Afrika Korps logo

IMPRESSIONS £24.99 * Mouse

Tank warfare in the sand-dunes was of course born long before Operation Desert Storm. The North Africa campaigns of the Second World War saw thousands of men and vehicles fighting in and around Tunisia, Egypt and Libya (despite the fact that the war was supposed to be between Germany and Britain, hundreds of miles away in Europe).

Here Afrika Korps sets out to recreate the positions and conditions of that time, letting you have overall control of one or the other forces. Then it’s up to you to make your own history.

The game relies totally on mouse control, which simplifies things immensely. Every unit has a colour code linking it to a formation such as a division or regiment as well as a little graphic representation of the main force (tank, infantrymen or whatever). National flags indicate the allegiance as well (Italians as well as Germans and British were present). So everything is as clear as can be (certainly clearer than it would have been in real life).

Rommel? Gunner who?
There are two map scales. An overall strategic view with the largest concentrations of troops shown and a smaller ‘battle map’. It’s here that you work out all your movement and tactics. The standard war-game ‘turns’ are used, so there are movement and combat phases for each side. In fact, so far, the game is like a dozen others you could buy.

The system for giving orders is unique, though. You can select, during your movement phase, whether to form a defensive line or an attacking formation. The positions of yoru command units must be specified, as must the placing of each flank. If they come under fire, they’ll take whatever steps they think appropriate (the Italians, for example, really do run away quite easily). If your orders are seen as unacceptable by the units involved, they’ll vent their outrage in a text box and do whatever they think is best instead.

After you’ve seen this rather neat set-up working, the combat itself is disappointing. The warring factions sit next to each other, flashing their damage points. If they’re not wiped out (or running away like the Italians), they live to fight another day (albeit usually with lower morale).

The computer has three skill levels. All are competent but it has the added advantage of knowing where and when its reinforcements are arriving. Both sides get these during the course of the game, but the Germans usually need them more than the Allies.

Afrika Korps is a fast wargame to play. Turns last only a minute or two, depending on the human players’s speed. So whole games that no more than an hour. This is a pity, because although the map is huge, it’s really just a big North African sand-pit, and there aren’t enough forces on either side to fill it to an exciting degree. But as it’s historically accurate, this perhaps isn’t a fair criticism to level.

Where have all the bullets gone?
What you have is a playable, fast and easy-to-get-into war-game which will nevertheless test your skill. But everything is pre-set on a huge, unchanging board and there aren’t that many strategic variations you can devise to change the course of history.

A Desert Rats vs Rommel scenario has a glamour and attraction which isn’t really recreated here. But probably to have tried would be to have altered what really happened (war rarely being anything like the movies). Impressions have given you an accurate scenario. Fine, if you’re into WW2 tank battles, but really too simple, inflexible and unvarying for the truly avid war-gamer.

Afrika Korps logo

With severe risk of sounding suspiciously like every other person who has ever ventured to review a war game, I suppose I’d better get on with it. Afrika Korps is, as I just mentioned, a war game, simulating the campaign fought in the western desert during World War II between Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps (the baddies), and Montgomery's Eight Army (the goodies).

Traditionally, you choose which side to play, and then feverishly attempt to beat the other (taken by the computer), the game ending when one side is over-powered, or either side reaches a specific destination.

That’s the scenario set (always the first thing to do when reviewing a war game), so now onto the waffly opinion part. Afrika Korps is in fact the sequel to the inexplicably popular Blitzkrieg May 1940 - coded by the same author, but with suitable improvements made over the original. Indeed, the instruction booklet claims that it has taken years of development and testing to result in a program with such a highly sophisticated artificial intelligence system. However, this isn’t immediately obvious from the cute little squares, cuddly scrollable brown map and lovable menus which greet you on loading.

As we all know, you can’t review a 16-bit wargame without mentioning the Spectrum, and the contemplating whether the game in hand wouldn’t seem more at home loaded into Mr Rubber Keys himself, so here goes – there’s actually nothing to initially distinguish this from, oh, I don’t know, a Spectrum game.

Once you’ve got past the initial impressions and get to do a bit of careful analysis of the instructions things get even more depressing – there seems to be nothing new on offer here in gameplay terms either. Yet again, little has been done to exploit the potential of the Amiga (another customary wargame review phrase, there).

Of course, long term wargame extremists beyond help will be up in arms about my rather cynical view, shouting things such as ‘They’re not all the same’, ‘Who cares about the graphics?’, ‘Well, I like them’, ‘Etc’. And if this highly sophisticated artificial intelligence system is the one redeeming factor which actually sets Korps aside from its counterparts, then they’ll no doubt be shouting about that do.

And unfortunately, there’s no one who can stop them. All but the most fanatical strategy nut should keep away from this unimpressive desert romp.