I've played a couple of games of AVL, but it always seemed that things went pretty well for the Germans early and they didn't really have to sweat too much. In our game, however, I decided to run early to avoid multiple Soviet chit pulls that would wipe out my front line units. Chuck focused on 1st Guard, 2nd Guard, 5th Shock, 3rd Tank (which comes in early), and 28th Army, which comes in from the SE part of the map in an attempt to sneak into Rostov early.
Chuck got to the Don and Donets rivers by the end of turn 2, but had to spend a little time regrouping and cleaning up Axis minor units in his backfield before continuing his advance. Of particular importance were the Hungarians up in the NW part of the map, who were holding onto the only real Soviet rail line into the rest of the map. It was critical that they hold through turn 4, and they somehow managed to do so, if only a single critical space. That crimped Popov's army as well as 3rd Tank, which are currently driving on Kharkov against pretty thin forces.
The reason those forces are thin is that my German panzers (far too many of which were lost because I didn't pay careful enough attention to Chuck infiltrating past them so that they had to take losses instead of retreating) concentrated in the south to try to relieve the 1st Panzer Army, which *almost* made it to Rostov in time (I did actually get into Rostov, but was out of supply at the end of turn 5). That's one of the risks of the "run away" strategy - how do you keep the Soviets from advancing on both sides of the Don before the 1st Panzer gets on the map? Fortunately, by the sixth turn, I had two "activate anyone" chits in the cup, but things got very exciting when I drew two chits that allowed Chuck to attack my somewhat exposed units and reduce them. Things looked grim.
On turn 6, after Chuck had gotten his shots in, I finally got my Manstein, 1st Panzer, and 4th Panzer activations, enough to destroy three Soviet tank units, reduce a couple of Sov infantry beyond repair, and supply the 1st Panzer army units going into turn 7. They all have an excellent chance of pulling back across the river in time to stay fairly safe, and Chuck lost enough mech units so that I suspect I will be able to hold (or at least counterattack) against any further advances. On the down side, the areas around Stalino and Kharkov are also weak, and it will be interesting to see if I can hold (or retake) either or both. Stalino wouldn't be too hard, but I can't really lose either - I'm right on the hairy edge of points, so anything I lose I'll have to make up somewhere. Perhaps I won't pull back quite so much as I think I will, and I do have two of Chuck's remaining mech units pinned against the Black Sea. I will need those panzers, though, to save Stalino, and the 3rd Tank army is so strong that if it can hook up with 1st Guard, he'll get three activations a turn and they will be hard to stuff back in the bottle. Should be an exciting end to what has been an extremely exciting game.
Tonight, we play Republic of Rome (moderated by Chuck, a game I'm really looking forward to), then tomorrow Chris and I are going to try out the new edition of Nappy Wars. Chuck and I hope to finish our game on Sunday morning while we clean up - it's an excellent choice as those STAVKA draws take about 20 minutes to do, so while he moves the entire army I can get the house closed up. Saturday night I'm not sure what's going on, as Chris and I are going to take in the Wilco concert. And I didn't bring any long pants or a hat. Sigh.