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 yours is 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 from pts. 1 and 2, but also the engine has been enhanced to allow for the depiction of World War 1 units, with additional scenarios 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 was capable of simulating any given operational situation in warfare between 1914 and today. As far as I can tell, he succeeded.
Scenarios can have different scales: a hex can be between 2.5 and 50 km wide. Turns can be between half a day and a week. The units correspondingly can have sizes of anything between batallion and division. Triggers and in-game options further enhance the versatility. Will the Germans declare war on the US? Will Spain enter on Germany's side? Will The Americans nuke East Germany to halt a Warsaw Pact invasion?
So, how does the game play? Basically, you select units and right-click to move. Pop-up menus allow you to select 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, or guns the unit has 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 have further 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, can be automatized. 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. You'll find anything from full World War 2 scenarios, a civil war in Sierra Leone and the Spanish one too, to hypothetical NATO vs. Warsaw Pact, or India/Pakistan scenarios.
Are there any gripes about the game? Well, yes, a few, the most important one being that the detailed composition of units makes it difficult for scenario designers, making many of them simplify this aspect. That's bad, as all the equipment (anti-tank, anti-air, artillery, infantry, tanks, etc.) is an important part of the game. That is also the problem during the game. In scenarios with over a hundred units you're simply not going to check each unit's exact set-up, instead hoping that the designer picked the right tactical symbol for the unit so it does what it's supposed to.
However, that's a small downside to this 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.
The series has had three more entries: see here for the latest one.
Reviewed by: Sytass