It really doesn't seem like we agree about a lot
I too believe it's important to remember the rule should ideally work in both a zero sum game and in a non-zero sum game. (Two player games and side victory will always be zero sum, but other games may be non-zero sum depending on the situation.)
Well, with the interpretation that I expect that you are using for "work", this is not what I was saying at all. Rather, my position, was that the rule (when used) have as a function to force a player to play/role-play Japan as if playing for individual victory, even in games where the axis are cooperating closely.
In a game where Japan truely is going for individual victory, and maybe even is role-playing a bit, the rule should not be needed.
(If you are used to the term "alternative cost" I could say that I often figure Japan has a positive "gain - direct cost" sum if they continue past Chita, but a negative "gain - direct cost - alternative cost" sum. But if I add the knowledge that the game is zero-sum all in all, and I therefore could weight a USSR loss more heavily than a CW loss, then the sum may turn positive again.)
I am quite used to the term "alternative cost", and my analysis always use such a line of thought. What the benefit is of pushing Russia to Chita, and possibly beyond (given an all-out Barb, for instance), really depends on how many forces Russia has there. If Russia has a lot, then all Japan needs to do, is to defend after taking the 4 resources. But if Russia only keeps 1-2 units, then these can be easly taken out, without sacrificing too much elsewhere.
But I am not satisfied with such a goal. I agree that the proposed solution will have such an effect. But I would like the rule to support a short war.
Imo, one could create much better formulations of the war, if a short war was indeed the goal. For instance, one could say that either side could call a white peace N turns war was commenced. (Where N could be 2-6 somewhere.)
I believe the annual edition of the rule does this, while I believe the suggested change have the opposite effect. I think the suggested change will make the war end up always having only one of two outcomes: One side wins all or an endless war.
I've played with my suggestion 1-2 times already, the latest one at the latest eurowifcon, where I was doing a Super Balbo. In this game, Russia surrendered to Japan after only 1-2 turns of war, iirc. Of course, in that game, Japan was in command of western manchuria, so Russia didnt have anything Japanese to give up. Japan also took all 3 pacific resources pretty quickly, iirc.
You know that even though we agreed that the suggested change is something that could be agreed on in a negotiated deal. If playing with the modified annual rule the looser will not surrender at the point in time when the deal is reasonable. But instead the looser will defend weakly, but in such a way that the victor needs to continue pushing forward in strength. This will go on until the victor is already past what the deal is about, and only then when the deal no longer gives any direct benefit to the victor, will the looser spend a few units to capture back some additional hexes on a late in the turn move and then surrender at end of turn.
Again, not my experience. Since the victor (at least in my proposal) gets to keep all territory he has taken, the defender will tend ot surrender rather quickly when realizing he is losing, since delaying the surrender means losing more territory. Also, since this is usually a secondary front for both sides, the loser will be quite anxious to free up the forces involved, and use them elsewhere, which also tends to speed up the surrender.
This could be quite relevant for Japan, too, if he is faced with an early (39-40) japan first strategy by the allies. If he surrenders to the USSR, then at least he can defend properly vs the UK, France and China.
For the victor the time in between before the surrender may be expensive if the looser plays well. A kind of game mechanic that allows only one side to stop the war is a powerful weapon in the hand of any good player, especially where this player has no limits on when to use this option. And I don’t see why the looser so unilaterally can decide the time of the signing so that the deal is put to the worst possible moment for the victor. On the other hand, I think the original Annual rule deals with this issue as it allows also the victor to surrender without loosing his gains. I will get back to that argument below, but first:
I fully agree that the ability to unilatteraly decleare semi-white peace is very powerful. But I think you are blatantly wrong about the victor wishing to surrender. (Which is a good thing). Simply having to give up the far east (russia) or Manchuria(Japan), will make sure that the stronger side will NOT want to surrender.
The strategic consideration arguments we agreed on above I think is true in this case too. In a fairly steady state Japan may be better of keeping six additional USSR corps occupied than doing anything else. But that's because the game is zero sum or close to zero sum, and because a WIF player know the length of the game. For Japan it really would be better to free units to get resources for themselves, and out of scope for the game: Because a beaten USSR would have no problem to rebuild and come back 10 years later when the war with Germany was settled. And whatever the reasons the countries had for starting the war in the first place are of no importance if the war turned into a First World War trenches kind of war that will keep a million men on each side occupied with very little chance of any real progress for a very long time. I think this is precisely what both countries feared and precisely what the rule should make them be able to get out of.
To cover this kind of psycology, one could add a clause where each side could declare a white peace at the 6th turn of the war or so. But for a power to ambush the other, and make some quick gains, and then simply surrender in order to be able to keep those gains, makes no sense to me. The other side should at least have a reasonable amount of time to chase the aggressor away before the aggressor can surrender.
And if it is the aggressor that is the winner, this matters much less.
I think that at least pre '42 both countries have so good use for their units elsewhere they really should accept a peace deal.
One way to enforce the historical peace, is to have Japan and the USSR start at war, or alternatively start with a peace treaty in 1939. (Both would be quite historical, even if the first would assume that the game starts a few weeks earlier in asia than in europe.)
Now, with a peace in 1939, both sides will have an easy time to keep the garrison in 1940, but this WILL require some garrions units. And if they both deply a historical strength vs each other in 1941, there will no war then either.
But the fact was, that both sides WERE deploying HUGE armies vs each other historically, even when both were at war elsewhere. If war had not been a very real possibility in their minds at the time, this would hardly have have been necessary.
So what I am saying is that I think that the ability for both parts to stop the war no matter if they consider themselves winners or not is important, and this is precisely what will prevent extensive abuse of the rule in all cases, including silly dancing, but there are limitations of course. Since it necessary that the penalty paid for stopping the war is a real penalty, it's not possible to stop lesser abuses.
But I fail to see that there are any silly dancing problems, as the rule does so well give each side a weapon to fight all kinds of extensive abuses of the original rule.
Unless I misunderstand your opinion, I definitely think you will see "silly dancing". In fact, i think the outcome will often be quite the same as in my suggestion, since most games will see the "winner" taking, or threatening to take more territory than has to be given away when surrendering early. Japan, if on the offensive, will be moving toward the westernmost resource, and then collect all the other 3 before taking Vlad, While Russia when on the offensive will simply hold on to that same area as well as the pacific map, before converging on Manchuria. They will also want to threaten Korea or areas in China.
So basically, I think the amount of "silly dancing" will remain at the same level as pre-annual Russia can force a white peace if Japan holds Vlad.
On top of this, I expect that the rule, the way I understand your interpretationi, will encourage surprise attack by either side, just to be able to quickly take border hexes before one side surrenders.