Scott G. Johnston
Scott G. Johnston
Strategy: War
ZX Spectrum 48K

Philippa Irving
Chris Bourne

It's encouraging, though ironic, to receive a homemade wargame which I'd recommend above all this month's commercial efforts - and it's a strange coincidence that CRASH focuses on homegrown software in this very issue! (See page 38.)

Battle Axe isn't very sophisticated, but its presentation and visual appearance put more than half the software I receive to shame. And though it's based on simple Samurai-type play, the five maps, the addictiveness and low price make it worthwhile.

But there are no rules, which is a pity; the instructions we loaded as a block and then overwritten.

Concisely it's explained that the usual rampaging hordes from the north, or across the mountains, have decided your tribe's territory would make a desirable addition to their property. So you've gathered together the best fighting men in your tribe, which can only muster 12 archers and 12 warriors. But, you're warned, the enemy is much stronger than that...

The player is then treated to a beautifully-drawn and evocative loading screen, which is something wargamers have learned to live without. The screen display is attractive and polished, too; it looks more like the frame for a science-fiction game than for a tale of spear-waving barbarians, with embossed metal styling reminiscent of Para raid. Appearance is always secondary in a strategy game, but careful presentation like this enhances appreciation.

The screen is divided into several sections, one showing the main area of action, another a long-range view; there is a message window and a row of Icons.

All the forces can be seen on the long-range map, though there is no way of telling which side the black dots belong to. At the beginning both sides are grouped in sued blocks at the top and bottom of the map. Using the icons, the player can move a figure, or order it to fire if it's an archer-this is the extent of action. The opposing sides start the game a fair distance apart and it takes a couple of turns for combat to get under way.

Each unit (or figure - this is getting close to figure wargaming on a computer) has a pool of action points which determines how far It can move and how many attacks it can make. One point is consumed by moving (with no penalty for diagonal movement, and no terrain effects) and two by firing.

Swordsmen have more action points than archers, which is just as well; the outcome of combat is, rather oddly, determined by the number of remaining action points. And when a figure comes into contact with another, a complex arithmetical process takes place - the result is that one warrior seems incapable of killing two enemy warriors simultaneously. I suppose this is fair enough.

The archers are by far the most efficient units. Positioned in range of several enemy figures, an archer can pick them all off within its movement allowance.

And when the computer has its turn, which is processed quite quickly, the archers can descend upon the player's units with frightening speed. Their rapid firing sounds amusingly like laser shot But archers can shoot themselves (this must be quite a feat), and the presence of obstacles affects their chance of hitting their target.

This is a fast, simple, no-nonsense game put together with the sort of care which professional software houses should exercise.


Very polished, given the restrictive circumstances.
Smooth and simple.
Extremely attractive, though the play area could do with more detail.
The focus on individual figures is involving.
A good homegrown game which looks better than many commercial efforts.

Screenshot Text

It's swingtime in Battle Axe.