24 April 2014

PC Game Review: Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear!

Chris Reichl fills us in on what he thinks about this Eastern Front board game PC conversion.

Published on 11 JUN 2012 11:42pm by Chris Reichl

Publisher: Matrix Games/Slitherine Studios

Developer: Western Civilization Software

 

Introduction

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! is a tactical-level computer game based on the Academy Games board game series designed by Uwe Eickert. Each unit represents a squad, weapons’ team, or vehicle. This game is from Western Civilization Software and is distributed by Matrix Games/Slitherine Studios. I first heard of “COH” (Conflict of Heroes), the board game, from the boardgamegeek.com site; so I was familiar with it. COH is set between 1941 and 1942 during the battles of Operation Barbarossa, when the German Juggernaut broke a non-agression pact with the Soviet Union and invaded the motherland.

 

Technical Notes and the Tutorial

My system isn't the most muscular in terms of graphics card capabilities. I was happy to see there was a Pixel Shader 2.0 option available, and most of my screenshots are taken using this option. I was able to run it at my desktop resolution (1600x900) and did not experience any performance issues. I chose the “3D Chits/Counters” instead of the “3D Sprites”, partly because the landscape doesn't seem to fit the sprites. The chits also standout better, so when you move a unit into the woods they're still visible. You might like the 3D sprites, so the ability to switch to either option is nice. 

 The tutorial is laid out well, especially for newcomers,. It explains the right amount of information in each slide, although it doesn't mention how to de-select a unit (read in manual: click ESC). But if you needed to read the manual while in the game—rather than Alt-Tab–there is a game help feature that brings up the manual for you in-game. For first time gamers the tutorial is very handy. The tutorial also offers alot of action, and it is intense. During the tutorial you might find yourself within a hex of the objective and still unable to capture it.

Click for full image Click for full image

The Game Options, Mechanics

The mechanics of this game involve using APs (Action Points). These allow you to move your men, fire, rally, entrench, etc… You have different rule options such as: “Fog of War”, “Variable Action Points”; (you can get the 7 APs per turn or the die roll variation), “Difficulty for the AI”, “Foot Cautious Movement” (it allows you to press “CTRL” when moving, which gives you a better defense than moving without it), “Random Quality of Units”, and “Action Points Rules” (which can be “Classic” or “Persistent” APs).

“Classic" APs, which are from the original board game, keeps the AP values of your units hidden. Bear in mind though, when you DE-select your units you lose remaining APs for that unit. "Persistent" APs don't have this problem. In classic, to de-select a unit you have to press the “Escape” key (ESC). An interesting feature is the “Dice Camera”. I didn't try this, mostly because I don't have a webcam, but it allows you to roll your own die in a bowl with your web camera capturing the result for the game—sounds nice for those multiplayer games. Yes, there is multiplayer and it has a LAN option.

The game has many scenarios, although there is no campaign. The scenarios are: “Three Tutorials”, “Awakening the Bear Scenarios” (all based on the board game version), “Frontier Fire Fights (battles around Ukraine during Operation Barbarossa), and “The Commanding Heights” (battles around the Crimea). You can also play custom battles (which can be created using the editor) and a point-based scenario "Partisan Road"—where you can buy the units to play the scenario.

Click for full image Click for full imageClick for full image

 

At First You Don't succeed, die and die again...

You can move the map by left clicking and holding the mouse button—this allows you to scroll the map by dragging. Rotating the map is available by moving the mouse wheel while holding CTRL. To zoom in and out you can just use the mouse wheel. Also, the game  responds to the “W”, “S”, “A”, and “D” keys as well as “Page Up”/”Page Down” to zoom in and out. To adjust the camera angle you can right click and hold the mouse.. ALT and the mouse wheel allows you to tilt to an angle, CTRL and the mouse wheel allows you to rotate the camera, and  Shift  and the mouse wheel adjusts the camera height.

 

Moving units is done by clicking on a unit and then right clicking to move/pivot. You can see your movement (blue hexes), while the yellow hexes indicate your movement range. Normal attack value is also shown in yellow hexes, including the -1 attack value at longer range (lighter yellow hex). To fire, simply left click. The interface is good as there isn't too much clutter. There are simple keys and a menu that can be hidden. Each unit has a nice tool-tip which shows their values, how many APs they have, and how much it costs for: moving, rallying, soft defense, hard defense, attacking, attacking against soft targets or armored targets, and  bonus moves.

Click for full imageClick for full imageClick for full image

When you play you also get cards which allow you to perform certain actions during your turn. These include a free sniper shot on a visible enemy, laying down a mine (I learned that the hard way...if you move your unit on a mine you laid...ouch), or activating a unit at no cost—so that unit could make an attack, or make a run for the victory hex. 

Click for full imageClick for full image

You can also (and this is a feature I like) use your “Command Action Points” (CAP) to buy APs for a unit. For example: if you wanted to move an infantry rifle squad towards the enemy and attack. It’s also handy for rallying units that are unnerved. Additionally, you can use the CAP points to add a +1 to the unit die roll—if a unit needed to rally you can add 1 to it.

Click for full imageClick for full image

Attacking is basically a two D6 roll against your attack value. If you get higher than the defense value, you succeed. This is the same for “Rally”, and other actions. When you're done with your turn you can press the SPACE bar, or you can end it pre-maturely and look forward to the next turn. When both sides are out of CAPs or no other units  have APs remaining, the round is over and you go to the next turn. When all the turns are up, the game is over.

 

When the game is over you get a display showing who won and the points awarded. There is also  a replay feature, which I liked as well. This shows how the game went (or in my case, I can see where it went horribly wrong). You can either watch it turn-by-turn, or have it replay the entire game from start to finish.

 Click for full imageClick for full image

I played a few games of the first tutorial—Partisans. I played it several times and each time I tried a different approach. To my surprise the AI didn't act the same way every time. Sure it kept its Maxim gun unit hidden and attacked my units as they crossed its field of fire. But as I moved my units the AI moved its Maxim units and I found it firing again at my squads (particularly my LMG 34 teams). Each battle was tense, furious and frustrating; especially for me as I attached my units get pinned down or unnerved. I had to rally them to get them back into the fight all while the Russian AI seized the victory hex. In another fight, which was just as tense, the German side (me) was able to seize the objective after a fierce firefight, beating the Russians decisively. But as I said before, I used strategy different strategy every time, because the game allowed this. I think the multiplayer really adds to the enjoyment of the game. In singleplayer the AI on normal difficulty gave me a run for my money. Another thing I enjoyed was the variety of Action Cards, they're always different. You might get some “Rally” cards one game and a “Sniper” card in the next.

 

Conclusion

So what did I think about the game? I liked this game; the combat is fast and furious. The game was never dull even after frequent replays as I kept discovering different strategies to the scenario. It was fun because I didn't have to look through countless charts just to attack with my LMG team. Also, it kept simple some of the mechanics that often bog down some tactical games. For a board game conversion to PC it’s a good game I hope they  continue this conversion on to the rest of the Conflict of Heroes series, especially Storms of Steel: Kursk!, and the soon to be released one about the airborne at D-Day First Men In. The multiplayer option is sure to please, as well as the scenario editor which allows you to create custom battles. The game has also been recently updated to version 1.5, which has added several new features. This game should be a worthy part of any World War Two tactical gamer's collection and any wargamer's collection.


 

Reviewer's Specs:

AMD 5200+ 2.5 GB

4 GB Ram

256 MB Radeon 3200 HD

Windows 7 64-bit

 

Review written by: Chris Reichl

 

 

About Chris Reichl

Chris Reichl has been a gamer since he was 9 years old when his mom bought him a copy of TSR's Dungeon. He still remembers the 1st Edition AD&D and started to play wargames when he was in his teens. His love of history is partly due to the fact his dad was in the Navy and during their many tours he managed to visit Waterloo, Culloden, Yorktown, Appomattox Court House, as well as many castles in Scotland. He is an avid reader and reads anything he can get his hands on from history, historical fiction, fantasy and sci-fi. In addition to his gaming activities he also enjoys playing electric guitar and music. Chris didn't get into PC gaming until he had his own computer. He started playing with Panzer General. This eventually led to Wargamer.com, which he has been a member since 2006. His first article "The Once and Future King of Britannia (a King Arthur AAR)" was featured on Wargamer.com in 2011. Chris is currently residing in Appleton, Wisconsin and working on an Associate's Degree in IT as a Computer Support Specialist.