Okay folks, my 2 cents worth on first impressions. I have played about 6 games now, both WP and NATO. All of the games have been against the AI. This is a truly elegant game system! I absolutely love the "feel" of the game. It is one of the few games that gives a pretty good sense of the "fog of war" at this level. I have been able to conduct several delays in a manner that closely mirrors my experience from actual operations. The reason I mention this is that most grand tactical games are way too sterile or bland to realistically portray the difficulty and risk involved in trying to delay, maintain contact, and NOT TO BECOME DECISIVELY ENGAGED. This game models these challenges very well! Great Job Rob and Matrix. The information flow is pretty close to what one actually experiences in a brigade or battalion tactical operations center (TOC). I am generally very impressed.
The mechanics of the manipulating information and units have been very easy and initutiative so far in my playing of the game. Lots of flexibility and very stable. The presentation of the game, ie. maps, units, sounds, etc. is clear and simple. That being said, I am the type of person that likes clarity over bells and whistles.
The game system seems to have true depth. There appears to have been a tremendous amount of both research and testing on the system. Upon review of Rob Crandalls' many posting on specifics of his programing I am very impressed. Most of all the "action" that happens during the game makes sense to me. The effects of losses on morale, the fog of war reference both friendly and enemy forces, all ring true. Overall the game seems to have a nice balance between micromanagement vs no control over the games parameters and actual game play.
On the negative side, my initial reactions are as follows: The AI appears to be relatively weak. This shouldn't come as any surprise to veteran computer wargamers. I have handily beat the AI in both offense, defense, and as both WP and NATO. However, the AI should provide enough challenge to get a player trained to go after live opponents. I truly believe this where the game will excel! The ability to either PBEM or play through the internet will make this a fun and challenging game to play.
The lack of separate dismounted infantry units is a negative. This has been addressed in other threads. All I can say here is that Rob and Matrix are aware of this issue and hope to address it.
The other negative that I have is the lack of engineer units with their unique capabilities on map. Rob has built into the "system" this support but I believe this is a weakness. The holy trinity in defensive operations are direct fire, indirect fire, and obstacles. The ability to synchronize these three features are the direct responsibility of both the battalion commander and the brigade commander. The challenge that the commander has reference this in the defense is that there is never enough engineers! The commander must weigh his priorities and work accordingly. I think the game tends to gloss over this challenge.
In the offense, mobility operations are crucial to the success of mission accomplishment. For example, breaching operations are ususally one of the major tasks to accomplish in order to seize the objective. The current game system does not take into account the engineer assest required to do this. SOSR (Suppress the far side, Obscure the obstacle, Secure the far side of the obstacle, and Reduce the obstacle) operations are key tenants that a battalion and brigade commander must plan and execute in the offense. Additionally, bridging and fording operations are major challenges for the battalion and brigade commander. Once again precious and usually scarce engineer units are the key to success. I hope that engineers will be further developed and incorporated in the future game system.
Okay, enough of the negatives. This is great game so far. I think I will be spending a lot of my future free time playing this game. Additionally, the very reasonable pricing of the game shouldn't frighten anyone from giving it a spin. I highly recommend it so far.
Lastly, my experience reference support of this game has been great. All of my questions and issues have been rapidily responded to on the forums. This has not been a paid political announcement! This is a great game system that I think with some tweaks could be an all time great.
Regards and see you on the battlefield!