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Posted on Jul 15, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Commander – Europe at War Interview

By Larry Levandowski

Commander – Europe at War, is a turn-based strategy game covering the entire European Theatre of WWII. The last few years have seen the release of several games with this same subject and scale. What makes Commander stand-out from the others?

Although there are some great games out there, none of them quite captured the scope and scale of what we wanted for Commander. The combination of hexes and a large map offer options not available in some of the other games. We were heavily influenced by Panzer General and wanted to capture the look and feel of that game, but bring it up to date with a modern UI and expand it to cover the whole of WWII in Europe. Commander is a game you can just pick and play as the UI is so well designed and the rules are simple to learn yet hard to master and brings back the good old element of fun which is sometimes lacking. All I know is that when we got to the point where the game was playable I spent far too many hours "play testing" when I should have been working!

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One of the game features is that players can recruit and attach historic commanders to their units. What effect do these commanders have on game-play?

We have loads of named commanders, each with their own photo and some even have bios. Commanders have a number of effects and are rated in three areas – command, attack and defense. The command ability increases the effectiveness of any units with his range. The effectiveness is a multiplier on the damage the unit inflicts so raising this value is very useful. The attack and defense bonuses only apply to the unit the commander is actually attached to and these improve the stats when the commander is attacking or defending. You can make a city tough to take or an armored corps elite by attaching the right commander.n WWII, the sea-lanes were a critical battleground for the Allies. How does the game depict, supply, transport and naval warfare over the Atlantic and European seas? Often the convoy war is abstracted out, but we’ve included it in Commander on the map and this adds a whole new layer to the game and the Atlantic War becomes a mini game. Convoys appears from the US, Canada the southern Atlantic and sail towards ports in the UK or to Russia via the Murmansk convoy route. Each convoy point contains one production point and when these arrive in the destination port the resources are added to that nation. On route the Axis can attempt to sink these convoys using subs, air power or surface ships if they are really brave! The subs cannot be detected until they attack so the Allies don’t know where to protect and can’t be everywhere at once. If the axis player is smart they can hit and run before the allies have time to respond or even group his subs into massive wolf packs to attack the escorts themselves and then clean up the convoys later! The Allies need to research anti sub technologies and make sure they produce enough destroyers to keep the convoy routes open.

What about the air-war? What options and units will the player have?

There are three types of air unit in the game, fighters, tactical bombers and strategic bombers. Fighters are for air superiority and have limited effect on ground units. Tac bombers are great for softening up ground targets or hitting naval units that get too close. Strategic bombers specialize in hitting the production of the enemy. Fighters can intercept incoming aircraft so you’ll need a mix of units for best results, escorting your bombers in our just using your fighters to gain air superiority before you launch your bombers.

How is combat resolved?

Units are rated in a number of areas including ground attack, ground defense, shock attack, air attack, naval attack, survivability and much more. Infantry are good for defense while armored units favor attack. Tactical bombers have high shock values which reduce the enemies effectiveness before the ground assault goes in, though they don’t actually inflict many casualties so must be used as part of a combined arms attack.Unit’s are also rated at how good they are in different types of terrain so armored units get large penalties attacking in to a city and don’t even try and go in to the mountains with them! Units lose effectiveness every time they move or attack so you need to rest units from time to time to recover. If the defender is hit hard enough they can be forced to retreat and the attacker get the choice to make an exploitation move. While resting units can also dig in to make themselves harder to attack. There is a lot to the combat model but it is all very logical and you get loads of feedback so it’s easy to pick up and get stuck in.

The game description mentions that players can research technologies. How do these developments affect game play?

There are 5 main technology areas in the game. Infantry, Armour, Air, Naval and General. Each technology area has up to 3 technologies which can be researched up to a maximum level of between 4-6 depending on the tech. Within a tech area you can focus your research on a specific item or spread it out among all the techs. Each technology bestows different benefits, so you may research longer ranged fighters, improve the amour on your tanks, improve the shock attack of your infantry’s artillery and much more. Although they can take some time to develop the benefits are huge. One thing to bear in mind is that the very advanced tanks and fighters eat up a lot more oil than the low level units, so Germany may find it tough to keep them all fueled by the late war. Note – Oil is an option that you can turn on or off as some people don’t want to worry about that kind of thing.

The game does not have an editor, but modding is supported through scripting. What will players be able to do through scripts?

At the moment the only editor is the one we use internally and it’s not user friendly enough to release. However, there are scripts that control almost every aspect of gameplay and these can be edited by the players and all of the graphics are just png files that can be replaced to mod units or the map. You can change unit stats, change AI behavior, modify terrain effects and much more. We are looking in to ways to allow some editing of scenarios but at this stage we’re not sure how long that will take to do.

What multi-player modes does the game support?

We have PBEM, TCP/IP and Hotseat so pretty much all options are covered! We’re currently working on improving the feedback given out of your turn in multiplayer as a number of people have raised this as an issue they’d like to see addressed.

The game description on the Matrix website says Commander is the first of a series of games. What other subjects / periods will be covered in the series?

We have some ideas but can’t say too much about them for now :) You’ll just have to wait and see!

Thanks to Iain McNeil for speaking with us!

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