|Boot Camp: Knowing Your Opponent|
|by Robert Mull|
While building the perfect army and memorizing the rule book are both important factors in winning a game of Axis & Allies Miniatures, being able to accurately size up your opponent can frequently be the difference between victory and a crushing defeat. There are many types of different players and the strategies you take against them should change accordingly. Let’s examine a few play types that I have run across recently and consider how best to approach that type of player. These aren’t hard and fast types, and you may belong to one, none or many of the following groups.
The Zero Range Combat Specialist
We have all seen this play style before. This player likes to build armies that he can rush in to point blank range and start rolling dice for damage. The game is about combat, not dancing around the battlefield, so you can count on them bringing the battle to you. If you let him get to close range, his units will pound you into a bloody pulp.
The best way to defeat the ZRCS is to make him wait for combat and then present him with a target he can’t resist. If you sit tight in a well defended and mutually supported position with some weak recon unit just beyond his range, he will feel obligated to move something forward to attack. Since the ZRCS craves combat, they can be easy to lure out to their doom. Usually you can lure his units out piecemeal and once you weaken him, the ZRCS becomes dramatically less effective.
The calculator considers every move carefully and almost always allows you to move first. If they choose to move first, it usually means you have fallen into some sort of trap. The calculator takes no unnecessary risks. They consider the line of sight of all units, ranges and relative firepower before moving a single piece. That is not to say that they are boring or otherwise predictable because they can be masters of surprise.
There are only two ways I have found to beat the Calculator. First, you have to beat them at their own game. You have to out think, out fight and out roll them every step of the battle. Your other option is to be so novel in your attack that they never see it coming until it is too late. The problem with this tactic is it only works once and then it is forever in the Calculator’s bag of tricks.
The Random Factor
The Random Factor frequently appears to be a low level Calculator at first glance. They will sit down and approach the game with all due care and caution and usually have very solid game play. However, at some point in the game they decide to make some bold move and throw caution to the winds. This is what you have to watch out for as they can be entirely unpredictable and suddenly you might find yourself facing several panzers on a suicide mission where victory hangs in the fate of a die roll.
The best way to beat a Random Factor is to sit tight and play a conservative game. Eventually, that random gene will kick in and then you attack. If you can crush their bold move to win the game, you have usually won the game. Usually, just knowing the other player is a Random Factor is enough to defeat them. The real danger in playing against them is understanding that the player might suddenly risk everything on a single die roll...in turn three. Once you know it’s coming, it’s relatively easy to defend against it.
Ever fight a force of comprised solely of jeeps carrying flamethrowers? It’s likely you are playing against an experimenter. These are the kind of people who like to find opponents to play against so they can try out their latest army build. You can never be sure what you will be fighting the next time or how effective it will be. Odds are, the experimenter doesn’t really care all that much if they win or lose, they just want to see what happens.
Playing against an experimenter is much like playing with fire. It can be very interesting to watch but you can get burnt if you don’t take it seriously. Solid flexible armies combined with flexible tactics are what you need to win consistently. Since neither you, nor your opponent, know how effective an all Humber army might be, you are best off taking them seriously. Plenty time to laugh after the map is littered with burning cars.
While this doesn’t cover all possible play styles, it does prove an important point. You should take the time to analyze your opponent and their play style. You will gain insights into how they might react to your moves and what you can expect from them. At the same time, you learn more about your own play style and its inherent strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes victory isn’t about the units on the map or how you play the game, but how you play the opposing player (or how they played you).