Decisive Campaigns: Barbarossa Review
In the begining there was the much liked Decisive Campaigns: The Blitzkrieg from Warsaw to Paris followed by the highly praised Decisive Campaigns: Case Blue and at the same time Vic the main man at VR designs was developing the much loved Advanced Tactics. So far his games had all been very well received especially Advanced Tactics and the later Gold version which soon gathered a large fan base and modding community. Then we waited....
First we found out a new face was developing the next Decisive Campaigns game, a soon to be heralded innovative genius, a man called Cameron. Cameron was going to be the man behind VR Designs immersive masterpiece. However before we fully understood what was coming our way Cameron drip fed us game development updates. First we found out it would be at a slightly higher scale than the two previous games, which I must admit was a little disappointing for this lover of the lower scale wargame, and next we found out its name and the period the game would cover, it's name Decisive Campaigns: Barbarossa the period, well, erm, Barbarossa, which was the name the Germans gave to the first phase of their invasion of Russia during WW2.So pretty standard fair so far wouldn't you say? Well carry on reading....
Once the basic game info had been announced then development updates started to get more and more interesting. Slowly, agonisingly slowly each update brought us more and more information on the games new features. Features that where way more than just interesting, they where fascinating to those who started to take note on what was being developed. I was one of those who linked many times to the updates across the forums trying to get the word out. You see Cameron was trying to overcome something that I've found has been the main reason why I have struggled to enjoy wargames above say Coy scale. That something is 'Immersion'. He was developing what I can only describe as a roleplaying element that was not just some gimmicky way to add immersion but would actually have an impact upon that wargame itself. Here was a developer finally willing to take a risk and do something new, something innovative. Innovation has been a very rare thing in wargame development and is something I've been crying out for for awhile.
You can either take the role of a member of the German High Command or if playing as the Russians Stalin himself where you not only have to do the usual hex based wargame thing of moving your divisions in sweeping encirclements or constantly having to manage your depleted divisions as you desperately try to plug the gaps and stem the enemies advance, but you also have to manage relationships with other high ranking commanders, plus deal with all kinds decisions that could have an affect, either positive or negative, on how successful you will be in completing your objectives. Well if all this held together it was going to be awesome, if not it would no only be bad news for VR Designs but could also put others off from trying something new and innovative themselves.
Well the game was released to an expectant crowd and boy we weren't disappointed. The way you have to deal with the chain of command by managing those important relationships plus make important far reaching strategic decisions turned what would have been a very good traditional hex based wargame into a tour de force. As soon as you start the campaign you can see that this is something different to other wargames you've played. First off there is an option asking if you want to stay within the Geneva Convention. The lets say you decide to play as the Germans, straight away you have to decide whether to go along with Hitlers plans or suggest alternatives. Soon other decisions have to be made, for example whether your going to join the "Party" or not. You'll be asked to make tough choices on things ranging from giving out a unit commendation or sorting out propaganda photo shoot to logistical decisions like worker allocations for the rail way conversions or tyre replacement priorities for Army transports. All these things require political points, or PP as they are called, and if your not careful you'll soon find you have no points left to make certain major decisions which most likely will result in a bad outcome. So even this aspect has to be thought about very carefully. Do you spend points on that tyre decision or leave it to others in case you need those points for something more vital later? Then you have the tried and tested wargame mechanics from the two previous games. With the brilliant card driven mechanics and excellent simultaneous turn resolution. Each turn has extensive staff officer reports to go through which never become a chore and again show huge amount of detail that's gone into the game. The integration between the wargame and the new roleplay decisions making features coupled with the excellent staff officer reports and briefings creates a fantastic, exciting, immersive and all round bloody marvellous wargame experience.
Now there are plenty of reviews of the game across the internet that show that Cameron achieved what he set out to do, not just well, but extremely well. The game has received the highest plaudits across the internet including several awards one of which was Grogheads "Digital Wargames of the Year". There have been some minor bumps in the road along the way. Some say the map isn't particularly attractive. Others found playing the Germans and trying to get anywhere near an historical result let alone any better to be extremely difficult. However, overall in my opinion, there is no better wargame out there at this scale. Yes there are games that cover so much more than just a small period of time during WW2 but they can't compete when it comes to immersion which DC : Barbarossa has through it's clever role play features and coupled with a great hex based wargame then you have some very happy wargamers.
At last DC: Barbarossa has been released on Steam and with this release also comes a new update packed full of improvements and new features. First off we have a new map which is an improvement of the previous one (though I still prefer a modded one you can download here). Also new counter art for those who like that sort of thing. Another great little feature is a War Diary where at the start of a game a division of yours is chosen and you'll get to read a War Diary written by a solider in that division which he updates as fighting continues. The poor chap may even get killed! This is just typical of the effort Cameron has gone to create an immersive high scale wargame.
So if you haven't already got this triumph installed proudly on your hard drive then what are you waiting for?? Go buy it!!
Game: Decisive Campaigns: Barbarossa
Developer: VR Designs
Publisher: Slitherine\Matrix games
Steam Release Date:29\04\2016
Review Date: 03\05\2016