WW2 Company Commander is an upcoming augmented reality wargaming app being produced by Digital Wargaming in partnership with Victrix Limited. The app contains a complete rule system and handles all dice rolling, measuring, and score keeping digitally.
The app appears to be in an alpha state at the moment, and is available on the Apple Store. The program will offer limited access for free users, with a subscription option to unlock additional features.
Before we dive in, thank you to Victrix for sending copies of the app to Alex and Dan for review.
Alex: To be honest, coming into this review I was a little skeptical about the need for an augmented reality (AR) app for tabletop gaming. I don’t consider myself a luddite, but I couldn’t really see what a phone app could add to the tabletop experience. That being said, I was willing to give it a shot and see how it went. Because I don’t have an iPhone I wasn’t able to test the app ahead of time, so I really went in completely blind.
Dan: I had a slight idea of what the app was going to do but like Alex was also pretty skeptical about why we needed an AR app for historicals. As a dirty Apple product user, I felt pretty confident in my ability to utilize the app while playing games. My initial main concern was whether or not it would help or hinder play.
When I first opened the app there were two buttons, Learn & Play. Learn has several subcategories including a Manual, How To Videos, Unit Types, Settings & About. As usual, I completely ignored the settings & about but did delve into the others. Manual is how to go about using the app. It explains what it is, a quick overview, how to set up your game and build an army, how to play on multiple devices (which we did not do since Alex is a dirty android user), playing the game in general which goes into great detail on how the algorithms work (another thing I ignored. If I was good or cared about math I wouldn’t have majored in History), what buttons do what, such as moving, firing or rallying and lastly how to end the game. The How To Videos are great little quick tutorials visually showing how to do all of the above. Lastly, the Unit Types lists every unit available in the game and includes their details, like how many men are in the unit, how far they move, their cost, equipment, base attack value, etc.
The trial app that we used came with two default armies that I promptly deleted and couldn’t figure out how to add back, so we instead added two small 500 point armies of Soviets & Germans. We fielded roughly the same armies – several infantry squads supported by a mortar & panzer on the German side while the Soviets got an AA gun and a T34. [A quick note here – we realized post-battle that the game calls for combat on a much larger scale].
The trial version we had utilized an attacker/defender scenario with alternating activations. Games could end one of two ways: either once a specific number of victory points is achieved or after a set number of turns. We couldn’t figure out how to specify the number of victory points so we opted for a turn limit instead. Setting up for battle is relatively easy – you select units from a list that’s preloaded into the app until you hit your points limit.
Company Commander uses a modified alternating activation system. Each turn the game randomly selects which player goes first and assigns them a variable number of units they can activate (usually between 1-5). After that player has finished, it swaps over to the other player who, likewise, gets to activate a certain amount of units. This goes back and forth until each side has activated all their units.
So for example, a turn sequence could look like this: Player A activates 3 units, Player B activates 4 units, Player A activates 1 unit, Player B activates 2 units, Player A activates 3 units, Player B activates 1 unit. The result being that you always know when you’re going to get to play next (when your opponent finished their current activations), but you never know in advance how many units you’ll be allowed to activate.
To fire on an enemy unit, one simply selects their unit in the app, then “measures” the distance to the enemy unit using the camera in the AR app and marks whether the enemy unit is within cover or not. The app then calculates using distance, cover, and weapons involved to give a detailed report of the result – indicating which models were hit and how much suppression is applied to the unit. When firing at vehicles you can see whether or not there was penetration, as well as what damage the vehicle has sustained (such as becoming immobilized, turret knocked out, etc).
The app also plays a fun little shooting sound effect each time, reminiscent of those old PC wargames from the 90’s/00’s. I’d like to see them expand on this even more with custom sounds for each faction. A rousing “Urrah!” when a Soviet squad charges into melee, for example.
The app tracks the casualties, suppression, and status of each unit which means no tokens or markers are necessary. In fact, none of the standard wargaming accouterments such as dice and measuring tapes are needed at all. This makes for a nice clean wargaming table to take pictures of – perfect for impressing your fellow grognards.
Alex: Despite my initial reservations, I will say I walked away actually impressed. The fact that Dan and I were able to play an entire match in only an hour and a half with an unfamiliar ruleset is pretty remarkable. We only needed to reference the “rulebook” a handful of times, meaning that almost that entire time was spent playing, rather than flipping through pages looking for how to do this or that.
There were a couple hiccups during our time playing. At one point I accidentally skipped my tank’s turn and couldn’t figure out how to go back and activate it. There were also some important bits that seemed not to have been implemented yet. For example infantry assaults on tanks haven’t been added – so our tanks rolled around, oddly impervious to the infantry swarming around them. From their Facebook posts it looks like the developers are updating the app frequently so I expect missing features will be added eventually.
Dan: I was pleasantly surprised by this app. It wasn’t something I was particularly clamoring for but really enjoyed. We were able to play a game relatively quickly and I really enjoyed how it interacted with the table itself. The most positive reaction I had to this trial was to play at the scale it’s designed for – utilizing the 12mm models that Victrix produces.
I think a big boon to this app would be adding in quick links for rules referencing. Instead of having to go back to the manual and scroll through a wall of text, hitting the keyword and having the rule pop up would increase usability and be a good quality of life improvement.
Alex: According to the developers, the game is designed for games of about 3-6 infantry squads and 2-3 vehicles per side. Considering that the app is being developed in partnership with Victrix and their (very cool) 12mm WW2 product line, it felt a little strange for the app to focus on platoon+ level combat rather than company level. For example, the Victrix German infantry set comes with 184 miniatures, but the recommended battle size in Company Commander would utilize only about 1/3rd of these.
With the app doing most of the heavy lifting regarding tracking units, I feel like the scope of the game could be easily expanded to more of a company level (as the name would imply). In my opinion, the ease of play would lend itself well to large battles, with hundreds of little 12mm miniatures and dozens of tanks pushing across the battlefield. I could also see this system being used for conventions or mega-games where fast play and easy-to-understand rules are a big plus. The app is still in the alpha stages, so there is a lot of work still being done on it. I’m excited to see where it goes from here!
Dan: I completely agree that I want to use this app on a very large scale battle. I really like the 12mm WWII line from Victrix and would love the opportunity to do a huge force. Since the app tracks everything (even pins!) on each unit, there’s a lot less time spent doing upkeep. Being able to quickly get turns in and the relative ease of use is a huge upside. I think quality of life improvements throughout the life of the app will make it a great way to play large scale battles, especially for gamers like Alex and I who have limited time available to play.
We’ll be keeping an eye on Company Commander and will return to it at different scales and forces in the future. For now, if you have questions, comments or suggestions it’s firstname.lastname@example.org, comment below or get in touch via our socials