Now that I have a handful of AA50 games under my belt my feeling is that the game is fairly well balanced (at least the 1941 scenario, have not played any 1942 yet).
Axis are set up to get an early lead on overall IPC generation but the Allies are placed in a better position to work together to slowly wear the Axis down. My take is it’s a game of patience and careful planning for the Allies and a game of balanced aggression for the Axis. I’ve seen an equal number of Axis and Allied wins in the games I’ve played.
Technology, however, can completely ruin this formula
I’m still on the fence on whether or not I like tech in the new version… I definitely like the new implementation where research you buy is “banked” between turns if you miss your tech roll. In the previous edition of AA I rarely spent IPC’s on tech unless I was already in an advantageous position and could afford to just throw away 20+ IPC’s on a gamble. Under the new system small incremental investments will eventually pan out and get you something.
Sounds great on the surface but this is a double edged sword. You can count on at least 3 powers having at least 1 tech by turn 5 (if not more and sooner). It definitely makes for some interesting/varied games which is good but there are some (in my opinion) broken tech/power combinations which effectively end the game for the other side if obtained at the right time. This is not fun to play against, especially when you’re talking about a game where the short version can easily take 6+ hours.
Example: Either Germany or USSR gets mechanized infantry on turn 1 or 2. Pretty much game over for opposite side unless they get lucky and score an equally powerful combo.
Even so I still like playing with tech; I just don’t feel that this particular part of the game is balanced. There are certain combinations of powers/techs that are clearly broken and can just about ruin the fun of the game for everyone playing.