With respect to this particular game I offer the following comments to all of the above:
1. I agree with M60A3TTS that this game is not decided yet. I may have the upperhand at the moment, but this game has gone back and forth with respect to who is "winning" several times already. Maybe Saper has little experience beyond 1941, but then again so do I. It is a long way to Berlin.
2. If I do go on to win this game I do not think my Blizzard Offensive will even be close to being the main reason why I won or even why Saper is, so far, unable to make too much headway in Summer 42. Actually I don't think my Blizzard Offensive was particularly effective. I didn't even liberate Stalino.
3. The main reasons I would cite for my success to date in the summer of 42 are:
a) Preserving the Soviet Army in the summer of 41 even though it cost me ground and factories.
b) Lucky random weather rolls, which gave me mud in each zone when I needed it most.
c) Halting my Blizzard Offensive in time to allow me to dig in and rebuild the Soviet Army.
d) Saper not remiaing in contact with my army during the Spring mud turns thus limiting my attrition losses. True it also limited his attrition losses, but I believe the Russians lose far more than the Germans, especially if he stayed in contact with just regiments.
e) No attacks made by Saper during the February (in the South) and March snow turns.
f) Saper spreading out his 42 Offensive.
g) Saper not using airsupply to refuel his mobile forces in 42 like he did in 41. If he had a few more fueled up units each turn it would make me a little more nervous about defending forward like I am; and of course,
h) My brilliant play:)
With respect to game balance in general I agree that it favors the Soviets. As both MT and Pelton have repeatedly pointed out so long as the Soviet player carefully preserves his army in 1941 he will probably win most games (well actually I think Pelton and MT woudl say every game). This is normally accomplished by running whenever threatend by encirclement. However, achieving this against a player of Saper's ability is not easy. If we were playing a non-random weather game (or even if I hadn't gotten so lucky with the Random weather) I doubt I would be "winning" this game at the moment. And don't forget that Saper has developed some new Strategy with which he has won or is winning 3 more games since ours started.
But even though the game is unbalanced I am not in favour of balancing it by further handicapping the Russian Blizzard Offensive. Historically the Russians did make huge advances, particularly in the South. But even if the Blizzard Offensive is a "fantasy" I would not be in favour of modifying it unless all the pro-German "fantasies" were modified too. Such as the Lvov Opening (or at least the Extended Lvov Opening) and the too low Russian Manpower numbers.
I personally think the main reason the game is unbalanced is because competent Russian players are unlikely to make the same glaring errors as their historical counterparts. Put another way, if we were to search heaven and hell and force all the major participants of the War in the East (Generals all the way up to Hitler and Stalin resepectively) to refight the War (with full knowledge of the real war and the abilty to change their historical decisions) what do you think the result would be? Myself I think that the Russians would be marching into Berlin before the end of 44. The fact that the Germans are generally not going on a rampage in 42 like they did historically just proves to me that the Designers got it right. Just because it happened that way historically does not mean that it was the "probable result". To bad we can't examine the results in 100 different alternate universes to determine what the probable result actually is (Hmmm... maybe Pelton is right about this "fantasy" thing).
So for me if you want to restore game balance just change the Victory Conditions. However, I recognize that this would not be popular with most players. Who would want to play the Germans if they don't always (or at least almost always)get to be in full Offensive mode in the summer of 42? So I would accept as an alternative the establishment of victory conditions for players holding certain locations throughout the game. Don't like it, but I would accept it.
Fully agree. Very nicely argued!
The game is "not balanced", but this is not supposed to be chess. If one wants a fair contest, this struggle is surely not the one of choice. The question ought to be more whether the game is "sufficiently unbalanced" versus "exaggeratedly unbalanced".
I hope for WitE2, the blizzard penalties will make way for combat and supply modifiers based on true logistic management and weather effects, i.e. a random blizzard turn in Novemer should be the same as the first one in December etc. That then also requires to adjust the other points you mentioned to more realistic accuracy, aka the chances of the Lvov (or the lacks of the passive I-Go-U-Go phasing, defensive reactions), and the Soviet manpower issue that seems to have been tuned down a little too much by now.
Lastly, it seems judging the balance depends much on judging the skill of players, and that I find (near) impossible to do reliably. At least I wouldn't bet on any outcome anymore. See how Sapper suddenly struggles, how Pelton ran into issues and how Terje turned around a game that looked like it would end in May 1944 in Berlin, but now likely ends in May 1944 in Gorky... Clearly it helps a lot to use hindsight, but for both sides. Don't repeat the Russians mistakes, and you logically must do better -- else something would be out of whack. Don't repeat the German mistakes, save your Army at SG, and implement the lessons learned from history, and also that should improve chances. If both sides do so, which one profits more? Which side made the bigger mistakes?
Perhaps more important: Random effects -- they have a strong impact in this game, and can favor both sides, like the weather, or the attrition of tanks etc, which is seen to vary widely in the games if you take note of it. It is hard to establish "a balance judgement" from so few data points with so widely varying parameters and random effects. It is much easier to compare raw numbers and add up what the Russian reinforcements are here, and what contemporary documents put them at, errors or not.
Perhaps one needs to differentiate a bit more, i.e. look at the two critical game phases, the opening until say blizzard, and the major Soviet offensive phase starting by mid-43 plus minus some. It won't help if the overall balance of the game is strongly in Soviet favor for the 4 year period, if in 1941 the "local" balance is so strongly in Axis favor, that his survival depends more on Axis player mistakes than his own skill. The overall balance is probably meaningless since there are victory criteria considered at various phases/times in game, and the dynamics of the game changes to much between these phases. After all, I assume no one wants a "likely 41 Axis wins" card and only few games make it to an interesting Russian offensive phase that leads anywhere closer to Berlin but boredom? Nor does one want a game in which the 41/42 successes of Axis isn't reflected by the Red Army... Tricky thing!?
I think they need to take a look at the reinforcement and withdrawal as well as German production mechanisms, which could help to create a dynamic that would be both more plausible, and more dynamic/interesting for both players. Presently, Russian units are returning and costing numbers that are derived from the typical historical 1941 scenario, and German withdrawals/reinforcements, or production rates/allocations are based on that same thing. Makes sense for an game that would be designed to always play out very closely to history, but not here. Naturally, a Soviet Army that runs and follows Napoleons or Clausewitz lessons and simple military principles, preserves its forces, will still get reinforcements as if "averagely slaughtered". I'd rather have Russian mobilization be slower if losses are lower, and thus, "apparent need" be less. Same way I'd increase their # of free shells or AP points if the losses were worse. And same for the German side, if the struggle is getting easy for 42 because 41 was really good, there should be more withdrawals and production could be slower in expanding. Fixing one part, while the other varies widely, can only cause issues.