Strategic Command WWII Guide: First Moves for Allied Powers18 Jul 2017 1
Some time ago I offered up in this venerable forum a couple of treatises on strategy, as well as an article on supply and logistics, in addition to my review, for Strategic Command: WWII in Europe (SC:WiE). The former were delivered via the Axis perspective; a discourse on same from an Allied point of view has been a while in the making, but here it is. The main thing I discovered in playing the Allies – something with which, surprisingly, I have virtually no prior experience in all the WWII games I’ve played over the years! – is that the strategies required are not only different (not unexpectedly) but a lot more varied. To begin with, discounting ‘doomed’ Poland – whom I recommend turning over to the AI in SC:WiE, as there’s not much that can be done with them; perhaps even France as well (but see later on) – each of the other major countries – U.K., U.S.S.R., U.S.A. – demands its own more or less unique approach. What works for the British and, to a lesser extent for the Americans, is almost diametrically opposed by the Soviet Union’s position and priorities. These facts necessitate learning and, consequently trying, a lot more varied tactics and stratagems than for Germany and Italy.
Which is not to suggest I’m prefacing this article with excuses for ‘failure’, nor should it be taken as a warning that SC:WiE is too complex or not worth the effort to learn (quite the contrary). I’m simply saying that an exhaustive evaluation of the myriad strategies possible in SC:WiE is neither possible nor, given the game’s depth, desirable even if it were feasible. Nor am I offering herein any ‘guaranteed win’ strategy(ies). Indeed, if a solution(s) existed that virtually assured players a win every time, the game would not be very satisfying – or, I daresay, very good. Therefore, I’m merely presenting my own experiences and suggestions, especially aimed at new players – those new to wargaming, moreover – so as to perhaps mitigate some of the learning curve and initial frustrations some might experience; for example, how to respond to perhaps bewildering Decisions! If you have other – better! – strategies to share, by all means do so in the Comments.
Before we get to it I must mention that, as I write, Strategic Command: WWII in Europe v1.08 is out; there’s a huge change list, especially for v1.04 and earlier, but a few new features are worth mentioning and referring you, dearest reader, to the Patch Notes (via the Main Menu) for details. I believe doing so would be beneficial, especially if you haven’t played since v1.01-.03, as there have been some significant changes including starting MPP adjustments for certain scenarios and modified events affecting National Morale. Otherwise, very briefly, here are a few more of note: Several new hotkeys have been added, including virtually all from the right-click action menu; the ‘Next/Previous’ unit hotkeys are now sorted by type (air/naval/land); HQ Supply values have changed; surprised naval/land units no longer automatically go to 0 AP.
Now, let’s get to it! (Note: It’s assumed that readers are familiar with SC:WiE terminology and abbreviations.)
PREPARE TO DIE!
This section’s header is semi-serious; Poland and France are doomed! (I trust that’s not too terribly shocking.) While I tried quite a few things to save the French – even going so far as to virtually abandon the Maginot Line and surround Paris – which, it seems, is the only objective that ultimately proves the fulcrum of France’s National Morale – nothing made any difference beyond, at most, putting off the inevitable a few turns. Once, I didn’t even send the B.E.F., taking the 1,000-point NM hit while hoping to save the Brits for later.
As mentioned, one may wish to put France on AI control; it depends if you’re more frustrated having to watch helplessly or being unable to change things no matter what you do! In any case, I’ll tell you a few of those things I’ve discovered, although I should admit up front that I only played through the first 12-15-or-so turns something like seven or eight times, so as to try different strategies to potentially save the French. As mentioned, nothing worked, yet I have not tested any of these approaches to ultimate conclusion; it may very well prove that some of my suggestions turn out to be detrimental in the long run, for which I take no responsibility!
I probably need not mention that the Allied player will spend all their initial turns simply reacting to Axis opening moves. Although in one game Germany curiously did not DoW Belgium, the latter joined the Allies anyway; otherwise things seem to go pretty much historically.
I can caution players against ferrying troops to Tunisia and Algeria; if they go Vichy (apparently almost guaranteed, as they never did otherwise during my play), Allied units in their territory will surrender. I also have a caveat regarding the new Upgrade tool: The Max button will not distinguish between two paths, e.g. AA or Weaponry, and will instead attempt to upgrade both at once, so don’t use it if this isn’t desirable. Finally, I can offer a recommendation that puzzles me as to why the AI doesn’t pursue it more relentlessly, since there seems to be little or no consequence: Raid Axis ore convoys from Sweden with all available units! A hit of up to 40 MPP per turn (appears to be capped at 40) has to be a major blow to Axis income! In my games the Kriegsmarine never responded – probably a good thing for the Axis, as I’m sure the AI knows that it will almost certainly be sent to the bottom if it does sortie to defend its convoy route. (Once, Deutschland did go after my destroyer that was dogging a U-boat, but it was quickly despatched for a 250 NM bonus.)
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact seems mandatory, especially as there’s no cost, but as mentioned, the B.E.F. may be withheld, as it seems to do little to sway things either way, and preserving it may be desirable (although destroyed elements can be resurrected at lower price; see below under Purchase/Production.) Banning the French Communist Party also seems obligatory, yet it still appears that little affects the eventual surrender of France aside from the fall of Paris. So, it may be worthwhile to decline and avoid the slight hit on Russian mobilisation. Transferring Finnish Territory appears to have no upshots, so I have always gone with it. Similarly, Occupying Irish Ports has a tiny negative effect on American intervention, yet it would be interesting to see what the Axis AI does if they weren’t (perhaps I’ll test this someday).
Raising Spanish Republicans as engineers appears largely pointless, as the unit has to be moved from near the Spanish border, and arrives too late to do much good even around Paris, let alone the Belgian border or Maginot Line; save the 50 MPP for reinforcements. As to the Revised Borders & Friendship Treaty, only once did I experience the Axis AI reneging on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, so otherwise I lean toward rejecting it; doing so leaves even more space between the Germans and Moscow and other objectives. The 150 MPP cost seems prohibitive for the Anglo-French expedition to Finland, the returns – at only 50% probability – not worth it. Arguably so for the Polish I Corps; France spending 2x25 MPP hurts, but perhaps the exiled Poles can help?
Not so the LDV/Home Guard conversion; it seems well worth the cost of 35 MPP for Britain, as does the 25 to Occupy Iceland (Operation Fork), and Winter Clothing for the U.S.S.R. has insignificant cost. Sending full- or under-strength ANZAC forces to Egypt is somewhat more problematic. I suspect that 1941 will be too late, so I’ve gone with under-strength earlier, even though it costs more MPP to reinforce them (as well as Upgrade, if available), and doing so delays their arrival at the front. Strengthening forces in East Africa also seems imperative, despite the 60 MPP cost to the U.K.; I may someday revisit this as well, and see what happens if I don’t.
There seems to be reason enough to Re-route U.K. Convoys (reduced tonnage for less vulnerability), although it would again be interesting to see what happens saying ‘No’. Annexing the Baltics and Bessarabia (U.S.S.R.), and Supporting the Free French all seem no-brainers, the latter only at 30 MPP (U.K.), which later enables Op Catapult (sink Vichy Fleet for 35 MPP).
In general, I have leaned toward Research early on – see below – rather than Production, especially for the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R., but there are a few things I wish to highlight. First, I commented above on resurrecting the B.E.F.; needless to say, if they are destroyed they should be the first to be added back into Great Britain’s build queue. I also recommend a Medium Bomber and Fighter for Egypt; I go with the former instead of a Tactical Bomber for the De-Entrenchment value, which will be required against Tobruk. While the AASF could be transferred along with a Fighter from home – seeing that little affects the fall of France anyway – both would be useful later on regardless.
British naval forces need to be brought up to full strength and/or upgraded, especially destroyers – Canadian included – then go into the Mediterranean, Egypt, and eventually don’t forget the Malta AA. As recommended in-game, I build the Palestine, Transjordan, and Egypt Garrisons, albeit I already indicated above that all France’s MPP go toward raising French forces up to full strength and keeping them reinforced; I had nothing to spare for Research or Production for France, let alone Diplomacy (see later on). The U.S.S.R. needs the Timoshenko HQ and other units topped up, while the Engineer unit that appears in a few turns can be used to construct forts along the likely Polish border. However, interestingly, when I once turned over the Soviets to the AI, it built a string of them between the Oka and Moskva Rivers southwest of Moscow. Note that the U.S.S.R. has some auto-deployed units after Poland falls, but otherwise I did not build any Soviet units, concentrating on Research instead; likewise with the U.S.A., only I didn’t even bother reinforcing their under-strength units.
Since they are both a ways from mobilisation, I felt that it would be important for the Americans and Russians to invest in Research, enabling them to field better units once they did enter the war. Again, this may be a mistake in the long run, but I managed to be quite successful in acquiring some that I believe will prove invaluable. While all sides start with several in the pipeline, I saw priorities as follows: In roughly the order of mention, including attaining successive levels, the U.S.S.R. should go with Infantry Warfare, Infantry Weapons, Logistics, Command and Control (they have few HQs and lots of units), Armoured Warfare, Anti-Tank Weapons, Artillery Weapons, Aerial Warfare, and Advanced Aircraft. The U.K. will be well-served in acquiring Anti-Submarine Warfare, Industrial Tech, Command and Control, Amphibious Warfare, Advanced Aircraft, and Ground Attack Weapons. America’s priorities ought to include Production Tech, Industrial Tech, Amphibious Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Command and Control, Armoured Warfare, Advanced Tanks, Infantry Warfare, and Infantry Weapons, although I debated with myself over the latter four against Aerial/Aircraft techs instead.
In my first couple of starts I used the U.K. to try influencing the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. early, but with no success, so I soon thought the MPP better spent elsewhere. While the latter slowly move automatically toward mobilisation, I wonder if they can be nudged along; it would likely take me about twice as long as I have already to figure this out, though, and I have deadlines!
I reiterate that the strategies presented here are not ‘guaranteed’, and moreover, trying every possible Yes/No decision to Events as well as each combination of myriad tactics, Purchase, Research, and Diplomacy options, would be nigh-infinite and thus impossible. Again, I only hope to save newer players some time and frustration, while at the same time welcoming other players’ suggestions – doubtless there are many with vastly more experience playing the Allies in Strategic Command: WWII in Europe than me! Share in the Comments, along with any questions.
This article discusses a game developer and/or published by members of the Slitherine Group. For more information, please see the About Us page.