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Posted on Oct 24, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Squad Battles: Soviet Afghan War Review

By Larry Levandowski

The look and feel of the game is pure John Tiller, functional and straight-to-the-point. Plain victory or intro screens are all you get in SAW. Those who have played an HPS title or two will be right at home with the interface, and able to feel their way through the first couple of games without the manual. For everyone else, a well conceived Getting Started manual and scenario, give the player a fast-track to everything they need to know. Then, for those gamers who are happiest when wallowing in detail, copious, clearly written documentation covers just about everything the player could possibly want to know. But if the smell of a freshly printed manual is key to a player’s gaming experience, he will be disappointed; like all HPS games, documentation is on the CD.

Being the 8 th game in the series, SAW is very polished, and it’s hard to find any issues with the game engine itself. But there are some niggles with scenarios. The situations can sometimes seem a little monotonous. Also, many of the situations seem unrealistically short. To meet objectives before the scenario ends, the Soviet player is often required to ditch fire and maneuver, for a charge through open terrain. Replay value also takes a very small hit because the game does not allow for variation in setup. But all of these points are adequately answered by a great set of relatively easy to use scenario editors. So if you don’t like the time limit or setup of a scenario, go ahead and roll your own. One shortfall however, is that there is no map editor. Still, SAW comes with 39 maps, more than enough to meet the amateur scenario designer’s creative urge.

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The AI will not win any awards for brilliance, but it is no walk-over either. Robo-Ivan is clearly better on defense than the attack. Still, solo games are definitely fun, particularly when the player follows the scenario recommendation on what side to play. Players who really want to stretch their skills however, will gravitate towards playing another human. To allow mano a mano contests, the game has robust hot-seat, internet, and PBEM support.

In Arithmetic on the Frontier, Kipling observes that in the rough hills of the region, training, technology and expensive equipment count for little because “the odds are on the cheaper man.” The Soviet Afghan War brings home this point brilliantly in this great addition to the Squad Battles series. The game is polished, detailed and fast playing. SAW is highly recommended for any wargamer with an interest in tactical infantry combat. So if danger and desperate fights are your pleasure, load up your BMP, and head for the Afghan hills.

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