1) Can anyone tell me why this game is supposed to be so good?
2) Has (had) it something special in its mechanics?
3) How important was the strategy / tactics in the first edition?
4) Was it enjoyable even when played only by two players?
#1 would be a long answer. But I will try to be brief. It is a light - light/medium weight wargame that plays between 60-90 minutes. The theme was a bit silly so it was just a game to pass the time with in a fun way, and not a very serious way. The component quality was great and much underappreciated during its print run. I was talking to Kevin Wilson a few weeks ago about how great it would be if FFG got to make it and he said that for Hasbro it wasnt a success because they needed to sell so many more units in order to be profitable. But if FFG had it, it would likely be considered a successful game in the numbers it sold in.
#2 Actually it really doesnt have anything special in the mechincs of the Avalon Hill version. It was how the mechanics were incorporated that made it special. Most of the mechanics are rehashed stuff, but the final design is rather sublime and enjoyable for even non gamers to get into.
#2.5 That and the day glo components were attractive as well.
#3 Almost non existent really from reading the rules. But there is a subtle variety of decisions to be made in the game even though your victory points are randomly assigned through cards and dice play a rather large role in the game. Your strategy comes from the cards mostly, but how you assign your units tactically is considerable. It has to be played to be appreciated since if you just read the rules it seem like a horrendous dice fest at first blush.
#4 this game scales incredibly well with 2-4 players. Many consider it to be the best 3 player game out there since genuinely good 3 player games are so rare. My GF and I play this 2 player constantly. It works very well with 2 as one may expect with a wargame. 4 players can get a bit clunky in comparison to 2-3 player games, but this is solved when playing 2 teams of 2 players.
I am an unabashed fan of the game as it is in my top 10 fave games in my collection. It is fast, fun, high replayability (and it would seem even moreso with the FFG revised rules from what little we know).
Hope that helps.