While World War II has proved to be a well-plundered source for computer war gamers over the years, the Great War has largely been ignored. Now this oversight has been adressed by Ageod, which was responsible for the recent Birth of America II game as well as Napoleon’s Campaigns and American Civil War.
Unfortunately things began badly for us when the installation disk took ages to kick in and do its job (even after switching computers). Even after installation there were several unexpected crashes that added to the frustration. That sinking feeling grew when we began to plough through probably the longest, most detailed and most tedious text tutorial ever created.
If you survive this, you’re then presented with a massive map (which peculiarly has been turned on its side so East points North) and the choice of being able to fight Battles, which cover small areas of the map, or Campaigns, which will occupy the complete area. In total there are five scenarios (including Palestine and Serbia) and four campaigns and you initially design a war plan to meet specific objectives; whether you want to be offensive or defensive and pick some bonuses.
There are two ways to win, bearing in mind this is a turn-based strategy game where each game term lasts one or two months of real time, divided into six phases (Events, Diplomacy & Technology, Redeployments, Reinforcements, Military and Siege Tests). The first way is purely militarily, by capturing the enemy’s capital, and this can only be done in the 1914 scenario. From 1915 onwards, trench warfare is the standard, so victory is politically engineered by forcing the opposition to capitulate.
As you might imagine, the micro-management is vast and for newcomers may well prove overwhelming. Diplomacy precedes the fighting as you try to get as many nations as possible to become allies, and a close eye has to be kept on your budget, research into new weapons technology and building up your army.
Your forces are stacked in an HQ and then activated to move out for engagement after being assigned specific tasks. In addition, there are over 200 historical leaders with unique abilities who can help influence events.
In practice there are no animations during movements and sometimes the bugs in the system mean movements are delayed or incomplete. The in-game music blares too loudly and can’t be controlled and the mini-maps and menus that are frequently needed are too large and cannot be repositioned or resized.
Getting to a battle seems to take forever, especially if you’ve unexpectedly crashed out of the game without warning. Something this unpolished would have resulted in a Court Martial in 1914.