I just finished my first full game against the AI, winning a paltry minor victory as the WA. Around here, that is no great shakes as you can find folks who clean up the AI with decisive victories on the regular, but it did give me a few lessons that may be helpful to a beginner. I claim no status as an expert, but maybe you'll find something here that the experts assume you already know. Experts are of course free to provide their undoubtedly better advice, First up:
The VP War
Unless something has gone disastrously wrong (or amazingly right if you're the axis), the Allies will make steady progress -albeit in bursts- and the game will end in Germany sometime. The question is what the VP count will be when it happens. So here are the basics:
Bombing Points: Bombing is really a net Damage-Special Target(U-boat/V-Weapon) game, and it is far easier to remove Special Target penalties than build positive damage points.
When bombing industry for VPs, it is total damage that counts, not the number of targets hit. The damage to VP industries is not particularly consequential other than the VPs, so long bombs to pick off a small Fuel Refinery just because "hey I'm targeting fuel" is not worth as much as plastering dense target areas.
It is also generally easier to remove Special Target maluses than it is to build up positive points for damage to industry...particularly the U-boats. Any U-boat factory with 1% damage counts as out, whereas you would have to bomb giant HI centers flat to gain the same points. Even an unskilled player like myself can easily keep the U-boat penalty to -2 or better a turn (I lost 53 in the game) by focusing around hamburg/danzig and ignoring the deep factories, whereas it takes a more skilled player to move bombing VPs up above the natural 10-12 range you can get in NW Germany. This is particularly true as the war drags on and you need to basically smash Germany flat to get the same points you would get for bombing the Ruhr earlier.
V-Weapons are far trickier, on account to having factories everywhere. I initially thought culling the weapon sites would let me ignore the factories, but even consistent raids never ended the threat until I finally overran the last launch pads. In contrast to the U-boats, my game saw over 400 points lost to V-Weapon penalties! Even so, a comparative 10-15% of my bombing effort when I got wise was worth ~200 points saved, and I suspect a concerted campaign from the beginning could have saved another 200...
In contrast, my industry bombing points for the whole war were in the low 700s from basically NW Germany in '43, with Romanania and South Germany starting in late '43.. Granted, I'm not a master of systems and, but the scale of possible points should be obvious here. What ended up being a small ~150 point boon over the war would have a Minor Victory in it's own right had I attacked V-weapon factories rather than just launch sites earlier, a feat which rarely took too much off-line from bombing strength.
Cities: Until you get in to Germany, it is hard to make money with cities. They mostly offset the casualties you suffer taking them...mostly. Other than big bags of points like Rome, taking a city "for the points" is rarely a good reason to grind up forces - unless it also furthers your plans. Pay heed in Italy, and on how much effort you devote to things like the Atlantic ports. (I'm pretty sure the nation of Belgium's next two generations were wiped out battling for ports I didn't really need.) In converse, you are going to need city points. They will count for more than your bombing (mine were in the low 1050 range), and they are the only thing that fuels the VP casualty cost of your drive to Berlin.
Losses: British and Canadian units are tempting; they have beautiful CVs at times. Free French and Brazilians seem tailor made for those secondary efforts. But when they bleed, the drain your VPs and quick. Don't be shy about using them, but be cognizant that they aren't ideal for when there is no option but to sandpaper away the German front. Other than that, it is hard for losses to outpace cities unless you get caught out badly - an isolated British paratrooper drop for whom help never came is going to hurt, as is a panzer army crushing your lone armor division that "exploited" that "opportunity".
Also bear in mind that the act of crossing the water in an invasion can rack up quite a few losses, as can a gamble on crossing some neutral sea hexes. Prepare to pay a stiff penalty for Overlord and Avalanche.
The losses really start to stack up in France without city points until you breakout from the beaches, so if you are heading into Overlord in VP debt, that is a bad sign. Expect to take a 100 VP drop between the invasion and the breakout when cities start to offset your losses. My game (and many AARs around here), showed about an 1100 VP casualty count, making my casualty VPs outnumber my city points by 100 or so. I could have probably knocked a 100-200 off with better tactical control (game mechanics, mostly), but by and large so long as you don't throw men wantonly and endlessly at the Germans, this category and the Cities will be a near draw.
No Beachhead: Long story short, at default settings the Italy penalty will turn a win to a draw and a draw to a loss. The France/North Europe penalty will lose you the game. Don't short shrift an invasion dealing with these, and remember you may spend multiple turns advancing off the beaches so the initial naval/airborne landings need to carry a lot of the load. I'd say 8+ hexes need to grabbed in the initial France landings for example.
Time Time wins games, or loses them. End of story. Taking Berlin on turn 95 propelled a firm draw into a minor victory, for ~330 points just for the early finish...that is only 3 weeks ahead of schedule. If the east front box is on, the WA lose 100 points a turn once late penalties kick in. To put that another way, one turn late or early may be worth as much your entire air war, or 100k US losses!
In addition, because cities count every turn after they are taken, and lose value as the years go by, there is also a less dramatic yet tangible reward for faster and more successful operations in '43 and the initial Overlord portion. Just not nearly as relevant as the Berlin clock.
COMING NEXT: THE GROUND WAR (Or: How I learned that supporting units are really, really, important.)