Battleground 5: Antietam
Review by Alfred Giovetti
Price $59.95 - $49.99
Genre: War game
Release: September 1996
Developer: Talon Soft
Producer: Jim Rose
Publisher: TalonSoft, PO Box 632., Forest Hill, MD 21050-0632
requirements: 486 DX 33 MHz, Windows 3.1, 2X CD ROM drive, 8 MB RAM, 5 MB hard disk space (100 MB for the custom game version).
History: Antietam creek is remembered as the site of "the bloodiest single day in American history." This recreation will give you a chance to replay that most popular of battles. The prior two games in the Battleground series encouraged TalonSoft to venture yet again into the immensely popular Civil War theater.
TalonSoft tells us about the battle: "At Antietam, some 70,000 Union soldiers under George McClellan met the legendary Robert E. Lee's veteran but outnumbered Army of Northern Virginia in an ill-fated onslaught that should have ended the American Civil War once and for all. Instead of a sure victory, however, McClellan's extreme caution resulted in three more years of struggle. "
A year ago, TalonSoft came to the marketplace with the first of the Battleground series, Ardennes. Right on the heels of that one was Battleground 2: Gettysburg and then Battleground 3: Waterloo and then Battleground 4: Shiloh. Now Jim Rose is producing a fifth product, Battleground 5: Antietam (B5A).
Plot: You take the role of Lee's beloved South or McClellan's North. Try to win the game against the artificial intelligence.
Combat: Phased combat is conducted on a hex-based field with or without the grid. Turns progress through a series of four phases where the men move first in turns then fire in turns. Each turn can last an average of 30 minutes, with an entire battle lasting an entire week-end or even a week.
There are just 4 phases per turn in the 3 Civil War games, Battleground Waterloo has six phases: 1) Movement Phase, 2) Defensive Fire Phase, 3) Offensive Fire Phase, and 4) Melee Phase. Charles Kiber, Art Director for TalonSoft filled us in on his bent on turns, "A turn lasting a half hour would be quite rare (maybe a *very* meticulouslyslow person playing a very big scenario!). I can finish an entire scenario in an hour (the games feature quite few "small" scenarios). A full-day scenario, however, might take about 10 to 15 minutes per turn. With about 50 turns, that could take a bit (I'll let you do the math on it ;-). Also, FYI, each turn in the game represents 20 minutes of actual time. Each hex represents an area about 125 yds wide.
Scenarios: Each game disk includes over thirty (25 historical and 10 what if battles) variant battles saved to disk that can be played over and over again. Each battle takes a different view of what both McClellan and Lee should have done. Charles continues, "Some scenarios are full day, some "half day", some are "historical", some are "what if" situations. Some feature variable (read: unpredicable) entry times for reinforcements to enter and/or for "fixed" units to be released. Hope that makes sense." There is the Battle of South Mountain fought three days before the Antietam - Sharpsburg conflict and Burnside's Bridge which takes only ten turns.
Artificial intelligence: The artificial intelligence (AI) is much better, and incorporates multiple leader statistics. Lee as the Confederate commander can move large numbers of troops quickly for fast concentrated strikes that demoralize the enemy, just like the way he fought in life. Charles elaborates, " In Battleground Antietam, many of the scenarios feature "fixed" units that may or may not be released "on schedule". This is especially true for the Union in some "what if" scenarios. Historically, McClellan (the Union commander) was very, *very* cautious, and fed the Union corps into the blood bath piecemeal (one at a time), thus allowing Lee the luxury of being able to shift units from one place to another to meet the current threat. In fact, three of the eight corps present saw little, if any, action, as McClellan, certain he was out-numbered by over two to one, insisted on keeping a very large strategic reserve. In actuality, his army outnumbered the Confederates by about two to one."
Graphics: The individual character based system and rich graphics give the game a most realistic feel. The graphics start at 640x480 pixels in 256 colors. The three dimensional (3D) perspective looks like a war in miniatures complete with trees, roads, and accurately modeled structures and terrain. Each unit has its own facing, flag and graphical unit type. The 3D mode can show as little as 10% of the battlefield, depending on two things: 1) map size and2) resolution at which the player is running the game. The two dimensional mode covers more terrain and is more suitable for conducting battles.
Modes: Similar to the interface in Battleground 4: Shiloh, you can play specific battle scenarios, and revisit "The Sunken Road, " charge through "The Cornfield, " or fight your way across bloody "Burnside's Bridge."
Full Motion video of enactment sequences help you to get an idea what the battle was like.
Utilities: Installation times are ridiculously long. Some have reported install times of two to three hours. Upgraded versions of previous battleground games are included at no extra charge on the CD of the game.
Multi-player: Fight friend or foe over phone or null modem, or play by email (PBEM). Internet and network modes. The player can also play vs another human in 3 different ways: 1) in "2 player Hot Seat" play, or 2) a modem to modem game (live), and 3) via play be e-mail (send saved game files back and forth to each other). In fact, several folks are playing "group play" games of Waterloo, Shiloh and Gettysburg via email, with 3 to 5 people per side!. Speaking about internet and network modes Charles had this to say, " Internet and network modes ? not yet; hope to integrate this into the system over the winter months."
Andrew is one of the few journalists who do not like the Battleground series of war games.
Scott Udell, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 71, October, 1996, pg. 14.
TalonSoft Site: http://www.talonsoft.com/briefing.html
Marc Dultz, Computer and Net Player, volume 3, number 9, February, 1997, pg. 82, 90%.
Andrew Miller, PC Games, volume 4, number 3, March, 1997, pg. 95, 75%.