‘Conflict’ Series – Android OS Game Review
Editions Reviewed: Panzer Missions; Invasion of Poland 1939; Invasion of France 1940; Rommel and the Afrika Korps; Battle of Okinawa 1945; Battle of Moscow 1941
Passed Inspection: Inexpensive, strategic level simulations. Great replay value. Company is very responsive to user feedback and concerns.
Failed Basic: Some past victory conditions and playability issues but these were always fixed very quickly with updates. Solitaire only – no two player versions.
Traditional strategic and tactical war games for the Android operating system are few and far between. In the tradition of fine Android adaptations by John Tiller as well as the Android Combat Mission by Battlefront, Finnish game developer Joni Nuutinen has entered the battlefield with more traditional board game interpretations to the relatively new frontier of “smart devices” and, oh, what an entrance!
While this overview will focus on Nuutinen’s World War II games, his releases cover the gamut from medieval themes, the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars and World War I. In fact, in the last few years, Nuutinen has released over 40 war games for the Android operating system.
In preparing this overview, I conducted an interview with Nuutinen.
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and how you became involved in game design?
“I’m Joni Nuutinen, a Finnish indie game developer. I have a background in programming (Information Technology) and deep interest in military history, which is not that surprising, because growing up in Finland it was pretty much impossible to avoid being exposed to the Second World War. Since my interest in history was more about the big picture (strategy, production, etc) than details (individual guns), it was fairly natural for me to go into making strategy games. One bonus thing about growing up in Finland was the great public library system, which allowed me to indulge in history books – and it is also noteworthy that the Finnish libraries had WWII books from all the different sides (Russian, German, British, American), so I had the privilege of reading views from all the different sides which gave me a balanced take on matters.”
Q: What was your first game design for the Android OS?
“The first Android game was long time coming even before the Android OS. When I was younger, I wanted to create a comprehensive game engine which could be used for creating all kind of strategy games. Over the years, I got more realistic about the time limitations and shifted more towards the attitude of “wouldn’t it be nice if I could actually get something out”. Over the years I went through several different platforms, but when I made the switch from Java to Android, I also made the decision to cut down on the time spend on working on the game engine, and focus more on getting one scenario out – which unsurprisingly turned out to be the classic Operation Barbarossa.”
Q: What are your favorite board games, role playing games or computer games?
“My first computer was Commodore 64, which very effectively taught me about limited resources and the value of good game play. It might also have shaped my views about the unimportance of flashy graphics and sounds – and in any case, if you play a strategy game for hundreds of hours, are you really going to be enjoying those five different sounds over and over again, especially in the mobile age when significant amount of the time you’re near other people? On the C64 there were three games I played a lot: Pirates, Last Ninja II, EHIS (Emlyn Hughes International Soccer). Later on the PC I went through the classic strategy games from Panzer General to Warlords II.
I have never been a big fan of endless menus and overly complicated gaming experience, and for that reason I have always felt conflicted about board games. Games like Risk are so extremely simple that you can play it with everybody, in minutes – you have to respect that. On the other hand, how can you not love the amount of details the more complex games like those by the Avalon Hill model? Recently I played the board game Europe Engulfed, and while the mechanics were great, the long setup time, long duration of the play itself, and the never-ending need to check something from the rule book really gave me a newfound respect for the advantages that mobile games offer. Setup and done in under a second. And, if the AI is good, you don’t have to wait for five months before your friends have enough free time to play for a day or a weekend.”
Q: What new games can we look forward to this year and/or next year?
“My focus will stay on the Second World War for various reasons: It’s by far the most popular period, I don’t have to create every single icon from the scratch, and engaging for months in a completely different project which does not sell could be financially disastrous. Over the years I have gathered a list of requested games which is now well over 100 campaigns long, so I’m not going to be out of ideas any time soon. In general, I don’t like making promises about future projects, because you never know how things turn out; sometimes the early research shows that something will not work for some reason at this time, or early testing reveals that the game needs much bigger map which is not really currently possible due to technical limitations if I want to support the lower end of the devices.
I have dreamed of tackling Third Reich type of a game where play through the entire WWII history in Europe as Germany, with control over production, science, etc. Unfortunately that has proven to be too big of a project both time wise and technically.
For me a great game and good gaming experience is a balancing act (of players and technology), trying to keep things simple while modeling as many elements as possible. Battle hardened strategy gamers know everything with their decades of experience, while on the other end there are countless new players who have no idea about the basics (“so how do I move a unit”) and large percentage of them don’t even speak English beyond the basic words. Flagship phones are incredibly capable, yet at the same time there is ruthless competition in price, meaning manufacturers are using as poor components and as little memory as they can get.”
In to this challenging Andriod OS market Nuutinen has released many different games. I have played several and have reviewed them below. All of Nuutinen’s games are either free (as introductory demos) or cost less than $4.00.
Conflicts: Panzer Missions – this game is a great place for the uninitiated to start. It is a strategic simulation of the invasion of the Soviet Union by German forces. Each mission provides objectives which must be captured. As you complete one mission, the difficulty increases on subsequent missions. Each unit represents infantry, panzer grenadiers, SS, panzer, artillery or supply brigades. All mobile forces must be supplied with fuel and all artillery units must be supplied with ammunition but keep those supply convoys safe and well back from enemy forces our you could lose valuable supplies to the Russians. Conversely, your forces can capture fuel from Russian supply convoys if you can outflank and attack the convoys. Each type of brigade is rated for over all combat strength (hit points), mobility and number of battles it participates in as well as hidden stats which include defensive ability, effectiveness against soft or armored units, etc. To move, simply touch a unit and hexes which can be moved to are highlighted. To attack, either move the brigade in to the enemy hex or, if it is an artillery unit, touch the target hex after activating the unit. The game engine keeps track of damage, weather, terrain effects and other mechanics. Each unit can be augmented with special abilities which may include Nebelwerfers to attack soft targets, panzerfausts for attacking armor, support from minefields and a plethora of other options. At the end of each turn, a status screen shows all the pertinent information as to the progress of the campaign plus each report has an interesting bit of military trivia or quotes from famous leaders.
The A/I is very challenging – the Russians do love encircling strategies – but the game is more introductory so the A/I is not all powerful. Panzer Missions is the perfect way to spend a few minutes waiting in line at the grocery but beware playing it late at night in bed while trying to fall asleep – it is very addictive!
Conflicts: Invasion of Poland and its companion game The Invasion of France are much more focused on battalion level operations. The player takes the side of the Germans and must conquer Poland and France in the most economical way. You must minimize your losses while maximizing the enemy’s losses. There are no Tigers or Panthers as in Panzer Missions, but your most powerful units are panzer grenadiers and Panzer IIIs and IVs. Stukas provide the ability to try your hand at classic Blitzkrieg tactics of combined ground, artillery and tactical air strikes. While the original Invasion of France suffered from a few issues including a peculiar “no win scenario” victory condition, Nuutinen has made continual improvements and tweaks and now both games are nearly perfect.
Rommel and the Afrika Korps takes the Conflicts series to the sun baked North African front. The player controls the Africa Corp and its associated tactical air units. This game is very challenging and it took me several tries before I managed to take Tubrok and then drive my forces in to Alexandria. The A/I controls the British and is extremely challenging. Not only does the player have to fight the British but has to balance out the precarious supply lines so that the Africa Corp doesn’t end up stranded in the desert without supplies.
Battle of Okinawa – This is the most challenging of the Conflict games that I reviewed. The game covers land, sea and airborne operations. The player plays the United States military and must perform an amphibious invasion of Okinawa. While the land battles are going on, Japanese Kamikaze units attack the sea born forces and Japanese Air Force operations are conducted against your air and sea units. Not only do you have to watch out for the Japanese, but you also have to plan out your carrier forces so that their Hellcat fighters don’t run out of fuel and crash in to the ocean. One neat details is that your fighter squadrons performance is rated and as more of your pilots reach “ace” status, they can increase the performance of their fighters while intercepting Kamikazes or other Japanese aircrafts. When I won this game, I let out a sigh of relief because it was a very close battle. I played this campaign for around a month and a half before winning it. At one point, a Japanese counter attack nearly drove my forces back to the beaches but gun fire from navel bombardments helped turn the tide.
Battle of Moscow – This release provides a division level focus on Germany’s attempt to take Moscow in 1941. Fortifications, bad weather and the massive forces of the Red Army make this game a real nail biter. At least Nuutinen did not include any orders from Hitler interfering in how the player conducts the campaign!
This is just a brief look at Nuutinen’s Conflicts series. Check them out! Android grognards won’t be disappointed! Keep ‘em coming Joni!
Armchair General Rating: 92%
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!