Retail Price: £7.95
Author: Astros Productions
CCS dominate the review section this month and this is their latest release in a rapidly expanding range. Unlike most of their releases to date, CCS have brought their strategy game expertise into the realms of fantasy. It's good to see a change. Fantasy wargaming opens up a whole range of opportunities. You are cast in the role of Head of the Imperial Guard and command a mixed army of warriors and wizards against hordes of terrible monsters.
The game is interesting also because on the B side of the cassette, there's an expanded game for the 128K Spectrum. This version has two extra scenarios and maps to take advantage of the extra memory. The game boasts a double cassette box, glossy instructions with full map diagrams and an icon driven control system. Sounds impressive - but how does it play?
Well the screen is standard fare for CCS, being large and scrollable (what a terrible adjective) within a window. Two other windows allow the statistics display for the unit characters currently in action (ie movement points and stamina). At the bottom of the screen, icons are displayed.
The icons represent all the kinds of wizard and warriors you can choose to make up your force. However, different types of troops have different costs. Basically, you can have a large, poorly equipped outfit or a small, powerful one. Fortunately, all character stats are given in the rules. The last choice may be deleted or the combat mode may be entered. In this mode the Icons are Movement, Home, Long Range Combat, End Turn, Blank and Quit. A joystick or keyboard option allows pointer movement.
Combat includes, zones of control for enemy characters, ranged combat with fireballs (two types) and longbows, movement cost and cover factors for different terrain types. The game format then, is essentially simple.
The only scenario available to 48K users is The Village which involves the Guard in a trap set by the enemy monsters in a deserted village. The Forest deals with another group of Guards tending off monsters intent on sacrificing them. Finally The Inn is a strategically important building for both parties which can be fought over the last scenario. The idea of not having the scenarios as sequential pieces but as aspects of a wider battle is very appealing. In all cases, the player has to defeat the Fire Demon to win whereas the monsters have to entirely obliterate the Guard to win. Consequently, battles are a hard fought affair.
There's nothing particularly innovative or clever about this game. It simply plays well. The presentation could have been higher, the background more atmospherically worked out... a little more imagination generally. It gave the impression of a game given a fantasy front to grudgingly please audiences demanding a wider taste, but with little real care for the genre. Nevertheless, there were no moans considering the price. £7.95 is an extremely attractive for any game now, and considering the benefits for 128k owners, this one has to be worth it.
Okay, I admit it, this is a wargame. Now before you turn the page, hold it right there! None of your little tin soldiers here, chummy, more Dungeons and Dragons, I'd say. If you've a penchant for orcs that go grunt in the night, and like a bit of strategy and really can't be fagged to type all that text into an adventure game, then this could well be the game for yoohoo.
Set a long time ago, in a medieval village plagued by monsters and demons, the villagers come to you for help. You are the chief strategist with the Imperial Guard, a peacekeeping force of wizards, warriors and minders of all kinds. Using your strategic skills, you must employ your forces in the most effective way to beat back the hordes of fire demons and water elementals, thus saving the village from certain destruction.
Now you might think all this strategic nonsense is boring old tripe, with very little in the way of any kind of excitement for a thrill seeker like yourself. In actual fact, the game moves at a fair old lick, as you position your wizards and warriors, and select all your options from icons with the joystick.
The display is a nice scrolling plan view, as seen in Dandy, of the ravaged landscape, which pans in all directions. As you position one man, the computer pans out to find the next. As you combat a creature, a blown up picture of it (urgh) appears on the side of the screen, to let you see the off-whites of his eyes (gulp).
A brilliant strategy game, for arcade freaks who'd like to exercise the muscle between their ears, and give their trigger finger a rest.
CCS HAS RELEASED THREE NEW CHALLENGES FOR SPECTRUM GENERALS. TONY HETHERINGTON REPORTS FROM THE FRONT.
CCS is rapidly achieving the reputation as being THE wargamers. Three new games as different as the campaigns they simulate add to an impressive line up which already includes games such as Desert Rats and Arnhem.
In this latest batch of blood 'n guts for the thinking gamer, prospective Generals play Napoleon at the battle of Eylau, replay the disastrous WW1 Gallipoli campaign and tangle with monsters and wizards in Swords of Bane.
SWORDS OF BANE
As a change from recreating historical battles here's a chance to fight monsters with wizards in the first computerised fantasy wargame.
A formidable army of earth and water elementals and demons are approaching the village led by the Fire Demon. You must raise an army of warriors and wizards to stop them.
By spending your restricted resources you can raise an army consisting of warriors armed with maces, swords, spears and crossbows as well as wizards ready to wield their magic.
Unfortunately you meager purse restricts your choice somewhere between a small elite core of wizards to a large peasant rabble.
This is no ordinary wargame. The wizards can hurl spells from quite a distance and the monsters drain the life energy from those that get too close and so you must arrange your forces so that when you strike, you kill, otherwise you'll actually make the enemy stronger!
Again, 128K owners get a little extra with the inclusion of two more scenarios that take the battle into a forest and finally to an inn.
Swords of Bane is an attempt to recreate the depth and tremendous possibilities of fantasy wargaming which hasn't quite worked.
There's not the variety of monster type of characteristics that such a game should have or the selection of spells to set a wizard apart from a bowman. The result is a game that will be ignored by pure wargamers and will disappoint fantasy freaks.
Napoleon at War is my pick of the three games. It's relative simplicity will appeal to beginners who can take control from their computer Commanders as they feel ready then there's a further two levels to challenge the best.
Gallipoli is a more complex game and reflects the painfully slow progress of WW1 campaigns (as compared to the free flowing which favourite wargaming periods). The number of troops involved and the tactics required to gain any ground at all saves this one for the experts. The sub game actually spoils the game but can be avoided.
Finally Swords of Bane just didn't work. A good idea was there but it was smothered in lack of depth, variety and clumsy control system that had you ordering troops on a fraction of the battlefield without being able to see the rest.
Gallipoli and Napoleon at War cost £8.95. Swords of Bane £7.95.
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