Wars Across the World has been quietly evolving into the ultimate war games platform29 Jan 2020 0
Although I’m retired, on more than one occasion I’m only able to indulge my wargaming sweet tooth for but a few precious hours, as that’s all the time my sweat and toil will allow. That means Avalon Digital’s Wars Across the World (or WAW for short), the result of a Kickstarter back in 2016. WAW isn’t really a game, but a game engine that uses a common core set of rules to play military campaigns throughout history. The system uses area-based movement and a digital card deck for things like random events and reinforcements, altogether producing games playable in no more than four hours, and most in two and a half.
The late Jim Cobb gave us an excellent blow by blow review of exactly how WAW plays back in May 2017, so don’t expect a lot of repetition of that perspective this time around. Instead, consider this an update. A lot has changed since then, all for the better, with even some of Jim’s few reservations kicked into the void.
Setting the Record Straight(er)
Nonetheless, before we get to the main course, I would like to expound on a couple of things from Jim’s previous article. First, the graphics are really, REALLY good. How good? Right now, if I had to pick the best graphics in the hex and counter world, it would be those coming out of Compass Games or Lock'n Load. WAW reminds me of their presentations, with maps specially designed in period style and historically accurate counters. And by accurate, I mean down to regimental facing color accurate. OK, not really, but close, all within a very eye pleasing color palette.
Second, though the game may look pretty simple and vanilla, it's actually a very detailed and complex affair. However a lot of this is taken care of under the hood, so the player likely doesn’t notice and this allows him to become fully immersed in minor stuff like strategy and tactics. Each turn can have up to 13 different phases, for example, and that’s quite a lot for something 'simple'. Also, if you read the 116 page players manual (and I recommend you do; no worries because there are lots of large images and diagrams) you’ll find out interesting tidbits about unit designations. Otherwise you might not know Skirmish units can only inflict morale loss, never casualties, while Guard units never suffer morale loss at all. So, if you think WAW is pretty much a beer and pretzels game, you might want to rethink that notion.
Finally, online support is really well done and has been since the beginning. Each DLC in WAW has its own individual page, tabbed into four sections - Features, Learn More (to include a full color spread of the map, counters and card deck), Configuration (very modest PC specs needed) and Downloads, the latter featuring a detailed, scenario presentation pdf. It's not really try before you buy but serves much the same purpose.
Supercharging the Engine
But that was then, and this is now. Since WAW first hit the scene back in 2017, Avalon Digital has really done an excellent job keeping the game updated. What seems to happen is that while Avalon does have an update or two when needed, there is always an end of year update that not only fixes bugs, but adds options for current scenarios based on the need for these mods in new DLCs to be published in the upcoming year.
If you re-download the basic game engine, the future options become available for the DLCs you already have. Thus, this past December the WAW engine got its yearly update which did include seven minor bug fixes (eg, changing the AI level in-game), but, more importantly, 14 gameplay mods. For just a taste of what I’m talking about, here is a short sampler:
- (Replacements) Implemented a system allowing to schedule replacements through the Reinforcement system without need to use cards.
- (Battle) Implemented a new rule allowing a fortress assault (resolved by a battle with specific combat factor modifiers) instead of besieging the structure. Assaulted fortresses have a default garrison to defend them, added to the regular units that maybe already be in fortress.
- (Structures) Added per-structure option to limit the number of units that can enter a structure (leaders excluded from the count).
- (Replacements) It is no longer possible to assign replacements to stacks that are not currently in a supplied region.
- (Reinforcements) Added scenario option to hide AI's reinforcements.
The second big change is that the WAW engine now has a separate Scenario/DLC Editor as a two-file free download. One is the actual editor itself, and the other is a set of sample levels. The latter includes the complete templates for Hastings 1066, Saratoga 1777 and Normandy 1944, acting as both examples and hands on training for developing your own campaigns. Alternatively, I believe it’s possible to modify these specific templates and replace the originals in WAW if you own those three specific DLCs.
The editor itself is a huge visual contrast to the game. Frankly, it has one of the most butt-ugly UI presentations I’ve ever seen. Nevertheless, it is pretty intuitive and, backed up by an extensive instruction manual, seems to work just fine. Indeed, some published DLCs were community mods using the software.
Expanding the Inventory
Now for the biggie. Back in May 2017 WAW boasted 17 different DLCs, nearly all at the operational or campaign level although named after the principal battle thereof. Now there are 40 of these critters. Sorry, I lied. There are actually 42 DLCs, but the last two have just been released and thus are not yet on Steam. The two uber newbies are Bosworth 1485 from the War of the Roses, accompanied by Franche-Comte 1636 from the 30 Years War, the latter including a stout diplomatic option that allows victory via a peace treaty.
The way Avalon markets WAW is that outside the core software, which comes with its own scenario suite, between 10 and 12 additional DLCs are produced each year. At the end of the year, the entire set is packaged as a single product called a Season. Thus, everything produced for 2019 is considered Season III in the product line. Most are listed at 2,99 €, though a few oversized DLC sell for two Euros more. They are known as Expanded scenarios and can include more than a single battle scenario within the package, also a change.
For the recent 2018 Season the DLCs were Byzantium 1116, Armada 1588, Persia 1856, Finland 1918, Estonia 1918, Malaya 1941, Sicily 1943, Koenigsberg 1945, Rhodesia 1972, and Gulf War 1990.
For the just concluded 2019 Season the new DLCs were Illyria 229 BC, Fornovo 1495, Mexico 1519, Gandamak 1842, Serbia 1914, Switzerland 1937, Burma 1942, Coral Sea 1942, Nordwind 1945, and Uganda 1979.
I had a chance to play a couple of DLCs from the 2019 Season and found them competitive, realistic and great fun. There were no bugs to be had, and unlike Jim in his original review, the AI did not come across as “suicidal”. That said, I did read on the WAW forum where the AI has actually been programmed to deliberately make mistakes at the Voluntary setting, so if you want unpredictable, play thusly.
Is This Your Final Offer?
I’ve always liked Wars Across the World. Not only is the series a set of excellent, challenging games, but the concept fills a niche too often ignored in our admittedly niche hobby. Yes, WAW is a lot more realistic, detailed and complex without showing itself to be so, but certainly not something like Matrix World in Flames. This is good because sometimes you don’t have the time, sometimes the ole noggin just needs a break and sometimes you just don’t have the hardware. When I’m away from home I run a Microsoft Surface Pro, latest iteration, and that’s a pretty high speed device. However, there are still many games it will not run, but WAW does not fall into that category. It runs just fine and the breadth of campaigns covered makes it run that much better.
Bottom line? I got my Steam Shekels ready for when Bosworth and Franche-Comte finally hit, and I could care less if they are on sale or not.