Interview: Unity of Command 209 Sep 2016 1
Unity of Command was one of those games where humble origins gave rise to a pretty decent wargame set on the Eastern Front. We've known about another game coming for a while now, but we thought we'd catch up with leading man Tomislav Uzelac to find out how things are going. Tomislav was kind enough to share some screens from his recent GamesCom trip as well, which we've posted below.
Wargamer: So, what made you want to make a second game, and what's influenced the design choices you've made with the sequel?
Tomislav Uzelac: We’ve always had people asking us if we could take the game to other theatres, but the game system was really specifically designed for these big manoeuvre battles you see on the Eastern Front. Elsewhere, the system wouldn’t work as well: for example in the positional battles with steady attrition of the Italian campaign.
There’s also the question of representing the particular way of war for each faction: in the original game playing as the Soviets was a very different affair versus playing as the Axis. I wanted to get this right for the Allies as well, and then also make commanding US forces feel different than the British (this is not so easy to do).
Wargamer: A big, noticeable change is the graphics overhaul you've given it – did you feel this was important for the sequel? There's an argument a lot of the appeal from the first game was in its modest presentation.
Tomislav Uzelac: I just feel that wargamers should get nice things too, from time to time at least. I support the argument that presentation should not get in the way, but we’re doing our best to make this game equally readable as any 2D game out there. I kindly ask people to refrain from judgment until it’s out there and they’ve tried it (not really hoping for that).
Wargamer: What were the main lessons you learned from creating the first game?
Tomislav Uzelac: The original Unity of Command was, I think it’s fair to say, a success with wargamers. It sold well over 100,000 units, and that came not so much as a lesson learned but as a complete shock. Essentially it was an upgraded hobby project, but it happened to resonate with players way beyond any of my expectations.
You can see that the game wasn’t a… fully commercial effort, from how the difficulty was all over the place. The very first scenario in the Axis campaign is 2nd Kharkov, which is a stiff battle that historically gave the Germans quite a bit of a scare.
There are other aspects of the game that perhaps weren’t fully elaborated, like multiplayer and even the campaign game itself. So, this time around, we understand that all of that just needs to be there, small/niche game or not.
Wargamer: Looking at your notes from GamesCom, you've been talking a lot about Supply, HQ's and the campaign/Scenarios – would you care to go through your big points here, and how it will impact UoC2?
Tomislav Uzelac: The big thing about supply is that there is no infinite supply along railways any more. While this was a useful simplification, it really limited the size of scenarios we can meaningfully handle, as people who tried to make those gigantic Barbarossa scenarios quickly found out.
This change doesn’t make that much difference in the West actually, but community scenarios and designers have become a big part of what we do, and this is for them.
Elsewhere in supply, we’re introducing a supply disruption mechanic which should do an even better job of putting you in supply trouble everywhere from Normandy to Operation Taifun.
Wargamer: When will you officially add the '2' at the end of the name? Or do you not see this as a straight sequel?
Tomislav Uzelac: It’s certainly an evolution, probably fair to call it a sequel. I haven’t committed to a name yet, but yeah, unless we come up with something really clever it should be either “2” or “II”.
In any case, I’ve been long at work on this set of new mechanics, for about two years before we started production in May. While I wasn’t able to fully commit myself to making the new game, the project was at all times on my mind.
Wargamer: What do you think are the major challenges and mechanics a player should be facing on a game of this scale? Operational as opposed to tactical, but devoid of any world-building or empire management.
Tomislav Uzelac: Well, I think Unity of Command already did a good job of spreading your attention between operational advances and the need to protect your supplies. We now add Fog of War, which is a kind of a multiplier in this space: exposing your flank to a hidden enemy unit can lead to all sorts of additional trouble.
To all that we are now adding a greater need to look after your own troops: while you don’t create the HQs and units yourself (they are given to you by the campaign game) you need to look after them because losses, experience and equipment purchases carry over between scenarios.
Your role is not that of one particular general, but of the entire operational-level stratum of your faction's military. The prestige you earn therefore reflects how well you’ve done and, importantly, there will be no more prestige hoarding. There are always things to buy with your hard-earned prestige: either you need reinforcements, or want to equip your force with certain specialists.
And if you’re playing a top game, and don’t need any of that, then you’re in that situation where operational success potentially changes the entire strategy of your faction. Your success in previous scenarios, given enough prestige, opens up some exciting what-if scenarios.
Note that we see it as our mandate to keep things historically grounded, so you won’t see anything too crazy. How crazy is too crazy? Well, if things like Kuibyshev and Donbas Nip weren’t crazy enough for you, we might have a problem, otherwise I think you’ll be just fine with the new stuff.
Wargamer: Could you to explain the difference between fixed branching tress, as well as every campaign following a different path?
Tomislav Uzelac: Yes, the campaign tree is not fixed like it used to be. You only see the scenarios that are currently being played, at the current date in the campaign. Once you’ve completed them, campaign time advances, and you see the new scenarios that you are tasked with.
How well you play in your current set of scenarios affects what happens next, in the campaign. Starting frontlines can be different, and you can even have entirely different (what-if) scenarios on the map. Since you also get to deck out your units and HQs with specialists and upgrades, it should really be a different ride every time.