A Blog about Wargames and wargamers. Discussion of rule sets, painting techniques, different models, figures, links to manufacturers, reviews of all of the above, and other gamer resources. Not all Gamers, not all modelers - a blend of both! You are at http://tabletopgamer.blogspot.com Your hosts are Bwana Bill, Krazy Keith, and Consul Scipio. Thank you for visiting our little slice of the World Wide Web!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great: First Impressions


Guest Blogger "Bwana" Bill is back!


Since my first article I have now played out the first three battles. It has been a very intense experience! The first battle, Thebes, isn’t too bad, but the second and third battles, Granicus River and Issus, are really hard. You go right down to the wire with both of them wondering if you will be able to eek out any sort of “victory.” With Granicus River I was able to pull it off, but with Issus I wasn’t. This seems to be one of those games where you will have to replay each battle at least once in order to “get it right.” There is a lot of “fog of war” built into this game and by that I do not mean just hidden enemy units, you also do not have an appreciation for the ground you are fighting on when the battle starts. Let me give you examples. When Granicus River starts it is apparent that you need to fight you way across the river. What I failed to realize during the set up, and first few turns, is that there are only two places where you can cross the river. I had to discover all this by trial and error after the battle had started. Fortunately, I still had time to recover from this and slog my way across the two fords. It was brutal, and I lost well over half the army by the time it was over. In the Issus battle I was aware that there were two points on the field that needed to be captured and held, but somehow I missed the fact that there was a third, which I only discovered by accident when the game was almost over. I also think that perhaps the game is set quite a bit harder than “real life.” For example, about half way through Issus a classic show-down developed between Alexander and his household cavalry, and Emperor Darius and his scythed chariots. Darius was defeated and killed, which from my reading of history would have caused a severe blow to the morale of the entire Persian army. That didn’t happen this time! Far from it! There were about 9 fresh Persian units right behind Darius and they came on like a swarm of angry hornets. As a matter of fact it was so overwhelming that I had to put the entire left flank of Alexander’s army into a full tactical withdrawal. All this is not a condemnation of the game though. The battles held my interest and I was quite emotionally involved. It takes about 3 to 4 hours to play just one battle and I was not able to tear myself away from the computer to get the sleep I needed for the upcoming work day. After all, I didn’t think I would be able to sleep until I knew the outcome! I just need to discover the secret to winning. I suspect it might have something to do with replaying each battle until you get a result that gives you enough money to upgrade the “training” of all of your units. I already know for sure that you have to replay each battle at least once, just to learn what-all you are up against in terms of enemy units, terrain, victory objectives, etc. I let you know how it goes, IF I am not battle fatigued before much longer! I tell you one thing for sure; I am already NOT looking forward to the Indian war elephants that I know are going to come up at the end of the campaign!

Editors note: Thanks Bill!

Special article by Guest Blogger "Bwana" Bill

This article is about a computer war game. Why write about a computer game in a table top blog? Well, the approach this game takes is worth mentioning in a table top setting because it tries to give you the feeling that you are playing with lead miniatures painted and mounted on movement stands! This is a good deal for those of us who sometimes get frustrated by a lack of opportunity to “push lead.” The figures even appear to be 25mm to my eye. One amusing little touch you will notice is the trees, which appear to have the same round plastic bases that you see in the hobby store variety! Also, during a battle a big “hand” descends to remove stands when they are eliminated.

I broke the game disk out of the package and started playing right away without reading anything. The manual is on the disk and I did not feel like printing it or trying to study it on the screen. Nevertheless, I was able to play the first battle all the way through and win it just by experimenting with the interface, which is pretty easy to figure out. I believe that “intuitive,” is the computer term that would apply here.

Even though the game looks like you are playing with 25mm tall pieces of lead, you still get the benefits of a computer game. By that I mean that movement is not “my move, then it’s your move.” You input you orders then indicate when you are done. Movement then happens somewhat simultaneously with the units having higher initiative ratings going first. That does not mean that you are always a helpless spectator after pushing the “Done” button. A third of the way through the turn play stops for a Reaction Phase during which the computer may give you a chance to issue new orders to units who meet certain qualifications. In addition to this, you are allowed to assign units to a tactical reserve status before the turn starts. This means that when the Reserve Phase comes up you can issue orders to them after you have had a chance to see what is happening. I like this approach, it is a good compromise between real-time strategy games (which I have never really cared for) and taking turns. I like the ability to reflect on the situation before making decisions as opposed to frantically scrolling and clicking here, there, and everywhere like a maniac! But that’s just me I suppose.

Another computer benefit that you get with this game is “fog of war.” Enemy units are revealed to you only after your units are able to spot them. The program actually projects a swirling mist; simulating “fog of war,” not weather conditions, over the areas of the battlefield that you can’t see clearly.

Right now I am studying the manual and I intend to re-play the first battle before moving on into the campaign. Other reviews I have read say that the AI is quite challenging, so I prefer to understand the mechanics and nuances of the game better before moving on. IÂ’ll let you know how it goes.

Editors Note: Thanks Bill! I'll have to try it out! If you are interested you can buy this game from the www.strategypage.com store.

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