I’ve been getting all giddy recently, listening to Jeff Shaara’s World War II Audiobook epic, The Rising Tide. Fuelled by my lust for real-time operational play in Command ops: Battles from the Bulge, I began to explore some turn based WWII games, especially the more recent releases.
I’d purchased Wastelands Interactive’s Time of Wrath (ToW) when it was first released, but had only given it a cursory glance, whilst ploughing my Sherman through some other titles. The day had come for their followup game Storm Over the Pacific (SOtP) to be released, so I thought I’d complete the WWII theatre of war with that too. Wrestling with the opaque tutorial included with SOtP, one of the Wasteland Interactive team (doomtrader) began releasing some short video tutorials on various mechanics in the game, which really helped me.
I decided to go back to ToW and see if the same mechanisms exist in the early game. After playing a few rounds I struggled to find the best combination of customisable maps and counters/sprites that I felt comfortable with. Since Wastelands Interactive (WI) are derived from heavy modders, they built their games with modding in mind. So I mosied on down to the Matrixgames forums to see what mods where available for ToW. Luckily, I stumbled upon Bongo’s Time of Wrath “boardgame” mod!
Whilst WI’s graphics are perfectly serviceable ( and there are a number of choices available, from NATO symbol stylised counters through to 3d sprites with or without mounted bases ), they seemed to lack any ability to inspire attachment to the units. Particularly the 3d sprites, whilst modelled really well, they come across as a bit generic, soulless and bland. Bongo’s mod changed the game experience for me.
Suddenly, the units had me more involved, 2d coloured images showing an Osprey “book-like” impression of the troops. I actually cared what happened to them and I didn’t feel as detached from the conflict. The whole boardgame look must have just clicked with me, because ToW morphed from a rather confusing and overly complex entity (that I had mostly ignored) into a much loved accessible boardgame, that was even entertaining to look at!
In my first scenario, the defence of Poland in 1939 was at stake here. It would involve putting up a show of defiance, whilst trying to draw my remaining better troops back to Warsaw. Warsaw had to be defended at all costs!
ToW sits neatly beside other turn based hex wargames such as Slitherine’s Commander Europe at War, and the likes of Operation Barbarossa or Strategic Command II. Its easy to play, once you understand the quirks of the mechanics, and with the boardgame mod installed it becomes much more friendlier to the Commanders eye and easier to command.
As you can see from the combat result dialogue (pictured above), the overwhelming odds are stacked against the defending Polish, trying to hold out during the Blitzkrieg. Heavy losses exerted at every turn. You genuinely get a feel for the pounding Poland takes, and the desperation involved in survival. The game allows you to zoom out and get a feel for the overall grand strategy of the conflict. Surrounded and being squeezed as every moment goes by.
Late in the game, I have scant few Polish troops to beat off the swell of German oppression. Warsaw is at the front of the conflict now, desperately sending pleas to the remaining troops to fall back and defend the capital.
And then, it is all over. My tenacious defence seemed to hold out long enough to turn possible obliteration by the Germans into a Comintern victory. Although the Allies didn’t win, we managed to stop the Blitzkrieg long enough. I think.
I had previously ignored ToW, seeing it as a very quirky and almost unapproachable hex based wargame, with the combination of Bongo’s boardgame Mod, and the SOtP instructional videos, the game has opened up and become very accessible to me. And I’m one of the more casual gamers who likes to dabble in wargames.
Hopefully Bongo can bring the same magic to a SOtP Mod!