Strategic Command WW2 - War in Europe is amazing (biased beta tester)


#1

Note: unlike other games, we did not get the game for free despite being internal testers.

I’d wanted to write about this for quite some time but we were were constrained til release day so it’s nice we can finally be free to talk about the experience. One that has been amazing. I beta tested this for many months and have over a hundred hours into the game. It is really, really well done. It bridges the gap between HOI 4 and the Order of Battle series. The campaigns were all written by BIll Runacre and are fantastic. They’re not just basic maps you play. You’ll be presented with choices based on events and timelines on real world war events. The events don’t change tghe course of the game but lend credance to its hisotrically accuracy. In effect you get a mini-history lesson in each scenario, and your first run through of each campaign will show you how well done it is.

The AI is excellent, and is especially punishing (and fun) if you play with Fog of War on. While you can play with it off, that will give you a decent advantage over the AI and spoil some of the stress/fun. It took a bit to convince other beta testers accustomed to games showing you all units all the time, but when they did change they liked it - especially for the cat/mouse battle in the Atlantic. It can be hard to adjust to at first, especially since there’s a rather large penalty for running into someone blindly but you’ll adapt and get there in the end.

While some of the scenarios may seem tough at first, they are all winnable, but may take a few tries to get a handle on.

One of the greatest things about the game is the AI and its ability stop you - cut you in half, split you off from your supply and then crush you. It is scary human-like in its ability to make this happen in the Russian Steppes. If you have trouble against the AI, remember it understands the rules of game better than most games out there. So its use of command and supply may stimy you until you pick up on its intricacies. The game was programmed and written by just two men. Hubert Cater and Bill Runacre. They were some of the most attentive developers in a beta test ever responding to every concern and idea the community presented them - no matter how nutty some may have been.

I’d played some of the old Strategic Command games and found them just kinda “OK”. Make sure you have a lot of time on your hands to play. It takes time but is rewarding and the manual and all the documentation Bill put together for the game, is just another piece of a great title.

I can’t guarantee you’ll love it as much as I did, but if you like wargames, I can’t help but think you’ll be impressed.

http://www.matrixgames.com/products/504/details/Strategic.Command.WWII:.War.in.Europe

----edit----
- and since I suck as a writer you will notice I used the word “really” way too many times. I just “really” hope you consider this title because it’s “really” good. I’ll shut up now.


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#2

Thanks for the write up. Between you and @Spock’s initial impressions in the war gaming thread this is a must pick up for me when I have some time to game again.


#3

Oh wow, I’m thrilled to hear that you beta-tested this title, jpinard. As LeeAbe said, I’ve already posted some (very favorable) first impressions in the “grognard war game” thread. Since then I’ve been buried in the excellent manual, learning about all the mistakes I made in my first turn. :) After that, I’ll look at the strategy guide, which I haven’t even opened yet. This game has a ton of great documentation.

You mentioned one thing I didn’t expect at all: the coolness of the battle of the Atlantic! Already I’ve gotten a kick out of using my U-boats to raid the convoy between Canada and Britain. And yeah, you hold your breath when you move, because if you bump into the Royal Navy, it’s trouble.

I have no idea how to use my aircraft yet. It just dawned on me that the Brits might bomb my idle surface ships in port. looks around for fighters to protect the Kriegsmarine

One question for you. What’s the difference, if any, between Army-, Corps- and Division-sized units? If each has a strength of 10, are they equally strong?


#4

Oops sorry I didn’t realize you’d posted in the Groundhog thread.

Army, Corps, Division - 10 strength is their strength per unit. So as you’ll find out 10 Str Army will pound a 10 Str Corps. In numerical terms I’m not sure I can assign a specific value ie. if Corps is 50% strength of an Army unit. I’d suggest you use 3d counters and not NATO. But I’m a graphic whore. You’ll see one has 4 infantry represented vs. 3 vs. 2 in some campaigns. Keep in mind Attack and Defense is critically effected by terrain, supply, and command so while a Corps will always lose in a straight fight,m they can still hold out vs. Army if entrenched or a number of other variables.

One of the things I love about the game is as soon as you think you’ve accounted for everything the AI will show you have not LOL.

Air power is split into 4 relative classes. You have fighters, bombers (including maritime), Attack aircraft, and strat bombers. Fighters will always provide cover for units in their intercept range weather permitting. Maritime bombers are better at sighting Naval vs. normal bombers and of course slightly better at hitting naval surface units, and subs. Don’t waste them against land units too often or you’ll break your bank balance reinforcing them. Bombers like Stukas are great against land units, not so much vs. naval. Strategic bombers are best for taking IPC’s but not so much vs. individual units.

Your aircraft carriers have fighter that can also escort (btw fighters can attack ground units, they’re just not very good at it)… oh and i almost forgot a super fun thing. Use your Maritime bombers against the convoy lines of your enemy. While it is evident your subs and surface fleets in raid mode can cut money from the enemy via convoy routes, it took me a long time to discover my maritime bombers could do the same thing :)

Research. In this game unlike your Paradox titles, is VITAL. When you play as the Allies in the Barbarossa Campaign the fact Germany starts out with more advanced units than you will have you biting your nails off. Those level 2 and level 3 infantry upgrades are KILLER vs. tanks and infantry that are not upgraded. The problem you will be faced in the first half of every campaign is “What is the AI doing” Is it investing in research or units? It can be nerve wracking wondering if you’re falling behind in your production queue or technology.


#5

I’ve played the previous games in the series, and they were very good indeed, but this just isn’t getting me excited, mainly because I’m sick and tired of WWII, and also I don’t see anything new that it brings to the table.

Feel free to convince me otherwise.


#6

@jpinard, thanks for the explanation about Armies vs Corps. I’ve been playing with NATO counters, but I will try switching to 3d counters. Actually I’d already been thinking that the ships and aircraft would be cooler in 3d mode.

What do you make of the victory conditions in the 1939 campaign? They seem pretty challenging for the Axis side. Even a “minor” victory depends on holding either London or Moscow until 1947, and a “major” victory requires both. The scenario seems to assume we’ll do a Sea Lion. Already I have to decide whether I want to invest in the production and research for an amphibious invasion – and yet I’m hardly competent to take Poland, lol.

Can the German surface fleet safely sortie, ever? Is it mostly a matter of avoiding the Royal Navy?

Also, have you tried the editor? I spent a half hour mesmerized by that section of the manual last night. I’m actually tempted to try to create a simple little ahistorical scenario, just to see how it works.

Anyway, I’m excited about this title, and it’s obvious to me that a ton of work went into it. Back at it later today.


#7

TGB - If you thought the series was good before then you could like this even more than I do. I I always thought the series was just “bleh” before. I’ll try and explain a little. The game has so much more than past SC games I could write a long essay, but instead I’ll try and hit a few things.

What it brings to the table over past series, AI, hexes, the perfect representation of hex per mile to make supremely balanced theatres for the zones involved, beautiful graphics, more charts, and graphs, refinements of every system that went before, interface and help aids that make your life managing such a complex war a dream. When you are playing the Barbarossa campaign and playing as the Allies, you truly feel what it must have been to like to be Stalin seeing the country get annihilated In the wake of surpeior German forces. You start to really HATE them. You throw units to try and slow the German advance.

It is exciting to see the AI replicate the same things the Germans did… marching towards Stalingrad, seeing things get bogged down in the winter, halting the Germans just before they reach Moscow. It is the antithesis of Hearts of Iron 4.

If you don’t want to experience WWII, then don’t get the game. Other beer and pretzel WWII games give you units and a map and the fact the Second World War is a backdrop is just the excuse for those units its location. This game is World War 2.

Even though it’s not fair, this game is why I don’t like Hearts of Iron IV except as a fantasy factory. To me it’s one of those special games that does almost everything right. It fills a void I’d been feeling for years for this level of immersion and scale. Sorry for the wall of text.


#8

@jpinard you son of a gun, it’s like you’re literally removing money from my wallet with your enthusiastic endorsements! :)

This is not likely to be part of the upcoming Matrix Holiday Sale is it (traditionally starts around Nov. 25)?


#9

After such a moving piece, I’d grab it right now if I weren’t cheap and had more interest in WW2! Still probably going to succumb sooner than I wish :)
Edit: Beat to it by @Profanicus, haha


#10

If I remember right (which is doubtful), new games are never included. I can’t play for a month so I am going to order the box version tonight to get the hardcover huge manual. I want to support companies doing manuals like that. My fondest memories from the 80s and 90s is sitting down and reading the manual before playing a game. Looking forward to sit down with it.


#11

What is the resolution support and UI scaling like?


#12

Well screw Matrix. Went to buy the box edition for $15 more so I could get the manual for a total of $55. $20 shipping for priority mail though! Priority shipping for the smallest package, with a free box from USPS is $6.45. I get you have to pay someone to ship it as well…but that’s ridiculous.


#13

How often can a fighter escort or intercept per turn? One escort in my turn, one intercept during my opponent’s turn?


#14

Yeah in Australian dollars it’s $80 for the game and manual - and then $50 more for shipping! Outrageous. :/

The only shipping option is FedEx courier.


#15

Eww, war in Europe? Isn’t everyone sick of Europe by now? Give me the Pacific or even North Africa.

-Tom


#16

I’m also more interested in the Pacific than the European theater, but I’m still enjoying this title. Also, North Africa is modeled in this game; in fact, it’s a significant part of the design. So is the Battle of the Atlantic. The devs plan a follow-on release that will extend the war into the Pacific, as one of the earlier Strategic Command games did.


#17

I browsed the Matrix forums a bit, and it seems there are some complaints regarding the size of the text and the way the game is displayed on larger screens when you are challenged by, errm… aging eyes (a crowd which I have been part of the last couple of years). As a sidenote, on the opposite side of the spectrum, someone seems to be playing it, with a couple of scaling issues, in 800x600.


#18

I am the guy always whining about companies who don’t bother making text readable at high resolutions (Paradox). Thankfully for this game, I’m at 2560x1600 and it is fantastic on my crappy eyes. No guarantee if 4K is too small however, but if you choose a non-native resolution it works just fine.

I know Matrix, and there’s no way they’ll put a new game on sale. They don’t put old, worn out games on sale half the time. At least they’re not charging $60-$80 for this title unlike some of their other games (this is $40).

They have made no commitment, but my hope is they do "Full World"next. But if they decide to do just the Pacific Theatre it would be just fine with me. Reason being is Bill’s campaigns are so well done, half world vs. full world would allow more detail and create more intimite events, before the go the whole world route.

If you’re sick of WWII Europe, all I can offer is that this is a different and much better experience than nearly any other wargame out there. One that I really click with.

It’s a one more turn addiction for me. During all this transplant testing, one morning I had a long set of esophageal and liver test that would take half the day. I needed a lot of sleep, and instead, I ended going to bed one hour before I had to get up because the battles, turn after turn were at a point I just had to resolve. It was a miserable day, gotnhome pukey and in pain, semi delirious, and started trying to play my next set of turns. i imagine this is what a crack additction must be like. It’s tough to get rolling but once you do you don’t want to stop.


#19

I pretty much feel the same about WWII in general. This sounds like a great engine. I just wish it was put to work in a different conflict.


#20

I’m not sure how well it would do for a different war, as the designer has pretty much always focused on WWII, and all of the systems and design seem pegged to that conflict. A grand strategy type game (grand operational?) for other conflicts seems interesting at first glance, but WWI’s been done well and recently, and beyond that, I’m not sure what conflicts would really fit the scale and game systems well. It’s not granular or detailed enough for a smaller conflict, and they don’t come too much bigger than WWII.

Maybe Napoleonic war, though. While there are quite a few games in that area, none really have the combination of detail and ease of access the SC games do. Dunno.