Gary Grigsby’s War in the East is a turn-based war game based on the Eastern Front of the Second World War. Gary Grigsby’s War in the East is one of those titles that hearkens to a genre that has been popular with a specific group of war gaming fans called grognards—gamers who like to play old or old-school war games—for many decades. War in the East is based on the German-Soviet War during the Second World War from 1941-1945, and the game faithfully recreates every aspect of these battles while allowing for alternate scenarios to play out. The depth of the simulation is very impressive and from some research appears to be extremely accurate until the player begins to change scenarios as they play. This attention to detail is what makes a title like this stand out from the crowd and really appeal to the war game fanatics and WW2 buffs out there.
The problem is that this attention to detail can be extremely overwhelming to players that are not used to this kind of title. Reading the manual is absolutely mandatory to figure out what to do, and it is over 300 pages in length. Even once one reads the manual, it will still take some effort to learn how all of the games pieces work together, and while there are shorter, easier scenarios to start with, it is likely to turn off quite a few players long before they get to the scenarios that can last weeks.
Gameplay functions by each player taking their turn and then receiving an automatic resupply. Players can move units multiple times but they are limited by their terrain and their supplies. An example is that tanks cannot go further than their gas can take them and cannot go over certain types of terrain. Due to being able to move units around quite a bit, player turns can take some time, but if a player decides they are finished quickly, they have the ability to end their turn at any time. Moving units is done by right-clicking on units and then selecting where you would like it to go. Certain units have the ability to group up and can be moved as a group if wanted, although if there is a unit in a group that cannot move to that tile it will stay behind. This adds another element that players must pay attention to as they take their turn. Units also have strengths and weaknesses against each other—basic infantry is not going to do very well against tanks for example.
As the other player, AI or otherwise, takes their turn, their turn will be shown on the screen as the first player waits. Playing against an AI opponent tends to make their actions fly by on screen extremely quickly, which makes it difficult to tell exactly what is happening visually. Thankfully, the game lists all of the opponents actions on screen so a player can read exactly what actions were taken and adjust for their next turn. Players not only have the ability to move ground troops and tanks, they also have access to bases, special units, suppliers, etc. One of the most important things to do in the game is to set up efficient supply chains so units can continue to fight and push into enemy territory. This chain can be set up by taking existing railways, moving units around, placing bases in good positions, etc. Keeping track of your supply chain can be rather complicated but is necessary to ensure victory. Victory happens when your units manage to roll into the objective (usually a major city) and drive the enemy out.
Once one has gotten the hang of the game and scaled up the huge learning curve, the game can become extremely addictive. Sitting there for 45 minutes getting all of your units in just the right place and hoping you made the right choices is challenging and satisfying, even more so when you’re playing against a friend who is just as into the game as you are. A really interesting addition that adds to the old-school charm is the ability to play the game via mail—both email AND physical snail mail. If you’ve ever wanted to try playing a game this way, there is a whole utility built in to make this possible.
As far as the graphics and sound go, they are extremely basic as War in the East is essentially a tabletop game ported onto a computer without many changes being made. There are no animations or 3D graphics—everything is represented by tiles, text and menus. While poring through hundreds of menus of text can be a daunting task, there are numerous macros and sorting options to help speed up the process. All of the tiles are color-coded and have different icons on them to help sort them out even further. There are even menus and options for elements like the weather, your production and more, making it a smooth process to keep track of everything important without having an extremely cluttered interface.
The sound is also very simplistic, but it gets the idea across without being too intrusive. Examples of the sound effects are marching sounds when moving troops, rolling sounds when moving tanks, etc. The single music track included in the game is a good song that doesn’t really wear out its welcome that fast but is easy enough to turn off once it does. The sound overall is clearly just an extra addition to keep the game from being totally silent but isn’t very interesting or expansive.
For players who are interested in all of the above that can handle the hefty $79.99 price tag, Gary Grigsby’s War in the East is a standout in the genre and certainly worth picking up. It offers a depth of simulation that many other mainstream titles do not. However, those who are new to the genre and unsure about whether they would like this may want to wait for a sale or give it a pass as this is not a casual title nor does it offer amazing graphics or music.
TechRaptor was provided a code for purposes of review.
While a fun and extremely deep simulation, the price tag & learning curve will restrict this one to the hardcore fans only.