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Posted on Dec 16, 2013 in Electronic Games

Crisis in Command 2: Drive on Moscow – iOS Game Review

By Jim Cobb

cover-iconCrisis in Command 2: Drive on Moscow for iPad. iOS game review. Publisher, Shenandoah Studios. Designer, Ted Raicer. $9.99

Passed Inspection: Good historical detail, superlative interface and mechanics.

Failed Basic: Mediocre graphics; uneven AI performance.

Most second games in a great series are a letdown. The novelty wears thin and one sees new maps and new units but few new ideas. Shenandoah Studios has overcome this curse by using new designers for the engine introduced with the first game, Battle of the Bulge. Shenandoah’s new release, Drive on Moscow, enlarges on the first game—literally. Russia is so much larger than the Ardennes.

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Unpronounceable Space
Covering Moscow and the area around it, the map is made up of a huge number of areas, called “spaces,”, each 20 – 25 square kilometers. Each area has its Russian name, a nice touch. Terrain details such as roads, railroads, mountains and forests show up quite well, while cities can be spotted as small oblongs and squares. (Not so well done are rivers that are hard to distinguish from roads and area control demarcation.) Winter storms turn the entire map white and freeze rivers while mud lends a brown hue to the proceedings. Other map features include names of major cities, area victory points, red symbols when river crossing limits movements, and golden parachutes denoting where the Russian paratroop unit can make its drop. Selected areas are seen with broad white borders; gold borders indicate possible destinations for moving units. An overlay map option shows which areas are in the supply line of which nation.

Counters are the usual German blue and Soviet red with white silhouettes of infantry, tanks and half-tracks. These shapes display the different vehicle shapes of each nation. In addition, Russian cavalry and paratroop counters have the appropriate symbols. White dots represent unit strengths for both offense and defense. Elite units have their unit patches in their counters. Unsupplied, out-of-fuel and “confused” units have flashing tags. Units qualified for breakthrough moves are outlined in gold and white arrows. Sound has the appropriate clanks, tromps and neighs for movement. A combat resolution table shows probable results and small icons of terrain that will affect the battle. A button of a key explains all modifiers used in calculating the outcome. Combat sounds occur in the combat resolution window as rat-a-tat-tats and booms. Animation is confined to the same window with bullet holes indicating hits and explosions indicating the destruction of entire units.

An outstanding feature of this game is the level of support that surpasses most iPad games. A basic tutorial goes over the map and general features while a tutorial game covers mechanics and game play. An indexed help button reveals in-depth explanations on every aspect of play including tables and tips for both sides.

 The Weatherman’s War
The interface is typical tablet fare: tap a unit in a contested space, hit “commit” and combat occurs immediately. A unit in an uncontested area can move one adjacent area if infantry or two if armored or motorized. Only one area can be activated per turn—and the concept of “turn” is the heart of the Command Crisis engine.

Turns in Drive on Moscow last three to five days, depending on the weather; bad weather yields shorter turns. Turns are made up of impulses that make up either no time or, six, twelve or eighteen hours. (Players alternate impulses or pass.) Impulse length depends on action taken and weather. For example, moving by railroad on a clear day may take no time, whereas a hard-fought battle in a storm may take eighteen hours with variation dependent on the computer’s 10D roll.

The four weather conditions (clear, mud, frost and snow) also effect movement and combat. “Clear” allows normal movement and combat while “mud” slows all German units down to one area per impulse. Frost actually facilitates movement by freezing rivers and minimizing the effect of forests on combat. Snow is bad news for the Germans, limiting movement, negating armor breakthroughs and creating Russian partisans. The Russian cavalry is largely immune to terrain restrictions.

Units are Soviet armies, corps and tank brigades and German corps and divisions; players should bear in mind Russian armies were the equivalent of German corps. These units take part in four scenarios playable as either side: a mammoth twenty-two turn depiction of the whole operation, a four-turn scenario of Georgy Zhukov’s counter-offensive, a five-turn look at the beginning of Operation Typhoon (the German campaign to capture Moscow) and a six-turn examination of the last German lunge at Moscow itself. The three shorter scenarios are just parts of the large campaign; the first two are just victory point chasers but with the six-turn one resembling the real objective of the game. Players can choose AI opponents: Zhukov or Ivan Konev as Russians and Heinz Guderian or Fedor von Bock as Germans. Each officer has a distinctive style.

Usual play is simple enough; no more than three friendly units can be in a space and enemy units block supply. Combat is an exercise in the binomial use of strength points modified for unit type, status and the defender’s terrain, which soaks up hits. Combat results are loss of points, retreat and total destruction. When attacking, a window shows probable results and players may want to take advantage of the “Undo” button if things look bad. When armor units are involved in a battle ending in elimination of all enemies, they can use “breakthrough” moves to advance up to two spaces. At the beginning of each turn, all units are reset and the Germans may replace a few infantry or armor points. The Russian receive many more replacement points, can rebuild destroyed units and receive new units in the later turns of the long scenario.

Special Rules Add Spice to Drive on Moscow
Several nice special rules add spice to the game. The Germans have the initiative for the first eighteen turns of the entire campaign and in the Operation Typhoon and the last attempt at Moscow scenarios; the Russians have the initiative in the rest of the campaign game and the “Zhukov offensive” scenario. The side that has the initiative can use “Prepared Offensives” for two turns. These offensives resemble surprise attacks since defenders cannot fight back and no time passes.

On clear weather turns, the Germans can use air power to freeze one Soviet unit in place. To make things even more difficult for the Russians, their units starting the first two turns in areas with German units cannot move or attack. However, the tables can turn quickly. The Germans must cover long distances and must either go for quick kills or dilute their spearheads to guard their supply lines. Russian units in rugged terrain are hard to move out and represent a continual threat to supply. Russian cavalry and paratroops are another worry for German quartermasters. Worse, beginning in turn three, random fuel checks are made for German armor and mechanized units. All in all, the special rules balance out, especially when the bad effects of the weather on the Germans are considered.

Supply and time are not the only matters of concern for players. Moving around with a powerful three-unit force might seem macho but these forces block friendly units also. Players may consider attacking with just two units to weaken the enemy and then bring in another unit from an adjacent space to mop up and free up an area. Such arranging is particularly important to the Germans as they have a two-tiered initial deployment and need to make room for the rear part of their force. Also, lone enemy units may not be easy pickings. If the unit is elite and in a city or forest, three attacking units may not be enough to boot it out.

Replay is assured for several reasons. The AI is strong although given to strange moves at times. Hot seat play is also provided. Most importantly, the developers have integrated the game very well into Apple’s Game Center. Not only can friends be contacted, but an “auto-match” feature finds other gamers who own the game.

Drive on Moscow gives players a feel for the opportunities and frustration on the Eastern Front in an extremely accessible manner. Not overwhelming but still accurate, this game opens an exciting window into this critical theater.

This game requires iOS 7.

Armchair General Rating: 89%

About the Author
Jim Cobb has been playing board wargames since 1961 and computer wargames since 1982. He has been writing incessantly since 1993 to keep his mind off the drivel he dealt with as a bureaucrat. He has published in Wargamers Monthly, Computer Gaming World, Computer Games Magazine, Computer Games Online, CombatSim, Armchair General, Subsim, Strategyzone Online and Gamesquad

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