STAFF REVIEW of Drive on Moscow (Xbox One)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Drive on Moscow Box art I expected a RISK-like experience when I chose to review Drive on Moscow, but what I got was something drastically different and much more in-depth than I anticipated. You don’t really see a lot of games like Drive on Moscow on console, the kind whose physical board game contains a few hundred pieces and requires a solid day and a half to complete. Designed by Ted Raicer, creator of the popular Paths of Glory board game, this digital historical war game is surely to fulfill a very small niche market, as it’s not a common genre found on console.

Created by developers that also brought us Battle of the Bulge, you are tasked with leading an offensive strike on the Soviet capital during a pivotal battle in World War II, or trying to defend your motherland as the Soviets. Drive on Moscow is a historically accurate representation of this specific battle and time period, to the point of being very unbalanced, as that’s how the war was. You are the commander, organizing and directing troops across the campaign, crafting strategies and planning counterattacks against your enemies. You’ll not only need to battle the opposing faction, but the harsh weather and terrain as well.

I’ll be honest, at first I was beyond overwhelmed. If you’re not used to extremely detailed and intricate war based board games, or a massive history buff, it’s a lot to take in at once. Visually, it’s represented much like a classic board game, complete with little tiles representing your units and area zones outlined with borders. I don’t want to say that the gameplay is dry, but the only real animation presented are your unit tiles being shifted around during movement choices. Even battles play out as simple gunfire from tile to tile instead of a grand visualization of war.

There are only four scenarios to experience, though you are able to play each one on both sides of the front should you wish. Granted, the offering is quite small, but keep in mind that there is a very specific battle that is being depicted here, so it’s to be expected. This particular moment in history was quite pivotal, and it seems that historical accuracy was chosen over gameplay, which is fine, as long as you prepare for that beforehand. Could changes and tweaks have been made to make these scenarios more fun and balanced? Absolutely, but that’s not what happened in the war, so expect some lopsided battles and near impossible odds.

There is a tutorial that teaches you the basics, but even after completing it twice, I was still quite confused at just how in-depth and intricate your strategies need to be to stand a chance. Even after a handful of full matches, I was only starting to understand how the mechanics and scoring systems worked. You should fully expect to lose your first few matches, especially depending on which scenario you are playing, as you need to keep in mind that some sides are much more overpowered, as that’s how certain battles historically were.

The singular map is divided into sections, not quite hexagons like most board games, but more sectors or zones, much like towns or cities. Branded the ‘impulse based’ turn system, the moves play out turn based, but there’s much more to it than that. During each turn you can choose any region and command all of the troops in it to attack, flee or occupy other nearby zones. Movement allotment and range is based on troop types such as front line soldiers, tanks, convoys, airborne, cavalry and more, as well as connected railways, bridges and roads, so there’s plenty of strategy in play at all times.

Moves take time, and certain scenarios have a maximum amount of time to be played out, yet each move can cost a different amount of time. For example, moving your foot troops may forward the clock ahead a couple hours or half a day. So, a large part of your strategy needs to be looking ahead to the move ‘schedule’, as timing is almost as important as the moves themselves. This will take a long time to get the hang of, as it did for me. Once a unit has been moved they are unable to be commanded again until the end of the movement phase (usually 72 hours).

Even the easiest AI setting will be no pushover, as they are tailored for each side of the battles for specific scenarios. Again, don’t expect to win your first handful of games, but once you start to piece together all of the mechanics, and truly start to develop some sound strategies, victory tastes oh so sweet. Even though there’s only a handful of scenarios, playing both factions feels almost almost completely different games. Having to defend Moscow from an onslaught of enemies is drastically different in gameplay than trying to strategize how to break through the defenses.

The controls will take some getting used to, luckily though you’re able to back out and cancel moves before finally committing to your choice. It doesn’t feel natural or fluid with a controller, as even picking specific map areas can be tricky at times. For those that always dream of “what if’s”, especially in a historical setting, Drive on Moscow is perfectly suited for those types of people, as it allows you to try and change the outcome of history, even if the stakes are very much against you.

If you’re a fan of strategy games like RISK, then Drive on Moscow takes that depth to a whole new level, focusing on micromanagement and preplanning. History buffs should truly enjoy the accuracy depicted within, and those that can’t afford the very expensive physical board games will be happy to only pay a fraction of the price to enjoy similar gameplay.

Drive on Moscow is very unfriendly towards new players if you’re not willing to put in the time to learn all of its strategic intricacies, though if you put in the time and really plan ahead, there’s some great historical gameplay to be had within, even if it looks extremely bland and uninviting. Sure, it’s going to only satisfy a very specific niche, but those fans will most likely really enjoy this theatre of war.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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