Update: finally got a live playtest in, with @Corpo24 and Angel taking the Axis against me and Quincy with the Allies. It was a very tense and exciting game – Germany took Egypt on G1 without a single casualty, but lost 2 fighters against Task Force G in the Western Med and failed to sink the Canadian DD + transport. Britain abandoned both India and Africa, used its navy to capture and hold Scandinavia early (saving Leningrad for the Russians), and built a factory in Australia, which was reinforced by the retreating Indians and some American soldiers and planes. Italy got rich off of national objectives and built a large navy, including a fully loaded carrier, and then shucked 2 loaded transports per turn to the Ukraine, where Germany’s main stack of 15 tanks was threatening both Stalingrad and Moscow.
Meanwhile, in the Pacific, Japan sent a fully loaded carrier with no escort ships down to Queensland as part of an effort to sink the remaining British Pacific boats (I won’t dignify a few stray transports and destroyers with the name of “Pacific Fleet.”) America seized the opportunity to blow it up and establish carrier parity (2 each), and the American and Japanese Pacific fleets mostly played footsie for the rest of the game, with Japan finally wiping Britain out of the East Indies on about J5, and America taking Iwo Jima on US6. Japan slowly expanded on all fronts, making it as far as Yakut in Siberia, cutting China down to one territory, and trading Persia with Russia. Japan also landed a squad in Rhodesia to help the German tank factory in Egypt make sure that the British didn’t get any funny ideas about a factory in South Africa.
Things looked grim for the Allies during turn 6 – the British were trading France with Germany, but were unable to fill their fifth transport (no extra factory in the west and no money to buy one); America was trading Morocco with Italy each turn and looked unlikely to penetrate further than Libya for a long time. Meanwhile, Japan’s slow, steady progress was becoming a real threat – Japan was about ready to break China and break the still-holding-but-slowly-retreating Siberian Guards, which could have created a decisive income swing. Allies were up about 10 IPCs as of turn 6, but that could have disappeared or even been reversed by turn 8 if things continued according to schedule.
Fortunately for the Allies, the back-and-forth trading in France left the Axis stack in Ukraine exposed to a Russian counter-attack. Russia attacked with 75% odds to win, and rolled better-than-expected, taking back the Ukraine with 3 artillery, 6 tanks, and 1 fighter remaining. At the same time, lightly supported Russian infantry rolled out of Leningrad to take the Baltics and Belorussia, rolling the Germans back in the northeast. The Germans and Italians had no forces available to counter the advancing Russian front – they could not both hold eastern Europe and keep trading France, so the Axis surrendered.
One fun gambit that we didn’t get to see the result of was the American bomber attack on the Italian fleet – the Americans built 3 extra bombers in the Eastern US and stacked land forces in Libya with the idea of holding it for a turn using British fighters that were no longer needed to defend Russia. The US bombers (including a couple that flew from Australia to Stalingrad to join the party) would fly 5 spaces to the central Med, and then land in Libya – which would then be permanently secured, because the Italian navy would no longer have the transports to help the Germans take it out. That attack could have gone quite badly for the Americans; the extra turn of setup meant that the Italians got a chance to build, so they could have dropped another 3 destroyers or something in the sea zone, and they might have won that battle, with disastrous results for the Western Allies – but we’ll never know, because Axis morale collapsed in the wake of the Russian victory in Third Battle of Kharkov.
Everybody had a good time, and we don’t feel that any changes are needed to the national objectives – they seemed to give everyone a fair chance to win and to choose their own style. There was a little grumbling about how German got ganged up on, but what do you expect when Egypt, Burma, Pearl Harbor, and the San Diego navy all fall turn 1 without a single Axis casualty, and the Luftwaffe bites the dust on turn 1 without a single Allied transport getting wet? I blame the dice, rather than the NOs, for that particular strategic decision.