The ST GAME SHELF
Universal Military Simulator Scenario Disks
Disk 1: The American Civil War
Disk 2: Vietnam
P.O. Box 2227
Menlo Park, CA 94026
Reviewed by Frank Era
The Universal Military Simulator (UMS) is a software package that will not blow you away graphically. However, it is an efficient tool for the serious war gamer or history buff. For those who are unfamiliar with this program, perhaps a few brief words about the system are in order.
First of all, UMS depicts historical conflicts in the medium and high resolution modes of all Atari STs, with at least 512K of RAM. The high resolution mode is, of course, possible only for those with monochrome monitors. The medium resolution mode limits the program to a total of four colors, the defaults being black, white, green and orange. The defaults for high resolution are black and white, the normal output of Atari monochrome monitors. Because of the color limitations, the program relies heavily on grid maps, which are basically black-on-white line drawings that represent contours in the landscape only marginally.
Armies are depicted by unit, with the commanding officer's name emblazoned on the icon. An arrow points to the position of the unit on the map. Additionally, a smaller icon represents the type of unit at that location: i.e., light infantry, heavy artillery, etc.
While limited graphically, UMS has the unique ability to depict the setting of each battle from any direction of view selected by the user, as well as the ability to utilize two levels of zoom. However, zooms again do not accomplish anything graphically, aside from the fact that the enlarged areas permit the user to see more clearly what is going on. A zoom merely enlarges the scale of the original map and does not display anything beyond the field of the zoom. It is obvious that UMS was not programmed in the style of Chris Crawford, the father of home computer war games.
However, the 3-D grid maps do give the war gamer a feel, at least, for the lay of the land. This is a feature that was lacking in most of the early war games. Additionally, UMS provides the user with the ability to create entirely new scenarios and customized maps. This ability has spawned the next generation of scenario disks for the UMS owner.
Scenario Disk #1 includes three major battles from the American Civil War. While the original disk included the battle of Gettysburg, this new disk provides the battles of Shiloh, Chattanooga and Antietam. The battle of Shiloh presents the surprise attack of confederate General Albert Sydney Johnston's 45,000-man army of the Mississippi against the unprepared forces of Ulysses S. Grant. The battle of Chattanooga depicts the besieging confederate army holding the towering high ground, while the union army, with an ever dwindling store of supplies, held the sleepy Tennessee town of Chattanooga.
The battle of Antietam, September 17, 1863, is referred to as the bloodiest day in the history of American arms. Robert E. Lee has gambled the future of the Confederacy on an invasion of the north. The secret battle plans fall into the hands of General George B. McClellan, but the issue would still have to be decided by over 150,000 American troops!
Scenario Disk #2 includes three battles from the Vietnam war: Hill 823, Hill 875 and Ngoh Kam Leat. Hill 823 depicts the 4th division's mission to clear the region south-west of Dak To, since intelligence reported that the North Vietnamese were gearing up for another big thrust there. Hill 875 was crucial to the battle for Dak To. American forces switched from attack to defense, as the NVA crashed down upon them.
On the slopes of Ngoh Kam Leat, American forces under Captain Thomas Baird stumbled into a hornet's nest of enemy opposition. Despite constant sniper fire, ground attacks and significant casualties, the American troops prevailed.
The procedure for using scenario disks is simple. The user loads UMS as usual, supplying a password from the original scenario handbook to verify ownership, and then clicks on the "run simulation" button. This brings up a selection screen that displays the original scenarios and a button in the lower right-hand corner to display scenarios contained on another disk. Clicking on this button brings up a standard file selector. Selecting a file will load the simulation from the supplementary disk. From here on, all UMS functions are exactly the same as the original.
By the way, the scenario disks are not copy protected. So, they may be copied for archival purposes or loaded onto a hard drive.
All scenario disk packages are accompanied by a detailed scenario handbook. The American Civil War is 80 pages; The Vietnam War is 30 pages. It is obvious to this reviewer that many hundreds of hours went into the preparation of these supplementary disks and their accompanying documentation. Only the most dedicated history buff/war gamer would be willing to devote so much time to such an occupation. Now, Rainbird has taken all the work out of the process for the majority of UMS owners, and done it at a very reasonable price! Scenario disks have certainly improved the longevity of a fine tool!
The bottom line: A good value for owners of UMS.