Monday, July 6, 2015

Fulda Gap '85, Modern Campaigns for Android - Latest Release from John Tiller Software

Cover art

Now available for Android and soon for the iPad/iPhone.

Fulda Gap '85 Modern Campaigns at the Google Play Store
by John Tiller Software


gabeeg said...

I wish you would just do more, quit your job and neglect the have fans to appease! Joking aside, I really appreciate the blog you produce, one of the best.

Erich said...

Great. A wargame about mechanized warfare in 1985 that uses the underlying engine (and many of the same combat mechanisms) of Battleground 3: Waterloo, a wargame from 1996. And of course every other Tiller game since then. This guy *really* needs to hire a programmer and stop stuffing new OOBs into this ancient engine.

JC said...

Thanks for your comments!

Erich: I agree to a certain extent. Did you take a look at the underlying mechanics of the engine (calculations and so on)? It's really a thing of beauty. Graphics is a whole other discussion ...

Erich said...

Yes, I have. And whatever Tiller puts out, you get basically the same, generic lack of feel. You could replace the icons with the Napoleonic triad of Horse, Cannon, and Infantry and hardly tell the difference.

Important things like Supply, C3, Doctrine, Unit Integrity etc are so abstracted that you could basically be playing - well, Anything. His games are all about counters bumping into one another and exchanging mathematical algorithms. Followed by accumulating Fatigue. Mostly.

I bought his Kursk game ("Panzer Battles") and it felt slightly less realistic than the original Panzerblitz. There's zero modeling of Command structure, you can mix and match units willy nilly just like a boardgame from 1974. And you get ridiculous things like a Tiger platoon shooting at T-34's at point-blank range and scoring nothing but, you guessed it - "Fatigue".

If you want to see a Tac Armor game done right, check out either of these 2 ancient 80's boardgames: "Eastern Front Tank Leader" or "Western Front Tank Leader". These games modeled what really matters: Command, Control, and Doctrine (along with better training). You didn't just push counters around and shoot. Tiller's games are firmly stuck in the (early) 70's, back when you'd just give a Panzer IV company higher ratings for Armor and Firepower than a T-34 co in order to produce a semi-plausible result. Which is, of course, ridiculous.

Another great boardgame btw is "Ghost Panzer". Again, the equipment doesn't drive the game. It's the quality of the guys operating it that defines what you can and can't do.

I've been playing wargames since 1978, and unfortunately my considered opinion is that Tiller's games suck *under the hood* and not just due to bad graphics (and they are execrable, to be sure). The result is that they *play* even worse than they look.

I recently tried playing the Auerstadt scenario from his "Jena-Auerstadt" game and found it to be light-years *behind* the same scenario from 1989's "Battles of Napoleon". There's no setting of objectives, the handling of skirmishers is incredibly cumbersome, Elite cavalry charging Disordered low-quality infantry in Line taking more casualties than they give (someone tell the Scots Greys please) and - above all - the battle simply didn't develop in a realistic-at-all manner. It also took a lot longer to play, and the AI was dreadful.

The only value his wargames have for me is that they have really nice OOBs. I also like reading the Designer's Notes and such. But, as games, they have not progressed at all beyond the Talonsoft days. Actually, Battleground Waterloo is fairly good. Probably should've stopped then.

JC said...

I hear you and thanks for your comment.

I disagree, but I don't have the energy to go deep into the length of your comment. These type of things require beer and a couple of hours face to face.

Maybe someday ...

Erich said...

Read Sabin's "Simulating War" or "Lost Battles" for a much better approach than Tiller's "Let's just throw more units and OOB's at them - that'll look realistic" design ethos.

There is such a thing as elegance of design, and Tiller's games are entirely bereft of it. Just pumping out OOB's and shoehorning them into a 70's-era game engine doesn't cut it. I see these Hexwar guys are intent on doing the same thing on iOS now. At least they're honest and admit they're just regurgitating old SPI designs that date from the Ford administration ;)

JC said...


I read "Lost Battles" by Sabin and I liked the academic approach to war gaming/learning from history.

"Simulating War" is a great book too. There is plenty of stuff pertaining game design on those pages!

None of the above have detracted my enjoyment of the Tiller's games. And I am more than happy to admit that there is stuff that I wish was different in the whole portfolio.


Paolo said...

@Erich: Being completely nuts for Strategic games (spent many hours in the original Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord) I found Tiller's Android games just ok.
What's the most hardcore Android Strategy game you can think of ? (please don't mention Chess! :) )
I'd love a We-GO style but I'd take basically anything.
Price is not an issue.

@JC: Great blog as usual! :)