Michael the Pole
From: Houston, Texas
November 16, 2008
I have just wasted 8 days of playing time on a 1939 campaign of the WWII/RTV v1.21.4 public beta. Imagine my horror on re-entering the forum and discovering that 1.21.5 beta has been released, and then my frustration at my inability to discover any readme or any other indicator of just exactly what the 1.21.5 contains.
Since I am unable to determine what, if anything, the design team concerned itself with repairing, I will assume that my concerns remain essentially unaddressed and will write the message that I have been composing in my mind for the last 4 or 5 days. I ask pardon for any problem I cover that has been taken care of. It seems to me that the latest patch is another attempt to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic by trying to fix the ground game while ignoring the 250 foot gash in the hull that are the naval and air games.
With the exception of those few juveniles out there (you know who you are) who believe that WWII consists of the Battles of First Smolensk to Second Kursk with some obscure minor explosions and scuffles taking place out in the unknown darkness on the periphery of the Solar System, it has been widely acknowledged in this forum that there are MAJOR flaws with the game that have to be addressed, and SOON! Most of the really stupid "house rules” can be traced to these problems. Despite the repeated requests that these problems be addressed, there has been nothing but roaring, echoing silence from the designers. I'm writing to inform the designers (and any poor ignorant victims who have not yet wasted their $50 on this turkey) that their continued silence on these issues has reached the level at which I am fed up, and will not waste another minute of my valuable gaming time until they publicly tell us what issues they intend to correct. I am going to number my concerns to more easily enable simple replies.
1) IMO the major problem with the game is the complete inability of the three major combat forces (air, naval and to a lesser extent ground forces) to interact. The absolute immunity of naval forces from air forces has so totally warped the game system that several of the most interesting and important campaigns and battles of the War have completely disappeared (i.e. Norway, the aerial Battle of Britain, the invasion of Crete and the entire campaign for the control of the Central Med and Malta, the Battle of the Atlantic, etc. etc etc...) Many of the worst "house rules" are instituted to hide this problem (more on this later!) Several excellent and easily implemented fixes for this disaster have been put forward in this forum, but the design team has not even bothered to acknowledge the posts, much less indicated that they intend to repair it. This verges on professional malpractice (if such a thing was possible for game designers. Perhaps, considering that it has cost all of us the equivalent of $50, fraud would be a more accurate description!) There are a number of specific problems with how airpower is addressed within the game, and I will be happy to justify my opinions in further posts if desired (because this one is going to be so VERY long.) Additionally, I believe that a number of other members of this forum can easily add to my list:
1a) I feel that the basic combat system for aircraft can be easily modified to solve most of the "problems inherent in the system" (where have I heard that before?) Adding buttons (missions) for activated air units for "Strategic Bombing" and "Anti-shipping" missions (for air units located in coastal hexes - which would identify the Naval Zone they would effect), and "Anti-transportation" missions (if the idea proposed to place railroads on the map for supply purposes is implemented) would go a long way to adding a third dimension to the game.
1b) Aircraft carriers should act as normal naval vessels with a surface strength of 4 and starting air strength of 4. After all, CVs were essentially weak when faced with other naval units, and their major strength was the effect of their air wings. However, most carrier air wings numbered fewer than 100 aircraft (and non-American carriers carried fewer than that. When you consider that an "air army" as currently used in the game (USAAC 8th Air Force, RAF Bomber and Fighter Commands, German Luftflottes all numbered, at one point or another, over 1000 aircraft each) giving a carrier an air strength of "4" is quite generous. However, the current value of "12" is utterly ridiculous. Carrier aircraft historically performed all of the proposed missions (precedent available on request.)
1c) One effect of my proposed air/naval unit changes would be an encouragement to buy and maintain a much larger number of smaller air units to enable the accomplishment of many more air missions, rather than have one or two air armies stomping around the map like dinosaurs. I think that this would greatly increase play value.
2) The current system of "house rule" is inexcusable, as they represent a cheap and easy CHEAT to enable the game to supervent the effect of the game systems inability to recreate events that we know should be POSSIBLE, but should not be inevitable. The more of them that are necessary show how seriously flawed the game system is. I will list the few that stuck in my mind during my recent attempt to play the 1939 campaign game, I invite or players to add to this list. I'll try to briefly demonstrate how they could be replaced by fixes to the system.
2a) The "Malta effect" event can be eliminated by introducing the air forces rules suggested in #1, above.
2b) The "Allied paralysis" event can be fixed by increasing the starting tech level for the Germans armor, artillery and air forces by one. I believe that there is strong historical evidence to support this fix.
2c) Additionally, the German tech level for surface vessels should start at one higher than the British navy, as well. (There is plenty of evidence that the Admiralty absolutely refused to engage Bismarck or Tripitz with fewer than 2, and preferably 3, King George V class battleships, and the same applied to the German 8 inch cruisers vs. allied cruisers. As far as the R class battleships went, Churchill repeatedly described them as "floating coffins.")
2d) The "Hitler destroys the Maginot line" event is historically absurd. Not only did the Germans make great use of the Maginot Line against Patton and the U.S. Third Army in 1944-45, but the French Army reoccupied the Line after the end of the war, and continues to use part of the Line to this day for a command post. I defy the designers to give ANY historical justification for this event.
2e) The mandatory "Russia declares war" event in January '42 is almost as unjustified as the Maginot Line rule. Surely the designers realize that Stalin was so TERRIFIED of the German Army and Air force that he authorized his Foreign Minister Molotov to essentially offer Hitler the entire store in Spring 1941 in an attempt to buy any more time possible. He was so convinced that the USSR would be quickly destroyed in a war against Hitler that he refused to listen to any warnings of a German impending attack (from any source whatsoever, either Churchill, the Soviet NKVD, his best intelligence agents such as Richard Sorge, or the Soviet Air force.) When the Germans attacked in June '41, he actually retreated into psychotic catatonia so severe that he refused to so much as answer the telephone for a period of at least 5 days, until someone pointed out that they were all doomed if he didn't pull his head out. To imagine that Stalin would voluntarily attack the Germans less than 6 months later is so unthinkable as too induce speechless amazement! A simple solution is to slowly increase the war level of the Soviet economy by 5% per turn beginning in June 1940, reaching 120% sometime in 1943 (possibly randomizing the rate to provide a fog of war effect.) There should also be a negative effect on German political unrest to simulate the Anti-Comintern priority of the Nazi Party. See # 2g, below.
2f) The same reasoning applies to the automatic declaration of war by the United States. Both Roosevelt and even more Churchill were deeply worried that Hitler would not declare war as required by his Axis Pact agreement with Japan following Pearl Harbor because both Allied leaders KNEW that the U. S. Senate would certainly refuse to do so without a previous declaration from the Nazis. A better way to handle it is to both increase American Naval activity in the Western Atlantic turn by turn, while slowly increasing social unrest in Germany until it declares war. This increased unrest should be slower than that induced by failure to attack the USSR.
2g) There must be a way to add to social unrest in every country, eventually resulting in a coup against the wartime regime. The drumbeat of defeats suffered by the Churchill regime culminating in the loss of Singapore in Jan '42 would probably have resulted in a vote of no confidence if the English had lost Egypt and or the Suez Canal before the entry of the U. S. into the war. Another example is the coup attempt against Hitler in 1944. It would be vastly superior to add such a system of positive or negative movement of the social unrest system than the present house rule system.
2h) The house rule restricting entry to the Baltic to the player controlling Copenhagen is equally ridiculous and could easily be replaced by adding the naval/air rules suggested above.
3) There are many flaws in the naval rules (in addition to the changes that would allow interaction with aircraft.)
3a) There must be a better way to handle tactical combat between naval vessels than the current random system. The frustration involved in sending the first German carrier to sea accompanied by 12 small vessels and 3 battleships only to see it attacked and sunk by a pair of British cruisers is akin to having your grandmother mugged outside a police station by a pair of thirteen year old gang bangers. I put my ability to suspend disbelief up against anyone’s, but C'MON!
3b) Despite common belief, all naval vessels are not created equal. A 14 inch gun battlewagon was essentially helpless in the face of a submarine torpedo as was shown over and over again from the Royal Oak to the attack of the Italian mini subs at Alexandria. Watching the Repulse and Renown sweep through the German sub flotillas like lawn mowers on a golf green is almost as bad as 3a (above!)
3c) The repair of warships may rank as the worst abomination in the game. Serious damage might easily take months or years to effect, and could only be accomplished in a very limited number of ports. I realize that this may be shocking news to you guys, but this is a COMPUTER game! Games have managed to delay the return of damaged units for reasonable periods of time to simulate repairs going all the way back to hand drawn paper counters. Ports should be differentiated by their importance and capacity and repairs only allowed in the most important. Repairs should also take at least a month for each point of damage repaired.
3c) Differentiating the value of each port (say from 1 - 4, with any coastal hex being a one, up to 4 for major naval bases with permanent dry-docks such as Brest, Toulon or Kiel) would allow for attempts to destroy port facilities, and would replicate the stranding of major units such as what happened to the French battleships in North Africa or the Tripitz in Norway. By allowing most or all coastal hexes to have some small port capacity (even if to simulate dragging supply in over the beaches) you could avoid situations such as I discovered when I moved a German Luftflotte onto Rhodes prepatory to an air assault of Cyprus only to be told that the unit couldn't be supplied and have it stuck there like Brer Rabbit stuck to the Tar Baby.
3d) The current complete inability to have any knowledge of enemy naval strength in a sea zone is totally inaccurate. Perhaps maintaining an air unit in a naval zone should permit you at least general knowledge of the enemy’s naval strength.
Having purposely waited 24 hours before submitting this post, I have cooled off enough to try to end it on a more positive note. Road to Victory has SO much promise to be more than the usual shopping carts across the steppes game. A small amount of work could add a real simulation of the air war, with the Luftwaffe going after British production and ports, the USAAC trying to destroy the German rail net in occupied France prior to Overlord, desperate land/sea and air campaigns to control Norway or the Central Med while a rat fight is waged with knives and broken ships over control of Malta, German railroad troops desperately trying to push their railheads into Russia before the winter sets in. We could have a real Battle of the Atlantic fought over three years in a way that would give the player the sensation that Churchill felt when he said that the war against the wolf packs was the only time he had ever really despaired over the final outcome of the war. It could be a GREAT game, a game people would play and talk about for years.
But you have to tell us that you're going to try to make this more than sitting around, waiting for Fell Barbarosa. Because, I've had it. I'm not going to throw more of my limited gaming time down the rat hole after my 50 bucks. This is my challenge to the design team. I'd like you to address each point in this post, acknowledge that you see a problem, and make a commitment to fix it.
Because, otherwise I'll just deres RTV from my hard drive, send in my review to Gamespot, and wait for World in Flames to come out.