Alright, I finally got around to completing a full game with these rules. The results:
Soviet Union Victory! The game was close, with the last few turns being a race to see whether Russia could hold Berlin for a full turn before the US could capture and hold a capital. In the end, Russia was able to hold Berlin the turn before the US would have won for holding Rome. The game was 11 turns long, I think. I kind of lost count.
France was definitely the big loser of this game, never capturing a single victory city, and being almost completely wiped from the board by the end. Though France started fairly strong, its navy (the most expensive at the start) was too spread out to accomplish anything, and it slowly lost its African territories due to an inability to reinforce them. The final blow was when France, seeing a weak Northern Italy, send out too many forces on the offensive and lost its Capital to Germany.
Italy also did poorly. Though it easily dominated the Mediterranean, it lacked the economy to support its efforts against a UK that was going almost full Egypt. When France invaded Northern Italy, Italy withdrew as many of its forces from North Africa as possible to defend its Capital. After that, Italy managed to stave off a German assault and even counter attack back into a then dying Germany, but the US came in and crushed Rome just before the end.
Germany did quite well, before it fell apart. Early on, Germany held the line with France and Italy, while still throwing most of its forces at Russia. It managed to gain some good ground, and was greatly helped initially by the Finnish and Bulgarian troops. However, after France made it’s move on Italy, Germany was forced to march into Paris to prevent France from gaining control of Southern Europe and fighting Germany with all its might. This unfortunately destabilized the Western front, and Germany began losing ground in Russia while fighting with France and Italy. A rush to try and take Paris and Rome before the Russians took Poland failed, and Germany was eventually completely wiped from the board.
The United Kingdom struggled initially, as Italian forces opposed it in Africa. However, the UK put a Minor IC in Egypt and was able outproduce Italy over time. Eventually it took complete control of Africa as Italy pulled out to defend its European territory. The UK managed to defend against a US invasion, and at the end game launched an invasion of Belgium and took Normandy and West Germany. It was maybe one turn away from a victory at the end, but Russia and the US had just barely beaten it to meeting their objectives.
The United States was the “clock” of the game: with no opponents at the start, the US had a few turns to build up an invasion force to conquer Europe. It was a race for the other nations to win before the American behemoth arrived to crush them. Unfortunately, this made America really boring to play, as they had no action until the end of the game.
The Soviet Union had a great game. They struggled against the mighty German war machine at first, but in the end, their single-minded assault on Berlin won out. They were able to reached a staggering 50 IPCs a turn as they captured Berlin, and managed to hold it a full turn just ahead of the capitalist Americans.
So, what needs changing? Not much. The Major powers all seem pretty balanced, as any of them could have won if they had used an ideal strategy. Additionally, most of the game they were all at about 30 IPCs, with the US having slightly more and the UK having slightly less.
The Minor Powers need help though. Their starting advantage of having the most units quickly wears off, and then Italy is left neutered with IPCs hovering at about 14, and France loses IPCs over the course of the game as its colonies are taken.
Unfortunately, I can’t find a good way to balance it well. I believe a National Objective system might help, giving France and Italy NOs that are relatively easy to accomplish while giving the Major Powers NOs that require a lot of work.