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 (le 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.
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