I use the following settings: Quick AI, Text On Map, Quick Roll, E/W Canada, Submerge, Naval Occupation, Aerial Retreat, No New Industry, Axis Advantage, USSR Restricted, Always Active AA, Two Hit BB, Capture 2 Capitals (both sides), IPC Victory (both sides). These are the settings used for the Anzio online format minus the usual 8 IPC Axis bid, This format turned out to be the best one IMO for equal opportunities to win.
To have the best chance to wind up in a genuine struggle, take the UK and set the opposing commanders to 5 stars. Crunch time comes with R2/G2. If the USSR attacks on R2 go sour, the G2 turn usually winds up with Germany getting Karelia. Unless the Africa campaign goes badly for the Germans, they'll be a handful for the rest of the game.
When things go well for the USSR on R2, then the challenge becomes to make as quick a kill of the Axis as possible. Figure a 5 turn win is a fine result.
Playing either Russia or Germany is a shoot the fish in a barrel as rapidly as possible deal. I restrict myself to either all infantry or all tanks for purchases. As the USSR, when doing the Soviet Steamroller with infantry, the objective then becomes to preserve the 4 tanks, 2 fighters, submarine and transport for as long as possible. The German play becomes one of KO'ing the USSR quickly but having to watch out for Allied counterattacks. Do that well and it is a quick win.
Going with Japan is a game of peeling away the onion of Allied power one layer at a time. Do it right and you get the win. Do it wrong when Germany is having a tough time and you risk a loss. Consider this a Pass/Fail kind of deal.
Playing the USA, I usually go with a Pacific strategy and see how quickly I can break up the Japanese logistics supplying the Asian mainland. If all goes well, then one has to still hope that Germany does not get a strong result vs the USSR, which will put you on the clock. If you want the Japanese to have free reign and pile up the IPC's, then go with Africa/Europe as the focus of attack. It makes for a longer game usually.
Getting crazy: Play the Bomber Harris approach by only buying bombers for the UK and/or USA. Slow down German and Soviet ground buildups by making a mandatory aircraft buy each turn. For Japan, secure the IPC's from Asia and the Pacific, then go get into a massive ground war in North America.
The kind of win you get is your grade, so to speak. If you get a loss, then hip-hip-hooray for the AI and handicaps! On occasion I have had games go for over 50 turns. It is fun to recapture North America from the Japanese or the World Island (Europe/Asia/Africa) from the Germans. Flirting with an IPC loss is quite a challenge!
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