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INTERNECINE * £24.99 Mouse

Naval warfare was never the sam after the demise of the battleship. The Second World War replaced it with effective sea-borne aviation and soon after that came the age of the guided missile.
But the battle fleets of old brought a chess-like element to warfare with hundreds of ever-changing variables to consider.

It's the complexity that Action Stations tries to simulate. As you can imagine, you don't usually just sail up to the enemy and tire your guns. You must weight up your relative fire-power, manoeuvre, integrate all your weapons systems and out think all of your opponents.
All this plus up to 20 different ships under your powerful command. It's the ultimate in management simulations.

Half Drake and half Nelson
The game runs in three minute turns rather than realtime, which is a pity. You therefore have ample time to work out your tactics, but there's an awful lot to decide. Action Stations is astonishingly detailed and very complex, and if you're natural admiral material you'll need to ingest the large manual which, for a naval game, is remarkably dry.

A variety of scenarios, ranging from Pacific carrier battles to the hunting of the Bismarck in the Atlantic is included. You can play a human or the computer, and can set up random or historic positions and conditions. Then it's up to you to rewrite history. (Using your skill and judgement place an 'X' where you think the enemy fleet is).

You don't get any views of the action - the only graphics are the battle plots. This is the most useful function you have, and it's there that the balletic twists and turns of the 50,000-ton battleships are shown. Everything is menu-driven, and every aspect of your ships can be called up and altered. Indeed it isn't possible to let all your sailors get on with the job; you must constantly supervise, assign targets and give orders. During combat, damage reports flood in (often literally) and you must take action to stop fires, encroaching water and panicking midshipmen.

Contemplate your naval
The computer has eight skill levels and many of the battles are distinctly one-sided so it's possible to indulge your appetite for wining to excess. The accuracy and detail of both the vessels and the encounters will impress many a war buff, but it would have been nice to choose the ships to pit against each other.

The big fault is that the game runs too slowly. It does seem to calculate everything from the ocean currents prevailing to the hair-loss suffered by each Captain but does it need to be so slow?

That aside, it's a very specialised game, it's a whole evening tied up and, if you like the thrill of the hunt, it's fascinatiing.

May 2 1941. A freezing dawn and the battlecruiser Hood was chasing the german flagship Bismarck in the Denmark Strait, north of Iceland. Bismarck targeted Hood and opened fire from 16,5000 yards with a salvo of fifteen-inch shells. They hit, penetrated Hood's rear-deck armour and detonated the aft gun magazine. Flames rocketed to 1000 feet in the air, thunder was heard and Hood broke up and sank. 1,338 men drowned. Three survived. Fifteen minutes had passed.

Nix für Badewannen-Admiräle

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Dieses Programm beruht auf einer Reihe mathematischer Modelle, die von der amerikanischen Marine entwickelt wurden, um Seekriege erfolgreicher führen zu können. Genauso sieht es auch aus...

Action Stations! Ist eine taktische Simulation diverser Seeschlachten aus den Jahren 1922 bis 1945. Vom Pazifischen Ozean bis zum Mittelmeer stehen 30 verschiedene Szenarien zur Wahl, wovon ein Teil exakt die historischen Ereignisse widerspiegelt, während der Rest nur daran angelehnt ist.

Darüberhinaus lassen sich mit dem eingebauten Editor beliebig viele eigene Szenarien entwerfen. Das Herzstück des Ganzen bilden drei Simulationsmodelle für Geschütze, Torpedos und eingetretene Schaden, wobei natürlich auch andere Einflußfaktoren wie z.B. Die herrschenden Sichtverhältnisse berücksichtigt werden.

Wer sich packende Seeduelle mit Kriegsgeheul und Kanonendonner erwartet, ist hier auf der falschen Party: Bei Action Stations! gibt's null Sound, so gut wie keine Grafik (nur Listen, Tabellen, Pulldownmenüs und mal 'ne bescheidene Karte), stattdessen muß man sich auf knochentrockenen Realismus und Genauigkeit bis ins letzte Detail gefaßt machen.

Um etwa einen einzigen Torpedo loszuschicken, darf man dem Computer mitteilen, welche Batterie er verwenden und wieviele Geschoße er abfeuern soll, wie der Zielkurs lautet, wie hoch der Streuwinkel sein darf und mit welcher Geschwindigkeit die tödlichen Teile auf die Reise geschickt werden...

Falls jemand als Berufswunsch eine Marinekarriere im Auge hat, kann man ihm Action Stations! Also nur wärmstens empfehlen, Otto Normalsimulant sollte sich den Kauf aber gründlich überlegen. (Hugh Myashirov)

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Storm Computers, Amiga £29.99

Action Stations!, originally developed by Conflict Analytics in the States, is a tactical-level, surface-combat, naval simulation that covers the years 1922-1945. Created by an active-duty American naval officer, the meat of the simulation is based upon a classic wargame system used by the US Naval War College between 1922-1945. Whereas the War College used fire and effect tables et al, to find the results of movement and combat, Conflict Analytics have sensibly configured the system to the computer.

The game is supreme value for money, as not only does it contain 30 scenarios, ranging from the Pacific to the Mediterranean, but there is also a Scenario Builder and Scenario Generator (using 180 ships) which pushes the challenge into near infinity.

The core of the game system revolves around three simulation models (damage, gunnery and torpedo) although other factors have, naturally, been taken into consideration. However, because individual models have been developed you will experience some incredible detail that realistically mirrors naval warfare in this era. For example, the torpedo has its own Torpedo Fire Control for automatic firing. Setting this includes commanding which torpedo to fire, the course of the centre torpedo of the bunch (or spread) you are firing, the spread angle between torpedoes and the speed setting - and that is just for torpedoes!

Other details include night missions (including flares and starshells), counterflooding, variable weather and sea conditions, shipboard fires, a complicated damage system, etc, etc!!

Action Stations!'s designer exhibits a high degree of technical awareness - I cannot fault any aspect of this side of the game. Even though the game relies on a mouse-initiated, drop-down menu system, my main criticism centres around the screen design (e.g. reports). This area of the game is rather messy which will only increase the learning curve as it will confuse, at least initially.

If more effort could have been put into developing the interface and 'glossy' graphics- as seen in Harpoon - I am sure Action Stations! would have a wider appeal. However, in its defence, the game never crashed, which is more than I can say for Harpoon! As it is, Action Stations! can be recommended for anyone interested in naval warfare.