- by D. A. Harrell -
I am a cognitive scientist currently researching the new Self Shaping Circuits (machine intelligence). I came across your A&A FAQ listing quite by accident while scanning the AI (artificial intelligence) listing. I have been using this A&A game as a test environment for years in my research of SSCs and cognitive physics. I had no idea that so many people were interested in this delightful game environment. I thought your group might be interested in some of my early basic conclusions on a few apparently controversial issues. "Is the game imbalanced?" Yes. The clear advantage is to the Allies. This was the first parameter of the environment which had to be adjusted in order to achieve equal starting polarity between the two sides. This is a complex issue because the Allies start with less material, but get one extra move per round. This puts pressure on the Axis to win quickly. Unfortunately for the Axis, A&A is not a game in which either side can reliably force a quick win. My experience has been that the only way the Axis would win under the first rule version was when they got dice-lucky and/or met with a novice at the eastern front. The force of this perpetual additional move is very difficult to overcome. The second versions of the rules was indecisive, and offered inadequate compensation for the severe imbalance. Indeed, the offer to suspend all factory installations is clearly of more benefit to the Allies; since the English can easily develop an effective alternative to an Asian/African presence; in contrast to slim Japanese opportunities; the Imperial forces are clearly crippled without the ability to crank out armor and/or personnel on the mainland. To restore equality I eventually discovered a most elegant adjustment valve. Indeed, these alterations would seem to more closely parallel the true picture of world forces in the spring of 1942.
The Boats Valve Fix: BVF
To begin the contest with parity, make the following three permanent non-optional definite rule changes:
No attack by Russia on the first round. This was the only bold, correct, and historically parallel change offered by the Rules version 2 Gamemaster. Additionally you must "turn" the "boats valve" Increase the number of German submarines in the Atlantic Ocean (Western Europe) from 1 to 4 Increase the number of Japanese transports in the Philippines seazone from 1 to 4 Many persons will think this too severe. They are probably underestimating the value of an "extra move" per round. A good Allied commander need only hold out until this snowball is of sufficient mass to roll over the Germans from three directions during one round. The Japanese can only look on from a distances in horror, as the 3rd reich is overwhelmed by the inevitable triple-national invasion of Europe. This reduces the gaming event from a contest of skill, to one of patience. The "boats valve" also serves as an excellent flexible "handicap" parameter for players of unequal experience. Although, if the skill gap between the two player is too great, this fix may not help. For instance, if you increase this boats number from 4 to 8. [BVF(4,4) to BVF(8,8)] This would probably still not be enough to equalize a match between an experienced Allied commander and some unfortunate Risk enthusiast facing a towering northern wall of Allied material for the first time. I would be pleased to hear from A&A players all over the board.
D. Albert Harrell
This fix was originally posted in the newsgroup rec.games.board.