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Operational Art of War: A Century of Warfare, The

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs




Copyright 2000, Talonsoft

As with the Campaign series, Talonsoft’s Operational Art of War is also a story of releases, re-releases, scenario packs, special editions….Personally, I don’t like this marketing approach, as you can never be sure to have the definitive version of a game. The Operational Art of War was released as Part 1 (1939-1955), Part 2 (1955-2000), Wargame of the Year (Part 1 with scenario pack), and A Century of Warfare edition, which not only includes the scenarios of Pts. 1 and 2, but also the engine has been enhanced to allow for the depiction of World War 1 units, additional scenarios are included.

The Operational Art of War is another masterpiece by Norm Koger who had worked for years for SSI. His goal was to develop an engine that is capable to simulate any given operational situation in warfare between 1914 and today. And, if I may say so, he has succeeded.

The engine allows for vast variety. Scenarios can be different scales: a hex can be between 2.5 and 50 km wide. Turns can be between half a day and a week. Of course, the units tag along, as they can have the sizes of anything between batallion and division. Triggers, and in-game options further enhance the variability. Will the Germans declare war on the US? Will Spain enter on Germany’s side into the war? Will The Americans nuke East Germany to halt a Warsaw Pact invasion?

So, how does the game play? Basically, you click on the unit(s) you want to move and rightclick where they shall go. Pop up menus allow you toselect special orders: board train, local reserve (unit will aid attacked allies), dig in…. The units are set up with realistic equipment and numbers. You can tell how much infantry, tanks, guns are in a unit and losses are also presented in this detailed manner. The engine takes into account many factors. Attacking units that belong to the same formation receive bonuses. Weather affects supplies. Fatigue and density of troops in one hex further take influence on your unit’s performance. Not to mention experience and equipment. While you should keep all those factors in mind, the game keeps them mostly under the surface to leave the decision making to you, and presenting you only with the data you really need to know. Air and artillery support can also be plotted manually, or if you don’t want to busy yourself with it, the computer will set this automatically. Hint: Don’t let the computer conduct nuclear strikes on its own, though, as it will likely strike where you least need it.

Scenarios are available in abundance on the web. There you’ll find anything from full World War 2 scenarios, a civil war in Sierra Leone, and the Spanish Civil War, to hypothetical NATO vs. Warsaw Pact, or India/Pakistan scenarios.

Gripes about the game? Well, a few. The most important one being that the detailed somposition of units makes it difficult for scenario designers to make realistic units, and many would just go for the eventual strength of a unit. That’s bad, as all the equipment (anti tank, anti air, artillery, infantry, tanks, etc.) are a factor in the game. That is also the problem during the game. In scenarios with over a hundred units you simply don’t look at what’s in a unit and hope that the designer picked the right tactical symbol for the unit, looking at the overall stength of a unit only.

However, that takes only bits from an otherwise great game system that is versatile and customizable like no other. If you are interested in strategic operations on a larger scale, this is the game for you.

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