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Posted on Aug 9, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Commander – Europe at War Review

By Larry Levandowski

Passed Inspection:
Fun, fast and addictive gameplay.

Failed Basic: Anemic tutorial. There is very little for modders to do.

Some wargames just have charm. They play fast, are accessible, but still offer a fantastic strategic fix. These are the games to play after a hard day at the office, or when recruiting friends into this wonderful hobby. Commander – Europe at War, developed by Slitherene and published by Matrix, is just such a game. Easy to learn, and addictive, Commander gives players the reigns of the Axis, or Allies in World Ware II, and lets them conquer half of Europe in an evening. The game opts for fun over realism, but it’s all for the greater good. The veteran, the rookie, and the casual player will all find something to love in this game.


Commander pays homage to many of the wargame conventions we know and love. The game is a turn-based grand strategy romp into World War II. The map is hex-based and stretches from the US East Coast, the North African desert, Finland and just past the Caspian Sea. Each hex appears to be about 50km, so it is a long way from Berlin to Moscow. In traditional wargame style, the terrain in each hex affects movement and combat, with rivers snaking along hex-sides. A unit’s zone of control slows down enemy movement, and enemy controlled hexes cut off supply lines. Combat is odds based, and as the player selects a unit and hovers over potential enemy targets, the odds calculation is displayed conveniently at the bottom of the screen.

The game presents the player with an overall feel for the sweep of World War II, with all of the major strategic elements interacting players would expect. Garrison units are cheap and can hold their own in fortified areas like the Maginot line. Battleships and tactical bombers soften up the enemy frontlines, and infantry corps are used to open gaps. Expensive armor and mechanized infantry units exploit the holes and surround defenders, cutting off their supply and lines of retreat. Meanwhile, the strategic war is fought at another level, as heavy bombers brave fighters to reduce the enemy’s production capacity. On the ocean, Lend Lease convoys, the lifeblood of the British and Soviets, plow slowly over the waves as German submarines and raiders attempt to sink them. To counter the threat, the Allies have destroyers, carriers and strategic bombers to sink the German wolf packs.

The emphasis in Commander is on fun, and the game has easy-to-learn mechanics, and a great atmosphere. Players who have been around for a bit will have fond memories of SSI’s Panzer General when playing this game. Turns play quickly, particularly before the Russian front opens up. Players simply select a unit, move it, and then may conduct an attack, one unit to one unit. Results are taken before the player moves the next unit. These results rarely mean the destruction of full-strength troops, but can reduce strength, readiness and cause a retreat. The calculation of combat is somewhat complex, but all of this is done behind the scenes. To enhance the atmosphere, Slitherene has spent quite a bit of effort polishing the graphics, sound and interface. Units have icons based on graphics from Osprey, the premiere military history publisher. For the most part each nationality has accurate icons for their ground, air and sea units, and they also change as units are upgraded. German armor starts with the PzIVe, and then goes to PZIVh, Tiger, Panther and King Tiger. Strangely, the US seems to fly Spitfires and use British tanks, but Slitherene is a UK developer, so maybe they have taken the opportunity to re-write history a bit. Nice combat and movement sounds are used to bring the player into Commander‘s world. The interface is attractive, well laid-out and becomes second nature very quickly.

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  1. I like the game alright. Very basic gameplay overall. It’s real in that it makes it impossible for the Germans to win. I’m not sure that was on purpose but that’s what it seems to me. I’ve tried being Germans but in the long run they get overwhelmed.

    • It is possible to win as the Germans, but it takes a very long time. You must turn off the “Game ends in 1945” to achieve victory. Begin by invading Poland, but before capturing Warsaw, declare war on USSR.
      (Do not invade any other country until USSR is defeated.) Use all Naval forces to block Murmansk. Split Ground/Air forces North & South. North take Moscow (T42 Nov’41) – Leningrad (T59 Nov’42) – Omsk (T90 Jul’44 -> USSR defeated). South Force takes Stalingrad (T66 Mar’43) Baku Oil Fields (T74 Aug’43). Italy holds Alps/North Africa until North force arrives. Take France. South force takes all Mid-East oil. Begin to invade/take all other countries. Build Air power – Take England. Build Naval power – Take Canada – Finally USA