Desert Fox is Shenandoah's latest turn-based tactical wargame in its Crisis In Command series. The interface and gameplay may be familiar, but make no mistake, war in the desert is nothing like war in Europe.
Erwin Rommel is a fascinating figure from World War II. A highly-decorated and respected general, he ignored orders to exterminate jews, treated prisoners of war with dignity, and conspired to assassinate Hitler. Because of this, he is the only high-ranking officer of the Third Reich to have his own museum in Germany. Known as the Desert Fox for his skillful leadership of his formidable Afrika Corps Panzer Brigade, he challenged the Commonwealth for control of Egypt and the Suez Canal.
Wargamers who are familiar with Shenandoah's other offerings (Battle of the Bulge and Drive On Moscow) will be right at home here, as their excellent interface persists in Desert Fox. You will take command of either Axis or Commonwealth forces, and attempt to win by scoring victory points by performing various actions. While you might think that fighting in the desert would be pretty straightforward, you would be wrong. In addition to hundreds of miles of sand, there is ocean to the north (as well as the map's only true road) and the Qattara Depression to the south; both of which are completely impassable to all units. This restrictive geography is further complicated by the presence of Deirs (depressions in the desert) and ridges that hinder movement in various ways. Diers, for instance, cannot be entered by armor unless there is a track (dirt road) leading into them, although infantry can move through them with impunity. The star of the show in Desert Fox, however, is supply. Fighting in such a punishing environment not only continuously wears down your units, but also completely changes how units are resupplied. If you suddenly find one of your units out of supply, it will not be completely immobilized because the desert is vast and it is next to impossible to completely isolate any unit. when this happens (and it will happen a lot), the unit will have one move left, after which you will still be able to move a single space each turn, but will suffer severe combat and gameplay penalties, such as preventing Axis units from exiting off the eastern edge of the map. Lastly, units also have the ability to lay mines if they choose to assume a defensive posture. These function a lot like defensive terrain in that opposing units must expend time clearing them before they can realistically engage hostile units or even pass through the zone. All units can clear mines except for armor and flak so be sure to look for the option when you move into a relevant space.
Desert Fox features the same robust online multiplayer component found in Shenandoah's previous titles, as well as three scenarios that can all be played from either side. While this may sound like a paltry amount of gameplay, those three scenarios are huge, and encompass the entire historical conflict. Further, each playthrough will not only take a long time to complete, they will feel distinctly different as the game engine does a good job of randomizing key elements.
The graphics of Desert Fox are every bit as beautiful as previous titles. While you would think that a desert map would look pretty dull, the razor-sharp terrain details give you plenty to look at, and even the little unit markers subtly come to life as they move about the map and engage one another. Looking beyond the map, however, things still look great. The interface is organized, intuitive, and clean; even on the iPhone. While you might think that a game this complex would be unworkable on the tiny screen of a phone, Shenandoah has worked hard to reorganize the iPhone's interface, and it actually works quite well.
The in-game music is subtle, and comes and goes as you play. The ambient sounds keep things feeling lively, and the battle effects are clean, varied, and not jarring.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Desert Fox offers no IAPs of any kind.
Desert Fox is a fantastic simulation of one of the pivotal battle of WWII. It succeeds because of its accessibility, accuracy, polish, and most importantly, fun-factor. If you're a fan of wargames, you should have already bought this, and if you're new to them, this is a great place to start.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Who knew a desert map could look so good? Sound: - 4 - Subtle and enjoyable sound/ambient effects, and interesting music. Controls: - 5 - A lot of thought went into this intuitive interface. Gameplay: - 5 - The tutorial will help you get started, and once you are rolling, you won't be able to put it down.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Play the scenarios before you play online; human opponents are much tougher than the A.I. You can select certain units to be guaranteed resupply; choose wisely. When you're out of supply, you have one attack left before you are penalized so don't waste it on an empty move. Axis units out of supply cannot exit off the eastern edge of the map (their objective); both sides should remember this.