by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
My first hex-based WW2 strategy game was V for Victory: Gold-Juno-Sword. I had no idea what Gold Juno Sword meant and it took me another half decade to learn that Gold, Juno and Sword were codenames for three of the sectors where the Allied forces landed in Normandy during D-Day. It mattered little to me then, I played the crap out of that game and have had a love-hate affair with similar games since. Love because of the deceptively intricate and chess-like tactics that these games can bring, along with their historically laden theme. Hate because so many WW2 strategy games fail to ever go beyond moving the pieces around the board and shooting at whatever is in range. Tank Operations: European Campaign sits somewhere on the positive side between the two.
Setting up the board
Tank Operations’ campaign spans 12 missions, starting on the sandy beaches of Morocco and ending in downtown Berlin. That may not sound like a lot, but I can promise you that those 12 missions will be both lengthy and hard fought. The basic premise for each is the same; take cities and military bases away from the enemy while defending your own. The mission objectives are shown on the map but their defenses are hidden by fog of war. Not knowing where the enemy is adds a lot of weight to the choices you make during the earlier turns of the battle. Often, these choices prove pivotal as a wrong choice early on might be difficult if not impossible to rectify later on.
New units can be purchased from military bases. As your initial bank-roll empties out, you will have to rely on captured cities to provide you with new funds with each turn. If you cannot flip enough towns to your side quickly enough, then you have probably made a wrong turn somewhere in your decision making.
The game’s title may give the impression that you will mostly be commanding tanks. The importance of their role cannot be denied, but you cannot win the battle just with tanks. You will need the support of infantry, artillery and air units. During beach landings, cruisers and battleships provide artillery support as well as act as bases from which units can be recruited and deployed onto the beach.
Fighter planes and bombers can be launched and recruited from carriers and the unit roster doesn’t quite end there either: trucks supply ammo and fuel and saboteurs can be used to take over enemy bases. There is quite a bit of variation and further depth is added special abilities. Almost every unit has one; infantry can dig in to increase their defensive rating, Artillery can throw up camouflage, making them all but invisible to enemy and dive bombers carry out a devastating precision attack.
Challenging missions, decisions that matter.
Tough to get into, no bonus for flanking or attacking from behind.