Flashpoint Germany is an excellent and engaging introductory wargame that puts you in the middle of a hypothetical war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
- An exciting and engaging wargame about modern combat
- The combat system reduces micromanagement
- Makes you feel like a real commander in the field
- Beautiful graphicsfor a wargame.
- No infantry or combat engineers in the game
- The AI is a bit weak
- Rudimentary sound effects.
Though it thankfully hasn't come to pass (yet), World War III is still a fascinating hypothetical setting for wargame fans. For nearly half a century, the United States and its Western allies braced for an onslaught by the Red Army and the Warsaw Pact nations on the plains of Germany. This titanic showdown is the focus of Flashpoint Germany, an entirely new wargame from Matrix Games and developer Simulations Canada. Flashpoint Germany is actually the spiritual heir to two of the earliest games on the subject: Main Battle Tank--Central Germany and Main Battle Tank--Northern Germany. However, since those games were released more than a dozen years ago, it's an understatement to say that computing power has changed since then. Flashpoint Germany updates the gameplay to modern-day standards, and the result is an excellent introductory wargame full of taut and exciting moments.
Set in 1989, the game postulates that the Soviet Union, seeing the writing on the wall, decides not to collapse peacefully but rather to gamble it all on a risky conventional attack into West Germany. The game picks up in northern and central Germany, where the British, American, and German army corps try to fend off the gigantic mass that is the Red Army. You can play on either side in the conflict, and you'll experience the highs and lows of a battalion commander on a very lethal battlefield. The game features a scale of 500 meters per square, and you'll command tank and cavalry platoons and companies over a 20-by-15-square-kilometer stretch of Germany.
In terms of complexity, Flashpoint Germany is a remarkably easy game to pick up and play. The game comes with a two-mission tutorial that will walk you through the basics, and within 20 to 30 minutes you'll be ready to take on the enemy. The beauty of the game is that it doesn't require you to micromanage and handhold each of your units all of the time. Instead, the game places you in the role of a battalion commander. Every turn, you can issue basic orders to your units. Once your moves are made, the game then calculates and displays how the next 30 minutes unfold, and you see the results. After that 30-minute "pulse" is completed, the next turn begins, and you start the cycle over again.
This system is excellent in a number of ways. First, it captures the experience of command quite well. Modern combat takes pace at such a hyper pace that it's impossible for any commander to micromanage his units. At one point, you have to simply trust that your subordinates can carry out your plan to the best of their abilities. Second, it can make for some incredibly tense moments. In one mission, a US armored cavalry regiment was tasked with securing a German town. Thinking that we were in a race with the Soviets, we sent a tank company racing down the highway only to have them run smack into a Soviet motorized infantry regiment. That was a nasty shock, and we spent the rest of that turn watching desperately as the battle unfolded. (The lesson in this is to use your reconnaissance assets, because that's what they're for.)
The game also models some of the difficulties and dangers involved in command. You can limit the number of orders you can issue per turn to reflect the fact that your staff can do only so much in so little time. Even worse is that if you chatter too much on the radio, the opposing side will triangulate on your position. Both sides reserve plenty of artillery for just such an occasion. If your headquarters unit is wiped out, a lower-level HQ unit will take over, though at the cost of even longer delays between orders being issued to the frontline troops and the troops carrying out the orders. That delay represents the lag in any complex organization, especially one that's coping with the incredible stresses of combat.