Order of Battle: Blitzkrieg Pre-Release Special07 Nov 2016 2
The Artistocrats have continued their hard work on Order of Battle: World War II (OoB) since it evolved from OoB: Pacific. Several expansions later, their next DLC, OoB: Blitzkrieg, is due November 10th. Aside from an exciting foray into the larger realm of the greatest conflict the world has ever seen, the new Campaign Specialisation System will be showcased, along with the ability to carry your core force through linked campaigns. Although the latter feature will be implemented at first only for Morning Sun and Rising Sun more expansions are in the works utilising Blitzkrieg's Wehrmacht forces, and we may yet see U.S. Pacific and U.S. Marines linked as well.
Before I go on with an assessment of how these new features work – still in beta as I write – some clarifications might be necessary for those unfamiliar with the series. Pacific was originally released with the Rising Sun and U.S. Pacific campaigns, which were subsequently included for previous owners when the game morphed into WWII. Along with Winter War, all are now DLC, while the base game is free to play for anyone who wishes to try the first (single-player only) scenario of each DLC, plus the tutorial, “Boot Camp”. It's also worth noting that you can import your core force from the 'Boot Camp' scenario into U.S. Pacific.
Upon conclusion of Morning Sun – i.e., by choosing the Japanese Grand Campaign – a player’s core force can be brought along into Rising Sun using the game’s simple Import Tool. It should be noted up front that, for reasons of game balance, units are unable to retain more than 30% of their experience; further, all vehicles are taken away; and your entire force will be considered amongst the ‘dead’, whom must now be bought back (as if ransoming them from Charon the Ferryman!). Also lost will be all surplus Resource Points (RP; the game’s currency). Finally, commanders are also not carried forward. (Perhaps they retire or get transferred…?) More about this in a bit.
In any event, starting with 2 Specialisation Points (SP) in Morning Sun (zero in Blitzkrieg, as of this writing, albeit Germany starts with Tank School; see below), the player begins to earn SP at around 3 per scenario. In Blitzkrieg, especially, bonuses can be acquired for achieving Secondary Objectives; but since the system is being ‘retro-fitted’ onto the current Morning Sun/Rising Sun campaigns, specialisations in the Japanese Grand Campaign will be earned more slowly, so as not to completely unbalance the game.
Now, however, instead of players previously having to choose between a few mutually exclusive ‘abilities’, one can spend SP on a much wider variety of attributes or campaign-affecting bonuses. These include superior training, doctrines, and economic boosts, many of which appear to be tailored to each side. For example, the Japanese get Bushido Code and Banzai Attack, while Germany can acquire Beutepanzer (allowing incorporation of captured enemy vehicles into one’s core force), as well as Auftragstaktik (which bestows local leadership autonomy, translating into +1 damage for your units).
Early Specialisations are ‘cheap’, at 5SP per, then start increasing, to 6, 7, and 10SP; yet, by the time the campaign is over a player should have been able to select approximately half of those available. Even so, many Specialisations can only be acquired once a certain campaign year is reached, reasonably reflecting how certain tactics and technologies first had to be practised or researched. Others have prerequisites in a ‘chain’; for example, Specialized Training must be chosen prior to Auftragstaktik.
IS THAT A BEUTEPANZER IN YOUR POCKET…?
Readers may be wondering how this all works in practice. Well, let’s go through the new Blitzkrieg system. Starting with Tank School mentioned above, and depending on completion of Secondary Objectives, a player should finish the first scenario, “Mława”, with 5SP. This is enough to acquire Flight School, Specialised Training, or War Economy. The first two give newly purchased units – aircraft and infantry, respectively – one ‘experience star’, meaning that the new troops will perform better in combat, just as if they had obtained… well, equivalent actual combat experience. War Economy allows an extra Land, Air, and Naval Command Point (CP). (Command Points determine how many units can be deployed in a given scenario.)
Beginning in early 1940, Magnetron Radar becomes available in addition to the aforementioned Auftragstaktik (say that aloud three times fast!). Once radar is active, Scrambling is enabled as a later selection, which allows land-based aircraft to take off, move, and attack in the same turn; they also lose less efficiency when doing so. Later on in 1940, Drop Tanks can be selected, and/or Waffen SS. The latter will, according to the tooltip, “form a separate faction within the German armed forces”. For owners of the Winter War DLC, choosing it also bestows a bonus unit: the Wiking Division.
Once 1941 rolls along, Female Factory Labor is procurable – assuming War Economy is already enabled – as well as Beutepanzer, also mentioned previously, and Forced Labor. The latter replicates slave labour from PoWs by generating extra RP. (I can’t see this generating any controversy at all…) From here – 1942 and beyond – the Blitzkrieg Specialisation Screen is ‘locked’, as the campaign ends with the final mission. More will doubtless appear as new DLC arrive, however, including jets and rockets and hamster commandos!
For now, we’ll content ourselves with the Japanese campaign. Like as not to accommodate increased naval and air operations, its Specialisations scroll far beyond the right edge of the Spec screen, and a date progression of 1946 appears, albeit currently there are none past 1944. That year contains Advanced Aeronautics and Kamikaze, the latter requiring Bushido Code and granting abilities that might easily be guessed: In addition to suicidal aircraft, Lunge Miners, Kaiten mini-subs, and Shinyo torpedo boats can be deployed. Advanced Aeronautics enables superior aircraft earlier in the game.
The only other notable differences from Blitzkrieg are Damage Control, Tokyo Express, Yanagi Missions, and Pilot Rotation. (Another, Rationing, had no details as of this writing.) Damage Control allows severely damaged warships to take less damage; Tokyo Express lets destroyers and submarines provide +1 supply when adjacent to land; Yanagi enables ‘lend-lease’ from Germany of Tiger tanks and Nebelwerfer rockets; and Pilot Rotation retains experience and lowers repair costs for – you guessed it! – aircraft.
Although there is no certain path to victory – as it should be in such an open-ended system – my advice is to select certain options over others, at least at first. For example, in Blitzkrieg, although Magnetron Radar becomes available just before the “Belgium” scenario, it is redundant until and unless one takes Scrambling, as no naval forces are deployable by the player throughout the campaign. Auftragstaktik would be much more valuable, however, it costs 10SP as opposed to 5, so you may not be able to afford it right away – but then SP can be accumulated.
HALT AND IDENTIFY YOURSELF!
To sum up, I have to admit to some disappointment when I first tried the core Import Tool – but not because it didn’t work (it’s very easy, just like loading a saved game; follow the link above to the instructions). It’s simply that I generally ‘identify’ with my units in games with linked campaigns – Panzer Corps being an example – almost as closely as an RPG character; so much so that I agonise over taking casualties, let alone suffering an actual elimination! Thus, with their reduction in experience, plus losing their leaders and even organic transport, I cannot identify with them as much any longer; they pretty much feel like ‘new’ units. Having said so, however, I have yet to complete a full Japanese campaign, and Blitzkrieg is not linked to any others thus far, so it may yet be rewarding to lead a core force through multiple linked campaigns. I look forward to seeing for myself.
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