This I found interesting because does it mean that all balance discussions are simply discussions about players ability? It is only pro-German because of the way the Soviet side has been played? If so there is no such thing as game balance as some absolutely quantity independent of players. It make no more sense to discuss it than it does to discuss what are the feelings of machines or what is the colour of number 2?
No, it doesn't mean that balance can't be discussed (let's face it, balance will ALWAYS be discussed even if in fact it may be irrelevant!). As I said, in my opinion it's a bit pro-German. But pro-German doesn't mean the Russians can't win (i.e. the "chaos argument"). And the skill of the players is a far greater factor in determining the outcome than the balance of the game. The "best" players here (if such a thing exists) consistently win the game with either side. Where the Chaos argument may hold true is if you have the best Russian against the best German (i.e. players of absolutely equal, and very high, skill) the game balance will benefit the German. But rarely if ever are there games between people of absolutely equal and very high skill. One is always going to be a bit better than the other or have a better understanding of the side that they are playing in that particular game. For players of average skill, who are probably most of the people who play the game, I think the game balance is irrelevant because neither is maximizing what their side can potentially achieve.
This is the thing I am looking forward to and so long as the game is actively followed I expect to read the definitve post on this soon. The Pskow Defence has certainly been the most recent meta/paradigm of the game. I think this is more than just a fashion as for most so far in game theory terms it is the "dominant strategy." One of the last AARs by Tyronec for WitE1 (see http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=4358933 ) was supposed to be the way you could beat the Pskow Defence - sadly for that game his opponent decided not to do the Pskow defence then so we will never know what it was. I have never faced an opponent doing a Pskow Defence - but I did write a very brief AAR about worrying less about pockets in early turns and instead advancing as fast as possible (see http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=4639282 ). This was to challenge the paradigm (slightly) that making pockets is all that matters on turn 1. However some have suggested it could be part of a Pskow counter by allowing an Axis player to arrive in greater mass at Pskow BEFORE the hardest defences are formed. Knowing Joelmar's way of thinking and inquisitiveness I wonder even if Joelmar will be the one to take the experiences of fighting a Pskow Defence and work out the definitive counter that will be the forum post everyone reads on it for ever more?
There will never be a definitive post on this. The German Turn 1 is about the only thing that can be absolutely definitive. Sure, the PSKOV defense is somewhat definitive in that the Germans can't really do a damn thing about it on their Turn 2 and by the time their turn 3 starts, the defense is in place. But we're talking about what, an area of the map that is maybe 8 hexes by 8 hexes? If the Russians setting up some units in an area of a massive map that small is a "dominant strategy", then folks aren't thinking hard enough.
Really, I find it kind of surprising that (apparently) this has become a dominant Russian strategy. It carries with it lots of risks and certainly no guarantee of success. Let's be realistic here, the PSKOV defense strategy in HLYA's hands as Russians is most likely a very different thing than that same strategy in say my hands or some other random Russian players hands. On the flip side, HLYA playing Germans against said defense is probably different than say me playing Germans against it. So it's not so much about beating that strategy, I'm quite certain I could beat it as Germans against a random Russian player of average skill. It's more about beating it while it's being played by HLYA - it's his defense after all. Further, it's a different thing to beat such a defense when you know it's coming as opposed to not knowing it's being played until you run into it. If the German isn't aware it's being played, they can often waste a turn running into it. If they know it's being played, they have a lot more options, such as just ignoring PSKOV and racing east or sending far more to PSKOV than would normally be the case. It's a very different thing than a German opening in which the Russians have absolutely no say. The Germans do have a say in this case.
And just to follow up on your comment about Turn 1 pockets, i'll repeat what i've said elsewhere. Turn 1 in a vacuum is irrelevant. It's the continuous action of Turns 1-3 that matter. Who cares if you pocket X number of Russian units on Turn 1. What matters is getting east as fast as possible while preventing the escape of the maximum number of Russian units. You can often get even more Russians this way than if you have very tight encirclements on Turn 1. As Germans, i could care less if encirclements hold on Turn 1. It's all about preventing escape and pushing east as fast as possible. I prefer to leave the encircled units to rot and mop them up over 6-7 turns with very few divisions, security units, etc...This allows maximum force east as early as possible.
I took a quick look at the Pandemonium/HLYA vs Tyronec game. Yeah, i'm not sure the abandoning the North Russian strategy is a very good one. As GHC nothing would make me happier than to play against that.