@redrum how's it going man! Glad to catch you. After v5 this is the map that I've played the most against the AI. I've been splitting my time roughly 50/50 between the Hard and the Fast AI.
All and all I'd say it is my favorite AI map right now, and I think the AI performs even better here than it does on most of the A&A maps (v3 and later) probably owing to the fact that Iron War doesn't use such complex rules for Submarines or Transports.
The AI does struggle in a few areas, probably familiar from other games. The first is with bombing where the AI doesn't take into account intercept when attacking on SBR (or use it for themselves on defense.) There are also some purchasing issues where the AI doesn't seem to buy or make use of the single use attack aircraft such as Kamikazes, V1/V2 rockets, Nukes etc. They also don't use air transports to actually transport infantry, but will still purchase the air transport unit, which is kind of ineffective since it's relatively expensive with a low attack value relative to regular fighters or bombers, so kind of a waste of the AIs cash.
On the water the AI has a tendency to buy a lot more patrol boats than I think most humans would. It can be a good unit to stack naval fodder or as a blocker, but it only moves 1 space rather than 2 spaces, so often they get left behind and destroyed when the main fleet is on the move, The AI will frequently abandon coastal production allowing enemy fleets to take over their home waters, rather than defend them, or set up sacrifice pickets to block naval movement (the way infantry will block on land.) I have noticed some peculiar behavior when it comes to loading transports, where the AI will sometimes load a unit onto a transport during non combat, that is vulnerable to enemy attack rather than keeping it safely on land. This doesn't happen too often, but stands out when it does occur.
Perhaps most significantly right now, the AI doesn't seem to realize that Mech can tow Infantry, so the AI is at a definite disadvantage for moving these units across the game-board. Finally the AI seems somewhat reluctant to purchase new production, even when this would allow them to move units to the front much faster than transports at a similar cost. Especially if the territory is an island or an isolated territory. Mainly I notice this with the USA. The factory unit costs 25 PUs, which is pretty cheap and allows up to 5 units to be spawned (with no cost in steel), whereas the Transport costs 20 PUs (and 1 steel) to ferry just 2 or 3 ground units. So it would definitely be a lot more economical for the AI to buy factories close to the enemy whenever this is possible, to shorten their supply lines. But they don't seem to do this very much, with the exception of Japan.
All that said, playing against or alongside the AI in Iron War is remarkably entertaining. Its certainly the most fun I've had to date with the AI. Just as with other games it is possible to scale the difficult by using income bonuses.
The only thing I really wish we could do is assign those income bonuses on a nation by nation basis (the same way you can assign a bid.) Right now it's a blanket bonus for all AI nations, but this leaves a lot to be desired, not least because the map is designed for some nations on the players own team to be handled by the AI. So this creates a situation where giving a bonus to the AI, means giving your own team an advantage too, unless you take direct control of the entire team (which can make the pace drag.) Even just being able to assign the bonus by side would be helpful, only Axis team or only Allied team gets the boost.
I haven't yet decided whether I prefer the Hard AI or the Fast AI for Iron War. Or a combination approach. Its not too noticeable in the beggining, but after many rounds the Hard AI can start to slow things down. So often times I will scrub reload and switch out the Hard AI for Fast AI just to speed things along (especially with the minor powers.) Also sometimes I enjoy how the Fast AI will throw me a curve ball by attacking with reckless abandon, whereas the Hard AI might withdraw to safety. This could just be because I've seen the Hard AI in action quite a bit, and can now kind of predict how to meta-game it into doing certain things that I can exploit. This occurs mainly on the water, where I can often push AI fleets this way and that, by positioning my aircraft in threatening ways. The AI will almost always withdraw rather than risk being attacked. So sometimes you end up with a situation where the AI will spend several rounds transporting units closer to the enemy, only to transport them back home again, to no real purpose. This seems to happen a lot in the North Atlantic around Greenland.
But again, overall, I really dig the way this map utilizes the AI. I think it's a flagship map, and one that really showcases the best of what tripleA currently has to offer. Much as I still dig Axis and Allies, I think this is the best World War II map on offer right now, and the most compelling for AI development.
In terms of the dev zots, I think I'd rather see the energy used to make this game's AI better, than even global or v5. Because unlike those games which are primarily PvP, this one is actually pretty damn fun to play solo vs the machine. There's just a lot of other stuff going on with it, that makes the AIs deficiencies rather less noticeable than in the more traditional A&A games. My impression is that many people will cut there teeth against the AI in Iron War, and learn how to play on this map against the machine rather than against other humans, at least initially.
The gameplay really lends itself to a 4X style of world domination, where beating up on the AI is a lot of fun in and of itself, even if if you're the only human in the room haha. Still, it would be killer if you could play against the AI in the lobby with bots, since I think this map would also be fun for a co-op campaign.
Anyway, those are my thoughts so far. I think the AI really shines on this map. Even with all the hiccups and silly stuff it does, with enough money it can still provide a pretty fun challenge.
Definitely next level, and way beyond anything I thought possible for tripleA when I first started playing a decade ago. This thing has come a long way, and I'm continually impressed. You guys have done a kick ads job! Truly
ps. here is another Germany vs the HardAI, solo Sea Lion plan, but this time with the Balkans under German control from the outset. I like how it plays. You can take England if you want to, but it leaves the East pretty light, so there is a little tension between Russia and Germany. I don't think the AI can really prevent London from falling, but should be remembered that a human player would likely play with a different purchase out of England. Probably 5 fighters a round for several rounds until they have enough to make London so costly that Germany backs off. It's also probably the only way to stop a dedicated expansion of the Kriegsmarine, basically bolstering the RAF until you have more spitfires than they do ships haha. But the AI is happy to ablige for a Sea Lion stomp. I rather like it staying a possibility, it's kind of a nice change of pace to play out a campaign with the focus on England in the first few rounds. Here I got the invasion going on G5, after some early messing about in the Med to build up the oil reserves, the plan was pushed back to early 1942...
0_1494395705621_Iron War Elk vs Hard AI Allies Sea Lion Solo G5 Combat.tsvg
Here it is in Early 1945, after Axis Total Victory at 15 VCs. You can kind of see what I mean about the US naval AI. They have a ton of floaters out there in the mid Atlantic that could probably cause us some serious headaches if they made landfall, but thus far they haven't made a breakout. Even if the Allied fleet was somehow sunk in the process it would probably be worth the sacrifice for them to get the expeditionary force moving. Instead they seem content to keep it at a stalemate just out of reach. I did see the US AI make inroads into Africa, taking Morocco and Nigeria at one point, but the Allies are having a tough time in the face of Italy AI's aggression haha. In the East, Japan has been back and forth with Russia all game. It's been pretty cool to see the tit for tat, as the Soviet and Japanese AI jockey for supremacy. Japanese expansion on the mainland feels rather more realistic this way I think.
Pretty fun for a German solo game!
0_1494402604044_Iron War Elk vs Hard AI Allies Sea Lion Solo G11 Combat.tsvg
Edit: started another game, this time as the Russians Solo vs Axis AI (with the Balkans under German control.) The German AI seemed to struggle in prioritizing the Danish straits and Norway, so their fleet got kind of stuck and destroyed by the Allies after a few turns. Previously the Kriegsmarine would almost always attack the Royal Navy right out the gate, but this time they went North instead. I think this might actually be better AI behavior in the long run, since it could reflect a somewhat more historical expansion pattern (before they would usually get killed after going for the British on the water with the French fleet mopping them up), but it would probably be cool if they could somehow be goaded into taking over Scandinavia early on. Here they had a pretty tough time dealing with France, perhaps because the Balkans thing had them adjusting their non-com logic? Not sure, but was thinking maybe if Denmark and Norway were worth more PUs the AI might get with the program there, and at least give their fleet a way to escape to the safety of the Baltic sea zones if they manage to survive the opener hehe. I definitely think its more entertaining to play as the Soviets in the Far East now, with the Irkutsk choke point. I feel like it gives you a way to manage a defense on this side of the map, that wasn't really possible before, so I dig that for sure.
0_1494406947231_Iron War Elk vs Hard AI Axis German Balkans Russia round 5.tsvg
Here it is a couple round later, 1944. We broke into Germany proper, but the Fascists are still contesting Europe with Italy. The Germans are still sniping in Stalingrad, which is now their last stronghold to cause us headaches hehe, but its pretty cool to see Italy step up. The Japanese AI even pulled a fast one on me, with a bold attack to crush my Far East Army just when I thought I had Manchuria in the bag! Good one Hard AI! Its a 10/10 split on VCs, but I think the Allies are about to come up on the economic win here pretty soon...
0_1494439897780_Iron War Elk vs Hard AI Axis German Balkans Russia round 9.tsvg
Ok I tried a dozen quick game launches vs the German AI (Balkans under German control) and each time the Kriegsmarine moves to the Norwegian Northern Sea Zone. It does this on non-combat, so the AI is also failing to even disrupt the Russian convoy lane in the process. I noticed that if I edited a single submarine or a single destroyer into the German starting fleet, then the AI would attack the Royal Navy again, if that is the desired outcome. Might be worth considering, since the AI doesn't make particularly great use of the German fleet, except for in that opening attack.
I'm not sure I've ever seen the Germans land troops in Norway to get at the steel up there. Seems like kind of a no brainer hehe. I wonder if it was a gold +5 if they would start going after it with their transports? I know that the Axis will definitely try to take Egypt and Riyadh, so maybe its just a matter of not enough PUs to tempt the AI?
edit: Yet another game vs the Hard AI Axis (with Balkans under German control) this time I played as the USA and China. Figured I try to beef up the Chinese and see how far I could take them. Once again, the German AI seemed to struggle under Balkan control conditions. Whereas before they were taking out France and the Royal Navy and beating down on the Russians pretty consistently, here they are struggling just to maintain their core and immediate surroundings. Not sure why, but for some reason controlling the Balkans seems to really put the zap on their heads hehe. In any case, here is the game in the 8th round, after racking up the economic win for Allies in 1943.
0_1494489759152_Iron War Elk USA and China vs Hard AI Axis German Balkans USA round 8.tsvg
Will probably back off the Balkans thing for now, and continue testing the game with the Axis Minors, since the German AI seemed to do somewhat better when they had the buffer zone. I'm thinking an AI boost is probably best for a real challenge, but its kind of fun to just play as a couple nations and see what the AI does with the others haha. In that game the British AI took Morocco and built a factory there, and British-India AI did the same with a factory in Iran which was kind of cool. In general I like how the AI uses the 5+ spots, when it actually drops factories on em.