just trying to do the legwork here with a solitaire, for opening fuel/movement (trying to move everything I could think of the max distance) you get numbers around the following...
Germany somewhere around 55-60 fuel expended (of 80 starting total). With max naval movement its 26 fuel just for the ships.
Balkans 3 fuel used (of 5 total) if they move their fleet to attack Russia in the black sea.
Finland 6 fuel (of 5 total). Finland starts with 5 fuel in reserve, so this is the first example of a movement/fuel choice in round 1, since they can't move all fuel units the max distance. But this one probably goes unnoticed just owing to Finland's position usually doing turtle up.
Russia somewhere around 60-65 fuel used (of 80 total). Assuming that Germany takes Ukraine on G1 and if the soviet ships survive for max naval movement at 15 fuel.
Britain about 20-22 fuel used (of 30 total). It's 19 for all the ships/air max movement, then depending on whether the tanks needed to go to Scotland.
France 8 fuel used (of 10).
British Colonies 12 fuel used (of 20) .
South Africa 8 fuel used (of 10)
Italy 32 (of 40). This is if they are moving all their fleets/armor the max distance. But Italy is probably the nation with the narrowest fuel gap going into the second round because they are only collecting +10 per round.
That's as far as I got on lunch today, but the basic pattern is that the nations all have just enough fuel to cover a max move in the opening round, but not nearly enough on recurring fuel per turn to cover that in the second round. So basically the first time player would have very little warning about the consequences of their heavy fuel consumption until after its already too late, when things start crashing off after round 2.
I think it would be better to have the starting reserve just under max movement from the outset, in round 1, that way the player can see what's going on before they commit to combat movement. Having it happen sooner rather than later would serve as a wake up, so the player can get familiar with the fuel mechanic right away. Then give them some cushion to purchase new units or recover from a movement error by not having the +fuel per turn be quite so scarce. Essentially having the first round movement consumption as the benchmark (from the player's pov) for what can be done with the total fuel coming in per turn. If that makes sense?
Right now the are many more starting steel units on the board than can move once the initial fuel reserve is spent, and the +fuel per turn is so low relative to the starting fuel, that I don't think the player really has a chance to see what their movement benchmarks actually are for their starting units until after they have already run critically dry. Since fuel is ultimately a cap on movement per turn, I think its important that the player has a somewhat more forgiving way to see that in operation from the very first turn of the game, and a little time to learn the ropes since its an entirely new mechanic going on here for most people. If the fuel coming in per turn was boosted and the starting fuel lowered, then I think the game could be more about managing/conserving fuel income in line with your movement needs, rather than managing the starting fuel reserve. The later is much more challenging (though not necessarily more entertaining owing to that challenge), since it requires a more advanced understanding of how fuel works than I think most people would be able to see coming at it cold. And each nation has different needs, so its hard to ballpark until you actually play through it, which is why I think round 1 movement needs would make sense for the recurring amounts of fuel, rather than having a large reserve meant to be spread out over several rounds.
My impression is that the learning curve for the fuel/movement mechanic goes up the higher the difference between the starting fuel reserves, what that nation can move initially, and what the nation will collect or be able to move on average. But if there is going to be a large difference between starting fuel reserves and +fuel per turn per nation, then I'd consider going way up on that by a substantial amount, enough to cover more than one round of max movement by the starting units (probably several rounds at that level before it starts to fall off, just to cover normal purchasing). Right now I think the overall fuel totals are too low to really accommodate the large number of units that enter play through regular purchasing, so I'd put it in the barrels +fuel per turn, because to me that is much easier to get a feel for. But either way I think you just need more fuel in this thing for the gameplay.
For me the ideal on G1 would be that the German player first tries to move all their stuff, discovers that they don't have quite enough fuel to do everything, and so much choose which stuff to move for their strat in that game. Thinking about it from phase 1, starting to build a mental picture from the very first turn of how much fuel they need to acquire/conserve to move effectively each round. Then have something near that coming in next turn on G2 (with some flex aid or conquest), and do much the same for each nation on both sides in the first round. So their totals are just under their max movement for the starting units, and their fuel income also at about the same amount with a little give and take.
@redrum you gotta couple games of Iron War under your belt, but might be able to speak to first impression better than I can here. What do you think?