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Posted on Apr 26, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Strategic Command 2 – Game Review (PC)

By Robert Mackey

The phrase "beer and pretzels" (B&P) wargame, to us old and decrepit kriegspielers, is associated with ahistorical ‘light’ games-a good way to waste a Friday night with buddies rolling dice and generally having a great time without too much serious thinking involved. Strategic Command 2, produced by Battlefront Studios, is one of those rare games that falls between a B&P game and a traditional war simulation. SC2, if I was to compare it to board wargames, would fall somewhere between Axis and Allies and the original AH Third Reich. Easy to learn, with a decent replayability factor.

Gameplay (45/60): SC2 is a lot of fun to play but it isn’t Hearts of Iron II, so don’t expect to be accurately reflecting the intricate decisions of World War II in Europe. Units are produced as corps, armies, air forces (or Luftflotte as appropriate), and fleets. Players have other options as well; to expend resources on improving diplomatic status with other nations to bring them into the war, to spend points reinforcing existing units (at a cost to experience), to upgrade existing units to new equipment and to conduct research into new areas. Overall, the game does about what a player would expect from a World War II strategic/operational simulation, allowing the basic choices (research, construction, reinforcement) that we all are accustomed to in other games.

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The opening moves of the invasion of Poland. Graphically, the game is appealing, with easily read unit details, unit symbols and terrain values. The Poles gave the best fight of the war, at least playing the Germans. France was only difficult in that they pulled all their units around Paris as soon as the Low Countries fell, and the USSR took time simply because of distance. Research is straightforward and is tied to either upgrading existing units or to gaining new unit types to build. Expending points in research only gives a percentage chance/turn of gaining the new tech, so it is possible that you could go for a long time without a breakthrough.

Gameplay is straightforward, using a turn-based system whose length is based on scenario. As to scenarios, there is a decent spread of choices given to the player, from the grand campaign starting in September 1939 to shorter games that would take no more than an hour to fight to completion. In addition, Battlefront has included an editor to allow players to create their own; a nice benefit that gives SC2 a bit more replayability.

I’m not going to write much about how combat, etc. is conducted in the game simply because it is so basic that anyone slightly familiar with gaming would understand it immediately. Units are rated based on abilities (for example, an Infantry Corps would have a basic combat rating that is calculated from the unit’s current strength, experience, tech levels for infantry weapons and anti-tank weapons, etc.) and then these are compared, with a loss/gain being applied to both units. Hence, using your air fleets to strike ground or naval targets (all air units are of two types, either ‘Fighters’ or ‘Bombers’; there are no tac air or naval air units, so both types work against ground units) is recommended before the friendly ground forces engage. All combat works the same basic way-naval vs. naval, naval vs. ground, ground vs. ground, etc. Consequently, a player will pick up the nuances of the combat system after the first few turns without any real difficulty.

There is just something so, so wrong about this. October 1944 and the Axis Powers win the war by taking London. Note my Me262′s-I was able to research the tech and upgrade my Fighters by late 1942, effectively destroying any Allied air that existed. Since the combat system applies across the spectrum of war, you can send your air units to attack other air units in range; the same goes for naval units attacking land units or air units in coastal areas. The last bastion of the non-Axis world. I found it odd that the USA and Canada both had units sitting in their respective countries, to include air and naval forces that should have been used to keep me bottled up on the continent. Note the detail given on the USS Massachusetts- the entire game is played basically from this screen, with equivalent levels of detail for ground, air and naval units. I would also add that the Free French were still around, as one of their cruisers (in the upper right corner of the picture) was still afloat.

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