Götterdämmerung (Techumseh review)
From Scenario League Wiki
|20/30||Götterdämmerung||A multi-player game in which three players compete in a race to Berlin||Techumseh||Jim Panse||x||x|
I was idly running through scenarios that I'd downloaded in the last year, but never really got around to seriously playing. I tried out Stephan Sander's (Jim Panse) Götterdämmerung, and was impressed immediately by it's look and feel. However, after several turns, I became frustrated with the gameplay. It was obvious that the initial hard work creating this scenario was not followed up in its development stage, ie. playtesting, revisions and fine tuning. Gotterdammerung (GD) is a scenario that has the seeds of greatness. The author just needs to water it some more.
The concept is excellent - a multi-player game in which three players (Britain, the US, and the Soviet Union) compete in a race to Berlin, opposed by the AI-controlled Third Reich. Given the popularity of PBEM games a year ago when GD was released, it was an inspired choice.
This scenario is influenced by Captain Nemo's work, and includes a number of his concepts such as the food as fuel idea. (More on that later) A .bat file switches files, including spring and winter terrain. Graphics are neo-Nemo, and are superb.
The map is very well done. It covers central Europe from Paris to Warsaw, from Denmark to the Alps. It's big, but still well detailed, with major rivers represented as ocean so as to pose significant obstacles. Terrain selection is good. The author has added riverbed terrain to slow the crossing of minor rivers, and fortified terrain to simulate the extensive defensive lines built by the Germans. The terrain looks sharp, with the exception of those cool mountains from Africa that few designers can resist using. They look out of place in the Sudetenland!
The units look great, and JP has provided a good mix for all four powers. Each allied power gets their own fighter, attack aircraft and light bomber, and their own motorized and foot infantry, tank(s) and tank destroyer or assault gun(s) and artillery unit. National and elite units are provided (Canadians and French, SS and Soviet Guards). Lots of German tank types are provided for those so inclined.
I wonder about the use of slots for some of the units that don't really have much use in an operational level scenario. The usefulness of naval units and V-weapons in this scenario is pretty limited, and the appearance of U-boats in the Rhine serves no purpose other than to remind us once again of the AI's limitations. Perhaps these slots could be used to expand the unit selection in other ways, eg. recon units, commandos, landing craft, etc.? And I'm annoyed that the British can't build an airborne infantry unit.
Unit stats are generally pretty good, although I quibble with the rating of the Spitfire, amoung others. Shield costs are out of sync in many cases, especially for the Germans. For example, the standard German tank in 1944 (Panther) costs as much to build as an ME-262 jet, which required special materials and was not mass produced. German elite SS infantry costs the same as a regular Wehrmacht unit, and there are several other instances. It's not a huge problem, but a little more playtesting could have sorted it out.
The big problem with GD is its playablity. In order to provide a tough challenge to three human players, the author has provided the Third Reich with a huge industrial capacity and an enormous horde of units. This includes a far higher proportion of heavy tanks and elite units than was historically the case.
As I only played a couple of single player games, I can't say how it would work if all three Allied players were human controlled. I can say that it doesn't work with only one. As the British, I was defending against aggressive attempts of the Germans to recross the Rhine, and as the Soviets I was bogged down from the beginning. I hesitate to use my own meager playing skills as a measure, but this is a real slogathon.
The problem is compounded by the Nemo inspired technique of giving all the motorized units settler flags, and treating food as gasoline. This has some limited advantages, especially in this type of campaign where supply is a major factor. But it only works if a human player operates all the units. If the AI is in charge of some of the motorized units, they act like, well, settlers. I had Stalin tanks building irrigation, Shermans making roads and T-34's founding cities!
To be fair, the author intended all allied armies to be played by human players. However, the scenario would be enhanced if individual allied civs were playable, and perhaps the food as gas idea should be jetisoned. There are other ways to simulate the supply problems of the allies. For example, the reinforcement rate of the Brits and Americans could be reduced until Antwerp is captured.
The tech tree is not well designed. The author should consult Blackclove's tips on the SL site to learn how to use the once and twice removed techs to create divergent tech trees for the different civs. Civs can research techs which are clearly intended for others. For example, the British (and everyone else) can research Red Army and/or National Socialism.
The greatest improvements could be made in the events area. The events are generally solid, but basic. Things like "Another B-17 Medium (?) Bomber enters service!" predominate. Some add nothing at all: "On April 20th is Hitler´s birthday. Let him celebrate but take care for the shelling!" Most events involve the giving of a technology which in turn serves as a trigger for other events. It's an unnecessary step for "justonce" events, and the techs can be saved for something else.
Two major German reinforcement groups representing the Bulge offensive and the counterattack at Budapest are triggered by events on specific turns. Triggers based on the loss of specific cities might add more flexiblity. Using more citycaptured trigger events to create reinforcements could serve to keep the game interesting while allowing the initial German unit count to be substantially reduced.
The author uses the .bat file system pioneered by Allard. GD has 3 sequential events files that have room for more events. Additional events might include things like: Allied reinforcements dependent on the capture of key ports, Germans flooding lowland areas if the allies attempt to enter Holland, the Warsaw uprising, the Rohr dams, etc. If the author wants to make this scenario playable for single player, then moveunit commands for the AI controlled Allied civs are a must. Keep them moving on Berlin!
In conclusion, this is an excellent start on what could be a top notch scenario. The author has the potential to become a first rate designer. I hope he will revisit Gotterdammerung! and give it the final touches it deserves.