From: Somerset, U.K.
Playing Japan, I remain committed to a CHS scen. 157 (Nik Mod) PBEM campaign in WitP. I am getting a lot of enjoyment out of this, so I see no reason to stop playing WitP classic.
I am also engaged in a Guadalcanal scenario PBEM in AE, so I can claim to have had limited exposure to AE as well. Once again I'm playing Japan, and even after making allowances for FOW I believe I have so far come out on top after the major carrier battle that took place in the last turn played. Although you might think that this would make me an ardent enthusiast of AE, I still have strong reservations about involving myself in an AE grand campaign. Why should this be so?
In the first place there still appear to be a number of rough edges to AE. The development team address these with commendable speed as they are identified, but problems still seem to be coming out of the woodwork, and it's unclear to me whether a satisfactory solution to some of them has yet been found. Before I commit a large proportion of my precious free time to a game, I want to be confident that it has attained a stable state such that my decision to proceed can take account of showstopper issues such as the pilot bug was in WitP . I don't feel AE has yet reached that state.
Second, AE is, in relation to WitP, 'much more of the same'. It is an entirely personal take with which many will doubtless disagree, but I think this was a mistake. Two obvious examples of the increased micromanagement burden are the setting of search arcs and aircrew training, now possible down to the level of the individual pilot. Yes, I know that you don't have to manage pilot training on an individual basis, but in a PBEM game the pressure upon you to wring the utmost from your assets makes it difficult to avoid doing so. And then you have to set the search arc for every damn search plane on two oceans - give me a break!
I am not saying that such matters are unimportant. But in reality it wasn't the Naval General Staff in Tokyo that set the disastrous Japanese air search plan at Midway, nor even was it V Adm Nagumo in Akagi's negligible flag plot. No, the search plan was down to Nagumo's air officer, Genda, but in AE you now have to shoulder his tasks as well as those of his immediate superior Nagumo and the NGS. Thus the design of AE takes you further down the path to tactical command decisions on which WitP had already embarked, and, as with WitP, there is no apparent design consistency in the extent to which you are permitted to interfere in such tactical decision-making. For example, you get detailed control over the altitude at which your aircraft engage, but no control whatsoever over the conduct of, say, a surface action - e.g. ship formation, evade or close, torpedo launch range, etc. Why is it that considerations such as aircraft altitude should be treated as being so much more important than the tactical formation adopted by your surface action group that you can control one but not the other?
I've long thought that the WitP design can be criticised for putting under player control an arbitrarily selected range of tactical decisions in what should have been exclusively a strategic/operational level wargame. It is a shortcoming that has been exacerbated in AE. The ability to re-assign Sakai Saburo from the Tainan Ku to some training outfit in Japan as an instructor may be a control freak's delight, but it's a poor substitute for the ability to devise and implement an effective pilot training organisation for Japan and assign to it an appropriate proportion of the national defence budget. In this respect AE compounds shortcomings in WitP's design and in the process obliges me to spend a disproportionate amount of time managing details that should be the responsibility of the staff rather than the commander in chief.
The dedication and sheer effort of a group of WitP enthusiasts in bringing its AE incarnation to market is magnificent, but do not entitle them to uncritical approval of their product. WitP was a flawed masterpiece from which I have got much pleasure whilst being aware of its shortcomings. In order to do justice to an AE game I anticipate having to spend a great deal more time dealing with similar minutiae to those for which I think its predecessor can be criticised. As a result, I fear it becomes more of a test of my capacity to absorb and manage detail than my ability to devise and implement sound economic and military strategies. And, frankly, I want a game that tests me as a strategist rather than as a micro-manager. Consequently I remain ambivalent about AE.