There are few wargames for the PSP. I’ve owned my PSP-2000 slim model since late 2007 and I’ve always kept my eyes open for strategic wargame titles. I like to play boardgames and being able to play one on the PSP while commuting to work or home is a great pleasure. That doesn’t mean I don’t play other PSP titles. I’ve enjoyed a variety of action, puzzle and shooter titles over the years (which I’ll post about in the future). I just always keep an eye out for my core interest, strategy wargames.

The first title to offer something in this vein was Field Commander, a near-future turn based strategy game with a variety of 3D land, air and sea units in a regular square grid board with a variety of terrain and line of sight rules. But it was scenario based, so it played more like Command & Conquer than anything else. The next one to catch my eye was Tom Clancy’s End War. This one was also scenario based but it used a hex grid, I spent lots of enjoyable hours on it. Again this one focused on depicting 21st Century warfare. Finally, I downloaded Military History: Commander – Europe at War. A turned based WWII Grand Strategic wargame! Awesome! This game from the developers at Slitherine Ltd already had a successful PC version and recently made a transition to the PSP.

The documentation is thin, you can download an MS word document with some basic game play information. There’s an in-game tutorial that points out some game functions and general strategy for your side of the war. I say some, because there are some interesting information screens you can access that the game doesn’t point out. It also has some commands wrong (like using railroads, it’s not the L button it’s the R button after selecting a unit).

Overall though, the game is not hard to pick up and the learning curve is gentle. Most of what you need to know you will learn as you play. It won’t hurt you to do some trial and error until you grasp the games fundamentals. The interface is fairly straightforward and clean. Unlike most strategy wargames, this one doesn’t try to split your turn into phases. Instead during your turn you can choose to move, attack, ship by sea, produce, research, declare war, use railroads, etc. in pretty much any order you like. Of course without some structure you might overlook some of your units or get lost and forget to perform some house-keeping functions. I suggest making a personal checklist to keep things straight so you maximize each turn. There is some help in the form of flashing units that haven’t moved or attack, you can zoom out to a higher level to quickly check out which units are still available and the minimap is useful for checking out your general progress.

I’ve read some reviews about a “tough AI” but that must be the PC version, the PSP A.I. needs all the help it can get. I’ve played with no advantages to either side and as Germany managed to conquer the Soviet Union by September 1942, proceeded to invade and conquer England in 1943-44 and was getting ready to invade Canada and the USA in 1945 before time ran out (should have chosen the option to not in the end the game in 45). Playing as the allies, the A.I. respectably conquered Poland, Denmark, Holland and Belgium, but got completely bogged down in France. I simply produced plenty of garrison units turn after turn building a big buffer between my enemy and Paris, I shifted damaged troops out of the line with fresh ones. By the time France was finally worn out and m defense collapsed it was mid 1942, the USSR had declared war, liberated Poland and the US was bringing fresh reinforcements and air units into France (so yeah, France never fell). Still I had a lot of fun. I’m playing with Oil consumption rules and fog of war to see how this affects the game. Likely I will soon start giving the A.I advantages. It’s main problem seems to be that it tries to attack everywhere in a front… that’s not a good idea in this game. you really need to focus on the weak link, concentrate your armor and aircraft and blow a gap in the enemy line, surround them. There are good supply rules in this game; use them! In terms of grand strategy, it seems content to ignore Africa unless you make a move first. And did I mention Italy is ridiculously hard to conquer in this game? But that’s OK, in the real war, The Italian Campaign was an arduous slog up the boot.

The research component of this game gives it a lot of re-playability.You can purchase labs in five different areas of reasearch: infantry, armor, air, naval and industry. There are variety of levels that they can increase, the maximum number of labs is a function of your economy, and within each area you can choose to focus in a specific field (infantry have artillery, fixed defenses and anti-tank guns for example). The long term goals of research improve your combat units in a variety of ways by increasing ground attack or ground defense, air, naval, strategic, movement, etc. By the time you reach level 3 and level 5 or 6 is some categories those units have much stronger capabilities that they are very different units.

The Combat model is fairly intricate. There’s enough nuance and depth that it’s not simply which unit has better strength. Supply is a major factor, terrain is a heavy factor and the general effectiveness levels of a combat unit and the rate at which they lose and gain it are the fulcrums on which combat hinges: no matter how high your units are rated if their effectiveness level is low enough they will die! Combat consists of a shock phase and a fir phase. Shock is where units generally lose effectiveness and Fire is when they actually lose strength points. What’s interesting is that terrain factors and entrenchments modify the attacker’s strength always, never the defender. That is defensive advantages are expressed as attacker penalties in %. To actually reduce the defenders ability and strength is to reduce their effectiveness which is done during the Shock phase. That’s why Artillery, Blitzkrieg and close air support increase shock values for infantry, tank and tactical bombers. It’s key to eroding the defense. Not to mention that each attack reduces entrenchment levels.

This is a very good, very enjoyable wargame title. the A.I. is not very good but you can adjust the advantages to make it a better challenge for you. I highly recommend this game.