Balance in a game design is always important if for no other reason than to validate the effort of the players in taking either side. The main issue with balance is while a game may be intrinsically balanced, player ability can easily alter balance, so it takes statistics from numerous tournaments before you can really know.
Based on tournament play Washington's War is now viewed as having an American advantage, so I recently posted the following
Balance over time...
I think this is a useful discussion, but for me it operates at two levels. First, is the current metagame strategies without a credible response from within the rules? Second, if yes, then work on the strategies ala Keith's personal experience. If not, assuming a solid design, then there are tweaks.
My experience with FTP is that over 11 years the balance has swung about every 6 months from CSA to USA advantage based on new strategies with no rules changes. Currently the Union seems to have the edge, but now we are starting to see a new crop of CSA long game strategies vice offensive 62 strategy that I believe is going to shift the balance back toward neutral.
If Keith and I stand in a minority that think the game is balanced it is because we have had consistent success with the British. I use a solid front strategy that initially concentrates all British armies in New England or the South. I use the 3OC leaders to anchor a line, control all rear spaces, and use the 2OC generals for offensive maneuvers to expand British territory. This usually gets the British to 5 colonies (NE + Canada) or 4 colonies (South + Canada) after about three turns. The strategy assumes that the British will not move more than one 3OC army per turn. From there it all depends, but British naval power is an important element in how I maneuver into the mid to late game. I am not saying this is some unbeatable strategy, but I feel that when I can get myself organized and moving in this manner I have a 50-50 shot at winning.
I usually hear that WaWar is not a simulation but an area control game. Be that as it may, but at the strategic level, this is what the war would look like from London or the Continental Congress. As most players view any one map game that does not have battalions as a strategic game all I can say is I differ on what a strategic simulation looks like vice many other people.
The reason that this is important to me is the main balance criticism is usually the British disadvantage in maneuver and the impact of a bad hand. As this is at the core of my design intent all I can say is that is what I wanted as a critical simulation dimension of the game. Basically in a given year the British are not going to move a lot. That said, you should get to move with more than half your hand if Burgoyne and Cornwallis are in play. In fact if the British are moving more than three or four times a turn they are going to crush the Americans given their inherent strength advantage. I find that the critical choice is when to make those maneuvers and in what combination.
The ability to go last is usually a greater advantage than going first in a CDG, also why I designed GBOH the way I did. For what it is worth I believe that the defense-offense combo has historically been a stronger tactic. Given the American strength disadvantages this was part and parcel to American survival. The issue is not that the Americans go last, but what are the British going to do to offset it. Going back to my strategy if the Americans want to take on a properly resourced space with a +2 Winter Offensive arm that's fine as they will need to use a card next turn to replace their losses, reducing their maneuver ability.
Of the changes that Keith articulated the most significant is who goes first and I like British getting the choice with a CC (current rules) and if American Congress is in flight (tournament). If this one works out I would like to see it incorporated into the standard rules. The other ones are situational, ala DoI, and are typical tournament fare to knock off the downside for competitive purposes. The additional Kings Men PC is the standard way to alter the numerology.
Hopefully adding to the conversation,