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Game Review - Afghanistan '11
Game Review - Afghanistan '11

Afghanistan ’11 is a turned-based strategy game in which the player assumes control of US Army operations in Afghanistan on a mission to win the hearts and minds of the local population while combating insurgency. Afghanistan ’11 is the sequel to Vietnam ’65, which was released in 2015.

In a nutshell, you are given an HQ from which you go about trying to improve the lot of the average Afghan or train and equip the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) to take over combat responsibility.  Afghan mood is measured byt the means of a "Hearts and Minds" (H&M) score.  The H&M score is determined by the following:

H&M score is increased by:
  US/ANA forces damage/destroy an enemy unit or IED/Boobytrap
  US/ANA infantry enter a village that has a burning fire
  US delivers UN Aid to a village
  US connects a build to connect a village to the highway

H&M score is decreased by:
  A militia intimidation mission reaches a village
  A militia/Taliban unit inflicts a hit or destroys any US/ANA unit
  A US/ANA unit detonates an IED/Boobytrap
  A US/ANA unit runs out of supply and is destroyed
  An opium crop is destroyed
  A waterworks becomes non-operational

In addition to the H&M score, you have Political Points (PP) which basically act as currency.  PP represent the level of support among the American people and can fluctuate greatly with your successes and failures on the battlefield.

Polical Points are expended by:
  Deploying reinforcements
  Building infrastructure
  US/ANA units damaged or destroyed
  Unit movment

Polical Points are earned by:
  Enemy units damaged
  IED/booby traps cleared
  Operational waterworks
  Units repatriated back to the US

Since everything, including movement, costs PP, you have to keep a careful watch on your PP balance.

The game comes with 4 tutorials to get you up and running and teaches you the fundamentals of gameplay, while the campaign offers 14 battles/scenarios. Also a Skirmish mode is available for a quick battle.


4 Tutorials and 14 Scenarios

The first battle in the campaign is the Battle of Lashkar Gah. In this battle, the player is tasked with protecting an FOB (Forward Operating Base) to the northwest, supplying the FOB with 2 trucks and keeping the Hearts and Mind score above 50.
 
 
Battle of Lashkar Gah - mission briefing

Placed around the map are several villages which need to checked for intel. If a village has potential intel, it will display animated smoke within the village hex. Checking for intel is performed by visiting the villages with an infantry unit. Once the village is visited and useful intel is found, enemy units will be reveiled on the map. Also, in order to keep the H&M score high, you will need to build a road to the villages and provide waterworks in the village. These tasks are made difficult because the insurgency is constantly planting IEDs, attacking your bases, and  trying to sabotage any improvements you make.

You start each scenario with several units at your disposal garrisoned at your HQ. Every unit expends rations (infantry, etc.) or fuel (vehicles and aircraft) points and once you reach zero, the unit begins to degrade until it is eventually destroyed. Also, each unit you own has a very limited range of usually around 5 turns before it runs out of supplies. You can deliver supplies to these units with either a helicopter or air drop or you can return to a FOB or HQ to replenish, but this costs valuable PP points.


Garrisoned units and reinforcements tab Garrisoned units and reinforcements tab
In the sceanarios, you need to establish FOBs from which to conduct your missions.  You can always be certain that the countryside is teaming with enemy militia and the Taliban.  At your disposal are Infantry, Special Forces, Mine Resistant Amored Protected vehicles (MRAP), Mine clearing vehicles (Husky), Engineers (Buffalo) drones, Chinooks, Blackhawks, Apaches, artillery, air strikes, etc…all of which cost Political Points to use and/or to purchase new units.  In order to keep the supply lines open and the villages safe, you are constantly needing to patrol and find the enemy.
 

Blackhawk under attack trying to transport infantry to the FOB Blackhawk under attack trying to transport infantry to the FOB



Trying to clear the road to the FOB, but IEDs keep getting in the way



FOB surrounded by the Taliban

My thoughts on the game

Well, it turns out that I'm not very good at capturing the Hearts & Minds of the Afghans.  The game requires a level of balancing that at the time of this writing, I have yet to master.  I enjoyed playing the game, but also became frustrated with several of its quirks. 

Foremost, the panning of the map is maddeningly slow as is the maximum level of zoom.  I wish the map was able to zoom out twice as far and coupled with the sluggish map-panning, I felt more frustrated than anything else - especially since you have FOBs and units all over the map.  Yes, there is an intel map, but it doesn't serve the purpose I needed when playing.

Other quirky things such as units stating "Taking Casualties!" but unable to determine quickly who is taking damage.  Additionally, when performing actions, the game has a habit of returning focus over your HQ when you're in heat of battle.  Also, I would give orders to units and they would forget what they were ordered to do and they would just sit there and expend a ration or fuel point.  In a game where units typically have a 5-turn or so range, this can mean the difference between winning or losing a scenario.

Also, I would love to see more tooltips when hovering over sections of the screen.  For instance, when purchasing units, a tooltip over each unit would've been extremely helpful.  For instance, tell me exactly the differences between a Chinook and an Mi-8. 

Overall, I found the game enjoyable, but I became greatly frustrated by the user interface and sluggish controls. 






Review by Brian Williams ((militaryhistoryonline@hotmail.com).


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