Hi all, I know this topic has been beaten to death, but in my current game I've had an interesting experience so far as the Soviets and I wanted to share some criticism and observations on design and balance of the game.
1. Combat is not very bloody - I know most of the results are baked into the attrition, but this leads to some seriously illogical results. I could attack a panzer division that has no ammo or fuel in clear terrain with over 120,000 men and 800 tanks and I will still only kill 3 tanks and take enormous losses in 1942. I can hasty attack with a brigade and also kill 3 tanks. However, just standing next to them and maintenance problems I guess is killing 150+ per turn even without any attacks on the previous turn. This also means that instead of units being bled dry in areas of heavy fighting, it's pretty spread out on the german side while soviets get destroyed.
2. Weather and the turn structure - The way the turns are set up, when new weather hits Germany will always start with the initiative, even at the end of the war. They get the first clear turn after mud, time to react after blizzard starts, etc. The only advantage for the soviets is that cutting off units the turn before mud means no immediate rescue, but good luck getting a surrender during mud and the germans get first clear turn to break out. Additionally, the entire reason for Germany's standing fast in the blizzard is absent as they can retreat with their heavy equipment intact no problem.
3. Panzerball - This ruins a lot of the realism for me. The number of troops that could be concentrated in an area and the time to build up ammo/fuel between attacks was mostly dependent on the capacity of the rail network at that point. Germany can pack absolutely massive amounts of CV in an extremely narrow frontage, and are effectively unstoppable if they want to go somewhere. The stacking limit means soviets can't even put an equal number of men in front of the germans even in important places until corps are available, and even then combat is so ridiculous there is little consequence to plowing into triple stacked corps. Historically in situations where panzer divisions drove head on into massive anti-tank positions they experienced heavy losses even in 1941. They were very effective at exploitation and combined arms attack but in game it seems attacking fortified strongpoints unsupported is one of their most effective uses.
4. Morale - This part bugs me a lot, as reading Glantz makes me appreciate just how fierce soviets resisted in the face of overwhelming and suicidal odds. While they were much less experienced and effective in the beginning, the fighting spirit and will to defend to the death is mentioned constantly in german memoirs and examples of surrounded units fighting for months. In game, no matter the importance of the objective the soviets will run away. If morale increased while defending important objectives or the player could discourage retreat in some way (blocking divisions?) then maybe Leningrad wouldn't have fallen to my opponent with ~400 casualties. City fighting in general leaves a lot to be desired, and riverline defenses are easily pushed back. The ease at which retreats are forced (and lack of higher casualties for attacking forts) make fortifications useless compared to depth, but the soviets are starved of the manpower to create depth especially with the super lvov opening. Speaking of which...
5. Turn Structure - I understand why the week long turn structure is necessary and finding players for a 1:1 timescale would be impossible, but the problems created from this structure are not addressed at all. The soviets are forced to sit completely still for a week while germany does whatever it wants, and then they can react. While the same is true for the germans, the consequences are completely different as the soviets can't exploit or penetrate and don't have the CV to counterattack. I know it's wishful thinking, but being able to set standing orders and have AI react during the turn would be great. As it is now, Dubno is impossible, units remain stationary while they are encircled, nobody tries to plug gaps in the lines, it's just completely passive.
6. Leaders - This last one also gets to me a bit, as it's a very obvious German bias. While historically the germans did have great success in the early war and some brilliant defense at the end, reading about the creative attacks, ability to create local superiority, deception campaigns, giant ambushes, front sized organized assaults, etc. it's obvious that the soviets had top talent that equaled or exceeded germany. In game however, even the best leaders are poor in comparison, and it contributes to the overall feeling that the game is portraying the soviets just as so many historical narratives do. Winning due to the weather, their economy, numerical advantage, and things out of their control instead of through their growth, adaptation and determination in the face of an existential threat. It portrays even individuals as completely incompetent, and antitank guns can't kill a single tank, tanks do nothing to infantry, everyone misses, and even fresh german replacements completely outclass the most battle hardened guards units. A 152mm shell somehow hurts less if a russian pulls the trigger?
Overall it's a lot of little complaints, but they add up and the overall picture is that even if the soviets win in the long run, the structure and lessons of the game take agency away from players and make it an inevitability, which insults the historical brilliance displayed from both sides and makes success from either a matter of fact occurrence. End rant.