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A New World War I Game

May 25th, 2010 by Troy Goodfellow · 3 Comments · Slitherine, WW1

Lordz Games and Slitherine have just announced a new entry in their Commander series. Commander: The Great War will cover World War I in both a grand campaign and smaller scenarios. A list of features with comments follows:

A huge hex based campaign map that stretches from the USA in the west, Africa and Arabia to the south, Scandinavia to the north and the Urals to the east.

Good that they aren’t stopping at the Dardanelles like some many other WWI games do. I assume that the US will be an untouchable blob like it was in Commander: World at War. That game did the Atlantic War very well; hope they can do a similar thing with the first U-boat war.

A Grand Campaign covering the whole war from the invasion of Belgium on August 5, 1914 to the Armistice on the 11th of November 1918. Various smaller scenarios are also available, focusing on a single campaign or front, such as the Verdun 1916, Kaiserschlacht 1918 and Eastern Front Campaigns.

Will the smaller scenarios have different maps and different victory conditions? Or are these just new starting points for campaigns?

16 different unit types including Infantry, Cavalry, Armoured Cars and Tanks, Artillery, Railroad Guns and Armoured Trains, Cruisers, Submarines and Battleships, Fighters, Bombers and Zeppelins. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, based on their historical performance in the various theatres throughout the war.

· Attach historical Commanders to your units. Each have their own specific strengths, so decide wisely which Commander is most suited at which front. Three types of Commanders are available: Generals for ground units, Admirals at sea and flying Aces to strengthen your air units.

It will be interesting to see how all this fits. The really hard thing about World War I is that each of the fronts was very different because of how the technology and leadership varied from place to place. The Western front bogged down because of trench warfare, machine guns, mustard gas and generals like Haig. The Russian front was a little more dynamic because of the large front, but leadership was still poor. The Arabian front was a sort of guerrilla war. The Italian front was something nobody cared about. Somehow Lordz will have to capture very different types of warfare in the same short time frame.

Invest in research and technology to improve your units. Aircraft evolve from fragile tools of aerial observation to deadly ground and air attack planes. Artillery barrages become ever more accurate and powerful. Focus on Armour technology and unleash a dreadful new weapon on the battlefield: the Tank.

Detailed and realistic combat that models supply, morale, terrain, leadership, equipment, training and fog of war.

No real surprises here.

Multiplayer via hotseat or Slitherine’s revolutionary PBEM server.

PBEM servers are ripe for revolution.

Easy to learn, hard to master game play.

Developers, you don’t get to say this. Players make this decision. And it’s cliche. So stop it.

Extreme moddability using the LUA scripting language, allowing players to alter many aspects of gameplay including combat, research, unit stats, terrain effects and many more.

Moddability and new display options. All good.

World War I is one of those setting that has probably been done more times than people (including me) remember, but often defies a good translation to the screen. There are a number of reasons for this; as mentioned the leadership and technological issues are big ones, the Western Front is traditionally seen as a static front so you either mirror that or recognize that many players already know what the problem was, you need to have domestic political issues like the rise of Communism in Russia…it isn’t a war of large armies smashing armored columns or a rush to the atomic bomb.

This fall we get to see someone else take a kick at the Kaiser.


3 Comments so far ↓

  • Nikolaj

    World War I is a setting that I find very interesting, and which is, in my opinion, under represented in strategy games. So another WWI strategy game is always welcome. You outline the problems in making such a game pretty well, I think. It will be interesting to see how Lordz Games and Slitherine will handle the changing conditions between fronts and over time, particularly with regards to technological and doctrinal development.

    I think Ageod managed these issues quite well in their WWI game, which is probably the best of its kind I’ve played so far. They just released a gold version last week, btw, but I haven’t had time to try it out yet.

  • Punning Pundit

    This will be an interesting test of mechanics. Can they figure out a way to incentivize players to recreate the historical conditions without being heavy handed? Historically literate players should _know_ they’re making sub-optimal decisions, but still feel that they are making the best ones given the menu of options available to them…

  • Richard J

    and generals like Haig.

    Obligatory defense of Haig’s generalship as being uninspired but competent, given the limitations of the time.

    The Italian front was something nobody cared about.

    Have you read the recent book on it; The White War? It was truly horrific, even by the standards of WWI.