A las barricadas! Burning Bridges reviews España 1936
A las barricadas! Burning Bridges reviews España 1936
Review - posted by Burning Bridges on Sat 19 October 2013, 08:55:27
Review by Christian Wendt (Burning Bridges)
Spain was once a superpower with an interesting history and her civil war was a very, very serious matter.
La Guerra Civil Española
España 1936 by Miguel Santacruz de la Torre came into being as a mod to Revolution under Siege, and later turned into a commercial release. Consequently the two games share all features of the same engine, and look extremely similar. España 1936 brings new content, but no improvements or new features to the engine.
Currently you can select two scenarios, a small Fall of the North campaign (filler), and the full 1936 – 1939 scenario. At 146 turns the Grand Campaign is equivalent in length to Revolution under Siege, and those who like long, open ended campaigns should get satisfied. What I'm missing are alternative start dates though. Right now the scenario will always begin in 1936, but I hope more options will be added in the future, which would be great for replayability.
But right now replayability should be the least of concerns. If you play a few hours every day, the Grand Campaign will take at least a week to finish, and possibly it could take up to a month. And due to the rather imaginative AI it will play out differently every time, so it can be replayed at least once, from two possible sides.
Rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain
As can be expected, you can select one of two sides, the motley Republicans and the Nationalist rebel force under General Francisco Franco. Other natons like France, Britain, Soviet Union and the fascist Germany and Italy are present as suppliers of arms, volunteers and war material.
Spain, in comparison to Russia, is a rather small map. The Baleares are included, but little to no territory in bordering France, Spanish Africa, even Portugal or the Canary Islands. I wished it could have been a bit more extensive but found that it's enough to make up for an interesting game. On the plus side the game runs faster and smoother that way and the size of the theatre makes for a more focussed and less stressful gameplay. After all there are more than enough towns and units on the map, and managing a monster like Revolution under Siege was at times simply overwhelming.
One important difference is that weekly turns are used. That means a turn reflects 7 days compared to 15 days in Revolution under Siege. Units will subjectively take longer to move, which is of course an illusion, for the game simulates 2 turns for every one in Revolution under Siege. I actually like these shorter turns, which allow me to execute more precise control. It means that units will have to spend less time idle at the end of turns, for the cost of a somewhat longer play time.
¡Ay Carmela! Mercenarios y fascistas, rumba la rumba la rumba la
Although almost forgotten outside of Spain, The Spanish Civil War was a remarkable staging ground for the impending clash of ideologies and a dress rehearsal for World War 2. The resulting dictatorship in Spain shows what might have happened in Russia had the Whites won there. You certainly know, Francisco Franco emerged out of the turmoil as "Caudillo" (Leader) who would hold Spain and her social revolutionaries under a tight grip until his death in 1975. And although he is hated for many atrocities under his rule, he kept Spain out of trouble during the World War, despite desperate efforts by Germany, which means he must have been a lot smarter than Hitler or Mussolini.
The game at hand - España 1936 - is neither a shallow nor a uncompromisingly deep represention of these events. This is to say that the research that was done is thorough, probably not PhD worthy but exactly what you would expect after digesting the most important books on the topic. And as such it is absolute enough for 99% of players.
For those who have some knowledge of the events it comes with the familiar names that you would expect. On the Republican side, the immensely popular Buenaventura Durruti (a sort of Spanish Ernesto Guevara, who died a bit ingloriously in a gun accident) or General Miaja (the saviour of Madrid) are available to bring some order into a largely unorganized mass of anarchists and militias. Opposing them are the Nationalists, various rebel forces under Gen. Franco including many hardened, experienced formations like the Spanish Foreign Legion (Legión Española). While the Republicans forces are initially formed mostly from improvised workers militia, Franco can rely on the professional Army of Africa, arriving piece-meal from Marocco, which gives him the initiative for quite some time.
Another aspect is the international dimension of the conflict. Everyone has heard of the evil Legion Condor that laid down many Spanish cities in ashes. But there were also thousands of volunteers from France, Germany, Italy and many other countries who fought on the side of the Republic, and this game will contribute somewhat to their memory.
All in all I feel that the scenario is good but could have been even better. So far I have seen a bit less historic flavor than in Revolution under Siege. I was also a bit let down by the absence of famous I-16 "Rata" or Me 109 squadrons, which appear at most as abstract decisions. And like Revolution under Siege this lacks real politics and infighting, and simulates mostly military aspects. But that's a limitation of the engine, and although the result is not ideal I think it is mostly true to the chaos and problems one would expect. Historically, the Republican side hardly knew the strength of their own regiments or if they were going to fight, and I find that the game portrays this quite well.
Millionen singen mit! Halt Stand, Rotes Madrid!
One of the things that get asked frequently is what kind of challenge the game will offer. That really depends on what you expect and how much experience you already have with the engine.
The situation of the Republicans is similar to the Reds in Revolution under Siege. Meaning that they initially have very few units at full strength, but in the long term they have access to more resources and manpower. The Nationalists begin with experienced units from the colonies like the Legión Española. That means they have a real chance of winning quickly, but their task will become more difficult in the long run.
As in all AGE games, I think the AI is adequate, and at times surprising. For a beginner the AI will pose a challenge for quite some time. But no matter which side you choose, it is not able to beat an experienced player. It is however very competent to keep the game interesting for all skill levels, because it is always active and never does anything outright stupid.
As in the other AGE games, you will be dealing mostly with stack organization. That means you must optimize the command and supply situation, otherwise your stacks will become inneffective, stop moving altogether and lose a lot of men. As your armies get better with time force buildup can become very addictive, and is the heart and soul of these games.
¡Ayayay! me duele tanto ..
Unfortunately not all things are well in España (yet) ... The inital release was full of stupid bugs which normally should never have passed quality control (replacements not working, strategy map without function, etc). A patch was quickly released which corrected them but apparently has introduced a few new ones. These bugs should take not more than a few weeks to fix, but to this day, AGEOD seem to be still working on a hot fix that will make the release fully playayble.
Since these problems will come to the fore in less than an hour of playing the only explanation is that little was done in terms of testing. This can be excused because the game was developed by a single individual, but the fact remains that work is left to be done. At the current date the game is absolutely stable thanks to the technically mature engine, but the scenario is not fully beta tested. It's entirely up to you if you don’t mind to take part in a month of public beta testing right away, or rather wait until all game breaking bugs have been removed from the program, something which AGEOD have always done in the past. One or two more patches and it will be fine.
Not surprisingly the game looks and plays extremely similar to Revolution under Siege. Unfortunately that means that it also keeps the replacement system, which is in a word, simply terrible. The replacement in Revolution under Siege was bad and in SCW it's a bit worse. Once every turn you must allocate individual replacements for every unit type multiplied by the number of nationalities on your side, which was not eased by super tiny buttons and the expert choice of black text on antracite backgrounds! [corrected by beta patch] I sometimes thought the person who devised this should be sent to Carabanchel and be released only under the condition that he will never make another UI again.
Another example, and this will be the case quite frequently, is that a unit card can obstruct a town and you cannot read important production figures. If that unit is locked you will also not be able to move it away so you'll have to make do with the fact that the figure remains secret until the unit unlocks.
As you can see, the game made me curse it's creators a few times. But otherwise it's ok!
¡Levántate, pueblo leal! Get up, loyal people!
Miguel Santacruz. I hope you excuse my little rant in the previous section. Since this is basically a mod turned into a professional release, and little or no playtesting could be done by you alone, the many small annoyances I have listed should be no surprise to anyone. They should not detract from the fact that the product absolutely delivers on its promise to bring the Spanish Civil War to AGE. Or better, it will deliver on that promise with just a little more testing and bug fixing. Besides, there is no point that we wait for a better game on the subject because it is very, very unlikely there will be one for years to come.
As I wrote before, the game leaves nothing or very little to desire in terms of army command, but lacks an accurate simulation of the complex politics involved. But it makes no sense to complain about this lack of a political simulation because the creator simply chose the best engine available, the rest was not in his hands. As far as I am concerned the strenghts of the engine, one of the best if not of the best to simulate small to medium scale military operations with a strong focus on leadership and supply, make up for it.
So although I am pissed off that I could not complete my first two campaigns because of bugs, I have no major complaints! Since the birth of AGE people have been asking for a Spanish Civil War game, and thanks to AGEOD and the dedication of one Miguel Santacruz it is here. me gusta!