AtWar. Tim explained that a totally new engine had been built from scratch and was ready for multiple platforms. The game features specially commissioned artwork and music. Players can cover the entire period 1914-18, or any single one year, playing either the Entente or Central Powers. They can either stick to technology that was available historically or can invest more resources in developing certain weapons so that, for example, tanks could be available in greater numbers earlier in the war. Historical characters and commanders also feature but players can choose which theatre to assign them to.
Promising “Easy to learn, hard to master game play”, the game centres around a huge hex-based campaign map that stretches from the USA in the west, Africa and Arabia to the south, Scandinavia to the north and the Urals to the east. In addition to the sweeping campaigns in these theatres, various smaller scenarios are also available, focusing on a single front, such as Verdun in 1916 or the Kaiserschlacht in 1918. Gaming the Russian Revolution is also an option. Players will find parts of the map covered by overcast, representing the ‘fog of war’, and this has to be cleared by reconnaissance units on the ground or aircraft. The naval aspect of the war focuses on the
Allied defence of ships bringing supplies to Europe from North America and German attempts to intercept them. This struggle can also influence when countries such as the US enter the war and players can even induce non-historical outcomes such as Spain joining the Central Powers. Due for release in summer 2011, Tim said: “this is a very interesting period ignored by gamers. It’s not just trenches – it started as a mobile war and there was lots of technology and tactical innovation.”
Also due out this summer is Team Assault:BaptismofFire, a WWII game that has been two years in the making. Robin Flodin of developers Zeal Game Studios explained that this will be a skirmish-based, turn-based tactics game which will use realistic combat factors picked up from the developers’ service in the Swedish army. The game features infantry combat only and any vehicles that appear are assumed to be knocked out and have no effect on play (other
than to provide cover). Players choose their soldiers’ weapons, elite skills etc and the use of cover and line of sight are all important. Taking casualties affects morale, although this can be modified by the charisma of commanders and the troops’ status as veterans or raw. Ammunition states of each soldier is monitored and a ‘combat log’ pops up to display every detail of combat. Unusually, the debut version of the game stars the Italy campaign, rather than one of the more obvious ones such as Normandy, so hopefully the game will stimulate wargamers’ interest in this largely forgotten theatre.
Towards the end of 2011 we can expect to see the launch of new titles in the DecisiveCampaigns series developed by Victor Reykersz and his company VR Designs to complement Slitherine’s other WWII games. These promise better AI and dynamic historical orders of battle as well as keeping the game’s focus on the use of realistic combined arms tactics as the key to successful offensive battles. Victor argues that Decisive Campaigns is an “operational grognard game that’s easy to play and nice looking with the right balance of detail, historical realism and gameplay.” He adds that “wargames designers should pay more attention to capturing the feel of scenarios”, for example, by making it daunting for Germany to invade France in 1940 or, conversely, for the French player to be hamstrung by the political compromises of the day that limit his options. Victor is also keen for his games to explore ‘what if’ options such as determined British and French action to support Poland in 1939 or taking the Manstein Plan off the table in 1940.
Final Thoughts As you will have gathered, Slitherine put on a packed programme in Italy that demonstrated how professional and committed they are to serving the wargames market. New technologies continue to emerge and Slitherine has demonstrated how, for example, the use of email can revitalise a near extinct form of gaming such as play by mail. Also telling was the fact that your humble correspondent was almost the only representative of the ‘dead tree’ media present; all my other colleagues there wrote for websites and blogs. Some even have full time, salaried jobs doing it - so you know something is changing in the media market too!