Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 73 / JUNE 1986 / PAGE 62

The Battle Of Antietam

James V. Trunzo

Requirements: Apple II-series computer with at least 48K RAM; Commodore 64 or 128; or an Atari 400/800/XL/XE with at least 48K RAM. Disk only.

Less than a year before the battle of Gettysburg, a Civil War conflict erupted that became known as "the bloodiest day in American history." In Sharpsburg, Maryland, the battle of Antietam produced more than 22,000 casualties, and it has since been one of the most debated encounters of the Civil War.
    The Union army, under the command of General McClellan, outnumbered Robert E. Lee's Confederate forces by more than two to one. Yet throughout the course of the battle, the cautious and indecisive McClellan failed to commit the bulk of his army. Along with a number of other blunders, this turned the day's battle into a nightmare encounter and possibly prolonged the Civil War by years. Had McClellan been more aggressive, the Confederacy might have been crushed at Antietam and the course of history changed.
    "What might have been" is exactly what makes Strategic Simulation's The Battle of Antietam such an excellent game. You can choose to follow the exact order of battle, with troops being committed as they actually were during the real fighting, or you can take total control and have all troops put into action from the start of the battle and attempt to change the outcome of this bloody day in American history.
    Like all SSI games, The Battle of Antietam has been meticulously researched and is a tactical game on a grand scale, incorporating 17 weapon types plus a wide variety of options. The game can be played on an introductory, intermediate, or advanced level; units may be represented by icons or symbols; units may be hidden or visible; and map details include towns, streams, ridges, and bridges superimposed on a square grid that displays four elevations. There are many other options, as well.

Union Frustration
But it's more than just the accuracy and playability that makes this 11- to 15- hour game so special. Perhaps it's the battle itself.
    When using the Activation option, troops are not available to the player until the time at which they historically entered the battle, This creates an extremely realistic simulation. In fact, when I tried commanding the Union forces using this option, I've never experienced such frustration. Turn after turn I watched the valiant blue coats charge the Confederate positions, fighting to gain a bridge or a hill. I watched them dissolve before the Confederate artillery, break ranks, and retreatwhile a huge Union force sat dormant within striking range of the enemy. I came away with a much better understanding and appreciation of just what had occurred at Antietam-and this is what a computer simulation is all about.
    Beyond these features, The Battle of Antietam incorporates such factors as fatigue, chain of command, limbering and unlimbering artillery, mounting and dismounting cavalry, line-of-sight targeting (which requires only a touch of the key to highlight all possible targets), and more tactical control than any other game in its class. The game may be played solitaire-with the computer commanding either force-or two players can compete head-to-head and try to match Lee's genius and avoid McClellan's indecision.
    SSI has produced dozens of computer war games, gathering praise from many sources. The Battle of Antietam, however, may transcend previous efforts and become a true classic.

The Battle of Antietam
Strategic Simulations, Inc.
883 Stierlin Road
Mountain View, CA 94043-1983