Wars and Battles seems to style itself as some sort of catch-all military simulator. At least that's what the splash screen suggests, where Samurai rub shoulders with some of Uncle Sam's finest.
These far-reaching games have a long and unhappy history. Different periods in the past fought their Wars and Battles very differently. And while there are some universal principles, any game that fails to model this is going to look shallow and a bit silly.
So it may be fortunate that at the moment, Wars and Battles only contains scenarios for the Normandy invasion.
It's not a small number of scenarios, especially if you pony up for the in-app purchases. You can play them all from both Allied and German sides, too.
Whatever the future holds in terms of added content, there's an impressive amount of game here already.Critical mass
Strategy games differentiate themselves by putting their focus on particular tactics. Wars and Battles is all about concentration of force.
You'll need at least three times the firepower of your target to win a fight. By the time you factor in terrain, and the differences between unit types, that can be a lot more. You'll need near-nuclear grade munitions to shift a big infantry unit entrenched in a city.
Over the first few scenarios, this model seems disappointingly simplistic. Stack 'em high and go in all guns blazing seems an all-conquering approach.
But as the maps and the forces at your disposal get bigger, the game reveals hidden depths. Because it's so difficult get get unit stacks out of good defensive positions, the focus switches to stopping them getting there in the first place.
And that's where the meat of the game lies.
Unit movement is limited if there are enemy adajcent, so the game becomes about punching holes in defensive lines and stationing troops on key road junctions.
Much like real strategic warfare, in fact. There are artillery bombardments and other assets to deploy. So the campaign progresses across the Normandy countryside in a convincing re-creation of history.Critical choices
Each scenario unfolds like some intricate puzzle. There's a fog of war hiding enemy units unless you have forces close by, so scoutng the map can lead to nasty surprises.
You have to learn what units the enemy brings on to the map, and when and where they arrive. Then make plans to try and delay them from reaching victory hexes, or counterattack and recapture them.
This sort of slow-burning strategic puzzling is often the hallmark of top-quality tactics titles. Wars and Battles falls short of the highest tier, but only by a whisker.
The biggest problem is the unpredictability of the combat engine. It's always good to have an element of randomness in battles. Not only is it realistic, but it keeps things tense and exciting.
But there's a fine balance to be struck. Too much chaos and games become more of a crapshoot than a strategic challenge.Critical view
For the most part, Wars and Battles walks that line with confidence. It becomes a problem when you feel you've "solved" a scenario, replay it for the win and end up losing because a pivotal combat didn't go as expected.
With some of the longer battles, given that they unlock one after another as you win, it can become very frustrating.
In keeping with the deep but accessible nature of the game, the graphics look fantastic. Most top-down strategy titles go for a more polished version of the traditional hex and counter look, but Wars and Battles opts for a full 3D battlefield.
Traditionalists can prove it's an old-fashioned wargame at heart by switching off all the overlays. Most players will enjoy seeing their strategies rendered in more impressive detail.
The purchase price of the game includes the smaller-scale "tactical" scenarios not just for Normandy but for all seven planned campaigns to be released in the near future.
How the system scales over the ages remains to be seen. But for its initial outing on the shores of France in 1944, Wars and Battles demonstrates an impressive level of martial quality.