Axis and Allies: Playing Russia
Having played Milton Bradley's Axis and Allies Classic hundreds of times over two decades, and having tried a wide variety of strategies and tactics, I offer the following wisdom for playing Russia.
When playing Russia, strategically sound options are limited. Because of Germany's and Japan's superiority in terms of equipment and purchasing power, Russia's first objectives should be survival and stalling tactics. Buy only infantry until Germany's power is sapped by over-attacking and by the UK's and USA's strategic bombing raids. You can buy 8 infantry on your first turn, and they give you the best defense per IPC spent.
Since Russia has the first turn, seize the opportunity to attack territories before they can be heavily reinforced. These territories include Ukraine and Manchuria, and possibly Eastern Europe. This tactic allows using your attack-heavy tanks at an advantage. You should also gain enough IPCs to buy another infantry or two on your second turn.
To attack Manchuria, use all units from both Yakut SSR and the Soviet Far East. For added firepower, bring in a fighter from Russia, although this is usually not necessary. Conquering Manchuria has the effect of bottlenecking Japan's advance. Unless Japan pays to use Mongolia, they must retake the territory to continue into northern Asia. Japan will usually have no trouble retaking Manchuria, but you have gained a turn in the process. If your attack fails, be sure to save any fighters you commit, as these will be crucial to the defense of Russia.
To attack the Ukraine, use all units available from both Karelia SSR and the Caucasus, and the tanks from Russia, but save one fighter for other duties. You should have enough firepower to occupy the Ukraine. As most of your infantry will likely be killed, you may want to hold back one tank for later use. Occupying with only tanks leaves them as sitting ducks for Germany's counterattack.
Your third attack will use your submarine and transport. Use them, with one fighter, to attack Germany's submarine and transport stationed off Germany. With the help of the fighter, you should be able to sink both. Don't worry if Russia loses its limited navy; your fight is land-based. Should any of your ships survive, use them to help defend the UK's naval assets.
To reinforce, move your infantry from Russia to Karelia SSR, but do not land your fighters there; you may lose them to Germany's attacks. You must hold Karelia for as long as possible. Your new infantry can also deploy there, ensuring that you keep the territory for several more turns. Be sure to leave a single infantry in Evenki Nat'l Okrug and Novosibirsk to prevent an eventual Japanese blitz attack. Watch for a Japanese breakthrough, and don't forget to defend Russia if they do.
The battle for Karelia SSR will likely be the focal point of the conflict with Germany, as Karelia is the most direct route to the capital. Once Germany has truly conquered it, use infantry to hold on to Russia as long as possible, hoping that the UK and USA can relieve you in time. If Japan manages to take all of Asia, your income will be depleted, your battle will be heavy on two fronts, and your survival will be in question.
When playing Russia, you are mostly at the mercy of your Ally's decisions. If possible, encourage them to use strategic raids against Germany, depleting Germany's ability to attack you. When you judge the time to be right, buy up a few tanks and attempt a push, either toward Germany or eastern Asia. Germany has higher value territories, a factor to consider when choosing your attacks. Use caution and advance planning when defending a territory; if the cost for the defender is higher than the cost for the attacker, abandon the area. If Germany/Japan takes a territory and occupies heavily with tanks, don't miss the opportunity to attack, thereby wiping out the enemy's attack strength.
These ideas are not the only course of action when playing Russia, but they have worked well for me for years.
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