Airborne Assault - Red Devils Over Arnhem Review

Airborne Assault - Red Devils Over Arnhem is a war game which focuses on the battles around the Dutch city of Arnhem during Operation Market Garden.  Operation Market Garden was a very bold and aggressive plan hatched in 1944 by the head of the British Army, Field Marshal Montgomery, in an attempt to open up a direct route into the heart of Germany.  While it ultimately failed to achieve its goal, the boldness of the operation and the fact that it could have succeeded makes it an excellent subject for war games.

ScreenshotsIf you've played computer war games before, you are probably very familiar with the standard format of "chits and hexagons" they follow - a format inherited from their board game ancestors.  Airborne Assault has taken a different approach and broken out of the long and unbroken rut forged by most other computer war games.  The result is interesting and original, and alone enough of a reason for seasoned grognards to give the game a look.

The game focuses on the operational level of command, with headquarters units at the brigade to corps level.  A lot of war games have been set at this scale, so what makes Airborne Assault different?  The difference lies in its command and control system.  In Airborne Assault, you can issue your orders to your headquarters units, and they will take command of their subordinate units to carry out your orders.  You can take on the role of the general, specifying form-up points and attacks, but relying on your commanders in the field to select the best formation, route, and tactics to carry out the orders.  You are free to concentrate on overall strategy without getting bogged down in the details of providing orders to every individual unit on the map.  If you're a micromanager, you can start taking slow deep breaths and relax - the game gives you the ability to detach any unit from its HQ, freeing you to give orders directly to the unit.  In practice, you could detach every unit in the game from its headquarters and micromanage to your heart's content.

This system may also help reduce the learning curve for those new to war games.  By issuing high-level orders and watching how they are carried out (and how successful they are), beginners can first learn about overall strategy without having to struggle to grasp lower-level tactics at the same time.

If you decide to play the game as a general, the game gives you greater control over your units than you might think.  You can provide additional specifications to your orders, setting level of aggression, acceptable losses, rate of fire, and even the type of route to select to reach its objective - safest, shortest, etc.  How well your units will follow these guidelines is dependent on a number of factors, including the quality of the field commander.  Each commander in the game is modeled on his real-life counterpart and rated in a number of categories including leadership, aggression, and quality of judgment.

Once your orders are given they are executed in real time by your units.  Airborne Assault features a variable speed clock that can also be paused to stop the action and give you some time to think.  When the clock is running, you can watch your units move and engage in combat, and monitor the results in real-time.