So I played the first few months of Barbarossa in the Expert AI with some small bonuses for USSR and USA. I was quite nervous at the start because the Soviet divisions outnumbered me quite a bit at the front, I didn’t have as many tank divisions as I would like, and the Soviets had some tank divisions that I couldn’t pierce.
The initial few days seemed to confirm my fear since Manstein’s panzer army got severely bogged down in south-eastern Poland, and the Soviets made a lot of counter-attacks, many of which looked like they were going to win. On the other hand, Guderian’s group broke through the line in Lithuania, wiped out some divisions there and make it to Riga with little resistance. I arced Guderian around to try to make a giant surround of the line. However, by that point, the USSR was pushing into East Prussia and Manstein still wasn’t making much forward progress due to so many counter-attacks. I decided to refocus Guderian and Manstein into cutting off the Soviet push and ended up pocketing 50 or so divisions.
That seemed to take the wind out of the Soviet bear, and I was able to get a couple more pockets, drive Guderian to Leningrad and finally make progress in the Ukraine. I think Soviet casualties at the end up September stand at 3.5 million to 100k for Germany. That about how many casualties the Germans did historically and they still lost, but I think in the game the USSR is pretty much done for. They have giant deficits in equipment, which really takes the steam out of their existing divisions and makes them easier to pocket.
So I think the Expert AI mod got the USSR building the industry well, and building the right division designs, and building the right equipment. But it fell down a bit in terms of timing the divisions - trying to build too many heavy tank divisions at once, rather than only starting the divisions for which you will soon have equipment, which leaves you with a bunch of half-trained and half-equipped divisions when the balloon goes up. Also, you hand very effective divisions to a single AI field marshal in command of the entire front, who it told to basically advance the front a few hundred miles.
Finally, I did maintain air superiority on the front, so the huge numbers of close air support in the frontline air zones made Soviet attacks that should have succeeded into very costly losses. The drove up Soviet equipment losses and bled them as much as the pockets did. I really noticed the effect when the Soviet advances pushed my aircraft out of a couple of front-line air bases, resulting in over-crowding and loss of effectiveness further back.
A couple more notes:
The Blitz command is awesome! Sending Guderian to blitz Estonia and Manstein to blitz Kiev was very sweet. It’s great seeing those “overrun” text popping up.
Overlapping front lines is terrible! I swear I spent half the time trimming back the front-line spam that grows at lighting speed. I think the Russian bent the line back in East Prussia mostly because over-active front-line spam resulted in units relocating everywhere.