Wars and Battles: October War 1973 – iOS Game Review
Wars and Battles: October War 1973. iOS game review. Published by Kermorio. Developed by the Wars and Battles Project. Free with in-app purchase – $9.99 per game pack. IOS 6.0+ compatible with iPad.
Passed Inspection: Easy to play; tutorials spread over several scenarios; solid manual (PDF); good graphics; good interface; improved AI; easy to use Internet multiplayer.
Failed Basic: No pass-and-play multiplayer.
Wars and Battles is a turn-based war game platform supporting different periods and several platforms (iOS and Android tablets, PC, Mac and Smartphones). Currently two games of the series are available, Normandy 1944 and October War 1973. The only platform supported today is iOS iPad, although Kermorio announced that PC and Mac versions are coming out later this year. Kermorio plans to release the following games in 2015: Kharkov 1943, The Korean War 1950-51, Austerlitz 1805, Gettysburg 1863, and Market Garden 1944.
Much of what I said about their first game, Normandy 1944, applies to October War 1973. The biggest differences is in the lethality of more modern weapons and the improved AI. In the previous review I didn’t mention about gaining experience to improve your player rank. According to the manual, advancing in ranks gives you “access to new recommendations on the use of the game, avoid unnecessary tutorials in future battles, better choose your opponents in multiplayer mode. As part of Wars and Battles’ improvements over time, upgrading you rank will also allow you to access new features and exclusive content”. Time will tell what impact this will have on the game series.
Wars and Battles: October War 1973 is an operational scale game covering the battles in Sinai and Golan Heights in 1-day turns. Units represent battalions or brigades. The map uses a hex grid to regulate movement, line-of-sight, and ranged fire. Maps are 43 x 29 hexes with each hex representing 7 km (around 4.3 miles). The 60-page online PDF manual can be accessed either from the main menu or their website (http://warsandbattles.com/en/rules/). Play is either against the AI or Internet multi-player through their servers. For most scenarios victory is achieved by occupying specific terrain by the end of the scenario. Unlike Normandy, terrain victory points do not accumulate over turns. Victory points are also awarded for destroying enemy units (1 victory point for each Life Point). Israeli static units have 1 LP and dynamic units have 4. Egyptian and Syrian units have from 2-8 LPs. There are some what-if scenarios with U.S. and Soviet forces.
October War 1973 can be played either in 3-D mode showing a figure representing the main combatant of the unit (infantry, mechanized infantry, armor, artillery, etc.) or 2-D mode with counters. The 3-D models are good with a detailed image of the appropriate infantry, armored vehicle, or artillery. A version of the 3-D image is used on the counter instead of the NATO or other abstract identifier. For scenarios with a low unit count, playing in 3-D mode works very well. With moderate to high unit counts I found it easier to keep track of the battle in 2-D mode, mostly because you can stack up to 7 Israeli battalions or 5 Egyptian/Syrian brigades in a hex and you can see the stacking easier in 2-D.
There is no one tutorial scenario (even though the first one is marked as such) because a tutorial automatically activates when new unit types or capabilities are introduced. When replaying a scenario I found the tutorials could be easily dismissed, if they appeared. For those wanting more depth, the manual is very informative, filling in the background (including a full order of battle for each scenario) and fine details of game play.
The first player moves, engages in combat, or replenishes units in any order by spending activation points. Each unit only needs one activation point to perform all activities for that turn. For example, to move a stack of units, an activation point needs to be expended for each unit. If there are not enough points, the stack cannot be activated but will need to be split up. A stack can be split so that only a few units are activated (as few as one). Only the active player’s units need activation points. Activation points are replenished at the beginning of the next turn/impulse. Each type of terrain hex has a movement cost depending on the type of unit. Movement stops when a unit uses all its movement points or enters an active enemy Zone of Control (ZOC). A unit can move out of an enemy ZOC in another movement phase, at double the movement cost. Units cannot move through a hex containing the maximum number of units.
Units can engage in combat after movement, if next to an enemy unit. When attacking, you choose which of your units/stacks is attacking from those adjacent to the target hex, plus any artillery or air within range. You always attack the entire stack in the target hex. The odds are displayed along with other units eligible to participate in the attack. Include/exclude units by clicking the checkbox in the upper left corner of the specific unit. Adjacent units are automatically selected. Artillery and air within range but not adjacent must be manually selected to participate. Commanders included in a combat provide a bonus for attacks or defense. Units may only attack once per turn. The odds are presented before you commit to an attack so you can evaluate different combinations to see which give you sufficient odds without wasting an attack. The early scenarios are very short so you need to make optimal decisions. For either player there never seems to be enough units or activation points in any turn.
Units are either in or out of supply. Out of supply units cannot attack, moves at half its normal move, loses its ZOC, and loses 1 Life Point for every turn starting with the second consecutive turn out of supply.
Fatigue plays a role in that it increases when a unit fights, retreats, or is bombarded (by artillery or air power). Every unit recovers some fatigue at the end of every turn. Non-activated units recover more fatigue. Units surrender when too fatigued and have lost all their status points. The better the unit quality, the higher the fatigue it can tolerate before losing status points.
Sagger anti-tank and SAM anti-aircraft make the Egyptian and Syrian infantry formidable advisories for the Israeli armor and air force. Sagger and SAM attacks come before attacks by other units, even when defending. Used to playing the Normandy game, I attacked Egyptian infantry with just an Israeli armor unit in the first Sinai scenario. The sagger defensive fire totally destroyed the armor unit and made me pay more attention to the tutorial and manual.
While there are two maps, Sinai and Golan Heights (includes Damascus to the Jordan River), ground units may not be moved between them. In the two fronts scenarios, units in Israel’s reinforcement pool may be sent to one map or the other. Once deployed, they may not move to the other map. Israeli air units can move between the two maps. Egyptian and Syrian air units are confined to their map.
Kermorio provides a lot of detail about units or combat in pop-up windows. For units you see the unit insignia, image, quality (elite, veteran, experienced, or conscript), life points (damage it can take), fatigue, status (4 levels, ability to fight), attack and defense values, range, line of sight distance, movement points, and a brief biography of the unit.
The game engine is pretty clean. I found the AI improved over the first game. Kermorio says in the manual that the AI “currently corresponds to an intermediate player.” The manual says that the AI was designed to play like the different sides did historically. That feature of the AI is evident in all but the first scenario for each side. I liked that the AI controlling the Egyptians, Syrians, and Israelis acted differently on the tactical level. As the manual says, the AI needs improvement on the operational and strategic levels.
I like pass-and-play multiplayer and wished game companies would consider adding it for at least a couple scenarios. That said, setting up the account for Internet multiplayer was easy. Provide a user name, email address, and password. But there is a considerable delay before receiving the confirmation email so you can get online to their servers. Creating a new multiplayer game or joining one someone else has set up is very easy. They have a nice game management screen to keep track of your multiplayer games.
The game is easy to play, sound effects and music are not obnoxious, the game offers the ability to save even if you haven’t completed the turn, and it has a good interface that makes playing enjoyable. This is a good game for casual or experienced wargamers because detailed information is not obtrusive but is easily available. Wars and Battles: October 1973 continues to provide wargaming with style and has improved over its predecessor. I’m looking forward to the next entry in their series.
Armchair General Rating: 93%
About the Author
Steven M. Smith has been an Armchair General contributor since 2010. He has a life-long interest in history especially the Napoleonic and Victorian periods. He was the owner of The Simulation Corner gaming retail outlet in Morgantown, West Virginia, until 1983. He is currently a member of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society and works for Lockheed Martin in Baltimore, Maryland.