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Armoured Commander II is a roguelike about tanks, but good

Shelling round the mountain as she shells

Tanks are usually a boring, one note interruption to the exciting infantry shootytimes I was having.

Armoured Commander II, however, is fun. How dare it.

You control a tank crew who aim to breach the front lines of a conflict and clear up enemies or hold positions while your allies on the map catch up. Each map is a large contested region divided into a few dozen zones, over which you roll and fire and cower in your big metal shell like a boring nerd. It feels a bit like a real campaign. In a similar way to A Legionary's Life, it's less an exercise in efficiency and powergaming than an effort to get through a war as best you can, even if that means limiting risks and settling for an unremarkable performance.

The level of simulation is well pitched. On each turn, you pick orders for each crew from a short list, so the driver might try to plough ahead to the next hex, or roam within the current one to throw off enemy targeting, or try to patch up a wounded hulkmate. Your commander will risk popping his head out to scout more fully, or focus on navigating or target spotting to aid crew in their own tasks.

There's usually a decision to make, but not enough to be paralysing, and though you'll repeat a lot of orders, that's pretty much inevitable in a turn-based game about exchanging fire. Repeat shots tend to become more accurate too as your gunners calibrate, or less so as you reposition, so though the decisions can be minor they don't feel like a waste of time.

Each zone has different terrain, which is sort of generated as you enter it rather than known in detail in advance, so maneuvering into new ground will tell you there's, say, a 40% chance you'll wind up in grassland, 20% urban, 5% hills and so on. This, coupled with the degree of freedom you have in securing objectives, means you seldom have to think too far ahead, but focus on immediate, next-turn concerns like seeking cover or getting a solid hit on that alarming tank gun fortified on a mountain.

You're rewarded with more experienced crew and resources for better performance throughout a campaign, but the basics are enough to get by, and though you might take an unlucky anti-armour shell early, this again feels fair and to be expected given the role you're playing. You can also burn a rare and precious Fate Point if you think a very scary enemy shot would otherwise take you out, or retreat if your main gun gets knocked out and write the day off as War Innit.

It's rare that a roguelike with such retro stylings does anything besides sap my mortality. A 1.0 release is estimated for the summer, but I'm already happy to recommend this one.

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