It is a winter's day in late 1914; the 'Great War ' is four months old, and in the North Sea two battle fleets are set on a collision course. The composition of the fleets is identical: four battle cruisers, four light cruisers and 12 destroyers. With six hours of daylight remaining, the two commanders sight each other's smoke. The battle is about to commence.
This the latest in the Lothlorian Warmaster series of battle strategy games, and their first sea-based one. The game is played between two people, and like the time-honoured Battleships game played on paper, each player should have private and secret access to his information, which is done via a secret three-letter code inputted at the start. The game is played out in 24 moves, a move simulating 15 minutes of real time, and on four levels, representing the number of enemy Dreadnoughts which must be destroyed to win. There are three phases to play. First each player in turn goes through his Decision Phase and then there is an Action Execution phase.
Accessed by the player code, a menu of options is presented which allows the player to list the names and defence strengths of each unit, view the situation (a graphic report of your positions), see the combat reports of each unit, change course and heading for each unit, allocate gunnery targets, set up torpedoes and secondary batteries, a key for all actions completed (end of phase) and a report on visibility. Changing course and speed is done with cursor keys 6 and 7.
The combat reports enable you to see what damage has happened after the action phase, and what your ships under fire are observing of the enemy's position. Gunnery results are affected by factors like range to target, whether the gunners are under fire themselves, and the number of other units firing at you. Lothlorien claim the performance of the ships is based on the original vessels.
The screen display is largely text menus, but in viewing the situation or in action phase once the combatants are entangled, the units are represented by character blocks with the unit number in them, and a tiny symbolic representation of the unit itself. The blocks are coloured Green for the British and Yellow for the German fleet. Behind each unit a short black line represents the 'wake' and so gives an indication of heading and speed.
'This strategy simulation is really an extended computer version of Battleships except that there are a number of elements to be taken into account, such as the performance of the various units, their strengths and armament. This means you must use each type of ship to its best advantage. The Battleships element is that of player secrecy, each seeing only his own information, so you're never sure quite how the other player is handling his forces. This is, to my thinking, the weakest point about Dreadnoughts, the fact that the two players involved in the game are out of action, so to speak, for quite long periods of time during moves. Otherwise, this Lothlorien game is one of the simpler ones in the playing, and so quite enjoyable. '
'I'm sure strategy fans will like Dreadnoughts as it is the most user-friendly game of its kind I have seen from Lothlorien. The option menues are never blocked, each option may be returned to as often as you like so that decisions may be amended before handing over play to your opponent. My only niggle is that the graphics take a while to generate on the screen, so if you want to flick between changing course or selecting targets and the situation view, it does get a bit tedious.'
'The eight-page instructions that come with the cassette are very good and will help you get the most from this war game. As always though the graphics leave a lot to be desired and are simple character blocks. There is no real movement or sense of action involved, which means the game is really only suited to those who enjoy this type of game, one where thinking is more important than doing. It seems odd to me that you can claim the performance of the units in the game are exactly based on the real thing when you're talking about little computer blocks and massive ships.'
: on-screen promptsKeyboard play
: fairly responsiveUse of colour
: poor in action, but well laid out text, etcSound
: very littleSkill levels
: 4General Rating:
A good game for strategy fans, some very good points and some not so good,with slow action phases. Overall though good value for those who like the type.
It may look like Clapham Junction in the rush hour, but this is the North Sea in 1914.