I think I learned almost as much from Angola ’86’s fact-stuffed loading screen (see above) as I did from the game’s bare-bones tutorial. Brief, text-reliant, and awfully short on ‘learn-by-doing’ interactivity, the latter isn’t brilliant, but, backed by a good embedded manual, it did ensure my first few hours with this South African curio were largely confusion free.
While, initially, features like the sectored map and complex Order of Battle did leave me somewhat disorientated, core activities were sufficiently familiar, and available documentation thorough enough, to prevent paralysing bewilderment.
Within a couple of hours of launching Early Access Angola ’86 for the very first time I’d recruited and deployed my first infantry, transport, engineering, and ambulance units.
My troops had visited a village for the first time, constructed their first road, clinic, and waterworks, and triggered their first enemy mine. Most exciting of all, they’d stumbled upon a trail of insurgent footprints, and located and eliminated the Kalashnikov clutchers that had made it.
Although I’m not yet familiar with the game’s victory mechanisms to judge the efficacy of my immature/instinctive tactics, I suspect SWAPO has the upper hand right now, and my first defeat isn’t all that far away.
And I think I’ve already seen enough to tentatively call Angola ’86 ESS’s most interesting COIN wargame yet, and to make a few constructive suggestions…
- The lack of hills and rivers on the large Angola map give it an unhelpful amorphous quality. If I had the ability to display village name labels on the map, I definitely would.
- Not being able to leap to places of interest by clicking on event texts in the end-of-turn SITREP feels a tad strange.
- Expecting new players to orchestrate COIN activities in all three map zones simultaneously, could be considered unreasonable. A shrunken single-zone tutorial map or an option to delegate zones to AI assistants would have been useful features.
(Tune in tomorrow for more Angola ’86 reflections.)