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Commander - Europe At War By Matrix Games

Commander-Europe at War
 

Available from Matrix Games at www.matrixgames.com
Review by John Zseller and Richard Mataka
 
      The successful invasion of Europe by the Allies commenced in October of 1942, seems outlandish? Well in this corps level simulation, it is possible. This game has scenarios for each year of the war starting with 1939. In the 1939 scenario the game begins with the German invasion of Poland, just as in real-life history. The game then progresses to the invasion of France and the Low Countries. If you are playing the Allied side, your hands are basically tied. Russia will not declare war on Germany, nor can the United States be brought into the war at this time. You can frantically try to fight back with the French forces and whatever British forces you can get across the channel. This will avail you little against the forces of Germany. As the timeline progresses, Italy will come into the war on the Axis side as will Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. The AI (Artificial Intelligence) will not stick to the historical program either, but will ignore Norway and Denmark, thereby trapping any ships launched at Kiel in the Baltic.
 
      I think it is time to delve into the some strategy for this game, as the overview seems bleak for the Allies. During the initial stages the Allied player should use his accumulating production points wisely; that is for the French, keep producing infantry units to give you a chance to survive the initial onslaught. The British, in the meantime, should begin to stock up on Infantry and Armor units and grow their Navy. The Americans, with few production points should add some units and invest in research facilities. The Russians need to balance research with additional units, as most of the border units are weak Garrison units.
 
      Production Points are generated within the country as well as supplied by the Americans in the form of Lend Lease Convoys. At first, all the Convoy points go to Britain, to assist them in creating an army. When the Russians come into the war, in 1941, either through a German invasion or by the neglect of the German player, the Lend Lease Convoys begin to go to Murmansk. 
 
      At the beginning, after you have chosen the scenario you wish to play and the side you want to control, there are a number of buttons on the screen; these buttons allow you to skew the advantage to one side or the other. After selecting the “advantage”, the main game map comes on screen. This map covers from the Eastern part of the United States from Washington northeastward through Canada, while the eastern boundary of the map is Russia, east of Perm (Russia’s second capital). The northern boundary is Scandinavia and the south is North Africa. Units are on the map for all the belligerents and the neutral nations of Europe and the Middle East.
 
      When you start up the game, the Main Menu screen is revealed. This screen gives you the choices of a New Game, to Load an existing game, start a New Multiplayer Game or to continue an existing Multiplayer game. Playing the Tutorial is a necessity; it introduces the first-time player to the game mechanics, the charts and the decisions necessary to play an intelligent game. The Exit button is also available. Selecting a New Game brings you to the Basic Options screen. Here you chose the side you want to play, the Scenario, beginning at 1939 and yearly to 1944 and whether you want to give your side some advantage in the gameplay.
 
       Advanced options include Fog of War. This option covers the map in a black fog, except for those areas that your troops know about; this allows for surprises when moving into new areas. The opposition’s submarines are also hidden until they attack or your naval forces stumble across them; this makes for a much tougher game. The historical ending date of 1945 can be switched on and off so that the war can continue beyond that date, or end abruptly at that time. A button is available to switch research to a random process instead of the calculated process under control of the player. Lastly, there is a control for oil consumption. This switch controls the amount of oil stockpiled by either side and limits the amount of maneuvers that may be engaged, thereby, making the possession of oilfields a high priority in your warplans.
 
      The Allied side consists of Britain, France and the United States in one faction and Russia as a separate faction. This means that any minor powers that ally themselves with the Allied side will share the Oil and Railroad pools with the Major Countries and that Russia has separate oil and rail pools. Neutral countries may be attacked by either side; this will cause them to actively join the opposition. There are also states that are Pro-Allied or Pro-Axis, this means that they lean towards one side or the other, but are not active participants in the conflict, an example is Spain.
 
      The player receives a number of Production Points (PP) at the beginning of each turn. These PP’s will be shared between the Major power and their factional allies. The PP’s are used to finance research, to build new units or to repair and upgrade existing units. Research falls into five categories, Infantry, Armor, Air, Naval and General. Each of the categories advances improvements in weapons and tactics for that particular branch of service. The general category advances improvement in industrial production, thereby increasing the number of PPs you receive at the beginning of the turn.
 
       PPs are also used to purchase new units of various kinds. Infantry units can be garrison units, good for fortified positions; Infantry Corps and Motorized Corps. Armor units can be bought, as can Commanders that can increase the maximum effectiveness of units within their command range. Air units can include Fighters, Tactical and Strategic Bombers. Naval units include Submarine Flotillas, Destroyer, Battleship and Carrier Squadrons. Each unit has a cost dependent upon the amount of materiel necessary to bring such a unit to combat effectiveness.
 
      At the bottom of the screen is a panel; at the left of the panel is the resource information. Each Major Power has a column that shows the number of Production Points currently available, the number of Railroad Movement points, the Manpower trained, the Oil Consumption and the percentage of the War Effort. On the right side is a panel with two rows of five buttons each: the wrench represents the units that can be repaired, to the extent of your available PPs; the Star represents the units to be upgraded due to advances in research technology. Next are the units available to be deployed on the battlefield in proximity to the owner’s cities: the Top Hat represents the Diplomatic screen where war is declared; lastly on the first row is the Options button which has in-game menu items for saving or ending the game and putting to desktop. Additionally, this is where your options are for controlling the game display and game audio.
 
       On the second row, the first four blue buttons are for switching the screen between the War Map, the Produce Units screen, the Research screen and the Statistics screen and the last being the End of Turn button. As their names indicate, these screens are where you purchase units and research facilities. On the research screen there are also options for emphasis on particular phases of the ongoing research.
 
      When you select a particular unit, there are a number of attributes displayed under the picture of that unit. These include Attack and Defense factors, Shock value of the unit, its Anti-Armor capability, Air Attack and Attack against Surface Naval vessels. When you select a particular Terrain hexagon, a display shows movement factors and terrain modifiers for combat. Combat is accomplished by placing your unit adjacent to an enemy unit. A target reticule appears on top of the attacked unit, at the bottom of the screen, both units will appear in the panel and the center will show the combat odds and any attack/defense modifiers that will affect this combat and the amounts of damage inflicted on both units. Most units have a range of one hex, air units are the exception, and their range is over multiple hexes, so they are added to the six units that can surround a single hex adding their fire factors to the battle. Each combat is settled singly, there are no combined fire efforts against a single hex.
 
      When waterways, such as the English Channel are encountered, each unit has the capability of Naval Transport. The unit is brought to a friendly port facility and the button under the unit representing a loop is pressed and the unit turns into a sea borne icon that can cross the water and land on any available beach hex, friendly or hostile. This ability allows the United States to invade either Europe or Africa or Scandinavia; Britain to send units to France or attack Germany through Scandinavia.
 
      Victory conditions are dependent upon the capture of the enemy capitols. That means the Allies must take Berlin and Rome and the Axis must take Paris, Moscow, London and Washington DC. For each enemy capitol held at the end of the game the side gets one point, for each friendly capitol held there are no Victory Points allotted. During the game, the capture of a country’s capitol causes that country’s forces to be eliminated from the game. Recapture of Paris by the Allies does not reactivate the French Army.
 
     As the games starts in 1939, Germany immediately declares war on Poland and proceeds to eliminate their forces. Russia has forces stationed along the partition line established by the agreement with Germany. The Russian and American forces cannot be moved at this time, they are not “in the war.” After Poland surrenders the Axis player moves his forces westward to take on France and the Low Countries. If you are playing the Axis side, you may declare war on Russia or attack Denmark or Scandinavia instead. I have played both sides and find that if Germany follows the historical scenario of taking over Denmark and Norway, he will not have sufficient time to accumulate resources before the Russian bear becomes active in late 1941. 
 
      As the war progresses, more and more manpower are inducted into the armed forces. As the percentage of the war effort rises, the quality of inducted manpower is reduced and eventually the survivability will also be affected, thereby reducing the effectiveness of individual units. Each turn is approximately a half of the month involved beginning in September 1939. I have not mentioned much about the other scenarios, as they begin during different parts of the war and involve forces available at that particular time. As I said in the introduction, you have the ability to change the course of history by invading Europe earlier in the war. A few words of advice should be repeated, don’t ignore the research, as it upgrades your units making them tougher and more survivable. Ignore the purchase of Commanders at your own risk; they make units stronger and more dedicated.
 
       To give you a little feel for how the game plays, as I said, the 1939 scenario begins with the Germans declaring war on Poland. This gives the Axis player approximately ten units plus aircraft, to eliminate some six Polish units. The object here is to occupy Warsaw, the best way of doing that is to surround it. This will mean dodging the other Polish units in an effort to surround the single hex of Warsaw. The Allied player has to pull his units in towards Warsaw to make the German player commit more of his forces and thereby sustaining more loses. Your decisions are not easy, the loss of Poland is mostly a forgone conclusion, but the longer it takes the more German units is consumes and this gives the French and British a greater opportunity to build up their opposition forces. The ebb and flow of the game play lets the player try differing strategies with each play through. You can change the course of history, maybe!
 
    This game will give hours and hours of enjoyment and cause you many pangs of anguish when your strategies go awry. I have played this game over and over without repeating results, other than the conquest of Poland and France early in the war. This game is quite addictive and strategies will come to you as you play. Remember, however, that no matter what your strategies, no plan is cast in stone once you make contact with the enemy.
 



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