Unity of Command isn’t just a cute game that’s easy to pick up. It also uses an historically relevant supply system that significantly affects gameplay. Without fresh supplies each turn, my units lose combat effectiveness. Even the lowliest Russian peasants can defeat once-mighty panzer divisions that have been cut off too long from supply.

After the jump, we’re not playing Panzer General anymore

Supplies in Unity of Command come from specific points on the edge of the map. It’s an abstract representation of logistics happening outside the boundaries of the scenario. I only care about connecting that source to my front line troops. Supply travels over land hexes based on rules similar to movement. It’s easier to move supply across open ground than up a mountain. Some supply sources begin on a railroad. Each contiguous rail hex acts as its own source for supply. Supplies fan out from the railroad just like they do from the original source at the edge of the map.

Of course, supply can’t travel through enemy territory. That’s where the fun begins. It’s easy to capture a railroad behind enemy lines to cut them off. It’s just as easy for the AI to do it too. When I defend my supply lines with weak Romanian and Italian troops, I run the risk of becoming cut off. The enemy only needs to control one rail hex for supply to stop the rest of the way down the line. That puts advance units in serious trouble.

The AI exploits this brilliantly. It’s smart enough to identify a weak point in my lines and punch a hole through. Once there’s a breach, the AI maneuvers its forces behind my lines to cut off supply. Often the enemy troops I cut off are the ones that make a last-ditch effort to stall my advance. It takes careful planning to isolate enemy troops while preventing the AI from doing the same.

This happens the first time I play the Voronezh scenario. I send most of my troops down the long east-west railroad toward the objective. I leave some units to defend my supplies, but the AI finds a way to break through. (Compare the before-and-after pictures above.) I double back to close the breach, but not before I run out of time to achieve a decisive victory.

The supply system gives me a lot to think about. I puzzle over rear troops as much as the tip of the spear. One wrong move there and my attack will stall before I achieve victory. This supply system moves Unity of Command from a simple strategy game to an entry-level wargame.

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Tim James is recovering from Mass Effect 3, which he reviewed here, by exploring wargames after decades of curiosity.