We didn’t have a great deal of criticism for Shenandoah’s ace World War II strategy game, Battle of the Bulge, outside of the way it cruelly ground our underdeveloped tactical skills into the cold hard Belgian dirt.
Oh, there was this: "we would undoubtedly have liked to see more - if only to see how Battle of the Bulge's finely balanced systems would work on a different battlefield with different terrain."
Yes, Drive on Moscow is essentially Battle of the Bulge's second major campaign mission. In fact, as the second part of the so-called Crisis in Command series, it's intended as such.
The result is that it looks and plays much the same, but is set in a completely different part of Europe with different units and objectives. Ordinarily you might balk at paying £6.99 / $9.99 for the same game, but then Drive on Moscow isn't made of the same stuff as other iOS games.
There's so much strategic scope densely packed into its single arena - which is Moscow, plus a few hundred miles of surrounding terrain - that it warrants repeat play.
The mechanics are identical to Battle of the Bulge. It's reds versus blues played out on an interactive war room map, with turn-based battles that take into consideration the number of units in a sector (up to three), the terrain you're fighting on, and a dozen other variables.Back in the USSR
Any variation here is entirely informed by the change in setting.
Drive on Moscow covers the ill-fated march of the Nazis on Soviet Russia at the business end of World War II. It resulted in some of the largest and bloodiest battles in history, and proved as decisive as any other battle in the outcome of the war.
The German forces had speed, surprise, and formidable firepower on their side. The Russians had sheer weight of numbers, readier access to supplies, and the treacherous Russian winter on theirs.
At the risk of trivialising such a devastating event, it's these vast differences in approach, as well as the knife-edge nature of the battle, that make for such a compelling strategy game.
By offering you control over either side (as in Battle of the Bulge), the game effectively gives you two different campaigns.
On the march
Take control of the Axis forces and you must make urgent progress before the Russians get organised, and before weather and supply issues bite. This element of surprise manifests itself as early round perks, such as the ability to freeze a single Russian unit with air cover, and being able to make early attacks without reply.
Despite the urgency of the Axis campaign, there are options to your approach. You can march on Moscow itself and take the capital, or steadily (but not too steady) hoover up the surrounding cities, which are each granted a numerical value. Acquire enough points come the end of the allotted period, and you win.
On the other hand, with Russia it's all about marshalling your forces, minimising lost ground and units until the constant drip feed of reinforcements puts you onto something resembling the front foot.
Appropriately enough, it's the Russians that bring the really interesting new units and elements to Drive on Moscow.
There's the rail networks that allow you to move certain units four spaces at a time, allowing you to reinforce quickly and launch surprise attacks.
Cavalry units, meanwhile, allow you to move two spaces at all times, even when in enemy territory. They're also self sufficient, so it doesn't matter if you're cut off from the rest of your forces (other units need a direct route back to a supply point if they're to remain effective.)
Hard fought victory
But, as I mentioned at the outset, Drive on Moscow is the same basic game as Battle of the Bulge, with all the strengths and caveats that we outlined in our original review. If you exhausted that campaign and found yourself thirsting for more, this really is a no-brainer.
Similarly, if you gave the first game a try and found it too tough or too spartan, there's absolutely nothing here that will convert you. You could argue that the ability to tackle one of the three phases of the conflict on its own makes this a more forgiving and flexible game, but you'd be pushing it.
You still get multiplayer - both local and online - too, which essentially creates a massively involved, asymmetrical boardgame for two. But it's probably not one you'll want to play with Gran at Christmas.
Drive on Moscow offers the same brand of sober, educational, and taxing turn-based strategy as Battle of the Bulge. But it's resilient, resourceful, and deep enough to easily withstand any misplaced accusations of cashing in.
Want more? Check out our growing collection of Drive on Moscow articles!