Unity of Command: step into wargames

, | Game diaries

I’m going to get a little technical in this diary entry. In order to understand how Unity of Command works, I need to explain a complicated wargaming concept: colored dots. Hold on, I have that backwards. Let me start over.

After the jump, shift your prejudice of wargames

What I actually need to explain is the concept of “steps.” They’re an abstract representation of the combat effectiveness of the oversized upper torsos pictured above. Unity of Command shows steps as dots. The colored ones represent active troops. The gray ones represent suppressed troops that add no value to attack or defense. The number of colored dots in each unit is multiplied by its attack or defense value. Those numbers are fed into a formula to resolve battles.

It can’t be this easy, can it? I decide to check my manual for Korsun Pocket, a Matrix wargame I bought years ago to enjoy wargaming by osmosis. Sure enough, that game also uses steps to represent unit size. Korsun Pocket has deeper mechanics than that, but Unity of Command’s use of jargon makes me feel like I’m playing a big-boy wargame.

There’s more to it than just colored dots. Some units have special attachments that affect combat. These are shown as shield icons. I can spend prestige, which represents my final score, to purchase specialty steps for key units in order to make an important breakthrough. The engineer step, for example, allows me to attack across a river without taking a penalty. These penalties are called shifts, another term straight out of serious wargames. Special attachments, terrain, and the weather apply a small adjustment to the combat odds. I can bring positive shifts to battle as well, such as veterancy and armor shock value. All this is displayed in the combat sheet before I commit to an attack.

All I really need to know is the number of steps the attacker and defender are likely to lose. I played the introductory scenarios that way. But I like knowing that I can always look at the details to find out why. I’ll need to pay attention to those details when I start managing more complicated strategic systems, such as supply.

Up next: supplying my sanity
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Tim James is recovering from Mass Effect 3, which he reviewed here, by exploring wargames after decades of curiosity.