Computer Wargames


Battle Academy: Fortress Metz screenshotThere have been a great many computer wargames and expansions released over the past few weeks and months. Matrix Games especially seems to be on a roll and there is more still to come. It’s a good time to be a computer wargamer! Here are some of our favorites:

Battle Academy: Fortress Metz — A campaign add-on for Battle Academy. It covers the US 3rd Army in WW2 as it tries to encircle Metz in France. The iPad version of Battle Academy and all its campaigns also works great.

Combat Mission Battle for Normandy: Market GardenThe excellent CM: Battle for Normandy game expanded for Operation Market-Garden. One of our favorite games and favorite battles.

Command: MANOCommand: Modern Air Naval Operations — The spiritual successor to the classic Harpoon series of games. We’ve had a tough time getting imto this one because there is so much there but it will probably reward the gamer who puts in the time. “Surface fleets, submarine squadrons, air wings, land-based batteries and even satellite constellations are yours to direct as you see fit – from the lowliest pirate skiff to the mightiest aircraft carrier, from propeller biplanes to supersonic stealth fighters. Every sensor and weapon system is modeled in meticulous detail. You are given the hardware; but you have to use it well.”

Conflict of Heroes: Storms of SteelConflict of Heroes is a great boardgame with a great computer version. “Storms of Steel is a stand-alone expansion to the critically acclaimed tactical computer wargame Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear, the official adaptation of the award-winning board game from Academy Games.  Storms of Steel is set in the Battle of Kursk and brings an impressive new campaign, created in part by legendary wargame designer John Hill, to Conflict of HeroesStorms of Steel adds rules for airplanes, snipers, and over fifty new units.Drive on Moscow

Drive on Moscow — Follow up to the excellent Battle of the Bulge for your iPad, Drive on Moscow brings you Operation Barbarossa. The AI struggles in this adaptation far more than in Bulge but recent updates have improved it. Still well worth your time.

FC: Red Alert boxFlashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm — A complete remake of the original Flashpoint: Germany. This is one of the best Cold War/Modern era wargames available.FC Red Alert screenshot

Lock ‘n Load: Heroes of Stalingrad — Five years in the making, this is Mark H. Walker’s boardgame brought to the computer. It is a very literal conversion and plays almost identically to the boardgame.

Panzer Korps – iPad — The classic Panzer General game redone and brought to the iPad. Works great. Still has the original problem of being too puzzle like but still a fun simple wargame.

Piercing Fortress EuropaPiercing Fortress Europa — A new operational level game about WW2 battles in Italy. It has a huge emphasis on supply. Looks very good.

Unity of Command – Black Turn — A great expansion for another of our favorite wargames. Allows players to play Operation Barbarossa. Also on Steam.

Film CountWe have added a new section to the site, Now Playing.

Our Articles page long ago lost most of its usefulness as the site grew in content. The Category folders and site search are generally more helpful for finding what you need. Our Top Picks section is dedicated to the top classic games in various genres. The site itself lists what’s new and what we are doing, but we decided that a permanent spot that highlighted the games we are currently playing would be useful. This serves two purposes: First it shows what currently has our interest and also acts as a central location for resources on those games.

We will only list titles we like of course but some games may appear and then drop off if they prove less exciting in the long run. But if we are currently playing them or they still hold our interest we’ll keep them listed here. We have only posted a few initial titles but will fill it out over the coming weeks.

You can always access the page via the site’s top navigation link.

Market GardenBattlefront.com released the latest module for their Combat Mission Battle for Normandy WW2 tactical computer game. Market Garden covers the allied offensive to secure a bridgehead over the Rhein in 1944.

The module covers the entire battle from the run up the highway to Arnhem bridge. The manual is available for download.

Space HulkSpace Hulk the computer game is now available for PC and Mac on Steam. There is a video interview where you can see a nice overview of the game from the designer.

I have now finished all of the missions in the game. Simply, it is Space Hulk! The game is very close to the original board game. The minor changes are noted below. For many, especially veteran players, this is a good thing. But it can present a mild hurdle to new players. The game has a good introduction but one will still need to spend a bit of time reading the rules to fully understand what is going on — and some of the current bugs can cause new players even more confusion. Mission variety seems very good but there are only 12 missions in the campaign plus the training missions. The AI also seems quite good. It is not amazing but puts up a reasonable fight. Three levels of difficulty help players match their skills with the AI.

Changes from the Board Game: As noted by the designers,

“We have made a video game out of the board game, and not made a 1:1 translation. There are certain rules and mechanics that we changed to make it play as a video game.

These include:

  •  Flamer uses a template and does not target a section only (since those do not exist in a video game)
  •  As long as a unit has action points left, you can return to it and do actions on it
  •  We automated move+fire against visible enemies for Storm Bolters. Terminators will shoot while moving if they have an enemy in line of sight. Targeting doors is a manual process using the “Set move and fire target” button. Manual process is also required for limited ammo weapons like the assault cannon.
  •  You can move multiple units at the same time
  •  Space Marine timer is optional
  •  Reworked and automated the command point usage in the enemy turn. Jammed weapons will automatically unjam if there are command points left. Interrupting enemy turn is not possible
  •  Librarians charge their force axe automatically if they would otherwise lose a close combat fight
  •  Guard mode and parry rolls are automated”

I wanted to comment on one complaint that some are making regarding the changes. Some are claiming that the ability to intermix unit commands fundamentally changes the game. I disagree with this sentiment. While this change is certainly a departure from the literal rules of the board game it is a very natural change. In fact, I was on the second mission before I even realized I was mixing the actions of units because it is such a natural thing to do. Doing this in the board game would be tricky as one would have to track the remaining APs for everyone. This change is of course a departure from the board game but one can argue it makes it better and provides for more tactical choices. The change does perhaps make it a little easier for the Marine player because you can now see the outcomes of actions and decide on actions that in the board game you could not. But overall it still retains the spirit and fundamental play of the board game even if it is not a strict implementation of it. Moreover, this change does not force you to play that way. If you want to play with the board game rules of having to perform all APs on a particular Marine before moving to another then you can. So you have the best of both worlds.

The counter argument to the above is that the AI moves the Genestealers with the same intermixing of APs. True but I just can’t see how this really matters. Either a Genestealer is being fired at when it moves or it is not. If it is not under fire then all units are going to be able to move as they wish anyway. If it is under fire then either it is killed or not and the unit behind revealed. The one situation where this matters is when a group of Genestealers is advancing and being fired on by Overwatch. In the board game it would be one Genestealer at a time moving. So say you had three squares of movement under Overwatch. Each Genestealer would have to brave the full three squares of fire. In the computer game one Genestealer could move up behind another and thus get cover for the portion of that movement where the lead Genestealer survived. This can make it slightly harder on the Marine player but considering the AI could generally use a tad bit of help this seems like a good thing. Yes it is a departure from the board game and if you are concerned over whether the game is a literal translation of the board game then this is indeed a difference, but also one that simply does not matter to the spirit and play of the game. Lastly, in my last two missions I watched for this action specifically and did not see the AI employee the tactic even once. It sent the Genestealers at me one at a time. So if the AI does use this ability it is certainly not frequent.

Of course when playing against a human opponent the above changes make a larger impact. But considering both sides gain an advantage I, again, don’t think it fundamentally changes the game. Whether it changes the balance of some missions will only be known after dozens if not hundreds of plays. Again, both sides could agree to use all APs for each unit to emulate the board game so players still have a choice.

One could argue the flamer rule change is significant as well but we played with essentially the same change as a house rule to the board game for decades because the tile-based flame rule simply never made any sense to us. In fact, over the years we have made all sorts of house rules and balance changes as we’ve played. Does this mean we were not playing Space Hulk? It just seems like an argument without purpose. It is still Space Hulk. Enjoy!

Bugs: Version 1.03 is now available. I finished the entire game with the only bad bug being the Mission 6 bug fixed in 1.01.

  • Even in 1.02 there are still problems with the Manual. Some omissions and typos and many of the images are not visible.

Minor Complaints: The character animation is quite good but the Marines move very ponderously. Realistic and fitting perhaps but after a few minutes you’ll wish they’d just hurry up. Surprisingly, while I was very annoyed by this slow pace at first after a few missions it became a non-issue because you learn to give an order and move on to another Marine while the prior one is moving. Between that and just thinking of tactics the Marine pacing stopped mattering. But I do think there should be an option to speed the Marines up. I can understand how it will really bother some players. Panning the screen with the mouse is too slow but you can right-click and drag it around quickly. Keyboard commands work just fine. It can be a bit difficult to see doors in the 3D view and you have to sometimes pan/zoom around or jump to the strategic map to see what is going on. Door location and status is very important in Space Hulk so this is a concern. Animations can sometimes be off with shooting going off on a tangent yet still killing the target. It would also be nice to maybe be able to play as the Genestealers against the AI although the AI may not be able to pose a good enough challenge as the Marine player. Lastly, the inability to customize the look of your forces or pick other Chapters is disappointing, but I suspect this will come as an add-on later for sure.

A larger issue is the lack of a true campaign where you follow units through various missions and see them increase in abilities. This could hurt larger acceptance among some gamers. Ultimately Space Hulk is about sacrificing some units to achieve the mission so such a campaign system would need to be designed well and/or have unique missions. Of course XCOM showed you can have a good campaign even where units die a lot.

Graphics and Sound: I almost hate to comment on these because they really come down to personal preference. Space Hulk does not have the latest cutting edge graphics and effects. It is more than good enough for me but only you can judge that for yourself. There is a fair amount of clipping. I am enjoying the 3D view more as I play. Some of the levels are quite nice with walkways that go over seemingly bottomless pits and equipment that hums and glows. I’ve found myself just zooming around sometimes looking at things from different points of view just because it looks cool. Considering this is not a first person shooter it all seems more than adequate. Animations are ok with some better than others. If you are expecting amazing flawless animations you will be disappointed. Certainly some of the zoomed-in ‘action’ shots show some oddities. Sound, when it isn’t being buggy, is good but not great. There is nice ambient noise. The various sound effects are ok but not amazing. Overall I’d say graphics and sound are good and more than sufficient for a turn based game.

Conclusion: Overall if you liked the board game you will probably like the computer game. If you liked XCOM you should give the game a try. It is a bit slower paced and somewhat less varied than XCOM but it is still an interesting and tactically challenging game with good atmosphere. The ability to play over the Internet and hotseat (not to mention against the computer) should keep re-playability high. But Space Hulk has always been a good occasional pick-up game not something you play constantly over the long term and the computer version does not really change that. I look forward to seeing how they expand the game in the future.

For a somewhat more negative look at the game see Wot I Think: Space Hulk from Rock, Paper, Shotgun but this was written before the 1.01 patch. I think the current issues are minor annoyances at worst (unless you are suffering from a technical issue).

Tips:

  • Right-click and drag the map to move it around quickly.
  • You can stack orders, you don’t have to wait for one unit to finish before going to the next.
  • Don’t forget to check your Command Points at the start of your turn to see if you want to re-roll.
  • Clicking the square behind a Marine backs him up. Clicking more than one square causes him to turn around and walk to the spot.
  • Use the strategic Map (M key) to easily check for door location/status.
  • Don’t forget to check you have given orders to ALL your units before ending your turn; it is easy to forget a few Marines.
  • Consider saving a Command Point or two so units on Overwatch can clear a jam.

Space Hulk Corridor

[Updated: 23AUG13]

Napoleon 4th EdIt has been awhile since we looked at what is new in the Napoleonic realm. Since our last post there have been a number of new goodies released and we even discovered some old ones.

Perhaps most recent is Columbia Games’ new Napoleon 4th Edition block game fresh off its Kickstarter. Napoleon is a classic game that is now better than ever. Also from Columbia is their Eagles: Waterloo 1815 card game. We finally got a chance to try this and really like it. It takes a couple of plays to get comfortable with but is a quick playing game that gives a nice feel of Napoleonic warfare and the cards are very nicely illustrated. We wish they would expand the game with more battles. Annoyingly Columbia has not posted the full rules, but check BoardgameGeek for a nice rules summary.

Another classic game we got to the table is Age of Napoleon 2nd Edition. If you want a grand strategic game for two that you can play in one sitting this is a good choice.

GMT Games has been busy and put out the Russian forces for their excellent Commands & Colors: Napoleonics system. Either the Prussians or Austrians will be next. They also released Fading Glory: Napoleonic Series 20, which is a package of four small games previously done by VPG. They are small games that are fun and quick to play. We look forward to the next set.

Albion Triumphant v2Warlord Games released two Napoleonic expansions to their Black Powder miniature rules: Albion Triumphant Volume 1 – The Peninsular campaign and Albion Triumphant Volume 2 – The Hundred Days campaign should keep fans of Black Powder busy for awhile. As always the books are also useful to players of many other game systems.

Another very recent addition is 2HourWargames’ new Muskets and Shakos rules. This is a 65-page ruleset covering the period of 1803-1815 at division level.

Computer gamers are in luck as well. Matrix Games released the excellent Napoleon’s Campaigns game. It takes a bit of time to learn but has a nice tutorial and manual and your time spent will be rewarded with a challenging game.

That should be enough to keep your inner conqueror busy for awhile.

[Updated: 9AUG13]

Battle of the BulgeShenandoah Studio’s released their first iPad game from their Kickstarter campaign. Battle of the Bulge: The Simulation  Game for the iPad is a light operational-level wargame about the Battle of the Bulge designed by John Butterfield.

The good news is the game plays as good as it looks and as good as all of the Kickstarter supporters hoped. It is definitely on the light side for a wargame but offers enough nuance in strategy that it keeps you playing as you try to see how different approaches will work. The game includes two scenarios, a shorter three-day Race to Meuse and the full campaign game. You can play both from either the Allied or Axis side and against two types of AI opponents. The AI is quite good and I lost dozens of games of Race to the Meuse as the Germans until I finally realized I should push in the North. Maybe it isn’t possible to win running down the center or the South but it sure is fun to try. The AI doesn’t seem able to successfully defend against a northern thrust in the Race to the Meuse scenario but does give a good account of itself. The campaign is challenging from either side. You may win an early victory but you probably won’t think it was easy. But if you tire of fighting against the AI you can play a real opponent face-to-face or go online against others.

Bulge iconThe presentation of the game is outstanding and perhaps best of all the game includes all the normal wargame rules and charts that the game uses. It is quite easy to play the game without reference to the rules but if you are curious how things are working this is a very nice, and welcome, addition.

There is also nice historical detail provided on the battle day by day that is there for those who want to read it but does not get in the way of the game.

If you like operational wargames give the Battle of the Bulge a look. It is a great game and great example of how good the iPad can be as a gaming platform.

PocketTactics has a nice review of the game. Three Moves Ahead has an insightful discussion of the game in Episode 200.

[Updated: 12JAN13]

Case BlueDecisive Campaigns: Case Blue is now available. Case Blue is a WW2 operational level computer wargame on the German’s 1942 drive towards Stalingrad in Russia. It is a follow-on to the well done Decisive Campaigns: Blitzkrieg Warsaw to Paris. The game manual is available to download.

It is the summer of 1942 on the Eastern Front, and Case Blue is about to begin. The German Wehrmacht must continue their drive to Stalingrad and into the Caucasus in order to secure victory against the Soviet Army. As time passes and the battles rage on, winter arrives and with it the Soviet winter counter-offensive dashes hopes of a speedy victory for the Wehrmacht.

Decisive Campaigns: Case Blue features an easy-to-learn interface and a challenging AI for all levels of players. Among the many new features for the Decisive Campaigns series is the optional high command order system, which puts you in the position of the historical commander, with often difficult and unrealistic goals assigned by your superiors. Succeed and you may be able to guide the future strategy of the campaign – fail and you may find yourself removed from command or facing a firing squad!Case Blue Screenshot

The new full campaign scenarios cover a remarkable sweep of history, including the full Case Blue campaign with all of its many historical options.  The order of battle may change based on your performance and the entire direction of the campaign is even within your reach if you do well enough.  Whether you start in the summer of 1942 or take control as Operation Uranus begins, there are virtually endless “what ifs” in each of these remarkably detailed campaigns.

[Updated: 23JUL12]

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 390 other followers