imperialus Oct 17, 2012 @ 10:46am
my review of UoC
II picked up UoC from the dev several months ago, and now I see it's popped up on steam.

So if you're reading this you've probably watched the video on the store page, maybe even read a review or two but I figured I'd get my 2 cents in.

UoC is a brilliant game, but it is not for everyone. If you have a copy of Avalon Hill's Russian Campaign gathering dust in your closet replete with fond memories, are familiar with the concept of "step loss", can list off the expansions for Advanced Squad Leader or know who GMT Games are then stop reading now, slap down some shiny sheckles and buy UoC. You won't regret it. Heck, if you still have Panzer Generals II installed on your computer, then the above advice applies too. If you're a hardcore wargamer you might be disappointed by the lack of an option to use NATO unit markers but the game is good enough that you shouldn't give a damn... That'll also be the extent of my comments on the graphics, because... well... graphics... not a focus.

If that does not apply to you then a bit more of an explanation is an order. Unity of Command is based on the old "hex and chit" style of wargames that were 'popular' in the 60's and 70's. To be more specific Unity of Command is is an Operational level wargame set on the Eastern Front during the Stalingrad campaign. Operational level means that you're dealing with corps and divisions as the 'pieces' and each hex represents about 20 sq km with each 'turn' representing 4 days.

Now, like most operational level games there is no 'economy' to speak of. You're a military commander and your job is to fight, not worry about how much grain is being produced in Belarus or whether or not the factories are building Panzer III's or Panzer IV's. That said, there are resources in the form of "prestige". This is basically a measurement of how much your bosses (either OKH or STAVKA) like you and can be used to purchase extra units or specialist steps. It's a simple system, but one that works well and you need to be really really careful with how you spend it since it carries over through the campaign, and trust me, you don't want to be in on of the later missions and run out.

The campaign consists of a series of linked scenarios based (to an astounding level of detail) on the actual battles that took place. The units that you start with are 9 times out of 10 exactly the units that were actually involved in the battles. The devs elected to go with historical accuracy rather than campaign persistence, so if for example you get the 12th panzer division wiped out to a man in one game the next scenario might have them back at full health and raring to go.

The gameplay itself couldn't be simpler. You select a unit, hover the mouse over an adjacent 'bad guy'. The computer gives you an odds calculation and predicts how much damage each unit will do. Then you right click and the units fight and most of the time the odds calculation the computer gave you is right on the money.

Now wait you say! What's the point of even playing a game if the computer tells you how a fight will end before it even starts?! Well, that is the point. The challenge in UoC is to massage those odds and try to get them to work in your favor. For example, in the very first scenario there is a line of entrenched Russian infantry that will slow your panzers to a crawl. Yes they'll be able to deal with them, but it'll be a slog to try and bust through those lines. It'll take too long, and you'll suffer a lot of unnecessary casualties in the process. However, you have airstrikes available, as well as some specialist engineers through OKH that you can attach to your panzer divisions. Engineers are very, very good at dealing with entrenched enemies. A few Stuka's later and suddenly your tanks are rolling through the countryside without a care in the world. Of course spending prestige on those engineers might hurt you in the long run, but damnit, there's a trench to be taken!

The other major component in most Operational level games that I haven't touched on yet is supply, and it plays a huge role in UoC. Like the remainder of the game the supply system is relatively simple. Supply dumps have a given range, and rail lines extend that range. Units that are in supply are happy. Where it gets far more interesting though is when a unit goes out of supply. Say for example the Russians manage to punch through a weaker section of your line and run a unit onto the rail tracks. Oops! Now every unit that was relying on that rail line for supplies is in trouble. They're OK for the first turn, but after that even the most elite SS Panzer divisions start to get to the point that Russian conscripts can overrun them. Generally speaking unless you've really buggered up you can fix your supply problems fairly quickly but it still diverts attention from the front line, slows your advance and generally mucks with your plans in a pretty major way.

This brings me nicely to the AI. First off, the AI doesn't 'cheat'. It knows the exact same information as you do, and it plays by the same rules. That said, the AI will smack you around like a redheaded stepchild. There is not "easy" setting. If you leave Romanian conscripts guarding your flank (trust me, don't use Romanians to do anything but kill Partisans) at Stalingrad you can bet your last penny that the Russians will be sending Tank Guard divisions circling around your font lines and blasting those poor Romanians into kingdom come as they sever your supply lines, and leave General Paulus to freeze to death.

At any rate, if you're still with me after that wall of text, then I'd give UoC a serious look. It's a simple game from a mechanics standpoint, but there are so many layers of strategy built on it it'll keep you busy for a good long while.
Showing 1-15 of 33 comments
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copper1956 Oct 17, 2012 @ 10:51am 
Agreed. UI is clear and intutive that is unusual for hex war games.
coolRARE.jpg Oct 17, 2012 @ 11:31am 
any kind of play by email type gaming in this?
like frozen synapse has?
Qoojo Oct 17, 2012 @ 1:53pm 
Without a difficulty setting, I suspect it would be too hard for me at first, and possibly frustrating. I still might get it. I'm just happy that it's available on Steam, as I do not like Matrix games. I might buy it for that alone.
imperialus Oct 17, 2012 @ 2:42pm 
Originally posted by Qoojo:
Without a difficulty setting, I suspect it would be too hard for me at first, and possibly frustrating. I still might get it. I'm just happy that it's available on Steam, as I do not like Matrix games. I might buy it for that alone.

The interesting thing is that the first few missions at least are not that hard to get a basic victory on. Basically there are 3 different types of victory. The basic victory is basically just "capture all the objectives. Do it in less than a dozen turns" Really, unless you are absoutely terrible you should be able to bash your way to a victory in the first few senarios at least. The Decicive and Brilliant Victories though are where things start to get really, really tough. The only thing that changes is the number of turns you have to complete the senario in, but shaving 3 or 4 turns off your performance becomes a challenge equal to one of the labours of Hercules.

What I'd recommend doing is just play the first few senarios to try and complete them. Spend your prestige like it's candy and stomp all over the opponent. Once you've gotten a feel for how the game plays, then start working on strategies and the like. The game will only let you go so far with simple victories though. Once you hit that wall replay the senarios using less prestige, and try to find ways to shave turns off. Once you've racked up a few BV's then push forward in the campaign repeating the process. Most of the senarios will take a few tries to master but it is set up so you can take a gradual approach to them.
Atermi Oct 17, 2012 @ 2:42pm 
Hehe I just bought Panzer General II on GOG yesterday to play again. Hear about Unity of Command for the first time, but now I seriously consider buying it as well and kicking some more fascist buttocks.
imperialus Oct 17, 2012 @ 2:44pm 
Originally posted by Inle:
Hehe I just bought Panzer General II on GOG yesterday to play again. Hear about Unity of Command for the first time, but now I seriously consider buying it as well and kicking some more fascist buttocks.

Just as a suggestion... Kick some commie buttocks first. The Axis campaign is a lot easier. The Soviets kick things off with Operation Uranus so the learning curve is... steep.
Ichabod Crane™ Oct 17, 2012 @ 5:22pm 
It's a very good game if you like turn-based ones, bought this and Panzer Corps some time ago. Money well spent.
Apocalypse Oct 17, 2012 @ 7:05pm 
Thanks for the review. How does the game compare to Panzer Korps?
rta Oct 17, 2012 @ 7:31pm 
Thanks for the review imperialus.
Byeohazard Oct 17, 2012 @ 9:25pm 
Originally posted by Inle:
Hehe I just bought Panzer General II on GOG yesterday to play again. Hear about Unity of Command for the first time, but now I seriously consider buying it as well and kicking some more fascist buttocks.
If you love Panzer General II ( I also got it from GoG) you must , must must try Panzer Corps!
Also have Unity of Command and Conflict of Heroes...need to give each more playtime to warm up to them. Panzer Corps hooked me from the start though.

Last edited by Byeohazard; Oct 17, 2012 @ 9:26pm
SaintBlaze Oct 17, 2012 @ 11:30pm 
Does the Advanced Wars series apply to the buy-this-if-you-own collection? Because the dynamic income per city system is a large reason I still play 'em today!
weezard Oct 17, 2012 @ 11:37pm 
Thanks for the great review!
Atermi Oct 18, 2012 @ 1:50am 
Originally posted by Byeohazard:
Originally posted by Inle:
Hehe I just bought Panzer General II on GOG yesterday to play again. Hear about Unity of Command for the first time, but now I seriously consider buying it as well and kicking some more fascist buttocks.
If you love Panzer General II ( I also got it from GoG) you must , must must try Panzer Corps!
Also have Unity of Command and Conflict of Heroes...need to give each more playtime to warm up to them. Panzer Corps hooked me from the start though.

Of course I have Panzer Corps mate :)
imperialus Oct 18, 2012 @ 6:26am 
Originally posted by SaintBlaze:
Does the Advanced Wars series apply to the buy-this-if-you-own collection? Because the dynamic income per city system is a large reason I still play 'em today!

Advanced Wars is a bit different, largely because of the economy. in UoC the units that you start with are pretty much the units that you have to complete the objectives. You can requesition a few more units from OKH or STAVKA by paying prestige but there is no dynamic income. This is intended to make the game more realistic since a General on the field really has no control over what his political masters might choose to equip him with. As Donald Rumsfeld said in 2004ish, "You fight with the army you have, not the army you wish you had."
imperialus Oct 18, 2012 @ 6:53am 
Originally posted by Apocalypse:
Thanks for the review. How does the game compare to Panzer Korps?

They're both great games. Panzer Korps is a bit more of a simulation and the scale is kinda wonky. For example in PK you can have entire units consisting of nothing but anti tank guns. That's not really all that realistic. AT guns don't operate alone, and don't operate in batteries. They were attached to infantry units. UoC goes a bit harder for the historical accuracy. For example rather than having 'health' each unit in UoC has 'steps' which represent a few thousand individual troops, companies or batallions basically. One of the things that this allows you to do is add 'specialist steps' to your units. I mentioned them briefly in my initial writeup but it's actually a pretty major component to the game.

A specialist step is a single step that you can add to any unit (that doesn't already have a specialist step). This will usually give them some unique abilities in addition to a general improvement to their overal combat performance. I already mentioned the engineer specialists as providing a bonus against entrenched units, but there are a lot more. If you're playing as the Russians for example you can add Anti-Tank guns to you units to help counter the armoured bonus provided by German tanks. You can also add things like NKVD steps to a Russian unit which stiffens their moral quite significantly. An NKVD backed unit holding a bridge can be really, really tough to dislodge.

Things like air attacks fall under what they call Theater Assets. Basically rather than representing individual planes most senarios will allow you a few air support sorties every turn. These are more likely to supress enemy steps rather than kill them outright, but they can still be really useful as a precursor to an assault.

The supression mechanic is another way they differ. In UoC if a particular step isn't destroyed it can sometimes be supressed instead. As long as it is in supply the step will recover at the beginning of the next turn but until then it effectively doesn't exist as far as the combat calculation goes. This means that the Russians in particular can gradually wear down German units with repeated attacks, even if they aren't killing them.
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