I’m going to say from the outset that I’m probably not the best person for this review. My predilections for strategy is often served with a healthy does of escapism. This game seems to be a fairly straight up war strategy board game, and though I love indulging strategic thinking, that indulgence stops when the aesthetic or format doesn’t lure me in. I haven’t played a game to completion, partly from frustration and because I just wasn’t hooked. If you love your hard core war strategy games, then this is may be the game for you, but not for me – so take this review with a big dose of your millage may vary. Also, not to be confused with the strategy game of the same name.
As you have probably guessed, Winds of War revolves around the conquest of territories, each originally owned by one of the European powers. This is achieved by a careful balance of economic building (oil and grain), and military expansion and conquest. There are land territories and ocean territories, you control an army, a navy, and an airforce.
During each turn you get a number of actions that can be divided between economic and military actions. That is either building up your economic output to make money to buy weapons for conquest. The basic nature of the game is easy enough to figure out. More resources means more money, more money means more weapons, and more weapons means conquest. This is about where I find I am lost, and while I can tell there is a learning curve there I haven’t been able to figure out the nuances of the game to implement them.
My explanation of gameplay is comparatively short, and most of my commentary is going to be on what makes the gameplay difficult to access from my point of view. If I am simply just missing some obvious piece of information I’d like to know.
For example, yes there are two resources (grain and oil) and they both relate to economic output. However, I don’t really understand whether there is a difference between them, and why I might preference one over the other. I am assuming that more grain will support more soldiers in the field and more oil will support the various planes, tanks, and ships, but I don’t really know by how much or how to take that into my calculations. I know they vaguely give me more money, but how is just obscure to me.
Similarly, I know how to buy munitions and I know how to pit them against each other, but I don’t know what the significance of infantry versus the three different types of tanks are. Are some anti-personnel, some anti-tank? Do the more expensive ones have higher attack (I assume so, but can’t be certain). Yes, there is a bonus in attacks relevant to the type of commander you have there, but this is randomised across the board so my ability to actively implement their use in my active strategy. Over time my inability to predict how the game would work, and how the strategy could be anticipated lead to mounting frustration on my part and thus the lack of completion. Lastly, the ‘names’ for the various munitions are code tags like Amx, Leo, and the ships are just number-letter combos. They don’t really serve to differentiate them from each other in my head. Maybe if I was a war aficionado they would be more meaningful to me, but for now they are obscure.
Unfortunately, the in-game rules and ‘tutorial’ are not that helpful either. The rules are three pages of textwalls, of which one is the tutorial. I have read the tutorial and I still don’t feel as though I have been successfully navigated through this maze. Additionally, these textwalls also have the unfortunate disadvantage of coming across as written by someone for whom English is a second language. There are odd grammatical stylings, a few syntaxical or grammatical errors. I think this is the major limitation, because the rules are type to explain some fairly technical and complicated rules, but the language is very minimal and parsimonious. This game could be vastly improved, in my opinion, by an interactive tutorial and in game quick references. Being able to highlight a piece or thing in the game and get a few bites of it would remove a number of these obstacles.
3/10: I honestly think that this game was pushed out of development far to soon. It has a number of pressing issues that will make it rather inaccessible to a large number of people, and if the developers want to have a game that they are proud to put their name on they will really need to polish it up. As of August 2011, the itunes website promises an update to do with better AI, but I think that the next update would be better served by going over their rules pages again, and breaking it up a lot more. They should use pictures (if nothing else) as visual aids to explain the game, and give insights into winning strategies.Winds of War,