of what it's worth to you in the short term!
This is an abstract calculation, which I will discuss more on in another essay - but a simple way of examining this is thus: if a territory is worth "3 IPC's", then the difference between you and your enemy is "6"....3 for you, and 3 against the enemy - IF the territory in question it is not taken back by the enemy (and vice versa, if it applies against you).
This summary is a good example of why the Allies need to keep Japan contained, for as long as possible, near the beginning of game! This is also why I don't mind sacrificing British tanks on the Asian front, because the rewards are often worth it - speaking purely from the economic standpoint. There are more reasons for this type of play, as mentioned in a below example....
Answer to 4 - Any territory that is next to or within striking distance of one of your industrial complexes is considered to be a VERY crucial territory. If it costs me a significant amount to delay a fortification advancement on a territory next to one of my own factories, it often doesn't matter - unless I've created a DEAD ZONE on my factory by doing this. Another reason might be the loss of a tactical territory on a crucial front line (example C)...
Example A: Burma and Sinkiang are very, very crucial territories for a British Indian Factory to defend! If you allow your opponent to just take and fortify these areas without punishment, they may be one turn away from killing your forces, and occupying your factory! When playing an Indian Factory, I always try my best to try and reach out and take Kwangtung if I can, just to keep the Japanese at bay and far away from the Indian Factory! I'm also considering here that Kwangtung based tanks can reach India if they have a clear opportunity to advance this far. If I do this, then they will thus have to take these territories back, one by one, enduring strafe attacks and "minimal force" attacks as often as it takes to eventually overwhelm an Indian Factory's strength! This forces the Japanese to divert their entire income base to dealing with all of this, instead of going after Russia!
Example B: Sacrificing Russian tanks on a territorial front next to the Russian captial may be considered to be a good move, if it prevents the Japanese from reenforcing the territory, or attacking through that territory on their next turn! By minimally attacking and occupying the territory, you would be saving needed value for your own Russian capital's capability to counterattack while delaying a Japanese attack into the Russian capital for two turns, giving you some more needed time to keep your capital alive and force the Japanese to spend more on replacement units!
Example C: Yakut is a Russian territory that is often worth retaking as the Russians, if you can afford a "minimal force effort to take it back"....this is especially so when an Indian Factory is in play. This action forces the Japanese to try and take it back with their own "minimal force", spending more on this northern counterattack - all while they are trying to contend with an aggessive Indian Factory. In this case, it's probably worth the effort - you might save the Factory from defeat for a turn or two, and the Russians are cashing out 4 difference with respect to the Japanese, you've taken back a territory that the Japanese can potentially blitz into the Russian capital from, you've prevented a probable Japanese force buildup in Yakut, and the resultant front line structure for Japan is a little more strained than they would be normally if you hadn't done this action....and they now have to protect Soviet Far East and Manchuria in addition to the forces from the Indian Factory from the south! Of course, you wouldn't do this action if it meant that it would cost your enitre Russian front line (aka. your counterattack capability) - the primary DEAD ZONE evaluation should always takes precedence in evaluating this!
So after all things are considered, and your assessed and derived value judgement says to you:
1) The territory is crucial to
maintaining the balance of the game for your side, and...
2) You DON'T have to sacrifice your ENTIRE counterattack capability or front to do this "minimal occupation attack", and...
3) Your projected losses from an enemy counterattack aren't going to offset your ability to manage your lines within the next two turns...
You should probably try to occupy the territory with an minimal amount of allocated force....thus holding off the opponent advancement for the crucial turn needed for your given tactical situation. When doing this, you try to keep your investment/replacement losses to a minimum - and make the investment loss trades as even as you can - and your lines will thus last a lot longer!
If you can master this final concept, after all of the other considerations - then you have indeed mastered the art of managing the DEAD ZONE to its maximum effectiveness!
Final Reminders About The Dead Zone, For Your Consideration:
A Dead Zone Does Not Need to be Currently Occupied, to be Recognized
If you want to move your forces into an territorial area that is "ripe for the taking", you should always be aware of all of the attack structures that exist on that territory, and everything that can or will happen to those forces by the next turn, and for advanced reasoning, the next few turns after that.
Using the "Egypt" territory as a possible illustration....
If the British player decides to abandon Egypt in favor of building an Indian Factory - you must still be very aware that the British transport near India can be utilized for an amphibious assault, easily, from this territory. If you're not careful, by not placing enough units to hold this territory solidly - Egypt can be counterattacked upon available opportunity, and the German offense can thus be stalled out.
A Dead Zone Can Be Derived from Multiple Attack Structures
This DEAD ZONE factoring "over the course of the turn" should always be taken into account when you see any allied forces that are in close proximity of each other and near the areas you need to defend.
For example, if Germany decides leave only 5 infantry units in Berlin, they must have had made sure that the British, then the U.S., and then the Russian player will not have enough attack strike forces in range during THEIR turns, to remove the German defense units, and then occupy Berlin!!
Germany is particularly vulnerable to this kind of attack, so care must be taken to assess the DEAD ZONES properly when on the defense.
Personal Observations About the Games I've Seen, Played by Those Who Are Aware of the DEAD ZONE as a Recognized Factor of Gameplay...
It's always interesting to watch a game that is played out by people who are extremely knowledgable about these concepts, because their games last a long, long time. They do not waste their units, unless they are forced into action by a turnkey tactical situation. Tactics and clever manoevers can actually become part of the game strategy, going far beyond the normal "attack attack react react build build replace replace etc etc".
Those that know that a dead zone is about to emerge, adjust their purchasing to follow suit, in order to set up the defrense or offense within the dead zone, appropriately. Fewer mistakes are made on purchasing, because of the player's KNOWLEDGE of the board situation for what it truly is. The game simply becomes an issue of dealing with all of your DEAD ZONES in the most capable manner, watching for them to form, and using them to your advantage.
The advanced player that usually wins the A&A session, always tends to have the most overlapped DEAD ZONES, by using purposeful purchasing and tactical play in order to set them up in that fashion. This is the probably the most important reasoning and argument for using the infantry push mechanic (again, see essay #1 for details), because of all of the continuous reenforcement and counterattack potential will exist naturally by playing in this manner; just by having ample resources available, and by not wasting your time and money by building fronts that thin out far too rapidly, the overall potential for setting up multiple DEAD ZONES is increased drastically.
Once every game is approached in this manner, most experienced players will tend to not deviate from the first turn purchase plan (and infantry push menchanics), as detailed in essay #1, because it is this very purchase plan that sets up the most able, optimal, and capable Dead Zone management and subsequent offense capability for each Allied or Axis player. Any player who understands the DEAD ZONE concept properly, who can apply it to every single front and area of the board at a glance, will simply understand the fundamentals behind the real reasons for the essay #1 purchase plan, and why it is the most effective one available. I leave this for you to examine for yourself.
This is also the reasoning behind my statement about "the game setup and strategy being generally static", because this Dead Zone setup is optimally defined right from the game startup, with immediate payback for every player's front, offense, defense, and tactical capability.
Stay out of Dead Zones, and keep them a part of your game - with time and practice, you will succeed more often and more consistently, eventually developing the presence and reputation of someone who really knows how to play this game.
This ends this essay on MANAGING TERRITORIAL DEAD ZONES TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Regards - Don Rae (c) 1998
Back To Don's Axis and Allies Strategic Essays