Quoting uberlicker, reply 42
... That was one of the best things about EU, it was very playable after the patching. Balanced is in the eye of the beholder for the most part, but if this is really your 1st play of the game I would stick with Vanilla on Normal or Classic depending on your tolerance for difficulty And of course Iron Man. Always play Iron Man.
Way cool. Quicker set up. Speaking of patches. Are there 'unofficial' patches out there, and if so, which are worthwhile?
Ahh, I don't believe there are any unofficial patches, it's Steam only isn't it?
I don't have EW yet, but whatever version Steam gets you to on just EU seems to be just fine. Granted, some people complain about any number of things, but you kind of have to actually play the game 1st to know if any of those things are really that annoying to you.
I do love what the Long War mod has done for the game, it makes some things better (and some things arguably worse, or if that's too strong, different), however, the vanilla game does everything pretty well too, and while more options, more missions, more this, more that, is good for longevity, it isn't really necessary for the 1st time player to bother with.
Learn the vanilla game, enjoy it, and then, if it starts to feel stale, or feels too lacking, poke around for mods.