Impressions of Strategic Command 3
And… a comparison with Strategic Command WW1 Breakthrough ~
Boggit, 23 February 2017
Developed by Fury Software, and Published by Slitherine
About three years ago I did a detailed review of Fury Software’s Strategic Command WW1: Breakthrough and ended up recommending it as “not only highly playable but also a very deep, subtle and immersive game.” What, I wonder, has Fury Software been doing since? Well, they’ve spent a couple of years working on their new WW2 game – Strategic Command WW2: War in Europe, and have changed their publisher.
So what’s it like?
The first thing to hit me between the eyes is the artwork. In comparison to SCWW1: Breakthrough, Strategic Command WW2 looks like a different game. Of course it is, but in comparison the artwork is stunning, and that includes the map, the counters, and the event notifications. It is a dramatic improvement.
If I can find any fault at all on the artwork, it is the on map counter information being quite small, something which in my opinion which could do with a one point increase in font size, although the unit details are reiterated on a panel at the bottom of the screen, so it’s nothing major. Otherwise, the main graphic changes lie in improved combat animations, the improved user interface, and the hex, rather than square based map seen in all the earlier Strategic Command games.
For those readers who have played Strategic Command WW1: Breakthrough, there is a lot of similarity in gameplay with Strategic Command WW2, and that means it is quite easy to get into and play. For those who do not know the game suffice to say that the mechanics are simple to use, but the many different buffs that can be put onto units by way of research makes the game a lot more subtle than anyone would think on first impression. In short the game is very playable and has much more depth than meets the eye.
In terms of scenarios there is a huge difference. Strategic Command WW2 offers 6 scenarios each starting roughly a year apart (1939-1944), whereas owners of Breakthrough will have a whopping total of 22 scenarios, including a Franco-Prussian War and a WW2 full war scenario. Comparatively, WW2 feels a bit thin, but don’t forget that Fury Software freely provided a number of additional scenarios to Breakthrough post release, and with that in mind may yet do for WW2, perhaps even some Cold War scenarios? I should also mention that Strategic Command WW2 has a game editor so players can modify and create new scenarios if they wish.
One feature of Breakthrough that I really liked was the historical dilemmas and opportunities that forced a decision – often with a cost in manufacturing points – to make you think seriously of the cost/benefit of selecting a particular decision. It’s included in Strategic Command WW2, which I think is a real plus as it adds much chrome to a strategic game, all of which can struggle at that scale to give the player a sense of immersion with political events and the choices arising from them.
I said earlier, the gameplay is very similar to the very intuitive Breakthrough game, but the animations, the movement, combat etc., are just a whole lot slicker. Apart from that not a lot in terms of game mechanics has changed as far as I can see, although maybe the AI has improved? There are quite a few new units like the motor torpedo boats, engineers, heavy tanks, but also some which are a bit bizarre like anti-tank guns, or special forces for the scale of the game, which is pretty much Army/Corps level. I can understand these small scale units being integrated into the main armies as buffs to unit power and capability as commonly happens with the research effects on many units. However, including tactical units of this nature next to armies and corps for a strategic level game didn’t seem right to me.
There are some extra research categories over what is seen in Breakthrough, principally various types of generic weaponry, such as “naval weaponry”, which grants an additional buff in the relevant category for a unit. This makes research a little more interesting as the player can flesh out the capabilities as the game progresses to reflect technological advances in tactical areas. I think the developer could have made much more of this feature, so avoiding some of my earlier criticism about fielding tactical units in a strategic game. I guess they felt there was a balance to be struck, even if I do personally disagree with that design decision.
I was a little disappointed not to see was the ability of units to stack in what is after all a pretty large area within a hex. It’s not a game breaker, but is an artificial depiction of reality. In practice given the way the game engine works, it probably doesn’t really matter much.
A hangover from the earlier Breakthrough game is that air fleets if not carefully placed can soon find themselves front line units and easily destroyed by ground attack. Whilst airfields could and did get overrun, or raided this wasn’t a strategic issue with whole air fleets being destroyed by ground units. I’d much rather see them lose a single strength point and be forced to retreat rather than take heavy losses in ground combat to reflect reality.
If you’re a player who wants a fast play strategic level World War Two game, which is easy to play yet has very subtle elements in the gameplay, then this is for you. The smart graphic presentation and wide variety of scripted events add to the immersion. The game editor allows a player to modify or create new scenarios, giving the game more life beyond the scenarios that come with the game. I would not describe this as a Grognard game, but it is fun and entertaining nonetheless.
Grumpy Grog Says: Strategic Command WW2: War in Europe is the snappiest dresser in the Strategic Command stable of games and is fun to play.
Note – a repository of mods / scenarios can also be found here