This is a narrative post about my experience with RUS/Ageod games, and how (like with Leberwurst/liverwurst) I moved from hate to...yes, a form of the thing they call love.
Leberwurst: I'm an American living in eastern Germany. I came here with a low opinion of meat paste (which comes in many forms here), including the original version of liverwurst. After dabbling with some gateway foods, I finally came to love meat in its more...unusual forms, like Leberwurst.
It was like that with AGEOD for me. I bought RUS (not gold) a few years back and tried the tutorial. But the unconventional system, strange UI, and preponderance of logistical and administrative tasks (which are often the lamest parts of wargames) made me quit in disgust after the 2nd of 6 tutorials.
Later on, I bought RUS Gold with the discount for RUS owners. One day I forced myself to play through all tutorials. Then, because I had come so far, I played the "Ice March" scenario, and lost. About three times. After checking the manual on a couple points and applying those points alone in the next playthrough, slowly I caught on, generally carried on by frustration and dislike of giving up. Then I won. Then I played a couple more times, just to improve my score...
By then the change had already happened. Soon I played the Finnish Civil War and was able to win on the second play after first losing on the last turn. Then I tried Birth of Rome and got into that as well. Now I can appreciate AGEOD games and have a good time with them, just like I can sort of say why I prefer Gutsleberwurst to Hausmacherleberwurst on most days and appreciate the subtle differences, even though they're both...meat paste.
I know that AGEOD titles are hit-or-miss for most people. If anyone reads through all of this who is not so familiar with the series but interested in something original in wargaming, I would definitely recommend picking up a title - maybe one with smaller scenarios, one that's not too expensive, and do so with the knowledge that (sorry, again like Leberwurst) it's an...acquired taste. And if you do so, stick through the learning curve - put in the 2-3 hour minimum (or so) to overcome the initial strangeness of the system. I can honestly say there's a really cool thing going on there, and one you won't get most other places. In grognard terms, the games do a great job of hitting that operational-level sweet spot. Also, expect to organize divisions and work on the intangibles to improve combat effectiveness. Be willing to take logistics very, very seriously. It won't be the flashiest experience - Leberwurst isn't pizza - but it's rewarding and different.
For me, I like Birth of Rome, but RUS:Gold is something pretty special. The added depth of air/armor/armored trains, etc., is welcome in my opinion. The scenarios I have tried were very well-balanced and played like solid full-game coverage of individual campaigns in their own right. And, while sometimes disappointing, I found the AI more competent as an opponent than in a lot of AAA titles. Again, it's not going to be everybody's thing, and that's been said a lot before. But for me it was more getting over my initial resistance to the somewhat unconventional system that made me really hate the games at first. But then again, I used to look at liver with different eyes as well...