As part of Talonsoft's Campaign Series, Divided Ground: Middle East Conflict 1948-1973 focuses on a geographical area of fierce contention that remains in the headlines to this date. Four linked campaigns featuring 22 standalone scenarios put players in charge of fierce strategic battles involving Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria. Specific campaigns include the Independence War, the War of the Waters, the Yom Kippur War, and the Six Day War. Battlefields can be viewed in both 2D and 3D, with zoom functions drawing the player directly into the terrain, tactics, and emerging modern weaponry in the aftermath of WWII.
Four types of gameplay include standard, modem-to-modem, PBEM, or two-player hot seat, with an option for up to 16 players to compete via LAN or the Internet. Scenarios are rated in complexity, from one to ten, based on the number of units involved, ranging from 1 to 20 units at level one to more than 750 at level ten. As in all games in the Campaign Series, a huge array of options are available through drop-down or pop-up menus, with literally dozens of gameplay variables and commands executable at the press of a button.
Air assaults, tank engagements, infantry movement, and a vast arsenal of post-WWII weaponry are designed to replicate the explosive action of the 25 years following the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 by mandate of the United Nations partition plan. Also known as the Arab-Israeli Wars, the major battles occur in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 and are played out on battlefields represented by actual 1:50,000 scaled maps used by field commanders during that era. Combat utilizes "hex-grid" technology (250 meters per hex) with turns being equivalent to approximately six minutes of real time.
Divided Ground: Middle East Conflict 1948-1973 continues the strong tradition by engulfing you in one of the most intense conflicts the world has ever known. Fight in the Independence War, through the War of the Waters, and on into the Six Day War! The ardent beliefs on both sides, combined with modern warfare technology and tactics, produce a succession of wars sending shockwaves throughout the Middle East.
Divided Ground is the latest iteration of Talonsoft's long-running East Front/West Front series. It covers the Arab-Israeli wars from 1948 through 1973, focusing on the forces of Israel, Jordan, Syria and Egypt. Like its predecessors, it is, in essence, a tabletop miniatures game adapted for the computer. It plays much like an advanced version of Command Decision or Spearhead with a scale of 200 meters per hex and 5-10 minute turns. If you've ever played the old Avalon Hill PanzerBlitz derivative Arab-Israeli Wars, you will feel right at home with this game.
In general Divided Ground plays much like the previous entries in the series. However, there are a few notable changes. First, the scenarios (with the exception of those covering the fight for Jerusalem) are armor-heavy. If you want close-in infantry fights, play Rising Sun. Secondly, night battles are now effectively modeled. Starshells, flaming wrecks and gunfire light up the night, providing some really interesting (and chaotic!) battles.
Graphically, Divided Ground is decent. The map is obviously composed of hexagons, but the wide variety of terrain hexes makes for good-looking and informative maps, if not particularly realistic. The vehicles, on the other hand, are about as good as you are going to find. They compare favorably to those in the later Panzer General series. Sound, likewise, is simple but effective.
Like most Talonsoft games, the computer AI is quite competitive. The bonehead moves and predictability that define other AIs such as Steel Panthers is missing. If you leave a gap in your defenses or if you overextend your forces during an advance, expect the AI to take advantage of it.
While all the scenarios are winnable, they are also generally quite challenging. A player that behaves in a tactically inept manner, such as by charging a mech infantry company into an un-reconnoitered area, is likely to find his forces rapidly annihilated. In many ways, this is a realistic portrayal of the lethality of modern weapons vis-a-vis their WWII counterparts featured in previous editions of this series. Novices may be slightly turned off by this aspect of the game.
With four campaign, 22 scenarios and a scenario editor, the game has decent replayability value. Oddly enough, however, I have not found any user-designed scenarios available, which is odd given the vast number other Talonsoft products (such as The Operational Art of War) have spawned. The scenarios cover a fairly wide variety of situations, from the desperate battles surrounding the founding of Israel to the massive armor battle on the Golan Heights and in the Sinai. Online play definitely adds to longevity of the game.
The unit database is very good, on par with the Steel Panthers series. Additionally, a fair bit of effort has been put in to assuring that formation (i.e. companies and battalions actually contain the correct sub-units) which adds a great deal to the verisimilitude of the game.
The command buttons on the bottom of the screen are useful once you get used to them, but they are not intuitive and take some time to learn. Overall, the program's interfaces aren't really up to modern game standards. They are fully functional, but there is a small learning curve.
Additionally, the game's scale occasionally results in non-historical outcomes to certain situations. In particular, it is not uncommon for a rifle platoon to lose three or four squads when it 'discovers' a minefield. Realistically, at most, several individuals would be lost while the rest of the platoon would halt in place. This is also true with urban fights; units that walk in to a hedge bordered by an enemy unit or two are often mauled, when in reality they would lose only a squad or so before taking cover.
Finally, while this is technically a stand-alone game, the documentation assumes a strong grasp of the previous entries in the series. The manual is all of about 15 pages - it covers only the barest rudiments of play. There is no tactical advice, nor is there any serious instructions for the scenario and map editors. There are files in the game which cover unit descriptions and organizations, but they are rather unwieldy. Given the previous documentation-heavy releases from Talonsoft, I was rather surprised at the sparseness of the manual.
Overall, this is a relatively enjoyable game. However, you come away with the feeling that Talonsoft could just as easily have been released as a scenario pack. It is fun to play, but the system is starting to look a bit dated. Still, for those of us who look back fondly at the wargames of our youth, it is good to see game such as this still being made.
People who downloaded Divided Ground: Middle East Conflict 1948-1973 have also downloaded:
East Front 2, Rising Sun, West Front, Gary Grigsby's World At War, Civil War Generals 2, Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps, Battleground 2: Gettysburg, Gary Grigsby's Pacific War (2000)
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