TalonSoft's "East Front II"

This game is one of my favorites and is still a leader in WWII wargames. Because I have played it many times I know it well enough to illustrate one of my dislikes in the computer wargame genre. This is the tendency for game designers to allow the game to cheat when it's AI is not smart enough.

In "East Front" the AI breaks several of its own rules. Some good examples are:

  • Artillery Prescience: the AI will regularly move units targeted by artillery fire out of danger regardless of whether they are obviously under threat. The level of artillery prescience varies between unit type with HQ units and transport units possesing the highest level of prescience.
  • Disrupted Unit Attacks: units can be disrupted as a result of combat and are not supposed to move toward enemy units. This rule is quite blatantly disregarded by the AI.
  • Air Attack Targetting: any air attack launched by the AI will inevitably hit a high value unit. Any air attack launched by the gamer will almost always target the wrong unit.
  • The Cloak of Invulnerability: periodically during a game an AI controlled unit will become apparently invulnerable. This may continue for several turns before the "cloak" moves to some other unit. During the period the unit is cloaked nothing you do will harm it

Don't get me wrong "East Front" is an excellent game, I still play it regularly even though it dates back to 1997. But it serves to illustrate some of the compensatory tricks that game designers play when they can't program a fully competitive AI. Of course, a truly competitive AI remains beyond our reach for now, but game designers at least obey the rules set forth in the game manual.

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