Review: Strategic Command Classic: WWI08 Jan 2018 0
Review: Strategic Command Classic: WWI
Released 07 Dec 2017
While I have some experience with Strategic Command: WWII in Europe (SC:WiE), it was my first contact with the SC series from Fury Software, one of which features World War I, or The Great War, that came out going on seven years ago. Originally titled Strategic Command WWI: The Great War, and released through Battlefront.com, it has recently been updated/renamed to ‘Classic’ (SCC:WWI), and re-issued via Steam and the Matrix/Slitherine website. Although we at Wargamer.com reviewed it upon initial release, we felt that this development merits another look – and so here we are!
The update includes the expansion Breakthrough, which offered new features as well as several more scenarios/campaigns, now ranging from the full campaign “Call to Arms”, through Gallipoli, the Russian Civil War, and T.E. Lawrence in Arabia, adding the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, 1912 in the Balkans, Jutland, and many others. I won’t mention the ‘new’ features, since it seems superfluous; simply click ‘Play Breakthrough’ from the game menu rather than ‘The Great War’, and you get everything. In addition there is a 90pp PDF manual, and each includes an Editor to make one’s own scenarios.
Having played SC:WiE, everything seems very familiar, starting with Options, the interface, including game systems and concepts, to general objectives and menus. I suggest perusing my review of the latter, since it seems redundant to go over everything again; Military Production Points (MPP), unit Readiness and Morale, National Morale (NM), Action Points (AP), Supply, HQ attachment, weather, and so on, work virtually identically, albeit attacking and moving do involve significant differences. First I should mention some other obvious dissimilarities, which in no way should be taken as negatives – we’re talking about a seven-year-old game, after all; one shouldn’t expect state-of-the-genre graphics nor as deep AI or gameplay. Having said that, despite rather pixelated graphics, I thought the building icons for settlements and mountains quite striking, even bocage represented. Further, in limited testing the AI appears more or less as competent as later iterations.
Nice to See You Again!
Upon starting a game the most obvious difference, other than the graphics, is the square grid rather than the more traditional hex mode. At first I found it tricky to place and move units, as well as recognise adjacency; those east-west connections are problematic, as units that appear to be in the rear echelons can actually be on the front! Thus, I recommend turning on the grid (g) as an aid, at least until you get familiar with the nuances. I also suggest using NATO symbols rather than the 3D units, since I found the latter very hard to make out. Although they look quite smart – uniforms etc. depicted – the pixelation was just too much for me; I wanted to zoom in farther to better discern them, but… One may get used to them, too, but I had limited time to find out. I also found the briefings (Strategic Advice) difficult to read – I know it can’t be failing eyesight! – so hopefully something can be done to enhance their readability; simple better contrast would help.
Other dissimilarities are technological, as might be imagined, albeit I’m not referring to the game system of tech Research but rather the efficacy of units such as submarines and carriers, for example. I doubt any reader would be surprised at this revelation, even newcomers to the genre, but it would behove the latter to apprise themselves of the nuances of WWI as opposed to WWII, especially if migrating from SC:WiE or if one has little experience with games covering The Great War. For example, although there are very similar ‘tech trees’, Gas/Shell Production is one important variance; you’ll need to keep up on this if you don’t want your arty to run out of ammo!
The last significant difference that I mentioned above is the way combat and movement work, specifically in regards to ‘activation’: Once a unit moves it must attack before you release it or else it becomes inactive until next turn, even if it still has AP; there is no ‘blitzkrieg’ where you can move several units up into position, then attack with each in succession, thus punching a hole in enemy defences. Think of it like chess; once you let go your piece, your move is over. You can, however, move after a prepared attack – one that takes place prior to movement – and this is an important factor to consider; withdrawing a potentially battered unit to immediately replace with a fresh one can be critical, and the careful sequencing of move/attack seems even more important than usual. I have to say this effectively models the more static nature of the front in WWI, but it was a sharp learning curve for me, at least. There are also variances in the way the Battle of the Atlantic proceeds, including the placement of ‘merchant icons’ on the sea map for raiding, and the way destroyers always spot subs, but these are much easier to absorb.
I can say that SCC:WWI is likely the best simulation of The Great War that I have played, albeit I have to admit quite limited experience in the era. Having come at it with some familiarity of at least one of Hubert Cater’s and Bill Runacre’s successor properties, however – and being duly impressed with said effort – I can see myself playing it a lot more. I’ll have to in order to become comfortable with its nuances, especially since my ‘usual’ Axis/Germany comes with some added wrinkles such as managing Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire – with no AI to which I can turn them over – and trying to prevent Romania’s and Italy’s entry into the war against me. But then, this is a good thing, is it not, variety being the spice of life?
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