by Marcus Mulkins
previewed on PC
Why does my mind insist on reading, "The World at War"?
About the most well-documented, hashed over, photographed, debated about, discussed, et al, war of all time MUST be World War II. The sheer number of nations involved (several of which no longer exist) as well as the number of people _directly_ affected assures that this will be the case for quite some time. Despite the fact that we have many more people and many more historians, and many more journalists of all flavors now than we did 70 years ago. So it should come as no surprise that yours truly has been one of those that dove headlong into that subject matter. And since my favorite video series on the subject at large was "The World at War", you can more easily understand my confusion on the title. (Instead, I'm left shuddering to think that it's a play on the title of the classic H.G. Wells science fiction novel, "War of the Worlds".) At any rate, being something of a fairly well-versed WWII historian, you can imagine that when it comes to WWII, I can be a bit... demanding. Fortunately, like it's predecessor, Making History: The Calm & The Storm, this game, MH2: The War of The World, delivers an excellent rendition of what the strategic view of the world back then was. In fact, between the two versions, it may be beneficial to think of this sequel as "MH+". That is, the same foundation remains, but nearly everything has been expanded upon.
In 1984, Milton Bradley re-released a Nova Games Design title, Axis & Allies. It was sort of like Risk, but the subject matter was strictly WWII. Additionally, the game pieces were much more.sensual in that they were actually plastic miniatures instead of the abstract, generic, ho-hum game pieces from Risk. As board games went, it was fairly successful, selling over two million copies.
What the MH series does is that it starts there and adds more attention to the details. And adds even more on the top. Unlike most WWII games, it takes a fairly close look at The Big Picture. That is, you can NOT wage war without a functional economy to finance the war effort. And the war effort is NOT just throwing money at the military to manufacture all those military toys. It also requires money invested in R & D. It requires the civilian work force to be well-managed and distributed. It also requires a substantial amount of consumer goods, to keep that work force happy and productive. It requires... a LOT of things. In MH: The Calm & The Storm, many of those background elements were there. Furthermore, it wasn't abstracted to just your nation (1 of the 8 major nations in WWII), but rather to each of several regions that comprised your nation. PLUS the regions that you expanded into as your empire grew. Given that there were 800+ regions on the map, by late game you would be dealing with a LOT of infrastructure maintenance.
As you might suspect, Making History appeals most to people that like to micromanage.
As I mentioned earlier, The War of The World is basically MH+. The plus includes an expanded economic model, expanded military model that now accounts for things like Morale, more infrastructure, an expanded R & D tech tree, another 1,000 regions, the option to play ANY nation instead of just one of the eight majors. In addition, it will also include an expanded and improved multiplayer system that Muzzy Lane, the Developers and primary Publisher describe as "innovative" and promises will revolutionize multiplayer strategy gaming, and - my favorite - population broken down by culture, ethnicity, religion and political ideology. That last expansion means that it is now MUCH more realistic in what you need to do to try to keep your citizens happy and productive. It also means that instead of attacking another nation directly, you can instead bankroll a disaffected population segment and have them totally disrupt production. Or foment a civil war. Or just generally disrupt things such that it becomes "necessary" for you to step in and take over in order to return stability to the region(s). [evil grin]
Well, just "a doubt", singular, actually. Both the original and the new-and-improved model have about the most boring gameboard I've ever seen. The game “pieces” are well done, but the map they sit on seems to be saturated in sleep-inducing graphics. This, despite Muzzy Lane game designer Ralph Gerth's statement that "the entire game has been retooled, including a brand new graphics engine for our 3D map." Possibly this is because we haven’t yet seen the final splendor of the 3D, but that remains to be seem. I haven't heard the MH2 soundtrack, but if it's about the same quality as the original, it will fall into the "okay" category.
About the best compliment I can throw to Muzzy Lane about Making History II: The War of the World is that it most definitely will be a GREAT game to teach students about the prelude and prosecution of WWII. Nothing like getting a good feel for history than making it for yourself.