by Marcus Mulkins
reviewed on PC
Combat is just the tip of the iceberg
Being a strategic game, the smallest unit size for Army and Air Force, which during this era was often considered to be part of the Army, is the Brigade. That's usually a mix of units that require a total of 1-3,000 men. Brigades are almost invariably combined into Divisions which are comprised of 4-5 brigades. Operationally, Divisions perform best when several of them are overseen by a HQ unit that can coordinate up to 5 Divisions. Beyond Corps, there are also HQ units for Armies, Army Groups, and Theater HQs. This is where Officers come to play - and highlights the Big Picture aspect of the game.
It takes Officers to give a unit direction in order for the personnel to "be the best they can be". Officers are a product of the Education system within the overall Economy. If the nation invests in Big Education, there went a significant percentage of the Treasury - but there will be a much larger output of newly minted Officers to command units. However, in truth, the Educational system is cranking out leadership, which then gets divvied up between Research, Espionage, Diplomacy, and military Officers. If you are Researching many, many tech projects because of all the benefits that accrue from that, you may not have enough leadership available to provide Officers. It forces you, as Commander-In-Chief, to make that difficult "Guns vs Butter" decision. Furthermore, there is an attrition rate for Officers: some die, retire, or get "kicked upstairs", leaving holes in the command structure of a Brigade/Division/Corps/Army/Army Groups. A basic brigade is assumed to have a brigadier general in charge. But above the brigadier, there is a potential for a better-than-average commander to appear. The more Officers the Educational system is kicking out, the larger the number of notable Officers that will be available to you. When notable Officers are assigned to specific HQ units, they boost the performance of any units in their command (provided the units are within a certain geographical distance).
This game really is about pretty much everything that goes into the Big Picture. If the Big Picture is all that you want, then just push the units around and let the AI handle all the icky details. But you'll start to see that all of your units tend to become sort of vanilla-flavored. If you're fine with that, then rest assured you can punch through WWII at a brisk enough pace. But if you want a meal instead of just a snack, there's a full seven-course meal just waiting for you!
Other Pluses and Minuses
If you are playing solitary, this game can be fairly educational. Major historical events are broadcast at the time they occured in history. A pop up window appears, freezing the clock, with an info window describing an event, such as the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, or maybe the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Sometimes these events require you to make a decision about a national response to the event. Sometimes the decision is taken out of your hands and you become compelled to a course of action. (Such as, if you were playing France, the invasion of Poland automatically forces you to declare war on Germany.) However, depending on your Difficulty setting and nation you're playing, events may occur at different times. Such as, on the Normal setting, Germany invaded Poland in 1937 -- which significantly reduced France's time to prepare for war.
Unless you're a wiz at geography, you will learn a lot of Geography. That's the plus. The minus is, it's a pain trying to find a specific unit being attacked in a given province when you never even heard of the place. Educational too for other reasons than combat. Like, ever hear of Tannu Tuva? It was an Asian political puppet of the USSR, near Mongolia (which was another Asian political puppet of the USSR that you may have heard about).
No Pros and Cons at this time