Friday, July 3, 2009


Reading across the forums, I've seen some completely unfounded criticisms about some aspects of Toaw, mainly about combat results.

What pops out from those criticisms is the obvious lack of attention to the details of the game system. Most of them complain of strange combat results when the odds seem to clearly indicate the outcome; they talk about unpredictability and randomness.

Perhaps the best counter argument is the fact that any veteran Toaw player will tell you that results prediction become almost intuitive and consistent after you get used to the system (well, some degree of unpredictability is present for sure; but so is war nature). Some people will never get to this point even after playing the game for long, since they just want to push counters around using the units strength numbers only as parameters. But Toaw is much more deep than that and this depth doesn't show up instantly, by a superfluous look at the map.

Two things may make a player give up before really understanding what's going on. The round system and the combat resolution system. Trust me: if you keep on playing, after assimilating the logic of the system, you'll see that all makes sense and that the supposed arbitrariness of results was, in fact, ignorance by the player of the influence of multiple variables present in the game; and those variables are what constitute the depth of this game. When I say depth, I don't mean little details (some wargames can show a great number of detailed data, without being deep), but the way variables inter-relate.

In relation to the combat resolution system, always take into account (apart from the raw equipment strength) the kind of equipment being used, the proficiency of the unit, the readiness of the unit, terrain (its strength modifiers, but also its reconnaissence level modifiers and the modifiers for anti-armor hit probability), reconnaissance level of the unit, support by artillery or air units, the possibility of interdiction while moving into the conquered hex, etc. As all veteran Toaw players state, this will become almost intuitive after a while, but I've seen beginners completely ignoring such variables to complain from results and from the game system without a hint of what was happening.

In relation to the rounds system. Well, some argue that its mastering shouldn't be so important. In fact it is as important as conducting good arms combination, but just as in real life. Real life operational war is not just about combining arms in an efficient way to supplant your enemy fire power, but also to know when and how intensively to attack. The right attack in the wrong moment can be completely ineffective. The round system in Toaw lend it even greater depth by the inclusion of timing in the game. When and how intensively becomes as important as how.

One aspect of this round system that wasn't spared by critics is the chance of having an early end of turn. But again, this is a nice way (if not perfect, I agree) to differentiate army capacities in the efficient use of time. A side with good force proficiency will rarely see its turn ending early, so it can plan for more combat rounds; a side with low force proficiency will have a greater chance to see its turn ended suddenly, so it can't plan for a lot of combat rounds. Paying attention to your force proficiency will prevent surprises and allow a player to plan accordingly. Afterall, german troops could make much more efficient use of their time when conducting the Blitzkrieg (since it presupposes a significant capacity of coordination, i.e. high force proficiency, in game terms), than the russians. The game reproduces not only the difference between the equipment of two armies and their proficiency in combat, but also, by this mechanism, their capacity to make better use of time.

My final word for beginners is: keep playing, even if on the beginning things may seem a little arbitrary. After enough time, things will begin to fit and make sense and you'll be just asking yourself: how was I able to ignore this important variable?
Don't give up before really learning the game just to make part of the team of frivolous ex-players that blame the game engine for their own ignorance.

All that which I have stated is worth for ground combat. Air combat and naval combat aren't the strong points of Toaw. There are plans to make them really as rich as ground combat on Toaw IV, but for the moment, Toaw isn't suitable for recreating great naval battles.

Anyway, that wasn't the goal of the original game and isn't the goal of the current version, too. Toaw IV may perhaps expand the already tremendous flexibility of Toaw even more.

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