First Impressions: World War II in Europe
Published by Schwerpunkt
Michael Eckenfels, 20 December 2014
Click images to enlarge, in some cases, a LOT…
If you want to look for a ‘labor of love’ wargame, look no further than the massive, latest game by Schwerpunkt: World War II Europe (hereafter referred to as WW2E). The game, including graphics, engine, scenarios, and documentation, were all put together by two individuals (Ron Dockal and KC). In the true spirit of a “ma and pa” organization (as Schwerpunkt itself puts it on their own website), this game has been a long time coming and has been greatly anticipated. As it has just been released in recent weeks, GrogHeads is pleased to give you this “first impression” of the game; a full review, and quite possibly some AARs, will be forthcoming.
Since the release of AGW (Anglo-German War) about ten years ago, Schwerpunkt put itself on the radar of many grog-minded gamers, and WW2E looks like much more of the same, at least at an initial glance. The game covers tons of scenarios across the entire scope of World War II in Europe, with a promised upcoming ‘Grand Campaign’ that will allow one to battle across the entire map of Europe. In the meantime, there are dozens of scenarios to wade around in.
One thing I didn’t like is the hit-or-miss aspect of the scenarios – there are several that are not playable, yet they are listed in the scenario display. If they’re not complete yet, that’s no big deal at all, but it would be nice to see the incomplete ones grayed out to indicate they’re not playable. I got my hopes up with a “Gotterdamerung” scenario, only to see it was blank once it was loaded. I know Ron Dockal has stated in the GrogHeads forums that WW2E has 51 scenarios (as of 11/2/14) [http://grogheads.com/forums/index.php?topic=11640.0] but will eventually cap at 102, and will be available for free download to those that have bought the game. So I know these holes will be filled eventually; it would have been nice to be able to tell that at a glance instead of having to drill into each one to see if there’s content.
The interface is improved over the previous iterations (AGW, etc.) in that unit menus pop up in a floating window, making selection of units and orders for them easy to choose and execute. I didn’t have a problem with AGW’s interface back in the day, but I do like what it has grown into, here. The interface is unfortunately not at all intuitive – however, it’s not at all difficult to figure out. The Help files that detail the initial tutorial (which uses the ‘Saving Moscow’ scenario) are very good at touching on everything you need to know to jump in and play. The size of some scenarios will mean spending a lot of time figuring out strategy, but that’s part of the appeal of an epic wargame such as this.
The game flows simply enough; each turn starts with air operations, with the side with initiative going first. The player can select standard orders like search and destroy or ground support, and air transport missions as well. All of this is determined first in a turn, and then air combat is resolved. Naval operations, such as they are (and only if they are included in the scenario’s scope, of course) are also planned and executed here. Next comes ground combat, with the side with initiative going (you guessed it) first, followed by the side without.
Combat results can be displayed for each battle, if the player wants. Also, results are stored in-game for later viewing too, if needed. The results will tell you what units were involved, in what hex, and what the results were.
There are a few odd things afoot with the game. Namely, when one starts it up, there’s a big display of leaders during this time period; you point a cursor at the portrait and their name appears at the top. You left-click to continue. I raised an eyebrow at this, not really sure as to what the point was other than a little color. Once you click to continue, you’re greeted with a display of some of the better-known weapons systems of the time period. Click again and you’re brought to the scenario screen (finally). While cool stuff, it would have made more sense to include these in a separate Help file, and then possibly providing bio details on the leaders that are pictured, also.
I appreciate that Schwerpunkt put such a detailed Help system into the game. Instead of a manual with the download version, these Help files open an HTML page for viewing, and detail every aspect of the game. If you want to know more about the sources used for each scenario, that info is there; also present are instructions for building your own scenarios, and extensive explanations of the rules in the game. They’re not lengthy or overwhelming, and are presented in an outline format that is easy to follow.
The graphics are very reminiscent of Schwerpunkt’s earlier efforts. While not gorgeous or amazing, they are extremely functional and clean, and there is a certain amount of beauty and appeal in that. I appreciate a map that is uncluttered with nonsense or unclear imagery, and they’ve created a map that is very easy to get around in and, at a glance, see what limitations your units might face.
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