Inspired “by a concept devised by the BBC”, Slitherine and Matrix games’ Battlefield Academy should appeal to those of you who have been desperate for a Panzer General fix. In a world where “strategy” has become a videogame codeword for “He who clicks fastest, wins”, Slitherine is still developing turn-based games that are thoughtful, clever, and fun.
The presentation of Battlefield Academy is unusual for a wargame. Set in World War II, missions are introduced by a comic-book like splash screen – think of something from a late ’50′s era Sgt. Rock comic. The scenario is introduced (typically with a hint or two as to the optimal Allied strategy) and you are dropped in to the thick of battle. In all cases, you’ll control Allied forces – British, Polish, and American – and be fighting the Germans or Italians. The order of battle is largely set in advance, although you do get a limited number of points that you can spend on additional units to provide some degree of flexibility.
The scenarios themselves are not directly connected except insofar as they mirror the Allies progress through the war. Each scenario effectively introduces complex concepts (combined arms, ambushes, concealment, suppressing fire, artillery and airstrikes, and so on) in simple yet effective ways. Moves are “turn based with interrupts” – you can move all of your pieces, but if you move while within sight of an enemy, and they have movement points left, they might take a shot at you. Or vice-versa.
I’ve talked at length here on Tea Leaves of how fantastic I think Nintendo’s Advance Wars games. They’re tactically rich, yet don’t get lost in a maze of needless user interface complexity. Many PC games have tried, and failed, to pick up the flag that the Panzer General games placed on the hill of turn-based modern combat fun. Battlefield Academy is the only one I’ve played – on the PC – that actually succeeds. It is like an Advance Wars game that tries to teach you how to apply real-world military tactics. I unreservedly recommend it to anyone who is as enamored of turn-based combat games as I am.
Battlefield Academy by Slitherine and Matrix Games. $37.99. Windows only, but for those of you playing on the Mac, it runs acceptably in VMWare at low-ish resolutions.
Disclosure statement: Matrix and Slitherine graciously provided Tea Leaves with a review copy of this game.