by Marcus Mulkins
previewed on PC
Man Does Not Live By Combat Alone
Strategic War in Europe is a very historical game. WW2 was not just about combat. It was also about the diplomacy between nations and the tremendous advances in research and scientific breakthroughs. Research in the game is tremendously simple. Instead of throwing money at a myriad of tech developments, each of the six primary warfare areas have their own "Doctrine" consisting of Infantry, Tanks, Aircraft, Submarines, Navy and Nuclear. You are allowed to make resource investments (PPs) and each investment is a measure of how much Research is added to the Doctrine per turn. When the running tally hits the "Research Complete" mark - 100 for each Warfare Doctrine, except Nuclear, which is 800 - military units affected by that Warfare Doctrine may have their Effectiveness Level increased by one (provided you pay for the unit's upgrade). In the case of Nuclear, you add one to your nuke stockpile.
Diplomacy in Strategic War in Europe is fairly simple at least at the preview stage of development. The basics are that there are ONLY three alliances in the game: Allies (headed by the UK), Axis (headed by Germany), and the Comintern (headed by the USSR). Each of the 25 playable nations has a political orientation (government type). A few nations have similar political orientations, but most are only "pro-Allies" or "pro-Axis", which is essentially "leaning towards". Just how strongly a nation is leaning towards a given alliance is measured as a percentage from 0% to 99%. At 100%, the nation officially joins the alliance.
Nations start with a minimal number of Diplomatic Points which they may use to influence just how much another uncommitted nation is "leaning" towards joining an alliance. Except for very rare DP windfalls, they are garnered at the rate of 5 per turn. To put Pressure on a nation, a player must spend DPs equal to the Political Strength of the nation being Pressured. Not too difficult to do to the Baltic States with their 15%, but even then, Pressure attempts can only be attempted every several turns. A pro-Axis or a pro-Allied nation could be pulled towards pro-Comintern, and then finally to Communist regime by the USSR. So it is sort of like a three-way tug-o'-war.
Join the Navy and see... something completely different
Thus far the game looks very much like most WW2 Strategy games such as Hearts of Iron or Making History. Where it goes where other Strategy game designers fear to tread is in the area of naval combat. Much of naval warfare drops into the background as enemy vessels play hide-and-go-seek in sea zones where submarines sometimes sneak in cheap torpedo shots or aircraft carrier planes launch a surprise attack, either of which delivers damage and even sometimes sinks vessels outright. But when opposing fleets DO find each other, a surface battle will ensue. Despite the often chaotic nature of combat at sea as opponents dash to and fro', in Strategic War in Europe the pattern is... Side A lines up its ships in nice columns on the left side of the screen while Side B does the same thing on the right side of the screen. An electronic die roll is made to determine how many rounds of combat there will be (1-5) and which side gets to fire a ship first. A player may instead attempt to Retreat from combat with a 3% chance of success. Or pick a ship and fire ONE shot at a specified target vessel. Then the other player fires ONE shot. If one side has more ships present, he gets to fire off or attempt to Retreat the excess until the round is done. Instead of shooting or Retreating, a player can instead move a ship (if its not boxed in) to the supposed safety of the rear ranks, and vice versa. The cycle repeats until all rounds of combat have been executed and combat ends, or one side is entirely sunk or Retreated. More than anything else, this felt like playing Battleship with the divider removed. But just because you can see where the targets are, don't expect to get too many hits. I was averaging about 1 hit every 15-20 shots.