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Mark Lucas
Strategy: War
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Chris Bourne

The author, Mark Lucas, won the Cambridge Award for writing this program. The competition is run by C.C.S. in conjunctiuon with the magazine Sinclair User, and the Award plus ?1000 goes to the winner, and of course the winner receives the satisfaction of seeing the program marketed. Battle 1917 is likely to prove popular with wargamers and perhaps with chess players too, as there is a resemblance in part.

The board, or war zone, is laid out with the opposing forces at the top and bottom of the screen, each side has a King in the centre, protected by artillery and flanked by tanks, cavalry and Infantry. Each unit, except the King, is subdivided into four characters. The characters move as a group, but can easily get split up by the terrain. Each unit also has a fighting strength and a movement allowance.

The battlefield, 21 by 32 squares large, is dotted with obstacles like rivers, forests, barbed wire and minefields. Tanks aren't bothered by wire or trees, but cannot go through water. The rest can't go across any obstacle. Minefields have a percentage chance of exploding when contacted. In addition to moving around, the artillery can fire in any of the 8 compass points desired, although extreme short range runs a risk of self destruction since shots may not land on the exact square they are supposed to.

A prompt at the bottom of the screen tells each player which piece is to move next and reminds him or her how many squares it can travel and asks for the direction wanted. When one player has moved all his pieces, It is the second player's turn. When units of opposing forces meet, battle ensues and is won or lost by adding a random figure for each, from one to five, to the unit's official fighting strength. The higher figure wins. The aim of the game is to kill off the opponent's king.

Directions are inputted using the numeric keys 1 to 8, 1 being North and 8 being North-West. There is an onscreen compass prompt as a quick visual aid.


'If chess appeals to you, you might like this, although it hasn't got the same sort of tactical clarity as chess. I thought the graphics were rather average and the moves and goings on rather slow. At least it does allow two people to compete against each other - really the computer is only used as a playing board and score keeper. It might have been a good idea to have a single player versus the computer option - after all you have to have an opponent also addicted to play properly and that's not always so easy.'

'It does take quite a long time to play - but then, so does chess. Whether it's as good as chess, I'm not so sure. It has more variety than chess but also a strong element of luck as to who wins a battle. This does rather destroy the tactical value somewhat. It certainly isn't what you would call an addictive game, and I think you would have to play for some time in two before deciding whether it had real lasting value as a game.

'Definitely a game for the strategy, wargamer freaks. I'm sure it has lots of scope for them. It left me cold as I never quite know how to take this sort of game. The graphics are pretty good, although only character squares which vanish in one spot to reappear in another, nothing is really animated. It does have very amusing Instructions in the 2-part load which involve some graphical shenanigans.'

Control keys: 1-8
Colour quite good
Graphics: fairly small but recognisable
Sound: very little

General Rating: good of its kind, but a specialised taste.


Screenshot Text

Chess meets wargame in award-winning Battle 1917.