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Blue and the Gray logo

Ever the patriot, Paul Presly turns his nose up at the American Civil War and stomps off muttering something about "Roundheads and Cavaliers" and "That was a real war".

Blue and the Gray A game based on the American Civil War, eh? I'll tell you this for nothing, it won't catch over here. Jumping straight into the Gone With The Wind era isn't the most engaging of subjects for us 'limeys' to bother with, preferring as we do to mess with our own history rather than someone else's.
Edward Grabowski may not be the most familiar name on this 'side of the pond', but Stateside he's renowned from Baltimore to Yazzo County for his Micro Miniatures wargame system and he's turned up again with The Blue And The Gray, your chance to be General Lee or Stonewall Jackson.

Quite a few of Impressions' strategy titles have employed this top-down tabletop-style engine and frankly, in my opinion, it doesn't work half as well as they think it does.
The initial stages of forming armies and planning strategies on the big ol' American map, checking on resources and second-guessing the enemy is both engrossing and friendly to use. The trouble is that you eventually have to get into a fight and then the Micro Miniatures section pops up and manages to spoil the party for everyone.
This is a shame because The Blue And The Gray is in fact a very absorbing look into the American Civil War until the direct combat system rears its ugly head.

Edward Grabowski has attempted to produce the most comprehensive account of America's biggest internal conflict, using real-life history from the period to add colour to the actual game. You even have the option of reading about important historical moments in the conflict as and when you get to them in the game. There is also a rather thick booklet in the package, recounting the whole war and its effect on America today.
So why is it bad? Userunfriendliness is the plain and simple answer. Graphically it is not so hot either but that's never really been a problem as far as wargames are concerned. I've yet to see one that looks as good as the average beat 'em up, shoot 'em up or any other kind of 'em up that populates the Amiga market. Instead, we seem to be cursed to live with poorly animated sprites that have no real sense of proportion to their surroundings.

Graphics aside, the Micro Miniatures system is one that seems to have been designed with the artificial intelligence factor at the top of its list of priorities while decent control has taken a back seat. From setting up your troops to keeping track of them all on the field, the whole system just doesn't allow you to get comfortable and with a strategy game this is very important.

Issuing orders, strategic battle methods and realism aren't this game's strong points: You can tell everyone, a particular group or a single unit to go to a set position on screen and then engage the enemy, but little else. You can't issue orders to take cover, to set up ambushes, to make hit and run attacks or any other tactic that is so often the cause of a great victory. Sure, it is a fine system for calculating the results of X number of men on one side, fighting Y number on the other, but that's it.

You do have the option of not playing the battle sections at all, instead allowing the computer to make the calculations and just tell you the result. Ordinarily, this might have been enough for me, concentrating on getting the strategic elements right. The trouble is that the subject matter is one that begs you to play out each conflict, as the period was rife with battlefield heroism and strong, enigmatic characters leading the fight against overwhelming odds. Plus it doesn't do your strategic planning and operation any justice to see it all result in a number crunching battle when you know that by clever on-field tactics you could outwit a much larger foe. The Blue And The Gray needs a more useable battle interface. One that allows for all sorts of situations and events. Without it, it's a hollow fight.

CU Amiga, April 1994, p.74

IMPRESSIONS 29.99
A500
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IMPRESSIONS, UNIT 2/12, CHELSEA GARDEN MARKET, CHELSEA HARBOUR, LOTS ROAD, LONDON, SW10 0XE. TEL: 071 351 2133
 
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OUT NOW
WARGAME
EDWARD GRABOWSKIE
MOUSE
3
1/2
YES
1Mb

 
GRAPHICS
SOUND
LASTABILITY
PLAYABILITY

70%
68%
79%
66%
A good wargame, let down by the actual combat section.
OVERALL: 69%