Edward Grabowski
1985
Strategy: War
£3.50
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Undetermined

140,141
Sean Masterson
Chris Bourne

Black Knight have managed to find an interesting yet not overkilled subject for this wargame. Though it's not strictly speaking a simulation, it is a single player game involving the famous out fit's stand against overwhelming odds. As the version I received was only a preproduction copy, I had no idea as to what were the goals of the game, though these became more evident as time went on.

You begin the game in control of twelve cavalry troops, each of fifty or so men. The map depicts a fort (where you are based) and some of the surrounding countryside. At the bottom of the screen there are several options made available, these being Move, Rest, Look, Position and Status. As the computer handles your units alphabetically, you can select each of these options for all the units so long as you make Move or Rest your last choice. Look and Position is a kind of game status update available at any point. Status displays all the relevant information about the unit currently selected and Move opens a further option screen for Charge, Gallop, Trot and Walk. Each one taking less energy to accomplish but also taking longer to achieve. Once you have selected the type of movement you require, you are invited to select one of eight different compass directions.

Your units are displayed as single blue coloured character blocks, each labelled alphabetically. When the Indian units appear, they are simply red blocks with an 'I' for easy identification. Each unit moves as soon as you have entered your orders and enemy movement takes place in between. Combat with adjacent units is automatic and a message window tells you how many casualties you suffered in that action.

The game takes place over several days and there is no option for a shorter scenario. However, there is a save game facility, so you can play tilt campaign when you want to. Night affects playing conditions. Whilst I agree that it should, I'm not so sure that movement should only be at walking pace at night. Still, the idea is workable.

After suffering considerable losses on behalf of the United States cavalry, it became app-was the destruction of Indian camps. If you travel far enough, then you find them as the map scrolls automatically when required. You need to destroy fifteen of these camps in order to win the game and this will take some considerable amount of time.

The game seems to play rather well and is not in the least sense pretentious or distasteful. The one feature which is annoying is the game's speed, Mainly because it is written in BASIC, it often takes several seconds to respond to keypresses. This can lead to some confusion over whether the game has indeed received orders for a particular unit and such distractions can quite easily become terribly frustrating if you play the game for several hours and from the few games played for this review, it does seem to be the sort of challenge to last for more than one day. Fatigue is handled extremely well, as speed of travel, terrain crossed and amount of time spent resting, are all considered.

On the whole, however, I found this game enjoyable and challenging to play and for £3.50 you could do far worse than add it to your collection.

CRITICISM

59%
Unambitious screen display but not bad.
68%
Easy to learn and full of attention to detail.
54%
Let down by BASIC programming.
53%
The best graphics are in the smooth scrolling map; the other UDGs are not too inspiring.
57%
Not really a simulation of Custer's battle but it treats combat and movement quite realistically.
67%
Some games like this are being sold at twice the price.
65%
Definitely worth a try.