The Operational Art of War IV by   Slitherine and Matrix Games    "It's here, it's here, let the b...

The Operational Art of War IV by Slitherine and Matrix games The Operational Art of War IV by Slitherine and Matrix games

The Operational Art of War IV by Slitherine and Matrix games

The Operational Art of War IV by Slitherine and Matrix games



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 "It's here, it's here, let the bells ring out, and the banners fly; feast your eyes on it, it's too good to be true, but it's here." With a little help from Bugs Bunny's genie, I am pleased to announce the arrival of 'The Operational Art of War IV'. TOAW has been with us for almost twenty years. Originally designed by Norm Koger and released by Talonsoft in 1998, this is the fourth (actually more) in the series. The game is a throwback to the times when a gamer would buy the entire battles of Napoleon or Civil War instead of just one or a few. The game shipped with more than 200 scenarios, but the release of new and older ones ported over to the updated engine is growing each day. These scenarios have been released in just the last few days:

Franco-Prussian War
Bitter Victory Sicily PO version (AI)
Coral Sea 1942 PO version (AI)
Bocage Hell  - Normandy at 1 km a hex
Europa 1947


 To go into the reasons that a person who owns TOAW III would want to buy the new version, I will let Slitherine and Matrix games give us a short run down, and then post a link to a discussion. The store page has these items listed:


"New naval warfare features

  • The modeling of ships has been improved. Instead of treating ships as a single piece of equipment, like a gun or a squad, they are now treated as complex systems that incur damage in combat. Ships have new armor, durability, accuracy, speed, and agility parameters.

  • Embarked units no longer employ their own strengths in defense. Naval combat now evaluates attackers’ Anti-Naval strengths as individual shots/planes – employing their shell weights to determine armor penetration and resulting damage.

  • Sea Interdiction can now be employed by aircraft, ships, and coastal guns. Ships subjected to sea interdiction fire counterbattery back (or, in the case of carriers, counterstrikes). 
New Supply system

  • There is now an intermediate supply state that falls between “Supplied” and “Unsupplied”. It’s called “Overextended”. A new parameter called the Overextended Supply Threshold has been implemented. That is the location supply value below which locations are overextended. Units in such hexes will function somewhat between how supplied and unsupplied units function. The result will be that it will be much more difficult for units to press on at red-lined unit conditions from such locations.

  • Motorized unit movement over improved roads can be set by the designer to be less than one MP per improved road hex (for example, ½ MP per hex). If optioned, this affects supply in that supply lines traced over improved roads will extend proportionately further than over other terrain, like regular roads. Note how this would especially affect desert scenarios.

  • The limit of 50% unit supply recovery per turn has been lifted. 
Other game features

  • Range Limits: Ranged units can have their nominal ranges player limited. This can be used to tailor bomber ranges to match fighter cover ranges or to make units with multiple range equipment operate within the range of the shortest-ranged equipment. The DBR will reflect the modified range.

  • Deployment Recovery: Ranged units retain their deployment states after combat and ground assaulters can recover theirs if a planned combat is canceled.

  • New Bridge Destruction Rules: There is an option to limit bridge hexes (for destruction purposes) to locations where the road feature graphically crosses the river feature.

  • Combat Report Review. Combat reports are saved in the pbl/sal files for review by both players during their player turns.

  • Adaptation of Matrix’s PBEM++ system."

   This link will take you to a post by 'Curtis Lemay' from the Matrix games forum that has a more in depth list of the game changes that are too numerous to list in this review:



  This is a post from one person who designed a scenario for the game 'Oberst_Klink':


"Well... $39 gets you... 72 cans (12fl.oz) of Milwaukee's Best in WV (at least when I was there), excluding the pills for reducing acid reflux. Now, seriously. The additional features (see Bob's reference) are more than worth it. As for me, I don't care about the UI; I want the inner works (under the hood?!) to be better than those of its predecessor. And they are. If I compare how the AI acted at my Tutorial '41 and now...woooo! The friggin' bugger even gave me a hard time! And I created the scenario to be a... walkover? As for me; I rather skip heartburn after 72 cans of MB's :)"


  To understand my take on the game, you have to know two things. I really have no interest in the North African WWII campaigns at all, and especially the later Tunisia campaign. I have read about both, but neither, especially the latter, has really caught my attention. For no particular reason, I fired up the 'Kasserine 43' scenario from the first screen. To be honest I was overwhelmed by the amount of the other scenarios to choose from. I fully expected to play one or two turns and then switch to a WWI scenario. The UI changes and the whole game presentation seems to be different in a new and exciting way for the better. I am now on the eighth turn of 'Kasserine 43' and I couldn't be more engrossed or happier. I have owned every iteration of the game that has been released. I have also played board wargames since the 1960s and computer ones starting in the very early 1980s. I have not been so engrossed by a pure wargame in many a year, and never by a scenario that I don't even enjoy reading about.



   
 I have taken Kasserine, and with four turns left I have an overwhelming victory, but the Free French and now the English are coming in as reinforcements. I think I have shot my bolt, and now I need to hang onto to the different victory point hexes I have. 





  Just as in history, the Kasserine attack was really just a spoiling one, and never had the forces needed to turn it into much more than that. I am pretty sure that my forces are now heavily outnumbered and even if I win this fourteen turn scenario, it will not really change the campaign one bit.




 I have no intention of wasting my troops with an attack, but I wanted to show the 'Combat Planner' screen. It is a godsend, and feels like having a chief of staff to turn to. 




 So my first fully played through game/scenario about the North Africa campaign is over. The Allies in the end did not have the overwhelming might I thought they would have, but still I was on the defensive. In this day and age where every minute of our lives count, it is still amazing to me that this game pulled me into a historical campaign that I never read about anymore. My gaming is almost always commanded by my reading. I read about a particular historical campaign, and then open up a game that deals with it. What might get the book publishers happy is that I am thinking of picking up a book about Kasserine. For a game to be able to have that impact, and not the other way around, is pretty amazing to me.




 This is a tiny scenario compared to the rest of the gaming goodness that is included with the game. Here is a screenshot of a much larger one that you can get lost in. This a shot of the 'Barbarossa 1941' scenario:




 This is a shot of the above scenario's bigger brother 'FITE II'. Fire in the East is the monster of monsters eastern front scenarios that comes with TOAW IV. Please, someone work on getting this beauty an AI.




  This is a screenshot of one of my favorite scenarios, the 1918 German offensives.


 


  This is a zoomed out shot of the Pacific War at 25 km per hex.



  This is the same scenario zoomed into New Guinea. 


 
   If you have never bought into the franchise, now is your time. For less than dinner with a friend, you will get enough gaming greatness to last a lifetime. For those of you like me who have every single one of the TOAW games and the old manuals it is well worth the money to invest again in the games future.

 I haven't even touched upon the new and vastly improved naval warfare. This part of the game has made Pacific Ocean scenarios and Mediterranean ones actually enjoyable. The AI in all of the scenarios I have tried seems to play much harder than I remember. The dedicated team that worked on updating this already great game to the level it is at now should be congratulated. I, for one, say thank you.


Robert 

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