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Tim Stone

Oct 10, 2012

Strategic War in Europe

Panzers in Parliament Square! Where's Captain Hurricane when you need him?

Forgive me, Grandad, I'm pretending to be him again. All day I've been aping the vile Austrian misery-monger. The streets of Warsaw, Paris and (shudder) London now echo to the sounds of goosestepping thugs. My military genius has condemned Europe to a future of oppression, book burning and genocide.

OK, if I'm honest, slightly flawed AI and suspect scenario balancing played its part too. Wastelands Interactive have done a great job of producing a sleek, chummy WWII TBS, but they're a still a few months/patches away from convincing anyone they're orchestrating history's bloodiest conflict.

Right now Britain's reaction to imminent Nazification doesn't feel nearly Churchillian enough. The RAF and Royal Navy scarcely troubled my Operation Sealion invasion barges, and once ashore, the resistance was more lapdog than bulldog. Stalin's legions showed more grit, but even they seemed to lack the resolve and the resources to resist my fascist beastliness for long.

The map, like Hitler's dreams, ends at Stalingrad.

To be fair, the competition – games such as Commander: Europe at War and Strategic Command – have their share of behavioural and balance quirks too. If you're looking for a game that models continental conflict from Fall Weiss to the fall of Berlin, and doesn't wear you out with a huge unit count, vast map, and Monte Cassinos of inscrutable details, this is about as good as it gets.

Challenge is there in abundance if you go Soviet or mess with the impressive customisation settings. Unlike CEAW and SC, SWIE lets you play Axis and Allied minors, and adjust the difficulty of every country. Masochist in a hurry? Pick Poland, the Low Countries and France. Hardworking bet hedger? Try shepherding Germany, the USSR and the US. Lazy weirdo? Take the reins of Switzerland and Iraq.

A scripted events system combined with simple diplomacy prevents the war from straying too far from the corpse-cobbled path of plausibility, but doesn't rule out interesting what-ifs. You can pressure countries into alliances, even attempt coups d'état if you're feeling bold. As with economics, research and production, SWIE offers easily grasped essences rather than overwhelming detail.

The Isle of Wight? Sunk by Stukas.

Traditional genre chores such as managing sea transportation, sub ops, and convoys are a breeze thanks to automatically generated troop ships and hex-free brine (fleets hopscotch from sea region to sea region). About the only unnecessary complication is the need to buy Amphibious Invasion Points prior to Overlords and Sealions. This crucial subtlety may be explained in the relevant tutorial but a crash means there's currently no way of checking.

Crashes can hit the main game too. Along with the other frailties, this make unequivocal recommendation hard but not impossible. For £10 you'll struggle to buy a better Hitler sim or Stalin-'em-up.

Expect to pay: £10

Release: Out now

Developer: Wastelands Interactive

Publisher: In-house

Multiplayer: 2-4 player PBEM

Link: www.wastelands-interactive.com

Strategic War in Europe

Has its flaws, but with more polish and improved naval and air AI, this could be one of the great light wargames.

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