Developer Diary 7 – Move it, Soldier!

Top to bottom: Cameron Highlanders and Indian troops march past the Great Pyramid (1940); Finnish soldiers on skis with reindeers, near Jäniskoski, Finland (1940); A squadron of Bren gun carriers, manned by the Australian Light Cavalry (1941); German horse-drawn cart stuck in rasputitsa near Kursk, Russia (1942).

Top to bottom: Cameron Highlanders and Indian troops march past the Great Pyramid (1940); Finnish soldiers on skis with reindeers, near Jäniskoski, Finland (1940); A squadron of Bren gun carriers, manned by the Australian Light Cavalry (1941); German horse-drawn cart stuck in rasputitsa near Kursk, Russia (1942).

If you are forward of your position, your artillery will fall short.  — Murphy’s Laws of Combat

World War II was, more than any war since Napoleon, a war of movement. Whereas World War I was characterized by grinding offensives, stalemates, and endless artillery barrages, the sequel sent the infantry out of their trenches and swept them up in grand encirclements and breakthroughs. It is that spirit of maneuver that we strived to bring to Unity of Command, and that we now seek to refine further. So let’s talk about how units will actually move around the map.

As before, there are two main types of movement – infantry and mobile. Infantry includes anything that moves around on legs, including cavalry. Mobile units are the various flavors of motorized, mechanized, and armored units. The difficulty of moving a unit through some terrain is expressed as movement points (MPs): it costs 1 MP for an infantry unit to move through a light forest, but 2 MP for an armored division to do the same. This way, armored units are best kept to the open terrain that is their forte, while the infantry slogs through the mud and brush.

On top of this basic distinction, we now introduce cavalry, ski, mountain and perhaps other specialized movement types. A Soviet Cavalry Corps, well known from UoC, moves as infantry (good in rough terrain), while having more MPs per turn (bigger range). This is exactly as intended, however being classified as infantry also meant that it was able to enter mountain hexes which is not realistic. So, the new cavalry classification will simply mean: same as infantry, but mountains are forbidden. In the same vein, Finnish ski units are infantry whose movements are unaffected by snow.

Speaking of snow, we are tweaking several different systems in order to improve winter scenarios. The snow movement penalty is changed so that each unit gets a 1 MP reduction (infantry) or 2 MP (mobile). For veterans, this comes out of their extended movement, while for others it comes from the regular part (clever, eh?). The net result is that, while everyone’s movement is slightly impeded, veteran units are noticeably better at maneuvering in the snow. This way, the game will organically model things like the Soviet ability to conduct deep operations, which improved markedly over the course of the war.

We also removed the snow combat shift (it punished attacking in the snow), because it discouraged offensive combat in the winter (wrongly!). This turned out to be a systemic nerf for the Soviets who, historically, are the attacking side in most of the winter scenarios. Finally, the winter season will now feature supply disruptions in a big way – previously, only mud interfered seriously with the supply situation. The overall idea is that we create an intensity of combat that is similar to what we get during the summer, but with less fluid maneuvers and pronounced supply difficulties. Think of a couple of tired, punch drunk boxers desperately duking it out in the final rounds, and you’ll get what I mean. 

Rivers

Rivers will now be classified as either major or minor – it makes sense for the Volga to be a bigger barrier than, say, the Volturno. The way this will work is that minor rivers can be bridged or crossed in any location – not just in predefined spots as in the original game. Major rivers, on the other hand, will require HQ support to cross, and can only be bridged at key locations. Simply crossing a major river unopposed will cost the HQ 1 CP, while an assault crossing against opposition requires 2 CP. Then, once across, a unit on the opposite bank of an unbridged major river can only be resupplied by its HQ’s Emergency Supply ability. Clearly, gaining and expanding a bridgehead across the Rhine will be a major undertaking.

The new game will get some additional hexside types – terrain types that exist not in hexes, but between them (similar to rivers). Three of those are specific to desert terrain – escarpments, ridges, and wadis. Units attacking a ridge or across a wadi will have to deal with the enemy’s defensive bonus. Escarpments, meanwhile, are impassible and limit visibility from the lower to upper side.

Roads and Rail

Yes, roads, you read it right. Unity of Command didn’t have roads, only rail lines, and those affected supply only, not unit movement. In the new game, we’re adding paved and unpaved roads. All movement along rail costs 1 MP per hex. Movement along roads also costs 1 MP, except across mountain (2 MP) and alpine (3 MP) hexes. Even a units that’s not allowed to stop on a given hex (e.g. mobile unit on a mountain) can travel across it using road or rail.

Unpaved roads become unusable in mud, roads of all types are impassable in snowy mountains, and snow in alpine hexes renders even the rail lines useless. Tunnels, however, are unaffected by weather (yes, tunnels). Rail lines and paved roads are in fact very similar, except that rail has special rules regarding supplies.

Finally, we add some more terrain types: deserts are now split into rocky desert and dunes, there is a small town terrain type that’s different from a city, light forest and bocage are distinct from forests, and mountainous terrain can be represented either by mountain or (mostly impassable) alpine hexes.

The thrust of these changes is to bring more fidelity and realism while still having a fun, easy-to-grasp game. You’ll still be planning lightning thrusts and maneuvers reminiscent of Rommel, but now the bocage fighting of Normandy will feel like bocage fighting. The frozen battlefields of the Ardennes will feel like The Battle of the Bulge. And Unity of Command will feel like the game you love and will use to introduce friends to the wargaming hobby.

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7 Responses to Developer Diary 7 – Move it, Soldier!

  1. Harry.vdk says:

    Sound very promising, not only for the official content, but also for the user scenarios.

  2. Marko says:

    Great stuff. I also like it how you hint at locations, and with that the scope of the game, throughout the piece 🙂

  3. tom says:

    @Marko: well ok, I’m a little guilty of dropping hints. With such basic things as movement though, it’s good to have all your bases covered.

    So, even though the first campaigns that we release will *not* be in Russia, we still want to make sure movement will work once we get there. It’s really hard to come up with good ideas at the last minute.

  4. Marko says:

    Absolutely, good moves all around 🙂 I wouldn’t expect Russia once more just yet, so I perk up at the mention of geographic features and names from elsewhere in the world. Good luck with the development, I trust your design skills!

  5. Richard says:

    This is going to be good. Can I give you money yet? 😛

  6. belt says:

    ahhh I can’t wait for gameplay videos!

  7. Derek says:

    Looks very nice! I love Unity of Command. When can we expect these changes?

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