"The most powerful strike in the war was the joint Allied assault on Normandy. The planning required to launch this simultaneous invasion has never been equaled."
-- from the "Joint Strike" optional rule in the revised Operations Manual
After last week's bombshells about submarines and destroyers, it's a little anticlimactic to write about cargo capacity of transports and aircraft carriers. After all, you're looking for explosive changes to Axis & Allies, and this topic could fall somewhat short of "explosive."
Wait, that's a terrible way to start a column. I'm supposed to be inspiring you to read this. OK, let me begin again.
This will be the most fascinating column about cargo capacity that you will ever read from me. This I promise you.
And remember -- amateurs discuss tactics, professionals discuss logistics.
In the Milton Bradley edition of the game, a transport could carry one antiaircraft gun, one tank, or up to two infantry. Axis & Allies Europe added artillery to the game and changed the list of options. In that game, you could carry either one tank or any two other land combat units (artillery, infantry, and/or antiaircraft guns). Those are rather different rules.
For the new edition, the Milton Bradley rule was too restrictive. Small transport capacity meant a longer game because the United States, United Kingdom, and Japan would be slow to get their forces into the land war. On the other hand, the A&AE rule was too expansive. The best choice for an amphibious assault was two artillery. They were identical to an infantry and an artillery for the assault itself but having two artillery gave you more options when one unit depended on the other for its attack factor.
Amphibious assaults, the great use of transports in the game, should be the province of infantry, we reasoned. Other units could and should support them but few amphibious assaults should occur without infantry. This led us to the conclusion that the right capacity for the new Axis & Allies transport was any one land unit plus one infantry. No matter what you loaded onto the transport first, you could put an infantry onboard with it. This encourages more varied unit purchases and gets the big land units onto the battlefield faster, two goals we wanted to achieve.
Brian Dumas's diagram shows the cargo options for a transport.
The Loading Process
This hasn't changed much. A transport can load at the beginning, middle, and/or end of its move, but it must stop moving as soon as it offloads. The only real change in this regard is the removal of the previous edition's allowed "double offload" into two territories. A single transport now can offload in one territory per turn. This minor change was driven by logic: Transports were prohibited from moving after offloading. Even during a "bridging" action, it still is kind of a move to jump from one territory to another, even if both have coastlines on the same sea zone.
A transport cannot load or offload in a sea zone containing any hostile units. The only exception to this is when the enemy forces are all submerged submarines. This typically matters only when a fleet comes into a sea zone to clear out a force of sea units before an amphibious assault or noncombat move offloading. If an enemy submarine survives the first volley and then submerges, the transports can offload because the sub "isn't really there." Submarines can no longer "sub-stall" (an irritating move-and-submerge tactic from Axis & Allies Pacific) without risking demolition, so transports have more mobility in the game.
Here's another Brian Dumas diagram showing what a transport can and can't do.
Aircraft carriers can "load" fighters only at the end of the planes' movement. Fighters take off at the beginning of the combat move or noncombat move; if they don't, they're cargo and can't do anything. A fighter that enters combat can enter the carrier's sea zone at the end of the combat phase, but it doesn't land until the end of the noncombat move. This stops a fighter from flying four spaces during the combat move, landing on a carrier, and then being transported an extra space or two during the noncombat move. If you want a fighter that can move six spaces, you'll need to pay for Long-Range Aircraft.
Carrying Your Friends
One of the more complex activities in the game is transporting units belonging to multinational powers on your transports and aircraft carriers. (It's "multinational," not "multi-player" any more. They easily could be the same player.) The basic rules for this haven't changed. For transports, you need to make a three-turn move: The units board on their turn, move on yours, and offload on your partner's next turn. Friendly fighters do the same thing: They can land on your carrier on their turn, the carrier can move on yours, and they can take off again on their next turn.
Previously, such carried units were cargo; they couldn't attack with your units when your units moved. Transported friendly land units couldn't do anything, including offloading with other units in an amphibious assault. About the only thing they could do on another player's turn was drown when their transport got sunk. This seemed reasonably intuitive from the Milton Bradley rulebook.
What was not intuitive was what happened when your aircraft carrier was attacked while carrying your friend's fighter. The previous edition was silent, suggesting the cargo fighter was solely dependent on the carrier for its survival. (The rulebook said "its" fighters could defend it, leaving the outcome depending on what your definition of "its" is.) This violated the principle that if a player attacked a multinational force, all the units in the attacked space could defend.
We made it explicit that a cargo fighter can defend and can escape to a neighboring space if its carrier is destroyed.
Brian's diagram explains a little more about this. As you can see, the fighter belonging to the attacking carrier has a lot more options but the cargo fighter is dead in the water.
"This Great and Noble Undertaking"
One of the coolest optional rules in the revision is the one that started this column. The new "Joint Strike" rule allows the United Kingdom to make a special maneuver once per game. When invoked, a joint strike allows the UK player to skip the UK's usual combat move and conduct combat phase.
Why would a player do that, you ask? In order to take those phases simultaneously with the United States player on the USA's next turn. The United States player moves his forces and those of the United Kingdom as one when his combat move comes around. This allows for a true D-Day invasion of Western Europe. The combined fleet of transports loaded with infantry, tanks, and artillery may be one of the most impressive things you'll ever see in an Axis & Allies game in the future.
That's about all I can think of to say regarding transporting units. Next week, you're in for a real treat. That's when I'll reveal the new map to the world. Trust me, it'll blow your mind. Make sure you're back for that.
Catch up on any previews you missed!
Mike Selinker has been playing, designing, developing, and just plain loving games of every variety for many, many years. He is a gamer in the very best sense of the word. Mike lives in Seattle.