Call to Wargames
Reviews: Borodino, Battle Cruiser, Guderian and Mech Brigade
Reviewed by RICH MOORE
Guderian is a challenging simulation of the German Blitz across western Russia in 1941. The German player must capture several key locations, fighting the Soviet player and the clock, just as General Heinz Guderian did 46 years ago. The huge, untrained Soviet army requires constant leadership in order to perform.
The game runs for 12 turns covering two days each. The simple graphics do a good job of representing Soviet key positions--clear areas, forests, rivers, lakes, railroads, etc.-- which the Soviet player can use to move forces. The German player cannot use the railroads, but can cut them to slow Soviet reinforcements temporarily.
Guderian plays well despite some rough edges. Your thumb gets a good workout on the joystick button, and the symbols on the map are the same whether or not the units there are all the same type, so you must keep track manually. Games are all saved under the same filename, so you'll need several disks. However, other quirks actually seem to contribute to the simulation of the chaotic problems faced by the Germans and the Soviets.
$30, 48K disk. Avalon Hill, 4517 Horford Road, Baltimore, MD 21214. (800) 638-9292.
Battlecruiser, featuring surface naval combat in the European theater, actually contains two complete gaming systems, each with a 79-ship database and four historical scenarios. For World War I, British and German ships square off in your customized scenarios, or you can replay three historical battles. The World War II disk pits the British and French against the German and Italian navies. Historical scenarios include the engagement off Cape Teulada and the daring transit of the Schamhorst, Gneisenau and Print Eugen with their escorts up the English Channel from France.
Battlecruiser's two command modes are a good simulation of the way naval forces are actually controlled. The OTC (Officer in Tactical Command) deploys his ships in divisions according to the expected threat, then maneuvers these groups of ships as the situation develops. While the group and ship commanders are responsible for executing the OTC's general plan, the Admiral usually directs the actions of individual units when things get hot.
You can build a game from scratch --thus extending Battlecruiser well beyond the eight games in the package--and overhaul any of your ships into juggernauts that would dwarf the largest real battleships. However, you can't have more than 20 ships on each side and you can't modify a saved game. Custom maps, on grids of 60x60 1.000-yard squares can be saved separately and used later.
The graphics aren't great, but quickly becomes secondary to the combat situation, which the commander actually tracks and assesses in his mind.
$59.95, 48K disk. Strategic Simulations, Inc., 1046 N. Rengstorff Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94043. (415) 964-1353.
Borodino is a real challenge, unless you stack all the options against the Russians. As Napoleon, you must do everything right, or you'll see what appears to be certain victory turn into a rout of the French forces not unlike history.
In the village of Borodino, about 60 miles west of Moscow, the battleground is fairly small, roughly five-and-a-half miles square. Eight scenarios are provided, ranging from single engagements between elements of the two armies to the complete three-day battle. Six choices have the historical orders of battle and deployment of forces. Two others are variations on history, with the benefit of hindsight.
The unprotected software works with virtually any DOS and density. Games can be restarted or restored any time without rebooting. The map is a smooth-scrolling, 36 x 37 grid of 275-yard squares. Forces begin as divisions, but can be divided into regiments and battalions. Infantry can be stacked in "divisional" units up to 6,300 men, but French stacks are limited to units belonging to the same corps.
There's plenty of clear ground, but most of the terrain slows down the Grand Armee. Units can "charge" the enemy if the terrain is favorable. Borodino requires planning and the proper balance of aggressiveness and patience to let your forces do their job. The enemy must be worn down, with minimal losses on your side. The well-written manual provides useful hints regarding the strengths and weaknesses of each type of unit. Forces are so easy to control with the joystick that you can forget that this is a war game.
$59.95, 48K disk. KRENTEK Software, P.O. Box 720081, McAllen, TX 78502- 9990. (512) 682-9598.
Mech Brigade simulates a future convientional NATO and Soviet Bloc conflict in Central Europe. One or two players can control either the NATO or Soviet forces. Each unit is aparoximately a platoon, and each turn simulates two minutes of real time. The game map measures 60x40 squares, but only a 20 x 10 portion can be seen at any time. The multicolor terrain features rivers, towns, woods and slopes. Unlike many other computer wargames, Mech Brigade lets you stack units in a single square.
You can play any of the four "historic" scenarios or build your own, in which case you must determine the nationality and relative strength of each force, and terrain and battle types. The battle types are pursuit, assault and meeting engagement, with the choice of either side being the attacker or defender.
Units are controlled by issuing commands for each during the orders phase. Units can entrench, change facing and set the maximum firing range at which they will select a target. Most importantly, with the View command, the computer designates each square in a unit's line of sigh which helps you choose optimum "fire lanes" for each unit. Combat, handled automattcaally by the computer after the orders phase, is divided into four 30-second phases in which each unit accesses a target and fires.
This is certainly not a game for beginners. Each turn can easily take 15- 30 minutes. However, the cormplexity of the game does not lie within the mechanics, but rather in the number of choices a player must make in order to win. Compounding this is the number of units each player can command. And each type of unit demands its own set of unique tactics in order to be used most effectively.--DR. JOHN STANOCH
$59.95. 48K disk. Strategic Simulations, Inc., 883 Stierlin Road, Bldg A-200, Mountain View, CA 94043. (415) 964-1353.