Good Sport: Dulce et decorum est

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by Anthony HarrisonAnthony Harrison

Wasteland. Hell… I’m still only in Wasteland.

Every minute I stay in this room I get weaker, and every minute my matched opponent Tilby squats in the desert, he gets stronger.

Patunka Games, a new Greensboro game development company, threw Tilby and I into this godawful, crazy mess with Wartime Cronies, their turn-based, WWII-era strategy game for Android phones. It’s the company’s first release and it’s free to play.

At least, for your first nation.

I signed up with the United States to take advantage of the M4 Sherman tank, P-51 Mustang fighter plane and USS North Carolina battleship — a nod to the company’s origin. I could’ve shipped out with any of 15 other countries, including the seven other major powers and their allies like Brazil, India and Yugoslavia.

Each nation has its own strengths and weaknesses. German ground troops — like Tilby’s — fight hard, but they’re expensive to maintain and take a long time to reinforce.

The units encompass everything from infantry and tanks to heavy bombers and battleships, fighting on terrain ranging from jungle and marshland to snowy mountains and the open sea.

Moving on grids composed of hexagonal spaces, your units capture villages, cities, ports and airfields, all holding strategic significance.

Depending on the nation you serve with, you can fight on historical battlefields in a custom match. If you’re Russian or German, you can engage the Eastern Front with the Barbarossa map. The Germans can invade France in a mock-up of 1940. The Americans island-hop against the Japanese in Pacific War.

Quick Match serves as the standard mode of play, randomly setting you up with a player on an open map.

Like how I met Tilby in Wasteland — the sun’s anvil.

I didn’t ask to be sent to the desert for my first mission. I hate the heat. It’s a dry heat, but the whipping sand chaps the skin of your cheeks raw and drives diamond flecks into your eyes.

But if you play it right, the desert is an ocean in which no oar is dipped.

On this ocean, my Shermans and motorized divisions strike where they please. And they strike efficiently in the desert. Though the Egyptians perform the best of any nation in the terrain — naturally — the American tanks, planes and halftracks receive a 20-percent attack boost when fighting in the endless, rolling dunes.

And the Americans can produce units quicker and cheaper than most other nations — wartime production at its finest. All it takes is two turns and $12 to produce a motorized division. Three turns and $25 gets you a Sherman. Add $10 to that, and you have a Mustang — best fighter of the war.

After I took a nearby village and airfield, codenamed Wichita and Wittstock, I could spy Tilby, my faceless nemesis, through the fog of war. He’d taken the airfield on the other side of a small mountain range splitting the middle of the map.

All it would take was a hop over the mountains, and I could crush him.

But Tilby struck first.

His motorized divisions slammed Wittstock before another flank took Wichita from my exhausted infantry. I couldn’t access my reinforcements in time before a Panzer group annihilated my halftracks north of the capital.

When my Shermans rolled out of my capital’s factory, I avenged my fallen comrades. I then moved a motorized division back into the airfield.

But Tilby kept rolling Panzers out of his capital. They recaptured Wittstock.

It was a digital war of attrition. Wichita and Wittstock quickly became killing floors.

I dispatched some B-25 Mitchell bombers to knock out Tilby’s defenses at the airfield, but without fighter support, they became fodder for his Bf-109 fighters stationed there. Yossarian of Catch-22 would not have been pleased.

We stayed in stalemate for what seemed eternity.

A deep sense of panicked defeat settled in, and morale slumped to a new low. Any frontal assault towards Wittstock turned out to be in vain. I lost division after division of Shermans, Mitchells, Mustangs and Avenger torpedo bombers. Burnt-out carcasses of wrought steel littered the dunes outside of the airfield.

I halted all offensives. I began building an eastern front close to the capital. If Tilby wanted to defeat me, I figured he’d have to come at me with all he had.

My nerves are bad tonight. I’m stuck in rats’ alley, where the dead men lost their bones. Posted in a defensive line ringing Washington. And we haven’t moved in eight hours.

In Wartime Cronies, hours seem to last ages.

Finally, my phone rings.

A lone Panzer group peeked through the fog of war. My massed materiel idled within striking distance of this division and the desert beyond.

I had him.

“Ready to finish this?” I asked him via the in-game chat function.

“Sry my English is not good,” Tilby replied. “I am from Saxony.”

Then he said something which made me smile: “I don’t give up.”

To think: If we’d met in different circumstances, we’d probably be good friends.

I went over the top.

After 26 turns, Berlin fell.

You can find Wartime Cronies on the Google Play store. Visit patunkagames.com for more information.