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TBS Second Front - WWII turn-based tactical game with hexes

Luka-boy

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https://www.secondfront.games





https://www.microprose.com/games/second-front

MicroProse announced this a couple of days ago. I'm not a fan of the art style, but I like what I read and what I see of the interface. And considering that apparently zooming out displays unit counters, it might be worth a look if the game system is good.

Second Front is the tactical WWII game that genre enthusiasts always wanted and never really got. Sporting a full-fledged 3D engine and an easy to use user interface, the game is easy to play but hard to master. Why is that? Because Second Front is a project born from the developers’ passion and experience with realistic and deep tabletop tactical board games. Playing a tactical game that is deeper than your average X-Com clone, with a competent AI and a powerful editor to create scenarios and campaigns has been the dream of tactical players for long.



The Campaigns
Second Front comes with multiple campaigns covering different fronts of World War II and sporting German, American and Russian units.Scenarios are fought in a 60 turns battle cycle, from morning to night. Fight and rest or push your troops to the limit and press the attack. These are not set-pieces scripted battles but continuous emergent skirmishes with persistent loss, fatigue, and experience.


Infinite Scenarios
Thanks to the full-fledged editor you will be able to create any kind of battle you have in mind. The intuitive user interface makes it easy to put your imagination at work and the vast array of units means you have the entire American, German and Russian OOB at your disposal.


An ample arsenal of war
More than 200 different vehicles and different infantry units for each nation; plus tens of small weapons types for each faction. Different leaders are also included in every country. The arsenal of Second Front includes well known-units like Panzer 4s, Shermans and Stugs to more exotic ones like the Jagdtiger, the Kettenkrad and the T35 . Every unit is painstakingly recreated with abilities like smoke dispensers and hatch-dependent weapons.And remember you can, and must rotate turrets. Realistic tank fights!


Deep tactical gameplay
Don’t be fooled by the nice looks of Second Front, this is no walk in the park! The gameplay uses hexagons and different phases to capture in detail every second of action on the battlefield, in a very similar way to well-known tabletop tactical games. 22 different types of terrain are included together with 80 types of multi-level buildings and more than 70 different unique decorations. Buildings are composed of multiple parts, all of them are destructible and created with unique models.


Easy to use and exhaustive interface
‘Deep’ does not mean complicated. Second Front makes the most of the digital medium providing an iconic interface rich with tooltips and easy to understand. The game is full of decisions and the designers focused on making all of them transparent and immediately evident.


Competent AI
The AI in Second Front is not scripted; instead, it uses plans and emergent behavior to find a way through your defenses or organize its own lines to withstand your attacks. Finally a worthy opponent in a tactical WWII game!


Future plans
Second Front is a passionate project in the making. While the development of the core game is well underway and rich in features, constant updates are already planned. Desert and jungle environment, paratroopers, close air support are just a few of the new features that are scheduled for release after the core game.

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Galdred

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Tactical campaign with XP is something I missed still Steel Panthers, but the presentation reminds me of Battlefield Academy. I didn't even know Microprose was still alive. It could be interesting, and it has little competition after all :
- BA2 felt a bit too "gamey", and the simultaneous turns of Combat Mission combined with pixel perfect movement makes turn take way too long to plan for me.
- Graviteam Tactics: Operation Stars was promising, but I felt like I was struggling against the UI as much as the opponent (and it is RT, so it flows very differently).

So I hope this one delivers!
 

Luka-boy

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Game's pretty grognardy. I like how the hex colours easily let you know know height and LOS. Also very neat that they have multi-story, even multi-hex buildings that you might need to clear floor by floor with infantry... or simply blow them up. Spreading fires is nice too. The game covers units and vehicles from the entirety of WW2, has a cool map/campaign editor and that garage thing where you can compare vehicles looks very useful.

It's too bad that the main dev struggles a bit with English and has a voice that makes me sleepy, because he has been posting plenty of videos explaining systems and the editor in the game's main channel.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOxChfy5XZjwf8nlbtF6_oQ/videos

Here's an interview/gameplay video where the interviewer at least tries to keep him talking and focused.

 

Luka-boy

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I like me a good WW2 TB game, but is there a Panzer General alike set in some XIX century war? Napoleonic Wars, American Secession War or Franko-Prussian war and somesuch? I fail at Google
Have you tried Open General?

It has an easy to use fanmade campaign/scenario browser and those cover from the Antique era to fictional post-apocalyptic futures. I remember playing a few years ago a campaign for one of the Carlist Wars and another for the Spanish-American war in the Philippines, so I have zero doubts they have campaigns for those vastly more popular wars you mentioned.
http://www.open-general.com/
 
Unwanted

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Uncommon features:
+elevation
+destructible multi-storied buildings (lol at pathetic Close Combat 3d Bloody First)
+"realistic" combat ranges with MG fire at 11 hexes range

long range combat, a tank unit is an individual single tank
27eFw8a.jpeg


pen is based on rng - sad
ndfevLB.jpg


Big problem I foresee is the same in Graviteam games - if you have fire and armor superiority (say, you have a Tiger) - you just tank, in place. Braindead stand still and fire - no puzzling thought required.
In Graviteam there is no timer - the campaign map is dynamic and you can stall as much as you want.
At least here you ahve victory points dropping per turn BUT rising per killed enemy... so its up to the map makers to save gameplay...
 

ERYFKRAD

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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
I could get used to the style. Maybe someone should do a proper krautspeak interview with the dev though.
 
Unwanted

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I wonder how this will compare with Steel Panthers.
Its already better since the UI is not 25 year old trash. And the AI hopefully does not consist of "Shoot back at first shit you see" and "Drive into deathtrap".

I hate autistic fucking wargamers who do nothing but move their accurately named divisions historically accurate... by far worse than storyfags... worse than furries!

Just checked and Matrix Games is selling SPWW for 50 USD online! xDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD
 
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Well, this could be interesting but I dont think I would be able to stomach this art style. Just... nope.

This thread made me try this Open General thingy though, so I will count that as a win.


EDIT: fucking shit nigga, this Open General thing must have had hundreds of autists working on it for ages. There is like a bilion campaigns (like 5-6 WWII campaigns from Czechoslovakia perspective alone lol), there is Roman legions, German colonial wars, US vs Aliens or some shit... damn!
 
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JarlFrank

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Have you tried Open General?
Heard about it though I didn't know that it has such an active modding community. Cheers for the advice.

Anyway, what's engine of this game? Again Unity?
open general? I believe its based on Peoples general engine which is very similar to the Panzer General II engine but a little bit more 'modern' or 'advanced'..its a 25 year old engine, if you are talking about the open general game that is..there are tons of campaigns in all different time periods, including fantasy I believe.
 

Ol' Willy

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open general? I believe its based on Peoples general engine which is very similar to the Panzer General II engine but a little bit more 'modern' or 'advanced'..its a 25 year old engine, if you are talking about the open general game that is..there are tons of campaigns in all different time periods, including fantasy I believe.
Nah, I mean this Second Front game. It looks like Unity.

I tried Open General, and yeah: engine is very close to PG2 (haven't tried People's General) and the amount of campaigns already prepackaged is truly remarkable. Played the opening battle of Franko-Prussian war, then some Caesar-Pompey battle and right then First-Chechen War mission, lol.
 
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open general? I believe its based on Peoples general engine which is very similar to the Panzer General II engine but a little bit more 'modern' or 'advanced'..its a 25 year old engine, if you are talking about the open general game that is..there are tons of campaigns in all different time periods, including fantasy I believe.
Nah, I mean this Second Front game. It looks like Unity.

I tried Open General, and yeah: engine is very close to PG2 (haven't tried People's General) and the amount of campaigns already prepackaged is truly remarkable. Played the opening battle of Franko-Prussian war, then some Caesar-Pompey battle and right then First-Chechen War mission, lol.
yes open general has endless amount of campaigns, I don't think a person could ever run out of them.
 

Ol' Willy

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yes open general has endless amount of campaigns, I don't think a person could ever run out of them.
Not this endless though. No Napoleonic wars; only one American Civil War one and even that is for Yankees; no Crimean, Russo-Turkish '77 or Russo-Japanese ones; no Arab-Israeli or Iraq-Iran ones. I realize that the formula lends itself best for WW2 and post- combined arms warfare, but, for example, Arab-Israeli wars are good material for such gameplay.
 

Luka-boy

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yes open general has endless amount of campaigns, I don't think a person could ever run out of them.
Not this endless though. No Napoleonic wars; only one American Civil War one and even that is for Yankees; no Crimean, Russo-Turkish '77 or Russo-Japanese ones; no Arab-Israeli or Iraq-Iran ones. I realize that the formula lends itself best for WW2 and post- combined arms warfare, but, for example, Arab-Israeli wars are good material for such gameplay.
Keep in mind that what you find in the in-game´s campaign browser isn´t all you can play with Open General. Since it's compatible with campaigns made for PG2 and People's General, you can simply browse online for the stuff you don´t find there. For example:
https://peoplesgeneral.de/
 

Ol' Willy

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Keep in mind that what you find in the in-game´s campaign browser isn´t all you can play with Open General. Since it's compatible with campaigns made for PG2 and People's General, you can simply browse online for the stuff you don´t find there. For example:
https://peoplesgeneral.de/
Man, that's a lot of stuff. Have any links on how to import them to OG?
 

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Interview: Second Front
Fridays are for weekly news and now for developer interviews. This week me and Joachim Bader, the developer of the up-and-coming Second Front, had a chat discussing his game-to-be. I’ve had access to the game for about a month now and have spent a decent amount of time with it and found myself delighted with the amount of detail Second Front is packing. In this chat we discuss the most wargamey things: Turn phases, hit percentages and modifiers, leader buffs, scenario editing, small units-tactics, AI, even bicycles.
SaW: Hello, Dear Second Front developer, care to enlighten us as to who are you and who is your team?

Jo Bader: It’s me, Joachim and my graphics artist doing this full time and some helping hands to do play-testing. I’ve worked on a smaller game in the past called Tank on Tank Fight!, which was a conversion of a simple wargame. It was a kind of test, but here, at Hexdraw.com you can find my portfolio. MicroProse is my publisher and they are helping with marketing and production.

SaW: Developmen on Second Front seems to be going great, what is the feedback you’ve been getting from the community at large?

Jo Bader: Ah! People like the graphics and the art style. You are one of the first to play that, so I wanted to ask you: Are you happy with it?

SaW: I’m very happy with it, I got a key to try it out and the game is excellent. I’m just curious because wargames are a weird niche, and you seem to be very talented, sure you could find greener pastures anywhere else, why would you endeavor such an obscure genre?


Jo Bader: I’m a long-time wargamer. I’ve been doing wargaming and coding for 30 years so, yeah. I wanted to do a more complex game and wargames are easier because they’re a niche as opposed to the “Wider Ocean” where those big Sharks are.

SaW: There is clearly a love of love in Second Front, and the game is designed to support a ridiculous number of units and situations. I could clearly see this engine been used in all kinds of conflicts, from medieval to modern, so I got to ask, why World War II?

Jo Bader: No, this engine is only suitable from 1930 to 1954, as after the Korean war it ends.

SaW: Why?

Jo Bader: Ahah! Because it focuses only on firefights and classic rifles. In Vietnam you have different kinds of weapons that can’t fit into the existing system.

SaW: Makes sense and speaking of combat, I am curious as to why would you chose a 4-stage turn? What is the logic behind that?

Jo Bader: When you play it there are indeed four phases. So you move your units and fire and the enemy will fire on you. And those who haven’t fire will fire during the fire phase. Unit routing starts for both sides and then you’re able to move your units one final time into the enemy hex if you manage to dislodge them, and for that you need a final “advance phase”. It’s all about being able to move into the enemy space. In terms of game design, that determines the game, take chess for example, you move into the square of the piece you take off the board. In a lot of other games that is not possible, like in unity of command. So moving into the enemy space, that is a key point in Second Front game design. Also, that way, the routing units have a chance to run away before being outright destroyed.

SaW: That’s interesting, because routing units seem to be happening a lot in the game, am I just bad or is the game designed that way?

Jo Bader: No, it’s quite the opposite. You’re just way too slow. It could be much faster.

SaW: Please elaborate.

Jo Bader: You want to capture the victory points as quickly as possible. If you stand your ground, take no risk and don’t progress then when you do, if you run in the open and the enemy shoots at you then your units will rout very easily. Maybe you’re being too cautious.

SaW: Yes, that makes total sense. The game has a lot of units so far, so are you a hardware fanatic? Because the garage where you can compare units with one another seems to imply you are a big fan of Eugen Systems Wargame series, why do you think this is a worthy addition to the game?

Jo Bader: No, no. There is a video about the garage, here. You will need the garage to design scenarios. Let’s say you pick a date, that’s the first step to design a scenario. Say you pick Stalingrad or something like that. Then you go to the garage, insert the date and that means you’ll only see units available at that point in time. Now you can compare these units, say armor, firepower and mix and match those units while designing the map and don’t end up with Panthers in 1939.

SaW: Sure, so realism and authenticity is a thing.

Jo Bader: Yes, it is. You should try and design a map a few days after D-Day, you can design the map with a focus on bridge defense but let me warn you that the AI right now is not great at defending bridges (chuckling).

SaW: So what kind of work are you doing in the AI? So far they seem competent

Jo Bader: We call the AI “Gretchen” but right now I’m working on weapons and after that I’m going to work more on the AI. But there are some very difficult missions on the game. This scenario is very hard! It can run for 3 and a half hours. I designed it so I had fun, not you, ahahah!


SaW: I’m used to losing a lot in videogames, so that’s the perfect scenario for me, it builds character. You have campaigns in the game right?

Jo Bader: Yes, you’ve played the US campaign right? It has 3 missions and your units carry after each mission. Say in the second mission you get two Shermans, if one of them is killed they won’t carry into the third scenario. It’s intended as an introductory campaign.

SaW: Do you have any planned release date for the game?

Jo Bader: I’ll try to release this year but I’m not sure I can. This way I can create a good game and the game I want to create. There’s still a lot of stuff I want to put in the game. We still want to add trenches and overrun mechanics- these things are necessary to include in the final product. Also motorcycles. They are possible to introduce too!

SaW: Why are motorcycles so different to design when compared to tanks, for example?

Jo Bader: It’s not necessarily difficult, but the game is very complex so it takes some messing around, right now I have more than 100,000 lines of code. Also I want to add support and artillery by radios, jungle and desert biomes. Oh! And later other nations like the British and the Finnish after the release! So motorcycles are still really down on the list. Hopefully the game will have a good acceptance by the community and I’ll be able to keep on adding more stuff. Right now I’m more concerned about the readability of things, it feels that it isn’t always clear why your units died or why this and that happened.

SaW: The game seems accessible enough, I’m a slow learner and I got the hang of it just fine, so I’m sure most people will get it too.


Jo Bader: That’s good to hear!

SaW: I really wanted to ask, why this graphical decision? Because they look a lot like Bolt Action Figures, is that intentional or because of monetary reasons?

Jo Bader: The graphics are like these because I want them to be readable at first glance. You have so many different kinds of terrain and units that it is important it’s all understood by the player. It’s a compromise between readability and looking nice.

SaW: Practicality above graphics? Sounds pretty wargamey to me.

Jo Bader: Yes. You see, we also must show more than one unit in a hex and that needs to be clear outright. But hey, these are not high-end graphics but you will get an editor. This is also a question of money because static maps and props are easier to build. We can design a simple building in one day and a bigger building in two days. And I want mooooooooore buildings! Ahah! Besides, I think it looks good enough. Right now I have more than one hundred buildings 120 weapons and guns. You should hit the space bar during a game when the enemy is moving.

SaW: Why?

Jo Bader: It switches to a ground camera and you can play it like that, it might be a bit confusing right now but it looks really nice.

SaW: Ah yes! The “cinematic” camera.

Jo Bader: Tell me about how does it feel when you’re playing the game? What are you thinking when you’re playing?

SaW: First impressions to me are that the game seems really accessible but I can see there are a lot of hidden modifiers behind everything, right? For example, what goes into the hit percentages of a unit while their firing?

Jo Bader: That’s a complex thing. First of all, here’s a tip for you: Don’t run! Whenever you can move without running it’s better. That, for example, gives it a bad modifier. When you want to fire with the tank it must be stopped, also.

SaW: I noticed that with tanks. Because tanks can “fire on the move”, right?

Jo Bader: Yes, they can fire on the move but they’re 100% more accurate when they’re stopped. Stopping is the key element, they had no stabilizers. When you’re firing with a tank and a gun, even if there’s a zero chance, fire anyways because if you fire once in the target, you get a bonus on the next shot you take. It’s 2 times that modifier.

SaW: So, like a ranging shot? I didn’t know that.

Jo Bader: Yes. Also, when you’re fighting at a distance, keep your commander with an open hatch but if you’re going to do close fighting then close it. See this video if you want to find out more about target size and shot probabilities.
SaW: How does cover work in the game? Because buildings have a cover rating, right? What about a “Bocage” for example?

Jo Bader: Bocage has a 2 cover rating, same as a wooden building. Stone building has 3 and so on. You’ll find all about that on a helping tab during the final release.

SaW: By the looks of it, Second Front is going to have a 500 page manual. Looks so simple, but it’s actually really complex. I remember reading about “wind conditions”, how does that work?

Jo Bader: Let’s say you throw a smoke; it follows the wind direction, same thing for blazes in the battlefield. It’s mainly directional wind, but I still need to put some more work on that. Changing winds like wind direction, strength and all that. It’s not implemented right now but later it’s going to impact the kindling of terrain also.

SaW: Does it have any effect when firing?

Jo Bader: No, not on firing. But for example, a burning tank will create smoke and that is going to hinder your ability to fire in a significant way.


SaW: Those are the small things that I’m sure people are going to love to find out! I’ve been playing it and I had no idea.

Jo Bader: Yes, there are a lot of those small things. You know what’s not such a good idea? Firing a bazooka inside a building. You have the option to go out and fire because you have to account for the backblast.

SaW: Any more interesting facts like this? Because you very rarely see this kind of stuff. I love nerding out about this.

Jo Bader: A lot of them to find out. Leaders can rally troops; some German tanks have more powerful machine guns for close combat. The game’s close combat is also very complex; if you’re in rough terrain you can also have ambushes, meaning that you fire first. Firefights are not sequential, meaning it all happens at the same time and both units have the chance to kill and get killed but the ambush makes it sequential, so the one that ambushes fires first. There are a lot of nerdy things like this. Some tanks, Like a German SPG that can only fire when the hatch is open. You can target bridges to damage them with weapons bigger than 70mm even though that’s very likely to happen.

SaW: Out of curiosity, how big of a scenario can you create right now?

Jo Bader: At the moment you can create huge maps. With a maximum of 50 by 50 hexes with 80 units in a single map. But small engagements are pretty fun!


SaW: I’ve always been more a small engagements kind of guy, so that’s why I love these small details, because these things get abstracted most of the time.

Jo Bader: Second Front is a game about small details; I want the game to show this.

SaW: I wanted to ask you about leaders. What’s their role in the game? Why are they separate units and not within squads?

Jo Bader: They’re extremely important. Without a leader, only one units is going to try and rally. For others to rally they need a leader. Broken units cannot be used so having leaders being able to regain control is very important. Leaders also help when firing heavy weapons. It’s a good idea that, when you’re attacking you should have a leader helping, avoid attacking without a leader. It’s still possible to win anyways but it’s not optimal.

SaW: A game-changer then?

Jo Bader: Yes, there are scenarios that when I lose my leaders I just quit. Ahah!

SaW: By my experience, Second Front is already a great game and all that you just said only makes it better. These small details always fly above my head. Thanks a lot for your time, Jo.
 

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