War Room is another strategy game that looks to explore the War in Afghanistan

By Joe Robinson 11 Nov 2019 0

What would you get if you combined Rebel Inc., Afghanistan ‘11, and better visuals? You’d get something that looks like War Room. This is a new RTS that’s in the works which seeks to stand shoulder-to-shoulder it’s peers in offering a new perspective on the War in Afghanistan.

Leaning more towards the Afghanistan ‘11 side of the design spectrum, it’s going to be real-time as opposed to turn-based, with a focus on military operations and logistical planning, although humanitarian missions are also going to be part of the gameplay. Instead of a micro-intense RTS like Wargame, however, this game evokes something akin to what you see in the recently released Radio Commander.

War Room RTS Combar

You play from the perspective of the commander in the HQ (although I don’t think they’ll lean too much into creating that ‘command tent’ vibe), with the whole fictional province presented to you as the campaign map. If you want intel or to zoom-in to a specific place, you need to deploy Drones which can then give you live rendered feeds of the operational area. In the game producer’s own words:

On a 2D level you plan your moves from a satellite map that in real time reflects the situation on the ground. Optimistically this would be seen much like a Battlefield Management System feed rather than a simple campaign map. This will obviously depend much on our final result but we aim for a good balance between realism and playability by average gamer

This ‘tactical’ drone-feed view is one mechanic they view as a unique selling point. The drone’s will take time to arrive, but will be key in recon or providing real-time observation over operations you launch. The development team want to provide an experience that skews towards realism, but is also entertaining and also doesn’t concern itself too much with bigger strategic aims.

... [the] game puts a strong emphasis on planning and balancing your limited resources (troops, hardware, bases) over a large area to win local population support while suppressing insurgency projecting force and decapitating its leadership. Execution of player orders is autonomous to a degree so it is not micromanagement like MoW or Wargame. Player arbitrates events with various support assets or can withdraw from engagements to fight another day but he/she will soon know preparation is essential.

For launch, the game is going to be very US-focused. You play the role as a US Military commander directing US troops. Local ANA forces might be present for specific operation types, but it doesn’t sound like they’ll be the same focus as in Rebel Inc. and A11 for training up new national units to take-over duties in the area. Similarly the other coalition forces aren't going to be present to begin with, although if all goes well they might get included in later.

I’ll be honest, I still don’t quite understand the desire to model conflicts like the War in Afghanistan, which is still on-going technically. Perhaps it’s because I’m from the UK and generally the conflicts in the Middle-East have entirely different meanings for us. We’re still hung-up on Prime Minister Tony Blair for helping to prosecute a very questionable war in Iraq, for example. Generally, I don’t think anyone in the US-led coalition comes off as the ‘good guys’ especially in the wider context of what’s happened in the area in the past couple of decades.

War Room RTS Drone Feed

My concern is that games that try to look at this conflicts too closely run the risk of being incredibly tone-deaf by either ignoring the wider context altogether and focusing just on the military challenges, or attempting to look at it and falling short in some way. The inherent bias of the US/Allied perspective on this war is always going to be a roadblock.

There are three other recent games that come to mind when I think of attempts to look at this subject:

  • Afghanistan ‘11 is a very dry, clinical game based on the COIN Doctrine. You must be nice to villages so they give you intel, and you use that intel to go hunt down insurgents. It’s got a heavy political element in that your main resource is the political will back home, and the goal is to actually extract US forces and train up local ANA units to do the job instead. It doesn’t really examine whether COIN is an effective strategy or not (many would say it isn’t), although it does convey the frustrating nature of counter-insurgency.
  • Rebel Inc. probably tries the hardest to be more considerate to what the reality is - it’s less about military operations and all about rebuilding war-torn areas. The insurgency forces will come to you, and your job is to play some kind of weird game of whack-a-mole to try and lock them out and eventually eliminate them, while mainly winning over the hearts and minds of the local populace. It’s very abstract, however.
  • Invasion Machine is an upcoming real-time tactical title that also completely removes itself from any ‘real’ place, but is definitely based on small-unit action in places like Afghanistan. Using a very Men of War-like design with a contextual action menu, you must control small groups of forces within sand-box style maps - fighting insurgents, conducting recon, but also helping with some rebuilding efforts.

Where War Room falls on this spectrum remains to be seen. It definitely wants to focus on the military operations side of things, and the producer cites a growing desire amongst the current generations to explore this conflict as well as laying down his own reasons for wanting to make this game:

Well this conflict is very intriguing, it is still quite current and sort of historic if you look at its height. Some events in game might still happen in reality. For example you might still hear about insurgent or terrorist leader being killed by SF or drone strike. Than some major events like operations Red Wings, Rock Avalanche or attack on Tora Bora are all in the past. I strongly believe those episodes have not been properly referred to in pop culture like multiple other conflicts have been exploited. We draw some inspiration from great documentaries like Restrepo or Korengal, movies like Lone Survivor, and multiple books by SF soldiers and commanders of this conflict. Game will carry a lot of those stories within it.

For my generation this war is something we remember well and might still relate to as war is ongoing and especially in the US many people know someone who served there. I have many player friends that were deployed to Afghanistan and wish to play a good strategy game based on that conflict.

It's early days, however: I can certainly appreciate some of the mechanics it's offering from a design perspective and see that it’d be ‘fun’ to play around with. How well the game treats the context of the conflict it’s modelling remains to be seen - videogames looking at the Vietnam War face similar issues, I feel, but I can easily give this project the benefit of the doubt for now.

There’s no release window stated for War Room, it just says ‘Coming Soon’. A focus test is due to start in around three months.

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