The War College
Review by Alfred Giovetti, 09/15/96
Genre: war game
Developer: Intergalactic Development Incorporated
Designer: Ezra Sidran
Phone: 800-GAMETEK (426-3835)
Requirements: 486 DX, 33 MHz, 8 MB RAM, 2X CD ROM drive, 5 MB hard disk space, DOS 5.0, mouse, soundblaster compatible
Made by the same people who made the Universal Military Simulator I & II (UMS), which I reviewed on the Atari ST in 1991. UMS I was released by Rainbird in 1988 and UMS II by MicorPlay in 1990. Then as now Ezra Sidran, designer, feels that oversimplification is the bane of wargames. Ezra pumps tons of data into his war simulators, which in the early days resulted in games that could take entire weeks to play. You would go to work while the battle plans were resolved.
Thankfully today’s computers have the horsepower to handle Ezra’s simulations. We can now see the units, represented by column formation ribbons or blocks, moving briskly along without any time constraints on a Pentium system. Ezra’s third effort at the Universal Military Simulator is entitled The War College (TWC).
Battles: Four battles come with the game: Caesar and Pompey at Paraslus in 48 B.C., Napoleon vs. Russia and Austria at Austerlitz in 1805, Lee and McClellan at Antietam in 1862, and the Russians and Germans (Samsonov and Renenkampf vs. Hindenberg) at Tannenberg in 1914. Ezra plans to bring out expansion discs as add-ons to the original game.
Game play: No time acceleration dooms the player to boredom at many places where control of the battle is not useful. Real-time movement and combat is easy with the commands of march, forced march, fortify, and wheel commands. The use of waypoints allows you to give accurate movement orders. The change of a formation is also simple with a click to change to column, attack, defense and square. Units can be grouped together and commanded as a single unit.
The lack of hexes goes along with Ezra’s theory of oversimplification, " hex-based systems. . .have ham-strung wargaming for over thirty years." One viewpoint is that the ebb and flow of game time is not adequately documented like in TacOps and other games, partially due to the use of hexes. While, on the other hand, the use of hexes ignores the effect of multiple terrain types on movement. There was no attempt at representing multiple terrain types in TWCs graphics which would have gone a long way to helping the game player understand movement costs.
Real-time movement was used to simulate the panic of war, where generals are not given the time it takes to make decisions supported by turn based systems. While real time may be accurate and in some cases more exciting, some game players prefer the turn-based system and not providing it as an option seems short sighted.
Statistics are available to the game player to experiment and see what role they played. By changing musket accuracy and effectiveness due to a weather change, these different parameters can be studied. It would also be interesting to be able to change capabilities on one side and not the other, but this facility does not exist in the game.
Morale and other factors are applied to every soldier and commander in the battle giving you a much better assessment of morale and supply. Line of sight was modeled with the topographic maps to simulate actual battle conditions
Graphics: The topographic terrain maps are fractaly generated, which allows you to zoom and rotate the map to any angle or magnification. Original rendered art compliments game well.
Animation: Real-time, three dimensional (3D) animation similar to The American Civil War and Fields of Glory.
Voice actors: none
Music: Evan Brooks says, "War College’s greatest strengths lie in its music and its interactive documentation."
Sound effects: none
Multi-player: None, unfortunately, since human opponents could add to the artificial intelligence provided.
Summary: The game has reported frequent crashes which have been confirmed by some systems.
Help: Special interactive documentation allows the game player to recreate the historical events of the four battles. A full step-by-step, detailed analysis of each historical battle evolved with comments by Dr. Ezra Sidran is included.
Future: Expansion disks are planned to be included in spite of the falling out with Ezra Sidran shown in the internet buzz.
Reviewers: It is amazing how much the ratings for this game relate to the review of Dr. Sidran’s military theories and not the game itself. Many seem to know Dr. Sidran and have ready made conclusions about his bent on military history rather than on how the game plays. Reading these reviews is entertaining once you understand this.
"The game is for serious students of military history." William R. Trotter, PC Gamer, volume 3, number 7, July, 1996, pg. 110, 82%.
Marc Dultz, Computer Player, volume 3, number 4, pg. 81, 5/10, (50%).
Gametek and Ezra Sidran have a falling out:
M. Evan Brooks, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, September, 1996, pg. 78-79, 2/5, (40%). Extremely interesting article where Evan reviews Ezra’s perceptions of history rather than the game.
Al Giovetti, UMS II: Nations at War, Compute, volume 13, number 7, issue 131, July, 1991, pg. 117-118.
Hans Delbruck, Warfare in Antiquity (Book suggested by M. Evan Brooks a most competent historian.)
Patrick Miller, Computer Gaming World, issue 146, September, 1996