Had a pretty fun couple games using that last pre-release. Whatever tweak was made I'm able to go like 3 rounds at a go pretty consistently now before the HardAI slows down. Its a definite improvement for playability.
In the first game I gave the Axis 110%, and then 130% in the second game.
0_1525057122685_Elk vs Hard AI Axis 110 bonus Russia round 13.tsvg
0_1525057139803_Elk vs Hard AI Axis 130 bonus USA round 13.tsvg
Both times my goal was to see how quickly the Allies could take the technical win at 20 by just throwing everything at the weakest VCs right away, then seeing how the games shaped up... like whether it was actually worth it to go all gangbusters right out the gate, or if bleeding the troops that early would come back to haunt me haha.
Of the minor Axis powers Iran is the most straight forward to pick off, since Russia can usually storm in out of Siberia and the Caucasus/Caspian region on their second turn. But after that its a bit of a trade off, which I like. Pushing further to take Iraq or Finland, almost guarantees that Germany is going to break through and shut down a couple Soviet factories with their mobile units. Still not sure whether its better to lose the north or the south, but either way things get hectic, which is fun to try and manage.
On the Pacific side, knocking off Thailand early on is possible, even to kill them off in the first round before they get a chance to place. But this is a little sketchy since you need to get the expected hits with British-India, French-Colonies and KNIL all right in a row. And set up blocking ships to prevent Japan from just putting everything into IndoChina on non com. Even then its kinda debatable whether killing Thailand immediately is worth it, since it takes like everything in the region to pull off. I tried it in the first game, even smoking the Japanese transports afterwards, but Japan just came hella heavy against China. Like it focused them in a more damaging direction than just stacking in south east asia would have produced lol. I think I may have really pissed off the AI too, since it was the first time I'd ever seen it run a pearl attack on J1!
The German HardAI seems much improved. Not sure if its the tweaked neutral thing or what's going on, but they seem to attack the British fleet now, which is much better for team Axis. In both games they came at me with all the ships and the air transport, something like 80% to the attacker with a couple German ships surviving on average. They seem to use the bomber and fighters for other battles, so not quite a full sweep like it might be, but certainly makes things more complicated for the Allies.
I was also pleased to note that Italy managed to snag Gibraltar in that first game, which is something I don't see happen very often. Could be the neutral thing again where the HardAI is now seeing those Brits as the priority threat over the neutrals in Turkey or Greece (which is where they used to go first.) Overall I'd say the play pattern for the AI Axis feels a bit more historical now.
Also saw the machine incorporating a lot more AAguns into their builds, which makes the air war a bit more challenging. I find myself buying more AAguns now to counter, since otherwise it can be tough to maintain hitpoint parity. All in all I think the AAgun unit feels a lot more relevant now. It might be a little overpowered for the cost, but I'm just happy to see its not a completely pointless purchase in this game, like it is in traditional A&A hehe. It actually works pretty well as a spam fodder unit, if only because its somewhat easier to clear out if you buy tanks than a similarly sized stack of infantry would be. On the whole they seem to encourage a few more tank builds over air to counter, which is sort of the purpose, so I like the balance.
I'd say most of the minor Allies feel pretty engaging now, although Brazil is still kind of one dimensional. Its basically a choice between feeding a hitpoint or two into Africa every couple rounds, or going after the neutral neighbors in South America. Of the two the latter option seems to have more of an impact since you can at least deny the Axis team a few resource points. But unlike the other minors its hard to achieve any kind of break out, and you don't really have to worry about managing a defense, so its sort of like just going through the motions. Most of the other minors can adopt a clear support role somewhere, or can become more relevant if one pf the big dogs throws some cash their direction, but I haven't really figured out what to do with Brazil hehe.
I still think it would be nice if the minors could send Aid to the majors. Often the minors will have a remainder under 8 PUs that can't be spent (for the AAgun hitpoint) so it would be nice if they could send like 5 PUs to their associated major power. I think it would clean things up, allowing aid to move in both directions, with less cash leftover at the end of the round. That's my main suggestion for now, an option to send small amounts of cash to the big dogs, rather than turning the minors into mini-super powers and checker-boarding the map, which is sort of what I do right now.
Anyhow, fun stuff. I like the latest changes! Nice work guys!