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Review by: Pete Hines
Published: September 16, 1999
The Operational Art of War II: Modern Battles 1956 – 2000 (OAW2) is the second title in the series by Norm Koger that brings the board game to the computer. It is an effort to take everything about combat and strategy that fascinates hardcore wargamers and encapsulate it in an entertaining PC title. While the first game was not without its share of glitches and was perhaps a bit guilty of trying to encompass more than it could handle, this iteration looks to expand upon the original with a new setting, new units and a couple of new ideas. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a new beginning or change of pace, but rather focuses on a different era of war that provides its own unique challenges and opportunities.
OAW2 offers nine scenarios throughout the period in question that cover small to large-scale battles. These include several historical conflicts, such as Desert Storm, as well as a few hypothetical ones, like a large conflict between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in Europe. One of the big pluses of both the original game and this latest version is the ability to create and play custom scenarios using the editor. For those of you who would rather not get into the sometimes overwhelming task of putting together a well-balanced, entertaining scenario, there are plenty of people out there who enjoy doing just this sort of thing and make their scenarios available for download. If you’re feeling adventurous or can’t find a scenario or map that addresses a conflict you would like to recreate or emulate, the manual provides helpful information on both the map and scenario editors, and putting one together can take anywhere from several minutes to several hours, depending on just how much detail you want to include.
Games can be played against a computer opponent or human opponent via e-mail or hotseat. Standard and advanced rulesets are available and determine things like fog of war or the ability to blow up and repair bridges. Advanced rules allow you to perform different kinds of attacks with formations or perform recon on the enemy. To go into all of the rules and options would take about as much space and time as the OAW2 manual, so I’ll try to sum up things as quickly as possible. Combat takes place on a map separated into grids that can include desert, mountains, rivers, seas and more. Weather, terrain, visibility, and day and night cycles can all affect how units move, attack and defend. Units have a variety of attributes that further determine effectiveness in combat, including whether or not they have anti-armor weapons, how well they attack infantry and aircraft, their armor type and attack range. Also, factors like force, formation and supply lines also play an important role in attacking and defending. Basic principles like combined arms fire — having units with different weapons types work together to inflict maximum damage on a variety of different target types — play an important role in the success of units working together.
Each mission comes with stated objectives for each side. Success rests on the completion of these objectives, either with or without a timeline, depending on the mission. OAW2 proceeds in turns, with each side moving its units and combat being resolved automatically should any attacks take place. A summary screen that shows the effect on the attacking and defending units involved follows each battle. The manual explains the different elements by walking the player through a turn and the sequence in which things affect the outcome of combat, movement and other actions. Speaking of manuals….
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