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Three Moves Ahead Episode 25 – World War II

August 11th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 23 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead, WW2


Troy, Tom and Julian start with Hearts of Iron 3, detour through a bunch of other WW2 games and somehow end up making less sense than usual. Learn why Thin Red Line is Tom’s favorite WW2 movie, why Julian thinks everyone who bailed on Axis & Allies in college should give it another chance, why our Dominions 3 game has stalled and what Troy sounds like after a long train trip and a couple of pints.

Listen here.
RSS here.
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Troy’s Hearts of Iron 3 review
Tom’s single post on HoI 3 so far
Scott Jennings’ early thoughts on the game
Time of Wrath
Making History
Commander: Europe at War
War Plan Pacific


23 Comments so far ↓

  • Maas

    Really looking forward to this episode and the WWII strategy talk. Keep up the good work, guys!

  • Bryan Peterson

    Hey guys, great show again! I just wanted to let you know in your continuing discussion of Axis & Allies that there is still a pretty active community playing the 1998 PC adaptation by Hasbro. They have a dedicated site at http://axisandalliesworldclub.org/ . They are pretty committed in that they have created patches for the original game and even created a matchmaking client for matching up opponents http://www.ewarzone.com/ . Anyway I’ve never made the time to join them but it’s pretty impressive that they continue to support a 10 year old pc game. It’s really a testament to how great Axis & Allies is as a game. Anyway keep up the good work!

  • Troy


    I skipped the PC A&A when it came out because I heard a lot of bad things. Maybe I was wrong to do so?

    I’ll try to find it cheap on your recommendation.

  • Quarter to Three » Three Moves Ahead: Is World War II too big?

    […] Listen here. Visit the Flash of Steel page here. […]

  • Bryan Peterson

    I keep meaning to plan a game of it with my gaming group but haven’t gotten it done yet. That makes it hard for me to confirm how good it is but I find it encouraging that such a large group of players (1000+ members on that site) still support it. It’s also pretty cool that they have taken to patching it themselves since the game is no longer supported by Hasbro.

  • nullspace

    I want to know more about how HoI3 is the “magic bullet for the virtual viceroy problem”. I hate that problem! It forces me to choose between the lesser of two evils: doing boring micromanagement or letting an AI do it badly. I’ve avoided the HoI series partly because of its complexity, but a complex game in which you have competent underlings who manage the details sounds pretty good.

  • Troy

    I think it’s the magic bullet because:

    a) it’s competent and even efficient without being so good that you can’t do it a little better

    b) there is always enough information to let you know when and where you should intervene to change things

    c) on the military end, it is useful on a wide range of levels

    In short, the AI control is not simply a crutch for a player who just doesn’t understand the game. It is something that even veteran players can use.

  • Hudson

    How can you guys NOT mention great WW2 films like

    Bridge too far ( I dont care what you say I love that film)
    Winter’s War

    The other game you were thinking of was STRATEGIC COMMAND by Battlefront

    Arrgh I wanted to reach through the speaker and strangle you guys! Put me on the show if you are going to skip over great movies like that!


  • Troy

    Downfall is also very good. As is Conspiracy. And Swing Kids.

    Strategic Command 2, btw, has just been patched again. Lots of support from Battlefront.

  • John Hawkins

    Oddly enough, on the movie front I’m partial to “Midway” and “Tora! Tora! Tora!” And someone really ought to make a movie about Taffy 3 at Leyte.

    About the split between Pacific/Europe and the problems getting a single game to handle naval and land based war well, I’ll add my two cents. I think the differences between what land combat was like in WWII and what naval combat was like require seriously different mechanics to capture them.

    I remember one bit of feedback while WPP was under development. A player felt that combat was too free-wheeling on the map. That one turn there’d be a major battle in the East Indies, next turn in the Aleutians, then in the South Pacific. It didn’t feel right to him.

    Of course historically that’s what happened. Feb ’42 was the Battle of the Java Sea, March and April raids into the Indian Ocean. May was Coral Sea, then June was Midway and the Aleutians. August was Guadalcanal…

    But it didn’t feel right to someone more familiar with land campaigns were there are fronts and things move more slowly but with more momentum once they get going. WWII land warfare is a wrestling or judo match. Naval warfare is Bazooka tag in the woods at night. Different mechanics are needed to capture the flavor of land and sea. I think doing both well in one game really means making two games that fit seamlessly together.

    Oh, and for movies, there’s also “Ike.” No combat, but pretty compelling.

  • Hudson

    Tora Tora Tora was good yup!

    Oh forgot about Conspiracy! Good call

  • S.Kirk

    No mention of AH’s “Third Reich”? This was the board game that put WWII grand strategy back into he game playing vernacular. It was a rare grognard game that appealed to non-grognards.

    It captured strategic elements simply (the BRP system that put a price on territory, unit builds,etc), and tactical elements elegantly. It simulated armored “breakthroughs” better than most games available today. It also allowed for stacking of units in a single hex, something that has escaped many strategic computer games-with the resulting traffic-jam invasions of France in 1940.

    AH made a poor attempt to port-it to PC. If only someone would revisit the game system and bring it to the PC!

  • Sarkus

    Yeah, Third Reich was my entry into the genre of WW2 grand strategy games. Even if the guy who I learned how to play from insisted on his house rules and wouldn’t let us read the manual!

    At this point the AH catalog belongs to Hasbro, which means Atari probably has the electronic gaming rights to Third Reich. That makes it unlikely that any smaller developer will ever get access to the rights.

  • Troy

    We can’t mention everything, of course. If we stopped to talk about every WW2 game, we’d be there forever.

    I’m sure Bruce would have remember Third Reich, though.

  • The Problem with Counting and the Return to WW2

    […] Given our recent discussion on TMA about WW2, I was struck by Scott Sharkey’s attempt to count the number of videogames associated with each 20th century war. […]

  • Paul

    I rather enjoyed the loquacious and impassioned Troy in this episode. Made for a more interesting listen, though I’m still fence sitting on HOI3. That’s more about time than game quality, which no one here cares (or needs) to hear about.

  • Paul

    Please excuse the double post.

    All this WWII talk about what you guys like, specifically Julian’s interest in the tactical and “unit attachment”, it’s still a shame none of you have played Men of War.

    And Dr. Strangelove is the best war game . . . er, movie ever. Okay, not WWII, so, ummmm, Where Eagles Dare (if it holds up, been a while) . . . and definitely Kelly’s Heroes.

    Anyway, moving on now. Highly enjoyable show this week.

  • Gary

    How about The Big Red One? Stalag 17? The greatest film of WW2 in my estimation, if documentaries are included, is The World at War series with Lawrence Olivier narrating.

    Sorry to hear, Troy, that 49th Parallel is a stinker. I’m rather fond of the Powell and Pressburger films though I have to admit I haven’t seen that particular one.

  • spelk

    Another entertaining cast folks, it always amazes me that no matter whatever the topic, the items that flow over the cast throughout the hour or so, always have me gripped, usually have me thinking about the subject deeper than I previously have and it seems without fail has me itching to comment here about something or other I’d like to throw into the mix.

    I’ve just got my grubby hands on HoI3, so I’m looking forward to giving it a run through, the previous iterations have left me a little cold at times, and I’ve not made much progress there, so I am excited about some of the newer features that perhaps ease the micromanagement, or minutae and give me a better feel for strategic decisions available and their impact on the progress made.

    A game I immediately thought about when WW2 and Naval Warfare come up was Advanced Tactics: WW2 (marketed via Matrix), the game is at the tactical level, but has a level of detail and integration with land and naval combat as well as a rather fine supply model, and its very moddable.

    WW2 films I like, now that is a hard one to answer with just a single film, obviously Band of Brothers comes high on the list, with Stalingrad and Saints and Soldiers featuring. Some of the more recent offerings that offer interesting views are films such as Max Manus Man of War, Valkyrie and Days of Glory. Obviously there are cheesey titles that are just too easy to love, even if their credibility as cutting edge or gritty is limited – Enemy at the Gates, Saving Private Ryan and an ashamed love for the B17 flick Memphis Belle. I now feel compelled to also throw in a WWI film that I love deeply, called The Lost Battalion.

    Keep up the Dominions 3 game folks, don’t let it die!

  • Scott R. Krol

    It’s interesting Troy that you shrug off the map issues with HoI3, especially since you did a series on game maps and have professed a love for cartography. In the world of board games getting the location of Stalingrad wrong would have the peasants storming the gates of the designer with torches and pitchforks.

  • Troy

    I think that in a game with this world level scale, where every province’s importance is more akin to a VP than to a super accurate representation of the WW2 map, then I think minor labelling issues are not enough to undermine the core design. If it is an Eastern Front game and Stalingrad is, for example, too close to Germany, then it becomes much more important than if – on a global scale – it is one possible victory point out of many.

    In a game about Gettysburg, the battlefield has to look like Gettysburg otherwise it’s just a civil war battle. On a world map, a couple of provinces with the wrong name is not a super huge deal since there are so many other provinces.

    So while I share the complainants’ desire for proper cartography, it’s not enough to declare the game broken because in a world with 15k provinces a couple out of place is not a really huge deal for me.

  • Marc-Andre

    I was listening to this show and had to come hare and leave a comment when world war I was belittled. Why? Because when you think about it, for all the scale of World War II, we very much still live in a post World War I world:

    – WWI started with horses, brightly colored uniforms and human waves attacks. 4 years later, it was cars, tanks, planes, phone lines, WMDs (gas) and surprise maneuvers.
    – As a result of WWI, the borders of these countries were drawn: Yugoslavia, Russia, Iraq, most if not all of Africa.

    It’s too bad it would make quite a boring action game. Go out of the trenches, die instantly, several times over. And all that for a glorious draw.

  • spelk

    I’m sure there must be a way to simulate a war of attrition, like that in WWI, in an action game. I mean the majority of action games include respawning after death, so perhaps utilise the respawn function and include it as part of the play mechanic. Perhaps have an RTS view of the trench warfare, but give the player the ability to jump around the battlefield adopting any unit they want and play out their experience, so infantry, artillery gunners, cavalry etc.. this way rather than setting it just as WWI infantry “over the top”, you’ll play the game at both the command level and as a troop as and when you want some more close up action?

    I think with this sort of setup you could make any theatre of warfare interesting regardless of basic infantry actions. Not all first person shooters have to be tied to a single unit types experience of the war. My first recollection of the “jump in” RTS was Battlezone II, I think.. and I’m sure this sort of thing could be applied to make WWI exciting to play.