Tank Operations European Campaign

Strategy games tend to swing to extremes. Either it's light, fast, and accessible or it's dense, detailed, and hardcore. That's just the way the fans of each style like it.

The wide no-man's land between is a desolate and unforgiving place for games. Yet this is the territory in which Tank Operations European Campaign is staking a claim. It's either a bold charge for unconquered land, or a foolish patrol over enemy lines.

It's a hex-based affair in which you co-ordinate tanks, troops, airplanes and ships in the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. Each unit has specific stats, strengths and weaknesses, and a special power.

Although some units, like infantry, don't seem to be terribly useful for much at all. Heavy tanks, for instance, have a long distance bombardment ability in addition to the normal shot.

Middle ground

Each on-map unit has a strength rating from one to ten to determine how many troops are in the stack. Often, this trumps the particular vulnerabilities of a given troop type through sheer firepower.

But there's enough edge cases to give a passable sense of the combined arms tactics that characterised this era of warfare.

Thus far there's nothing different from the slew of unfortunate medium-weight historical strategy titles that throng the app store. Tank Operations European Campaign tries to go one better by including an element of supply.

It's an ingenious implementation. Units can run out of fuel or ammunition, rendering them incapable of moving or shooting. But you can deploy supply trucks to go to their aid. Get them to the stricken unit and they'll be fighting fit again the next turn.

This simple system ensures that players have to secure captured territory like a real commander. Having actual supply units, it gives a sense of personal command over supply problems.

That feeling of involvement is often lacking in the more complex, abstract supply rules of more hardcore titles.

Middlebrow

You can also supplement your starting forces by purchasing new ones from a war chest. While unrealistic, your budget is at least linked to your mission.

To release additional funds, you'll need to start checking off the objectives you were set at the beginning of the scenario.

Although it's a straightforward game to get into, the three step interactive tutorial does leave out important information. It'll take a few turns before you grasp all the little details of the game. Like the fact that the orange boxes on each unit represent its strength.

Everything you need is in the text rules supplied. But to have failed to give the player everything they need in the first place is poor show for what's posing as an accessible title.

This sense of clumsiness pervades the game, possibly as a result of it being a port from PC. During AI turns your units disappear from the map, which can be disorienting.

Some scenarios also have several landing locations separated by unexplored territory. Yet with the mini-map turned off by default, players may not realise this until it's too late.

There's also nothing on offer beyond the standard campaign played as the Allies. You can't swap sides, and there's no multiplayer.

Middle of the road

Once you get stuck in, you'll also find that the initially promising system often breaks down thanks to weak AI and scenario design.

What you need to do in most cases is rush feverishly to grab bases off the enemy in order to secure yourself more money and deny it to the opposition. Otherwise you'll be facing an endless stream of fresh enemies late in the scenario.

With the inbuilt random elements, this causes the difficulty to veer from the easy to the impossible. Either way, it's frustrating. And in most cases, games degenerate into a grinding slog of attrition after a promising tactical start.

Tank Operations European Campaign isn't bad game. Its core mechanics are interesting enough. And there's a certain sense of grim determination that makes you want to plod through to the end of each battle.

But strategy gaming on touchscreens has moved on. So while it's essentially entertaining, there are much better titles on the app store, both light and hardcore, for the strategy fan.

Tank Operations European Campaign

A middle weight strategy title of distinctly middling quality
Score