After due research, I discovered the following:
Victory Points limit the player(s) as to what they can do. This is a BIG NO-NO for me. I do not want the game to dictate to me that I should invade France by a certain date, nor that I MUST keep a specific number of units in garrisons - in SPECIFIC HEX SPACES NO LESS (that is insane design, Gary and Joel).
There are separate regions (Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, France (divided into four subsets of NE, NW, SE, SW), and N. Italy.
During the course of the game these regions have 'garrison requirements' of a particular aggregate CV. This serves two functions, it represents compliance with political leadership that particular regions be protected from invasion, as well as suppression of the local population's resistance to occupation.
It's not really insane game design, as the consequence would be the Allied invasion beaches meeting the majority of the Wehrmacht wherever they came ashore. I don't see how you balance the game without it, honestly.
Let me blunt about myself - I am no great strategist; in fact, I am an idiot.
And as an idiot, I want to invade Greece in 1944, instead of France.
Or I want to invade by way of Denmark.
You can invade by way of Denmark, but Greece (and Yugoslavia, etc) is essentially 'off map' (really Eastern Front) in this game. There is a VP reward to the German player if he can prevent the Allies from getting territory in northern Europe by two certain dates, but there are in essence milestone rewards to make the difference between a minor or decisive German victory. An German player recouping these bonuses is really kicking butt.
As the Axis player, I want to totally strip my garrison units and send them to the front - WITE has a WONDERFUL mechanic (well... wonderful-ish, as usual per Gary's masterpieces) that yes, the Axis may choose to not garrison the big cities but that allows partisans to spawn and to blow up the railroads.
The game does model partisan actions as well. They are much more effective when garrison levels are not met, and if garrison levels are exceeded they are further suppressed (in addition to the Axis player earning potential VP by in essence holding the 'garrison not required' with fewer units - this is from a lack of WA pressure).
A game should not, must not, MUST NEVER straitjacket a player into making an optimal/historical play (i.e. keep such number of garrison units in SPECIFIC hexes or -1000VP, or invade France by such date or -bazillion VP).
I think the garrison requirements could be handled differently too. The city specific garrison requirements do chafe. I don't know that the scale of the reward for a German player preventing, or containing, Allied advance is a bad thing. A neat thing about the VP representation in the game is that it is broken down by category, so you can see exactly how much of the balance is affected by a particular penalty/reward.
You could play the game through to conclusion, and if you think the -1000 point reward for the Germans containing the Allies in northern Europe is unjust, just mentally adjust the score and see how you think you performed otherwise.
To clarify those requirements:
On February 1, 1944 if the Allies do not control at least 10 hexes in mainland France, Northern Europe or Italy, the Allies lose 400 victory points. On July 1, 1944, if the Allies do not control at least 10 hexes in mainland France or Northern Europe the Allies lose 1000 victory points. Northern Europe is defined as the continent north of hex row 215.
10 hexes by Feb '44 in Europe (note it includes Italy) is really no problem at all. The Germans simply can't defend the toe in Italy. I think if the Axis player has evicted the Allies everywhere from the continent they deserve a reward. We haven't had a chance to see games play out to know, but I suspect these 'containment rewards' are really the only chance Germany has to obtain a decisive victory in VP terms.
A game, a WW2 historical simulation, must allow FREEDOM OF ACTION.
It does, but simply with a price in the measure of the players performance. If the Axis player requires more units than the Germans used to hold Italy, consequently stripping France of historical garrison - in terms of measuring his performance against history (a purpose of the VP system) shouldn't there be a penalty?
I bet Kesselring would have really kicked butt if he had 7th and 15th Army at his disposal in June of '43, don't you? But would that even be a fun game? Would it be a game that represented some of the underlying realities of WW2, or just the location, date and OOB?
You have the freedom to do it, you just pay a price in how you measure up against the actors in history that didn't have your freedom. You're being measured in a context. This isn't Risk, devoid of any attachment to an existing political framework. War is just the fun part of diplomacy, after all.
For every decision, there MUST be consequences - i.e. stripping garrison units and sending them to the front allows (more/more effective) partisans to spawn.
"Hardcoding" conditions for the player to follow while playing is, to me, the biggest NO-NO of game design.
Beyond partisan railroad attacks the game models partisan uprisings in two other ways that I think are pertinent:
To represent the historical French partisan uprising, when the Paris hex is captured by the Allies, or there are 10 Allied controlled hexes in each of 2 French garrison regions, hexes in France may change to Allied control or have their rail usage increased at the end of the next logistics phase, after rail usage is reduced. German units can prevent the change. All German units prevent a change in any hex that is within a number of hexes of the unit equal to 1+(unit CV/2). The CV value is not modified by weather. For example, a German unit with a CV of 9 would prevent a change in any hex within 5 hexes of the unit. German Security units will prevent a change out to a range in hexes equal to 1+(CV*2). Hexes with mountain, rough, swamp, heavy woods, urban and heavy urban that are not within range of a German unit have a chance of switching to Allied control, with the the probability being doubled in the SE French garrison zone. All other affected hexes will have their rail usage set to 30k tons instead of changing to Allied control. This rule continues to apply each logistics phase as long as the conditions are met. In either case, the hex or hexes in question must be linked to an Allied supply source or they will change back to Axis control, this will leave rail lines damaged in hexes that change back. Note that hexes containing air base units will not change control.
With regard to Italy:
In the Allied logistics phase on the turn the Italians surrender, as well as every turn after that in which the below conditions are met, there is a chance that some hexes in Italy, Sardinia and Corsica will change to Allied control. Hexes with coordinates X>151 and Y>253 or hexes that are part of Corsica or Sardinia may change. German units in Italy or Corsica can prevent the switchover. All German units prevent a change in any hex that is within a number of hexes of the unit equal to 1+(unit CV/2). So a German unit with a CV of 9 would prevent a switchover in any hex within 5 hexes of the unit. Any hex that is not within range of a German unit has a 50 percent chance of switching to Allied control.
I would be interested in seeing something akin to these 'partisan uprising' rules in effect for all of occupied Europe in this game.
The garrison requirements help require this, but have the effect of freeing the German player to put his garrisons on the coast, and not worry about the interior until after the Allies have made significant progress (in the case of France).
I would like to see how a game played out that required a German player to meet (perhaps some variation of) the 'partisan uprising' rule set concerns the entire game in all occupied countries, but be otherwise free of VP penalty for moving his units around.
Maybe this was already tested and found insufficient to meet the problem I mentioned earlier of any Allied invasion quickly being greeted by the entire German army.
In the game before my current campaign my opponent seized Messina on turn 9. Turn 10 he invaded the toe of Italy, and there is really no way for the German to hold onto that region because TFs can block the flow of supplies. I chose to block him at the first bottleneck, and he chose to not attack and instead wait for the Italian surrender.
The Italians surrendered on turn 12, but because I was meeting requirements to stifle partisan uprising he didn't notice. He finally emailed me on turn 18 asking if the Italians had in fact surrendered yet!
I'd like to see the garrison VPs be optional in conjunction with, or eliminated in favor of, full war partisan uprising requirements.
As I said, maybe it has already been play tested and found insufficient to tilt the game's play balance toward historical fidelity.