All Of The Wars: Operational Art Of War Sequel Inbound

Some wargames attempt to reconstruct a single battle in detail, be it Agincourt, Waterloo or the Somme Offensive. Some attempt to recreate an entire conflict or theatre of warfare. Norm Koger’s Operational Art of War series covers all of 20th century warfare, utilising a flexible set of mechanics and design tools. Today, Matrix announced that The Operational Art of War III, the sixth entry in the series, is receiving its long-awaited final update. On top of that, the development team behind the game have begun work on a sequel to this most intricately flexible of wargames prepares to enter the modern era.

I spent half of my holiday last week lounging around in a field reading 20th century military history and installed just about every modern era strategy game I own as soon as I returned to my computer. Even though I’ve barely spent any time with the OAOW series, I’m enormously excited by the idea of a new entry, that lets me flit from conflict to conflict like a quantum-leaping general.

Development of the fourth game began two years ago and the improvements were originally intended to form part of the final update to OAOW III. As you might imagine, two years of development led to more upgrades than a mere patch can comfortably contain so everybody involved committed to a full sequel. Here’s the full story, straight from Matrix:

The Operational Art of War IV started as an update intended to be TOAW III version 3.5, but when we were able to re-start full development on the series, it allowed us to do much more in the way of significant improvements than we had originally considered and it kept growing until it became a full release plan. As a result, we’ve invested the time and resources to continue the series while also continuing support for TOAW III and the TOAW community in the form of this update. As many bug fixes as possible, basically anything that was not too tightly intertwined with new features and code, were removed from the Operational Art of War IV process and are included in this release.

The Operational Art of War IVwill fully support modern computer hardware and operating systems. This will make it more user-friendly and able to scale to higher resolutions, especially in terms of font and button size. It reorganizes and adds functionality to many very useful screens and dialogs to make them more informative and easier to use. Once released, TOAW IV will continue to be supported for some time, hopefully leading to many more updates and improvements. TOAW IV will be the new base point for the TOAW series and future updates will be based on this new release.

The update includes new scenarios, revisions to existing scenarios, bug fixes and improved method of calculating “retreat-from-combat” details. You can read all about the changes here and download the patch here. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more details about OAOW IV but don’t be surprised if Tim Stone’s spotter planes beat me to the punch.

The Operational Art of War III is available direct from Matrix.


  1. protorp says:

    Wow that’s a blast from the past, seeing as I cut my teeth on the original TOAW and TOAW2 (quick Google) nearly 20 years ago, having moved in a computer wargaming trajectory to them from Panzer General via Steel Panthers.

    If anything the ambition of this series is even greater than you outline; by TOAW3 it covered not just all 20th century warfare, but had pushed that back and forwards (through infinite if intimidating scenario modding possibilities) to about 1870 – 2040 or so. But that’s not even the most impressive part; it does all this in an engine which can cope with scenarios at anything from squad / platoon level through to army groups / fronts.

    I still fire it up from time to time, even though I know life isn’t going to allow me time for more than a few turns of juggling hundreds of units across the swathes of North Africa, let along play through the 5 or 6 scenario series which covers the entire campaign 39 – 43. And as for the full Barbarossa scenario, I don’t think I ever manged to complete my second turn before burning out.

    Still, at the rate it seems to be keeping itself preserved, maybe I’ll be able to pick it back up again if I can take early retirement in a couple of decades…

  2. Raja Blast says:

    I’m sure this update is stellar, adding cutting-edge concepts like tool-tips and such, but Matrix Games/Slitherine is one of the shittiest publishing companies in the gaming world. They are aggressively anti-consumer in their pricing, attitudes, and design decisions. The devs and community are toxic, and will sneer at and malign anyone who doesn’t go full Stockholm Syndrome for their overpriced and underwhelming games. They confuse complexity for depth, and their UIs are universally trash. They’ve slowly evolved to the point where mild criticism of their broken games no longer elicits howls of rage and bans from the developers. Now they’ll only smugly tell you you’re too stupid to play their game, and maybe you should check out Call of Duty or *snort* a Paradox game! Progress, I suppose.

    N.B. My characterization of their community and dev attitudes stems entirely from observation, not direct interaction. No sour grapes here, just an aghast observer.

    • Premium User Badge

      Der Zeitgeist says:

      It really is quite difficult to deal with some of those guys, especially since some of the devs seem to be content in using their customers as paying beta testers after releasing an unfinished product. Any criticism of that is quickly subdued by pointing out the “great continuing support for their product”, something other game developers supposedly don’t offer.

      A lot of Matrix games seem to be a kind of early access in disguise, you basically pay for an alpha or beta version and then have the privilege of arguing with the developers about bug fixing.

      “Command: Modern Air Naval Operations” is a pretty recent example of this practice.

    • Jason Lefkowitz says:

      Yeah, seriously. It’s just baffling to me how they operate. You would think watching Paradox roll around in piles of money would convince them to dial down the elitism at least a little, but apparently even the prospect of riches beyond dreams of avarice are not sufficient for that.

      I mean, I picked up Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations during the Steam sale for 50% off. (There’s at least one grudging concession, I guess; they actually participated in a Steam sale for a few days! Mirabile dictu!) This was the game I’d heard touted as Matrix’s most cutting-edge, modern title. And yet when I started it up it smacked me in the face with a UI that was exactly as bad as I remembered from Harpoon Classic, which came out more than twenty years ago! It was a UI straight out of Windows 3.1, which was long in the tooth even back then. And it’s still being used in a premium-priced product? In the year 2015? For what I paid for the game I was willing to live with it, but if I’d paid full freight I would have been pretty cheesed off.

      • rochrist says:

        a) If you think the Command UI is as bad as Harpoon Classic, you clearly haven’t played HC, or at the very least, not played it in 20 years.

        b) Unlike Harpoon, Command actually works.

        • Jason Lefkowitz says:

          I’ll cheerfully admit that it’s unfair to ding Harpoon Classic for having the same Windows 3.1-style “ten thousand menu bars and radio buttons ahoy” UI as Command, for the simple reason that 20 years ago that kind of UI was much closer to the state of the art than it is today. It was awkward in the early ’90s, but not inexcusably so the way it is today.

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          Der Zeitgeist says:

          “b) Unlike Harpoon, Command actually works.”

          Except when it doesn’t.

          Almost two years after release, CMANO still has tons of bugs. A quick look in the forums shows that UNREP still isn’t working right, something that was advertised as a core feature of the game on release. There’s still large AI problems, especially with aircraft missions. Mine warfare also isn’t fully implemented yet, another feature that was a key point in advertising on release.

          And now we can read about the big contract the developers landed with BAE Systems, with their CMANO professional version. The way I see it, since the release in 2013, the developers used their paying private customers as beta testers to get the product into the current state, where it is acceptable to professional customers like BAE Systems.

          • rochrist says:

            Command isn’t remotely, by any stretch of the imagination, anywhere close to Harpoon in bugs. There are major features in Harpoon that were broken the day they came out and remain broken today. Release after release saw nothing but increasing bug counts.

            I know a LOT of pick hardcore wargamers. They’re almost universally happy with Command.

    • damaki says:

      Hardcore wargamers are a strange breed. In a tabletop game, they can cope with 80+ pages of badly written rules of play, 100+ pages of ill explained scenario setups and shuffle through 10 pages of FAQ forum topics, all of this to get their fix. Please note that we are not talking about the typical marketed average gamer (15 to 35 yo), but mostly about 40+ men, reasonably well doing, often with outdated computers.
      So, in a nutshell, Matrix Games are just a product of their own audience. Most of their games are just plain hostile to the average PC gamer, though some are nice and accessible (Panzer Corps, Birth of Rome), but it looks like tablet gaming makes them change in the right direction.

    • teije says:

      I bought a lot of games there over the years (particularly 5-6 years ago) but got ground down by the wonky buying experience and high prices. They seem happy focusing on their niche market, and have no intentions of broadening/making more user-friendly their products – either on the UI/design front, or on the pricing. If that continues to bring them success, then that’s fine – room in this industry for all approaches I guess.

      Distant Worlds is the only thing I’ve bought recently from them that I thought was good value for money.

  3. Razgovory says:

    I played endless ours of TOAW. Never did figure out how the game actually worked, but what the hell. Mostly I liked it because you can simulate 20th century battles that aren’t from 1939-1945. Just a shame the time mechanic is so obtuse.

  4. Shiloh says:

    TOAW is a classic of computer wargame design. I played hundreds of hours of it.

  5. Crumpled Stiltskin says:

    They may be a bad company, but War in the Pacific Admiral’s Edition is one of the greatest games ever made.

  6. ExitDose says:

    I’ve softened a bit of Matrix over the past year or so. Their prices can still be hard to justify at times, like C:MANO(I deeply regret purchasing this) or the Combat Mission games, but overall they seem to be migrating in the right direction; regular sales on their products and a presence on Steam are good steps towards that. There’s definitely still a ‘buyer beware’ factor with a few of their releases, but they’ve also had some pretty solid releases in the past few years: Decisive Campaigns, OOB, Pike and Shot, Commander: The Great War, and Flashpoint Campaigns. They at least seem to be trying to get out of the mindset that it’s still the 90’s, unlike John Tiller or Battlefront.

  7. Velko says:

    Nnnghghhhggnnnggghh IT’S NOT OAOW NO-ONE CALLS IT OAOW aaaaaaaarrggghhhhh

  8. SlimShanks says:

    My favourite thing about OAW3 is that there is a Korean war scenario where if things go a certain way the US and Russia will start trading nukes. Wheee!