I was really, really impressed.
Balance: Damn near even, no real need for a bid. I commented earlier about an Allied advantage, but it evaporated once SiredBlood finished teaching us how to use your paratroopers. Turns out you can send paratroopers from Berlin to Tobruk on turn 1 even though there are no German units in Tobruk, because the Italian units there are good enough. Similarly, shucking an extra 4 units from Tokyo directly into Yunnan as Japan is a game-changer, as is the ability (as Japan) to ignore the money islands – if you take Burma, China, and India, you’re still collecting 20 IPCs in bonus NO money, which is plenty, especially with the Shipyards tech that you can nearly guarantee on turn 4. Long-Range Aircraft for Japan is also amazing, since you can leave your planes in China or Burma and still have them hit US carriers. I have some minor concerns about the German ability to carry on with the standard attack against the two main British fleets – because strategic bombers now only attack for one round of combat, and because cruisers now defend on a 4 when paired with a battleship, you really have to bring all your subs into the London fleet battles on G1 if you want better than 50% odds to win them both against a scramble, so the Canadian, Gibraltar, and Welsh fleets will all survive in the new ‘orthodox’ opening. This is maybe not so terrible, though – it’s not necessarily fun for most games to start off with a totally dead British Atlantic fleet. I’m just curious how Germany is supposed to gain an edge after this type of double-fleet attack…the only new German NO is from having 5+ subs on the board, so if you spend your subs attacking the British ships at less-than-OOB efficiency, then it can be hard to get to Moscow in only 8 turns when you have to pay for your own factories in Leningrad and Ukraine because the Russians retreated east and left you with scorched, snowy earth. Russian lend-lease can also be powerful, depending on how you roll: once you’re at war with Russia, they get an extra 3 IPC NO plus a random piece each turn on a roll of 5 or less. If the lend-lease misses or delivers something less valuable, like a destroyer, no big deal. If it comes up tank + fighter, that can be a game changer. I might add one more small NO for Germany. 3 IPCs for no Allied warships in the Baltic Sea? 3 IPCs for holding the Atlantic Wall territories? 3 IPCs for Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, Romania, and Bulgaria? Something like that. I also miss the American NO from Balanced Mod where you get 5 IPCs for Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia if you’ve got an American land unit in at least one of them.
Length of Games: About 11 hours on average, as far as I could tell. Some were a bit faster, especially if one side conceded early; others went a few more hours if one of the teams had analysis paralysis or wandered off for a really long lunch. On Days 2 and 3 we slowed down around 8 pm out of exhaustion and a general desire to socialize. I think we could probably cut the game length down to 10 hours by using slightly different time controls – we need a chess clock, not a kitchen timer – but this is still a big improvement over OOB Global, which is typically either a 2-day event or an 8 am to 2 am marathon.
Strategy: Lots of it! Lots of options based on which victory points you want to target, what theaters you want to play in, what techs you want to research, and whether you want to focus on land, sea, or air. Railroads add some fantastic new configurations of troops, as do retreating Russian factories, so you don’t see the same scripted march to Bryansk with the stack-o-doom in every game. We saw successful Sea Lions, neutral crushes, attacks on Cairo, the USA taking Tokyo, Tokyo taking India, Tokyo taking Honolulu, Germany mopping up every single Russian territory, Russia trading Warsaw and Romania…so much replay value here.
Plain Old Fun Factor: Yes. If you have 10 to 12 hours to spare, a huge table, and an easygoing, intelligent opponent, this is the way to spend it, full stop.