Computer Wargames

Battle of the Bulge — iPad Edition

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Bulge for iPad screenshot1The folks over at Shenandoah Studio have decided to use Kickstarter to launch their first iPad game. 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. It appears that there will also be a printed version of the game as well and supporters at the $150+ level get both the iPad version and the printed boardgame.

Bulge for iPad screenshot2We’ve been watching Shenandoah Studio for awhile now and are happy they chose to use Kickstarter. Considering the success of Ogre Designer’s Edition on Kickstarter it should be easy for Battle of the Bulge to reach its $20,000 goal. In fact it is already past $5,000 on its first day. If design is any indication of the quality of the game Battle of the Bulge should be a real winner. With luck we will see more iPad titles from Shenandoah Studio in the future.

Update: As an added incentive Shenandoah Studio announced the next game in the Crisis in Command Series, El Alamein. All those pledging $20 or more will get both games. There does not seem to be a boardgame version of El Alamein.

As of this writing they are just a few dollars shy of their goal so the project is certainly a go.

Update: The game reached almost twice its goal and is now live in the App Store. It is a great game.

[Updated: 15DEC12]

Combat Mission: Touch — Now Available!

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CM TouchWell iPad wargaming is finally here! First we get Battle Academy and now Battlefront.com just announced and released Combat Mission: Touch for the iPad. It is a lighter version of the computer game but well done overall.

Combat Mission: Touch is the result of a collaboration between Battlefront.com, the critically acclaimed creators of the genre defining Combat Mission series of wargames for now over 10 years, and Dromedary LLC. Using Combat Mission’s unique WeGo turn-based play mode of simultaneous planning and execution phases, and a vast 3D environment, it combines the fun of fast paced action with the strategy of turns. Make no mistake, fun as it is, “Combat Mission: Touch” is a true wargame, with a number of mind-blowing features that were available, until now, only on the desktop. More…

A quick update: I’ve gotten in a few goes at two scenarios with it now and have gotten waxed by the AI. See our Twitter posts for some screen shots. The game is not the full PC/Mac version of Combat Mission (unlike Battle Academy) but it is similar. Movement seems sped up a bit and the graphics are not as good but still quite good for a tablet. Seven scenarios are included and if the game does well enough I suspect we’ll see lots of add-on packs for those. If you like CM you will like this game. If you are new to wargaming or tactical combat games it is a very good place to start. The tutorial is well done and quite funny. Get out your War Finger!

Another quick update: The quality of the game certainly centers on the scenarios. The Crossroads scenario we enjoy a lot but the speed of the German advance makes it hinge on the American initial setup. The Uncle Red Beach scenario disappointed us quite a bit and it is the first scenario in the game if one plays in order. The terrain is practically featureless. The tactical nuance comes from the folds in the ground. This is a strength of the PC/Mac game but on the iPad the slightly awkward map manipulation (and we are on the iPad3) and weaker graphics overall makes taking advantage of terrain more a nuisance than an enjoyable activity. Various bugs also became apparent with units getting hung up and there is an oddity at certain zoom levels where units suddenly bend over. We need more play but unit auto-reactions may be buggy as well but this may also simply be a line of site issue which, again, is more difficult on the iPad. The game is absolutely worth the $5 but it is also not a replacement for the desktop version of the game and probably needs some bug fixes.

Also see The Apple iPad3 and Gaming.

CM Touch Screenshot

CM Touch on iPad

[Updated: 13APR12]

The Apple iPad3 and Gaming

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iPad3Well we looked at the gaming significance of the original iPad and the iPad2 so we suppose we should look at the iPad3 as well. The new Apple iPad3, also known as the New iPad or officially as simply the iPad, is perhaps the first complete iPad Apple has released so far. Its improvements over the iPad2 are not huge but are nonetheless significant. A 2048×1536 screen is twice the resolution of previous models. Driving all those pixels is a quad-core graphics chip along with a 4G LTE connection for fast mobile connection speeds. Also new is a a much better outward facing camera (although the facing camera is the same). But ultimately it retains many of the traits of the iPad2.

Battle AcademyBut what does the iPad3 mean for gamers? Well probably quite a bit actually. The increased resolution increases the capabilities of the iPad significantly. For example, on my home 24″ LCD display I am running 1920×1080 resolution. That means the new iPad actually has more screen real estate. Now of course everything will be smaller but you start to get the significance of the new display. This fact got brought home just recently when Matrix Games and Slitherine released Battle Academy for the iPad. Not only is this perhaps the first real historical wargame for the iPad it is identical to the Windows version and even compatible for online PBEM gaming. In fact there are now a huge number of euro game titles in the pipeline for iOS including Le Havre, Eclipse and a number of titles from GMT Games including Nightfighter, Manoeuvre, and Space Empires. The new screen resolution and horsepower may very well bring a whole lot more gaming goodness to the iPad soon.

  • Games: With the new iPad out it is probably time to update our previous list of iOS games.
    • Operation: Eradicate is essentially Pandemic with a Zombie theme.
    • Legion of the DamnedStarbase Orion is almost a direct port of the classic Masters of Orion 4x game.
    • Ticket to Ride is a perfect port of the boardgame and expansions. You can play against the AI, pass and play or play online.
    • Zombie Gunship is a nice simple shooter where you take the role of a gunship gunner to take out zombies. Brrraaaaiiinnnsss!
  • Game Reference: Not a lot new here unfortunately.
    • GoodReader continues to be the best overall file manager and reader. PDF support has only gotten better.
    • Notability We dumped Simplenote for Notability. It syncs with DropBox and supports a lot of basic formatting that is much more useful than the plain text of Simplenote.
    • I Ain’t Been Shot Mum TooFatLardies released the new version 3 rules as a PDF/tablet version that was available before the print. If only more publishers would do this.

[Updated: 30MAR12]

Wargame: European Escalation — Review

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Wargame: European EscalationThe Gents over at the Three Moves Ahead podcast deliver an excellent review of Wargame: European Escalation in their latest Episode 160. We haven’t played the game yet ourselves but they give it overall high marks and make a great case for giving the game a try. The trailer video for the game certainly looks nice as do the screen shots. The game is certainly not lacking in eye candy.

Three Moves Ahead PodcastA horrible name perhaps but Wargame: European Escalation provides a unique take on the RTS genre by mixing in Cold War-era history with a solid RTS game. Not a simulation by any means, the game still manages to provide that wargame feel in an RTS package. A combat-based point scoring system combined with territory capturing and supply gives the game a unique enough mix to warrant a look.

The game is available on Steam. Also see the developer’s game site.

Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy – Commonwealth Forces — Now Available

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CM:BfN - Commonwealth ForcesBattlefront.com released the newest expansion for their WW2 tactical computer wargame Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy. Commonwealth Forces brings…err…well…Commonwealth forces to the game.

Commonwealth Forces”, the first module to the Wargame of the Year 2011 (Wargamer.com Community Award) “Combat Mission> Battle for Normandy” tactical WW2 ground warfare simulation, and includes all new, meticulously researched and historically accurate UK, Canadian and Polish Free Forces units and formations, dozens of new scenarios and QuickBattle maps and two in-depth campaigns. The full range of Commonwealth weaponry is brought to life with the same amazing level of detail and simulation fidelity found in the previous Combat Mission titles.

This module also brings you new German formations, such as the “Waffen SS” and the Luftwaffe Field Divisions. Several variants of the iconic Churchill tank, the Cromwell, Stuart and Firefly are included along with many other new units. The Germans see the mighty King Tiger and the Jagdpanther in their arsenal among several other additions.

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear — Computer Game!

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COH Computer GameWe were very surprised, and very happy, to learn Matrix Games and Academy Games teamed up to produce a computer version of Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear. Even better it should be available soon.

COH has long been our favorite WW2 tactical wargame. The computer version looks great and if it faithfully mimics the boardgame should be a must get.COH screenshot

Designed and developed in cooperation with Uwe Eickert, the original designer of Conflict of Heroes, and Western Civlization Software, the award-winning computer wargame studio, no effort has been spared to bring the outstanding Conflict of Heroes gameplay to the computer.  Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! includes an AI opponent as well as full multiplayer support with an integrated forum and game lobby.  To remain true to the core gameplay of the board game, the PC version is designed to be fun, fast and easy to play, though hard to master. The game design is also historically accurate and teaches and rewards platoon and company-level combined arms tactics without overwhelming the player with rules.

The year is 1941. Germany has defeated Poland, Denmark, Norway, and France with ease. In the morning hours of June 22 over 3 million German soldiers attacked Soviet forces along a 1600 kilometer front heralding the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. Complete surprise was achieved and the Germans struck deep into Soviet territory. The Germans thought that the Soviets would fold like a house of cards. Their officer cadre had been massacred by Stalin, training was poor, and morale low. The Blitzkrieg catches the Soviets by surprise and they lose over 1.75 million men in the first two months alone.

The Germans are unstoppable, their Panzers pushing to the very gates of Moscow. But then winter hit and the cold drained the German’s resources, strength, and morale. The Soviets began striking back in the dead of winter and the momentum began to shift in their favor through the following spring. The bear had awoken!

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! takes you to the Eastern Front of World War II during Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union.  This release includes a historical roster of infantry, artillery, mechanized and support units for the Axis and Soviet forces for the time frame of Operation Barbarossa.

Command Ops: Highway to the Reich

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CO: Highway to the ReichMatrix Games recently released Command Ops: Highway to the Reich. CO:HttR is an expansion for their excellent Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge computer wargame. CO:HttR is also the spiritual successor to Airborne Assault: Highway to the Reich one of our favorite computer wargames. The new expansion includes 13 scenarios.

The scenarios cover every major engagement along Hell’s Highway, from the surprise capture of Joe’s Bridge by the Irish Guards a week before the offensive to the final battles on “The Island” south of Arnhem. The dramatic parachute and glider landings of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne, The British 1st Airborne and the Polish Brigade are all represented on some of the largest maps ever created for the series and the largest “campaign” scenario in this system to date. More than just a conversion of the old scenarios to play on the new system, the Expansion Pack represents a major update of Panther Games ground breaking classic game Highway to the Reich, incorporating numerous corrections to Maps, Orders of Battle, Unit Compositions, Reinforcement Schedules, and overall game play.

CO:HttR - Eindhoven Shot

If you like solid operational wargames or just can’t resist Market-Garden check it out.

Unity of Command — Review

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Unity of CommandMatrix Games recently released a new operational-level computer wargame by 2×2 Games. Unity of Command covers the battle for Stalingrad during World War Two. Each hex in the game is 20km and each turn is four days.

The interface uses a very simple and clean click methodology that highlights available actions. Visually the game looks great but can turn off some folks at first blush. The map and interface are very clean and stark but then the units themselves are 3D vehicles and, uniquely, figure busts for infantry. This of course immediately raises concerns by veteran wargamers that this is not a serious game. But you quickly get used to the unit designs and they do aid in information delivery with different unit types represented by different 3D models. But for those still not happy, supposedly an alternate unit set is in the works as a mod.

Unity of Command SupplyThe game manages to stride that tough line of being a simple game to learn but still provides enough depth and challenge to engage veteran players. The center piece of the game design is certainly the supply system. Unlike almost all other wargames Unity of Command uses proportional supply where you actually see your supply wither the further it gets from supply points. Again the interface makes this very clear. It is a key point in the game and managing your supply properly is crucial to victory.

Three Moves Ahead PodcastThe AI is challenging and over 17 scenarios are included so replay value is very high. You can also play in hot-seat mode and over the Internet.

Unity of Command comes with a very well done manual. It is a 40-page full color PDF with plenty of illustrations. It explains the game mechanics quite well except, oddly, it doesn’t provide as much information on the supply mechanic as we would have liked. A few examples of how one gets out of supply and perhaps how one could alleviate certain conditions would have been nice. But overall you have more than enough to get you going and make you feel you understand what is going on underneath with the game.

The Three Moves Ahead podcast Episode 148 has a great 48 minute discussion/review of all facets of Unity of Command. If you have any interest in the game this is a must listen. The Wargamer also has a short but useful review.

[Updated: 28DEC11]

Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy – Commonwealth Forces — Coming Soon

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CM:BfN - Commonwealth ForcesBattlefront.com announced the newest expansion for their WW2 tactical computer wargame Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy. Commonwealth Forces brings…err…well…Commonwealth forces to the game.

The Commonwealth Forces module includes all new, meticulously researched and historically accurate UK, Canadian and Polish units and formations. The full range of Commonwealth weaponry is brought to life with the same amazing level of detail and simulation fidelity found in the previous Combat Mission titles.

This module will also bring you new German formations, such as the “Waffen SS” and the Luftwaffe.
Image

Several variants of the iconic Churchill tank, the Cromwell, Stuart and Firefly will be included along with many other new units. The Germans will see the mighty King Tiger and the Jagdpanzer in their arsenal among several other additions (see bellow for a complete list of new units).

CromwellAll formations can of course be mixed as part of a multi-national joint task force, using any of CM: Battle for Normandy’s available units. Included in the package are all new scenarios, quick battle maps, and a campaign for exciting play right out of the box – before digging in and using the powerful editor or sharing scenarios with other CM: Battle for Normandy gamers.

Where There’s Smoke There’s a Firefight — Video

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Tales of Virtual CombatPatrick T. Ware has produced an amazing video, Tales of Virtual Combat: Where There’s Smoke There’s a Firefight. Using the game engine from Battlefront.com’s Combat Mission: Beyond Normandy, Patrick has created a virtual documentary of a WW2 tactical action. It is over two hours in length and broken into fifteen segments. If you have any interest in WW2 give this a look. It really is a creative piece of work.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION & HISTORY: Tales of Virtual Combat (hereafter referred to as ToVC) is a derivative mockumentary born from the concept of an animated (13-26 week) documentary series that I originally intended as a proposal to certain cable television networks that specialize in world history programming. However, at the beginning of 2011, I reluctantly retired my full-service production company (of nearly a quarter century) prior to creating the pilot episode. The primary difference between the original concept and ToVC is the subject matter. Whereas the “series” was based on factual, untold — or even obscure — military engagements of interest (of which there are a multitude), ToVC is purely fictional story telling on my part, featuring “virtual combatants” in the place of animated renditions of actual flesh and blood participants.

As a now semi-retired producer / filmmaker / screenwriter of some three decades, I found it difficult to simply leave this concept untested. That’s when coincidence intervened. I came across a unique proprietary 3D graphics engine (created by an independent software developer) that intrigued me. Their CMx2 engine was remarkably accurate in its history and extremely comprehensive in its presentation. Even though CMx2 is actually a PC game engine (or more accurately, a detailed battle simulator) rather than a CGI platform, I was still quite impressed by its graphical depth and control interface. Such features as its motion capture; simulated Newtonian physics; object and space displacement mapping and manipulation; and programmable AI prompted the “evolutionary” idea for ToVC.

The premise behind ToVC’s creation was quite simple. Could I produce an animated program that resembles a television documentary series using a game engine exclusively (avoiding use of my CGI capabilities)? Could this be accomplished utilizing ONLY a high-end personal computer and a couple of basic multimedia tools freely available via the Internet? This was my motivation. The end result is the no frills, cinema-style, feature-length mockumentary now cued-up on your computer. You be the judge.