Though the inclusion of 2 (optional) scenarios set in Finland without any Finnish troops and your trusty German core force instead was disappointing to me, it was only a small part of the AO 1939 DLC. While IMO the effort involved in creating those 2 scenarios would have been better spent adding more content to underrepresented Poland, I think the real scary thing here is the suggestion/perception/possible scenario/... that this may be the way of going forward with Axis Operations. Essentially I'm afraid this whole PC2 (European) Axis undertaking will end up being "German Operations" with (every now and then) a couple of Italian and Romanian units as auxiliary sideshows no one ever cares about.
AO started of so nicely with SCW and including all these cool Spanish scenarios and unit models and the allied AI system which was novel and great for that situation (some people's unhappiness with the implementation notwithstanding)! Let's go further into AO with SCW in mind, not the AO 1939 way of dealing with non-German forces... and let's not do it as the base PC2 campaign did either.
If you want to make an "Axis Operations" campaign, I think the Axis should be presented well and not only the Germans. Not just because of the name "Axis Operations", but because you (the devs) seem to realise that adding new things to this decades old genre is a necessary breath of fresh air. Adding unknown scenarios (eg. Saar offensive) is extremely valuable, I think, but the main attraction of the great SCW was the addition of both unknown scenarios AND all these cool new (old) units we never or rarely get to see. Including nations (with their units) other than Germany into the rest of AO would be a major attraction, just as the inclusion of all those cool units in SCW was. So do not let the major attraction become a sideshow! If you go with the all German route and just throw the occasional Italian(/Romanian/Hungarian/none(RIP Finland)) auxiliary force in the mix we will be going for a "let's redo PC1 Grand Campaign in PC2" scenario. That is not the innovation I saw in SCW.
The only way I see the Axis Operations become Axis Operations is by not only incorporating previously unknown, new scenarios, but also by putting some amount of focus on the inclusion of cool/new/lesser known/iconic troops other than the German troops. How to make this happen? I'm sure it's obvious that ignoring these completely as was done in AO 1939 with Finland is not the way to do this. Dumping the occasional Italian auxiliary units into a scenario as was done in the base PC2 campaign is not interesting at all and certainly not innovative either.
What needs to be done I think is to add core forces other than Germany's. You can go as far as you want with this. You could go all crazy and have Italian, Romanian, Finnish, Hungarian and Croatian core forces next to the German one. Well, the Finnish seems to be out of the equasion and I can live with that. But there are several degrees of doing that and Italy at least deserves its separate core force, assuming you will revisit North Africa at some point.
There are two main advantages to having multiple core forces under your control other than a German one, I think. Firstly and most importantly, it creates a bond: these are your units and you take them along with you through a very lengthy game, even if they will only show up once in a while. Auxiliary units are cannon fodder, I don't care about them. I do not care about units because they are German or not, German aux units are meaningless to me as well: if they go through the meat shredder, so be it. Shrug. Core force units are mine and losing even one means a serious defeat. Secondly, it makes sure these non-German forces are getting used. The base PC2 implementation of the North African conflict was really underwhelming IMO. Why should I waste any of my prestige on these temporarily available craps? And even if non-German forces would be available as part of your one single core force you would rather spend prestige to fill core slots with German panzers and planes than on any serious number of Italians (Romanians/Hungarian/...). Separate core forces for separate nations means you will use them, because they will have separate core slots to fill out and a separate prestige pool. So you will both use these units and care about them. If you can think of any other mechanic to achieve this, I am all ears.
"But this will be so expensive to implement, we have to think of our budget!". This system has already been done by Order of Battle and it did wonders for their African DLC: I used the Italians and took them with me and enjoyed them just as I did my German units! You had less core slots for your Italians compared to the German core, but you can balance that any way you see fit. But they were there: Italian planes, infantry, artillery, inferior tanks and I cared for them because they kept going with me from mission to mission (hint: Italians can also fight before the 1941-43 African campaign and they can appear in other theatres of war as well! Just like Germans!). And luckily, you can implement this to several degrees. You don't have to implement each and every Axis nation. Finland has already been thrown out and you don't have to do Croatia. But at the very least do Italy properly: it is one of the 3 proper Axis nations and I assume you are keeping Japan for something entirely different than AO. So let's take a look at Italy and perhaps Romania as an optional Axis nation core force?
As far as Italy goes, I don't think I have to spend any words on Italian units. Iconic (and less iconic) Italian units have been implemented before. Great! All we need is to put them into an Italian core force instead of an aux one and find some use for them. You can't go through all the trouble of creating a core force separate from your German one and then having it show up in only 3 or 4 scenarios. So what scenarios can we think of for our Italians?
A lot actually, and I'm no expert even. Here are only some general ideas from the top of my head (so some might not be good after all for whatever reason and some might be content for just 1 scenario and others for multiple. The point is: if you are looking for new and original scenarios, there's plenty for Italy that could be of Saar-level quality, me thinks):
- The 1940 invasion of British Somaliland;
- The 1940 invasion of France (1 scenario only maybe, but still);
- The Italian invasion of Greece in 1940-1941 (possible interaction with the German invasion of Greece in 1941: if the player has completed Italian scenarios in Greece, the Italians (represented by your Italian core forces) will start out with more territory);
- The attack on Egypt and retreat into Libya in 1940-1941;
- Defending Ethiopia in 1941;
- Fighting alongside the German Afrikakorps in 1941-43: this alone warrants implementing a separate Italian core, see what I said above, see Order of Battle. No more meaningless Italian sideshow;
- Involvement on the Eastern Front from 1941 until Stalingrad, or beyond in an ahistorical scenario in which the Italians survive the Stalingrad debacle.
And now let's go crazy and see if we can think of some original content for a 3rd Axis nation that is not Germany or Italy (or Japan) and that could perhaps use its own core force: Romania. Are there any places you could use your Romanian core forces? A quick google search taught me the Romanians had their 3rd and 4th armies operating on the Eastern front. Let's simplify and merge these into 1 core force. These units could then play a role in:
- The siege of Odessa;
- Operation München (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_M%C3%BCnchen);
- Any other Ukrainian 1941-1942 scenarios. I'll forgive you if Romanians did not happen to be present for that specific scenario: that's not the level of detail I find interesting. I would accept them in any Army Group South 1941-Stalingrad scenario;
- Ahistorical post Stalingrad scenarios if your Romanian core survives.
- Unique Romanian infantry (including mounted);
- R-2 light tanks = Panzer 35(t) (hey, you already have these models! W00t!);
- TACAM R-2;
- IAR fighter and bomber units (Romania had its own planes and they weren't all that bad even);
- Take your pick from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_R ... rld_War_II
these are the Axis Operations, not the re-implementation of the PC1 German Grand Campaign. It started out great with SCW, but multiple core forces (at least 1 for Italy) are needed to make the continuation meaningful.
My 2 cents.