In our house rules we have Research Facilities... these work like Industrial Facilities in that they can be bombed by enemy forces. They have 4 / 8 health, each currently functioning research facility rolls 1 die on 'research development' phase. can have 1 per territory, are destroyed when conquered (conquering nation can loot a technology on a roll of 6 when destroying (looting) the facility).
Facilities cost 15 IPC to purchase in our games.
we found this works awesome, as it represents a repeatable die roll, with strategic and tactical placement and objectives of having a building that needs to be defended and attacked, while still maintaining the same ON BOARD style that every other aspect of the game features.
Couple of questions. Do you play 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3? Which countries start with research faciliities and how many? How does ANZAC or Italy fair in this scheme, do they ever tech? Do you notice one power getting techs more than others? Perhaps one side?
since i got the global 1940 (europe/pacific combined) we've been playing with just me and my wife... takes maybe a month for a game as we added finland and canada nations, and play rather slowly. In our G40 games no one started with facilities and everyone had the option of buying them. we found that majority of the powers would tend to buy a 1 to 2 at the start, and maybe one later on. the initial investment needed 3 turns to turn a profit vs purchasing dice so doing so earlier was ideal.. This style really favored UK and US over say Germany or Russia thou, and we found the allies getting a distinct advantage. So the last few games we played of G40 we started what we classified as Major powers with 2 facilities, and regional powers with 1 facility, and minor nations with 0.
again by pure numbers, allies should gain more tech over time. you could start the axis players with an extra research facility each if wanted, which with a 1 per territory rule would at least make it easier to lose the extra one as it would need to be placed in a spot that might not be as easily defensible.
I don't think I'm missing someone. We both enjoyed the free starting technology Idea way more then purchasing from scratch. After all nations start with IC's for free. we play technology as a way to speed the game up, once they start getting out there people start getting a bit of an advantage beyond pure map layout. the world war was not a balanced affair, the nations and people involved didn't strive to make it so. We see this represented in the map board and IPC per turn layout and value of territory, and axis and allies is generally a historically inspired strategy game.
what we do now a days thou is play the variant 1939 map from HBG/FMG with 6 majors, 6 regional, 6 minor nations and 9 neutral blocks represented with their own custom painted armies. In the new game style Majors start with 2, Regionals start with 1, and minors can never buy them, but have the ability to 'learn' from a allied major gaining tech then rolling a 6 after the tech breakthrough in order to share with 1 minor nation, or looting from a conquered facility.
to answer your other question, we found that nations who normally wouldn't have any technologies in our previous (before facilities) games were actually getting into the technology races and it wasn't all that unbalanced as everyone was getting 1 to 3 by the end of the game minimally.