It’ll All Be Over By Lunchtime: Warfare 1917

By Kieron Gillen on September 29th, 2008 at 10:40 am.

World War 1 was a popular time for mud.
University Comrade Hobbes and I used to have long debates about WW1 videogames, around their viability. Which with retrospect is an odd thing to do, as I’d already played History Lines 1914-1918 to death. He forwards me Warfare 1917, from ConArtists the maker of previous RPS-fave The Last Stand. And it’s actually pretty good. I’d certainly recommend it more than walking slowly across no-man’s land. And some analysis on it and WW1 games beneath the cut…

As most webgames, it’s working off a simple axis. You can tell each unit either to advance… and that’s it. At which point they’ll advance until they get to a trench, and then stop. The strategy is based on the actual timers. Every one of your unit types takes an increasing amount of time to recharge – so you can send out your soldiers rapidly, but a tank (or land-ship, as they’re faithfully called) takes forever. The key element is that actually selecting any unit re-sets all the timers. So weighing up whether it’s more important you have anything immediately or whether you can wait for something hefty is key. Oh – and there’s all sorts of artillery on their own individual timers and an experience system for improving your troops across the campaign.
I wish tanks were still called Landships. That'd be amazing.
It’s not high art, but it’s compulsive, with the variety of maps demanding a little thought about what you actually need – you can conquer either by claiming territory or bleeding them dry Verdun-style. I played all the way through, and found it grimly atmospheric. Also, like History Lines, I found myself wondering whether the mechanics were trying to say something. In that old Blue Byte game, units gained experience by being involved in combats. However, by being involved in combats, a unit normally was chewed up and the gain in skill barely covered the loss in manpower. It was pretty much a zero-gain situation. The exception was Artillery, who – being able to strike multiple squares away, meant they could fight with no losses… so rapidly became five-star killing machines who could annihilate anything who wandered anywhere close. The point’s kinda obvious.

Warfare 1917 mechanic which got me thinking is even more so. There’s a leader unit who apparently gives a fighting bonus to anyone nearby. They appear to do pretty much nothing. They’re just a waste of time.

Hmm.

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26 Comments »

  1. MasterBoo says:

    Something small, Armor Games are not developers, they are Flash games sponsors :)

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    Boo: Actually, bloke works there full times apparently, but I’ll edit it to make it clearer.

    KG

  3. Dreamhacker says:

    If it says ConArtists, ALWAYS check it out! Those guys have uncanny talents for making advanced flash games.

  4. MasterBoo says:

    Ah, didn’t realize that :).

  5. Chris Evans says:

    Hmm WW1 games eh? I think that it is a missed opportunity for game makers to make something special, I think some great games could be made out of a WW1 setting.

  6. Mogs says:

    WW1, American Civil War, American War of Independence, you name it. There are a number of untapped gold mines of gaming potential with these backdrops; yes, even as first person shooters. The reasons why they’ve not happened are more to do with risk averse publishers & trend following rather than legitimate design problems.

    Anyone who tells you it’s not possible because ‘the guns are crap’ has a stagering lack of imagination & vision and should never get into game design.

  7. Okami says:

    Lies! I’ve been sending stalwart german soldiers to their glorious death für Gott und Kaiser for the last 30 minutes and now it’s lunchtime and the war still isn’t over!

  8. Kieron Gillen says:

    Okami: You should have started earlier. You are the Americans, joining far too late to count.

    KG

  9. Pod says:

    Mogs: Sid Meier doesn’t see the American Civil War era as untapped. Half of his output that isn’t Civ is based around that (or at least used to be… sniffle)

  10. Real Horrorshow says:

    Wow, best flash game I’ve ever played. Thanks for the heads up.

  11. YaRisse says:

    I really enjoyed this, even though it was rather short. I’d love to see a proper RTS made for WW1, I’ve always played as turtle, doing nothing but basebuild and bulk up on defense, with the odd silly tank zerg/Massed Infantry Rush for any sort of progress on the objective. And thats pretty much how WW1 was fought, Perfect backdrop for an RTS made for Turtle Tactic Players.

  12. caesarbear says:

    My favorite WW1 game is WW1 Medic by the guys that brought us Dwarf Fortress.

  13. Pod says:

    The officer units are very valuable. Without them my lilly livered men surrender :(

  14. Okami says:

    This game totally needs a multiplayer mode.

  15. gnome says:

    Nice one, but now that we got the date correct, when will we get a game set in revolutionary Russia? Eh? EH?

  16. Nimic says:

    Awesome.

  17. Kareem says:

    This is indeed a fantastic game and I agree that the WW1 setting is under-utilized, just like a lot of 20th century war settings. I’d love to see a game do the Korean war for instance, or even a game that has a Vietnam story mode that doesn’t suck (so this excludes Battlefield).

  18. Shadrach says:

    That was great, maybe a bit too easy… at least for teh germs.

  19. Andrew says:

    I cannot for the life of me get past mission 8 in the German campaign. At all.

    Good little game, though. Not quite WW1 Medic levels in terms of PTSD, but…

  20. Willem says:

    How could you make a game about WW1? I don’t see RTS’s and FPS’s working at all.

  21. Sandoval says:

    The game is wildly unbalanced and kind of fun for that fact. Once you have a tank, you really just want to only deploy those. The alternative, though, is that as the Germans you can use their stormtroopers exclusively, although it’s quite tough, since those can kill tanks (especially when backed up by artillery) and get fun upgrades. I beat the German campaign only use stormtroopers, and the English using only the normal troops for the first level, then snipers, then tanks. Kind of fun too — when you go all snipers the other side has a lot of morale problems.

    But unless you’re TRYING to make it hard, it’s soooo easy.

  22. MindBrain says:

    This game is cool but multiplayer would make it great and it seems perfect for it. I’d even pay for it

  23. Turtler says:

    Sorry to do a drive-by-critique, but it seems like you had a MAJOR flaw in your operations: You always decided to advance, even when there was no need to.

    This is a VERY bad thing to do in WF1917, as it will not accomplish much of anything.

    The strategy is far more in-depth than you hint, and it primarily revolves around a few choices:

    1. What units do you send?

    2. When do you order them to advance? (For example, do you order a single squad to move on the trenches without support because artillery may destroy them if you wait?)

    3. Where and when do you deploy your support (a good gas attack can singlehandedly change the course of the battle).

    While making these decisions, you have to try to outthink and outmanuever your foe by having a unit in the right place at the right time to counter his units (IE have Lewis Gunners in the trench when the Germans launch an attack using riflemen), and by outmanuevering his artillery by not being there when it strikes.

    Also, remember that just because you CAN advance DOES NOT mean you have to. For instance, on the first British mission, the best option is to simply stack your trench with soldiers and watch while the Germans get mowed down, perhaps only coming out to avoid the Sturmtrupper’s grenades.

    Keep these in mind, and the battles will be far less painful for you and far more painful for the enemy. And also far more decisive.

    Also, one note: the units themselves do not gain experience, you do, which goes towards upgrades.

    As for additions to the system, other possibilities that I thought of were other WWI battles (Verdun, for instance), the Crimean War (the Seige of Stevastopol would probably not be that radical a change for the system, save for coping with more open-field combat), and the Balkan Wars.

    However, besides that, it was very fun and another notch on ConArtist’s rather-full belt. I am sure the Reichswehr would agree. If there were any still alive after my Tommies got through with them.

  24. Pod says:

    Contrary to that massive post:
    I found on many missions that nothing but advancing (aka “spamming”) worked wonders.

  25. Turtler says:

    “Contrary to that massive post:
    I found on many missions that nothing but advancing (aka “spamming”) worked wonders.”

    You misunderstand me: Spamming certainly CAN work (if your men do not break from the losses, that is), and sometimes it is the ONLY way (the First German Mission is a sterling example of this). But you will loose FAR more men than you have to, and you should not be suprised when your men give up the ghost from it.

    The most efficient strategy is to carefully measure what units you commit and what ones you don’t. REMEMBER: “Blitzkreig,” “Combined Arms,” and modern industrial warfare were more-or-less developed in WWI, and finally unveiled by the Western Allies during the final two years of the war. By 1917, the regular military had roughly taken the shape that still exists today: The Air air was fleshed out into specialized roles, Artillery ahd become more accurate, Tanks became (slightly more) reliable, and the Infantry cooperated with everyone.

    You will decrease your casualties VASTLY by using the tools you have carefully. For instance, why bother sending entire companies of riflemen up against a trench when a gas attack will clean it out more efficiently? If you time your men correctly, you can occupy the enemy’s trenches just as the shelling stops/gas dissipates. USE your fire support to turn the tide in an evenly-matched engagement (for instance, between two “Landships” in the final battles of the campaign), and, above all, upgrade wisely.

    Sure, you can win by merely tossing waves of men at the trenches, but you will probably suffer several defeats in the meantime, and it will likely take longer to win.

    If you doubt which is more effective, would you like to compare campaign scores?

  26. Johnnywog says:

    Anyone care to give advice on what upgrades to get? I think that’s the main area where I really botch it, thanks.