The Case against 0 ipc territories (esp. Pacific Islands)

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The Case against 0 ipc territories (esp. Pacific Islands)

Post by Black_Elk » Fri Aug 30, 2013 2:32 am

I'm talking about Iwo, Okinawa, Wake, Caroline Islands, Midway, and Solomon Islands... All at 0 ipcs?

I've made my views on this abundantly clear before, and until someone can provide me with a compelling counter argument I will keep arguing this point...

Island territories in the Pacific at a value of 0 ipcs makes zero sense! Seriously, I don't know how many thousands of games you have to play, where the same thing happens time and again, before this point hits home. These territories should all be worth at least 1 ipc.

Any arguments about 'real world production capacity' or trying to stay true to some abstract, and highly relative, idea about the 'real' production value of a given Atoll or Island backwater, are totally negated by the fact that in game terms, having them at 0 ipcs takes them effectively out of play.

I'm talking about every worldmap version of A&A going back to Classic. These islands are consistently nixed out of the game, because they have no in game value.

Japan has no incentive to hold on to them.
USA has no incentive to attack them.

So what happens? Players just blow past these islands on their way to somewhere else that does have an ipc value. How many times have you seen this occur? Hundreds upon hundreds of times!

There is never any grand island hopping campaign, with a glorious crescendo at Iwo Jima or Okinawa. Never a brutal slog, jumping from island jungle to island jungle for the USA. At best they'll land a few troops at Solomon's and then immediately abandon it on the way to Borneo, or East Indies. It's as if Nimitz never even existed.

Say what you will about strategic landing spots, or safe havens to unload troops. The reality is that these islands are being ignored in every single game. And the reason is pretty plain to me, because they don't have any economic value attached to them. The difference between zero and 1 is massive, regardless of any other strategic value the territory might possess. If it's worth 1 its worth attacking, if it's 0 then it gets ignored.

The only game that seriously attempted to address this was AA50 with the National Objectives, like +5 to Britain if allies hold an original Japanese territory (which might tempt the US into an attack on a single island) etc. but even then, it took a special rule to get things going, that still didn't encourage real fighting over these territories. Having Hawaii as a VC helps, but it's not enough. There are still 6 other islands, that nobody is fighting over. They invariably remain yellow, even when Japan is against the ropes facing invasion of the home island.

The only way to truly bring these islands into play, is to give them an actual ipc value. Now, the term IPC in this game has already stood for two different things: Industrial Production Capacity, and Industrial Production Certificate.

Why not add a third possible meaning to the Acronym?
IPC = "Industrial Production Commitment"

It's still the same IPC in game terms, but now you can justify the 1 ipc value for island territories on the argument that it's strategic value warrants the commitment of industrial production to its protection. This is how to fix the game in the Pacific, in my view. It would also allow for the increase of Hawaii's value. Or Iwo, or Okinawa, which should both be major targets for the USA, islands the Japanese are willing to defend with force. In current games battles there almost never occur. I would argue that these territories should be worth closer to 3 ipcs, 2 ipcs at the very least! Then, the game mechanics being what they are, people would actually fight over these territories.

Doesn't require any special rules to get the Pacific war going, just increase the printed value on the board. Moreover, just to be clear, the notion that IPCs are in some way analogous to real world production doesn't hold up to scrutiny for me. Or rather, I just don't think the need for analogy is strong enough to trump gameplay necessities.

Having these islands at 0 ipcs also ignores the doctrinal differences between the warring nations with regards to a given territory's strategic value. The deference in doctrine between say the Soviet war plan, which sought to destroy the enemy wherever they could be found vs. the American war plan, which aimed to take territory and deny it the enemy. It makes sense that for USA, and Japan, these islands should be worth IPCs, because in game terms that is how hard strategic value is expressed. Or, consider the fact that these places would clearly have had their production capacity effected after major battles were fought over them, just smoldering ruins not fit for producing much of anything.

So yeah, my point, if it is already an abstraction, then why not make it an abstraction that leads to more satisfying game play?

Increase the value of these pacific islands to 1 ipc, and watch how the game takes on a different dynamic. Japan suddenly has a reason to hold onto them, and US has a reason to attack them. With 6 or more ipcs potentially in play, that whole theater of war becomes way more important and way more interesting. Japan is less likely to just launch all their armies against Russia, and will instead have to concentrate more energy on the islands (which is what they actually did after all.)

So that is my point, for what its worth. The major problem with the Pacific conflict is that all these territories lack an IPC value. The best way to solve this problem is to simply give them an IPC value.

I think if you did that, the gameplay would be vastly improved. And I don't think anyone would notice or care, that these islands were not at 0 anymore, but 1 or 2 or 3, depending on their strategic value under an 'industrial production commitment' scheme. Any thoughts? I would welcome any input or discussion on this point. I think these are strong arguments, or the best I could marshal while writing tonight. I hope you will at least consider them

Thanks for listening

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Re: The Case against 0 ipc territories (esp. Pacific Islands

Post by Craig A Yope » Fri Aug 30, 2013 12:25 pm

A better way to represent the valuable nature of such places as the islands in the Pacific is to have a Victory Point system that assigns a varying value to different places on the map.

Be they major cities/capitals, strategic locations at major crossroads areas, or (in this case) vitally located island groups that help project power.

Unless you come up with something that drives the combatants to want to be in a place, they will always go by such a place if it makes sense within the game mechanics to do so. It is always tough to come up with a reason for the game to account for such historical actions without having to have a bunch of specialized rules.

My gaming group plays a game the has a Victory Point system that has victory locations with varying values between 1 to 3 points. So you can have island groups like the Carolines, Solomons, Marianas, Gilberts, etc. be 1 VP island groups that are worthwhile to take and defend in the greater strategic scheme of things.

Unfortunately, I don't see a single IPC being enough of an incentive for someone taking the islands.

I came up with a different scoring system for the Revised version that made Borneo and the East Indies into Victory Territories for the Japanese to hold and the Allies to take. Those along with the Philippines make for tough decisions for island action. Plus, the Allies have the Hawaiian Islands and Australia to defend in my system too.

Here is my full system:

Adjudication System-
The determination of who wins a tournament game will be based upon the control of Victory Territories (VTs). The Victory City method of determining a winner will NOT be used. Each side controls 12 Victory Territories at the beginning of the game. The Victory Territories are listed below.


Western Europe
Southern Europe
Eastern Europe
Ukraine SSR

French Indochina
Philippine Islands
East Indies



United Kingdom

Eastern US
Western US
Hawaiian Islands

If a player holds 18 (or more) VTs for a full round of game play (From the end of a country's turn to the beginning of that same country's next turn.), then that player automatically wins the game.

In the event of a VT tie at the end of the game, whichever side increased its IPC total is the winner. If the game is still tied after reviewing the IPC totals, then the GM will make a determination of the winner based upon the game situation at the time the game ended.

If a player chooses to concede a game before it has reached the 18 VT automatic win threshold or the game time limit (4.5 hrs), a default score of 19 VTs and +30 IPCs will be awarded to the winner.

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Re: The Case against 0 ipc territories (esp. Pacific Islands

Post by Black_Elk » Fri Aug 30, 2013 5:57 pm

Thanks Craig, I really appreciate the feedback here, sometimes I feel like I'm talking to a wall hehe, when nobody replies.

I would say this, it is entirely possible, as you say, that absent some kind of victory scheme, that players would still ignore the pacific islands. In my own games I find that Borneo, East Indies, and to a lesser extent the Philippines and Hawaii, do see some action, but even then it is hard to persuade anyone that Iwo, Okinawa, Carolines etc are worth the effort. Part of this is because there is no real attrition occurring over these territories, and the money is already so tight, that no one is going to risk transports without at least the prospect of making some money, or denying it to the enemy. What happens typically is what I call the reverse L push from USA, or an L push from Japan. The Japanese swing down the mainland of Asia (ignoring the smaller Islands), and then push east across the south of the map if they are going to try for Australia etc. Whereas the US follows the same path in reverse. They swing west across the bottom of the map, to attack towards East Indies and Borneo, and then drive north along the Asian coastline. In both cases the smaller islands are ignored, in favor of the ones with ipcs. A different kind of Victory scheme like the one you outline could certainly help to alter this, and I wouldn't discourage people from trying something like that.

But here's my basic point. Why on earth wouldn't we at least try to increase the starting value of the islands that receive no action? This has never been attempted in an official game, and to me it seems a very simple solution.

I agree, a single 1 ipc island is not going make much difference (Okinawa proves this from the older games, when it used to have a value of 1 ipc), but a full fledged theater with +10 ipc spread across all those islands would make a difference. Then you are talking a theater of operations similar in value to Africa. It becomes too large to simply ignore.

Larry has proved himself willing to adjust the production value of territories in other places on the map, to correct game balance. I honestly don't see what the difference is, between removing an IPCs somewhere in Asia or Africa, or adding ipcs/territories in Europe (which has already been done a number of times) and my proposal here of adding in some money to the islands.

It's either rigidly inflexible or its not. I don't buy the argument anymore that IPCs/Production correspond to anything real. They are already highly variable in their relative value across the map. I grant that they may have corresponded to something when the game was first designed, but there have been way too many departures from the original distribution elsewhere on the map, esp. in Europe and Asia (adding 1 here, removing 1 there) for me to believe that there is any real method to this, beyond trying to support gameplay.

So again, I cannot see why it's unreasonable to add in more money to the islands in the Pacific. Nobody is going to freak out over this, like "No way dude, those islands have to be worthless! Because, you know, that's just the way it is!" Nobody cares, except maybe Larry. In the same way that nobody freaked out, when you added in ipcs across Europe, or removed them from Eastern Russia, nobody is going to freak out over this, because the pacific theater will be way more engaging and fun.

I strongly believe that when you jump a territory from 1 ipc to 2 (in this part of the map) something magical happens. The fact that the territory can now serve as a potential factory location, makes them way way way more valuable for both Japan and the USA. For example, Iwo, or Okinawa, or Hawaii, at 2 ipcs can then serve as an effective base of perorations. It becomes worth trading over, especially when you can reinforce your fleets as they fan out across the pacific.

This is a very simple and straightforward way to promote conflict over these islands (which doesn't require additional rulse.) It's not an extreme proposition, I don't see any difference at all between adjusting ipcs somewhere else on the map (which has been done more than a dozen times since Classic!) and adjusting ipcs here. It's just that the designer has been unwilling to try, and instead keeps moving in the opposite direction, to the detriment of the gameplay in this theater. Or at least, that is my assessment.

add in 10 ipcs across the Pacific, and boom! the issue is fixed once and for all... And you can be damn sure people would have fun playing in this part of the world again.

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Re: The Case against 0 ipc territories (esp. Pacific Islands

Post by Pete E » Fri Aug 30, 2013 9:17 pm

Black Elk,
Thanks for the cogent and compelling argument for a more inclusive value to the Pacific islands that contributed so much to not only the allies ultimate victory, but to the exploits of that generation's veterans, like Larry's Father (and mine in Europe), that inspired Larry to create these wonderful games we enjoy.

There have been arguments put forth that these are simply games and need not follow historical accuracies. Those that feel that way should take a look at Kriegspiel, a game I bought in the 70's put out by Avalon Hill. It pits a black force (roughly Germans) against a red force (guess who) in a non-historical map. I'm not suggesting the game isn't fun; it is, but one of the great journeys I've experienced playing A & A is the history learned along with moving vast armies around the globe.

In addition to the suggestions put forth by yourself and Craig, please consider:

1. Make island-hopping a prerequisite prior to invading Japan. The allies must control three strategic islands, for example, before they can try and conquer Japan.

2. Give strategic islands, so important to winning the war, IPC values that increase as more islands are taken on the pathway to Japan. Taking the first island yields 1 IPC; the second 2 IPCs; the third 4 IPCs. And I'm not talking simply adding 7 IPCs, but rather, make the victories exponential, if that's the right word, so when the second island is secured, the first, initially valued at 1 IPC doubles to 2, and with the capture of the third, all three have an individual value of 4 IPCs securing 12 IPCs for the victor. Of course, everything would reverse as the Japanese recaptured any of these strategic territories.

Thanks again for your fresh input. People like you and Craig pump me up to grab a beer, enter the war room, and have hours of fun recreating history.

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Re: The Case against 0 ipc territories (esp. Pacific Islands

Post by WILD BILL » Sun Sep 01, 2013 9:01 am

I know that some ppl in G40 replace the Japanese perimeter island NO (have never seen them go for it in a game) with an NO for capturing any 5 allied zero IPC islands (NO worth 5 IPCs). This allows the Japanese some flexibility, and can be incorporated in other goals (like Australia). The allies would have a similar counter NO for capturing some of the Japanese starting islands, or holding their own zero IPC islands as well. It would be easier to implement then working out a new victory point system, although that sounds pretty cool.

You could set the min at capturing 3 enemy zero IPC islands gives you 3 bonus IPCs, and go from there (+1 for each additional?). That way it would work for both sides (Japan only starts with 5 zero IPC islands in G40 for the allies to capture). Allied NO would probably go to the US as the leader in the Pacific.

There could also be a small bonus for holding all your zero IPC islands (would entice the enemy to fight you for them to stop your bonus, and help them get there own bonus along the way.

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Re: The Case against 0 ipc territories (esp. Pacific Islands

Post by Imperious leader » Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:11 am

Instead of the NO system you could also just require that you can't invade an island group unless you first establish control of an adjacent island group leading back to any controlled base ( port ).

So the US player can't just land units in Japan even if they are empty because the Americans haven't created a chain on controlled island groups running back to Hawaii.
We really need an Axis and Allies World War one game so i can play that on August 1st, 2014.

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Re: The Case against 0 ipc territories (esp. Pacific Islands

Post by Flashman » Mon Sep 02, 2013 6:24 pm

This, like so much else that is flawed in Axis and Allies, comes down to movement restrictions.

You have to go back to the real war and ask why the Allies sacrificed so many lives taking these tiny islands; it was certainly nothing to do with economic value.

In fact it was all about acquiring air bases within bombing range of the Japanese home islands. Therefore, the map should be designed in such as way that the allies cannot bomb Japan (nor invade it without air support) unless it takes islands within round-trip flying range.

By the way, the Allies did bypass a lot of small islands; the Japanese defenders are still living on some of them...

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Re: The Case against 0 ipc territories (esp. Pacific Islands

Post by Black_Elk » Tue Sep 03, 2013 12:33 am

Thanks for the feedback guys! It gets the wheels in my brain turning :)

I admire and appreciate all these suggestions, but I would also note that you guys are still talking about changes to the rules to fix the problem. I'd suggest that before introducing new rules, especially region specific rules, we should always first try to see if the problem can be fixed with a simpler change, like adjusting the money value.

I would strongly caution against incorporating nation/region/territory specific rules into the basic game mechanics. These kinds of rules are fine as add ons, or in a game such as AA50, where the presumed player groups are at a more experienced/expert level of play.

But I would definitely argue against such rules as part of the core game.
Rules for the basic game should be universal, which means they apply to all nations and territories on the map equally. After explaining the general rules to a new player, I shouldn't have to stop and explain all over again a long list of exceptions to these general rules. I can't tell you enough what a major issue this has been in trying to teach people how to play A&A over the years. From a design philosophy standpoint, I think what you have to do is create a game which is highly functional and well balanced with the universal rules, and if you allow for special conditions rules, they should be optional as add ons.

This is not to suggest that there is no place for advanced rules, (territory specific rules for example) but I am convinced that before you go down that road, you should first try to re-balance the money/production and see how far that goes in fixing the issue.

As to the islands being bypassed, of course this was true historically, but these territories also represent major island groups, not just single islands, and they all saw action in the war. So I think we should try to get them into the fight here. The first way to do that in my view, is to bump them from 0 to 1 or more
You have to go back to the real war and ask why the Allies sacrificed so many lives taking these tiny islands; it was certainly nothing to do with economic value
This is why I suggest that we try to move away from the idea that IPCs are meant to strictly represent economic production capacity numbers. In the actual game they function in a much more expansive and much more basic way. (This is already the case in every A&A game, I'm just trying to be more explicit by acknowledging this fact.) If you instead think of them as industrial production commitments (as opposed, or in addition, to capacity) then the numbers are much more flexible.

For example: The production 'Capacity' of the Caroline Islands might be all coconuts and sun-tans, but we were sure as shit were willing to 'Commit' millions of $ in resources to the fight over them. I feel that fact, should be factored into the equation when determining is IPC value, since IPCs are the way the game expresses actual value (not some imagined manufacturing value, but the real in-game value of a given territory.)

As for the ipcs themselves, it is much easier to think of them in the abstract sense as "game points." Now maybe a given territory is worth more points because it is an industrial hub, or maybe because of its large population, or because of it's strategic position along a shipping lane, or whatever the rationale might be.... The basic thrust here is that more points are needed in the Pacific islands, at least if you want the action in the pacific theater of the game to look and feel more like the real war.

I would also argue that this is much much easier way to accomplish the effect, than introducing more rules to a game that already has a highly complex ruleset, and comparatively steep learning curve.

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