Maneuver Warfare is one of those games that’s been out for a couple of years now, but for some reason, it always managed to slip under the radar of nearly everyone I know. Not because it’s a bad or a boring game, but just because it has. I like Maneuver Warfare, I really do. Sure, there are a lot of things that can be levelled against it- as it stands right now, it can appear very basic when pitted against other behemoths of the genre and the lack of clarity in its UI is sure to infuriate some. However, and for all of its downfalls, what Maciej Jonasz’s work can’t be accused of is of being formulaic and derivative. Maneuver Warfare is a shy attempt to innovate in a sub-genre that has long stalled with turns and counters, by pundits shunning even the slightest variations to its standards. So what is MW? After spending a couple of hours with it, it’s a “slightly faster”-paced wargame set in World War 2, completely hexeless, between the tactical/ operational level with battalion-sized units. In a genre filled to the brim with untapped, yet unfulfilled potential, it’s always refreshing to see someone new entering the fray. So forget your Warhammers and Crusader Kings, your Age of Empires and Total Wars, let’s talk to the man that’s trying to do something different.
Hello, Maciej! Tell us, who is Maciej Jonasz and what’s your story?
I used to be a day trader working on the futures markets but military history was always my passion. I write about it for magazines and have written several novels – including a series that follows a Brandenburg Regiment team on missions to Tibet, Africa, and Greenland, and a series on a modern-day war in the Bosporus region. I am currently working on novels based on Maneuver Warfare – one that covers the 1939 and 1940 campaigns is out, and now I’m writing about Barbarossa. Link to Amazon page.
How did you get into wargaming and strategy games? And what other genres do you enjoy?
I got into war games when a friend showed me Close Combat 3. Then I discovered Steel Panthers and Harpoon and couldn’t get enough. Otherwise, I like shooters when I want something mindless to just relax.
I see you are a prolific writer with a penchant for the Second World War. Where did this interest come from?
Not sure what is the specific reason. Perhaps because I was exposed to so much literature on the subject when I was growing up.
How did the idea to create Maneuver Warfare come to be? Did you work on other games before?
I thought about developing some sort of a wargame for some time before, but never had the time to do it. Then I stopped trading and decided it would be a good time to try. Maneuver Warfare ended up being my first game and I have no previous experience in programming.
How does your novel about Maneuver Warfare relate to the game?
The novel follows a German battle group (and gives the opposing side’s point of view along the way) as it fights through the same battles of the 1939 and 1940 campaigns that you find in the game. Both sides have the same forces as in the game and the Allies fight the same battle plan that the AI executes. The latter makes it a bit of a spoiler so it’s better to play the game first and then read the book. You can then compare the way you fought these battles to what the Germans do in the novel and maybe get some ideas on how to do it.
And how did your knowledge about the conflict influenced you during the creation of Maneuver Warfare?
Quite a bit. It helped me identify the more interesting elements of various campaigns so that the player would have varied and challenging scenarios to try out.
I researched every scenario in the game and tried to design them in a way that it reflects what actually happened. Unfortunately, in order to get better gameplay, these aren’t completely historically accurate. For example, the Polish air strikes you encounter in the Piotrkow scenario actually took place a couple of days before the battle itself but I squeezed it in so as to add that element to the game. So the scenario loses is accurate, but you get to deal with all three kinds of events that happened during and before the actual Piotrkow battle – air strikes, assaulting defensive positions, and encountering armoured counterattacks.
Looking into Maneuver Warfare, as a wargame, it flew under the radar for a lot of people, despite being actually pretty good. Why do you think that is?
I haven’t figured out the marketing bit. I was so focused on the game that I didn’t put enough effort into publicizing it.
What do you think sets Maneuver Warfare apart from other games in the genre?
I think mainly five things. First – the AI fights according to tactically sound battle plans. This is especially evident when it is in the defence – the enemy has dedicated counterattack forces and fights from a series of subsequent battle positions. I am an officer in the army reserves and I developed the AI plans to mimic what would be made in real life. Two – the way you can organize your units into combined-arms battle groups. Again, I tried to mirror the way you would organize combat forces in reality. Three – no hexes so you are free to maneuver your units in any way you want. Four – the lack of a turn structure means that combat takes place continuously whenever units are in range. Five – the way the game simulates your unit’s leadership structure. Your commanders gain experience in combat which gives their units bonuses in battle, they get killed and wounded, and they get promoted within their units to replace those who died. I loved the way Close Combat showed your soldiers’ histories and I improved on that by adding the promotions aspect.
I personally love how easy it is to control everything and the hex-less approach is surely different. Why this free-form approach to movement?
I want Maneuver Warfare to be a good simulation of combat from a battle group commander’s perspective and since there are no hexes in real life, I didn’t want any here.
Surely, you have a plan to keep working on it. In your mind, what would be the “perfect” Maneuver Warfare? (what features, graphics, UI, Content, AI, etc.)
I am continuing to work on improving the game. I get plenty of requests from players which I then add to a ‘to-do’ list and implement one after another if they are feasible. I have been putting out updates about once a month with these improvements. Otherwise, I am working on DLCs. I already published one with additional operations that contain a fictional invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938, southern Poland in 1939, the invasion of Yugoslavia, the offensive to relieve Stalingrad, and the third battle of Kharkov. The last one actually covers some of the terrains you hear mentioned in reports from the war in Ukraine. Now I am wrapping up work on a DLC that adds a Combat Service Support company to your force and more DLCs will follow. I would like to say that somewhere along the way the perfect game will emerge but I’m afraid that there will always be something new to add.
My only pet peeve with the game is how I can never figure out if my units can fire at the enemy from their location. Do you plan on implementing a line of sight tool?
Yes. It’s on the ‘to-do’ list and will appear on one of the updates.
Are there any plans to add Western Front content to the game? Sure, the Eastern Front is nice, but the hedgerow hell of Normandy has been left by the wayside during these last couple of years.
Certainly! It’s on the list of DLCs I want to publish. Both a 1939 – 1940 and a 1944-1945 Western Front.
You’re also a profuse traveller, while developing the game did you visit any of the locations represented in the game?
Unfortunately only one (and well before starting work on Maneuver Warfare) – the site of the First Battle of Tomaszow Lubelski that you get to play out in the third scenario of the Polish campaign.
If you were stuck on an island, what games would be indispensable to have and why?
Obviously Maneuver Warfare! Otherwise, Steel Panthers and Harpoon because they have infinite possibilities for creating scenarios.
Anything else before we wrap this one up?
It’s been a long journey to create the Maneuver Warfare you have in front of you today. The current version is much better than the original release thanks in part to the feedback I have been getting from people – guys like my brother JJ (the developer behind Mythical City Games) or Cedric from the Computer Wargames: Tactical to Strategic FB group. It’s easy to think that what you did is great and miss things you should do better so it’s great to know somebody who had a different perspective and can point out what you need to improve.
This might be a Strategy and Wargaming website but I’m sure we’re all curious to know what First Person Shooters you enjoy!
Thanks a lot, Maciej! All the best to you! Cheers!