This post is an analysis of balance issues and tries especially to focus on the pre 1.05 and post 1.05 differences .
In everything below the game is played with hard caps on the number of units . All screen shots come from my PBEMs .
Against the AI it is simple – a human player always wins regardless whether he plays Axis or Allied.
Playing Allied is extremely easy, playing Axis is more difficult but an early Sealion is almost always feasible leading to a win .
The reason is that the AI doesn't play well the naval war and doesn't seem to have a strategy in production and research .
The victory conditions for Axis being to control Cairo, London and the large Soviet cities we shall look at these 3 theaters as they presented themselves pre 1.05 .
1. Cairo (pre 1.05)
This one is easiest for Axis and basically impossible to keep for the Allied .
This theater is very difficult to be reinforced for the Allied while Axis can and will reinforce via Italy .
Even when France is defeated, Italy still cannot beat the RN in Mediterranean but the RN cannot wipe out the RM either .
From this naval draw follows that an Axis player will always be able to take Cairo if he decides to do so .
The Allied player is in front of an impossible choice – on one hand his forces cannot resist the Italians and the DAK but on the other hand he cannot reinforce Egypt as long as he doesn't know if the Germans are going for Sealion or not .
One can note anyway that even if the UK player succeeds to reinforce Egypt massively, he still won't stop the Panzers because of the large difference in research (see also the screenshot below) .
As this is obviously ahistorical, why is it so ?
The main reason are the wildly irrealistic Italian forces and wildly different research levels .
Historically Italy fielded 1 army of dubious quality at El Alamein .
In the game the German player has in Libya at least 2 Italian armies and 3 infantery corps all well supplied and of good quality .
They alone are able to stop the UK if they stay in defensive at Bardia so that when the DAK arrives with eventually 1 PzD more and with the Stukas, the deal is sealed .
If the Axis player gets Spain on his side than the situation for UK in Mediterranean is even worse than hopeless .
The following screenshot from one of my ore 1.05 PBEM nicely illustrates the analysis above .
In fall 1941, UK has a crushing naval superiority (RM is basically wiped out), air superiority (3 carriers in Mediterranean) and has more units than Axis .
the BB strikes on Axis units just scratch their paint while the BBs get damage here and there
the carriers can not reinforce air above 8 and if they attack, they do no damage and get slaughtered
UK has Inf 1 and tanks 1 . Germany has tanks 3 and Inf 2 . The sceenshot shows the kind of odds one gets if trying to attack the Pz :)
They cannot be stopped and will simply slice through the UK units regardless how many there are . Time to evacuate and save what can be saved .
For the purpose of victory conditions, an Allied player has to consider Cairo lost and the best he can do is to try to drain some Italian and German MPP as long as it lasts .
Most important task is to evacuate when it is still possible otherwise all units in Egypt are lost .
2. USSR (Pre 1.05)
I would start by saying that Russia is almost as lost a cause as Egypt .
Here the main reason is the very low technical research, 0 experience and a dramatical lack of HQs for the Red Army in 1941 .
When those units are hit by the experienced German Panzers, mechanized infantery and bombers they simply evaporate at a much faster rate than they can be reconstructed .
The Russian theater nicely illustrates the engine which decides about loss and win in SC : cumulated losses versus cumulated MPP .
The Reds loose more than they can replace, their army and territory shrinks .
The German loose less than they can replace, their army and territory grows .
Game over for Russia .
The screenshots below from one of my PBEM shows how fast the Soviet units evaporate .
We are only start September 41 and the Soviets have whole 12 combat units on the entire map !!
Out of these, 6 (e.g the half !) will be destroyed this turn .
That means that the next turn will start for the Russian with 6 units on the whole Ostfront !
Leningrad falls this turn and Moscow has only 1 unit in defence :)
There is nothing between Moscow and Rostov and the German can just advance full speed without fighting .
Yet the German player didn't do anything special – he just advanced his Pz and Mech inf at maximum range every turn and took care that the supply of the Russian units is reduced below 5 before destroying them so that the Russian player doesn't benefit of the fast return .
The following screen shot shows a typical Barbarossa opening – half of the Red Army is under supply 5 and will be lost next turn .
This means that by turn 2, the Russian looses 15 units only in the Bialystok and Lvov pockets with among others 1 HQ, 4 Mech inf, 3 air and 7 infantery .
This represents 2200 MPP which the Russian player will never catch up .
Every German player will stay focused on the main 1941 targets – Leningrad and Moscow so that the Russian player can only hope to slow them down .
Leningrad cannot be saved especially as the Finnish units are strong with good moral and readiness and keep the pressure from the North . A good suggestion to the Allied player is NOT to start the Winter War as this forces the German player to use diplomacy to get Finland on his side and Lenigrad needs to be defended only against south .
Moscow beneficiates from a few choke points – Smolensk, Tula, Kaluga and Orel as well as the forests along the Volga so that there is a chance to contain the German advance before winter and then the Siberian reserves arrive .
Of course this "slowing down of the Germans" happens only under the condition that the Russian player has some units to put in but as we have seen on the screenshots, he doesn't .
Finally as synthesis, Leningrad gets lost in 1941 and Moscow is reached end 1941 .
Whether Moscow falls in 1942 or already in 1941 is quite irrelevant .
The South of Russia is expendable by necessity – the Russian player must leave it open .
Kertch and Rostov may be defended if units are available but it is mainly the General Weather who will slightly slow down the Axis advance in the South .
In any case regardless how well the German player advances in 1941, he will need to continue the Campaign in 1942 as soon as the good weather returns but the the Red Army will still be extremely weak (Inf 1, Tanks 1), with no air force and will continue to evaporate as it was the case in 1941 even if at a slightly lower rate .
3. London (Pre 1.05)
As we have seen that Cairo and even Russia are largely in the reach of the Wehrmacht, this leaves only London to achieve victory for Axis .
There are 2 ways to do so .
Either early Sealion or an invasion when Moscow and Leningrad are taken and the invasion force with Luftwaffe can gather in France what puts us earliest to mid 1942 .
With Sealion the conclusion is easy . If successful, Germany has won before even starting the attack of Russia . There is nothing that can save Russia timely and there is too little time to try to reinvade the UK before Stalingard is taken . The game is basically finished with the fall of London
That's why the Allied player has only one strategical goal in from september 1939 to may 1941 .
Avoid at all costs a successful Sealion and here the cost means to let Egypt go .
That means to sacrify everything and anything but to have a sufficient coast control in UK so that the German cannot land their Panzers with an HQ before june 1941 .
This task is impossible if the German player is ready to invade already in summer 1940 .
Once an Allied player sees that the German Panzers start to gather in Poland or lead a Yougoslavia/Greece Campaign he can take a deep breath because he has now 1 year to prepare his forces and to research the necessary techniques .
4. And what about post 1.05 ?
If Cairo, Leningrad and Moscow are lost end 1941 , the result of the game boils down to only one question – will Germany successfully invade England 1942/1943 or will US&UK be able to stop the invasion and eventually stage an invasion of their own ?
A hint for the answer may be given by the fact that 1942/1943 Germany has 9 experienced tanks level 3, 8 + experienced bombers level 3 (depending on how the Italian MPP were managed) and 11 experienced U boats level 3 too .
Germany&Italy also outproduce US&UK&URSS combined and at that stage the German player has already built everything that was available with hard cap so that he has more MPP than he can spend .
4.1 Egypt and North Africa
The change is important . The Axis forces struggle with supply so that the Allied player can hold against Italians and the DAK alone .
If the German sends bombers and additionnal tanks to Egypt, he'll pay it in Russia where his advance will be much slower and even then the victory is no more automatic like it was pre 1.05 .
Malta impact on supply is relatively irrelevant because Malta is easily destroyed in 1940 when France surrenders and the whole Luftwaffe can be sent to Sicily .
Then it takes 2 turns to destroy Malta by massive air strikes and occupy it .
The difference is that pre 1.05 Malta destruction was an option while post 1.05 it is mandatory if the Axis want to have a chance at victory .
Here the change is massive . Not only the German advances much slower but the Russians have more MPP and as they don't loose more than they can replace, the Red army GROWS
Comparing the situation on 9.9.1941 to the screen shot above one sees the huge difference .
The Allied still hold Egypt and have a good perspective to keep it .
More importantly the German advance is slow and the Russians can quite massively occupy and fortify all important towns .
The following screen shot shows the situation at start summer 1942 . The German units are weak, often badly supplied and it appears obvious that neither Leningrad nor Moscow will be taken in 1942 .
Despite the tank concentration in front of Moscow, the German player has already lost 2 tanks and 1 mech infantery to russian tank counters .
The Russian are already also countering in the North and Finland is cut in 2 . The Finns can no more press on Leningrad but must try to stop the Red hordes with a slim chance at success .
In the South Zaporozhe and Nikolaevo still hold .
Last but not least, the Russian can now afford to research advanced aircraft what decreases farther the German air superiority which was key to the advance pre 1.05 .
I think that here the balancing went overboard . In the situation shown in the screen shot the German will soon need to go defensive both in Africa and in Russia what means that the game is lost for Axis without even needing US intervention .
4.3 France, UK and USA
Pre 1.05 the Allied player could not compete in Egypt and Russia, his only hope to win the Campaign was to keep UK and build a US force with high techs able to invade Axis held territories .
Prerequisite being of course that Sealion must be extremely risky and have a very low probability of successs else the game is over in 1940 .
Prior to 1.05 Sealion was too easy .
For example here is how France looked in june 40 (note units already set up for Sealion)
And here is how UK looks already end August 1940 . Game over .
Finally pre 1.05 everything depended on the US (if no Sealion happened) . Will they be able to both have caught up with Germany technically AND to build a large enough navye&air force to SUCCESSFULLY invade Axis territories in 1943 ?
With a correct research strategy and focus on air force, US has however in my experience the capacity to prevent a German invasion of UK in 1943 and catch up with the German techs in 1944 .
The following screen shot shows why I have not lost a single game playing Allied even if this doesn't mean that I had won them all :)
The screen shot shows that despite Egypt and Russia lost, the UK&US air/navy are largely superior to the German and on a par in techs .The forces stationned in GB are more than enoug to defeat any attempt at invasion so that the game ends in a draw .
The huge Wehrmacht has a megaton of MPP, can compensate any losses and immediately operate Pz&bombers to defeat any Allied attempt at invasion .
But on the other hand UK&US have enough MPPs and forces to defeat any German landing attempt and can focus on wiping out the KM or to lock it up in the Baltic Sea .
The fact that 2 equally skilled players finished by a draw in a large majority of cases is a proof that the game was quite well balanced in pre 1.05 provided that the Allied player didn't despair during 1939-1943 and patiently built up his US techs and army .
The 1.05 made the life for Germany (much) more difficult in Russia so that the balance might have been broken and the Allied could win every game now .
A smalller enhancement of Russia was proabbly in order to avoid a walk in the park but the observed enhancement is probably too much .
As for me, I think that after some 2 dozens of PBEMs I have seen and tried more or less everything so that the SC replayability value reached 0 .
I wish you all fun and my respects to Bill and Hubert who listen and discuss with the player basis in an open and frequent way that is seldom (never ?) seen in other games .
I might have again a look at SC if/when SC4 releases one day and in the meantime Vonik over and out .
< Message edited by vonik -- 6/28/2017 3:39:09 PM >