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Unity of Command: Early Impressions

December 15th, 2011 by Troy Goodfellow · 10 Comments · Wargames, WW2

We’ll have a full chat about the game on the podcast later, I’m sure, but right now I want to state that Unity of Command is the intro wargame that Panzer Corps should have been.

In many ways, Unity is the anti-War in the East. Both deal with the Eastern Front in WW2, but Unity keeps things very simply with only a handful of easily distinguishable units. You can customize your infantry and tanks by spending the prestige you’ve earned to add auxiliary forces (engineers, recon, artillery) but for the most part you are pushing men and machines across a map and you don’t have to linger long to figure out what bonuses are attached. Reinforcements are handled the same way. Air power is played through actions (you get a certain number of special actions per turn) as is the expansion of your supply zone and other key factors. Blowing bridges, even, is as simple as “select bridge” and then hope the odds are in your favour.

But it’s not a puzzle game, like Panzer Corps, even in the scenarios which are the same “X turns to get to Y” model you find in that game. There are better and worse approaches, but the idea is to use your brain and your movement to get your weaker units off the front line and your fresher ones into battle. The interface is clean, the look is appealing, but there’s never a sense that this is just a simple game that happens to be set in WW2, which was often the feeling in Panzer Corps.

Unity of Command walks that very fine line between being a good and clear abstraction of the Eastern Front without either forgoing its approachability in the name of history or throwing up its hands and suggesting that there’s no point in teaching people wargames. There is never any sense during a battle that you are losing because of some mysterious thing you didn’t think or know about. The rollover tooltips are excellent, especially clear for things not mentioned in the very brief and slightly interactive tutorial. Supply and logistics – that great bugbear of wargame design – is intuitive and its effects noticeable; attacks can weaken supply – not just manpower – so there is an incentive to beat on units just out of supply range, knowing that if they don’t retreat they will be useless.

Later, I will want to talk about other things – the campaign structure, the scenario design, how it deals with fog of war and air combat, prestige as a currency…There is a lot of real game design going on in this game that looks a little bit cute with its toy tanks and giant heads fighting in the Ukraine.

But for now, I think, I’ve found the gateway wargame I’ve been looking for for some time.


10 Comments so far ↓

  • Dan M

    For me, this is good news! I’ve been looking for an entry wargame and I had thought Panzer Corps was it, but I felt it (and in turn, I) was hamstrung by the drawbacks you and Rob highlighted on FoS and 3MA. The interface looks positively delicious, but I’ll need to play now. Thanks for the info.

  • bred

    I guess I’ll have to give this one a second look. The art style really turned me off, but if the game mechanics are anything like you describe it may be just what I need to retrain my brain before I attempt some of the heavier strategy games weighing down my backlog.

  • laler

    What about the interface ? Is it better than (frankly abysmal) Panzer Corps ? Does it have unit list that actually differentiates moved-not moved units ? Does it have stupid things like “pioneers” that are not explained in any way anywhere ? Or those mountain jaegers that you have to look reeeeeeally hard on to notice they have “mountain movement” icon ? Is it better than THAT ? Its not like i’m asking too much, or am i ?

  • Troy Goodfellow

    laler: The UI is excellent and you can easily tell what specialist units are attached to your main unit. It’s not a perfect game by any means, but the UI is quite well done.

    bred: The art is immediately forgotten once you realize that you are still pushing historical analogs on a board and not disembodied heads.

  • Natus

    Oh, darn! Did I miss you guys discussing Panzer Corps, too? I was just about to buy it but the half off sale disappeared and I need to finish the demo.

    Unity of Command is definitely on my wish list, and recently got some loving from Wargamer.com: http://www.wargamer.com/article/3127/pc-game-review-unity-of-command

    Of course, a boardgame grognard friend of mine said of UoC: “but a ‘move and shoot’ model for operational battles is a poor fit.” A comment I didn’t quite understand at the time, and still don’t.

  • Troy

    Thanks for the write-up. This little piece in addition to the coverage on RPS has me sold. I was kind of deliberating between this and Panzer Corp and I am happy to say the “right choice” seems to have presented it self.

  • Natus

    I’m almost astonished to read the criticisms of Panzer Corps here after seeing it lovingly embraced almost everywhere else. More, please! Not because I don’t like it, but I appreciate diverging views.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    We did a show on Panzer Corps a while back, and had some good things to say, too. It’s just a very simple game that often comes down to the same beating on hard points over and over, and essentially boils down to a puzzle game. I don’t think that it serves as an entry level wargame in any serious way, especially since there are so few Goldilocks wargames now, which wasn’t the case when Panzer General came out. Panzer Corps is a good Panzer General clone, and satisfying in its way, but it’s not a wargame really.

    Unity of Command is a wargame, and a good one.

  • Tony K

    Let me know if you want to play a multiplayer pbem game. Ilove Unity of Command! It’s my wargame of the year. I have War in the East but struggle to fire it up, as its so daunting/large. With UoC, its like a beer and pretzels kind of war game. I’m also preferring to play UoC over Panzer Corps as well. The supply model and “front-lines” are what differentiates it from PC.

  • Tony K

    One more thing on UoC, have you figured out how to actually earn prestige? I win the scenarios but never earn any prestige, just consume it. I feel they need to show the mechanics better on how points/prestige are actually earned.