0 General information
0.1 The setting
Germany at War : Barbarossa 1941 has its main focus on the years 1941 and 1942 of the German-Soviet war with the exception of some single maps covering later operations like Kursk 1943.
The core of the game is the Arkhangelsk-Astrakhan (or A-A) campaign during which you lead different army groups of the Axis that start with historical settings and are altered by the players decisions.
During the campaign the players' performance in the operations plays an important role. Success may open possibilities such as the occupation of Leningrad. Failure on the other hand may keep you from heading into a certain direction completely.
Prior developments in which members of the team were involved taught important lessons:
- difficulty should be customizable for higher re-playability
- the need of well designed means of communication between the player and the game.
- a complex conflict asks for a complex depiction in the set of rules
- variety is the spice of play
1. Easy access
1.1 Selecting difficulty
Before starting a scenario or one of the four campaigns the player can make several adjustments to the rules and give each side bonuses.
This way playing Germany at War can range from “a walk in the park” to “hell on earth” depending on the players choices. There are three presets that indicate three levels difficulty as a rule of thumb, but the player still can alter them at will.
On single maps you can also choose the side you want to play.
1.2 Clarity of rules
To avoid the players having to look into the manual when they originally wanted to play Germany at War we worked on a concept that could be called “Clarity of rules”. All actions of the player and the reaction of the engine should be as transparent as possible. To achieve this we took the following steps:
All buttons and icons have tool tips that explain the actions that can be taken with them and the rules they represent. This allows the player to know what he is looking at and what he can do in the menus without having to look it up elsewhere.
1.2.2 Expandable Panel
Units in Germany at War have a complex set of attributes that can be influenced by battle and player decisions. To enable the player to have a good overview over each unit we have included an expansion of the panel that can be activated if the player decides to. If its active, it will be displayed any time a unit is selected, no matter if its an enemy or friendly unit. With the panel activated all needed attributes are seen at once making the judgment of a unit an easy task without having to look it up in different windows.
1.2.3 Combat window
During combat, a lot of variables influence the result. All of them are listed in the combat window when you hover an enemy, fight a battle and after it until you click anywhere.
This way the player is completely informed about all things that shaped the outcome of an attack.
Even if the combat window is gone, the results still are available in the combat protocol that is kept on each map and can be looked up any time.
Hovering over the icons between the combatants will bring up tool tips with further explanations.
A player can thus learn which situations produce advantages and which disadvantages by studying the combat window.
If no combat is possible, there still is a reduced info about the outcome without the details. This way the player can have an impression how a unit would perform against any enemy seen on the map without the need to move it in the vicinity of them.
1.2.4 Better overview
As some areas of the Eastern Front are hard to distinguish we decided to add names of landmarks and urban areas to the map to provide the player a better orientation at one sight.
In addition to this, the map can be zoomed out to a point were a strategic overview is granted. Units will alter from 3D models to NATO symbols at a certain zoom level. Having said this: the player can choose to play with counters or 3D models.
2. Expanding the rules
Having the tools mentioned above in store, we now could expand the rules without making handling or learning the game too complex.
2.1 Unit scale
A game system of World War 2 without different kinds of formations, especially on an operational level seemed not suitable for us. So we introduced four different formations to model the units of the Eastern Front. In the game there are battalions, regiments, brigades and divisions, all with different attributes like maximum strength and combat penalties. This way the same equipment used in different formations has an different impact. In the end you will find recon battalions, artillery regiments, tank brigades and infantry divisions interacting with each other and depending on the circumstances with changing victors.
2.2 Support units
In order to enable the player to shape the units more in their liking there is the possibility to add support units to a formation.
The main unit has to reach a certain level of experience to unlock a slot for these support units. If this is used thoroughly units can be specialized in a certain area. A tank unit may get a collection of support companies to increase fuel and ammo stocks enabling it to make long range thrusts or you can add antitank companies to it to make it a tank killer unit.
After a campaign the player will have the units he prefers to use.
2.3 Unit modifiers
To simulate the different advantages and problems of the unit types they have unit modifiers. The obvious usage is modeling things like terrain penalties or bonuses. Tanks for example have a modifier if they attack urban areas which reduces their combat value to a high degree.
But these modifiers can do a lot more – they can change during the game depending on the date to simulate changes in the military doctrines on both sides.
Soviet tank units get a random penalty if they fight as they had a disastrous system of communication to coordinate an assault or a defense. In 1941 it was at its worst and improved during the war, so the penalty will get lower and lower as the war progresses. Again this differs units and nations you play in many ways.
3. Adding more spice
3.1 Mission ingredients
Besides the usual setting like starting date, the number of turns, weather conditions and the like there are some rules that can be altered by the designer. If the player has chosen detailed supply, the costs of fuel and ammo may vary. This is used to simulate harsh supply conditions during an operation like stressed supply lines or mud hindering supply.
Also besides simply conquering objects there are other mission objectives and combinations of objectives on the 67 maps of the game. In one mission you might have to reach certain positions and repair bridges, in another you have to eliminate the enemies elite formations.
3.2 Campaign specialty
There are several paths to complete the Arkhangelsk-Astrakhan campaign to increase re-playability The main paths are the ones of the Germane army groups and their original goals.
At several points of the game you have to shift forces to other fronts or regions. For this there is a special screen to transfer troops between two armies and to form a new force for a task.
The example on the image shows a transfer between Army Group Center and Army Group North to shift the main axis into the Arkhangelsk direction. In other situations you split you group into two to head in different directions like the Crimea and Rostov.
4. A story worth telling
Dealing with this conflict almost all day altered perspectives on many levels. But there is a special story to the development of Germany at War.
Having no musician in the team, we turned once more to Andrew Oudot to compose the soundtrack.
While working with him on the tracks we naturally also talked about the setting to provide the right feel for the game.
Now his name would not betray it but Andrew is living in Moscow and his ancestors are Russians. So his grandfathers were fighting the Germans during the invasion while one of the designers grandfathers was marching east. We cannot say for sure but they could have tried to kill each other in one of the battles of the Eastern Front back then.
And now here we are 70 years later - their grandchildren working together in good will and having a lot of fun creating a game about this deadly conflict.
We thought this was worth mentioning in this context.
Hopefully you enjoyed reading about the thoughts behind the game and we could arouse your interest in Germany at War.