Command Ops: Battles for Greece
Passed Inspection: Superlative AI, highly innovative game play, high replay value
Failed Basic: Needs better graphics and sound
Command Ops: Battles for Greece (CO-BfG) is a particularly excellent example of what all wargames should aspire to be. As much a simulation as a game, it is intensely involving and engaging but without bogging down in unwanted details or having to micromanage every element of game play.
Battles for Greece is an expansion pack of Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge (the player must have the base game to play CO-BfG). The expansion contains 19 new historical and “what-if” scenarios from the Italian and German invasion of Greece during World War Two. This part of the war is sadly overlooked by the wargaming community.
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, jealous of Adolf Hitler’s military successes in Poland and France, decided to prove Italy’s military prowess by invading Greece. On October 28, 1940, after the Greeks had rejected an ultimatum, the Italians attacked from Albania. The invasion was a humiliating defeat for Mussolini’s forces. The Greeks counterattacked and by mid-December had occupied about a fourth of Albania.
Coming to the aid of their ally, on April 6, 1941, the Germans launched Operation Marita, (Unternehmen Marita in German) invading Greece from Bulgaria with an army of 680,000 men and 1,200 tanks. Unprepared for this surprise attack, large parts of the Greek Army were soon forced to surrender. Despite the mountainous terrain unsuited to mechanized warfare, the Wehrmacht still made good use its vaunted blitzkrieg tactics.
Anticipating the German invasion, Britain had already dispatched a force of 62,000 men and 100 tanks to Greece. This force was named W-Force, after its commander; General Henry “Jumbo” Wilson. For the Allies, the battle for Greece soon became a series of holding actions and retreats as they headed south looking to escape the country. By April 20, 1941, the Germans captured Athens and nine days later they occupied the country completely. The Allies managed to pull another Dunkirk and evacuated about 50,000 troops, while some 8,000 Commonwealth soldiers were captured by the Germans.
The graphics for CO-BfG are strictly 2D and are no more than serviceable. The maps are good old standard military maps with contour lines and some coloring to highlight the elevations. However, they have no hexes to limit or control movement. Foliage, water, roads, bridges, towns and mountains are all here and easily distinguishable one from another.
Unit types and sizes are displayed with standard NATO military symbols. Line of sight, marching routes, supply lines and range circles can all be toggled on and off. The player may zoom out to see the whole battleground or zoom into to see just a few square meters. When the units engage each other, bright lines briefly connect them. Artillery fire is shown as equally brief splashes of color on the barraged unit. Also, when units engage in combat the sound kicks in. Unfortunately, the sound is barely useful. The player cannot tell, just by the noise, what kind of units are fighting; two infantry companies in combat sound exactly like two armored units slugging it out.
On the left side of the screen is the control and information panel. Clicking a unit and then selecting various tabs gives the player plenty of information on that unit. Strength, morale, equipment, supply status and more are all shown in great detail. Select an enemy unit and the player learns similar things, but also is told how old and how reliable the data is. Adding to the fog of war, this information is often very inaccurate for enemy units.
Co:BfG is a real-time strategy game, but the player may pause and still issues orders and also may compress time. Depending on the scenario the player commands a task force, division, corps or army. Using the orders panel the player can issue orders to any level of units desired, all the way down to the company or platoon, but that is not required. Instead the player selects the headquarters unit of a battalion or brigade to receive orders that the whole unit then follows. From the orders panel the player can order the unit to defend, probe, attack, rest and so on. Also it takes no more than three or four clicks to issue any kinds of orders. Now the friendly AI takes over and acts like a good staff officer and subordinate commander.
For example, the player wants to order a battalion to attack a hill some distance away. He selects the unit’s HQ and, using the control panel, orders an attack. The friendly AI organizes the unit into an attack formation, manages resupply, arranges fire support and then conducts the attack. This frees the player from some tedious book keeping, or having to issue orders to every single unit on the battlefield, and allows the player to focus on the grand-tactical level of play.
The enemy AI is the real heart of this game and is a more than worthy opponent. Unlike so many other games where, when on the attack, the AI simply sends it units in a wave assault, or seems to advance at random, the AI for CO:BfG fights smart. It is relentless in seeking weak spots in the player’s plans, goes for the key terrain and seemly uses the indirect approach when possible. In many scenarios the player seems to be winning when suddenly an enemy battle-group sweeps in from an unexpected direction and wreaks havoc. Still the victory conditions are nicely balanced, so the player does have a good chance, depending on how well he plays, of winning any given battle.
Battles for Greece scenarios can be played from either side and with various options such as sped-up reinforcements and quicker resupply. If that is not enough replay value, a scenario editor, a map-making editor, and an order of battle editor are also included. If this still isn’t enough, there is also on-line play available.
The Bottom Line
Command Ops: Battles for Greece is an excellent follow-up to Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge. Although some improved graphics and sound design would have been nice, they are hardly vital to the game play. Battles for Greece is literally hours of enjoyment for the player as they explore one of the less well known campaigns of the Second World War and at a mere $1.58 per scenario; it is a great value.
Armchair General Score: 95%
Patrick Baker is a former US Army Field Artillery officer, currently a Department of Defense employee. He has degrees in Education, History and Political Science. He cut his war-gaming teeth on Squad Leader and Victory Games’ Fleet Series. He bought his first PC in 1990, a Wang PC-240, specifically to play SSI’s The Battles of Napoleon (much to the annoyance of his wife). He has articles forthcoming in the Medieval Warfare Magazine and Ancient Warfare Magazine.