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Empire of the Over-MindAvalon Hill, © 1981
SSI, © 1981
Eastern Front - 1941
[The original APX version]
[The re-released Atari version]
Publisher: APX (Atari Program Exchange)* / Atari
Developer: Chris Crawford
Original PC Platform: Atari 400/800
Ported Platforms: None
Summary: Eastern Front 1941 was one of the first computer wargames to pass muster with hardcore board wargamers. The game featured a large smoothly scrolling map, showing only a portion of the map at a time. As the game progressed, the colors of the trees, ground, and rivers changed to indicate the changing seasons. There was nothing worse than having your troops bogged down in mud or snow.
The story behind Eastern Front is the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which began on June 22, 1941. Known as Operation Barbarossa, the German Blitzkrieg swept deep into Russia...until old man winter set in. The Germans were turned back at the gates of Moscow, after months of hard battle, and a death toll that reached 6 million combined.
The objective of the game, like that of Operation Barbarossa, is to move German armies across Russia to capture Moscow and other Russian cities. The original version of the game had only one level of difficulty, while the second version had six: Learner, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert 1941, and Expert 1942. During a turn, the player evaluates muster strength and combat strength for each unit (both infantry and armor), gives orders to German army units, and finally executes the orders. You gain points by destroying enemy units and capturing cities.
What made Eastern Front unique for its time was the complexity of the AI. Russian troops would evaluate weaknesses in their defense, and move units to fill holes accordingly. If the German army managed to circle around behind a group of Russian units, the supply lines would be cut off and combat strength would begin to drop. Each unit had a zone of control, allowing the complex algorithms to function smoothly.
For a fascinating article, written by Chris Crawford himself, about the development process of Eastern Front, check out this reprint from Creative Computing magazine.
*(Note: APX was a division of Atari that released shareware titles with no packaging and minimal documentation. These titles usually sold for around $10-$20. Eastern Front 1941 was so popular that Crawford updated it a year later with additional difficulty levels. The newer version required 48k of RAM, thus wouldn't run on a 400. Atari re-released it as an official Atari product, complete with a 31-page booklet and a color map.)
-- Tony Cervo
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